Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No lo entiendo

On this primary election day, let's talk about one part of the voting process itself.

An article in Mother Jones claims that Newt Gin.grinch and Mitt want to disenfranchise millions of voters by removing the requirement that ballots be printed in multiple languages if the population of non-English speakers is sufficiently large to warrant it.

I've got to say, I agree with and Gin.grinch here. English proficiency is a requirement for citizenship when you are naturalized. Native-born Americans and foreigners marrying Americans have every chance and incentive to learn English, and have no excuse for not being able to read a ballot. It's really that simple.

If you can't speak English, you can't engage in the political conversation. You can't listen to a debate and understand what's going on. If you're dependent on a translator, you'll miss a lot of nuance. Furthermore, translators will put their own personal spin on what the speaker is saying, and may mislead listeners -- intentionally or not. Ultimately, people who can't understand English are condemned to being told what to think. Worse, they can't participate in the public conversation and make their own views known to others who aren't just like them.

As for the ballots themselves, the article says:
"Some of these ballot measures involve very complex legal language," Camila Gallardo of the Latino civil rights organization National Council of La Raza points out. "Some of the language is hard to understand even for fluent English speakers, let alone if your first language isn't English."
Exactly. How can we trust that the translation of that complex English text is accurate and unbiased? And if the translators themselves don't really grasp the original English, there's no way to ensure an accurate translation.

The legal requirement for multiple languages on ballots is discriminatory in and of itself.
Covered language minorities are limited to American Indians, Asian Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Spanish-heritage citizens - the groups that Congress found to have faced barriers in the political process.
It's an understandable sentiment. But Russian and Somali immigrants living in Miami are forced to learn English (or Spanish) if they want to read the ballot. Just because there are fewer of them doesn't mean they shouldn't get equal treatment under the law. And these days Somali Americans are facing at least as much discrimination as Latino Americans.

Then there are technical problems with multiple ballots and multilingual ballots. The more options you add to a ballot, the more confusing it gets and the more likely it is that your vote will not register as you intend it to. Remember Florida in 2000?

There are several existing solutions to this problem that would eliminate the costs and potential errors of multilingual ballots. People who have trouble reading English can register for an absentee ballot, giving them ample time to go over it and recruit an interpreter if necessary. In most places the blind and physically handicapped can bring a helper of their choice to assist them in the voting. The voter may still be relying on another person telling them what to think, but at least it will be a person of their choosing.

I think a big part of this has to do with language being such an important part of cultural identity. Many immigrant parents bemoan the fact that their kids don't learn to speak their ancestral tongue. Many feel that their culture will slip away completely if they learn to speak English. It's a common and reasonable fear, because it happens with every generation of immigrant Americans. How may proud Irish and German Americans speak Irish or German these days?

But when you come right down to it, if someone isn't comfortable with the culture of the United States and can't understand ninety-nine percent of everything going on in this country, perhaps it isn't the right place for them to live. Or vote.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Election Video Calvacade

I've been saving a few videos from the last couple of weeks and today I figured I'd put them all up at once.

On a number of levels, it's really been nauseating to watch the Republican primaries. Here's a great example of what I am talking about.

This level of ignorance, anger and hatred simply stuns me. But it's not just this kind of shit because...well...I expect this stuff from the right...the whole Barack X thing and all. What I don't expect is this.


A conservative audience yelling at Mitt Romney for not releasing his tax returns? Wow. Good thing the OWS narrative is dead.

This one blew me away.

Wait, huh? I thought conservatives were all about Jesus. WTF??!!? I submit that nearly all conservatives think that the Golden Rule is a bunch of pussy nonsense and that everything about "loving thy enemy" goes in one ear and out the other.

We've only been through two primaries and one caucus and there's already enough crazy for a whole year. And if you think the rest of the primary is going to be nuts, wait until the general election starts. The Barack X mouth foamers are going to go completely fucking batshit.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Somewhere In Arizona, Kevin Baker's Head Just Exploded

Narrative=Still Not Dead

A Peak Inside The Bubble

Bill Maher finally sat down and analyzed the whole Saul Alinsky obsession that the right has with the left and it was fucking brilliant. Among the points answered...

Saul Alinksy liked black people (Uh oh...:(...). He started to organize the Civil Rights movement in the 1930s which, as Newt will tell you, became a huge burden on white people. Alinksy also taught poor people to ban together, improve their lives and fight against slum lords. Oh no he di-ent! That's class warfare!!! Next thing you know we'll all be worshiping Vladimir Lenin!!!!

There's also the most concise explanation to date regarding the difference between Bush critics and Obama critics.

But the best part? Now I know who Barack X is...YES!!!!!


Saturday, January 28, 2012


Newt's Loony Tunes

The other day Newt Gingrich announced his bold new initiative: a permanent base on the moon by the end of his second term in 2021.

This is an example of why I used to like Newt, twenty-odd years back.  It's also the perfect example of why I despise Gingrich now. Gingrich is a smart guy, and he likes a lot of the stuff that I like. I would like to see a moon base happen, but by putting it out there now Newt has given the idea the kiss of death.

George Bush killed the horse that Newt is now whipping. In 2004 Bush announced Constellation, his program to return to the moon. I was extremely skeptical. I figured it was just a gimmick to pretend that he was about more than death and destruction. At that point it had been eight months since the "cakewalk" in Iraq started, and things were starting to go very wrong. Bush apparently wanted to pull a Kennedy and look visionary.

Predictably, Bush was not serious. The deficit was rising quickly under the weight of two wars and two rounds of massive tax cuts, mostly going to the wealthy. The Constellation program was underfunded and mismanaged, and Bush ultimately wasted at least eight billions dollars on the project, getting little in return. Though the aerospace firms like Lockheed Martin got plenty of that money, and reliably Republican states like Alabama cashed in big time.

Obama canceled the Constellation program in 2010, and since then has redirected NASA to use private firms like SpaceX for space transportation. Many Republicans like Alabama's Richard Shelby hypocritically decried the move, but it's exactly the sort of thing that Republicans have been demanding government do. Gingrich's moon base plan would continue in this vein, using minimal government investment to prod private industry into space. By not mentioning Obama in his speech, Gingrich tacitly admitted that the president is on the right track.

The problem is that Gingrich, like Bush, is not serious. Newt made this promise while campaigning on Florida's space coast, which has been hit hard by cutbacks in NASA's traditional programs. By pandering to to these voters with such a grandiose notion, Gingrich has reinforced his image as a nut case and made space exploration an object of derision during the debate and the butt of jokes on late-night TV.

But the thing that most perfectly encapsulated everything about why I despise Newt was when he said, "When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state.” Like so many things he says (child janitors, anyone?), this idea is, in Gingrich's own words, "profoundly stupid" and a complete insult to the intelligence of the listener.

As Gingrich well knows, states have at least one representative in the House and two senators in the Senate, giving each state a minimum of three electoral votes. Nationwide the ratio of voters to electoral votes is about half a million to one. Small population states like Wyoming are drastically overrepresented, getting three times as many electoral votes per person as states like Illinois, California and Pennsylvania. It is largely for this reason that Republicans have been dominated the presidency for the past century while Democrats have dominated Congress.

Gingrich's Lunaria would get one electoral vote for each 4333 citizens, or about 125 times the national average. Is Gingrich just crazy, or is this his plan for a permanent Republican domination of Congress and the presidency? The next thing he'll suggest is that people start moving to coral reefs and oil rigs and petition for statehood.

As Jon Stewart mentioned, Gingrich opposed statehood for the Washington, DC, which has as many citizens as Wyoming. It has three electoral votes, but has no voting representatives in the House or Senate and no say over what Congress can do to them. Why is Newt talking about enfranchising people on the moon before enfranchising the people who live in our nation's capital?

And this shows Newt's real lack of vision. Just as the American colonies of the British Empire soon came to desire independence, so would any lunar colony, especially as it drew citizens from other nations. China has plans to go to the moon, and so does Japan, and Russia currently has the only reliable space transportation system. There won't just be Americans on the moon, and the rest of the would certainly have something to say about American claims to lunar territory.

Once they became self-sufficient, lunar colonies would have much more in common with each other than they would with Earth. In the long run they would either become independent nations or form a new federation among themselves, rather than carry over their anachronistic ties to a planet filled with people who have no idea what it's like wondering where you're going to get your next breath of air from.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Complete Agreement with...Ann Coulter?

Some folks on the right side of the aisle are pretty nervous after Newt's win in South Carolina. Take Ann Coulter, conservative fire brand, for example. In her recent column entitled, "RE-ELECT OBAMA: VOTE NEWT!" she opens with

To talk with Gingrich supporters is to enter a world where words have no meaning.

Well, that's certainly  true generally of conservatives:)

She goes on to discuss the circular reasoning of Newt's supporters and then explains Mitt's flip flops. This one really jumped out at me.

Romney's one great "flip-flop" is on abortion. (I thought the reason we argued with people about abortion was to try to get them to "flip-flop" on this issue. Sometimes it works!)

I actually laughed out loud at that one. No shit, isn't that the goal of pro life conservatives? Why are they complaining that Mitt's changed his mind?

She concludes with a line that is...dare I say it...Markadelphia like in its nature.

Conservatism is an electable quality. Hotheaded arrogance is neither conservative nor attractive to voters.

Finally. A conservative with which I agree on virtually nothing defining exactly what is wrong with the GOP today. Somewhere along the line, the base has allowed itself to be overtaken by virulent hubris that one normally associates with right wing bloggers. As I've been saying for the past several days, your average Joe Voter has no idea who Saul Alinksy is nor do will they respond well to another white old guy yelling at Barack Obama. If the right wants to win, Mitt is the best chance they have.

But she does raise a deeper point. Is conservatism an electable quality? It is but only in moderation as this is a center right country for the most part. I think the reason why the GOP is having such a tough time with their candidates is not they they don't like any of the above. It's because they are struggling to define who they are. Are they evangelical? Financial old guard? Libertarians? I don't think they know.

The party can't survive if one drops away so they desperately need all three. Yet they seem to be at odds with each other and don't really work and play well together. Some want to be more moderate so they can win but a very large portion want to go farther right. If the president wins re-election in the fall, this struggle will be one of the big reasons why.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Like A Puck...

Being a Minnesotan, loving hockey is simply expected. So, it's with a heavy heart that I must report that the apocalyptic cult formerly known as the conservative movement in this country has slithered into the National Hockey League like a puck shooting across the ice.

Tim Thomas, the goalie for the Boston Bruins, recently refused a trip to the White House to be congratulated for the Stanley Cup victory last season. He said, in a statement, "I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."

Well, he's lucky that he still has that right to refuse because before you know it, men with guns will be coming to his house to force him to meet President Blackie McHitler. Sheesh... I guess you just have to roll your eyes and mourn the loss of yet another soul to the fantasy world of The Tea Party.

Oh, and according the Bruins media guide this year, the person Thomas would most likely want to have dinner with?

Glenn Beck.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SOTU Post Mortem

As he always does, President Obama gave a great speech last night to Congress. A few things struck me as interesting.

He seemed to back away from partisan attacks (odd, in an election year) using the word "American" over 80 times while making sure to say that we share certain values. That's very optimistic and, from him, I'd expect nothing less. I guess I don't really share his sunny outlook but I do appreciate his populist tone.

What I saw on display last night was the very obvious and monumentally titanic reluctance to accept that the federal government plays a key role in our society and in the world at large. The president presented a balanced and pragmatic approach to government and the private sector. Yet, anytime the government doing something was mentioned, the Republicans sat on their hands. Honestly, they looked like stubborn little children because, sadly, "key role" has somehow magically transformed itself into socialism. This was very apparent in Governor Daniels response and the commentary by folks like Ari Fleischer after the speech.

As Speaker Boehner put it, pre-speech, "The president and the GOP are from different planets." Yes, this is true. The latter resides on one that is a largely created work of fiction that does not exist in reality.

It's obvious to me that the GOP in Congress are going to do everything in their power to deny him any sort of successes this year. Fair enough, I suppose, given that this is an election year. Yet, it's also fair of him to make Congress (and that's D's and R's alike) his opponent. With approval ratings 30 points lower than his, they offer a stark contrast which he illustrated several times last night by saying, "Put it on my desk and I'll sign it." They won't, of course, and that clearly shows which of the two parties actually want to do something. I think we may see some surprises this year in the voting booth come November. Key question to consider: just how little do the American people want Congress to do? We're going to find out.

Although not directly mentioned in his speech, I was also please to hear about another SEAL team success in Somalia. I was wondering why the president told SecDef Panetta, as he was walking in, "Good job, today!" Now we know. This president has been highly skilled in the area of his many duties that fall under the mantle of "Commander in Chief."

The president set an upbeat tone for his reelection campaign and, to a much larger degree, America as a whole last night in the State of the Union. In looking at it in comparison to what Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have been saying about America, one has to wonder if Speaker Boehner's comment could actually be broadened to two different universes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mitt Finally Makes Up His Mind

After dithering for months, Mitt Romney finally made up his mind and released parts of his tax returns for 2010 and 2011. He really had no choice with Gingrich's hammering.

According to the Washington Post:
Mitt Romney offered a partial snapshot of his vast personal fortune late Monday, disclosing income of $21.7 million in 2010 and $20.9 million last year — virtually all of it profits, dividends or interest from investments. ... According to his 2010 return, Romney paid about $3 million to the IRS, for an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent.
Romney took advantage of the "carried interest" exemption that allowed him to treat his Bain Capital salary as income:
The returns confirm, however, that Romney continues to benefit from his association with Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he founded in 1984 and left in 1999. His earnings through Bain have drawn controversy because they are treated as capital gains rather than wages and thus benefit from being taxed at the lower rate of 15 percent.
This is the same gimmick that hedge fund managers use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Yeah, it's legal, and Romney's not wrong for paying the minimum tax. But it shows how eminently unfair our tax system is. Number one on Mitt's list of campaign promises should be to get rid of crap like this in the tax code. All income should be taxed at the same rate, whether you earn it working in a coal mine or clipping coupons while you eat bon-bons.

Part of the reduction in Romney's tax liability were losses carried over from previous years. This can be a legitimate tax break, but one of the most reliable tax avoidance scams is to create phony losses in one year to reduce tax liability in later years. Are Romney's losses real or manufactured?

Returns from 2010 and 2011 are all well and good, but Romney has been running for president for the last six years, which means he's known that one day someone would be looking over his tax returns. I'm more interested in seeing his returns from 1998 and his days at Bain, through 2001 and 2004, when the Bush tax cuts kicked in, and 2007-2009 when the rest of the country got hit by the hammer of the recession. Did Romney made out like a bandit with the Bush tax cuts, and was he unscathed by the recession?

Romney's father released 12 years of returns when he ran for president. Will Mitt honor his father's example? Or does he have something to hide?

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Perfect Picture

I get a lot of people that rip me for being so tough on the right. One line I hear quite a bit is "If you are so liberal and open minded, how come you don't treat them that way?"


That's why!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Election Quotes

“I think Mitt Romney is a good man,” said Harold Wade, 85, leaving a polling place in this picturesque seaside suburb outside Charleston. “But I think we’ve reached a point where we need someone who’s mean."

I can't think of a better example of the right in this country today.

Yet, I'm wondering...perhaps someone can help me out....why? last? just-dave? anyone?

An Actual Derangement

With Newt Gingrich winning the South Carolina primaries yesterday, the path to the GOP nomination has become quite muddied. It looks like this one is going to go on for awhile and Mitt's inevitability is now seriously in question.

As I watched former Speaker Gingrich's acceptance speech, I chuckled. The right always seems to have a great propensity for characterizing their opponents weaknesses in such a way that they end up explaining their insanity much more clearly. Remember when Charles Krauthammer coined the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome?" Well, I think the right (as clearly seen last night in the form of Ginrgrich and his supporters) have some taken their warped perception of this Bush "derangement" and actually achieved more perfectly what Krauthammer was describing but with President Obama instead. Here is Newt's victory speech  in its entirety.

At about 12 minutes in, Newt starts talking about President Obama. He says that the "centerpiece of this campaign is about American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinksy?"


Who beyond right wing bloggers know what he is talking about? I suppose the Tea Party folks do as Saul Alinksy was required reading, not for "researching the enemy" but for their own organizational purposes.

"Radical left wingers and people that don't like the classical America?" What Obama is he talking about? The one who said this when he accepted his Nobel Peace prize?

The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

And has backed it up with actions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya? I don't know who this Obama is that he is talking about.

"Food stamp president?" Is that the one added 2.3 million private sector jobs and has reduced public sector employment by 600,000 jobs? The one who averted another Depression after the mess Bush and the GOP left us in back in 2008? Again, I don't know who this Obama is that he is talking about.

"An american president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country" This is so unbelievably ridiculous that I'm at a loss for words.

"President Obama is a president so weak that he makes Jimmy Carter look strong." Let's see...bin Laden=dead. Al Alawki=dead. Hundreds of sorties by drones in Pakistan. Gaddafi=dead. Al Qaeda significantly damaged with ongoing US attacks. And a back channel warning from the president to the Supreme Leader of Iran which was repeated later in public. “We made very clear that the United States will not tolerate the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said. “That’s another red line for us and … we will respond to them.” Again, I don't know who this Obama is that he is talking about.

It's obvious that Newt and much of the right have created a fictional that is all these things...because they can't run against the real one.  It's much more appropriate to characterize their's as derangement when you compare their fictional creation with the anger and frustration that formed over the very clear incompetence from the Bush Administration which ended up costing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars of debt, it's not even a fucking contest.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

He's Got Soul

This is so ridiculously wonderful I barely have the words.

Voices In My Head Redux

As I watched the upteenth GOP debate on Thursday night (for as long as I could stand it, anyway), I once again heard the most insane bullshit about President Obama. "He's the most dangerous president we have ever had," said Newt Gingrich. "Another term of Barack Obama will destroy the free enterprise system in this country," said Mitt Romney. "Our freedom is being taken away by the government," said Ron Paul. None of these things are remotely true and are fine examples of the "voices in my head."

Now, I've been assured by the fine folks that came up with this phrase that these sorts of statements and these candidates are not representative of their ideology. We'll set aside the fact that they have largely said the same things at one time or another and will likely vote for one of the four remaining men in the GOP field, essentially giving their support to such insanity. Today, I'm interested in something else in the interest of personal reflection.

I'd like each of the people who comment here and continually make the accusation that I argue with voices in my head and mis-characterize certain posters to use this thread for the following: lay out,  in very simple terms, how exactly I warp your views in comparison to the endless and unhinged views that we hear every day from conservative candidates, pundits and media. Let's use this simple, fill in the blanks form

Mark says that I am________________________
But in reality, I think that _____________________
I differ from (insert GOP candidate or pundits name here) 's statement in that I think________________________
So, that's how Mark is wrong.

As we move forward in the election year, I want to make sure that I am accurately portraying each and every one of your views. If you don't think that the president is destroying free enterprise or is the most dangerous president in history, this is the thread to explain the nuanced differences between yourself and these views. Be prepared to back up your statements with facts. For example, if you do think that the president is destroying free enterprise, then you will have to demonstrate how the 2.3 million private sector jobs he added and the 600,000 public sector jobs that were lost figure into this assertion.

Or, as was recently stated in comments by one of those "voices in my head," how exactly we are headed towards the road to hell and when we will arrive at the fiery gates.

I'll check back frequently to respond and offer mea culpa as needed

Friday, January 20, 2012

Newt's Trifiecta

The catch-phrase for this blog is "WHERE POLITICS, SEX, AND RELIGION ARE ALWAYS POLITE TO DISCUSS." With Newt Gingrich we have the trifecta.

According to a story in Thursday's Washington Post about Marianne Gingrich's interview with ABC's Nightline:
Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in 1999 asked his second wife for an “open marriage” or a divorce at the same time he was giving speeches around the country on family and religious values, his former wife, Marianne, told The Washington Post on Thursday.
Gingrich is famous for asking for a divorce from his first wife, Jackie Battley, when she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. At the time he was apparently having an affair with Marianne, whom he married six months after his first divorce was finalized. Battley was Gingrich's geometry teacher, and they married when he was 19 and she was 26. Creepy, huh? According to L. H. Carter, Gingrich's campaign treasurer, Gingrich said of Battley: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer." Gingrich has denied saying it.

Gingrich started another affair with Callista Bisek in the mid-1990s. He was having sex with an aide at exactly the same time he was demanding President Bill Clinton be impeached for having sex with an aide. Newt famously blamed his patriotism for the affair in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network:
There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.
Apparently, Newt wanted to screw America but he had to make do with Callista. They married in 2000 after a very messy divorce that was conducted publicly in the pages of the Atlanta newspapers.

In Thursday night's debate Gingrich predictably blamed the media for bringing up his infidelity issue again, saying it was untrue. It got him another standing ovation. But really, who has more credibility on the details of Newt's infidelity? The man who has admitted to lying to and cheating on his wife for six years, or the woman he lied to and cheated on?

The most telling part of the interview for me was this:
“He said the problem with me was I wanted him all to myself,” she said. “I said, ‘That’s what marriage is.’ He said [of Callista], ‘She doesn’t care what I do.’ ”
It's a telling detail that gives the entire account the ring of truth. Like a pernicious little boy trying to get his divorced mother to let him go to an R-rated movie by claiming that "Dad doesn't care if I go," Newt tried to guilt his wife into letting him have a mistress.

Which brings us to the third leg of the Gingrich stool: religion.

Gingrich was raised a Lutheran, apparently became a Southern Baptist in grad school, and converted to Catholicism. According to Gingrich's Wikipedia page, he said:
"Over the course of several years, I gradually became Catholic and then decided one day to accept the faith I had already come to embrace." The moment when he decided to officially become a Catholic was when he saw Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to the United States in 2008: "Catching a glimpse of Pope Benedict that day, I was struck by the happiness and peacefulness he exuded. The joyful and radiating presence of the Holy Father was a moment of confirmation about the many things I had been thinking and experiencing for several years."
To me this just seems crazy. Anyone who was ever a real Lutheran or Baptist and truly believed Luther's teachings in the Reformation could never convert to Catholicism. And how could anyone who's been divorced twice have the gall to convert to Catholicism, a religion which requires the pope himself to grant a dispensation for divorce? I find it even harder to believe that anyone could describe Benedict ("Papa Nazi") XVI's creepy presence as "happy and peaceful." Every time I see Pope Benedict I'm reminded of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi.

But why should Newt stop at Catholicism? Gingrich should go all the way and become an old-style Mormon. Republicans are concerned about Romney's religion, but Newt's the guy in the race who has admitted publicly that he was for all intents and purposes a practicing bigamist.

Thus, it is overwhelmingly apparent that Gingrich has no conviction or commitment to anything except himself, his own pleasure and his own convenience.

Republicans keep telling us that "character matters." Newt tries to finesse the issue by begging the forgiveness of God for the same sins he's repeated again and again over decades. Many envious middle-aged white men are more than glad to forgive Newt for his trespasses. But most Republicans also don't think that felons who've served their time and completely repaid their debt to society should be allowed to vote, a fact Mitt Romney pandered to when he attacked Rick Santorum on the issue.

Over the years Newt Gingrich has shown himself to be a megalomaniacal, mendacious, cynical, flip-flopping, self-serving narcissist. He is the fleshly manifestation of all the worst traits of the political animal.

During Newt's "strong" performance in the Myrtle Beach debate he gained many converts: the audience gave Newt a standing ovation after he slapped down Juan Williams for his uppity question about Gingrich's food stamp president remarks. Is it any surprise that Rick Perry was the first one to stand up and salute Gingrich, considering where Perry liked to hunt?

Newt's underlying argument is that he is the only man in the race who totally lacks integrity, the man for whom no hypocrisy is too great, no blow too low, no shot too cheap, or no lie too big. And the Republicans are willing to follow him down that road to hell.

The real question is, if Gingrich is the nominee will the Republicans be writing off the female vote? Mitt might be a calculating, cold-fish CEO, but at least he's got good hair and stands by his ma'am. Newt is every woman's worst nightmare: a fat, philandering, condescending loud-mouth who betrays his vows when his wives need him the most.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Ricks

Rick Perry is out and is supporting Gingrich. Rick Santorum has now won Iowa. It's a day of Ricks that Mitt Romney, perhaps, did not want to happen. What's going to happen in South Carolina? More importantly, is this race now going to be longer than anticipated? It sure looks that way.

The Case Against Liberal Despair

So, all you Obama critics on the left, kindly pull your collective heads out of your collective arses.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mitt's Tax Return Waffles

Despite Newt Gingrich's prodding, Mitt Romney is still waffling on releasing his tax return. But he has deigned us with an estimate of what percentage he's paying in taxes:
It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” Mr. Romney said. “Because my last 10 years, I’ve — my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income, or rather than earned annual income.
So, for sitting around collecting dividends, buying and selling stock, speechifying and running non-stop for president for years on end Mitt pays taxes at a rate of 15%, while  people who sweat and bleed and risk their lives on oil rigs and in war zones pay 25%, or 30% or 35%, not even including Social Security and Medicare taxes, which adds another 4-8%. That is, unless the Republicans get their way and it goes back up to 6-12%. Meanwhile, Romney doesn't pay a nickel of payroll taxes on capital gains and dividends.

I don't criticize Romney for paying that tax rate, or for making money through long-term investments. It's smart to optimize your income, and I don't begrudge him being rich (Obama paid 26%, which is a lot lower than many Americans). But I do criticize him for campaigning to make the Bush capital gains tax cuts permanent. Romney should man up like Warren Buffett and admit the inherent unfairness of the tax system. Capital gains should be taxed at exactly the same rate as earned wages, as they were before the Bush tax cuts.

In particular, gains on selling non-IPO stock are essentially gambling income, because repurchased stocks are just a bet that the price will go up. Companies never see a penny from repurchased stock, so buying shares on the stock market is not really an investment in the company. In fact, outstanding shares are often a liability because of dividends and loss of autonomy, and many companies have programs to purchase outstanding shares.

Incessant demand for stock price increases from shareholders is the number one cause of poor long-term decision-making in the management of companies. Since most execs have bonus plans linked to share price, their incentive is to do whatever it takes to jack the price up in the short term without regard to the company's future. If things go south, their golden parachute kicks in and they can just move on to the next gig. Most market players plan to sell off their shares at their peak price, and don't care what happens to the company after they cash out.

While it would be interesting so see Mitt's return from last year, I'm more interested in seeing his returns over the past 15 years. How did Mitt's income change before and after the Bush tax cuts, and how has he weathered the Great Recession? Did he make out like a bandit while all the vast majority of Americans suffered catastrophic economic and job losses?

The theory is that capital gains taxes should be low because it spurs investment and job creation. These taxes have been artificially low for 10 years now, and the only investment and job growth they've spurred has been in China.

Since the Bush tax cuts the rich have been getting richer and the middle class poorer. The Bush tax cuts have redistributed wealth from the middle class to the super wealthy like Romney.

It's time to end this welfare for the wealthy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fantasies Here, Fantasies There, Fantasies Everywhere

Since this is an election year, we can all expect a great deal of scrutiny on the issues. The remaining five candidates in the GOP field as well as the president are going to be under a microscope for the better part of the next ten months so we should buckle up and start getting used to it.

Yet the candidates aren't the only ones that are going to be examined and with good reason. Recently, Andrew Sullivan and Thomas Frank are taking a look at exactly what is driving the folks that are rabidly against the reelection of President Obama. I've been doing that as well. For me, it all starts with this. I can't think of a finer example that illustrates the mentality of the conservative movement.

Thomas Frank, in his latest book Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, makes some points that perfectly illustrate my monumental frustration. In looking at the aftermath of the collapse in 2008, we saw the greatest example of  the failure of free market principles that most Americans have ever lived through. Instead of a move towards a balance between regulation and free markets, we got the Tea Party, a hardcore anti-government movement. To Mr. Frank, it's as if "the public had demanded dozens of new nuclear power plants in the wake of the Three Mile Island disaster."

From a recent review of Frank's book.

Until Obama's election, this kind of purist market worship was the preserve of political and economic elites – "propaganda," to use Frank's blunt term, to keep wealth in their own hands. Who knows if even they believed it? And yet in 2009 and 2010, a whole swath of Americans turned to "the sole utopian scheme available" to them, with effects that can only be called perverse. It's one thing for a CEO to declare that "corporations are people," if such an obscene claim leads to greater profits or power. Now, amazingly, the same line could be heard from ordinary voters. Even more strangely, middle- and working-class Americans were defending precisely the multinationals that had triggered the crisis and received the universally reviled bailouts. In the trough of the 2009 recession, Americans whose livelihoods had been destroyed by far-off bankers were actually rallying "to demand that bankers be freed from 'red tape' and the scrutiny of the law." At one surreal moment, Glenn Beck urged his followers to give away their cash to the US Chamber of Commerce, "the biggest, baddest business lobby in all of DC." They donated so much that they crashed its servers.

Indeed. The inmates are running the asylum. But how did all this happen?

If you wanted to learn about the Great Depression you once went to the library to read Arthur Schlesinger; now, your first Google results will teach you that the New Deal was an utter failure and that "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" is a Hooverite screed against government handout). By this binary logic, everyone trying to make a buck is united against big bad Washington and its attendant elite institutions. The absurdity that such elite figures as bank CEOs, four-star generals, and Alaskan governors are somehow men and women of the people goes unmentioned.

There is hope, however, and it's this very hope that is starting to piss off the right wing blogsphere. It's simply a matter of people responding to this lunacy and calling it out for what it is. More folks are starting to listen. Andrew Sullivan's recent piece on Obama's Long Game details this quite nicely.

But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.

No shit, Sully. They are wrong and it's far past time to say it that plainly.

The right’s core case is that Obama has governed as a radical leftist attempting a “fundamental transformation” of the American way of life. Mitt Romney accuses the president of making the recession worse, of wanting to turn America into a European welfare state, of not believing in opportunity or free enterprise, of having no understanding of the real economy, and of apologizing for America and appeasing our enemies. According to Romney, Obama is a mortal threat to “the soul” of America and an empty suit who couldn’t run a business, let alone a country.

Exactly right and I've said as much on here (oddly to be accused recently of bearing false witness). Let's test this theory. I'm going to go and pull a quote from Kevin Baker's site and post it here. Shouldn't take me too right back....

Ah, here we is a quote he put up the other day...

Detroit is North Korea … with the Unions holding the same pride of place as the North Korean Army—keep them happy and they keep the kleptocracy in power. No matter who else starves. -- 

followed up this comment

But the Obama economic model will make Detroit the model for the rest of the U.S. THAT is what we need to worry about. Later on there will be no other place to leave to.

So, Sully's assessment is accurate. (side note: what is a kleptocracy?)

Now, what actually happened...

Obama did several things at once: he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush, he initiated a bailout of the auto industry, and he worked to pass a huge stimulus package of $787 billion. All these decisions deserve scrutiny. And in retrospect, they were far more successful than anyone has yet fully given Obama the credit for. The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration. In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years. (That compares with a drop of 2.2 percent during the early years of the Reagan administration.) To listen to current Republican rhetoric about Obama’s big-government socialist ways, you would imagine that the reverse was true. It isn’t.

Correct. I highlight this last bit because one would think that the anti-government types would be happy about this. Nope. He's still a socialist who wants a European style government. How can anyone fucking talk to these people?

This next bit I dedicate with love and affection to last in line.

The right claims the stimulus failed because it didn’t bring unemployment down to 8 percent in its first year, as predicted by Obama’s transition economic team. Instead, it peaked at 10.2 percent. But the 8 percent prediction was made before Obama took office and was wrong solely because it relied on statistics that guessed the economy was only shrinking by around 4 percent, not 9. Remove that statistical miscalculation (made by government and private-sector economists alike) and the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression.

Sully goes on to talk about how a third of the stimulus was tax cuts, another fact ignored by the mouth foamers. And how about that spending?

Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms.Under Bush and the GOP, nondefense discretionary spending grew by twice as much as under Obama.

Yep, correct. Health care?

The Congressional Budget Office has projected it will reduce the deficit, not increase it dramatically, as Bush’s unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug benefit did. It is based on the individual mandate, an idea pioneered by the archconservative Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, and, of course, Mitt Romney, in the past. It does not have a public option; it gives a huge new client base to the drug and insurance companies; its health-insurance exchanges were also pioneered by the right. It’s to the right of the Clintons’ monstrosity in 1993, and remarkably similar to Nixon’s 1974 proposal. 

Embedded in it are also a slew of cost-reduction pilot schemes to slow health-care spending. Yes, it crosses the Rubicon of universal access to private health care. But since federal law mandates that hospitals accept all emergency-room cases requiring treatment anyway, we already obey that socialist principle—but in the most inefficient way possible. Making 44 million current free-riders pay into the system is not fiscally reckless; it is fiscally prudent. It is, dare I say it, conservative.

Yes, you should say it because that's what it fucking is. Good grief am I tired of people's general ideological delusions and/or paranoid hatred of the president leading to insane and completely untrue accusations.

Sully goes on to talk about Obama's foreign policy successes as well as the equally ridiculous accusations by the left which I may address at a later date but for now I think it's important to reflect on all of these points because they are what actually happened. And the American people need to understand that. But will they?

And I feel confident that sooner rather than later, the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started.

Man, I love Sully, but I'm afraid I don't share his optimism.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Feet of Clay

They all stared in disbelief at what they had just heard. The man who had become the center of the civil rights movement had quietly told them that he would not be joining them. Despite their protestations and questions, he said that he didn't want to risk being arrested again. They chuckled derisively as many of them had been arrested several times. Worse, many of their group had just been beaten and were hospitalized.

Yet, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr would not be swayed. The Freedom Riders would continue without him.

Was he afraid he would get hurt? Or worse? It's hard to say for sure but after the first wave of Freedom Riders were severely beaten and one of their buses was firebombed, it would be a massive understatement to say that people were worried. The original intent of the Freedom Rides was to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision, Boynton v. Virginia, which stated that segregation of any kind on buses that traveled across state lines was illegal.

The initial two groups had no idea what was waiting for them when the got into Alabama despite warnings from Dr. King who urged them to call of the rides or at least postpone them until a later date. His organizaton, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), had heard that the Klan had mobilized and was going to stop them by any means necessary. After the two buses had been halted by the Klan and various mobs of people, the group tried to reorganize and met with Dr. King. Nashville student and Freedom Ride leader Diane Nash felt that if violence were allowed to halt the Freedom Rides, the movement would be set back years. But Dr. King still thought it would be better to wait.

And he refused to join them for the second wave.

It was only later in the week, on May 21, 1961, when that Dr. King organized a rally at Reverend Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church to honor the Freedom Riders. This rally drew a crowd of more than 1500 people who became trapped in the church as a mob of 3,000 angry whites surrounded the structure. Hours went by as President Kennedy continued to pressure Alabama Governor John Patterson to send in the National Guard. He finally did and the rally attendees were able to leave the church relatively unscathed.

I tell this story because this year, on Dr. King's day, I want to point out that the man wasn't perfect and he certainly isn't the myth that has been created around him. Usually, I post something that contributes to the legend of  Dr. King and, no doubt, he was a legendary figure who contributed an enormous amount of service to this country in terms of social justice.

But he was just a man and this year I wanted to illustrate that, like all of us, sometimes even legends have their moments when they have feet of clay.

For more information on the Freedom Riders, check out this documentary that aired on PBS's The American Experience.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday's Message

11 million hits on YouTube so far. This one is making a lot of people nervous.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Meanwhile, Iran and The United States...

With the fifth assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist this week, relations between Iran and the United States are fairly close to boiling. Some analysts think they are there already. Add in Iran's recent threats to close the Straight of Hormuz and we have a very delicate situation developing in an always destabilized region of the world.

Most of us aren't paying attention to this, of course, and are focused on the election and, more specifically, the economy. Yet I think it's very likely that something is going to happen with Iran this year and it's going to be serious. It will be very interesting to see how this effects the election. Remember that the 2008 election was supposed to be about Iraq but turned out to be about the economy. Could the 2012 election, supposedly about the economy, end up being about Iran?

Clearly, Mossed is behind the targeted assassinations in Iran. Iran is accusing the CIA of being behind it in public but in private they know full well that it's Israel. Perhaps they don't want to admit it. The Israeli government is trying to provoke Iran into taking some sort of action so we'll then have no choice but to get involved and attack them.

This presents a tough decision for the president. Already, he has ratcheted up the sanctions against Iran and issued very blunt warnings about the Straight of Hormuz. What will all of this do to oil prices in a very shaky world economy? In addition, the president already views Israel as not being a true partner to peace in the Middle East and, to a certain extent, he does have a point. Yet Israel is acting in its own self interest. Most of the statements coming out of Iran are simply chest thumping bluster. Their central goal, however, has always been to rid the world of Israel. Make statements of this nature and expect the current response they are getting-dead nuclear scientists.The only certain thing here for the president is that whatever actions he takes, regardless of their success, conservatives and the other assorted right wingers out there will label him a failure.

Given all of this, what would you do?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Firing Your Insurance Company

A lot has been made of Mitt Romney's "I like to fire people" quote, but most of it is off base. In context, he said,
“I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means that if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, ‘You know, I’m going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me.’ ”
I agree with that sentiment, though I wouldn't state it with such dickish Trump-like bluster. But Romney's statement was made to discredit the new health care law and on that score he's wrong. In fact, the new law brings us closer to being able to fire our health care providers than the system we currently have.

Right now very few Americans are in a position to fire their health insurance company.

First off, the vast majority of Americans have no real choice for health insurance, because it's provided by their employer. You might get to pick from a limited set of options, but your company decides what those options are, and if you don't like them, the only way to fire your health insurance provider is to quit your job.

But Mitt doesn't get this, because he's a business owner and has never seen how health insurance works from the employee's viewpoint. Of course Mitt can fire his health insurance provider if their service sucks -- he's the boss. His employees have no such luxury.

And Mitt is also wrong if he thinks that the insurance company has an incentive to keep you healthy: the insurer's only incentive is to make their costs be less than the premiums the employer is paying them, while providing just enough medical care to shut the employees up.

In employer-based health insurance Employer A pays Insurance Company B to pay Medical Services Company C to provide health care to Person DThe amount of overhead and paperwork is insane, and there's no incentive for anyone to get anything right. The biggest incentive is for insurance companies to deny and delay medical care to employees who may not be working for the employer in six months or a year, or for employers who may not renew their contract.

People who pay for their own health insurance can ostensibly fire their provider. But practically speaking, it is all but impossible for anyone over 40 to fire their insurance provider. Insurance companies can turn you down for preexisting conditions, and everyone over 40 has preexisting conditions.The companies also have lifetime limits on coverage, and your insurance provider can fire you if you get too expensive for them. Since the downturn started in 2007-2008, there are literally millions of 40+-year-old Americans who have lost their jobs and health insurance, and can't get private insurance even if they can pay for it, because of preexisting conditions. If 40-year-olds can't get insurance, they're going to be in a lot worse shape by the time they're old enough to get on Medicare, and that will cost a lot more.

A lot of this is changing under the new law, and we'll have more protections and a greater ability to retain and switch coverage. Is it perfect? Nope; it's based on Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan, after all. It could have been better, but the Republicans in Congress categorically refused to work with the Democrats. The Republicans' self-proclaimed goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president, and they have done everything they can to torpedo the health care initiative.

In the long run, employers have no business paying for employee's health insurance. It's just an accident of American corporate history that it works this way. It's an unfair burden on companies, and it's a huge competitive disadvantage for American business. Everyone should be responsible for their own health care, just as they are for other necessities like food and shelter.

Yes, such a transition would be messy: it would require everyone who gets health care benefits to get an equivalent raise, and a subsidy for people who can't afford it. In addition, industries that cause health problems should also pay more taxes to counter those effects: that is, fast-food chains, and soda, alcoholic beverage and cigarette companies. There will be many sticking points. Companies will short-change employees, and over time employees will complain that their salaries aren't rising fast enough to cover the constantly-increasing cost of health care. And the right will oppose government subsidies for those who will never be able afford to pay for their own health care because they're stuck in part-time jobs like store clerks, bus-boys, hotel maids and cashiers. Millions of Americans are stuck in minimum-wage jobs that are totally necessary for our country to function, but jobs that will never pay well enough to allow someone to buy their own health care, a car or a house.

Our system is the most expensive in the world, but the aggregate quality of outcomes across all America is inferior to most of the developed world. Under our private insurance model annual cost increases have outstripped the rate of inflation by up to five or ten times, and for decades private insurers have totally failed to achieve the only service they supposedly provide: contain rising costs.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Raiders

The Republican Party is in a tizzy over the criticisms some of Mitt Romney's opponents are hurling at him. They say he's a corporate raider, while his defenders say he's the perfect example of capitalism at its finest.

But as in all things, there are good capitalists and there are bad capitalists. Just because this is a free country doesn't mean everything you can legally do is moral and ethical, or good for the United States in the long run.

So let's look at a few different kinds of capitalists and see where Mitt fits.

The prototypical American capitalist is one or two entrepreneurs with an idea who start a company their own money or raise money for the venture by selling shares of stock to investors. As the company makes a profit the owners and investors recoup their investment by receiving dividends, or by selling shares of the stock when the company goes public. People like Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs are generally thought of as the heroes of capitalism for creating new wealth in exactly this fashion.

Over time, the cost of starting many businesses has become a significant hurdle, so a more recent business development model is the venture capitalist. Using their own money, or pooling the money of investors, venture capitalists search for small businesses with great ideas that are going nowhere because they don't have the resources or business acumen. A lot of high-tech startups have been formed this way over the last 20 years. Venture capitalists often help the solitary inventor who lacks management skills hook up with professionals who can make the company grow and create new wealth.

As companies compete in the marketplace based on the strengths of their products and services, there will be winners and losers. If one company stumbles by making bad or over-priced products, or becomes bloated and inefficient, the poorly-run company may go out of business, or it may be taken over by a better-run competitor. That's just how capitalism works.

But it shows one of the weaknesses of capitalism. Over time these good capitalists can turn into bad capitalists if they are a bit too successful and develop a monopoly position, either by a single company or multiple companies making deals to split up the market. Monopolies rest on their laurels, become arrogant and lose their entrepreneurial spark. Their customers suffer from bad products and poor service. The companies maintain their monopoly by buying up potential competitors or litigating them out of existence. In short, large companies need to be watched, and that's what Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting was all about.

Besides entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, there's another type of capitalist: the corporate takeover artist, personified by Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street. You know, the "greed is good" guy.

These raiders borrow money from investors and banks, promising large returns. They look for companies that are having trouble and snap them up at bargain prices. Sometimes they break the company up and sell the business units for more than they paid, or they dissolve the company to acquire real estate holdings or pension funds and cash them out. Sometimes they restructure the company, firing excess employees, or getting rid of the unprofitable parts and refocusing the business, over time making the company more profitable. Some of this is good, some of it is bad.

But since it's easier to take over a company that's in trouble, raiders often take over the poor performers. Using that acquisition as leverage to get more loans, the raider can then take over the better performers in an industry, turning the whole idea of capitalism upside down. Then the raiders pull the money out of the merged company to make their profit, often leaving the company with huge debt. After the raider is gone, the company quickly goes bankrupt.
Everyone loses: employees lose their jobs, customers lose the service or product support, distributors lose a product line, retail outlets lose things to sell, suppliers aren't paid for their goods. Everyone, that is, except the corporate raiders.

The difference between corporate raiders and real capitalists is that raiders don't create new ideas or new wealth. This perversion of capitalism is not good for the economy or the United States, and it's what Mitt Romney practiced at Bain. Romney's brand of capitalism concentrates more money in the hands of fewer people, while contributing nothing new. Guys like Romney think of the economy as a zero-sum game and work to take a bigger piece of the pie, while real capitalists create new business and new money to make the pie bigger.

Our intellectual property and incorporation laws were created to reward people for developing new ideas. The "financialization" of the US economy has destroyed that idea, and instead now rewards raiders, bean-counting bankers, stock brokers, wheeler-dealers and hedge fund managers who get rich by betting that companies will fail, rather than working hard to create new products and services.

Romney's brand of capitalism also puts the United States at risk for takeovers by foreign interests, especially if Republicans make good on their promise to eliminate corporate regulations. What if, instead of investing in US Treasury bills, the Chinese decide to go after American corporations through a series of shell corporations? The only thing preventing this are those "job-killing" regulations that Republicans have pledged to repeal. We know we don't want the Red Army owning Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed. But do we really want Beijing calling the shots in the boardrooms at Walmart, IBM, Apple, GM, American Airlines, and John Deere?

What if those companies were secretly controlled by foreign interests, and they secretly contributed to Super PACs that spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence American elections?

It makes you ask: who's really buying Mitt Romney's election?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

For All You Anti-Statists...the Perfect Home!

Manufacturing Imprisonment

Last night I was flipping around the New Hampshire primary coverage and saw one of Ron Paul's spokespeople talking about his candidate's second place finish. The question was put to him as to why Dr. Paul is getting so many votes.

"Well, people are tired of having their freedoms taken away," the young man answered.


Where? Which ones? I'd like to know exactly what freedoms are being taken away because I think this speaks to the very crux of why right wingers vote the way they do.

Honestly, it seems to me that these "freedoms being taken away" don't actually exist and are made up for an all too willing audience made up of people that if one spends just a few moments quizzing them about their personal lives, it becomes very apparent that the problem isn't the government but themselves and the choices they have made. Ironic, for a group that espouses individual responsibility yet blames the government for everything. But that's their weird blame thing again...

I find it terribly frightening that many Paul supporters (as well as other conservatives and libertarians) have manufactured a reality in which Americans are a small step away (if not there already, in some minds) from the former Soviet Union. What's more frustrating is that their arrogance somehow translates into derisive comments towards "unbelievers" and it is really us (meaning mentally stable people) that are being naive. These people should not be running anything at all because, to put it bluntly, they aren't right in the head. The world is moving at an ever increasing rate towards free markets and trade. Cuba, for crying out loud, is selling private property. The writing is on the wall for centrally planned economies: they are doomed. And it's only a matter of time.

Yet they will not let go of their paranoia. Why? Are they so afraid of change that they can't accept that many of their stated wishes have come true?

Now, I get that some Paul supporters are young and male so there's the adolescent power fantasy thing at work. That's not so much loony as it is hormones and brains not fully developed leading to a latching on to something that aids them in their rebellion against "Dad." Yeah, my freedoms are being taken away, fucker! But the rest? There's no excuse for them whatsoever.

Folks, the world is becoming a better place, not worse.  We don't have the time to play make believe and pretend that our government is becoming a statist regime that is on the cusp of taking away our guns and sending people to re-education camps. We have serious problems to confront as we face a rapidly changing world and, quite frankly, many of these folks need to stop spending so much time living in their fantasy world and join us in reality.

Setting aside the anger, hate and fear is tough, I know. But think of how much time we would save...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ah, Gip...


Just in time for the presidential election this year, some fine folks have created a site devoted exclusively to the president's achievements since taking office.  This is a fairly impressive list that offers links after each one to explore the accomplishment further.

The Economy section is replete with items and one in particular caught my eye. This link is an excellent summary of how the president's policies have helped the economy. Some of the charts and graphs may look familiar as I have put them up in various posts here and there but this organizes them all in one central location. We can clearly see the GDP growth, private sector job gains, public sector job loss (good for you libertarian folks who want to shrink the size of government:)) and just how large of a hole we were in.

The last point is very important because there are many out there who continually harp on how the stimulus didn't work. It's goal wasn't to magically turn us back to the prosperity of the 1990s. Given the depth of the problem, which certainly required a greater period of analysis than just a few months, its goal was to prevent another Great Depression. It did that. Pay close attention to Part III of the report as it shows the estimates of what would've happened had there been no recovery act.

From now until Election Day, I will be referring to this site frequently as we explore why and how the president has done a good job and should be re-elected.

Monday, January 09, 2012


Tracking the President

Gallup Tracking has a very cool app that I have been using for the past few months. I highly recommend picking it up for your smart phone if you are interested in seeing the latest polls. Of course, I have been following the president's numbers very closely and for a while there, it was pretty much the same. He'd get up to 44 or 45 percent and then drop back down to 41 or 42.

But then a few weeks ago, he shot up to 47 and his disapproval went down to 45. At first  I thought it was an aberration because it dropped again and toggled between 42 and 44. But then he shot back up and has now been toggling between 45 and 47 approval with his disapproval falling at the same time. In other words, he's been trending higher for the past couple of weeks and it seems to be sticking.

These are the same numbers that Rasmussen has had him at for the last several months but, even though they have been more positive for the president in comparison to Gallup, I still don't trust their polling because of how they do their sampling. So, I think it's a safe bet to say that 45 percent of this country approves of the job the president is doing. Not all that impressive but not as bad as it was a couple of months ago.

And it's important to note that are probably 2-4 percent of the "disapprove" folks that are teed off because he isn't liberal enough which means they are still going to vote for him. That puts him the upper 40s and from there it's all going to come down to the independents and who the choice is for the GOP. As I have said before, if it's "Not Romney," then the president wins by a large margin. If it is Romney, it's going to depend on less than a dozen key states.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


The Issue of Fault

Today, I find myself, as I often do on Sundays, in a reflective mood. Actually, for the past week, I've been ruminating on the issue of fault and trying to figure out how conservatives, generally speaking, really have their head up their collective asses when it comes to that age old question, "Who's to blame?" If someone is poor and struggling to make end's meet, it's their fault. As GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said recently, "People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don’t go to the emergency room or they don’t go to the doctor when they need to."

So, when someone gets sick or simply can't pay bills, it's all their fault. They made stupid choices which led them to that point, so fuck 'em. Or, it's somehow the fault of the government. The nanny state has led them to believe that they will be cared for or some federal program has been an impediment in their lives and they are forced into submission with the result being a negative outcome.

In sum, the fault is with the person or the government.

Yet the collection of individuals (family, friends, community) or the people that make up the various private concerns that have a direct relation to a person's life are NEVER EVER at fault. Even though health care firms, insurance companies, gas and electric companies, groceries, restaurants, and other organizations have a direct impact on our lives, they are never at fault. It's as if individuals operate in a vacuum. And, regardless of the evidence gathered thus far, climate change is not the fault of mankind. It's simply a natural part of the earth's cycle and we are not to blame whatsoever.

In sum, large collections of people are never at fault (unless it's the federal government) and should never take the blame for bad things that happen.

In looking at this ridiculous dichotomy, I'm wondering...why are conservatives/libertarians so pro-collective? They continually speak of the supporting individual rights and freedoms yet fervently shit all over them. Down on your luck? Tough shit. It was probably some dumb ass decision you made. No hand outs here, buster. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And don't go blamin' the rising cost of (insert organization here) for your problems. You are on your own...unless, of course, it's the federal government. Because they are forcing you at gunpoint to do their bidding.

But do not, under any circumstances, blame yourself as a part of the human race for climate change. They are all a bunch of liberals using a pseudo-science rooted in apocryphal religion to hoodwink you into government spending beyond their means. Even though the effects of greenhouse gases warming the earth can be shown in any 8th grade science class, it's not your fault.

Folks, I don't get it. As is usually the case, the right has the issue of fault completely FUBAR. While I do agree that people (especially in this country), have a great deal of control over their lives and do, in fact, make poor choices that lead to negative outcomes, they aren't entirely to blame on their own. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of health care. And if they get laid off from their job, that may also be the fault of the company in general and poor decision making by upper management-a collection of people. It's a combination of both individual fault and the impediments that arise as a result of the institutions (both public and private) that we have in our society.

So, shouldn't those same institutions, which likely helped to cause the problems in the first place, also be expected to to help people?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Positively Brilliant!

Meanwhile, on the Western Front

With all the attention focused on the Republican race for the nomination in the midwest and east, two articles about corporations from the Wild West caught my attention last week.

The first is a story by Kelly Carr and Brian Grow of Reuters about a house on a residential street in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where more than 2,000 corporations are registered. These aren't real corporations: they're shell companies like the ones in the Cayman Islands that drug dealers and the mafia use to launder their money. Lax incorporation laws allow people to register their companies in Wyoming and keep the identities of the principles secret so that the money can't be tracked.

Wyoming Corporate Services, as this capitol of crony capitalism calls itself, offers a full menu of deceptive incorporation strategies, including "shelf" corporations. These companies sit "on the shelf" engaging in what appear to be legitimate financial transactions to make them seem like honest, reliable companies. And then someone with a nefarious purpose comes along and buys this phony corporation to give themselves an air or respectability and a fake history. It's all a big fraud, but it's apparently legal.

According to the Reuters article, the company's website boasts:
A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy. A person you control... yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities!
I searched WCS's website and couldn't find that exact quote, but perusing their list of services and braggadocio about why Wyoming is so much better for incorporation than Nevada, the quote aptly describes their intent. And the thing is, it's completely true: this is exactly why corporations exist. They almost completely remove personal responsibility and personal financial risk from anyone doing business.

The protections of incorporation are in general a public good, allowing people to take risks creating new jobs without risking their entire future. But Wyoming law allows criminals to hide billions of dollars of illegal income, and for otherwise upstanding citizens to avoid paying billions in taxes. All of which means that the rest of us have to pay that much more to make up the difference.

The second story was from next door: the Montana Supreme Court ruled that Montana's corporate campaign contribution law was constitutional. In a 5-2 opinion, the majority upheld that the 1912 initiative Montana voters passed banning corporate contributions to political candidates and parties.

Echoing what I've long been saying, Justice James C. Nelson wrote:
Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people — human beings — to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government.
Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.
Montana has history on its side in this corporate dogfight. In the early 20th century the "Copper Kings" ran the state. The mining companies bought most every judge and politician in Montana. At a time when US senators were selected by state legislators, banker and mining executive William A. Clark bribed the
Montana legislature to elect him to the US Senate. However, the Senate refused to seat Clark in 1899 because of the bribery scheme, and the incident was the impetus for the passage of the 17th Amendment providing for direct election of senators. Clark was reputed to have said, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale." Still, he campaigned again and served one term in the Senate, prompting Mark Twain to write:
He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's time.
The Montana ruling will almost certainly collide with the US Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed for the public flaying of Newt Gingrich in Iowa by Mitt Romney's Super PAC. Romney's PAC, Restore Our Future, is run by former Romney campaign aides, according to an article in the Washington Post. (Jon Huntsman's Super PAC is mostly financed by his father.)

Gingrich complained bitterly about the "independent" ad campaigns, claiming that he'd been "Romney-boated." This was an implicit acknowledgment that the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry in 2004 was just a dirty, lying political trick. Which has always been common knowledge, but few Republicans will admit the truth of it to this day. John McCain suffered the same treatment by George Bush's campaign in 2000, prompting him to sponsor the campaign finance reform laws the Supreme Court struck down.

The combination of uncontrolled secretive shell corporations and unlimited secret corporate donations to "independent" political campaigns -- especially in judicial elections -- is a recipe for disaster. Citizens United is making it impossible for the average voter to tell the truth from the lies repeated on the airwaves so often they become a mantra.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Rick Santorum May Not Like All the Attention He's About to Get

An article by Jake Tapper at ABC News shows why Rick Santorum is unfit to serve as president:
I pointed out that Democrats say that one of the reasons Santorum lost in 2006 was because they say he’s more conservative than mainstream America. One issue was Santorum’s opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception. Santorum said he still feels that a state should be able to make such laws. 
“The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have. That is the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court, they are creating rights, and they should be left up to the people to decide,” he said. 
“You shouldn’t create constitutional rights when states do dumb things,” Santorum said. “Let the people decide if the states are doing dumb things get rid of the legislature and replace them as opposed to creating constitutional laws that have consequences that were before them.”
So, his argument for allowing states to ban contraception is that the Constitution doesn't ban stupidity?

The Supreme Court's 1965 decision in Griswold vs. Connecticut overturned a law banning contraception. This decision was one of the first to outline a right to privacy in the Constitution. It drew upon the Ninth Amendment, which states:
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The intent of this is obvious: there are many rights so basic that no one would think there would be a need to write them down. Those inalienable rights obviously include the most intimate decisions people make in their marriage: whether they have sex, what kind of sex they have and whether they have children.

This amendment also shows the Founders' foresight. They knew that times change, and that the Constitution shouldn't be used as a hammer to destroy current and future freedoms and rights.

The majority (7-2) of the court also argued that privacy is protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment. It would also seem that the Equal Protection Clause and the Commerce Clause also bear on the  issue, since contraceptives are manufactured in other states and countries and people could cross state lines to buy them. If you can buy guns this way, why not contraceptives?

The Fourth Amendment definitely implies a right to privacy, even though it doesn't explicitly mention the word:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This is practically the dictionary definition of what privacy means.

In Rick Santorum's ideal universe, lack of children would be probable cause to raid your home and search for condoms and birth control pills. He says that we need to pump out more children so that Social Security doesn't go bust. If elected president will Santorum institute a medal of honor for women who bear eight children, along the lines of the Mutterehrenkreuz of Nazi Germany? Heck, if lots of children are important, why aren't Catholic nuns and priests getting busy? They are shirking their duty!

In 1960 many people thought John F. Kennedy couldn't be president because his Catholicism would dictate his decisions. Kennedy went out of his way to reassure the American people that this wouldn't be the case. But Santorum is going out of his way to tell us that his religion will dictate every facet of his administration.

If you think religion mixed with politics is a good thing, read a little history, especially the reigns of King Henry VIII, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I. For good measure, read about the Huguenots in France. In those days Protestants and Catholics murdered each other by the thousands. And it's still going on today in Iraq, with Sunnis and Shiites going at it. If you think that only Muslims murder each other over religion these days, you need only look to Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants were still killing each other only 15 years ago.

And if you think it can't happen here, just look at the string of religiously motivated murders of doctors in America, as recently as 2009 when George Tiller was gunned down in a Kansas church.

With all this abortion and contraception posturing by Santorum, the irony is that his wife Karen had a second-trimester abortion in 1996 in order to save her life. I don't criticize him for the abortion, just for wanting to prevent other people from having the same option.

This fact which has not gone unnoticed by the Paul campaign, and I expect things will start to get very ugly very soon.