Politics and Whatnot

Just another liberal political blog

Monthly Archives: December 2011

In Iowa, Gingrich’s numbers halved in onslaught of corporate attack ads

In a preview of the role that barely-restrained corporate bribe-vertisements will play in the 2012 election, the Borg has scored an early victory.  They have halved Newt Gingrich’s numbers in the course of a few weeks in Iowa, while his national numbers have fallen too, but much less.

The most likely explanation for this dip is an unprecedented stream of negative advertising faced by Iowans, primarily aimed at Gingrich, who was leading the pack at the wrong time.  Among the top mud-slingers is a SuperPAC supporting Mitt Romney, which has spent $550,000 on anti-Gingrich attacks so far in Iowa and Florida.  Of course Gingrich is complaining, but there’s no doubt he would be doing the same thing if he were in Romney’s place.  After all, it’s easy to confuse Gingrich’s “Winning Our Future” SuperPac with Romney’s “Restore Our Future” SuperPAC.

Now it may be that this is a special case – the overall shitiness of the Republican field may make them more vulnerable to attacks.   However, it gives me considerable worry that we may be seeing our politicians becoming even more dependent on corporate donations and even less dependent on individual citizens in the very near future, as politicians realize that the voters’ concerns don’t matter if attacking their opponent into the ground is more effective.

Don’t trust Russia Today (RT) over NDAA. Or anything else for that matter.

There has been a lot of well-deserved attention over the Kim Jong Il Memorial National Defense Authorization Act (aka NDAA) which codifies the military’s right to do almost whatever the fuck they want with terrorism suspects, including American citizens (if the military decides that they support Al Qaeda or the Taliban and that existing law otherwise allows it).

However, the mainstream media, for reasons that remain unclear, has absolutely refused to cover it.  This has created room for other outlets, such as Russia Today.  Russia Today’s story, which claims that Americans can be detained in other countries, has been getting a lot of attention.

A lot of people don’t realize what Russia Today is.  Russia Today is the state-owned news media controlled by the Russian government Vladimir Putin.  It can be and is used for propaganda against other nations when Putin deems it appropriate.  Recently, Russia’s been throwing a fairly understandable hissy fit over one of Bush’s dumber ideas, the American missile shield.  They also might want to distract attention from what’s going on in Russia – major protests against Putin’s rule.

I can’t find anything in the NDAA that says Americans can be sent to North Korea to be tortured.  What I can find is that it’s up to the military to decide whether American citizens suspected of certain types of terrorism can be sent to Guantanamo Bay.  And said citizens will have to wait there, assuming they survive, until the Supreme Court eventually hears their petition for habeas corpus in probably 5 years or so, and issues an opinion along the lines of “This isn’t remotely constitutional!  What were you people thinking?”  (8-1, Thomas dissenting).  RT does not cite where it’s getting it’s information from, so it should not be trusted.

How to use primary crossover voting to help break the two-party stranglehold on elections

The Iowa caucuses are coming up on January 3, kicking off what promises to be a fun and long Republican primary process.   Now most people assume that if they’re not a loyal Republican, they either cannot or should not vote in a Republican process.  However, neither is true.  In most cases, you can either vote in a Republican primary even if registered with another party, or can quickly switch party affiliation just before the primary.

As for the ethical aspects, crossover voting is not only defensible, it’s actually a duty of anyone who wants to rescue our democracy from the two-party system.  By splitting the electorate and candidates into two separate groups, the Democratic and Republican cartels keep themselves in power and exclude third party candidates from competing, due to the need to avoid the lesser of two evils (i.e. the other party’s candidate).  By frustrating this purpose during the primary process, independent voters can trick the parties into choosing candidates that do not have the loyalty of their bases, forcing them to break up.

For example, let’s assume that there’s a hypothetical Moderate Republican who appeals to many independents and Democrats, but lacks appeal with the mainstream of the Republican party because he does not ascribe to party views on certain “sacred issues.”  If enough Democrat and independent voters cross over and vote in the Republican primary, they can elect Moderate Republican, choosing the candidate that most Americans – not most Republicans – want to see take on Obama.  With no power to stop the people as a whole from exercising their votes together, the Republican party would be forced to break up, and likewise with the Democratic party.

So with that in mind, let’s look at the 2012 Republican primary calendar.  The below information contains the early primaries and information about how you can cross over and vote.

  • Iowa caucuses (Jan 3): you can register as Republican at the door, vote, and then switch your  affiliation back (according to this Reddit post, which is admittedly not the greatest of sources but I can’t find any other).
  • New Hampshire primary (Jan 10): According to this discussion (again not the best of sources) undeclared/independent voters can vote in any primary, but registered Democrats cannot vote in the Republican primary.   The deadline to switch affiliation was 10/14 to switch.  So if you’re undeclared, you can still vote, otherwise no.  Lesson: if you’re in New Hampshire, it only makes sense to register as undeclared.
  • South Carolina primary (Jan 21): South Carolina is an open primary, which means all registered voters of any party can vote.  But the deadline to register, if you’re not already, is December 21, seven days from today.  So if you’re not registered, better get on that.
  • Florida (Jan. 31): Florida is a closed primary, so you must be registered as a Republican to vote.  According to this page, the registration deadline is Jan 3.  Get registered as a Republican or you’ll be disenfranchised.
  • Others: That’s all the time I have today, so check this list of primaries.  If there’s a check in the “open” column that means registered voters of any party can vote.  I assume semi-open usually means independents can vote, but Democrats can’t.

So get out there and exercise your rights, people.  Ron Paul is popular with crossover voters, but there’s no reason that you have to choose him.  You can vote for Bernie Sanders, Ralph Nader, Stephen Colbert, whatever.  Just get out there and screw with the Republican cartel as much as possible.

Gingrich’s honesty problem

There’s no doubt that politicians have a reputation for having difficulty telling the truth.  But once in a while, there’s a politician that stands out as a liar even among politicians.  It’s difficult, but Newt Gingrich has managed to do it.  Take a look at his Politifact profile.  Among the things he’s lied about: That food stamps can buy a trip to Hawaii (part of a decades-old Republican practice of grossly exaggerating welfare abuse), that the stimulus plan would ban the boy scouts and sunday school from using public schools, and my favorite, lying about the ethics investigation that arose from him lying in Congress during the 1990s.

What really stands out is that Gingrich has twice as many “pants on fire” ratings as “true” ratings.  By comparison, Mitt Romney has less than half as many “pants on fire” ratings as “true”, while Ron Paul has even less.  Barack Obama has only 1/20th as many “pants on fire” as “true” ratings (although to be honest, I’m disappointed he has any pants on fire ratings.  We liberals have standards).

Now a word of caution: Politifact’s ratings aren’t designed to be used as a scorecard.  The ratings are dependent on what statements are selected, and are not indicative of all statements.  That being said, however, I haven’t seen any evidence of picking and choosing. Moreover, Politifact’s profiles are all we got, other than that there is really is no “scorecard” for politician honesty.

And it’s important to hold liars accountable, even liars among liars.  Most voters have little time to review facts and determine who is telling the truth.  Therefore lying, if not punished, can be particularly effective for politicians.  People like Karl Rove have made careers out of helping politicians lie effectively.  We have to fight back by running liars out of Washington and not allowing them to return.   If a politician lies as much as Newt Gingrich, what does anything else matter?  Can you trust what such a liar says about his opinions or his qualifications?  That lying politician clearly thinks you’re a sucker, and that you’ll be easily deceived by what they’re saying.  So whether it’s Gingrich or Obama, we have to hold politicians accountable for lying, and consider honesty – as verified by independent sources like Politifact – a primary factor in choosing our politicians.

Helping Jamie Dimon “get” OWS

Jamie Dimon, head of JP Morgan Chase, has decided to stick his neck out and become one of the first bank CEO’s to offer a statement regarding Occupy Wall Street:

“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and that everyone who is rich is bad,” he said. “I just don’t get it.”

Now full disclosure – I happen to have inherited a small amount of JP Morgan Chase stock.  It’s not the sort of company I’d invest in on my own and I’m actually waiting for the right moment to sell it. I also have a close friend who’s involved in the banking industry, and seems to have the same sentiment expressed above.  A sense of being “under attack” from OWS seems to be common among the banking industry.

Finally, I’m not an OWS guy myself.  I certainly sympathize with the goals and concerns of Occupy Wall Street, but I frankly just don’t like protesters.  My opinion on protesters was sealed when I went by an air show once and saw some protesters there with their various costumes and irrelevant antics.  It just seems so ineffective, such a poor method of trying to spread one’s ideas.   It’s off-putting to those who are not already one of the protesters.  I’m not a “mic check” guy and I’m not a “sparkle fingers” guy, I’m just a dude who is sick of seeing our society become more stratified and our government become more corrupted by the Chamber of Commerce and other large industry lobbyists.  Thus, my role is limited to that of sympathizer rather than participant.

But I’m getting too far afield here.  I am still an OWS sympathizer, and I do still have something to say about Mr. Dimon and others who think like him.

When Mr. Dimon says he “doesn’t get it”, he’s absolutely right.  OWS, for me anyway, is not about calling rich people “bad.”  Instead, OWS is saying to the wealthy, “YOU DON’T OWN US.”  I don’t care how someone got to be wealthy or how they feel about the fact that you make tons of money running a for-profit machine, I care about them using their wealth to take over our government and society and to subjugate the rest of us.

It did not make me angry when I heard that health insurance companies made record profits last year, but it made me angry when they used those profits to bribe politicians with campaign cash to kill the public option, the one realistic chance we had of controlling health care costs in this country.  It makes me angry when I hear about for-profit prisons bribing judges with straight cash to lock up kids for as long as possible.  It makes me angry when the recession hits, and the first thing the government does is bail out big banks and the car industry (and don’t buy into the bullshit that the bailout was free,  based on what is being considered in “bailout” the cost ranges from billions to trillions) and gives out tax cuts and corporate welfare as “stimulus”, but does NOTHING to directly employ the people who are without jobs as a result.  It makes me angry when I see the US Chamber of Commerce, a behemoth organization that claims to represent “the interests of over 3 million businesses”, using it’s huge resources to  mislead voters into picking their hand-picked candidate in Ohio, and to prevent important steps on health care reform and getting the country off fossil fuels for the sake of short-term profits.  I get angry when scientists attack the science of global warming in attention-grabbing articles, and then admit that they were bribed by coal and oil companies to do it.

Then, after reading about these and many, many, similar stories of corruption of our government by the wealthy, I hear about the widening income gap and collection of wealth at the highest levels, where the top 1% controls 35% of America’s net worth, and get worried that this sort of thing is only going to get worse.  I see the growing and accepted importance of being “well-connected” and having a “strong network”, the increasing trend by which the wealthy stay wealthy by getting the best jobs, the lack of upward mobility – and think that it’s already significantly affecting each and every one of us.  We no longer need to stop the wealthy from taking over, because they already have control of both our government and our society.  Now, it seems as if they (by which I mean the few but powerful among the super-wealthy that don’t think they have enough power yet) are trying to stamp out what little power the rest of us have.

If Mr. Dimon and the like-minded bankers who doubtlessly agree with him (or have more extreme beliefs) but are unwilling to speak up would like to see OWS go away, don’t give up being rich.  We don’t want your fucking money, you can keep it.  Instead, STOP USING YOUR MONEY TO DOMINATE EVERYTHING.  Then we’ll like you, we promise.  When a small group of people uses their power to seize control, that usually tends to  cause anger among those whose power they’re taking.

Still, Dimon deserves credit for saying a mild version of what many in Wall Street are thinking.  And can you blame them?  The average banker gets up early in the morning, works long hours, and feels that he or she has really earned the large paycheck (ignore for the moment that any working-class grunt would change places with them any day).  That’s why it’s important to acknowledge that people who work harder should get paid more, and maybe should get a somewhat faster and better-looking car than the rest of us.  In fact, no one really disputes that.  But when the difference in income gets so massive that it threatens the health and well-being of the poor and allows the wealthy to effectively act as a tyrannical super-legislature, that’s a big fucking problem, and the rest of us will NOT stand for it.  Especially when something like your parents’ position in society* seems to be the prime determinant of whether you have the chance to make that kind of money.

So if you’re someone who “doesn’t get” OWS like Mr. Dimon, maybe the above rant can help you understand it a little better.

*There’s no doubt that Jamie Dimon got to where he is in part by hard work, but do you think maybe if his father wasn’t a broker in the banking industry, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be where he is now?  This article suggests not:(“Weill [Dimon’s mentor and source of his first job after his MBA] knew Dimon’s father and the two families had formed a close relationship, convening annually for Passover dinners.”)  Of course Dimon was kind enough to return the favor by hiring his dad at JP Morgan, presumably passing over some person who would have otherwise gotten the job but for lacking the benefit of nepotism.

FBI: Skullfucking is NOT rape

The FBI clarified today that skullfucking is in fact not rape.  You think I’m making this up?  Read for yourself:

…the FBI’s Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board voted to change the definition of rape…The new terminology says rape is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

So it’s vaginal, oral, or anal penetration only.  Skullfuckers can now rest assured that they are not rapists, provided that they are fucking a cavity other than the mouth, such as the eyesocket which is believed to be the most used orifice for skullfucking.  This is yet another blow for skullfucking victims after the failure of the Ocular Penetration Restriction Act of 2007.

Now I wonder why the Huffington Post wouldn’t let me post this in the comments section…

Making sense of confusing-ass Defense Authorization Bill and Udall Amendment

I’ve been trying to figure out this Defense Authorization Bill and Udall Amendment business for a while now, and I’m only getting more confused.  The Wikipedia article is less than helpful, and the discussion isn’t doing anything for me either.  I’m trying to figure out whether I’m in favor of this petition to veto the act or not. So what I’m going to do is, I’m going ask myself a bunch of questions (with the ultimate question answered last), and then see if I can answer them:

What is the status of the Udall Amendment?

The Udall amendment is dead.  It was rejected by the Senate (ignore for the time being the fact that the title of the article says that the Senate “OK’s Controversial Provision”)

What did the Udall Amendment say?

The Udall Amendment would have stripped out a controversial provision (or “proposed amendment” according to some sources) AKA Subtitle D of Section X of the Authorization Bill, and replaced it with a requirement that the Secretary of Defense make some sort of report to Congress about something or another.  See the full text here (most of it isn’t important, mainly the heading).

What was the controversial provision that the Udall Amendment would have stripped?

The Udall Amendment would have removed three different provisions – wait – there’s more than three provisions in section D, so…let’s just say it removes section D of Title X and I’ll arbitrarily divide it into three parts.  Here are the provisions (these are the ones still in the bill in its current form, NOT the Udall Amendment, which was rejected) :

  1. The military will be authorized to immediately detain anyone that it deems to meet either of the following criteria: A) the person “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” or “harbored those responsible” for the 9/11 attacks, or B) The person “was a part of or substantially supported” the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States and its coalition partners” including anyone “who has committed a belligerent act” or “directly supported” such an act.  Note the various interpretations possible of the words “authorized” “aided” “harbored” “supported”, etc.  Expect the military to interpret those words strictly?  BUT the section also says that it “should not be construed” to affect “existing law” regarding arrest of US Citizens (and what is the “existing law”???  See more on this in the next question).
  2. The military is required to hold any person captured “in the course of hostilities” who is a member of Al Qaeda & Associates or has planned/attacked the US/coalition partners.  This provision clearly states that it does not apply to US Citizens/resident aliens (why is the language less certain in the prior section?).  The FBI therefore cannot ask that a suspect be transferred to its control for a civilian trial.
  3. (heavily summarizing) Certain detainees must stay at Guantanamo Bay and can never leave.  No detainees are allowed to be kept in the US mainland.  Procedures regarding status determinations, guilty pleas, and death sentences are codified and/or altered.

(see page 426-445 of this version of the bill for the exact text)

Does the Defense Authorization Bill in it’s current form allow American citizens to be detained in Guantanamo Bay? (if the answer is yes, I want it vetoed).

Maybe.  What the language of the first, most controversial sections suggests is that this was debated and settled on  (just now I find this, after I’ve already figured it out) with vague language saying “existing law” will not be changed with regard to citizens.  The problem with this language is that it effectively gives that military the power to determine what “existing law” is regarding its ability to detain US citizens.  The military, mind you, is not a guy named Todd Military with one mind, but a group of people accountable to the President, but not always under his effective watch.  What some of them deem to be the “existing law” will not match what others think about the “existing law.”  And chances are, the military leaders that will have the most expansive definition of the powers granted by the “existing law” will be the least deserving of those powers.

So, the answer is close enough to “yes” for me.   I’m also against the whole idea of sending terrorism suspects to Guantanamo Bay, where they are farthest from public scrutiny as possible.  I want this shit vetoed.  If you do too, sign here.

Special Bonus: Click here to find your Senator, and see if they voted for or against the Feinstein Amendment, which would have more clearly exempted US citizens from being detained at Guantanamo Bay (Yes =  wants to prohibit the military from kidnapping you and sending you to Guantanamo Bay, No = wants the military to have the power to kidnap you and send you to Guantanamo Bay).

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