Politics and Whatnot

Just another liberal political blog

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The End

When I started this blog, I thought I’d have time to write in it regularly and be able to pursue some sort of direction.  Unfortunately life kinda sucks and the idea of just having a blog while making a living doesn’t seem to be all that possible.  I mean I though not watching any TV would be able to create space to write a fucking blog post once or twice a month, apparently not. There used to be a time when an educated person could work 60, 50, even 40 hours a week and make enough money to get their own place and eat three meals a day.  Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that day has passed.

So the few blog posts I’ve gotten out have been rushed and sucky.  Because I have no fucking time to write them but feel like I need to write them anyway.  But it would be better to not write them at all than to put out the crap I’ve been putting out.

Maybe someday I will have a blog again, one that doesn’t suck.  Maybe if I retire in some 30, 40, 50, 100 years, although I have no idea how I’m ever going to save up enough to retire.  And it’s not like social security’s still going to be around at that time.

But it’s not so bad.  After all, 100 years ago the typical work day was sun up to sun down, six days a week.  And that was a shitty job too that involved loud noises, hard labor, and lots of danger of the not fun kind.  And the pay was shit too.  Today, if you work the same hours at a desk job, I guess it’s not that bad.  Although maybe compared to 50 years ago, it is.

I’ve already wasted way too much time on this post, which illustrates the problem with having this blog.

The end.

Hey, my 100th post, how perfect.

The destructiveness of formal writing

One of the great things about having a random blog is that you can post stuff that really doesn’t belong anywhere on the internet’s topic-based forums.  This post definitely falls into that category.

I was looking through some old essays on my computer, from ten years ago when I was in college (they were transferred over from my old computer).  I remember thinking that it would be funny to see what I considered to be “good writing” when I was that age, as I still consider my writing to kind of suck now.  I figured it would probably be boring, mindless drivel by comparison to my current abilities.

And I was wrong.  Very wrong.  In fact, I would have to admit that in comparison to the writing I do for my current day job and even for this blog, my old essays seemed to be very thoughtful and entertaining.  Why?

One thing jumped out at me: no citations.  My old philosophy essays had no citations, and even a history-related paper I found had only a few citations rather than citing every sentence.  And I realized: citations destroy writing.

Seriously.  Think about it – if you have a work that has no citations, you just write it, without worrying much about conforming to whatever it is you’re talking about.  Now, this is usually seen as bad because it gives the writer the freedom to distort the source.  However, it also gives the writer the freedom to summarize a source in a manner that is tailored to the author’s point rather than the way the source was written.

For example, say I am making a point that Shakespeare is overrated and his stories suck.  I could do this as follows:

Take Romeo and Juliet, for example: the ending was an obvious cop-out.  The story is about lovers, whose love persists despite the world’s disapproval.  After building up this conflict throughout the story, Shakespeare kills them off with an arbitrary accident that has only a superficial relationship to everything else that happened.

But if I have to cite what I’m talking about, I have to do it like this:

Take Romeo and Juliet, for example: the ending was an obvious cop-out.  Throughout much of the story, Shakespeare focuses on the conflict between the protagonists’ love for each other and their families’ disapproval.  (See Act x, scene x, some scene that’s like that.)  However, the only relationship that the ending has to this conflict is that the motivation for Romeo’s attempt to fake his death, that led eventually to the tragedy at the end, was related to the conflict.  (See scene x, act z whatever).  This is a weak ending for some reason, but I forgot why because I had to spend so much time worrying about how it fits what I’m citing.

Obviously I’m exaggerating just a bit, but you get the idea. It’s a pain in the ass to have to cite sources, and it disrupts otherwise fluid writing.  In the process, the truth of what the author is trying to convey can be lost.  Citations may be important in some cases, but many forms of writing in the professional world require them to the extent that they become burdensome and destructive to the search for the truth.

Another problem is format.  My college writing didn’t have any particular format, it was whatever made sense for what I was writing.  This allowed me to get wrapped up in what I was writing.  When I wrote about historical figure during college, I still remember that as I was writing one of my longer college essays, I was imagining being the historical figure I was writing about at that pivotal moment in history.  But if I have to follow a rigid sentence-by-sentence format, my mind is instead focused on writing the right thing in the right place.  Rather than painting a picture, I’m pounding pegs into holes.  Yet, any kind of professional non-fiction writing seems to involve at least a loose sentence-by-sentence format of some sort.

I guess this is a bit off from the typical political hot air on this blog.  See?  Now I’m trying to conclude to follow my usual blog posting format, and it’s not working.  I’ll just end it here, fuck it.  Shit just got meta.

The deadly lie that being fat is acceptable

One of the annoying things about being a liberal is being associated with a particular brand of liberal that wants to eliminate personal resposibility. To me, being a liberal is all about personal responsibility – being responsible for the planet, what our bombs do, how we treat minorities, etc.  I also believe in acceptance – we should accept people’s traits that they cannot control – like gay people, even harmful things like disability, insanity, and predisposition to criminality, where it cannot be controlled. We should treat each person how we ourselves would want to be treated.

But, I have to admit, there is a species of (usually temporary) liberal that wants to push acceptance even further, to the point of accepting what can and should be changed.  To ignore the personal responsibility side of liberalism, and instead accept irresponsibility that harms society and even the person we’re accepting.  That’s where I draw the line.

First and foremost is the “fat acceptance” movement.  It has been justified as a response to eating disorders like anorexia, and it seems to have taken its cues from the gay rights movement, suggesting that fat is simply a lifestyle choice that is not harmful.  Recently, an online women’s magazine even posted pictures of women in “fatkinis,” suggesting that they are “hot.”  It would go without saying that very few people that are attracted to women would actually think that fat=sexy, although there are probably a two or three out there somewhere.

But more importantly, fat causes many health and life problems.  The notion that you can be just as healthy and happy while being fat is a lie.  Obesity kills 400,000 Americans a year (some dispute this statistic, but it’s been cited in other places too).   That’s 133 9/11 attacks every year.  Anorexia, by contrast, kills 145 Americans each year.  Undoubtedly many millions are also crippled by obesity, but due to the lack of a good definition for “crippled” in this context, putting a figure on it is impossible.  So when you tell people that being obese is healthy or acceptable, it’s no different from cigarette companies that fund studies saying smoking is healthy or non-harmful.  The result is that people die because of the misinformation.

So it’s time to stop spreading the lie that fat is healthy.  Fat is not healthy or acceptable, and it is not a lifestyle choice, but is a very preventable cause of death and suffering.  Here’s a few reasons to be at a healthy, non-obese weight.

Of course, most fat people already know the costs of obesity, but the urge to tell them what goes against common sense is destructive.  A fat person’s waistline is no more attractive or acceptable than a smoker’s black lung.  We should be finding out what causes obesity and working to eliminate it, not accepting the havoc it wreaks on people’s lives.

Mitt Romney is about to make the biggest mistake of his campaign

Today, hearing that the Supreme Court upheld (most of) the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, Mitt Romney has made it clear that repealing Obamacare will be a centerpiece of his campaign:

“This is a time of choice for the American people. If we’re going to get rid of Obamacare we’re going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that.”

That’s what Romney said, and the media has been backing up that idea – they say that in some ways, the verdict is good for Romney, because he now has an issue that he can use to differentiate himself from Obama, a reason he can use to attract votes and donations.

But there’s one problem – it’s a shitty position to defend.  Imagine if you’re Obama in a debate with Romney.  Romney is asked the inevitable question:

“Mr. Romney, you have said that you want to repeal the healthcare reform bill.  Do you plan to replace it, and if so how?”

And Romney gives some answer about how the individual mandate is bad, how he has some plan (which he hasn’t discussed yet, but is probably working on now) that may be better, etc.

Then it’s your turn.  How do you respond?  Here’s a few options:

“Passing healthcare reform took over a year of debate, negotiation, and compromise, after many people said reforming healthcare just couldn’t be done.  Now my opponent says that he wants to throw all that out as if it were a waste of time and start all over?”

“Fact is, before this thing was called “Obamacare”, my opponent was one of the major driving forces for the individual mandate he now opposes.  It’s just another example of how he will say anything to get elected.”

“The healthcare reform that I signed into law helped many Americas with preexisting conditions find affordable care that they could not find before.  I will yield the remainder of my time to my opponent so he can explain what will happen to those people if he is successful in repealing the laws that protect them.”

Or, of course, all of the above.

Disaster.  Coming this fall.

White House gives extremely disappointing canned social studies class response to national popular vote petition

The White House today released a response to a petition that sought to dissolve the electoral college and create a national popular vote. 

The response repeats the bullshit we all learned in social studies – that the electoral college is so wonderful because it gives small states a bigger say by a tiny bit and people who live in small states should get ever so slightly more of a vote so they don’t get ignored and everything will be about cities and not farms (forget that most states contain both cities and rural parts) and blah blah blah. 

Of course, that is complete nonsense and only reemphasizes the point of the petition.  As pointed out in the petition and this graphic, the electoral college gives ALL the say in the presidential election to swing states, especially big swing states.  If you are a voter in one of the 80% of states that is basically already decided one way or the other, your vote for president means absolutely nothing, and history shows that no candidate will pay any attention to you whatsoever.

Besides, that’s a backwards-looking justification – no one in 1787 was saying that we should have an electoral college instead of a popular vote out of concern for small states – they’re confusing that with the New Jersey Compromise.  In fact, the debate about a national popular vote  in 1787 wasn’t big state vs. small state, it was North vs. South.   Once again, the South, the anchor of American progress, was concerned about how a national popular vote would effect their right to treat people as cattle.  As James Fucking Madison himself put it:

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.

That’s right,the purpose of the electoral college was to prop up slavery.  With the electoral college the south could have its slaves and eat them too – they would get electors based on 3/5ths of their slaves, without actually giving them the right to vote.  Under a national popular vote, they obviously would only get credit for people that actually vote.  Liberals were pussies back then as much as today (note how it wasn’t even the 1/2 compromise, despite the ridiculousness of giving the South any credit for slaves in the first place), and the result was the electoral college we hate today.

But enough of history, let’s get back to why this horrible system still exists today.  The White House seems to have deliberately misread the petition’s argument: “While supporters of the popular vote argue that the Electoral College gives a disproportionate amount of influence to smaller states…” the petition says.  This is the dreaded straw man, the most annoying argument tactic ever.  The problem with the electoral college, or rather the one problem stated in the petition of the many, many problems with the electoral college, is singular focus on swing states, rather “disproportionate” influence to smaller states. 

Why is that bad?  Here’s where the petition fails – it doesn’t really explain this.  Giving so much influence to just a few states makes it much, much easier to corrupt the process. Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re an oil billionaire named Favid Foch, and you very badly want to have your favorite candidate, Fitt Fomney, get elected president.  Fitt Fomney would be great for you because he will deregulate your industry allowing you to pollute at will and finally defeat your arch-nemesis, Mother Earth.  So you come up with a devious plan – you will use your money to launch false and misleading ads supporting Fomney and attacking his opponent, fooling the masses into voting for him.  Fomney, in turn, will be grateful for your support, and will totally bend over for you once he’s in the White House. 

So is it easier for you to get Fomney elected by using your money to advertise in all 50 states as you would need to do in a national popular vote, or in just the handful of states that are undecided under the electoral college?  Of course, it’s much easier under to advertise in the handful of undecided states, and that’s exactly what ends up happening.  The electoral college multiplies the effect of Foch’s dirty money.

But if you want more problems with the electoral college, here just a small sample:

  • Makes runoff elections effectively impossible, entrenching Duverger’s Law and thereby stifling third parties.
  • Makes it harder for people temporarily staying away from their states of residency (e.g. students, soldiers) to exercise their right to vote.  These people must vote absentee, which requires requesting a ballot by mail well in advance.
  • Overall results are not reflective of actual votes – this is true especially in winner take all states, which are the vast majority of  states.  If a candidate gets 50.1% of the vote in 3 states, he gets all the electoral votes from all three as if he got 100% of the vote.
  • Eases disenfranchisement – a state has nothing to lose by disenfranchising its citizens because its electoral votes are based on population, not the number of people that actually vote or can vote.  So if you’re a state that wants to treat a segment of the population like complete human garbage and take away their right to vote to change any of that, there’s no repercussions to your voting power.  In fact, that’s the reason we have the electoral college, as explained above.

So, after ignoring the real problems with the electoral college, the White House finally gets to the real reason no one’s going to try to change it:

…the President does not have the power to change this Article of the Constitution. A constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress (or a Convention under Article V of the Constitution) and ratification in three-fourths of all fifty states, would be required.

So we have an electoral college because it’s too difficult to change and too arcane for most of the electorate to care about. People are mostly content with their bullshit social studies textbook explanations about how the electoral college was about giving a boost to small states instead of whipping the First Lady’s ancestors.  For the few who want to change it anyway, they’re never going to be strong enough to do all that’s necessary to change it.

And that, is why we have an electoral college.  Because of slavery->Oops, it’s in the Constitution now -> Don’t feel like changing it.  But I guess that would make a rather impolitic response to the petition.

Nevermind the bullying, here’s the real reasons Romney is an asshole

Lately there’s been a lot of focus by my fellow liberals on alleged bullying actions by Romney during his high school years including cutting a kid’s hair and closing the door in a blind teacher’s face.  Here’s all I need to know:

1. There’s no pictures or video.

2. It happened 50 years ago.

No one is going to vote against Romney because of some high school bullying that people hazily remember from 50 years ago.  Nobody.   Now, people who were already against Romney might say “See?  Just as I suspected, he’s a dick.”  But nobody who is unbiased with regards to Romney is going to say that some shit he pulled in high school should outweigh everything he’s done since then.  People change, and 50 years is a long time.  No one cares about what politicians did in high school.

But more importantly, focusing on what Mitt Romney did in high school makes Romney look good.   Why?  Because today, Romney’s even more of a dick than he was then:

  • He urged Obama to pass the individual mandate, then attacked him for having an individual mandate in his plan, lying about his prior position.
  • There’s also the time he did the same thing with the auto bailouts, but in reverse.
  • Almost all of his top donors are from the banking industry, meaning that if he wins, he’ll pretty much have to do whatever the banks say or lose a huge chunk of his funding in 2016.
  • Romney has refused to disclose his campaign bundlers so far, except for 22 registered lobbyists, which he is required to disclose by federal law.  Romney is the first major candidate since the start of the 2000 elections  to refuse to disclose bundlers.  In fact, many campaigns like to disclose bundlers in order to give credit to them – that is, unless the bundlers are particularly embarrassing.  Obama has disclosed his bundlers and does not accept donations from registered lobbyists.
  • While Obama gets 45% of his money from small donors, Romney gets just 11% from small donors, depending heavily on a small number of large donors.
  • He’s had at least one Swiss bank account that we’re aware of, and has never given a satisfactory explanation of why he had it.  As one defensive article puts it: “Swiss bank accounts aren’t just for criminals trying to hide their monetary tracks. They’re also popular among people in countries with unstable banks, monetary policies or governments, because they provide added privacy and security for assets.”  So either Romney, who is a banker-politician, thinks our government and banks are extremely unstable, or he is a criminal trying to hid his money tracks.   Take your pick.  Whatever the case is, Romney’s finances – both his personal finances and his campaign’s – are among the most secretive of any major candidate in recent history.
  • And in case you thought Romney just had a thing for Switzerland, he also has millions in the Cayman Islands.  Did you know the Cayman Islands are the world’s second biggest tax haven?  I wonder what first is.   Oh right, Switzerland.   Still waiting for that explanation, although I figure that if Romney wanted to explain why he had these accounts he wouldn’t have put them in the first and second most secretive banking nations in the world.
  • His tax rate was 13.9% on $21.7 million in 2011.  At least, that’s his tax rate on the income the IRS knows about.

There are others too – the roof-dog, the abortion excommunication, the “who let the dogs out” fiasco, etc.  But those stories have all been covered to death and frankly, have little relevance to his performance as president.  The real issues are that Mitt Romney 1) has zero consistency on issues of national importance 2) lies about what positions he’s taken in the past, and 3) has allowed himself to become dependent on the banking industry for money, 4) has refused to provide us with information about who is supporting his campaign, and 5) either is very aggressively avoiding his duty as an American to contribute his fair share in taxes, or if not that, won’t say what he is actually doing with offshore bank accounts that makes it appear that way.

I’d much rather have a president who hated on gay kids and blind teachers when he was young than someone who right now has no moral compass and is obsessed with profit.  Unfortunately, the Democrats, in usual form, will probably screw this up by focusing on ancient history instead of what matters right now.

Americans For Prosperity thinks you’re a sucker

Factcheck.org reviews a widely-run ad by the Koch Brothers’ Americans For Prosperity group, which claims that the stimulus was mostly spent on overseas projects like traffic lights in China and a solar plant in Mexico.

The verdict?  Complete bollocks.  I would say that the ad is heavily misleading in that it claims the projects are overseas when they are being done here with parts from overseas.  However, even that would be too charitable to AFP – the projects are in the US, and most of the projects were required to use US-made parts.  Instead, the ad is making these claims because some of the parts of the parts being used in these projects may have been made overseas.

Once you go that far – claiming projects were done overseas when a tiny fraction of the parts were made overseas – there’s no longer any reason to even attempt to have a grain of truth.  You might as well just start making shit up and saying Obama is an evil robot-alien that eats white babies for breakfast.  The ad is not only untrue, it’s the opposite of true – it criticizes the stimulus for building projects overseas when they were actually built overheres.

Of course, the Koch brothers don’t care about where the stimulus money went.  They’re oil billionaires – they make the same oil billions whether jobs are created here or in China.  Instead, what they really want is to get you to vote politicians into office that will allow them to pollute as much as they want.  Because they’re Captain Planet villains who would rather watch the whole planet die instead of losing a penny to regulation.  And they think the American people are such incredible suckers that they can be fooled with blatant lies like the ones in this ad.  Are they right?  We’ll find out soon enough.

I’m not dead

I’ve been on a sort of unofficial hiatus.  I’ve been busy with stuff in my personal life, and I have another project I’ve been working on.  Also I’m bit annoyed with this site because the new WordPress dashboard is bullocks.  I’m not British but I like saying “bullocks.”  We should use “bullocks” more if we ever hope to advance as a society.

But I do like this blog and speculating about random shit and having no one read about it.  I mean writing comments on Huffington Post is ok and I usually get some nice comments, but I hate the impermanence and shallowness of it.  So I’ll post again here sometime soon. 

Right wing getting a bit crazy ahead of 2012 election

Recently, there’s been a fair amount of news about race.  The Trayvon Martin shooting, alleged racist shooters in Oklahoma, various fear-mongering reports of black-on-white beatings in the right wing media.  Reading through comment sections in news article, there’s a definite increase in rhetoric from right-wingers about “race wars” and even KKK-style flat-out racism blaming black people for all variety of social ills.  The most extreme reactions I’ve seen have been in response to the firing of a National Review author (the article was in a different magazine, not the NR) who wrote an amazingly stupid piece describing “the talk” that he imagines most white parents give to their kids.  It basically can be summed up as: be very suspicious of all black people except for a very small percentage of “good ones” that are professional and successful.  This would not just be black people from the ghetto, but, as he points out, “Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.” (link to “Dreams of my Father” from original).  It also uses the old racist canard of fear-mongering about the LA Riots, which happened 20 years ago.

So everyone recognizes that this article is totally fucking racist, right?  I don’t mean you can’t defend it, because there’s something to be said for letting racists air their views in public rather than letting them fester without exposure to public scrutiny.  But surely, no one can defend the views stated in the article, right?

Not so fast.  While Fox News has wisely avoided mentioning the story, Glenn Beck’s site The Blaze has come to our rescue with a post referring to the controversy, with a space for comments.  The result?  Almost unanimous strong agreement with the article in question.  I read 34 comments before I got to one disagreeing with the points in the article.  Comments such as “Yes, we must cow tow (sic) to packs of wild animals who suffer little to no consequences for criminal behavior,” and ” Shame on black people in America! Shame on you! This is your tarnished spot in the annals of history,”  were much more representative of the typical comments.

I’d call it scary, if I didn’t know any better.  The vast majority of these idiots are elderly new internet users living far from any minorities, who are simply excited about having a place to vent their racist views somewhat anonymously.

But there is a group of people who should be scared – Republican politicians.  In my opinion, one of the key moments of the 2008 campaign was when John McCain had to struggle to keep his supporters from going too batshit crazy during a campaign rally.  It not only made McCain look like he was not in control of his own campaign, but I believe it also made mainstream Americans a little wary of joining in his support and being like the crazy woman who thinks Obama is an Arab.

A similar kind of thing, inevitably, will happen in 2012.  Mitt Romney will be trying to shake off his recent far-right views and appeal to moderates after the primaries.  But a large chunk of his supporters will be stupid but proud racist anti-Obama zealots who will believe in all manner of conspiracy theories and will say the first thing that comes to their minds as soon as they have a microphone in front of them.  A crowd of Romney supporters with racist signs, racist anti-Obama bumper stickers, racist insults, etc. could very will eat away at Romney’s already thin hopes of winning.  It will be a struggle for Romney to make his supporters carry a message about something other than misguided hatefulness and stupidity.  It’ll be one of many challenge that Romney will face in trying to win the general election.

Libertarians to waste energy, raise prices for everyone else during “Asshole Hour”

According to an article on Fox News, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think thank, wants you to join them in being a total dick of an hour from 8:30 to 9:30 on Saturday (tomorrow).  They’re calling it “Fucking Asshole Hour,” or “Human Achievement Hour” in douchebagish.  It’s to oppose an annual event known as “Earth Hour” in which non-assholes turn off their lights and electronics for an hour to make a statement about reducing carbon emissions and fighting global warming.  The CEI hopes to oppose the spirit of the event by being a bunch of total fucking assholes and wasting as much energy as possible.

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