Friday, June 29, 2012

What's really wrong with Attorney General Holder?

Eric Holder is the tip of the spear in the Democrats' efforts to combat the Republican Party's nationwide conspiracy to suppress Democratic votes. 

So tying AG Holder in knots might help slow down the Justice Department long enough for the GOP to shift a tight election the one or two percent they need to put Mitt Romney's right hand in the White House. The rest of him will come along, but all the GOP needs is this eager-to-please guy's declared willingness to sign every bill the GOP Congress puts on his desk.

"Fast & Furious" is a diversionary tactic, focusing (watch Fox to see this) on the bloody shirt waving gambit, using a murdered border agent's grieving family as pawns to exploit the fear and anger of middle-aged white men, while the actual murderer is ignored, and the massive gun-running into Mexico to the vast profit of the American gun industry is ignored--along with the gun industry-mandated firearms laws designed to prevent, not help, law enforcement officials from figuring out whose guns went where, supported by angry white men who would rather see many thousands of firearms go to Mexico rather than see the gunrunners apprehended. Because they are the enemies of the very law and order they say they love. 

Talk about gun regulation and they talk about statism. Statism is Libertarian-speak for "evil government." People who talk that way are anarchists, even though when they see anarchists looting stores during leftist demonstrations they see red. But in reality they're no better.

And all because some Russian lady's parents' lands were confiscated by the Bolsheviks. Therefore all government is evil. But again, follow the money. The people financing this pathetic social dogma are the people who are stealing from taxpayers and don't want to be caught. Crooks hate cops.

Especially uppity black cops.

John Roberts is the only true conservative on the Supreme Court

Today right-wing America is aghast at Justice Roberts' treason. (And they hardly notice the fact that three of the Court's "liberals" voted with the conservatives to kill the Medicare mandate). 

But in fact Justice Roberts proved yesterday that he's the only true conservative on the Court.

That is, IF you define "conservative" as a political philosophy, and not as a set of political positions.

That's the mistake most self-styled conservatives and liberals make. 

The essence of conservatism is respect for established institutions, for the rule of law, for tradition, for doing one's job with a measure of humility.

The job of Supreme Court Justice--and most especially Chief Justice--was described by Justice Roberts during his confirmation hearings. He said it was not to usurp the roles of the Executive branch or Congress. It was to favor narrowly-defined decisions supported by most or all the Justices over sweeping, precedent-overturning decisions by 5-4. It was to subordinate one's own political preferences  to the Court's role of simply determining whether a law passes Constitutional muster or not.

And--here's the kicker--to actively seek reasons to uphold laws passed by elected representatives of the People, even if they weren't the reasons set forth by the law.

You don't look for reasons to overturn laws that run contrary to your own political philosophy. You don't ignore precedent in considering laws that run contrary to your own political philosophy. 

And you don't do things that suit the specific positions of your political philosophy but which would also damage one or more of the core institutions of the country.

There's no reason to believe that Justice Roberts' opinion of ObamaCare differs from that of Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy. But unlike them, Roberts doesn't believe in legislating from the bench. Roberts--at least in the clinch--doesn't believe in being an activist judge. 

He knows that the SCOTUS decision that inflicted Bush II's mix of mediocre ability and vaulting ambition on this country damaged the reputation of SCOTUS seriously. And SCOTUS has neither an army nor an elected legislature. It depends entirely on the "consent of the ruled-on" so to speak. 

No student of SCOTUS can forget President Andrew Jackson getting a ruling that didn't suit his genocidal approach to Indian relations and telling the Court to go enforce it themselves.

No one can know whether Roberts thought that he might kill two birds with one stone in this decision: help to restore the Court's legitimacy in the aftermath of Citizens United (which 80% of Americans believe was wrongly decided, according to a 2010 ABC News-Washington Post poll), while at the same time helping to rally conservative voters to defeat President Obama, upon which a President Romney and a Tea Party-dominate Congress would gut the bill by defunding it and giving all the states waivers. Certainly no one thinks Roberts is President Obama's BFF after the latter hectored the former to his face in Obama's state of the union address following the decision.

It's also conceivable that Roberts is looking to his place in the history books. No doubt he'd love to see the Roberts Court revered...and, perhaps, remembered as the Roberts Court and not the Kennedy Court (since Kennedy's swing vote has determined so many decisions.)

Whatever Roberts' motivations, with this decision he showed what true conservatism looks like, which is at its essence an antecedent morality--making decisions that hew to the promises you made to get the job, and working as the SCOTUS chief justice to rule on a law's constitutionalty--period.

That said, the SCOTUS conservative majority just reinforced its belief that money is protected speech in smacking down the Montana case, and Citizens United is a far bigger decision than this one.

Still, it's a good sign. And it does establish Justice Roberts as the closest thing to a true conservative that President Eisenhower would recognize. Conversely, it also establishes Justice Alito as the most doctrinaire justice--not Scalia or Thomas--because Alito is the only one of the five conservative justices who has never delivered a swing vote, going along with the more liberal justices. That surprised me to find out, because he doesn't wear his politics on his sleeve like Thomas and Scalia do. 

As you talk with conservatives, try this tack with them. Encourage them to think more about conservative principles, and less about conservative positions. Oh, and while you're at it, ask them what they think about the quarter-billion dollars the healthcare insurance (until you actually need it) industry has spent on manufacturing public opposition to healthcare reform. Do they really think that kind of political leverage (against miniscule money toward the other side) bodes well for our republic?

Mitt Romney wants European-style government

Mitt Romney wants to remold American government into a European-style government. That's right, Mitt Romney. Not President Obama.

Our President favors the kind of central government envisioned by Alexander Hamilton, the original Federalist (how the Right came to redefine the term as its antonym beats me--they should just admit they're pure Jeffersonians).

Mitt Romney wants the EU. Mostly symbolic central government, each state pretty much a country unto itself, plus NATO.

And he speaks fluent French. How European is that?

Think about it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

conservatives vs. reactionaries

Conservatives look forward cautiously. Reactionaries look backward longingly.

That's the difference, brought into sharp focus by this year's election politics.

And I've seen the Republican Party slowly morph from a conservative party into a reactionary one over the decades since people like Dwight D. Eisenhower led the party--and created the national highway system, a bold vision we now take for granted.

Look at this election year. The GOP campaign is against President Obama--not for Governor Romney. It's "Repeal and replace" against ObamaCare, with virtually nothing about the "replace" part--because past that bumper sticker slogan there's the added two words that are understood by most people as being "with nothing."

The GOP speaks to our inner child--the three year old boy who doesn't want to be told what to do. Who just wants to be left alone (until he needs something). 

This is an abiding dream. In fact it's how the United States was first organized, under the Articles of Confederation. The Federal government had almost no authority within the nation's borders. Didn't work out, did it?

It looks to me like that's what the GOP wants us to return to. It's certainly what their patrons, the CEO+Investor class, want.

But we don't have to go back to the 18th century to see how that would work in today's world. We have only to look to Europe. Aren't the Republicans demanding that we adopt their setup, with the EU plus NATO? Each state has vastly more autonomy than those of the US, and the banks call the shots economically.

How's that working out for them?

The fact is that against our present economic and potential military competitors abroad, and against the power large corporations can bring to bear against not just individuals but even whole states (Exxon alone is a more powerful economic entity than a lot of states--half of them?), the individual doesn't stand a chance.

Back in the 18th century we had virtually no trade with other countries--just a few luxury goods, basically. The young republic was self-sufficient. Nobody could invade us, as the Brits found out--and they were one of the most powerful nations on Earth at the time. But General Atlantic defeated them, ultimately. Though even then if the Royal French Navy hadn't intervened at a critical juncture we might have lost that war.

Now we have trade all over the place. China snuck a monopoly on rare earths production under Bush II's nose, and now we have to pay through the nose for a vital ingredient without which our cellphones wouldn't work. China has also gotten a near-monopoly on solar panels through government-subsidized production + low-wage labor that has bankrupted industries in "free" countries. Now we get to pay for that freedom. Not to mention foreign oil, which forces us to care what Arabs do.

Multiply these webs of interdependencies by thousands and you get today's world.

We could achieve autonomy today by returning to the self-sufficient, rural, agrarian, low-tech USA of 1776. For a start we'd have to get rid of most of our population living in cities--having so many people requires a high-tech urban society to maintain. So we'd have to do what Pol Pot did and exterminate them, starting with all races and cultures that aren't Anglo whites. That would thin the herd, but we'd have to get rid of more to achieve true self-sufficiency. Maybe all Anglos who are liberals and independents.

That would also free us from all Green-type regulations and restrictions. With a population of just a few million we could pollute at will without damaging the environment appreciably.

But that's not going to happen. So here we are in a world we can't control by ourselves, since we have to have the cooperation of other sovereign nations, and since the physical universe doesn't care whether we like environmental regulations or not. We'll have to deal with the consequences of collapsing fish stocks, salinization of irrigated croplands, collapsing porous aquifers, and above all the possibility of outrunning our drinking water resources--especially given the unsolved problem of water table pollution from both industrial livestock production and fracking.

As if that's not enough, what about political alliances? If China invades Taiwan, do we just shrug and tell Taiwan "You're on your own, pal." Or how about if a radicalized Egypt invaded Israel? How about if the Euro collapses, which is a definite possibility. We're inextricably intertwined in world financial markets, and economic turmoil in Europe could whack our economy regardless of whether Romney or Obama wins. How about a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan? And what do we do about the informal alliance of Russia, China, Brazil and some others semi-against us?

We can't secede from the planet. We have to form alliances with people we don't like to avoid consequences we don't want. We can't order around other countries. We have to make nice, make connections--and honor prior agreements a new administration doesn't like. We're still dealing with the agreements Bush II unilaterally abrogated during his terms in office.

In every area the instincts of reactionaries lead us astray--and contrary to the instincts of actual conservatives. This isn't a perfect analogy, but it's something like the difference between the conservative Islamic government of Turkey and the reactionary Islamic government of Iran. Turkey's no saint on human rights but it's way better than Iran, and it's doing very well economically, while Iran is circling the drain.

The philosophy of "I'm against whatever you're for" doesn't work. Time after time the Republicans    declare their opposition to something they'd favored, even invented...until President Obama advocated it.

Best example: the universal healthcare insurance mandate, invented by conservatives because they didn't want healthcare moochers not getting health insurance until they needed it, which would invalidate the concept of insurance. But whatever you think about the universal mandate, it's a matter of record that conservatives cooked it up and its first application was by Governor Romney, albeit on the state level. But the principle of a universal mandate is the same on any scale, even if you think states' rights red herring trumps it at the national level.

Eisenhower was a conservative. He was absolutely not a liberal. But he had forward-looking ideas, like the national highway system. Bush I was a conservative. He didn't advance on Iraq until he had his ducks lined up. He raised taxes when it became clear that the alternative was even worse. He was conservative, not an ideologue, not rigid. Reagan also raised taxes and was pretty good at forging alliances. Bush II was a reactionary, trying to be the un-Clinton, the un-Bush I. In that sense he succeeded America's cost.

Let me add that the Democratic Party's unquestioning embrace of illegal immigration, infinite population growth, and the minority-ization of America's Anglo culture are no improvement on the GOP's reactionary stance. There should be a word for the loony opposite of "reactionary." Whatever it is, that's that the Democrats have become--just not as whatever-it-is as the reactionaryism of the GOP. Which is why I'm still voting for Obama this November, but without the wide-eyed enthusiasm of some.

Take note of everyone who said ObamaCare is unconstitutional

There are lots of laws I'd like to see repealed, whether they're constitutional or not. So right wingers are entitled to hate ObamaCare. But they're not entitled to say it's unconstitutional. 

And they weren't entitled to say it's unconstitutional before today's ruling, as if they not only sat on the Supreme Court themselves but could read the minds of at least four other justices, and read them before they were made up--so a bit of time travel to boot. Even constitutional lawyers who have argued many cases before the Supreme Court don't do that. They know better.

Of course anyone was entitled to say they thought this law was unconstitutional. Just not to declare something constitutional or unconstitutional as a plain fact. 

That's arrogance.

It is extremely telling that the swing vote in today's 5-4 majority was Justice Roberts, one of the very conservative justices. Unless someone can prove that Justice Roberts is a socialist mole, his presence in the majority means not that he is even a liberal--he most assuredly is not--but that he understands the Constitution...possibly better than Rush Limbaugh, astonishing as that might seem. Understands it well enough to vote against his "side" and possibly his personal inclinations.

So you should take note of everyone--from personal acquaintance to Congressman to commentator--who said ObamaCare was unconstitutional before today. Such people proved by saying so that they didn't respect their own limits--and that they didn't respect the intelligence, authority and experience of others. This is the hallmark of the partisan ideologue--utter contempt for anyone and any idea that doesn't match their own.

Today Romney's response was that on his first day of office "I will act to repeal ObamaCare." 

What action might that be? We don't have a monarchy; he isn't running to be King Romney. Even with a Republican majority in Congress, all the Democrats have to do is employ the tactics the Republicans in the Senate have been using every single day since President Obama took office, and they will probably be able to block anything coming up from the House. He can't simply declare ObamaCare invalid on his say-so. 

So what he said is very close to being a lie. This has nothing to do with political persuasions. It has to do with character. And Romney's character is marked by his total comfort with lying--at least in the political sphere--effortlessly and constantly.

The American public, by a large majority, hates ObamaCare and wants it repealed. Um, except for its provisions, most of which they love, when asked about them one by one.

That, my friends, is the power of propaganda, fueled by a vast war chest. Be sure to ask your conservative friends and acquaintances about this when they cite majority opposition to ObamaCare. Even the name they've given the ACA (Affordable Care Act)--ObamaCare--is propaganda, because it personalizes a large, complex act that was crafted by a large committee and enacted after passing a gauntlet of special interests who stuffed it with compromises that President Obama certainly didn't want. Calling it ObamaCare makes it all about one person (a BLACK person, which they'll never say but they'll constantly show you), and lets you forget about its provisions and just focus on hating the person who headed the effort to pass it. 

Propaganda hates complexity, hates ideas really--loves pushing everything down to personal animosities. That's what branding it ObamaCare means and does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Party of Bullies

Today's Republican Party has a major feature I don't recall it having when I was young--basically the Eisenhower through the Reagan era, with the real turning point being when Newt Gingrich led the campaign that booted the Democrats from complacent control of Congress for a long time previously.

That feature is bullying. It has become the part of bullies.

My spouse isn't a bully and never was. The Republicans I attend church with are pretty much all the polite, civilized Republicans I remember from my youth. But that's here in Silicon Valley, in a college town in California.

I see a very different Republican Party in Congress, in the South (at least from my vantage point here), and elsewhere.

By bullying I mean using tactics of intimidation on opponents--trying to cow them into silence and submission.

I mean people shouting insults at the President of the United States from the floor of the House and from accredited right wing "journalists" at press conferences.

I mean the tactics used in town hall meetings across the country during the national healthcare debate, when perhaps a dozen would seat themselves around the auditorium and shout out insulting "questions" at the congressman speaking, but one at a time, sitting down promptly so they couldn't  be ejected, giving the impression of more opposition than there was.

I mean the tactic of interrupting liberals in TV talk shows mid-sentence and then just talking over them when they try to complain, and burying any host who objects in a blizzard of emails and calls to sponsors and bosses, accusing the host of left wing bias unless he lets the right wing participant(s) run roughshod over the other(s).

I mean the leaders of the party in Congress and state legislatures consistently talking about President Obama using all the demagogues' tricks, encouraging the rank and file not to believe they have an honest disagreement about governing philosophy--but to treat him as an object of derision and hatred, alternately, depending on occasion.

It even extends to state lawmakers mandating trying to intimidate women from getting abortions through tactics like forcing them to submit to having machinery inserted into their vaginas before they can get the abortion.

Liberals certainly didn't like Bush II but they usually didn't adopt the tactics of the bully to show their opposition, except to mob college campus auditoriums to prevent right wing speakers from speaking--which I thought was both vile and stupid in equal measure.

Liberal congressmen did not shout insults at President Bush when he was addressing Congress. Liberal pundits did not shout over conservatives on talk shows. Liberal reporters didn't insult President Bush at press conferences. By and large the Democratic Party's officials observed the normal rules of conduct I thought were generally accepted in our society. Grassroots leftist movements have of course adopted violent tactics, from the Weather Underground through animal rights nut cases and the people who glitter-bomb right wing opponents, along with the radical fringe of the Occupy movement.

The difference is that none of that is supported by the Democratic leadership, who consistently deplore it and urge liberals to not do any of that stuff.

But the polarized radicalism of the far Right that has taken over the Republican party has only stopped at physical far. Except, of course, for bombing healthcare clinics that provide abortions and murdering gynecologists who provide abortions and sending constant death threats to others.

It all doesn't seem coincidental. It parallels the methods used by another party in another country in the last century--fomenting a constant simmering state of rage against political opponents among the party's rank and file, using extremist characterizations of political opponents to justify abandoning the rules of civilization that enable us all to live in the same country, side by side, peacefully.

Bullies. Self-righteous, rude, swaggering, sneering, contemptuous, anti-intellectual, angry and getting angrier. Led to this outpouring of our animal side by the Republican Party's leadership.

The Fast & Furious scandal is the fault of a political party: the GOP.

News flash! That famous Communist magazine Fortune just published an article on the Fast & Furious gunwalking scandal as the result of a six month-long investigation.

You can read it here:

They prove that the main fault for the border patrol agent's death should be laid at the feet of the Republican Party, which, acting as the knowing pawn of the gun lobby, has so hamstrung any kind of reasonable control of guns that it is nearly impossible to do anything to keep them out of the hands of criminals, here or abroad.

People think it's the ATF's fault and/or the Democrats' fault and/or Eric Holder's fault because the Republican party leadership and its pet pundits has been knowingly and persistently lying about it. Not making mistakes. Not shading the truth. Lying. Lying for political advantage and the hot dream of gaining control of all the levers of government.

With every passing day America's government comes less and less to resemble the governments of other advanced countries like England and Germany and Japan...and more and more like the governments of Russia, Mexico, and the Philippines, featuring a handful of oligarchs, a shrinking, struggling middle class, and a passel o' poor people who know there is no path out of their poverty. 

Reputable fact-checking websites are reporting that the Democratic Party and its allies lie about 12% of the time as I recall--and the GOP and its allies lie 39% of the time. We're talking about out-and-out pants-on-fire falsehoods here, not the normal spinning.

So neither party has clean hands. But the GOP is over three times as dirty as the other--and yet it portrays itself as the last bastion of morality on the planet. Well, I guess if you're going to lie, you can go big or go home, right?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Are we living in a democracy?

It sure looks like a democracy, with elections and everything.

Only we don't get what we want. Not just a Democrat-Republican thing. We don't get what vast majorities want, according to reputable polls.

It is a constitutional democracy, of course. So we can't vote to require all blue-eyed people to wear tutus and always face south. But forget stuff like that. We can't even get constitutional laws passed that most people want.

Now leaders aren't supposed to just wet a finger and see where the wind's blowing. I get that. But we the people--liberal and conservative alike--just don't have a very good success rate with "our" legislators. And what we do get seems to align closely....really, really, closely...with the interests of a small number of people with very specific financial interests. And in other cases it's obvious that public opinion has been manipulated by the adroit application of lots of money and the suppression of opposing views.

For example, most Americans are dead set against ObamaCare--except for what's in it, most of which they want if you ask them about it piece by piece and don't call it ObamaCare. Because the propaganda campaign never talked about what's in it--at least not what's actually in it. And that shows you (or should show you) that the massive opposition to ObamaCare comes from the American public having been propagandized up the wazoo about this, day after day for years now.

Apart from what the public wants that it doesn't get, there are things I want that the vast majority of Americans don't want, even without being propagandized. Like a universal biometric ID database. Like free abortion on demand for anyone, no questions asked. Like a one child policy, strictly enforced. Like immigration limited to people America actually needs plus dependents those people can support without public assistance.

But I'm not talking about those things here. Just the things most Americans do want and won't get because individuals with lots of money control government--Democrat, Republican alike--when it comes to the things they care about. Like not criminally prosecuting the financiers and bankers whose fraudulent activities--including calling high risk mortgages low risk mortgages, to name the easiest to identify as fraud pure and simple--were 90% of the cause of the 2008 depression. Most Americans want that. But we can't vote for anyone in either party who will do that, because what the criminals want trumps what we want and will continue to do so as long as anyone can spend anything on any election, except for trade unions. CEOs don't have to clear political expenditures with stockholders, but unions have to clear political expenditures with union members.

And the Republican majority of the Supreme Court just doubled down on that today. We now live in Potterville. And this is one dream we won't wake from. (Potterville is the dystopian alternative reality Jimmy Stewart visited when he wished he'd never been born in "It's a wonderful life.")

Monday, June 25, 2012

Today's Supreme Court decisions weren't about immigration and campaign spending

...they were about the authority of our central government. We are the UNITED States of America, not the Confederated States of America, or an American Union like the EU. Personally I'd prefer America's central government to adopt Arizona's immigration policies and Montana's campaign spending policies, but today's world requires a strong central government--much moreso than in 1789--and today we experienced the downside of that need.

Note that the part of the Arizona law requiring cops to verify the immigration status of people who appear to be illegals was a unanimous decision, though with the proviso that it could be revisited later after it has been enforced for a while. So it would be tough to call that one a political decision.

When the Supreme Court finds a law constitutional or otherwise, the majority isn't saying it necessarily likes or dislikes that law--only that the law was or was not constitutional. Not the same thing at all, just as here I didn't like these two laws being overturned/mostly overturned...or I wished they were federal laws. Except that the Montana one about campaign spending was also overturned as a federal law by a five vote Supreme Court majority that believes corporations should be able to spend their shareholders' money without limit on political campaigns, but unions not their members' money.

This country's next couple of decades will be cited in history books as proof of why campaign spending should be strictly regulated to prevent takeover of government by the oligarchs.

President Obama isn't black

President Obama may lose the fall election because a few percent of Democrats--and a much larger percentage of Republicans--won't vote for a black man (unless he's an Uncle Tom of course).

The irony here is that Barack Obama isn't actually black. First, he's exactly half and half--no more black than he is white. Second, he was raised entirely by white people in parts of the country and of the world that were almost devoid of black people, much less a black community. Third, he spent much of his formative years in Hawaii, arguably the most interracial, polycultural state in America--but one with very few blacks, despite having lots of everything else.

He didn't become even superficially black until after college, when he moved to Chicago and became a community organizer there and married an authentically black American woman and started attending an authentically black Christian church.

He has learned to sound a bit black in his speech patterns and how he holds himself. But it's a patina. He's really an Oreo--neither a criticism nor a praise. It's just who he is. A white man who looks like a black man, with a patina of black culture acquired as an adult.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Was Obama's mini-Dream Act Decree just a ploy--trolling for the Mexivote?

I'm against both the Dream Act and President Obama's decree cutting some slack for illegals brought here by their parents, for reasons I've given in other essays in this blog.

But I believe the President is both sincere about his decree as well as knowing it was a masterful political move. It's possible to be doing what you believe is the right thing at the same time as manuvering adroitly on the political chessboard.

And of course it's legal. He's not defying Congress's laws. It's not like all those signing statements of President Bush the second when he was saying he wasn't going to enforce the law he was signing. In this case it's a matter of prosecutorial discretion in applying the limited funds Congress has made available to him.

Besides, anyone attacking him on immigration has to confront the fact that he has deported far, far more illegal aliens than President Bush had in a similar timeframe. He has made good on his promise to crack down on illegal immigration before asking for favors for the illegals he favors.

The scope of presidential power will always be a topic of discussion. The Republicans never hesitate to attack President Obama when they think he isn't exercising his authority robustly--as with, say, China or Syria right now. Yet they also never hesitate to attack him when they think he is doing so, as in this case.

So it seems the real principle is that everything President Obama does is wrong by definition--it has nothing to do with how much or how little he wields power. It has to do with him being President--something that has become more important than actual political principles to a remarkable number of Republicans.

Kind of like them all opposing Obamacare--while, in pollings\, mostly saying they like most of its provisions, when asked about them without pointing out that they're part of Obamacare.

That is, the Republican campaign is just like the ones for class president in the 8th grade--

popularity contests.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Am I good? Are you?

re: goodness

Most people treat the subject of good & evil individualistically. But it isn't true. Good & evil are far more a group phenomenon than we want to admit. There are saints and sociopaths, of course, but they're the exception. We evolved living in small bands of hunter/gatherers for around 95% of the time recognizably human beings have been on this Earth, and in such bands morality is mediated on an ongoing basis, with the consequences of personal lapses and misdeeds trailing you for the rest of your life. People behave because they can't escape the consequences of misbehavior. They don't behave as a cynical calculation--they just "sense" the need to behave. And the rare examples of miscreants in one's little tribe--how the shame of their misdeed sticks to them--serves as a warning to uphold the tribe's values.

Modern society puts us in a world of strangers, and even with lifelong circles of friendship and family, most of us could move to a new town and start over if we so chose. So both the ongoing sense of needing to behave and the strategic understanding of being able to avoid the long-term consequences of heinous-but-legal behavior make for a much less moral society, overall, than our ancestors experienced.

Stasi papers uncovered after the fall of the German Wall showed that a very large proportion of East Germans collaborated with the state spy apparatus. Conversely, precious few French citizens really resisted the Nazi occupation, despite postwar posturing.

Yesterday as I rode my bicycle out of our condo complex, a lady in a car turned across my path. If I hadn't braked hard I would have become her bloody hood ornament. She saw me clearly--but she figured I'd stop if I didn't want to die, and I did.

Now imagine if she and I knew each other, and that both of us knew that the consequences of that encounter would hang in the air for the rest of our lives, not just for us but for our families' relationship with each other and with the rest of the tribe for decades to come. The odds are very high that under such circumstances she wouldn't have broken the law and endangered my life (and I wouldn't have shouted what I shouted at her as she went by me).

But I'll probably never see her again, and vice versa.

The miracle is that we behave as well as we do, in general. To that extent you could say that goodness is inborn--though easy to subvert.

A few years ago an incident where a light plane crashed into the power lines leading into my college town and cut all electricity to the town for a whole day, so no stop lights worked and there were far too few cops to post at all the intersections with lights.

Yet traffic was hardly impeded. All day virtually everyone stopped at intersections and observed the rules of the road punctiliously. I've traveled in the Philippines, and I guarantee you that under similar circumstances there it would have been gridlocked chaos.

But this doesn't show that "goodness" is an individual thing--quite the opposite. It shows that a settled, orderly culture like that of my town has more of the feel of our hunting/gathering tribal situation than less orderly societies have. We don't think of our tribal ancestors as having more orderly societies than what we have on Earth today, but in fact they did.

So yes, good and evil have always existed, but it isn't just individual good and evil--the macroorganisms we call society/culture also can be good or evil.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to brainwash at a distance

1965 GOP billboard
Cults brainwash people by removing them from friends/family/community so all they hear & see is the message and the followers of the cult leader.

However, media--TV, internet etc.--make it possible to brainwash some from a distance. That's how we get a few Islamofascist terrorists becoming radicalized primarily through jihadi website that feed them a powerful diet of propaganda videos showing how evil we are to the viewer's religion & community (as he sees it), and seals the deal by tying his masculinity to his faith--a Real Man's gonna go blow himself up and kill as many pregnant women & little children as possible.

Al Qaeda's normal M.O. with suicide bombers is to isolate them while they're preparing the person for the mission and have them online via cellphone right up to the moment of explosion if possible.

In every case the idea is to convince someone that (1) something awful and scary is going on; (2) you can't trust what the mainstream says; (3) here's an emotionally cogent narrative that's better than reality; (4) and here's constant reinforcement of the cult's message, 24x7, on the Internet, on TV, on radio.

Nobody does this better than the oligarchs who own the Republican Party. The Democrats try, but they're like cats in a sack. Whereas Republican rank and file, being monarchists rooting for King George in their heart of hearts, are easier to get to fall in line.

If you watch Fox for a day, what you'll see is all the major news of the day presented and instantly spun by mouths-for-hire into the Fear Them Trust Us narrative. So a news show does two crime reports. One is the murder of a white woman by a black physician, to give a recent example. The second is the killing of a black youth in a gunfight with the cops (another example). They never identify the race of those involved, of course. They don't need to. The pictures say it all.

The metamessage is that blacks are dangerous and the Democrats are on their side. Fox is the white man's hope. For plausible deniability, half of the 100 black conservatives in America are Fox employees who can be seen through the day repeating the party line.

The rest of the news falls under the heading of Bad Obama and Bad Democrats. The reportage has the appearance of news programs--including the ones that aren't pundit shows like O'Reilly and Hannity. Only they aren't, because they repeat proven lies constantly, as shown by the fact checking sites. In this sense they are to news programs exactly what late night infomercials are to late night talk shows--you know, the ones with the smooth pitch man and his zany sidekick in front of the Stepford Audience, talking about buying gold or some miracle wax or timeshare condos or or or...

They're cult programming shows instead of news shows not because they represent a conservative viewpoint, but because they say things that are factually incorrect or unproven as fact, and all in the service of a carefully shaped propaganda narrative designed to divorce the viewer from having any trust in any but Party Approved Media Sources, and to propel the viewer in one direction only--right now to vote for any Republican against any Democrat and to view the President of the United States as someone who if not replaced with Any Republican (that would Mitt Romney, since he has no actual political identity), America will erupt in flames and sink beneath the waves.

This is not accomplished by saying so in so many words. Rather it's done by herding--the way a sharp sheepdog gets a passel of sheep to go where the sheepdog wants them to go, running around them, nipping at their heels if they stray from the path, but all so smoothly that the sheep can almost thing they're going where they want to go.

And all the time flattering the sheep into thinking anyone who isn't a sheep is a sheep; anyone who disputes anything Fox says is spouting propaganda and must himself be brainwashed; just as anyone who complains about the fact that wealth is now concentrated in America the same as in Russia and Mexico is waging class war...that is, every single propagandistic trick they're using they accuse their opposition of using, so loudly and so frequently it puts the liberals on their back foot, trying to deny that they're waging class war instead of accusing the oligarchs of waging class war, as is actually the case.

Lastly, propaganda isn't really about ideas. It's about creating fear and personifying it. If President Obama walked down the street towards you you'd instantly recognize him. If the CEO of Exxon did you wouldn't. Nor the owners of Walmart, nor the Koch brothers, nor any of the nameless faceless oligarchs who are pulling the strings.

So they're focusing their victims' fear and anger on people. On an endlessly repeated mantra of people and their faces--Obama/Pelosi/Holder/Frank/Soros and a few more--while our counter is vague abstractions because the oligarchs really, really don't want you to know anything about them. Just as their "ideas" are bumper sticker slogans, while the counter is professorial lectures about the credit default swap chicanery etc.

Watch Fox for an hour and you'll see everything I've described here, hard at work. Watch it for a day and you'll see how everything is carefully coordinated from on top--and if you listen to the innumerable right wing talk shows provided by the handful of media companies that now own most of the airwaves, thanks to the privatization of them under President Reagan.

Yes, MSNBC tries, but it isn't backed by the bulk of the oligarchs, and while it does dip into propaganda--especially where illegal immigration is concerned--it just isn't the precisely honed and hurled spear that Fox is.

Just remember, Fox isn't the one pulling the strings. It's the sock puppet. You'll never see the ones actually holding the strings.

It's not always about Left vs. Right

Source: Demoskratia
This is a response to an article in a local indie "public interest" website, advocating what Liberal city planners and their allies like to call "smart growth. You can see the article here. And my answer below. It's about the San Francisco Bay Area, but it applies to any metropolitan area that's growing:

Most Americans think that politically we're divided between Left and Right.

Well, not where it comes to population growth issues. There, Right and Left are united in their indifference to what most people think...and want. And their indifference to reality to boot.

Because when you have a shining vision, it can crowd out reality, which is ambiguous and messy. Shining visions are so much neater.

And here both Left and Right unite in denying that there's any such thing as overpopulation. So what if the world's human population is expanding at the rate of over 140 extra people per minute? So what if the Bay Area (where I live) has doubled its population since the 1960's, turning all our freeways into parking lots when most people are going to/from work? So what if it would take 1.4 Earths to sustain Earth's current population with the current quality of life.

We're cantilevered over the abyss, with the porous aquifers of the world rapidly being exhausted--and when they are, they don't come back. Ever.

Yet denial reigns. The Left won't face overpopulation because someone said saying so is racist, and they'd rather let the world self-destruct than be accused of racism. The Right won't face overpopulation because they're like five year old boys who hate being told what they can't do. And the rest don't want to hear about it because it's, like, a total buzzkill, man.

So growth is good? Not one "growth" proponent will admit to there being any limit whatsoever, beyond which we'd have to say "whoa--that's it." If cancer could talk, it would talk like this. Think about it.

What about when the Bay Area is solid high rises stuffed with people, like Tokyo? Would that be cool with everyone? Just exactly who that lives here would benefit from such a scenario, apart from developers, realtors, and building trades unions? Everyone else would feel like they'd gotten the shaft--and they'd be right.

If infinite growth isn't cool with you, then where should we set the upper limit? How about the current level, and tell all the regional planner busybodies to go help Stockton (a city 50 miles from the Bay Area) learn how to attract jobs for its residents rather than having them commute here?

Lastly, a shrinking population was presented as an unthinkable tragedy, invoking dystopian visions of depopulated Rust Belt towns. This is ridiculous. As the article indicated, the Bay Area boasts one of the finest climates on Earth, and a beautiful physical setting. It's not remotely comparable to Detroit.

When I moved here in 1966, with half the current population living here, not one resident said "Wow, this is tragic! Only three million people here! Life is almost unbearable with so few people, with the freeways actually usable, with elbow room between communities. Let's get three million more people to move here!"

I challenge anyone who was here then to say they said any of the above.

Leftists are eager to sacrifice our quality of life for the sake of the poor--at least if they're another race. Rightist are eager to sacrifice our quality of life for the sake of the rich, since there's no virtue in anything but profit, apparently.

If you aren't one of those, I suggest you start challenging the assumptions that are so obvious in discussions with "Smart Growth" proponents: that growth is both inevitable and good; that we must sacrifice ourselves for someone else's ideal--that isn't even a valid ideal; that there's no such thing as overpopulation, climate change, ecocide, or all those other things nobody wants to think about.

Don't let the developers and the building trades unions push you around.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The NY Times isn't a liberal newspaper

Well, not liberal in the sense that its editorials are certainly liberal, but its editorial page has some conservative voices as regular contributors as well as liberal ones, and all of that is separated from its reportage, which is generally centrist/factual (with exceptions like a steady stream of human interest stories on saintly illegal immigrants). But it's not a huge tilt.

Take today's Politics section (this is a news section, not the editorial page). Here are the descriptions of the lead items:

>> Interactive: Selective Storytelling From the Stump
An interactive comparison provides analysis and context to some of the candidate’s truths, half-truths and exaggerations.

In Romney and Obama Speeches, Selective Truths

President Obama and Mitt Romney have at times been stretching the truth, using statistics without context or just exaggerating.<<

And a little farther down:

A new book by a Washington Post reporter could raise further questions about how closely the President Obama's telling of his life hews to reality.  <<  

Hardly the "in the tank for Obama" propaganda blitz the GOP Ministry of Propaganda and its main organ FOX "News" would have you believe of the NY Times.

Conversely, balanced reporting like this is not to be found on any right wing site. At least none I've been able to find. I keep looking, but everything I find isn't just conservative--it's anti-Obama all the way. I'd love to find a link to a popular conservative site that has articles like the first two listed here. But I suspect it just doesn't exist.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Something I never hear anyone on the Right explain--not from the rank and file, not from the pols, not from the pundits: what accounts for the 100% line-up between every single thing the GOP calls for where serious money is involved...and what America's richest 1% want (apart from a few spoilsports like George Soros and Bill Gates and that great class traitor Warren Buffet)?

That is, the obsession with abortion is just a sop. What counts is the little things that get written into laws that give a particular company or cartel a particular advantage, and the legislative and regulatory climate in which those billion dollar favors for million dollar contributions take place.

The talk of freedom and Big Government is window dressing. If Romney becomes president he will profit personally and significantly. So will Republican congressmen. And so will their super-rich patrons, by orders of magnitude.

So show me how the GOP hasn't become the sock puppets of the ultra rich?

What other conclusion explains how exquisitely the GOP's platform has been crafted to bring even more comfort to the comfortable and even more affliction to the afflicted?

And what has Mitt Romney proposed that could decrease his personal fortune in any way? Do you really think that every single thing that enriches Mitt Romney enriches the average taxpayer--or even the average Republican taxpayer?

Same goes for the overall GOP platform. Do you really believe that anything whatsoever that reduces any of the streams of money flowing in the Cayman Islands "headquarters" of corporate America is also bad for the rest of us? Really?

The way North and South America's eastern coastline lines up so well with the western coastline of Africa and Europe isn't a coincidence. It comes from the fact that they were once joined, a few geological epochs ago.

Neither is the lineup between the Republican leadership and the billionaires whose desires they serve so diligently. 

Congress doesn't matter--according to the GOP

Everything the GOP leadership and its followers are saying about the past four years assigns 100% of the responsibility for everything bad that's happened--to the President. I just heard Tim Pawlenty say so this morning. He's Mitt Romney's campaign chief.

In countries with parliamentary government this would be true. Such countries are run by the Prime Minister, chosen by the party that won the last election. These are true majoritarian governments; there, the legislative minority is powerless.

That's not remotely the case in our country. We have our Constitution, which is designed from the ground up to make government inefficient, and the Senate's rules make it even more inefficient. In our country even a president with a majority in both houses of Congress still can't get his way if the minority party declares total war on the majority--filibustering nearly every law and nominee (even for nonpartisan positions), tying government in knots. Plus many Democrats in swing districts have been intimidated by the ability of the Republicans to buy every minute of ad space and time in his congressional district for a month prior to the next election, devoting it to lying attack ads.

So in our country today, where politics is dominated by raw money and the presidency is closer to being the top administrative job in the country rather than providing the ruler of a nation that the GOP likes to present our presidency is.

Bush II was able to accomplish his agenda because he was working in concert with a compliant Congress for six years. However, the Democrats hadn't declared total war on him, in part because he lied us into a war and in a war you can always call the minority traitors if they don't cave.

So by assigning total responsibility for America's state of affairs to President Obama, the GOP is not only saying Congress is irrelevant, it's also saying that the American President is in control of the rest of the world as well. As if we can change what's happening in Greece, in Spain, in Italy, in China (where growth has slowed), etc. They make Obama a kind of demigod--just a bad, bad demigod.

And half the nation buys this malarkey.

Friday, June 15, 2012

In 2008, Obama's electoral margin was depressed 3-5% because of racism

This came from research by Seth Setphens-Davidowitz, a doctoral candidate in political economics at Harvard. You can Google his name for the details. Looked pretty solid, unbiased research to me.

It doesn't mean that only 3-5% of Americans are racist enough for it to affect their voting. It measures how many people who would have voted for a Democratic candidate if he were white chose not to. I'd guess there are also at least 25% of voters who always vote Republican who wouldn't have voted for a Republican candidate if were black. But they wouldn't have voted for a Democrat of any race, so they don't count here. The figure also takes into account additional voting for Obama because he's black (actually half-black), mostly by blacks.

Discussed on today's Chris Matthews show on MSNBC.

Obama's new immigrant initiative wrong, but Romney not right

Today President Obama announced that he'd quit automatically deporting illegal aliens who'd entered the country before they were 16, had no criminal record, had graduated high school, and who weren't 30 yet. Stuff like that. And he'd give such aliens a 2 year residence permit, renewable indefinitely every two years.

This is a perfect example of just what the American President can and cannot do. He can't grant amnesty with citizenship. He can't just flout Congressional legislation (though Bush II did pretty much do that with his strange "signing statements" time after time after time). And the next President who isn't him can rescind this dictum on his first day in office.

I've no doubt that the President had a political motive in this announcement (you think?), just as Citizen Romney had a muted doublespeak response to the announcement: namely trolling for the Mexivote.

But let's take everyone at face value. What's wrong with Obamnesty has nothing to do with whether the 800,000-odd people involved wouldn't make good immigrants for America. I'm sure a lot would. For one thing, nearly all of them speak/write good English. And by definition at least graduated from high school. There are a lot of native-born high school dropouts I'd happily trade in for this lot.

What's wrong with Obamnesty is that it dangles a big fat carrot in front of the nose of every alien who loves his kid(s), but doesn't think he or she could get a permanent visa (or doesn't want to wait). Now again I like the idea of LEGAL immigrants who love their kids and want the best of them. But I don't love the idea of the message President Obama just broadcast to the world: "Come on down! We'll let your kids jump the queue--no problemo."

Also, as with all such policies and proposals, it includes a soft jingoism: the assumption that no other country on Earth is worth being a citizen of.

I recall the last time I was in the Philippines, in the Puerto Galera area of Mindoro. I ran into a young lady from Los Angeles, CA, of pure Philippino extraction. She'd grown up in California and didn't even speak Tagalog when she visited relatives in Manila. A few years later, she'd become the manager of a scuba diving shop in Puerto Galera. She know how to deal with foreign divers--95% of the clientele--was attractive, knew the Philippino culture too because that was her family.

That's a life course many of these illegal immigrants to America, brought here as kids, could follow. I've been in 17 countries as a tourist, and I've seen how much demand there is for people with a foot in the home country culture and the cultures of the tourists.

And Puerto Galera isn't some crime-ridden slum. It's a lovely place. Google it--you'll see.

So deporting the illegal aliens who President Obama expresses so much empathy for hardly consigns them to a garbage heap in Bombay. Not when they have an American education. I bet a lot of them would wind up staying happily in their home country when they discover what their opportunities are there.

I'd give them a one year delay in deportation in order to learn their home culture/language, and once they're there, allow them to apply for a visa to come here, along with everyone else who wants to come here, and give them points for their mastery of American culture/language in considering their petition. Unless they stayed here beyond the time limit--and then all bets are off.

But I'm not running for office in a country that's now 14% Hispanic, most of which is the result of previous amnesties for illegals.

And that's why even someone as overtly hardline on immigration as Romney gave such a low-key answer.

Leftists want to ban UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)

Many Leftists want to ban armed "drones," claiming that they make more enemies than they kill, and that they kill civilians--that using them is a war crime. And that we're letting a genie out a bottle, one that we'll regret having released later.

First, they aren't drones. Drones are target aircraft using for shooting practise in the military. They're UAVs. Calling them drones has a negative connotation--as if they're useless blunderers.

Second, war makes enemies. What's the alternative? Sending police into the hinterlands of Pakistan and Yemen to arrest the malefactors? They'd never reach their target. Military ground invasion? How many civilians would that kill? The only practical alternative to UAVs attacking these targets is to leave these targets alone. Let them attack our troops, our civilians (which they do regularly), then retreat to their safe havens. Let them plan and execute another 9/11 unless our purely defensive efforts succeed.

These aren't bank robbers we're chasing. These are members of a worldwide nonstate movement that has been at war with America since the 1990s (as of the first World Trade Center attack). Just because they aren't part of a territory-holding government--and aren't all part of a solid top-down hierarchy--and aren't trying to occupy territory--doesn't mean it isn't war.

And it's an especially pernicious war, because this enemy isn't solely focused on our soldiers. This enemy delights in killing American civilians. Their interest is in waging total war against us, only limited by their capabilities, not their intent.

It is absolutely true that our UAV attacks in Pakistan have enraged a majority of Pakistani citizens, who ignore the death and havoc created by Islamofascists within Pakistan, and by Islamofascists sallying forth from Pakistan to kill people--mostly innocent civilians--elsewhere, especially Afghanistan and India. Those terrorists are, after all, their terrorists, professing the same religion. Attacks from us offend their nationalistic tribalism.

That's unfortunate, but that's not a sufficient reason to desist. Again, what's the alternative?

"Even one innocent person being killed is too many," the leftists say. This is looniness by people who have only known peace in their own land--who know nothing of war. And a farmer angry at his son being killed may be willing to plant an IED to kill Americans, but he can't step into the sandals of a dead master bomb maker and/or effective propagandist and leader (such as Anwar Al-Alaki).  The attempts on us since 9/11 have been generally amateurish and sporadic. It seems reasonable to think that knocking off most of their effective leaders and experts--along with their replacements as they come along--might have something to do with that.

Statements like "even one innocent" are just ritualistic incantations of the bumper sticker slogans of one's side. They aren't based on actual knowledge--yet they're stated as being exactly as factual as saying that water freezes below 32 degree Fahrenheit. They invoke a lofty morality that ignores the brutal consequences of such tender-heartedness. They're warm hearted (in a holier than thou sort of way) but soft-headed.

If the killing of an Al-Qaeda leader with his wives and children--though UAV pilots will loiter for hour after hour over a target waiting for the terrorist to be separated from his family so they can get a clean shot at just the bad guy--if killing his whole family with him prevents, say, downing a 747 full of passengers over, say, downtown Boston--show me the morality of having all those people die.

To add insult to illogic, many leftist also launch into diatribes against "videogame warfare" where the UAV pilots are emotionally detached, when in fact they usually see their targets far longer and better--along with those around them--than pilots of piloted warcraft see.

When a politician tells you exactly what you want to hear...

Yesterday ran an article detailed some of the lie-tmotifs the Democrats and Republicans are saying about each other, over and over--in general describing the differences between the parties as being bigger than they are.

They aren't as big as the parties make them out to be because neither wants you to know how beholden both parties are to America's richest people, whose political purchasing power has been amped up massively by the Supreme Court's decision to let a billion bouquets of bucks bloom anonymously in each and every upcoming political campaign.

There's still a difference. True, Romney and Obama are both servicing the designed of the Masters of the Universe (neither Obama nor Bush had/have started criminal actions against any of the bankers and investors who kicked over the pillars of our economy).

However, Romney has skin in the game. If he wins, he will personally and hugely profit in his own personal taxes. And philosophically he's totally on board with the GOP's rich patrons. Obama does not have skin in the game--he would personally lose money in his own personal taxes if he got his way. And philosophically he's a pragmatist focused on the art of the possible, and in our money-dominated politics he's holding his nose and playing along with the billionaires as much as he must.

In 2008 this resulted in the billionaires apportioning their patronage between the GOP and the Democratic candidate. Now, in 2012, those who were hedging their bets by donating large amounts (by normal mortal standards) to both parties are now stiffing Obama and donating hugely to Romney.

So if Obama wins he won't be beholden to them, both because it'll be his last term, and because he won't have made the promises to them Romney will have.

This isn't a reason to worship Obama. He's a politician who's less seamy than Romney, is all. But it sure is a reason to vote for him.

It is not, however, a reason to believe everything he says. I check every major claim against and, and you should too.

To quote the bottom line paragraph of yesterday's article:

"Sensible voters can still decide elections – but they shouldn’t expect the unbiased truth from 30-second TV spots, or partisan talking points repeated endlessly on cable networks. But to be sensible, a voter must first ask, 'Does that claim sound too good – or too much like what I want to hear — to be true?' That’s where the search for the sometimes unwelcome truth begins."

           – Brooks Jackson

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Who favors big government? small government?

Groups who favor more government and more regulation:

1. Democrats
2. Public employee unions and members
3. Communists and Socialists
4. Europeans (both "European Socialists" and "European Conservatives" relative to American Conservatives)(actually, the citizens and politicians of nearly every other rich country)
5. Control freaks with the personality of a 10 year old girl hall monitor

Groups who favor less government and less regulation

1. Republicans (except when it comes to abortion, mind-altering drugs, homosexuality, and building and staffing more prisons)
2. Wall Street executives, bankers, hedge fund managers
3. Corporate CEOs, Chamber of Commerce, small business owners who believe what helps Fortune 500 corporations helps them
4. Libertarians, Tea Party types, Militia/Survivalist types, White Southerners still angry at General Sherman and Abraham Lincoln, Christianist Dominionists who believe government should be small and weak until they take it over
5. Anarchists / nihilists
6. Illegal immigrants and citizens of other countries who plan to come/stay here illegally
7. Counterfeiters, Internet scam artists, con men, Ponzi schemers, check kiters, child support & spousal support deadbeats, unlicensed contractors, smugglers, poachers, gun runners, shoplifters, airline baggage handlers who are also baggage thieves, burglars, car thieves, bike thieves, insider traders, politicians who want to augment their government income with private bribes and favors, developers who want to build projects that violate zoning regulations and long term city planning models
8. Bank robbers, muggers, serial killers, rapists, child traffickers, pimps, people who run sweat shops staffed with enslaved illegal immigrants, drug dealers, gangbangers, extortionists, organized crime, guys who knock up girls then abandon them, wife beaters, thugs
9. People who resent all authority, who have retained the personality of a five year old boy

Monday, June 11, 2012

Duelling gaffes

So Obama says the private sectors' doing fine. Then Romney says the message of Wisconsin is that Americans want fewer fire fighters, cops and teachers.

What Obama said was a flub. He was trying to say that overall the number of jobs in the private sector is increasing while the number of public sector jobs is decreasing significantly. Which is factually correct.

What Romney said was exactly what he meant--as proven by his repeating it.

And it makes sense. Romney's kinfolk will never need to send their kids to a public school. He's set all his kids up as millionaires, using some clever--and legal--tax dodges. Romney and his class generally live in gated communities with private security and fire protection.

Now maybe you don't, but if you don't, well, why should Mr. Romney make up for your laziness and unAmericanness in not picking right millionaire parents, like he did, and in not parlaying the privileges of his class into a great personal fortune. Why should the fortune-ate feel any sense of connection to the rest of us? You're just a socialist if you think so.

And that's no gaffe. It's the honest subtext that Mr. Romney reveals in all those off-the-cuff comments.

Friday, June 8, 2012

While Romney is a bold liar...unfortunately Obama's no saint

Conservatives routinely dismiss sources that criticize any conservatives in any way about anything. has earned their wrath for doing this daily. What they ignore is that and as well routinely call liberals to account as well.

Today a article stated that the Obama campaign ad about Romney's tenure as Massachusetts governor lies and exaggerates repeatedly.

Factcheck's summary (with some edits by me):

>>A new ad from the Obama campaign takes aim at Mitt Romney’s performance as governor of Massachusetts, claiming he had “one of the worst economic records in the country.” But the ad overreaches with several of its claims.
  • The ad states that job creation in Massachusetts “fell” to 47th under Romney. But Massachusetts’ state ranking for job growth went from 50th the year before he took office, to 28th in his final year. It was 47th for the whole of his four-year tenure, but it was improving, not declining, when he left.
  • The ad’s claim that Romney “cut taxes for millionaires” isn’t as black-and-white as billed. Romney opposed a plan to impose a capital gains tax retroactively, insisting on delaying the hike eight months. That’s different than pushing for a tax cut.
  • The ad claims that Romney raised taxes on the middle class. Romney did impose a number of fees, but none targeted middle-income persons. Also, Romney proposed cutting the state income tax 3times — a measure that would have resulted in tax cuts for all taxpayers — but he was rebuffed every time by the state’s Democratic Legislature.
  • The ad claims Romney “left the state $2.6B deeper in debt.” It’s true that long-term bond debt — used for capital improvements — rose under Romney, as it had in the years before he took office. But Romney wasn’t piling up yearly deficits to support operating expenses the way the federal government is, because Massachusetts requires balanced budgets.
  • The ad claims that when Romney was governor, “Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs, a rate twice the national average.” That’s close to true, but the state lost a greater number of manufacturing jobs in the 4 years before Romney took office, and more in the 4 years after he left. In fact, the rate of job loss in manufacturing slowed during Romney’s time as governor.
  • The ad claims Romney “outsourced call center jobs to India.” But what he did was veto a measure that would have prevented the state from doing business with a state contractor that was locating state customer-service calls in India. Democrats who controlled the Legislature could have overridden the veto, but didn’t. The veto was supported by leading newspapers as a savings to taxpayers.<<
The good news is that obviously isn't in the tank for President Obama and the Democratic Party. The bad news is that voters will have to choose between liars in November. Being honest with the public is not one of the variables we can use in that choice. I think Romney's lies are worse, but as you can see from Factcheck's analysis, it's only a matter of degree.

The worse news is that it's probably impossible to become President without lying, because so many people want to be lied to, because the truth is, in Al Gore's words, "inconvenient." Most people prefer being told lies they like to truth they don't like--starting with the lie that this isn't true.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

NPR really does veer left when it comes to illegal immigration

Sadly, I don't think the Powers That Be at National Public Radio even realize when they've gone into propaganda mode. This saddens me because my spouse and I have been public TV/radio subscribers for decades, and I can't stand to get the news from commercial radio, where ads interrupt the news it seems like every three minutes and last for three minutes. Regardless of bias, it's the constant yelling at me by the ads that made me switch channels.

I've observed that the Left is most blind to their own bias when it comes to illegal immigration. This morning's example was completely truthful--no lies were told. So NPR can tell itself that means it's not biased.

The news item was a Thai kid brought here illegally as a little child who just graduated college with honors and is trying to get into med school. He sounds like a model citizen (apart from not being a citizen).

The Leftist mindset goes "This guy didn't bring himself here illegally. So being here illegally is not his fault. And he's a great guy who'd be a great contributor to our society. Therefore give him citizenship and a scholarship to med school."

What the Leftist mindset doesn't comprehend is the idea that laws are based on principles, not individual circumstances. Or they comprehend this but think it doesn't matter. Patriotism is so twentieth century. We're beyond that now...

There are a fair number of people who are here illegally through no fault of their own. Some of them are like Thai Guy here--college grad, regular boy scout, future doctor. Some of them are gangbangers. Some of them are just high school dropouts who will work menial unskilled jobs the rest of their life, in competition with citizen dropouts whose unemployment rate is sky-high--over 20% I believe.

So the question is not should Thai Guy get a free ride. It's whether every person brought here illegally should get to stay here because it isn't their fault, and get a college slot--maybe a scholarship to boot--if they qualify.

Well, news flash. It's not their fault. And it's not my fault. It's their parent's fault. This country owes them nothing except emergency medical care (followed hopefully by deportation).

Thai Guy isn't "undocumented." He's documented all right--with Thai citizenship papers. He is a legitimate citizen of Thailand, which isn't exactly Aghanistan, and he has all the rights and duties of any other citizen of Thailand.

And his perfect command of English and an American college degree would stand him in good stead in a tourism-oriented nation like Thailand. Thailand also has hospitals catering to medical tourism. Thailand is a valid place to live. I haven't been there personally, but I've been to neighboring Indonesia half a dozen times, and I could live there. It has a lot of pleasing features as a country, and so does Thailand (except for the draconian laws about "insulting the royal family").

I'm fine with Thai Guy applying for a green card from Thailand. I'd even be willing to not hold his current illegal status against him as long as he decamps to Thailand now that he's an adult and knows he's here illegally. I'd also be willing to give him a big plus on his application for being totally fluent in English and a college graduate and familiar with our culture. In the world of would-be immigrants, all those things would place him high on the waiting list in my book.

I'm just not willing to let him stay here along with all the far less desirable people I'd have to let stay with him if I made an exemption for him and thus let his parents off the hook.

And see, there's the biggest reason for making Thai Guy go home to a home he knows nothing about (as I knew nothing about Indonesia the first time I went): letting him stay tells aliens who want the best for their kids and don't want to wait their come here illegally, knowing that America will eventually let their darling child(ren) stay here without making them wait their turn.

Does it steam you if you're waiting in a long line for something you need and some punk cuts in line in front of you and everyone else? It happened to me last 4th of July. We were on the beach waiting for the fireworks and I had to use the PortaPotty. Long lines. After I'd waited there in line for a long time, dancing from one foot to the other, a pair of teenaged boys swaggered up and just popped into the PortaPotty. This happened several times in fact.

Now imagine how amnesty for Thai Guy would make people who'd waited ten years to come here feel.

NPR does this kind of "human interest story" time after time after time. Never--well, once in the past ten years, in my regular listening experience--do they cover anyone but illegal alien saints with sob stories. The low lifes and criminals and unskilled laborer high school dropouts? Nada about them. And the sociologists and economists and immigration specialists and legal immigrants Thai Guy wants to cut in line in front of get no air time on NPR, to balance the story out in some way. Instead they quote militant advocacy groups like the Southern Poverty Law Conference or The Race when they want authoritative figures and arguments.

As I said, not a single lie was told by NPR this morning about Thai Guy. That's better than them just lying about everything, like Mitt Romney does routinely, every day, and never corrects or apologizes for even when his lying is definitively revealed, He just keeps on lying, with that patented Concerned Citizen look on his face.

I guess Dr. House was right (from the TV show that just ended): "Everybody lies." But I expect it from Republicans. I don't from NPR, which has made such an over commitment to veracity. Very, very disappointing.

Cyberwarfare and treason

Today, GOP Ministry of Propaganda spokespuppet John McCain traded in his military credibility once again by attacking the Obama administration for leaking details of our cyberwarfare against Iran to the New York Times' reporter David Sanger.

First, this is a lie at its very foundation. The Obama administration has never betrayed the trust of the American people and its spies like the Republicans did by outing a CIA spy and thus all her contacts abroad, for the petty reason of political revenge.

The only reason the NY Times could talk about this cyberwarfare is because a revision of the software "misbehaved" and thus revealed its existence and purpose to the Iranians and their Russian allies. Up to that point the Iranians had just believed that their nuclear power/weapons development systems were crappy and/or their engineers were crappy. But then a bug in a rev of the software let the cat out of the bag.

Moreover, the NY Times and David Sanger redacted all operational details that might tell our enemies anything they didn't know.

Now the Republicans know all this--they aren't idiots. Just amoral. The purpose of their denunciation is to bury the fact that the Obama administration is pursuing our interests abroad as aggressively and effectively as the Republicans pretend to be and aren't (as in attacking the country that had nothing to do with 9/11 while simultaneously letting the author of the attack and his henchmen go free.

One of the fundamental laws of the Ministry of Propaganda is: Attack the strengths of the GOP's enemies. They did it to Senator Kerry with the phony Swiftboat campaign (abetted by Kerry's ridiculous military salute at the Democratic convention). Now they're doing it to President Obama, with complete nonsense like Mitt Romney--who constantly reveals his ignorance of foreign affairs--giving President Obama an "F" in foreign affairs efficacy, and by today's attack on President Obama by John McCain, who as an ex-military man himself and someone who once showed signs of integrity before abandoning it for political gain, should know better (and probably does).

The Ministry of Propaganda is distressed by President Obama's intelligent, forceful pursuit of our interests abroad, free of the Republicans' specialty--big talk that just panders to the bottom half of Amercans' IQ bell curve. His cyberwarfare campaign, continuing what President Bush started, to his credit, is a prime example of this. And the Ministry of Propaganda doesn't just believe in calling patriots traitors, it also believes in always stepping on the other sides' lines.

You see this on political talk shows, where the Republican operatives routinely interrupt the Democrats on any panel, feigning choleric outrage at whatever the Democrat says, and accusing any host that tries to stop them of being So-shul-ist tools.

Welcome to the New Republican Party--the party of swaggering bullies who treat the truth purely operationally.

They're coming to resemble the conservative political parties of Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries more and more. I await their trying to make it a felony to criticize a Republican.

Public employee pension reform is coming--lead or lose

A clue to Wisconsin Tea Party Governor Walker's defeat of the public employee union effort to unseat him may be found in the overwhelming passage of a public employee pension reform measure yesterday in the liberal Silicon Valley heart of the liberal SF Bay Area in liberal California.

And it was no small burg--it was San Jose, with a population of about a million. This city will vote to re-elect President Obama by a substantial majority this November. The measure wasn't promoted by a tidal wave of billionaires' attack ads like the campaign that support Walker. But just as in Wisconsin, public employee unions marshaled all their forces and get out the vote manpower in their effort to defeat this measure.

So here we can see what happens today even without the advantages of the Republican Ministry of Propaganda. And what happened was that an aggressive public employee pension reform measure passed in a landslide.

If this is what happened in the biggest Silicon Valley city, it's a bellwether for the country--even in Democratic redoubts.

This creates a dilemma for both the public employee unions and the Democratic Party. The latter's chief funding support is the former. You can talk about Hollywood money all you want, but a few millionaire actors' generosity amounts to a garden hose against the forest fire of billionaires' money fueling the Ministry of Propaganda's assaults.

So as long as the public unions demand that the Democratic Party support their efforts to hang onto every last cent they've got, they damage both their cause and that of the Democratic Party; and as long as the Democratic Party complies with the unions' demands for unquestioning support, independents will feel the Democratic Party is against independents and even many Democrats will feel depressed about this issue--hard to get their passion up for it.

The public employee unions need to bend and quit harming the only major party that isn't out to completely destroy them. The Democratic Party needs to tell the public employee unions it's time for damage control, not taking a knife to a gunfights.

No one likes taking bitter medicine. This leads to denialism...and then to defeat.

The public employee unions should work at restoring the old social contract between public employee unions and their employers--us: less money, more security compared to their private sector counterparts. Most people see that as fair. Democrats could get behind such an effort. And it would thwart Republican efforts to portray public employees as greedy cheaters (except for the police, prison guard and firemen's unions that are all heavily Republican, though the public is very unhappy with their gaming the system as well).

Right now public employees are being laid off all over the country. This is to some extent the consequence of their quest for private sector compensation--they've emptied state coffers and lost the respect of the public at large. And they've unintentionally substantiated the Republicans' effort to portray all government as all bad all the time (despite their being the government in a majority of America's territory).

Dudes, take the medicine.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pew research looks into polarization

Today's PBS News had a segment from Pew Research about changes in voters. Some findings:

1. They started in 1987, when they found that income, education, race, and party affiliation were co-equal shapers of political values. Now all of those still mattered, but the relative important of party affiliation has doubled.

2. In 1987, the average disparity by party was 10%, when Pew asked people 48 values-oriented questions. Now it's 18%. Meaning the number of liberal Republicans ("RINOs") and conservative Democrats ("DINOs") has dwindled.

The increase has mostly occurred over the past 10 years, not earlier. For example, most Democrats strongly disapproved of President Bush, and Republicans of President Obama.

3. Centrists are now much more likely to call themselves independents. Today 38% of voters describe themselves that way--the highest % in 75 years. 32% call themselves Democrat, and just 24% Republican.

4. The areas of greatest polarization they're about the role of government in general and in areas of entitlements, growing power of government, healthcare.

5. For example, 88% of Republicans say government is too involved in healthcare, along with 61% of independents, and 37% of Democrats.

5. Linda Killian, author of "The Swing Vote: the untapped power of independents" added some findings about how independents subdivide into mostly-Republican voting, mostly-Democrat voting, and truly independent. That is, this is where the DINOs and the RINOs have gone. They're disgusted with the two parties, hate money in politics, worry about the deficit, jobs, the economy, substance.

Killian says independents are diverse; she looked most closely at those in the battleground states Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire.

She found 4 main subdivisions:
a. "NPR Republicans" -- socially liberal, fiscally conservative
b. "America first Democrats" --conservative Democratic voters
c. "Facebook voters" --young voters, registered as independent more than any other age cohort
d. "Suburban voters" --as well as exurban--the ones who swing elections

6. It's a myth that independents are uninformed and indifferent. They care about politics as much as the party regulars, but their politics don't fit either major party' s ideological mold. They are socially tolerant. They believe the government doesn't have a role in banning/restricting abortion, gay marriage, birth control. In general they are indifferent in these areas. Fiscal responsibility--dollars and cents issues--are what matter to them.

7. Half of all independents are truly swing voters. That's about 20% of all registered voters.

8. They'll make up their minds around October after watching both conventions, and base their chose on the economy and jobs, ignoring most other issues.


This certainly makes sense to me. I'm independent (though registered Democrat) because I'm to the right of the Republicans on immigration (legal and illegal), to the right of both Republicans and Democrats on overpopulation, contemptuous of the Republicans' anti-science, anti-environment agenda, including their positions on birth control, homosexual marriage, abortion, the nonexistent war on religion, and most of the rest of their social agenda. Yet I'm also contemptuous of the Democrats' subservience to Wall Street (thought it's less than the total thrall of the Republicans), their advocacy of illegal immigration and "family reunification," their constant attempts to give special favors to every ethnic group but Anglos, and of both parties' total indifference to the need for a universal biometric ID database--putting us behind even countries like India.

I do support abortion and birth control, but not for the reasons Democrats give. I do support economic austerity, as Republicans do, but not during recessions. And I believe both parties are riddled with obligation to special interests at odds with the general welfare of Americans, and with elected officials' corrupt self-dealing practics.

Above all else I favor transparency in politics, and making lying illegal in political campaigns--especially lying about things which have been proven false, as Romney does every single day.

So I'll be voting for Obama in November, not because I think he'd be our best possible president for the next four years, but because I think a unified Republican control of all three branches of government would replicate the economic and social disaster of 2000-2010.

Note that the Republicans' attempts to blame the 2008 recession of Democratic efforts to help unqualified people buy homes mostly occurred while the Republicans were fully in control of all three branches of government. So whatever the causes of the 2008 recession--those causes were Republican. I believe their massive fiscal irresponsibility would return in force with a Romney presidency. In fact they've already promised it by endorsing the Ryan budget, whose total avoidance of increased taxes and of any cuts whatsoever to our bloated military spending would cost us vast amounts. All their talk about the Obama administration spending out of control, of Obamacare being more expensive than their alternative (which is nothing), are all Big Lies.

The very best we can hope for is a President Obama unable to enact any legislation he'd like but able to veto the Republicans' efforts to complete their class war of the millionaires and billionaires on the rest of us. Those are the only people who benefited as a group from the last Republican presidency, and they'll be the only ones who benefit from the next one.

What the big Democratic loss in Wisconsin tells us

It wasn't even close. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Lt. Governor and his cronies in the state legislature all escaped defeat in this nearly unprecedented recall effort by comfortable margins.

Yet an equally comfortable majority of Wisconsin voters told exit pollers that they supported President Obama. It seems paradoxical, doesn't it?

Democratic poo-bahs attribute the defeat to money. A loophole built into Wisconsin law in 1987 allowed a governor facing recall to spend without limits, while his or her challenger would face Wisconsin's normal, fairly tight restrictions. As a consequence, Walker outspent his Democratic rival seven to one--a majority of that coming from out of state (even while Walker was talking about out of state support for his rival).

But that's not sufficient. Political historians can point to lots of races that the bigger spenders lost. We just had one in California, where billionaire Meg Whitman lost to her Democratic opponent, despite spending far more.

On the other hand, it sure didn't hurt. All other things being equal, whoever spends more is likely to win, and in a majority of races I believe the bigger spender does tend to win--especially when the spending ratio is as lopsided as seven to one.

The Republicans had other things going for them as well. The American public generally believes that government employees have upended the old deal of them getting less compensation in exchange for more security--now it has become axiomatic that they get both more compensation in the long run (through fat pensions and medical care insurance) as well as more job security (though huge numbers of government workers have been laid off over the last four years, so it's not as secure as it once was, though strict seniority rules do make it more predictable than in the private sector).

So a campaign centered on preserving government union workers' advantages that most voters lack, and which most voters believe their city/county/state government can't ultimately pay for...well, that's a very flawed foundation for a political campaign. I was struck by the lack of mention of this in the Democratic analysis I saw.

Moreover, many voters--regardless of party--want something as extreme as a recall limited to extreme cases of malfeasance. That didn't seem to be the case with Governor Walker. Democrats did say that destroying the public employee unions wasn't what the Governor said he'd do when he was running for office. On the other hand, this election endorses just that.

The outrage of the Democratic activists struck many Wisconsinites--even Democrats--as greed and overreach, therefore.

It's interesting that President Obama stayed out of it. Him being no dummy, I can only conclude that he saw this effort was doomed--probably for the reasons I've given here--and thus decided to steer clear of the loss.

The long game underlying the Wisconsin Waterloo is that the Republicans' prime source of support is billionaires; the Democrats' is unions. And most private sector unions have been decimated by the outsourcing of manufacturing to abroad, leaving them with the public sector unions. The GOP plan is to destroy the Democrats' funding while at the same time eliminating campaign spending limits.

They're succeeding on both counts. And tribalized rank and file Republicans see nothing whatsoever wrong with this, which is immoral on their parts, but tribal thinking is unprincipled thinking--beyond the principle of "whatever my side does is good, whatever your side does is bad."

The bottom line is that President Obama can still win Wisconsin this fall--but he can also lose, and the latter was made more likely by this loss.

Monday, June 4, 2012

If you want efficient, purposeful government, vote for Romney

A Romney win will give us a Republican-controlled Congress (remember, their Senate minority, even if it continues, will enable them to block any and all Democratic initiatives), Judiciary, and Executive branch.

So your choice in November--as far as domestic economic policy goes--is whether you want the Republican dream of America enacted or thwarted. The Democratic Partys alternative dream won't happen in 2013 so it's irrelevant.

I believe Romney is telling the truth when he says he'll rubber-stamp the Ryan budget, approve no new taxes, overturn ObamaCare, continue the sweeping-away of government oversight of anything the GOP's wealthy patrons do for profit, and then do anything else that Grover Norquist--who will become the real President--tells Romney and Congress to do.

Rich MItt will be rewarded richly himself for all this. Perhaps $5 million a year from tax breaks just for folks like him.

But an Obama second term won't get us any legislation Obama advocates, because--news flash to those Flummoxed by Fox--in America, the President can't write or pass legislation. He can only veto it. So legislatively all Obama would give us is his ability to veto GOP legislation, and thus force compromise on them--which they've vowed to reject, so another four years of stalemate would most likely result.

On the face of it, efficiency sounds better than stalemate, doesn't it?

Unless the efficiency you're trying to avoid is the efficiency of speeding the lifeboat we're in over the lip of the falls....