Politics and Whatnot

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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Joe Curl of the Washington Times provides an excellent example of Republican hate machine at work

Before I say anything, think for a moment about Michelle Obama.  What comes to mind?  If you’re like me, you think of her as the type of first lady who isn’t quite as hands-off as Laura Bush, but who has clearly tried to avoid wading into political battles, instead choosing relatively non-controversial topics like fighting childhood obesity.

But that isn’t the way Joe Curl of the pro-Republican opinion magazine the Washington Times sees it.  He sees her as “very angry” and “madder than ever.”  His evidence?  First, Ms. Obama and her kids, along with several staff flew to Martha’s Vineyard 4 hours ahead of her husband in a separate plane this summer (Curl says this means that she’s angry with him). Then, at a fundraiser she praised the impact that her husband’s court nominees will have on Americans privacy, speech, and religious freedoms.  Worst of all, she suggested that every child should have an opportunity to succeed rather than the few at the top. (Curl extrapolates on this to claim it shows that she is “ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the campaign trail”).

These attacks are, frankly, untrue and unfair.  No stone has been left unturned, no wild speculation left unbelieved in Curl’s full-frontal assault on Ms. Obama’s temperament.  What’s behind it?  Simple: The Republicans only understand one way to argue: ad hominem.  If you want Barack Obama to be a one-term president, attack him not for his policies but who he is as a person.  But it’s not enough to just go after him, no – because can a bad, scary, man have a good, kind-hearted wife?  Not if you see everything in black and white (disclaimer for Republicans: no racial overtones intended).  So the person you’re painting as an angry, black militant president needs an angry, black militant wife.

But what if the wife doesn’t easily fit into the mold that you’ve laid out for her?  Then, you get Joe Curl’s ridiculous article.  That, and the following partial list of the supposedly despicable acts the Republicans have accused Ms. Obama of:

Looks fat to Republicans

– “militant racism” for her mentioning, during college, that she sometimes feels alienated as a black woman on an Ivy League university.

– suggesting by implication that she was not really proud of her country before when she used the filler words “for the first time” before stating that she was really proud of her country.*

– offending the Queen of England (not the Queen!) by touching her during a greeting, despite the Queen’s denial that it was offensive

– “eating a high-calorie meal at a burger joint

– “greeting” an overweight surgeon general

– allegedly – and this is according to anonymous sources, so you have to be careful throwing around accusations as damning as these – complaining once in private that she dislikes being first lady.

– being fat (for reference, a picture of 45-year-old First Lady is provided at right)

*judging from the criticisms, the worst thing she’s ever done in her life.

And to reiterate, it’s a very small fraction of the ridiculous attacks Michelle Obama has faced.    It goes back to my long-standing theory of conservativism: that conservatives are simply misguided liberals that still believe in liberal ideals, but have been led astray by hatred and fear.  Without hatred and without fear, the conservative becomes what it fears most – a liberal.  Thus hatred and fear are the nourishment of the conservatives, and they seek it everywhere it might be found.  Mr. Curl’s article, and the attacks on Ms. Obama as a whole, provide excellent examples of this desperate, self-denying search.

Would (open) liberals do it differently?  Sure.  I could very easily give you an example of a first lady who had a big event in her past that liberals have left untouched, but would have essentially prevented her husband from even running if he were a Democrat based on the outpouring of hatred that conservatives on the right would have unleashed if the shoe were on the other foot.  Of course, since I’m a liberal, I don’t really think it’s fair to point out what’s been left untouched, because it had absolutely nothing to do with her husband’s job as president.  Just consider the last few Republican first ladies (Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush [who, by the way, has almost openly courted controversy], and Laura Bush) and how liberals treated them, versus the endless shower of baseless abuse heaped upon Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.  I think if you’re honest, you’ll see I have a point.

Time to restore the seventh-inning stretch

I’m watching a baseball game for the first time in a while –  game 7 of the World Series.  I used to be quite a baseball fan when I was a kid, but in this modern world it just is too hard to follow a sport on a daily basis.  They showed the seventh-inning stretch which served to remind me of the fact that they’re still singing “God Bless America” instead of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the break.

Of course, the singing of “God Bless America” is a relic of that post-9/11 nationalism period where we all started acting all patriotic all of a sudden and laughing at blatantly bad Bin Laden jokes to avoid looking like we’re with the terrorists.  Now that period is over, and but the song seems to have become a permanent tradition.  It’s easy to see why – there’s a fear that somehow bringing back the old song would cause some sort of uproar, while keeping the song does not seem to be causing any problems.

So why do I care about “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”?  It’s not like it’s a good song or anything, but that’s not the point.  The point of the song is, you’re at a fucking baseball game, isn’t it great?  There’s good ol’ peanuts and crackerjack (now replaced by overpriced hot dogs and soft drinks, but still…) and you can root for the home team, why would you ever want to get back to that annoying, hyper-serious reality that we call life?  They always get some old player or announce who can’t sing to sing it, because it’s not about the song, it’s about having fun at the game, enjoy the traditions, and forgetting about everything else.

The point of “God Bless America” is the opposite: to take us out of the ballgame and place us back into that annoying life that we were trying to avoid by going there.  So we get some country singer (who represents “Real America”) to sing this fucking song to remind us “9/11!  9/11!  9/11!” during what’s supposed our three-hour escape from reality, not to mention the needless prominent mention of “God” to remind us that if you like baseball, you must also be super-patriotic and super-religious too (I know a number of religious people, they don’t all go around singing about God at every opportunity).

No.  Stop.  Give me my baseball.  I want to watch baseball.  I don’t want to watch Country Boy remind us of 9/11, or God, or patriotism.  I just want baseball.  Please, keep it baseball.

Meanwhile, in Canada….

So this is what politicians argue about in Canada…

Sizing up Herman Cain

These posts don’t seem to get a lot of hits, but what can I say, I like trying to predict the Republican primary outcome, bad at it as I am.

Now I’ve been guilty of ignoring Herman Cain, largely because I never imagined that a black candidate could gain majority support in the Republican primary.   Of course, it increasingly looks like I was wrong – not about failing to gain majority support, but about whether majority support is necessary.

According to RealClearPolitics, Cain is leading the popular polls with a whopping 25% of the Republican vote, with Romney a very close second with 24.3%.  The rest is split between among various rabble that may or may not be contenders in the future.  The RCP average also has Cain leading Iowa by a substantial (5.5%) margin,  but the data is all over the place.  Finally, Cain has some very major Koch brothers connections, which means he has major sway among the “other electorate” that consists of big business  with money to spend.

In summary, I think its fair to say that Cain might be leading the field at this stage.  But is he going to stay there?  Here’s why I think not (other than racism):

1. He’s a mega-flip-flopper: Cain has clearly flip-flopped on Muslims (originally saying he wouldn’t appoint any, and later apologizing and saying he meant terrorists), and probably abortion and an electrified border fence.  Michelle Bachmann also claims Cain flip flopped on gay marriage and Guantanamo Bay detainees.  That’s a lot that his opponents have to work with, and they have yet to really attack him hard on it.

2. He has offended conservative political correctness: Let’s see here, he did a song parodying the far-left utopian song “Imagine”, he’s an associate minister at a liberal church in Atlanta, he was on the board of a federal reserve bank, and he favors raising (sales) taxes.  Wait unit the “Who is the real Herman Cain?” ads start showing up.

3.  He has already made a lot of enemies: Cain has said things that are likely to upset Muslims, Ron Paul sympathizers, Mexicans, and black women, among others.

Of course, if there’s anything to be learned from the last few months, it’s that the Republican Primary is completely unpredictable.  Nevertheless, I think Cain will lose his lead long before November is over.  Who will take his place?  I still say nobody, in keeping with my theory that no one will win the Republican Primary.  Admittedly that’s impossible (sort of).  There’s also the possibility of a Perry comeback, but you also might want to watch out for a comeback of the Marshmallow Man himself, Newt Gingrich.  His major personal and political faults have made many count him out, but compared to the faults of his opponents, he just doesn’t look that bad anymore.

Bipartisan support for ending electoral college, but no action. Why not?

The latest Gallup poll shows that majorities of Republican, Democrat, and Independent voters support an amendment to do away with the electoral college and replace it with a popular vote, and only 35% are in favor of it.  It’s easy to see why – the electoral college is a relic of a voting system that never really existed.  The idea was that each state would choose electors, and that the electors would then vote according to their own will.  In reality, every state either actually requires or effectively requires its electors to vote in accordance with the majority of voters in each state.  Instead, all the system really does is create an arbitrary winner-take-all system that effectively disenfranchises voters in solidly red or solidly blue states, and results in the complete disregard of almost half of the votes in swing states where the difference between winning and losing may be less than a percentage point.  It’s no wonder that the US is the only remaining system that elects its executive in this bizarre manner.

Despite the massive opposition to the electoral college, there is not the slightest iota of attention in Washington, and very little attention in the media, for the idea of changing it.  Why?  Let me speculate up a few reasons:

1. The Republican Party (not Republican voters) is particularly fond of it – Since 1980, Republicans have dominated US policy.  The Republican ideas of deregulation, low taxes, preemptive invasions, unrestricted military/CIA, drug wars, etc. have become the official policies of the Federal Government, regardless of what the public thinks about them.  The Democratic Party has largely accepted the dictated Republican positions while ignoring even widely supported liberal ideas like socialized healthcare, drug deregulation, and limits on government intrusion.  Thus it is no surprise that the Republican Party position on the Electoral College is the only position in Washington.  Why is the GOP so fond of the electoral college?  Simply because it helped them get Bush elected in 2000.  There’s no reason whatsoever to think that it couldn’t go the other way in the future, but the Gallup poll clearly shows that this made a number of Republicans favor the electoral college.

2. The Democratic Party (not Democratic voters) is particularly fond of it – What?  The Democratic Party got screwed by the electoral college in 2000, why would they be for it?  Because in the long run, it’s the only reason they’re in power.  The Democratic Party is essentially an amalgamation of all the different groups in the country that have a reason to be angry with the way the Republicans have been running the country for the last 30 years: the working class, minorities, social liberals, the well-educated, etc.  Under the electoral college, the only way these groups can stop the Republicans is by voting together for whatever party is most likely to defeat the Republican candidate.  Under a national popular vote, which would likely involve a runoff election, each of these groups would be free to vote for their own favored third party, and then choose the strongest among those in the runoff election.  If this were to happen, it would be the end of the Democratic Party as we know it (really, the same exact thing is true of the Republican Party also) and the birth of many new third parties that would more accurately represent the people.

3. Lobbyists and corrupting influences like it – Probably the largest means of semi-legal bribery used by special interest groups is the attack ad.  The attack ad is especially useful under the electoral college because the ads can be targeted at swing states, which gets more bang for the buck than advertising across the whole country.  In addition, the attack ad makes far more sense in a two-party race, because then a decline in support for one candidate directly translates to an increase for the other.  As discussed above, the end of the electoral college would allow third parties to gain support, and the lobbyists would find themselves becoming increasingly irrelevant.

In short, we don’t have a democracy, so it’s not up to the people to decide whether we should have an electoral college or not.  So forget about it, sit back, and enjoy your shitty elections.

Latest Fox News poltical correctness: “higher earners” instead of “higher incomes”

Take a look at this article.  Throughout the text, it refers to taxes as being paid by “higher earners”.  As in:

“In a progressive system, higher earners pay higher tax rates on their income.”

Oh how horrible!  The more you earn, the higher your tax rate is!  It encourages people to not earn anything!  Except one problem – that’s not at all true.  Higher incomes, not higher earners, pay a higher tax rate in a progressive system.  If you make $70,000 from a handsomely-paying part-time job that you got from your dad, you’ll pay higher taxes than the sewer worker who makes $40,000 working overtime.  And is this a rare circumstance?  Look at the people you know personally that have high incomes and the ones that have low incomes – which ones “earn” more at their job?  Chances are, the ones that do really hard, intolerable, and difficult work – the sewer workers, the garbage collectors, the manual laborers – have lower incomes than those that make higher incomes – successful business owners, doctors, bankers.  That’s not to say the latter don’t work hard, most of them work very hard.  But to say that they’ve “earned it” more than the former is laughable.

A Google fight shows that “higher incomes” is clearly the far more common term.  So why is Fox News all about “higher earners” all of a sudden?  Do I even have to say it?  Because they’re a subsidiary of the Republican Party, which itself represents most entitled-feeling people in the country: the people who want to keep everything that comes to them without giving anything back to the country that helped them get it.  So Fox News is trying to control the language in an Orwellian manner in the hopes that we will all support those entitled-feeling people instead of the ones that are willing to give back and help society continue to function as well for others as it has for them.

Which might explain the well-document correlation between Fox News fans and assaholism

 

Well, guess I was wrong about Perry…

Not that long ago, I wrote about how Rick Perry was unstoppably heading to the top of the Republican pack and how he was almost certainly going to be the nominee, since he’s the only one with all the superficial qualities that are necessary to be a GOP candidate.  Well, now Rick Perry’s at 12.5% in the Real Clear Politics poll average, and the race actually looks like it’s now primarily between Mitt Romney and Hermann Cain.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Here’s what I didn’t predict:

1.  The power of ganging up on a candidate: One of the big factors that harmed Perry among Republicans was an entirely sane decision on Perry’s part to require HPV vaccinations among schoolchildren.  Disease generally being bad, it makes sense to try to stop it.  However, all the other candidates ganged up on Perry on this issue and others, making a probably right decision seem like something that everyone agrees was an attack on schoolchildren to favor a drug company.  Funny thing is, Perry’s been involved in all sorts of political corruption allegations, but this one doesn’t even make the list.  But people in general, and I suspect Republicans especially, hate to be on the side of the guy everyone is pummeling.  It takes special, rare courage to stand up for someone like that, and none of the candidates – or pundits – or people Perry did corrupt favors for – seemed willing to stand up for him.  Seeing their former favorite candidate getting beaten down by everyone, Republican voters walked away.

2. Rick Perry’s ability to screw himself: Perry certainly didn’t do himself any favors either.  By all accounts, his debate performances have been weak.  He fumbled an important attack against Romney to the point where the focus became Perry’s fumbling rather than what he was saying about Romney’s (very real) flip-flopping.

3. Mitt Romney’s ability to dodge attacks: Honestly, I thought Romney would be done by now, but he’s still there.  Romney is actually not very conservative, but he’s a problem because he’s VERY close to Wall Street and probably hopes to accelerate the country’s sale to the highest bidder.  Anyway, it’s clear that Romney has been undergoing some top-notch coaching since 2008, when he was a hopelessly awkward newcomer.  But is it enough to make Republicans like him?  My guess is still no.

4. $9.99: Advertisers have known for a long time that if you price something just under 10, you’ll sell it much easier.  Practically, it makes no sense.  I, and probably most other people, would imagine that we’d actually pay the extra cent just to avoid having to deal with the penny.  However, sales figures show otherwise, and Herman Cain seems to understand that.  Of course, the plan is horrible – it essentially redistributes taxes from the rich to the poor, which will lead to massive deficits and increased poverty.  However, it’s strong enough to catapult a black guy to the front the Republican nomination race – according to RCP, Cain has a 0.5% lead on Romney.  It looks like the best way to guarantee the Republican nomination may be to simply promise a 0% tax rate.

What’s going to happen now?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I still can’t imagine Romney or Cain winning because they each have certain characteristics that prevent them from being acceptable to large groups of Republicans.  However, the race is so splintered that the winner of the early primaries will probably only need  25-30% of the vote.  My best guess at this stage is that no one’s going to win.  Not sure exactly how that will work, but it seems to be where everything’s headed.

BBC: US leading wealthy nations in child abuse and neglect, caused by unwillingness to tax self

Let’s say, hypothetically, it turns out that a Iran-supported terrorist organization has been carrying out a secret terrorist attack in the US for the last ten years: they have been killing children and making it appear that they have died of natural causes.  The FBI just uncovered this plot, finding out that the terrorists have killed 20,000 children over the last ten years.

How soon would we be at war?  How many trillions of dollars would we spend fighting it?  What if it wasn’t Iran, but Pakistan?  What if it was China?  What if it was Russia?  I have no doubt we’d go to nuclear war over it.  Overnight.  I’d support it too.

Well, according to the BBC, that has been happening, but with one exception: the 20,000 children weren’t killed by terrorists, but by abusive and neglectful parents.  But not only them – they have been killed by tax-stinginess and our self-righteous refusal to sacrifice.  States with better social services –  and higher taxes – face less child deaths and other problems from child abuse and neglect.  Children in Vermont are half as likely to die from abuse and neglect than children in Texas. American children overall are 3 times more likely to die of maltreatment than Canadian children, and 11 times more likely to die of maltreatment than Italian children.

Two points here are rather terrible: 1) why is the BBC reporting this?  You can search all fucking day on CNN and not find a single article discussing the overall child abuse epidemic in the US.  Sure, you’ll find plenty of articles about Casey Anthony and pedophiles, but nothing about the thousands of children dying this minute of things like not being fed, disciplinary beatings, not getting healthcare.  2) It’s getting worse.  During the recession, the response from state governments dealing with less revenue has been almost uniformly to cut social services.  Which social services get cut first?  The ones that people think are unimportant.  Child Protective Services are controversial among many conservatives (note the comments here) because they view it as the always-evil government interfering with parenting decisions. CPS has few defenders and many ardent enemies, and tends to find its way to the chopping block.

So, 20,000 dead kids over the last 10 years.  Think we can double that in the next ten?  Unfortunately it’s not on Intrade yet, but my money would be on yes.

Israel: Tough on Palestinian civilians, weak on Palestinian terrorism

The dicks who made this poster are thrilled with the Israeli government's latest move.

Now I’ve been critical in the past of Israel’s harsh policies towards the Palestinians – blockades, reckless military action, allowing unrestricted settlements, etc.  These actions tend to punish innocent Palestinians with a negligible, and probably counterproductive effect on the terrorist groups that Israel claims to be targeting.  You might reason that I think Israel is taking too hard a line on Palestine, and is too obsessed with stopping terrorism.

On the contrary, Israel is taking too hard a line with Palestinian civilians, while taking an appallingly weak stance against Palestinian terrorists.  Yesterday, Israel demonstrated exactly what I’m talking about.  They released a list of no less than 477 Palestinian prisoners – many convicted of downright appalling crimes, that will be released for Gilad Shalit, a single Israeli soldier held by the Palestinians.  And apparently, there’s still about 550 more to come.  Worse, the soldier was not legitimately held by the Palestinians, but was simply kidnapped, without even a suggestion that he had committed any crime.  It’s quite literally ransom, and very generous ransom at that.

Reading some dissenting views, it looks like there is a claim that many of the Palestinians released are in fact not convicted of a serious crime, convicted unjustly, or otherwise should not be held.  Frankly, I don’t know enough to say whether this is true, except that at least some are clearly guilty of very horrible acts.  But even so, this does not refute my point: if Israel is holding so many innocent Palestinians, that just continues the notion that they are punishing the innocent while dealing weakly with the terrorists.  The innocent should spend no time in prison, and terrorists should spend the rest of their lives in prison.  Those who support this deal seem to be suggesting that all Palestinians, innocent and guilty, should simply go to prison until they are released as part of an extortionate prisoner swap.  If you treat civilians and terrorists alike, maybe they will also act alike.

But what is the alternative, many ask?  To let Shalit die in Palestinian custody?  Well, not at first.  At first, you do everything possible to take him back without having to give the Palestinians anything.  Of course, it’s rarely that simple.  So failing that, yes, the answer is to let Shalit die in custody.  Why?  Because he will be the last.  Once the Palestinians see that kidnapping is no longer super-handsomely-rewarding to them, there’s no more reason for them to put the effort into it.  Any maybe, once they realize that, they will see that terrorism is not the answer, and that peaceful but disobedient action against the Israeli occupation will be much more effective.  But that leads to another question: Does the Israeli government want the Palestinians to be peaceful if it means they will be more effective?

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