Friday, August 31, 2012

For the GOP, facts don't matter.

The fact-checking organizations had a field day during & after the Republican convention, since so much lying and deceit characterized nearly every talk. Even Mrs. Mitt Romney, known by one and all as a pillar of rectitude, repeated the totally false canard about President Obama telling small business "you didn't build it." Just about the only ones who didn't lie to some degree or other were the families from Bishop Romney's ward and, just about, his former associate in his bishopric.

The rest lied, and lied, and then lied some more.

And Clint Eastwood made it clear that his imaginary guest on the stage, Barack Obama, was saying "Go yourself" repeatedly. This in front of the Romney clan's small children--not to mention any children in front of the TV when it aired during prime time.

Yet the next day Mrs. Mitt defended the skit, completely unfazed by 10 minutes of comic obscenity in front of her grandchildren.

If Clint had said the words out loud instead of implying them, the Republican National Committee would have been fined massively by the FCC.

More importantly, every single person connected to the Republican campaign has come out and dismissed all the fact-checking organizations as all being partisan lib-er-uls trying to get President Obama re-elected.

The very same organizations that call out the Obama campaign for its own lies and distortions daily.

And it sure works for partisan Republicans, whose knee-jerk rejection of all media outside the Fox/Rush orbit was abundantly clear in the comment threads of the major newspaper articles.

These guys show all the signs of being brainwashed cult devotees through their circle-the-wagons paranoia about the world outside the Republiverse.


Footnote: the RNC convention talked repeatedly about our founding fathers and how we should get back to their beliefs and ideas.

The irony is that they're the liberals' founding fathers. The conservatives of that era were Tories who stood with the Crown. It's pretty funny that they talk so reverently about the people they were taking up arms against at the time...

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

No, I'm not better off. My hair is grayer, my eyesight dimmer, and my balance not so good.

How can I vote for Obama when he's done these things to me?

Wait, you say. Just because he was President while these happened doesn't mean he's the cause.
Correlation doesn't equal causation. But if you're a Republican convention delegate, you'll add, though, that the President is the sole, unique cause of every single bad thing that's happened to America's economy in the past four years (apparently good things are by definition not to the President's credit).

Oil prices--mostly determined by the world market (so the President apparently is also King of the World), bond prices (oh, wait, federal bond prices are up, since the world regards America as the best place to buy T-bills), corporate profits (oh, wait, they're waaay up--those profits just aren't being shared with employees; top managers and big investors have made out like bandits, though), global warming (oh, wait, Republicans believe it isn't happening or if it is, that human activity had absolutely nothing to do with it).

My Republican friends fail to recognize the degree to which the other party can throw sand in the gears of government if it has a mind to. That ability to obstruct is built into the Constitution and the internal rules of the Senate. However, the people who framed those rules had no reason to imagine that 200 years after our nation became a constitutional republic, those very rules wouldn't be used as part of our checks and balances but instead to drive the vehicle of state from the back seat as much as possible, by refusing to compromise about virtually everything, refusing to OK even minor, nonpartisan appointments, all the while waging a billion-dollar campaign against the very legitimacy of this President from the day he took the oath of office.

Never in American history has total political war been declared and waged on a sitting president to the extent that today's Republican Party has done so on this one.

So--how does a President "lead" such people? This isn't a business. He can't fire these people as if they were his employees. Thats the fundamental disconnect of the business model of government BTW. Every Congressman is an elected or state-appointed official not fire-able by the Prez.

The only "leadership" possible under our system under these circumstances is to hold the mob off at the pass. The only "leadership" the Republican Congress would accept would be total surrender--for the Prez to sign every bill they sent him without comment, basically just leaving his left hand and arm in the White House--as they can be sure will be the case with Mitt Romney if he wins, because his acceptance speech last night caved in to all their demands and then some--totally contrary to the principles espoused by Romney's father who he reveres except for the little matter of political philosophy.

Not to mention the fact that it usually takes a lot longer to fix a problem than to create it, just as it may take one kid a second to kick over a building built with blocks but half an hour to reconstruct that building.

So I hand you a problem that takes a week to solve, and after a day demand to see the results, and dismiss your complaints as making excuses.

That's exactly what the GOP is trying to do to the President.

What the Republicans don't want you to even consider is the possibility that President Obama has led the country as well as it could have been led, given the polarization of the country and the GOP's near-total intransigence.

You can't compare what someone did against some ideal in your head. You have to compare real world actions by real world alternatives.

But here's a thought: the President has far more leeway in foreign affairs than in domestic ones, where Congress dominates in our system. So you can make a good argument that foreign affairs are a better way to gauge a president's leadership.

The Republicans don't want you to think about that either, because in foreign affairs President Obama has done much to restore our position and credibility after Bush II's egregious bull in a china shop performance (the Republicans claim the exact opposite, but it's a tissue of transparent lies, from the "apology tour" canard on forward). The President has taken the war on Islamofascism to the actual enemy vastly more effectively than George "Mission Accomplished" Bush ever did.


Some assorted thoughts:

When I say "my country," I'm talking about the country of my birth, and the one to which I pledge allegiance.

But when Governor/Bain CEO Mitt Romney talks about "my country," I can't help feeling that he's talking about one of his many possessions.


There are two Mitt Romneys: the kindly, attentive husband, father, churchgoer, and great friend to the top managements of the companies he didn't suck dry and throw away...and the lying, trash-talking, weasel in a dark suit & a red tie whose campaign centerpiece--his budget proposal--is mathematically impossible, and whose ridiculing of Obama for being concerned with man-caused global warming shows a total lack of concern for his own many grandchildren.

I believe both Romneys exist--neither disproves the other; only the massive compartmentalization in his mind that lets him justify unethical behavior in his public life that he would never countenance in his private one. I can't read his mind but he's so thoroughly both Romneys I can't see any other explanation being plausible.

What I most fault in his presentation of himself is him adopting the kindly, paternal face/demeanor of Nice Romney while the words coming out of his mouth are those of Mean Romney. That's where his two halves clash most, making him as palatable as toadstool swirl ice cream.


President Obama's biggest challenge is the fact that his domestic policies hardly matter, because he'll never get them enacted into law by a Republican-dominated Congress. All he can offer us domestically is to play Katy bar the door against the Republican government-hating, Voodoo Economics-worshipping mob--and to ensure that the Supreme Court doesn't get one of its aging moderat justices replaced with a second Scalia, as Romney has promised to do.

One more Scalia and the Supreme Court will simply become an arm of Mobil/Exxon.

This means that Obama's soaring rhetoric is not to the point. To the point would be channeling what the Spartans said at Thermopylae, as they fought off the vastly larger number of invading Persians: "Tell the Greeks that we did our duty."

All four more years of Obama can get us domestically is four fewer years of the Republicans completing the transfer they've engineered of America's wealth into around 5,000 pockets.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Footnotes on the GOP convention Day 3

The general nastiness of this convention continued tonight with the CEO of Staples appearing to praise  Governor Romney--which was fine--then moving on to say one lie after another about President Obama, who he doesn't know from Adam. And with every fake indictment he'd puctuate his attack by getting the mob--er, crowd--er, audience--to chant with him "He just doesn't get it."

Lordy do I hate political chanting. Hate it from the left, hate it from the right. It symbolizes the reduction of political discourse to raw tribalism--often with ugly racial overtones.

And it clashed with the following segment in which we met several families who'd been members of Bishop Romney's congregation in Massachusetts, along with a member of his bishopric who'd gone on to become a bishop himself (in Mormondom, a bishop is the appointed lay leader of a congregation, along with two appointed male assistants, who together with the bishop are, collectively, the equivalent of a paid priest or minister in other religions).

These people spoke kindly and positively about Bishop Romney. They reminded me of the many Mormons I know here in Silicon Valley, and they never stooped to the kind of vicious word-war that has typified this year's Republican National Convention.

What they said about Bishop Romney was uplifting. It was also the same as could have been said about the half dozen-plus bishops I've known personally. Let me be a little delicate here. I'm not trying to gainsay what these good people said about the goodness of their bishop towards them. I believe every word they said. All I'm saying here is that such behavior is par for the course. It's a very unusual bishop in any Mormon ward who doesn't do what Bishop Romney did, always backed by his two assistants in the bishopric, along with the Relief Society president and her assistants, the Primary President and her assistants, the ward secretary, the facilities manager, the teachers, the ward missionary leader, and many other people, all called to their tasks just as the bishop was.

So Bishop Romney definitely deserves the equivalent of a service medal for his work in the bishopric--but not the Medal of Honor. The Mormon culture brings out the kind of service these people described Bishop Romney as providing. And you have to see it in context of his work being backed up by dozens of other people.

I only heard one disturbing note in the "Mormon section" of the convention. The member of his bishopric who'd gone on to become a bishop himself praised Bishop Romney for not preaching every Sunday but rather giving the pulpit over to members of his ward/congregation to speak.

Huh? That's the way the Mormon church is organized. The bishop isn't the preacher giving a sermon every Sunday. Most of each month you have a youth speaker, an adult male speaker, and an adult female speaker. I've been attending Mormon wards for decades, both in my home town and in other states and countries, and that's the way it's done everywhere. So I see this bishop taking advantage of the fact that most non-Mormons don't know how Mormon services are run. And while the rest of his testimony rang true to me, it made me wonder if he wasn't shading the truth in other ways.

I would have thought someone on Romney's team would have vetted the talk and made him change this bit.

This isn't a big thing, but it's one teensy bit of fact-checking you probably won't get anywhere else.

It is a feature of tribalism to be kind and helpful to members of your tribe. The question is how you treat others--people you may not know personally--because Bishop/Governor/CEO Romney will never know me personally. So while this evening's presentation gave me a positive and believable picture about how he treats people he knows, people who work under doesn't tell me how he relates to the half of the country that isn't Republican, the half that challenges much of what he claims.

Thus far what I've seen is that he doesn't like being challenged. No one challenges the bishop of a ward. It's not in the Mormon culture's DNA to do so. And no one challenges his boss at work--not if he wants to stay employed. I know about this from several first-hand experiences, actually, having a tendency to speak my mind. Mr. Romney has a tendency to get aggrieved when people demand to see his tax returns--he being possibly the richest man who has ever run for the presidency, and there being the appearance that he's stashed a lot of money in tax shelters offshore.

And one thing I know absolutely about the Mormon church is that all Mormons are enjoined to avoid both sin--and the appearance of sin.

I know he knows this. But he is used to being revered, and by all accounts he's a kindly if demanding lord and master. Maybe he thinks his himness being challenged is unseemly. He says "trust me." His wife says "trust him." And the Romney's appear to expect you to click your heels and say Yes Sir!

Back to the convention, a black woman who described herself as a liberal Democrat who'd been on his cabinet in Massachusetts, praised Mitt fulsomely, and again I saw no reason to disagree with her description. Nobody said he was a bad boss.

We got a couple of Cuban immigrants, who seem to collectively believe that anything to the left of Paleo-conservatism = Fidel.

The highlight was Clint Eastwood, who said he had President Obama sitting in the empty chair beside him on the stage. He then proceeded to have both sides of the ensuing fantasy conversation. You sure can make someone look like a fool when you put all the words in the other guy's mouth. Especially when the words are obscenities Eastwood didn't utter explicitly, but he made sure you knew exactly what he meant--obscenities more commonly associated with Republicans. In fact, exactly the obscene invitation Dick Cheney made to a Democratic Senator on the floor of the Senate a few years ago.

The audience lapped it up. What better way to show your total contempt for your opponent than to act as if he sinks to your own level?

Eastwood's a smart guy and a good actor, and he did all this cleverly. That shouldn't mask the fact that it brought insulting a sitting President from the floor of the other major party's nominating convention to a new low. And there's no doubt that the same guy who brought his former ward members on stage to speak of his kind heart also brought Clint Eastwood on stage to put obscenities in the mouth of Romney's opponent. That speech was vetted. Every speech was vetted. And this amusing little talk gave me the measure of this man--not Eastwood, whose only public office was mayor of Carmel some years ago. Romney.

How do we reconcile the venality and viciousness of Mitt Romney's political conduct with the virtue of Bishop Romney's personal conduct? And what Romney has his pals say for him after being approved by him is exactly the same as Romney himself saying those words. The RNC convention isn't some SuperPac beholden to no one but their secret funders (thanks, Supreme Court). It is, in toto, the Mouth of Romney; the Mouth of the Republican Party.

And that mouth is a potty mouth.

Then we got Romney's speech. More of Ryan's "more in sorrow than in anger" shtick, the more in anger than in sorrow having already been done by many minions.

And his speech was, at heart, telling America that the GOP's nonstop, four year campaign to prevent President Obama's administration from accomplishing anything domestically, to the extent that it succeeded...was Obama's fault.

It was like the guy who'd mugged you suing you for bruising his fists.

After describing himself as a successful small businessman--though running a multibillion-dollar investment firm isn't often lumped together with the little guy with a laundromat.

This led him to describing Obama as having been unqualified for the job of President due to his lack of business experience.

Meaning that he just said that his Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, isn't qualified to be his running mate. How could no one in that big hall (built with government subsidies) notice this?

And in his litany of how the fortunes of America's middle class have sagged during his presidency, not once did he mention how people like Mitt Romney--the top 1% in income (I'd say "earnings" but that's open to question)--made out like gangbusters during President Obama's first term. The 1%'s income went up just as the incomes of the rest of us went down.

Then he went on to re-state his trademark string of outright lies about President Obama, leading to a set of promises that sounded great....apart from every responsible economist out there saying they are mathematically impossible.

He administered quick slaps to the faces of homosexuals, lest any Log Cabin Republicans think they had a place at his table.

And he dismissed human-caused global warming by ridiculing President Obama's concerns about it. Scorn and ridicule of scientific fact--a Republican staple.

Then he tried to claim that Romney's foreign policy would be vastly different from Obama's "apology tour" foreign policy--reviving that completely debunked old canard.

Of course he made a play for Jewish votes by stating that Obama has "thrown Israel under the bus" by doing nothing whatsoever but talk to the Iranians. Apparently he's never heard of Stuxnet, or of the careful, thorough work the President has done behind the scenes to squeeze Iran more and more. What Romney could do more than that is nothing short of going to war there.

Apropos of that he made it clear that America's military is languishing on short rations because it's only as big as the next biggest 17 nations' military expenditures combined. That Obama--what a Scrooge.

At the end Ryan came onstage and waved to the crowd, arm in arm with Romney--the man Romney had just said was unqualified to be there waving. Very, very strange.

The most successful businessmen before now who were Presidents? Jimmy Carter...and Herbert Hoover. Yes, that business qualification is really sumpin' ain't it?

The balloons were pretty...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

GOP Convention, 2nd Night, 2nd Part

...and then ex-pastor, ex-governor, ex-fattie, ex-rock band musician, current Fox TV host (where failed GOP poo-bahs go if they don't want to become lobbyists) Mike Huckabee spoke.

His speech was remarkably despicable for an ex-pastor. Unless you count that "God Hates Fags" guy in Kansas or Jim Jones, I guess.

Do you need more than this one example? He said that President Obama supported infanticide. No, he didn't say "infanticide." He said Obama was OK with destroying human life, even "out of the womb." That's infanticide.

Everything else he said was consistent with this scraping of the underside of the bottom of the barrel, rhetoricwise.

Condoleeza Rice appeared onstage after that--practically the only hint that the Republicans ran the country from 2000-2008. She banged the drums of war vigorously, only slightly less fervent than Senator McCain (she isn't a hothead--just a follower who replaced the less obedient Colin Powell because President Bush II knew she'd do as she was told).

Next came New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican convert with all the enthusiasm of the convert. And one of several dozen Mexican-Americans who are Republicans. A gun-totin' ex-prosecutor. The crowd looooved her. Not to mention her being mildly attractive and a competent public speaker to boot, who boasted of being able to work with a Democratic state legislature.

She got her second standing ovation (after bragging about her gun) when she riffed off the canard about President Obama telling small business owners they "didn't build that."

That is, she was perfectly willing to sling mud with the best of 'em. It will be interesting if she can overcome the odor the GOP has acquired with Latinos and get some votes from there. I say this tactically, since personally I'm well to the right of the Republican Party leadership on this issue.

Next we got a quick video mentioning how proud Romney's dad would be of him.

Maybe. After repudiating every last smidgen of the father's moderate conservatism and trying to win through continual lying--which I don't believe the father had done--would Romney's father approve of his son winning "by any means necessary?"

The video led straight to the GOP's idea of a smart guy, Paul Ryan, speaking. You know, the guy who's the deficit hawk who voted for every single Bush era spending bill without a peep out of him about paying for them. The guy who authored or co-authored literally dozens of anti-abortion bills--including  thumping the tub for a Constitutional amendment that would effectively ban all abortion under any circumstances by declaring that a one-celled fertilized egg is a little man or woman. The Republican platform proposes banning abortion even in cases of rape--including child rape--or incest.

And the man whose presence on the ticket repudiates the idea that business credentials are the main qualification for the presidency. (The last businessman-president? Herbert Hoover, the nice man who gave us the Great Depression.)

He asked "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?"

Then he dismissed the stimulus as a set of gifts to Democratic cronies, echoing Romney's eagerness to see the American automobile industry vanish except for Ford Motors. Which it would have. He mentioned Solyndra of course, while omitting all the companies that succeeded.

And then he attacked RomneyCare--er, I mean ObamaCare. He said ObamaCare. And got a standing ovation. The pharmaceutical industry was collectively delighted, and so were the delegates. Ryan promised to repeal ObamaCare if they're elected.

Note to anyone who might someday play poker with Ryan: he furrows his forehead and tilts his head when he's lying. That's his tell.

I got to see a lot of this during his speech--both the lying and the furrowed brow.

Big standing ovation. So that little business about if you get sick the health insurance provider death panel can deny you health insurance over some technicality and even sue you for past payments? Back in spades.

And throughout not a word about the no holds barred Congressional Republicans' obstructionism that blocked so much of the president's efforts. And not a word about the plain fact that all Ryan's talk about the deficit is belied by his own behavior when the debt was being run up by the GOP reign of error.

He's great at looking like he cares for the little guy. God help the little guy if the little guy falls for it.

Underlying his full-throated attack on President Obama is complete denial of Congress's role in running the nation's economics.

He said "We need to stop spending money we don't have."

Okay, all you people who bought a house on time? A car? Sell the house and move into an apartment. Sell the car and buy whatever you can pay cash for. The government? Every rational economist says government should cut spending in the good times and spend in the bad times.

FDR's attempt to curtail spending before we were out of the woods in the Great Depression prolonged it.

Ryan is an ideologue--earnest, smiling, intelligent-seeming, with no real world experience except in government--whose ideas would all fit on bumper stickers with room to spare.

And he echoed the Big Lie every other speaker has echoed so far: "Yes you did build that." This is Frank Luntz behind the scenes, picking the most effective propaganda to play angry white men without a college degree--the heart of the new Republican Party rank and file.

This is yet another trickle-down economics guy--give to the rich and enough crumbs will spill off their groaning table to feed the rest of us.

He also had to attack President Obama's foreign policy, which has been adroit by the measure of people who actually know what they're talking about. Ryan's is the usual GOP chest-thumping--what I call "Speak loudly and carry a little stick."

Ryan is slicker than Huckabee--and even more sickening once you pry open the hood and see the machinations going on there.

"A government-planned life where everything is free but us." Yes, that's the way the GOP sees things. Individual freedom. "Over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners." Except where abortion is concerned of course.

Supervision...this is code for "regulation." Salmonella in your salad? You should have looked closer. Cars that blow up if they're rear ended (remember the Ford Pinto?)? Hey, you were free to choose another. Your house burglarized? Cops are socialized protection. Arm your wife instead and put her in a gun turret on top of your compound. Stock market rigged by traders whose computers shift stocks in milliseconds and foist financial instruments on the country that nobody can understand? You were so immoral as to not be rich. Deal with your immorality.

"He turned around the Olympics... bad management and corruption" (He turned around the Olympics by extracting 1.5 billion dollars from our pockets--funny, Ryan didn't mention that.)

Now he's honoring our veterans--that's rich. The GOP keeps trying to cut veterans' benefits.

The GOP: "You're on your own pal." There is no such thing as community. Only me.

Well, the faithful adored Ryan. He's certainly their guy. They howled and whooped their total endorsement of every single thing he said. He said "We will not duck the tough issues" after doing exactly that.

He included the lie that Obama raided the Medicare fund, when in fact his plan exhausts Medicare in 2016 while the Obama plan would keep it going to 2024. And both move money from Medicare in the same way, making his critique breathtaking hypocrisy.

He criticized the President for walking away from Simpson-Bowles. Which he voted against.
And through the rest of the speech--point after point, his own past behavior completely contradicted what he said.

Interestingly, it looks like a Romney-Ryan presidency may well turn out to be a Ryan-Romney presidency, just as the Bush-Cheney presidency turned out to be rather the opposite, at least through Bush II's first term. He has the wide-eyed clarity of someone who has reduced messy reality to ideological simplicity. The proles will looove him.

The factcheckers are going to have a field day with this.

This was not a speech to the undecided 5% of independents. This was preaching to the choir, pure and simple, just as Bush II did when he ran.

GOP Convention Second Night: the speakers told the truth...about their names

Yes, folks, not every single thing a Republican politician said on the second night of the convention was a lie. Every speaker got his own name right.

But it went downhill from there.

Congressman Rand Paul, first at bat, built his entire speech around the Big Lie that President Obama said "You didn't build that" to American small business owners--already debunked as a "Pants on Fire" lie by every fact-checking organization that looked at what the President actually said.

But just in case someone had read what the Prez actually said, RP doubled down by flatly stating that "Roads don't build businesses--businesses build roads."

Seriously. In Rand Paul's universe, government is almost completely superfluous. Past guarding our borders--perhaps with a womped-up Coast Guard--that's about it.

Well, he can get that. He can move his business to Mogadishu.

And this delusional guy got a standing ovation.

Also, I think, for another Big Lie: that the GOP is the party of small business. Hardly. It's the party of Big Business.

Paul backed up his small business shtick with stories about self-made American business owners. His great-grandfather. The donut shop guy he patronizes. But not himself, because he was born to wealth and privilege.

Maybe that's why he referred to taxing corporations as "punishing the rich." Specifically Exxon-Mobil, so punished it has become the most profitable business in world history, propped up by lavish government favors. I'd sure love to be punished like that.

Next up was that Hawk's Hawk Senator John McCain. If you think America should declare war on Iran and Syria unilaterally, he's your guy. He was saying this to a political party that lambasted the President for joining a coalition to help Libyans oust their dictator without committing ground troops, and Clinton for the bombing campaign in the former Yugoslavia that ended Serbia's ethnic/religious war on every Muslim living in the former Yugoslavia.

If Mitt Romney endorses unilateral military intervention in the countries Senator McCain named in this speech I'd be amazed. One reason I couldn't vote for McCain when he was the nominee was that I perceived him to be a hothead. This evening's speech was consistent with that.

McCain continued the GOP tradition of telling hugely dishonorable lies about their opposition by claiming that President Obama leaked crucial secret information about the Bin Laden raid for political gain. This is a baldfaced lie by a sitting United States Senator--and one that has already been thoroughly debunked. You can read about it here.

What this signals is the fact that the GOP has spent decades building up the myth that they're guys who know war and the Democrats are the pantywaist pacifists who don't. They do this totally in the face of history (Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Obama). Of course the other covert message is that a Negro cannot be a competent Commander in Chief. This will never be so much as whispered. It's just in the air, seeping out between the lines.

And when McCain Swift-boated President Obama, he also stooped to the level Bush II stooped in 2000 when he destroyed McCain's presidential run with the rumor that McCain had fathered a black baby out of wedlock (he and his wife had in fact adopted a Bangladeshi baby), just before a critical primary in a bigoted Southern state.

Seems like a willingness to lie, and in particular to try to destroy the good name of the opponent, is the   price of participation in today's Republican politics.

I add with great sorrow that the Democratic Party and its pols also lie all the time, as attested by The lies are mostly less egregious and less downright vicious--but not always ("Romney killed my wife" comes to mind).

So the point here isn't that you shouldn't vote for a liar but that you shouldn't use truthiness as a reason for voting one way or another.

The GOP convention's first night theme was "We built it (on a lie)"

There it was, in big letters on the wall of the auditorium. In case you didn't get the message, one speaker after another harped on the theme of entrepreneurial Small Business Job Creators vs. President Obama, who recently told them "You didn't build it." Meaning, they hammered home again and again, that Big Government built it. You were just along for the ride. You owe everything to European Style Socialist Big Government.

So the first evening's theme was a refutation...of something President Obama never said. I mentioned this to a Republican friend of mine, who responded that he heard the clip of Obama saying exactly that himself. I said it was taken out of context. My friend say where did you hear that? I said MSNBC. My friend said "I wouldn't believe anything MSNBC said." I said they played the clip too--only with the words before and after that showed what President Obama meant. My friend said enough talk about politics.

It was exactly as if I said "I support the death penalty as long as it's for murder, as long as there isn't the slightest doubt as to the murderer's guilt (and eyewitness testimony has been proven to be unreliable), and as long as the prosecutor hasn't railroaded the defendant, withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense." And you quote me as saying "I support the death penalty." Did I say that? Yes. Does it say what I meant by itself?

The President said "You didn't build it" in the context of talking about how every successful entrepreneur depends on America's government for the roads his goods travel on, the safety of his warehouse not being plundered by thieves, the communications possible via the Internet (started 100% as a government project), the education he and his employees received--most likely in public schools, the electricity he gets, the plumbing he uses.

That's what the President said. He in no way discounted what successful entrepreneurs bring to the party. He just pointed out that saying "My achievements are 100% attributable to me and no one else" is a slap in the face to our society, and borders on the narcissism of a vain, boastful little boy who can't admit to having ever gotten any help.

The irony piled on irony is that Mitt Romney's signature achievement--rescuing the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (I mean, other than RomneyCare)--mostly came from getting a $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars from the Federal government to bankroll it (with a lot of that going to pork for local cronies). You can read the gory details here.

Not to mention the fact that most of the self-made men and women cited in the GOP's "We built it" campaign have turned out to be similarly ungrateful about getting substantial largesse from the government they hate so much. The poster child lady first featured in their campaign turned out to have gotten a huge SBA loan a year before--and was featured in SBA marketing for their program.

Here again, the GOP could make an argument for fiscal conservatism. But they're addicted to the mind-altering drug of the Big Lie, which plays with resentful, fearful, angry, uneducated white men far better than the facts. Plus it doesn't force them to reveal the fact that they aren't fiscal conservatives--their proposals for tax cutting without specified expenditure cutting means they're fake deficit hawks.

But they're real government haters, because their hyper-rich patrons are government haters, because they might make a few less billions that is currently being siphoned out of middle class pockets and into theirs.

Robert Reich says the two fears motivating middle class Americans are "the rot at the top and the mob at the gates."

The GOP's propaganda campaign gives them the best of both worlds by misdirecting the "rot at the top" part towards educated people in general and the federal government in particular, and the "mob at the gates" part toward all blacks and Latinos, using code words and phrases (like "welfare queens") to get the word out without having to admit what they're doing.

PS: Mrs. Romney talked about how she and her husband faced the same problems you faced raising your family and dealing with illnesses. She's just like you.

Except for the fact that her "family" includes dozens of maids and whatnot to cushion the burdens of parenthood, and her illnesses didn't result in her health insurance company cancelling her health insurance as soon as she got really sick, forcing the Romneys into medical bankruptcy. Funny how she didn't mention those things.

So apart from those tiny details, yeah...she's just like you & me.

What the first night of the GOP convention tells us

The most interesting thing about the GOP convention's first day isn't what was said but what wasn't.

First, of course, was the fact that Ron Paul and his supporters were shut out completely. Even votes for Ron Paul weren't announced from the podium. This is an authoritarian party whose constant talk of Freedom evidently means "Freedom for me, not for thee."

Second is that parties usually run on their track records--their record of accomplishments from the last time they controlled the Federal government. The nation's president from that time would have a featured place in the convention. The accomplishments would be touted.

Instead, if you watched the proceedings, as I held my nose & did, you would think it was a mystery who the last Republican president was. His name wasn't mentioned by any speaker. Not once. And you'd think it was a mystery who ran the country from 2000-2008. That wasn't that long ago, was it?

You wouldn't know who went to war with the wrong country (OK, we all make mistakes) and thus cost us trillions (yes, in the long run, trillions) of dollars and thousands of American lives.

You wouldn't know how the deficit got so large (a strong plurality of the national debt is Republican tax cuts that were put on the national credit card instead of being paid for by reducing the size of government).

You wouldn't know why America was already in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression at the moment Obama took office. They didn't even bother to try to attribute that to the Democrats somehow engineering this during the time the Republicans controlled all three branches of government (and if they did, doesn't that make the Republicans incredibly incompetent?).

You also wouldn't know that the U.S. Senate's rules enable the minority party to block legislation and appointments unless the majority party has not a majority but a huge supermajority of votes--and even there, the ability of the Republican's super-rich patrons to flood any state-level election with advertising for a month before elections can be and is used to intimidate Democratic politicians in purple districts from voting with the Democratic majority.

And you wouldn't know that the Presidency isn't the King-ency. Presidents can't enact laws. They have a lot of scope in terms of foreign policy, but with domestic policy Congress calls the shots. And even with the nominal majority Obama had for two years, the GOP decision to oppose him in nearly every respect, even down to nonpartisan appointments, meant that Americans can never praise or blame our presidents fully for what happened on their watch, as we could if we had a parliamentary system, because the Founding Fathers designed our form of government to divide up power and responsibility, and to empower the minority party to make life hell for the majority.

As the Republicans will discover if Romney wins. He who lives by the sword...

What you would know is that last night's speakers don't seem to think Romney will win. Because instead of tooting Romney's horn mostly their tooted their own (exactly as Obama did when he was supposed to be humanizing Senator Kerry). What's amazing is that even Mrs. Mitt did this, and when she did speak of her husband it was in platitudes, without a single detail about him that wasn't already known.

You would also know that Mr. Romney's business background is everything. The fact that he was governor of Massachusetts for four years was hardly mentioned and figured not at all in the accomplishments listed. Mrs. Mitt even made a point of Obama's lack of business background being the main reason why you shouldn't vote for him.

Um, exactly what is Paul Ryan's business background?


The vice-president's job is to be President if the President is incapacitated or dies. Unless Mitt Romney is immortal and invulnerable to the strokes and aneurysms and cancers and assassinations the rest of us are vulnerable to, then the qualifications for someone to be Vice President are exactly the same as those needed to be President.

So last night's speechifying focused on the one aspect of Mitt Romney that Mitt Romney himself has said--through his actions--is irrelevant.

The other thing you could know from last night is that, despite the delegations from Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands and American Samoa being right there in front, behind them what you saw was an ocean of white faces--mostly middle-aged, white male faces. I have nothing against white faces--otherwise I couldn't look in a mirror--but seriously, the GOP's convention demographics matched America's from never, even if you go all the way back to 1776--unless, as was done then, you don't count Negroes. The Great American Melting Pot was mostly absent. Orientals, Indians (apart from Bobby Jindall and Nicky Haley, and the former was busy with the hurricane), blacks, Latinos--nope. Might as well have been a political party in Iceland.

Now Libertarian Republicans know where they stand with the GOP

By the GOP's own rules for running primaries, Libertarian Republican candidate Ron Paul should have         walked onto the floor of the GOP conventions first night as the second nominee.

Instead he was denied a chance to speak because he refused to agree to make it a full-throated endorsement of you-know-who.

He was denied a chance to be in the vote because the GOP's leadership conspired with certain state-level leaderships to prevent Paul from getting the minimum number of votes required to appear on last night's ballot.

Some of his delegates were denied places on the floor through more chicanery.

And the delegates he did have in any numbers found their states relegates to the nosebleed section of the hall, while less important states--but ones which were 100% in lockstep with the GOP's poo-bahs--got the places in the front (especially ones with anything but middle-aged white men, unlike 90%+ of the people there).

Then, to add insult to injury, the Mitt got the rule change he wanted--the right for the national leadership to override the states and choose which delegates got to come to the national convention in the future.

So much for states' rights. So much for the GOP's big tent. As far as Libertarians are concerned, you now have your marching orders: your job is to fall in line, shut up, salute whoever the national leadership anoints, and vote for him.

As for the idea that you might have even the slightest say in the party platform (have you read the party platform?), the slightest voice at the national convention, the slightest influence on the party's priorities--you have exactly the same chance at these as you'd have with the Democrats. Except they would have given you a voice.

Now you know how it feels to be a suitor for a lady who only keeps you around for your credit card.

You also know just how authoritarian is the party you've given your allegiance to.

And you should also know that the instant it regains power, the "smaller government, smaller deficit" commitment will fly out the window, just as it did the last time the GOP gained power, from 2000 through 2008.

Not that the GOP is keeping this a secret. Its commitment to a bigger military establishment than that of the next 17 nations, vastly in excess of anything we actually need, is crystal clear. And while you surely applaud the tax cuts of the Romney/Ryan plan, equally surely you can't applaud the fact that they won't say just how they'll shrink government to pay for those tax cuts, which will otherwise add trillions to the national debt.

If you follow national politics, you'll know what happens to vague promises. They aren't kept. Instead what you are guaranteed is four to eight more years of the GOP's real nature: borrow and spend. They won't spend on the same things as the Democrats would, but they'd spend just as much or more--as 2000-2008 proved. You can also be certain the Romney would sign every bill a Republican Congress sent him, because the second he's sworn in his first priority will be to do whatever it takes to get re-elected. Which means never opposing a Republican Congress, as it hands out the huge government contracts and tax breaks and subsidies to its friends.

Obama is not your ideological friend. But Romney isn't either, and you know it.

So as I said earlier, if you want to put the brakes on big federal government, given that Congress will continue to be Republican--and remembering that it's Congress, not the American President, that determines the budget and domestic policy for the most part--the least worst alternative for you is to vote for Obama.

If Libertarians do that in sufficient numbers maybe next time around the GOP leadership won't treat you like mushrooms. Again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republicans deny that anything means anything unless they say it does.

After around 1975, racists learned how to talk about racial politics by talking about criminals and welfare kings and queens, playing on racist stereotypes.

The key is "plausible deniability."

So unless Mitt Romney says "Negro President Obama is stealing white taxpayers' money and giving it to blacks, who are all lazy when they aren't being criminals" they will angrily deny that Romney is making a racist argument when he campaigns on the basis of saying that Obama has taken away work requirements for welfare recipients.

Never mind the fact that Romney is lying--and denying that he's lying, even though every fact-checking organization has said this isn't just a lie but a pants-on-fire lie. Never mind a Romney flack saying "We won't let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers." Never mind that the total dollars involved are so tiny as to be in the noise level of the national budget. 

It is a racist argument, playing on how uneducated white men--the core of today's Republican Party--associate "welfare" with "black." 

This is now the pattern for Mitt Romney, just as when he "joked" about not needing a birth certificate to prove he was born in Michigan. 

Can't you take a joke?

Not if you're joking about bombs on airplanes when you're a passenger in an airliner flying over New York. And not if you're joking about birth certificates when at least 20% of Republicans believe President Obama is foreign-born and not legally President. 

So no, it's not a joke. It's racism. Not that Romney's a racist. I'm certain that he isn't. What is certain is that he believes that lying--and lying constantly, then doubling down on the constant lying--is OK in politics. How he firewalls this away from the Mormon injunction to be honest is beyond me.

As is the double standard many rank and file Republicans apply to proving any of this. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

And the Libertarian pick for president is....Barack Obama. Seriously.

That's right. Good Libertarians should vote for Barack Obama this November.

Get your jaw off the floor and I'll explain why.

Libertarians favor personal freedom & limited government, right?

Well--the best way to not get those two items is to let either major party gain control of all three branches of government. Because both parties agree on one thing at least: "to the victor belong the spoils." And by "victor" I don't mean you if your side wins. I mean your party's patrons--the individuals and groups whose political donations make it possible for your party's politicians to win.

This is why independents--including Libertarians--frequently vote for the governor or president of the other party from the one controlling the legislature--especially if the party controlling the legislature also controls the judiciary.

Both major parties have demonstrated that they cannot govern themselves--and that they are far more beholden to the individuals and special interests who are their patrons rather than their rank and file voters.

So a good Libertarian realizes that neither party runs by Libertarian principles. The Republican Party talks a more Libertarian game than the Democratic Party does, but it doesn't walk the walk. The GOP from 2000 through 2008, eight long years during which it enjoyed effective control of all three branches of government, increased government size enormously and the deficit enormously. That wasn't George Bush II's fault. In America the Chief Executive can't pass laws, though he can veto them. It was the Republican leadership's fault, most of which is still in place, since both parties have jiggered the laws to greatly favor the incumbents.

George Romney is closer to a Libertarian than Barack Obama. So what? Obama's domestic policies don't matter if Congress is GOP-controlled, and Romney's policies don't matter much either--just his right hand, needed to sign bills sent him. Does anyone doubt that he'll sign anything the GOP Congress sends him--as Bush II did for nearly his entire time in office?

If you think a Romney victory wouldn't lead to a massive expansion in government and a reduction in personal freedoms, you're dreaming.

I'm not making a prediction. I'm just pointing to what the Republican Party did from 2000 through 2010 federally and what it's done in the states it gained full control over in 2010. First order of business in the states, after running on a jobs, jobs, jobs theme? Pass anti-abortion laws and fire state employees.

Federally, Congressman Ryan alone has introduced dozens of anti-abortion bills to Congress and has consistently endorsed banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest--reflected in the fact that the Republican Party's official platform--that you can read yourself--says the same thing: banning all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Congressman Akins' mistake was in saying to the general public what the GOP actually believes but only wants its fervent evangelical base to hear.

Fiscally, the Ryan-Romney budget inflates the deficit enormously. Neither Ryan nor Romney are willing to specify exactly which loopholes they'd cut, even after persistent questioning by reporters. Given past actions by the GOP, you have no reason to believe they won't say which because they won't cut any loopholes that benefit any Republicans. And that's pretty much all of them--all that might alter the deficit at least.

No responsible, nonpartisan economist says we can close the deficit without raising taxes on the rich and the middle class as well as reducing government expenditures. It is Libertarian to pay as you go. Not to tax and spend. Not to borrow and spend. Congress won't spend less unless Obama's there to veto Congress's borrow and spend mania. The Tea Party congressmen promise they'll fix this. They won't. That's already happened with the Ryan budget, enthusiastically endorsed by the Tea Party Congressmen.

Voting for Obama is the less of two evils in November for Libertarians.

Here's's current article on how Romney can't keep his tax promises.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Voter fraud

From a comment on an Economist article about Republican vote suppression activities:

"Millions of US residents do not possess the franchise to vote and experience shows that, their inelligibility [sic] notwithstanding, many spurious votes will be cast either by them or in their names."

This is precisely the lying, legalistic, pseudo-rational verbosity Republican officials use to cloak their caveman "morality," i.e. "Heads I win tails you lose."

In fact, "experience" shows the exact opposite. In every state controlled by the Republican tribe, and federally when the Republican tribe has controlled the White House, many millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to find any examples of voting fraud.

They have failed--failed spectacularly. However, having learned well from Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, the fountainhead of their communications strategy, they simply claim there is widespread voter fraud through their various sock puppets--AM radio talk show hosts and the fake pundits on their fake TV "news" channels.

Instead of evidence they simply repeat it as if it were a fact, over and over, every day of every week, and the weak-minded in the millions then accept it as fact, as shown by national polls. And roughly half the nation is weak-minded enough for this to work on. It helps that a significant portion of these weak-minded people are also racists. Kind of goes with being weak-minded, after all. Since those being denied the vote by the Republican Tribe's vote-suppression campaign are first and foremost blacks and Latinos, it gives racists a chance to express their racism that gives them--in their own minds at least--plausible deniability.

The only thing their hunt for the phantom voter fraud turned up was the ACORN scandal in which paid voter registrars registered nonexistent voters so they'd get paid more. However, this was not voting fraud--nonexistent voters don't vote, in contravention of the Republican Laws of Physics. But to this day weak-minded Republicans invoke "ACORN ACORN ACORN" like primitive tribesmen chant the names of their enemies as they dance in the firelight before going off to war.

The Republican Party used to be a political party, but its gradual takeover by the closest thing America has to the Taliban has turned it into a tribe, complete with tribal beliefs like this one.

Makes them quite easy to dupe by the corporatists pulling their strings, and as no cost to the corporatists, since all their God Gays and Guns blather (plus their nudge nudge wink wink racist agenda) costs the corporatists nothing. Meanwhile the tribe's anti-illegal immigration wishes get nowhere nationally because that would cost the corporatists something.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The GOP declares no abortions, no exceptions

EDIT ADD: says the GOP Platform's proposed Personhood Amendment doesn't specify any followup laws--that would be up to Congress and the individual states. Could be no abortions, no exceptions, could make rape/incest/mortal mother danger exceptions or any combo thereof, with various time limits or other variables.

I'd bought off on the Obama campaign's "no abortions no exceptions" claim, which said is too extreme. Such an amendment would enable a state legislature or Congress to mandate such a conclusion but it doesn't mandate such a mandate. At the same time I'd pretty sure it would make abortion constitutionally illegal except under narrowly defined circumstances, even if Blue states tried to keep the current abortion laws.

As it happens Romney has said (in the most recent incarnation of his beliefs) that he favors exceptions for rape and incest, while Ryan opposes abortion even after rape/incest--he'd only make an exception if the pregnant child or woman would die otherwise.

So from my point of view this platform plank isn't as bad as my earlier entry (below) assumes--it's only 90% as bad. And it still shows how much today's Republican Party has journeyed into becoming the political expression of fundamentalist Christianity. Even its anti-government obsession reflects its unacknowledged conviction that America should be some sort of theocracy-with-voting, as Iran is and Egypt is probably becoming. Q'uran-based government, Bible-based government...different--Bible-base would be less murderous, less comparison. On the other hand fundamentalist Muslims are more honest about their goals.

What obscures this is the Party's public face, that's all about the economy, while the private face is all about other things--such as abortion--as shown by the legislative behavior of the Tea Party wherever it gains power--especially since the economic claims are false--especially as regards the deficit, because their legislative agenda's math doesn't add up according to the CBO and the fact-checking organizations.

And when the surface is contradictory you have to dig deeper to find the underlying unity. And that's a religion-driven absolutist vision

Here's the original essay, FWIW:

Well, the Republican Party couldn't be clearer. Today the Party leadership said that abortion should be illegal with no exceptions whatsoever. This rubber-stamps the official position of the Catholic Church.

Rape? Suck it up. 10 year old girl raped by her stepfather? Suck it up. Pregnant woman will die if she isn't aborted, and the embryo too? You'll both get your reward in Hevvin.

And Candidate Akins in Missouri didn't "misspeak" when he said raped women didn't get pregnant. He was just making public the Republican subculture's folk belief that raped women don't get pregnant because their body prevents it, so if a pregnant woman seeks an abortion because she claims she was raped, she is by definition lying. Mind you, educated Republicans don't believe this. But millions of Republicans aren't educated and do believe this. And the Tea Party Republicans in Congress report to them and have a chokehold on the GOP.

Well, and you know wimmen. They're too emotional to make their own decisions about important things. The men will tell them what to do. It's for their own good.

As for raped 10 year olds being forced to give birth--which is physically and mentally extremely destructive--there have been several cases in recent history in Latin America where the Catholic Church  forced this outcome upon the little rape victims.

And of course all this is based on another folk belief--that a one-celled dependent organism that might or might not be born nine months later is a little bitty man or woman. Not only does this have no basis in science, it's bad theology as well.

Because monozygotic twins and chimeras aren't formed at the "moment of conception." And many if not most of those fertilized eggs have zero chance of becoming a human being later on. Even those that would be viable in the right fetal environment don't always get that environment. Some don't implant on the uterine wall; some implant in the fallopian tubes (ectopic pregnancy), which is not viable. Some are allergic to the mother's biochemistry. Some are fine but get stuck in the birth canal, which, before modern medicine, doomed both the embryo and the woman. And some are viable enough to get born but have zero chance of becoming human, such as anencephalic fetuses, or those with other birth defects that doom them sometime between the fallopian tube being cut and a few hours or days absent massive medical intervention.

This is why the Bible assigns rights to babies once they've been born and alive for a month. If you wanted sound theology, assigning a soul to a baby when the fallopian tube is cut and it has a chance to live more than a few hours is the only merciful and logical option.

Anti-abortion fanatics uniformly insist to the outside world that their stance is entirely scientific and not religious. They talk about heartbeat and brain activity. Most of the science they quote is dead wrong. The rest is true but misapplied. What's most true is that they're lying, lying boldly and shamelessly. Most of them don't know enough about science to even make the argument.

If they were honest they'd admit that their religion teaches them that we're ensouled at the moment of conception (I don't know where the souls of anencephalic fetuses go--kidneys? gall bladder?). Armed with that belief and their church's rigid injunction against abortion, regardless of consequences to the mother and the planet, they go looking for words and images that are science in the same way that a drawing of an airplane is an actual airplane.

And most of these people got no real biology training in high school because in Red State American high school biology instruction has been gutted by an effective, nationwide grassroots offensive (both meanings) aimed at silencing biology teachers from talking about evolution and related topics.

I used to wonder how the relative enlightenment of the Ancient Greeks and Romans got supplanted by a millenium of prideful ignorance and superstition.

I wonder no more.

Ayn Rand: thought leader for men stuck at the emotional age of 10

You know do 10 year old boys think. Mostly it's "me first" individualism accompanied by vastly overestimating what they can do on their own (until they need something from someone). Ayn Rand flattered herself by calling her philosophy Objectivism. The problem is that it isn't, because it takes individualistic self-interest as the nature of human nature. As if we were descended from cats.

Only we aren't descended from cats. We're descended from dogs. Not literally of course. But dogs are intensely social animals who are also hunters, and who have to care for their offspring long after they're weaned.

That's us. Perhaps Rand didn't "get" this because a normal family life appeared to be alien to her own life experiences. Whatever the reason, proceeding from invalid premises leads to invalid conclusions, regardless of how logically you build from those invalid premises--or not. Doesn't matter. In computer science this is called GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

But it means that fundamental human nature is a dialectic between individualism and collectivism. Any philosophy that tries to eclipse one of those in the service of the other strays from hardwired human nature. Of course millions of humans stray from hardwired human nature every day of the week. So it's not that we can't. It's that we can't without creating a huge inner dissonance that destroys out ability to be happy.

There are no happy putzes. There are rich putzes. Powerful putzes. Celebrity putzes. Just not happy ones.

Today the irony is that the people in politics who pay the greatest homage to Ayn Rand would have all been despised by her. After all, she was an atheist and pro-abortion. Since today's Republican Party rails against anyone with no religion and is apparently adopting an election platform proposing a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions for any reasons whatsoever--Rand would say they didn't have the slightest understanding of her Objectivist philosophy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Man with the Plan--Chairman Ryan

Chairman Ryan's supporters call his plan for tax "reform" "brave." How is it brave for a politician to promise huge tax cuts for everyone (everyone wealthy at least) without saying just which loopholes he'd eliminate to offset those tax cuts?
He says "Trust me" instead of saying what he'd do.
Really? Given his voting record during the Bush II administration, absent specifics what I can trust is that he'll do the same now as he did then: vote for huge tax cuts paid for by borrowing. That's what Republicans do: borrow and spend. The Democrats may be profligate but at least they're honest about their policies.
Because Ryan's record shows that he's no deficit hawk. Not when a Republican's in the White House he isn't. Has he experienced some kind of conversion on the road to Damascus? Or is it more of the same-old, same-old: crying for reform while out of office, then it's "let the good times roll" for the party's patrons as soon as the foxes are back in the henhouse.
He's the "man with the plan" all right. The main part of which is the one he won't share with us.
Lastly, readers should realize this isn't an election about President Obama's policies vs. Governor Romney's rubber stamp of Ryan's policies.
It's about whether the nation will have a Republican-dominated Congress, Executive and Judiciary branch, or a Republican-dominate Congress and Judiciary branch with the check of a Democratic executive branch.
Meaning if President Obama wins re-election, virtually none of his domestic policies will be enacted, because Congress writes and passes legislation--not the President. This isn't a parliamentary system where the winning party holds all the cards. It's a system with sand in the gears designed into the system.
Now you may want a Republican trifecta if you believe that the last time we had this--from 2000 to 2010--that our government paid as it went, instituted sound fiscal reforms, paid for its wars instead of sending the bill to the next generation, and by the end of that period had the average American in a better economic position than at the beginning.
If that's so, vote for another Republican trifecta. If that's not so, vote for one branch of government being of the other party, so as to reign in the other party's total inability to govern itself by its own stated principles.
This has nothing to do with Governor Romney's qualification--though by choosing Ryan he's made it clear that he doesn't believe a business background is a relevant qualification. It has to do with whether you believe either party, when it controls all three branches, can resist the urge for self-dealing and prioritizing consolidating power over what we sent them all there to do.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Where are the jobs?

Chairman Ryan's opening salvo as VP candidate was to tell voters to ask President Obama "Where are the jobs?"

What he didn't say--but obviously wanted to think--were these propositions:

1. That America's President is responsible for employment in America--not Congress, not world economic events like the Euro crisis, not events in the states (many controlled by Republican legislatures and governors, though those are preoccupied with vote suppression and banning abortion instead of working on the economy), not the courts. So apparently the Republicans believe the American President is actually a king with term limits, and nothing the Republicans in the Senate have to block Presidential initiatives and appointments and Democratic legislation has had the slightest effect on joblessness.

2. That when a president takes office, nothing the previous administration and Congress did has any effect on joblessness during the current president's term. The idea that the Republicans handed the Democrats a problem so huge it would take 20 years to solve, then gave the Democrats a year to do so--while fighting the Democrats' efforts every inch of the way? Inconceivable, to quote one of my favorite characters from Princess Bride.

3. That world events outside the control of any American president or legislature have no effect whatsoever on joblessness in this country.

4. That the current level of joblessness isn't a vast improvement on what it would be if the Republicans had won the last election. You're supposed to compare current joblessness with the lowest rate of unemployment at the height of the last boom, not with what the actual alternatives are now during the recession and deficit the Republicans handed President Obama.

5. That we actually have a parliamentary system, in which the country's chief executive is always a member of the party with a majority in congress, without our Senate's rules that let a minority throw sand in the gears of majority efforts. In such a system the country's chief executive and his or her party can ram through whatever legislation they want; they OWN the government and they're responsible for what happens in the country (always with the proviso that even in parliamentary systems a new government's first hand is the one the other side dealt them coming in, and no nation is an island (so to speak).

In our system the president has a huge bully pulpit and considerable leeway in foreign affairs, but domestically he's actually more like Administrator in Chief than a parliamentary system's Prime Minister. Even when the president's party has a majority in both houses of Congress, it's still nearly impossible to make anything happen or get anyone appointed unless the president's party has not just a majority in the Senate but over 60 votes--and even then they can be daunted by ability of the Republican Party to mount lavishly financed hits on any Congressman at any time--like just before an election, too late to mount a counterattack.

My advice: turn over the Republican's rocks and shine a flashlight on what's scurrying around in the dark.

Governor Romney says his business background irrelevant

That's right. According to Governor Romney, his business background is not an important qualification for being President of the United States. Of course this isn't his words. It's his actions. And don't actions speak louder than words?

The action is his choice of Vice President: a 42 year old man with exactly zero business experience--none whatsoever.

So unless you believe that Mitt Romney is immortal and invincible, and if you believe that the Vice President's constitutional job description is "Takes over if the President is killed or incapacitated," then you must agree that the traits and background needed for the job of Vice President are exactly the same as for President.

Which means you must base a vote for President Obama or Governor Romney on their experience in government--Romney as, in his words, the "severely conservative" governor of Massachusetts for one term vs. President Obama's experience in a state legislature, in the national legislature, and as President of the United States, plus Chairman Ryan for his long service in the House of Representatives, plus Vice President Biden for his long service in Congress plus his experience as Vice President of the United States/

Of course there are other relevant things--policy positions, strategic vision, personal character, life story, spouse, education, demonstrated understanding of the needs and concerns of most Americans, mastery of foreign policy issues and tactics, international experience.

Just not business experience. I'd thought it had some relevance myself, but Governor Romney overruled me this weekend with his choice of Chairman Ryan.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Governor Romney picks Grover Norquist as his running mate

Okay, not exactly Grover Norquist--but functionally the same: believing, as no legitimate economist does, that Americans can have anything like the government they want without both reducing entitlements and raising taxes. You can't do it with either alone. Yet the GOP presidential team of Tweedledum and Tweedledee insist on obeying Mr. Norquist. 

President Obama doesn't say you can do it with taxes alone--he proposes a mix. So it's not a choice between taxes or entitlements--it's  a choice between sanity and, well, you know, the other.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Today's patent wars show why businesses must be regulated

In the movie Master & Commander, Napoleanic wars warship captain Jack Aubrey famously said--during an argument with his ship's surgeon over treatment of the crew "Men must be commanded."

Under the circumstances he was right, and the same goes for businesses in any country.

Because absent proper regulation, the goal of every business being run under the principles Milton Friedman espoused--i.e., being run like Republicans say businesses should be run, with no goal other than profit--is monopoly.

Patents grant monopolies. That's the idea, of course, it's a valid one, equally of course. But patents for what? In the early 1900s every American car manufacturer paid royalties to the outfit that held the Selden Patents. Some guy named Selden had patented the car--you know, four wheels and a motor. Seriously. And everyone caved until Henry Ford challenged him, and lost, and didn't win until he took it to the Supreme Court.

Today patents are being granted frivolously. Apple has a patent on cell phones having rounded corners and a black background on the screen. Rounded corners? And Apple goes after other cellphone makers--notably Samsung and indirectly Google--in court for having those rounded corners. It's the Selden Patent wars all over again.

Because Apple wants a monopoly on smart phones, and is spending huge bucks, and forcing competitors to spend huge bucks, in court, which goes directly into the price of every smart phone out there.

No one should have a problem with Apple patenting its specific, unique smart phone bits and pieces. But not smart phones generically. That's illegitimate monopoly-seeking, which, when it wins, is promptly followed by replacing the free market with what economists call rent seeking--that is, charging citizens for something without providing the value that inheres in that something.

Rent seeking is what monopoly does when it has the consumer over a barrel. It's what regulation of the free market is intended to thwart, as the free market's players ruthlessly seek to turn their free market into a captive one.

Not that the patent office is being a bunch of slackers. Not only do the Republicans' policies produce these perversions of the free market, but their antigovernment jihad has produced a grossly understaffed patent office, which has been reduced to giving everything a patent and letting the patent holders duke it out in court.

In the military, men must be commanded. In the free market, businesses must be regulated IF you expect the free market to remain free.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's Hiroshima time, when Harry's second-guessers all come out to say what they'd have done

There's a thread on nuking Japan in the History discussion forum, and every anniversary of our nuking H&N we hear how Harry shoulda coulda woulda.

One repeated the old saw about a demonstration bombing in Tokyo Harbor. I said:

Sorry, Bro, it couldn't have been done in any better way.

Do your homework. For starts, we couldn't reach Tokyo harbor with a B29 with either Fat Man or Little Boy in its belly. So that option was out.

Moreover, do you have any idea how rational the Japanese high command was not? Opposition to surrendering was so great even after nuking two cities that they almost didn't. Anything less and they would have armed the Japanese populace with sharpened bamboo spears and waited for us on the beaches, figuring--probably correctly--that they were more willing to die than we were, and that we'd eventually give up.

Read Von Clausewitz. Or if that's overly tough slogging, try his most outstanding modern interpreter, the late Col. Harry G. Summers. He didn't write a book on WWII, but his classic purely military apolitical On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War provides a great intro to Von Clausewitz for the lay reader.

If you want to know what the Japanese high command was like and how it was thinking during that critical week, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (Modern Library War)--amazingly well-researched and studiously nonpartisan. First-class historical research.

The real alternatives we faced were to either nuke them or go home. America is a democracy. Germany had already surrendered. We could not have mounted a blockade or a land invasion--the national will wasn't there. Maybe if we were a strong monarchy, but that wasn't the America we had.

So then you have to play out the consequence of leaving Japan in a state of war with us.

Good Japanese historians know the first thing that would have happened: the Soviet Union would have invaded, taking Hokkaido and possibly even northern Honshu. The Russian people were exhausted too, but Stalin wasn't, and he got what he wanted. And he wanted ports on the Pacific.

The Japanese were desperately trying to forge an alliance with Stalin, but that was a bizarre fantasy. Shows how desperate they were. And imminent Russian invasion helped persuade them to surrender to us, but it wasn't enough by itself, because the Japanese high command had gotten into a Gotterdammerung mindset.

So we'd have had an expanded Soviet Union, a Japanese nation south of the Soviet conquest still at war with us though helpless to do anything about it until they could rearm and find sources of raw materials. We might have been able to keep raw materials from flowing into the country. Of course countless Japanese would have starved to death with the rest suffering every day under a fanatical regime.

Which is wny astute Japanese historians believe, but can't say out loud, that we did them a favor by nuking them.

One tiny current hint as to the Japanese mentality: their domestic Olympics coverage. You think ours is rah-rah America jingoism? Theirs is nothing but Japanese. You'd think no one else was in the Olympics. The only thing the Japanese public wants to hear about is what and how Japanese did there. Period.

Every Hiroshima anniversary people come out and make confident declarations about the morally and strategically superior decisions they would have made if they were in President Truman's position.

They all sound vastly worse to me, both for the American people and the Japanese people.

Lastly, conquering them the way we did helped convince them to surrender without guerrilla warfare, and the kindness with which we treated them astonished them and made them into a staunch ally to this day.            

About evolution denialism

I posted this on an Science forum anti-evolution thread started by one of those Bible-thumping fundamentalists who do this over and over and over, saying the same wrong things without any sign of self-awareness.

This thread was started by someone who is not a scientist himself, has nothing whatsoever to do with science, is in fact hostile not just to evolution but to all of science, since all of science is based on objective observation and experiment, with its concepts disprovable/provable by experiment/observation/mathematics. You can't use scientific method a la carte; denying any scientific method is denying ALL scientific method.

But that just defends our turf. While these Christianists are attacking our turf, they're leaving their own turf--uncritical belief in their religion's tenets and teachers--unguarded.

Unguarded because in attacking us they have refuted that from whence they cameth: Christianity.

Pew surveys on religion repeatedly prove that the people who know most about religion in general and Christianity in particular are Jews, Mormons, and atheists. Atheists a tad more actually. The ones who know some are members of what used to be the mainstream faiths--Episcopalians (the churth of my upbringing), Lutherans, Methodists etc. The ones who know the least by a long shot are fundamentalists.

Which attacks like this thread and its ilk here demonstrate.

You cannot get to "starting an anti-science thread on a public science forum" from the priorities Christ is claimed to have told us to have in the Gospels.

Instead, it's clear to anyone who studies religion objectively that the fundamentalist movement in Christianity is a perversion of Christianity that has little in common with actual Christianity except for the name.

The insistence on the Bible being just a factual record instead of moral instruction expressed metaphorically--as its creators intended--subverts the moral instruction.

If you read the Gospels you'll see that Christ saw himself as a reformer of Judaism; that he believed the Jews had become mired down in the minutiae of their religion, substituting punctilious observance of meaningless ritual for actually living the beliefs of their religion--so much so that they had completely lost touch with their spiritual roots.

Hence Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan, where he pounds home the point that some/many of the self-styled People of the Book had strayed so far as to lose touch with their most fundamental (so to speak) principles--and that if they were to regain respect for those principles, they's have to abandon the idea that the only good people were members of their tribe, which is what their religion had become.

These attacks on science, such as this thread, do not have a religious source. It's a tribal source. Anyone who starts a thread like is isn't just no kind of scientist; he's also no kind of Christian, who has kept the name of the religion but tossed out everything else, swapping in his reactionary tribal beliefs.

So we shouldn't be telling these people how the elaborate fictions they copy and paste from Discovery Institute web pages are scientifically incorrect.

We should be telling these people they are theologically incorrect. That such attacks prove they aren't Christians, and demand of them something that shows how Christ's injunctions to love thy neighbor as thyself, to feed the poor, to cast the first stone only if you yourself are without sin, to respect the despised Samaritan and reject the puffed-up, self-satisfied, all hat no cattle Pharisees--how you can get from Christ's injunctions to starting threads like this.

We don't need to defend our beliefs, which are entirely consistent with their sources. They need to defend theirs.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Don't take my guns! Take my healthcare protection instead!

Right wingers are terrified that the Negro in the White House will take away their guns, leaving them defenseless. Yet they're also terrified that the Negro in the White House will give them healthcare protection, leaving them defended if they get sick enough so their healthcare insurer no longer makes a profit off them (even if it did make a profit from them for 40 years).

They want to be defended against physical, violent attack that most of us will never experience in our entire adult lives. Yet they want to not be defended from going bankrupt because they can't get health insurance if they get sick and their insurer denies their claims on some legalistic pretext and they lose their home and go bankrupt trying to get the care they need--and that does happen to a great many middle class people--people who felt fine until they didn't.

This is a pattern. Right wingers want to strip government of health inspectors and the laws to back them up; safe workplace inspectors and the laws to back them up; bank regulators and the laws to back them up; IRS inspectors who might find some of the trillion plus dollars rich people have squirreled away offshore to evade taxes...and the laws to back them up.

Everything that might protect the private citizen from being cheated and exploited by rich, powerful people you have zero chance of suing and winning even if you try...right wingers want to be defenseless in front of, because they believe rich people are saintly public benefactors, just like they tell you they are.

Once upon a time conservatives believed in law and order. Now they're government-hating anarchists. Amazing that what was conservative is now unthinkable, and what was purely the province of kooks is mainstream conservative thought.

As one real conservative after another is standing up and saying, in various ways, from Jeb Bush to Judge Posner to David Frum, that their beloved party has gone nuts. These people have not become liberals. They just aren't nuts.