Archive for the ‘Political Ranting’ Category

Immigration, Boiled Down

March 20th, 2016 Comments off

LibertyThe first thing we need to realize about immigration is that any problem which exists does not lie with the people who come to this country without documentation.

Immigrants do not “take” jobs. They are offered jobs. They are sought out for jobs. No immigrant ever came to the United States, pointed a gun at someone, and said “give me that job.”

Rather, the problem is with businesses who draw them in and take advantage of them, and because of certain economic and political realities which make it easy for them to do so.

Here are the facts.

No immigrants looking for work would come to America if no jobs were being offered.

No working immigrants would be here illegally if we offered them a legal recourse which matched the jobs being offered.

The conclusion is simple. They are not the problem. We are.

We have millions of immigrants coming to work in this country for three basic reasons. In no particular order:

The first reason is that there are many jobs which Americans generally will not do. You hear about Americans complaining about immigrants stealing their jobs, but it is a sure bet that none of those people want to be migrant farm workers. We need these people—but in most cases, we do not give them a legal avenue to come.

The second reason is that there are many jobs which Americans will not do for the amount of money that the job can pay, given consumer demand. Americans do not want to pay more for food, clothes, or labor in a variety of categories, prices which would be necessary if we did not employ immigrant labor.

The third reason is simply greed. Employers want more profit. They could hire American workers, and they could make a profit and sell at a price that American consumers would accept, but they want to keep more and more of that money for themselves—so they hire immigrants. And since it is cheaper to do so if the immigrants are illegal, they lobby against change.


Part of this is the consumer’s fault: we want cheaper goods and services. You don’t want so many immigrants? Fine. Be prepared to pay a lot more for many of the goods and services you consume. It’s a stark choice; you cannot have it both ways. Part of this is consumers of general goods, such as food and clothing, who support industries who use immigrant or overseas labor. Part of this is people who hire immigrants directly, for jobs such as child care or other labor in or around the house.

Part of this is the country’s fault, the fault of voters and politicians: we clearly call for these people to come and work, but we steadfastly refuse to create a visa system which would accommodate them. They come illegally because we give them little choice. And if you think that one choice is to simply not come, then I invite you to go to the countries where these people come from and live in the conditions from which they come. You will be clamoring to come back to America immediately.

The greatest fault in all of this is the fault of business, and our tolerance of their greed and maltreatment of the workforce. These are the people who take advantage, these are the people who spread fear and doubt, these are the people who most directly influence the laws which maintain the current system. For the jobs Americans do not want or would not pay for, Americans would otherwise be happy to allow the system of immigration to allow these people in legally—but that would cut into profits. For the other jobs, there are many Americans who would be happy to pick up the jobs in fields from construction to high tech, but the companies involved reject these workers and either hire people without documentation, or even specifically import them with valid visas, obtained by fraudulently claiming that American workers cannot be found.

There is one more reason that illegal immigration is rampant: we could stop it, but we do not.

The solution would actually be simple. Trying to arrest and deport immigrants is pointless, as they are not only mobile and have every incentive to return, but they are not the root cause—they’re just people trying to live.

The definitive and simple solution is to police and punish the real offenders: employers. They are the ones asking for immigrants to come in the first place. They are not mobile, and they would respond quite strongly to being caught and punished.

We don’t even come close to doing this. In 2004, a grand total of three—yes, three—businesses were cited for hiring undocumented workers. Nor is the reason for this a surprise. From the New York Times in 2006:

Employers have long been the main driver of immigration policy…. Not surprisingly, they tend to dislike the provision in current immigration law for penalties against employers.

That may explain why fines for hiring illegal immigrants can be as low as $275 a worker, and immigration officials acknowledge that businesses often negotiate fines downward. And why, after the I.N.S. raided onion fields in Georgia during the 1998 harvest, a senator and four members of the House of Representatives from the state sharply criticized the agency for hurting Georgia farmers.

So we make laws: first offense, a warning; second offense, a hefty fine; third offense, a major fine and prison time. And then we set the people we now have chasing immigrants and guarding the borders, and set them to police the employers.

I guarantee you: illegal immigration would halt, and immigrants here without a visa would leave soon after.

But this is what it boils down to: we don’t want to send these immigrants packing. These people do not drain our resources, they enrich us. They do not cause an increase in crime; in fact, they commit fewer crimes than the native population. These people do not sap the economy; they make it robust.

The solution is simple:

  • create a guest worker visa program for jobs we really need filled by immigrants
  • create strict laws against employing illegally
  • crack down on businesses that violate these laws
  • stop allowing companies to import workers for jobs that citizens are trying to fill
  • set up tax and tariff laws which penalize companies that use cheap labor abroad

If we do this, we won’t have immigrants coming in to the country against the law. We will maintain all the benefits that we now have. It’s good for everyone. Everyone honest and fair, that is.

Why don’t we do this? Because businesses don’t want it; businesses want their workforce to be here illegally because it profits the businesses, makes the immigrant workforce easy to manipulate, and disempowers citizen workers. And we have bought into the fear and frenzy that people who profit from the current system, people like Donald Trump, have whipped up to make us believe that it is all the fault of the impoverished, powerless, and mostly law-abiding people who these people of wealth and power take advantage of.

Agree? Then do something about it.

A good start: don’t vote for Donald Trump. Do vote for politicians who espouse the right thing to do. Write and agitate for the correct solution for the issue. Write your current representatives. Make a stink.

And vote. Vote. Vote.

Give Me Liberty, Kind Of

February 19th, 2016 4 comments

I’m not sure if Apple’s motivations in refusing to give the FBI unfettered access to iPhones is altruistic or selfish, nor does it matter to me; I believe that what Apple is doing in this current case, as a general principle, should be the model to follow.

We effectively have little or no Fourth Amendment protection at this point, at least in regard to the government accessing our private data—our “papers,” as it is classically termed. The FISA courts are a joke, essentially rubber-stamping each request. It is not judicial oversight when the judge is complicit and agrees to mass surveillance no matter what.

Will allowing devices like phones or forms of encrypted Internet access allow terrorists to work unimpeded? Perhaps, but there are two huge caveats.

First, terrorists are hardly limited to these forms of security. All it takes is a pre-arranged cypher (A seemingly random communication of almost any type sent at a certain time of day from this person rather than that one equals a call to carry out an attack at x time at y location) which is used only once and then changed, or reliance on carefully discreet personal communication only, or any number of other methods, to confound surveillance and assure security. Opening iPhones will not greatly affect terrorists who are serious about security.

And second, as the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. The founders themselves recognized that greater individual freedom from government overreach would cause greater risk, but that the increased risk was far less important than the potential of losing civil liberties. We’ve become far too willing to surrender those liberties for that modicum of security.

I am not at all impressed by the claims that Obama is a constitution scholar; he seems to be a fairly bad one, especially where privacy is involved. I rather hope he is never appointed to the Supreme Court. But we as citizens must not be cowed by claims of terror and other violence will overwhelm us. What the government is doing has only a limited effect on thwarting determined terrorists from attacking, but it has an overwhelming and frightening impact on our freedoms and liberties.

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Where Did That Come From?

November 17th, 2015 1 comment

The very cogent point is made that no one believes that people like the KKK, who claim Christianity is a core value, is representative of Christianity and Christians, but somehow we do believe that ISIS, or Islamic extremists in general, are representative of Islam and Muslims.

Two points are made, however: first, that fundamentalist Islam is ascendant if not dominant in the Muslim world, and second, that these fundamentalists are more extreme, oppressive, and violent than their counterparts in the Christian world. As far as I understand the situation, these are true; this should not be denied, excused, or minimized.

Those facts should be contextualized and understood, however. Why is there more radicalism, more oppression, more violence in that world? Is it something about Islam?

A point we miss is our own hand in the matter—indeed, we even harshly criticize those who even suggest that somehow we have any responsibility for the current state of affairs. However, for the past century, the Middle East has been overrun by Western forces and interests, much to the detriment of the people there. Regions conquered, made into colonies, borders redrawn (sometimes randomly), resources plundered, governments overthrown, with constant invasions and slaughter over time.

Now imagine if the tables were turned. What if the Arab and Islamic, and not the Christian European and American cultures, were ascendant and powerful coming into the 20th century? What if Europe and North America were invaded by Islamic countries, our borders redrawn, our people killed and pitted against each other, our resources plundered and puppet governments installed? What if our attempts at self-government were overthrown, our fragmented nations put into the hands of sadistic dictators? What if, say, Italy were handed over to the Armenian or Romani people as a homeland, and the natives evicted from their domain of many centuries, marginalized and subjugated, their holy city in the hands of people from a different culture?

If all of this were done to the Christian world at the hands of the Islamic world… what would we be like by now?

Something tells me we would rather uncomfortably resemble the radical Islam that we see today. I think that we are much less different than we believe.

As a result, when dealing with the issues we have before us, we must take these facts into account and consider what will or will not work as a long-term solution for the region—especially before heading off into yet another war of conquest that will again slaughter tens if not hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Categories: Political Ranting, Religion Tags:


February 25th, 2015 3 comments

Every once in a while I find conservative web sites espousing views I disagree with, and so I write a response. Not a drive-by, not a quick, general insult—usually, in fact, a comment I spend a lot of time on, giving as much evidence and example as I can muster, trying to be respectful (aside from taking the stand that their reasoning is terrible) and to the point. No foul language, nothing clearly objectionable—just an opposing voice.

I am rather disappointed, therefore, when I find that, about half the time, my comment gets deleted, or never passed through moderation. A few sites then actually block my IP, without note, as if I were never there. These are not sites with tons of comments, but usually more private forums with limited numbers of commenters.

I have to say, I would be pretty ashamed to sink so low, not to have the courage to allow anyone disagreeing with me to post, much less actually try to answer. Very discouraging.

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What’s With Maddow?

October 14th, 2014 13 comments

I’ve always liked Rachel Maddow. She’s right on the nose on so much stuff, and often times is ahead of the curve; she’ll see a national story developing well before it’s a national story, and will be there, in force, well before the crowd. She can also be overly persistent sometimes. Both of those qualities were on display with her coverage of the New Jersey Bridge Scandal, reporting on it long before it became “a thing.” And though it was patently clear something was going on, there just wasn’t enough of a smoking gun, and so the story died out. Maddow hung on, though, and although she has stopped covering the story on a daily basis, she still maintains that it’s alive and kicking.

Often times she will highlight a cause that really needs to be highlighted, championing a story that deserves attention but would never get it otherwise. A lot of people are not fond of her meandering connect-the-dots story intros, but I think they’re great, establishing context and/or apt analogies. Yes, Maddow is extremely partisan, but so long as you stick to the facts and give a story fair coverage, partisanship is not that big a deal, so long as you account for it.

So, long story short, I like Maddow, and watch her show regularly—it’s one of the few that is run in full, video and audio, in a podcast, commercial free. Nice for political junkies living overseas, like me.

However, recently Maddow has started staking out some pretty strange positions. For example, with the recent re-engagement in Iraq against ISIS, Maddow has glommed on to the air-strike strategy as being bogus. It’s clear that few people want “boots on the ground,” but are OK with air strikes and other support roles, as they are not as significant a commitment.

Maddow’s response, strangely, is to claim that the aircraft involved could be shot down, and once that happens… “boots on the ground!”

Um, yes… for a few hours, and then they’re off the ground. However, Maddow seems to be suggesting that planes going down in Iraq would somehow be equivalent to a ground war. Which is pretty weird. I mean, we had mostly air coverage in the Balkans under Clinton, and some aircraft went down. We got them out, and it never led to a ground war.

If Maddow wants to speak out against any engagement in Iraq, then OK. I think there’s a lot that could be said for that position, unpopular as it may be. But her current stance, which she hammers away at with her trademark persistence, is pretty groundless, if you’ll forgive the unfortunate pun.

Then today, she takes on Leon Panetta. After a long and less-connected-than-usual intro covering tell-all books under Reagan and Clinton, she essentially attacks Panetta as being an attack dog for Hillary Clinton. Though I’m not exactly sure how that works, but whatever.

However, in the midst of this takedown, one of her big, let’s-laugh-at-how-ridiculous-this-is pieces of evidence is that Panetta’s criticisms of Obama in his book clash with… Panetta’s statements when he was testifying on Obama’s behalf as Defense Secretary.

Really? Rachel, you do know that cabinet members commonly espouse positions they may not necessarily agree with, don’t you? That Panetta could easily have disagreed, but as Secretary of Defense, he pretty much had to represent the president’s point of view. But Maddow scoffs at this as if it is some huge act of hypocrisy on Panetta’s part.


Kinda bizarre.

Categories: Journalism, Political Ranting Tags:

The Current Ideological Positions in a Nutshell

October 18th, 2013 2 comments

Democrats: How can we make government work for the people?

Republicans: What’s in it for us?

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How We Process What We Believe

October 7th, 2013 8 comments

Have you noticed that liberals generally check to see if the latest news story about Republicans is actually satire, while conservatives tend not to check if the latest satire about Obama and Democrats is really news?

Conservatives have been become so extreme, so breathtakingly bizarre in their actions, so ludicrously hypocritical in their statements, that it is hard to even do satire about them anymore. If you try, someone will quickly link to a news story where they actually did that thing. And they are so desperate to believe that Obama and liberals are corrupt and evil, so trusting of extremist political sources, that they will generally believe even the most laughably impossible claims about the left.

Really, do you think more than a few nutty liberals would believe that Mitt Romney introduced death panels in his healthcare program in Massachusetts? That if the government shut down under Bush, that he would have had helicopters cover Mount Rushmore with a giant sheet? That a Republican president would actually have the FCC classify MSNBC as “satire” rather than a “news” source?

47% of Republicans believe that Obamacare “death panels” are true. 49% of Republicans believe that ACORN stole the 2012 election for Obama, despite the fact that ACORN shut down in 2010. Various polls show Republicans ranging between 25 and 65% believing Obama was not born in the U.S. 29% of Louisiana Republicans said Obama was responsible for the Katrina response. More than 85% of Alabama and Mississippi Republicans believe that Obama could be a Muslim—but the good news is that only 55 to 65% think that he is a Muslim.

A lot of this comes down to critical thinking skills, and how willing you are to be honest about your own political bias. This is not to say that all liberals are smart or honest and all conservatives are dumb or obstinate—but the tendencies definitely seem to break that way.

I had a conservative coworker once who, when asked, said that he honestly believed that the programming on the Fox News channel was not politically slanted. The question was not whether he believed what they were saying, but rather whether there was any political bias. He very honestly and steadfastly professed his belief that they presented information accurately.

Now, I like watching shows like Rachel Maddow, and consume media much like that, in addition to more mainstream media outlets (I tend to use the Google News aggregator over any one source). But if you asked me if programs like Maddow or sites like The Huffington Post have a political bias, of course I will recognize that. If I am reading the New York Times or watching CNN, and I see a story praising an Obama program, explaining how Democrats in Congress are responsible, or otherwise stating something not fully objective, I will recognize it as opinion and not “news.” Even if I see something which is apparently factual and objective, I will not assume that I am receiving all the facts about it. When I hear a conservative make a claim I disagree with, I will do a search for the facts instead of simply dismissing or contradicting the statement, just in case I am wrong about my assumption, which happens more often than I like.

That is my impression, at least, of how liberal culture tends to process information; we tend to be skeptics, we tend to respect critical thinking and objectivity. We like scientific methods, we are more willing to test our beliefs. Hardly all of us, but it is the tendency, the subcultural trend. It is hard to see how half of all Republicans could believe ACORN stole even a single vote in 2012 if this were the tendency on the conservative side. Their thought processes seem to be much more based in faith, which is considered a highly-respected attribute—and which transfers from their spiritual reflections into their political considerations.

Unfortunately, faith in anything political—especially when it reinforces your biases, left or right—is tantamount to utter gullibility.

Categories: Political Ranting Tags:

The Well of Madness

May 16th, 2013 2 comments
Categories: Political Ranting Tags:


April 17th, 2013 2 comments

We don’t know what happened yet in Boston. Most people are holding back from blaming anyone yet. Some on the left are blaming right-wingers. Right-wingers are blaming Islamists. Islamists are denying involvement. Right-wingers are attacking left-wingers for blaming right-wingers. And far-right-wingers are saying it might even be a false-flag operation to start a war in Iran.

A few key elements have been pointed out: the bombing occurred on Tax Day, a day anti-government extremists are strongly offended by; the day coincided with Patriot’s Day, a day many of these same groups consider significant.

Less indicative of a source but still of note are the facts that the bombings were home-made devices, pressure-cookers, with crude shrapnel, packed into duffel bags—a weapon anyone could use, but leans towards domestic in nature; and the target was in Boston, a city identified with left-wing politics.

The general timing also coincides somewhat with Waco; although the siege ended in fire on April 19th, it was ongoing for a month and a half previous to that. Also, the Boston Marathon may have been too “good” a target to wait another four days.

Pointing away from an Islamist terror bombing is the lack of anyone claiming responsibility.

Right-wingers are quickly and sometimes preemptively denying right-wing involvement. Glenn Beck, for example, quickly came out with the defense that, “when our crazies go off, they target the government.” Other right-wing sites are simply venting that a few on the left are making such suggestions, while the comment sections of the articles sport a fair number of people claiming it was a false-flag attack by liberals to make conservatives look bad. (You may fully expect, when a suspect is named, that right-wing blogs will be rife with the phrase “Registered Democrat,” no matter what the suspect’s orientation.)

One thing that is kind of hard to ignore: while we are still a ways off from knowing who did it or why, the evidence definitely leans towards the right-wing-extremist theory. Not that this is what conservatives want—they are decrying this as evil as much as anyone else—more likely, if such extremists are responsible, they are likely crazies with their own deluded ideas.

It does, however, bring back into focus the fact that the rhetoric on the right is often fuel for such fires—one reason, perhaps, there is so much pushback from conservatives against what is now the most likely theory.

It may turn out it was just a demented non-political loon looking for thrills and attention, or who knows, maybe an extremist from an country we haven’t even considered yet. However, there is no bad time for discussing the dialing back of violent extremist rhetoric in our national dialog. I don’t think that it is too much to ask that this kind of messaging be denounced by everyone, whether or not it had anything to do with this week’s attack.

Categories: Political Ranting Tags:


March 16th, 2013 1 comment

This just out:

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a rising national star in the Republican Party, announced on Friday that he has a gay son and could no longer justify his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Mr. Portman’s revelation makes him the only sitting Republican senator to publicly support giving gay men and lesbians the right to marry, and one of the most prominent so far of a growing number of Republicans to publicly oppose their party on the issue.

Think: Nancy Reagan and stem-cell research.

This is one of the few ways that conservatives make progress: someone they know and love is involved, so they “get it” and switch sides to join liberals. And sometimes not even then.

This makes me wonder if there is an emotional component to the conservative political makeup: some variation on the inability to understand another person’s point of view in the abstract.

This would help explain the self-centered, self-important, intolerant and uncompassionate views held by many conservatives. The Randian hatred of social support systems, the “screw you I’ve got mine” mindset. Not only the lack of tolerance and sensitivity, but the sometimes stunning tone-deafness displayed by conservatives. The “I’m better than you” state of mind displayed in memes such as non-urban areas being the “Real America,” or of the concept of “American Exceptionalism,” deserved or not. The easy bigotry accompanied by the sense that one is not at all bigoted but that’s just “the way things are.”

Having an impaired ability to empathize with others, to see things from their perspective, could tie in to so much that we see in conservatism.


Categories: Political Ranting Tags:

Are You a Conservative?

January 13th, 2013 2 comments

Five years ago, I put up a post titled, “Are You a Democrat?” I asked questions which I felt demonstrated values held by those on the left. The list still holds true, which I take to support the idea that they are indeed representative of principles and values of liberals, and not just for-the-moment causes or rationalizations.

For fun, I thought I would re-post it—in reverse—and ask the questions if they were to point in the opposite direction. While it is true that the two extremes are not always polar opposites, reversing these questions is a fairly good yardstick. Here they are, followed by clarifications and elaborations below:

  • Do you favor going into debt instead of paying for what you get? Do you prefer perpetually maintaining your debts as opposed to paying them off?
  • Do you support only the parts of the Constitution you find appealing?
  • Do you believe that people who have more should support society less?
  • Should people with certain talents and background be treated better than others beyond basic remuneration?
  • Do you believe it is the role of society to tell people what they can and cannot do in their private matters?
  • Do you agree with the idea that everyone in society should fend for themselves, as opposed to everyone supporting each other?
  • Do you favor waiting for something bad to happen and paying greatly for it over paying a lower but immediate cost for preparation and prevention?
  • If you feel certain that a man is guilty, but cannot definitively prove it, would you punish him even though it means there is a chance you are punishing an innocent man?
  • If treatment for a crime works better than punishment, would you favor punishment instead of treatment anyway?
  • Do you respect people more for being effective than for being honest?
  • Do you believe that true patriotism means never criticizing your own country even when it is clearly wrong, or denying that it ever commits a wrong?
  • Could you support the statement “America is better than everyone else in the world” over the statement “America is as good as anyone else in the world ”?
  • Do you believe that your leaders should be average Joes instead of intelligent, people who excel at their work?
  • Would you rather hear news that makes you feel good rather than the truth? Do you feel confident that you are always right on important issues?

I know a lot of conservatives would see this as an unfair or inaccurate portrayal of their values, but that would be more an artifact of their own internal inconsistencies. Inconsistencies between what they say and what they do, sometimes between what they say and other things they say, and all to often, between what they believe and what instead is real.

Do you favor going into debt instead of paying for what you get? Do you prefer perpetually maintaining your debts as opposed to paying them off?

Conservatives paint themselves as deficit hawks who hate spending. The problem is, they primarily act this way only when the other party is in power, or when it comes to programs they do not support. However, they consistently spend more and tax less, a policy push that was prominent under Reagan and skyrocketed under Bush 43—a policy which is a certainty to create deficits. The Bush years are absolute proof: given a budget surplus, they incurred massive spending increases and revenue decreases, leaving the nation $5 trillion more in debt than when Bush arrived, and the yearly deficit at the level of $1 trillion per year and rising fast.

Conservatives say that they hate debt—but only when a Democrat is in the White House. When they hold the presidency, debt is not important, or is even useful. Nowadays you will hear many Republicans say that they were against the deficits racked up by Bush, were against the pork and uncontrolled spending by fellow Republicans, and spoke out against it. Funny how we never heard them during the years they claimed to be speaking out, nor did any of their words sway their fellow conservatives one bit.

In the end, despite what conservatives say, what they do is more important—and what they do is to borrow and spend, in ever more massive amounts.

As for perpetually maintaining that debt, remember that when we were just beginning to get budget surpluses and so could pay off our national debt, conservatives argued that a surplus meant taxes were higher than they needed to be, and therefore we should cut taxes. In short, never pay down the debt you have accrued.

Do you support only the parts of the Constitution you find appealing?

This should be self-evident. Total dismissal of the Ninth Amendment, disparagement of the fourth through eighth, and the virtual enshrinement of their specific interpretation of the second. The ninth is dismissed because it grants the right to personal privacy, a right that conservatives do not wish to be recognized. William Rehnquist himself defined a strict constructionist as someone who will “generally not be favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs.” And the Second Amendment, clearly an outdated “historical document” if there ever was one, obviously refers to militia and not personal ownership (although personal rights to keep and bear arms are, ironically, guaranteed under the Ninth Amendment).

I could go on—in particular in regards to how the First Amendment is considered—but I think the point is clear.

Do you believe that people who have more should support society less?

Do I even have to explain this? Recent events make this painfully clear.

Should people with certain talents and background be treated better than others beyond basic remuneration?

This is a bit tougher, as it overlaps universally accepted areas of meritocracy, and what one might define “better treatment” to mean. However, the question is not posed to mean whether you agree or disagree about people getting a better salary if their talents or efforts justify it; I think everyone agrees that this should be the case, no matter what the nutballs on Fox & Friends seem to think.

What I mean in this question regards what could be called a “level playing field.” If your background is that of a poor family, should your education, at the very least K-12, be less than that of someone from a wealthy family? Should your baseline health care be significantly worse? Should the opportunities you are presented—not what you do with them, but just the doors that are opened for you—be less? Should people of equal talent be forced to work harder and perform better in order to receive equal benefit?

If you are a conservative, this is what your stand on the policies generally says. Wealthy families get to have a first-rate education while poor families get crap; people who cannot afford private insurance deserve to die alone and cold in the street; people with connections deserve them, no matter how much they hinge on accidents of birth or other forms of discrimination; and women, minorities, gays, and other groups discriminated against deserve no “special rights” to protection that white males do not need because they are not even remotely set back by such discrimination. Again, you may mouth approval of equal treatment, but when it comes to what you will actually approve and support, reality differs greatly with the platitudes.

Do you believe it is the role of society to tell people what they can and cannot do in their private matters?

For all of the right-wing talk about individual liberty and freedom, and how conservatives just want to be left alone, this sentiment only applies to them when it is something that they want to do, like owning guns and not paying taxes. When it comes to anything else, including things that do no harm to anybody, they make every effort to push their way into the lives of others and tell them what to do.

Their views on sexuality allow them to tell you who you can have sex with, how, and whether or not you are allowed to wed. Their beliefs on when life begins allows them to dictate whether you can have an abortion or even take a day-after pill. Their ideas about the value of life allow them to tell you that you have to suffer horribly for months or years with an incurable illness which has robbed you of any meaningful existence, destroying your family and your own dignity as you go, as they decide whether you have the right to put a merciful end to your life. Their values of what drugs are dangerous allows them to drink and smoke as much as they want, but allows them to tell you that you’ll go to jail for smoking marijuana.

But if they begin to stockpile military grade weapons with no safeguards in their house next to where your kids play, you have no right to tell them anything, no matter what the threat to your children’s safety.

Do you agree with the idea that everyone in society should fend for themselves, as opposed to everyone supporting each other?

Again, recent events make this painfully clear.

Do you favor waiting for something bad to happen and paying greatly for it over paying a lower but immediate cost for preparation and prevention?

Again, there is a void between what is said and perhaps believed, and what comes to pass. If it is an imaginary threat of nuclear war, you will feel your answer to this is “no,” but in practice, it has led to paying greatly rather than otherwise.

When it comes to providing a quality education, maintaining strong infrastructure, deploying preventative medicine, and a host of other wise and profitable long-term investments, the answer is a definitive, “Hell yes we shouldn’t pay for that stuff!” “Let the private sector do all the work,” you’ll say, and they won’t, and we’ll pay the price.

In general, conservatives are all too often short-sighted in such matters, preferring immediate gratification in the short run rather than building vital foundations in the long run.

If you feel that a man is guilty, but cannot prove it, would you punish him even though it means there is a chance you are punishing an innocent man?

This is another of the fuzzy ones, as “proof” is often conflated with guilty verdicts. This refers in part to those who would feel it better to be safe than sorry, and/or to convict on faith rather than fact. In a larger sense, this question is intended to refer to the death penalty as well as recent “national security” policies which ensnare innocents in a panicked rush for security or justice, and the fact that conservatives usually seem to prefer to sacrifice the archetypal innocent man lest, not one hundred, but even one guilty man go free.

If treatment for a crime works better than punishment, would you favor punishment instead of treatment anyway?

Again, do I really need to go in to this. Not just recent events, but the events of the past half century make this one rather clear-cut. Conservatives see treatment as coddling, as unnecessary spending (again a reference to pound-foolish avoidance of prevention), a dodge for people to milk the system, or simply as a way for liberals to avoid blaming people for their own actions. Any and all of these are easier than actually recognizing what has been proven again and again, as it would then lead to the next step of actually acting on it.

Do you respect people more for being effective than for being honest?

Then why did you vote for Mitt Romney? Not the best example though; he was neither effective nor honest.

This question actually came out of the debacle of the Bush administration and the recent decades where conservatives prefer lying bastards who can get the job done over honest people who do what is right instead of what is popular. I have heard more than one conservative state a direct preference for the former over the latter, and certainly conservative behavior in general bears this out.

Do you believe that true patriotism means never criticizing your own country even when it is clearly wrong, or denying that it ever commits a wrong?

Once more, need I even explain? Conservatives hate any American who suggests America has done wrong (except when it’s about Democrats they happen to despise). Bombing Hiroshima, going to war in Vietnam and Iraq, covert meddling in politics in the Middle East and Central America, the genocide of American aboriginals, so forth and so on. The entire swagger about “American Exceptionalism” and “Apology Tours” make their stand on this clear.

Could you support the statement “America is better than everyone else in the world” over the statement “America is as good as anyone else in the world ”?

This is an extension of the point above. Again, it should be obvious.

Do you believe that your leaders should be average Joes instead of intelligent people who excel at their work?

There are some fascinating contradictions here. First, they sneer at those they call “elites,” a term which should indicate actual intellect and capability. What they mean, of course, is the definition wherein the “elite” are “a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth or political power.” Does that describe Obama? Biden? Clinton? Carter? Mondale? Dukakis? Kerry maybe, but most Democrats? Nope.

How about Romney? McCain? Bush? Recent GOP candidates and presidents have not just been elites, they have been extreme elites.

Conservatives claim to detest “elitists,” and yet they vote for them over and over again. Mitt Romney was the epitome of an elitist, both Bushes were elites (the first literally and the second by association), and even Reagan was a rich movie actor—if he were liberal, they’d use his Hollywood connections to vilify him as elitist. In contrast, Obama, Clinton, and Carter all had very humble roots. You’d have to go all the way back to Kennedy to find an elected Democratic president who could be called an “elitist.”

Here we see an interesting contrast: GOP candidates tend to be far more rich, entitled, and elitist, but Republican voters always claim they want the man they vote for to be an ordinary person they’d feel comfortable having a beer with.

In a more specific sense, conservatives paint those they call elite as people who think they know better than anyone else. That, however, describes pretty much everyone, including themselves. Nevertheless, conservatives usually loathe the idea of highly intelligent, capable leaders.

Would you rather hear news that makes you feel good rather than the truth? Do you feel confident that you are always right on important issues?

Do I even need to mention Fox News? Not that this is the entirety of the extent that conservatives feel this way, but it stands as an exceptionally clear example of it. Regarding faith as more important than reason and facts is another. Self-doubt is hardly endemic among right-wingers.

Finally, there is one last question, not in the list, which would really nail you down as a conservative:

Will you, upon reading this list of questions, ignore it, dismiss it, argue not the list but rather set up straw men, or attack only the least persuasive point within the list, instead of either answering each point honestly and in detail with reasonable logic and cited basis in fact, or, heaven forbid, regarding this list seriously to reflect on your values?

Or, instead of that, I might just as easily have asked, “Did you quit reading long before you got to this question?”

The Popular Vote

October 30th, 2012 5 comments

The question is coming up: what if Obama wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote? In particular, how would conservatives react?

It’s easy to predict of course. Remember, they had no problem at all with Bush being elected despite losing the popular vote and winning Florida by just a few hundred votes despite the illicit felon’s list and the botched-ballot voting in Miami-Dade, both of which leave zero doubt that Florida intended to elect Gore, that Gore would have been the winner had actual intention of voting, not the bungled outcome, been respected. Not only were they OK with that, they were adamantly, even aggressively resolved to make sure it stuck, and suggested that anyone who disputed it was a whining partisan crybaby.

So, naturally, they would, if grudgingly, accept Obama, right?

Of course, you know the answer to that.

They would either completely forget about 2000, or else would use it as a reason to claim Obama didn’t win the election—on the basis of liberals protesting Bush’s election legitimacy. They would equate the Florida scandal with imagined widespread voter fraud, having primed right-wing America into believing that there must be millions of stolen Democratic votes, imagining the current “fraud” to be far worse than anything in Florida—thus erasing any doubts about Bush’s election while assuring themselves that Obama cheated and stole the vote.

Despite, of course, the fact that such theft is virtually non-existent. No matter that the fraud went completely the other way, with who knows how many Democrats discouraged, intimidated, suppressed, or outright blocked from voting this year. No matter that Republicans, controlling more state houses in key areas, gerrymandered the crap out of their states. No matter that early voting has been curtailed or shut down wherever possible to depress Democratic turnout, even while attempts were made to expand early voting for Republican counties. No matter than non-English ballots were distributed with the wrong election date. No matter that even states ordered to cease Voter ID suppression tactics still put up billboards using taxpayer money, in particular in Spanish, telling voters that IDs were still required, while other billboards threaten low-income and minority voters with jail should they dare to vote. Even non-partisan evaluations of how Hurricane Sandy depressed votes in the solidly left-leaning Northeast will be explained away or dismissed.

Above and beyond all of that, many will simply cry foul over the simple fact that he didn’t get enough votes. Despite the fact that back in 2000, many claimed Bush even had a mandate (including, most prominently, Bush himself), and the right wing went along with that—none of that will matter, none of it will register.

If Obama gets elected while losing the popular vote, the vast majority on the conservative side will instantly begin railing about illegitimacy and how he’s not the “real” president. The myth of “voter fraud” will become a legend, a rallying cry. I would not be too surprised if calls for impeachment were to arise and be picked up by some sitting Republicans in Congress, or if there were major surges in calls for more “voter fraud prevention” laws, amid a host of conspiracy theories and renewed calls for secession of the South.

The same people who admonished protesters in 2000 on the principle of maintaining the legitimacy of the process and unifying the country would easily tear that process to shreds and the country asunder—if it’s not their guy who gets rallied around.

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Day to Quit Blogging

August 6th, 2011 15 comments

The U.S.’s credit rating has been downgraded, with S&P citing political infighting and poor debt handling. Most significantly, this would not have happened if the Republicans had not taken the U.S. economy hostage, taking us intentionally to the very brink in a manner that assured it would end like this.

Once again, let us not forget who brought us here. Ten years ago, we were in surplus territory. Despite claims by Tea Partiers and conservatives in general that this is all the fault of Obama and the Dems, it was the Bush tax cuts, the two massive wars, the general mismanagement and the Great Recession which brought us to this point. And as weak as Obama and the Dems have been, it has been the Republicans who have been the primary force which continues to take us in the wrong direction.

They will undoubtedly react by becoming even more recalcitrant and hostile. The idiots.

Not that the downgrade is fully reasonable. But it has happened, and conservatives brought us here.

If the American people react to this by electing any more Republicans into office, they are the worst idiots imaginable. Seriously.

And no, I am not returning to blogging full-time. I noted that I would return occasionally when the mood hit me–it simply happened that a story like this broke the day after I said I’d be stopping. Figures.

Points of Departure

August 4th, 2011 5 comments

I just want to bring up a little bit of history here. Back in 2000, when we were looking at surpluses, Republicans hated the idea. They were nearly apoplectic at the thought of government taking in more than it spent within a limited time frame. They used the catchphrase, “It’s your money,” as if the people were being robbed or something. It was as if the debt did not exist, and did not need to be paid off, so if the government had a surplus, that meant that taxes were too high.

Clinton and Gore proposed paying off the debt (by 2013!), extending the solvency of Social Security, and even establishing a reserve in case emergency funds were needed. Yes, the economic downturn at the turn of the century would have muted this, but had Gore been in office, the economy would have been much better. No huge tax cuts for the wealthy, no Iraq War, and, even if 9/11 had gotten past the counter-terrorism structure that Bush disassembled, the war in Afghanistan would have been shorter and far less costly. We might have maintained surpluses and actually gotten some debt reduction (though we probably would not have paid off the whole debt by 2013, especially with Republicans whining about surpluses and pushing for tax cuts); we certainly would have had a far healthier economy, back in 2001 and later on as well, no question about that whatsoever.

Republicans rejected the idea of paying off debts. They wanted to erase the surplus with tax cuts–which they did, and then some. Then 9/11 hit, and they added the burden of two massively expensive land wars in Asia. Over the years, they piled on more tax cuts, more unpaid-for entitlements, and precisely the kind of wasteful pork-barrel spending they always accused Democrats of, even worse than the Democrats actually carried out themselves. They drove the economy into a deep ditch, and then tried to pile all the blame on the next Democrat who took office, as if nothing untoward had happened in the previous eight years and the debt crisis had somehow how magically materialized the moment Obama stepped into the Oval Office.

Amazing how history can hinge on even the smallest of things. There is one graphic designer somewhere in Florida who slapped together the butterfly ballot for Palm Beach County for the 2000 elections. Had that person not made a simple design error, Gore would not have lost thousands of votes to Buchanan (and to Gore-Buchanan cross-votes), and the course of American history would have been changed to an astonishing extent.

And to think that in the 2000 elections, people bemoaned the idea that there was little or no difference between Gore and Bush.

Categories: Political Ranting Tags:

This Is How You Apologize

May 26th, 2011 4 comments

On his radio show recently, Ed Schultz used a term to describe right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham which was completely unacceptable. He has been rightly suspended without pay.

Here is his on-air apology:

While I may not like him for what he said recently and his behavior at other times in the past, I have to respect him for this public statement.

He did not use excuses, he did not equivocate, he did not try to say that he did not really say what he said, and he did not turn the apology into a lead-in for further attack. I don’t think I have seen a single “apology” by a right-wing pundit or politician in similar situations who did not try to slip in at least one (though more often all) of these prevarications.

Instead, Schultz took full responsibility–another concept unrecognized on the right, where people seem to think “taking responsibility” means just saying that you do and getting credit for being a stand-up guy while not actually paying any penalty for it. Schultz is taking the suspension without pay, and says he deserves it.

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If Only Being United Weren’t So Communist

May 12th, 2011 1 comment

Republicans in New Hampshire are trying to pass a new anti-union law, claiming that weakening the unions would draw more businesses into the state.

The current right-wing drive to crush any pro-left entity aside, this brings to mind the fact that businesses get great deals by playing state against state. Just as they play workers against each other to the workers’ disadvantage, they shake down the states for billions with these coy “I’ll settle in your state only if you give me even bigger benefits than the next state” game.

If only the states were to form some sort of, oh, I don’t know, union, so they could join forces and gain from the advantage.

But that’s probably just crazy talk.

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What’s the Point?

April 23rd, 2011 3 comments

A recent Salon article on “Trig Thutherism”:

Trig Truthers have fixated on any number of details about Sarah Palin’s pregnancy. Sullivan, for example, thinks it was irresponsible that, shortly before she went into labor, Palin got on a plane from Texas, where she had been speaking at a conference, and flew to Alaska.

But whether Palin acted irresponsibly is beside the point. The most important tenet of Trig Trutherism, of course, is that Palin simply was not pregnant before Trig was born.

Whoa. “Whether Palin acted irresponsibly is beside the point”? Where did that come from? As far as I am concerned, it is the only point–that, during a special-needs pregnancy, after her water broke, she gave a political speech, took plane flights with a layover, and then trekked to a hometown hospital before giving birth. That quite simply makes no sense whatsoever. The writer of this article focused purely on whether or not Palin was the one to give birth. Frankly, that’s beside the point. The primary point is that, if we take Palin at her word, she acted with reckless irresponsibility. She’s either an idiot or a liar–or, possibly, both. The tale of Trig’s birth is emblematic of this.

Of course, since the whole Trig thing has so much baggage (personal lives are off-limit, don’t focus on children, people identify this as a loony conspiracy-theory kind of thing), it’s less than optimal to use this as a rallying point to show how Palin should never be allowed within a hundred miles of the presidency.

Fortunately, there is such a wealth of solid, factual evidence of this aside from the Trig story, this does not present a problem. The sheer number of lies, scandals, acts of irresponsibility, and fantastically stupid claims make for easy picking. From her claim that she fought the “Bridge to Nowhere” to her fictional “death panels” of the ACA, from Troopergate to resigning halfway through her term as governor so she could become a reality TV star and Fox News commentator, there’s virtually no end to reasons to question her capacity to serve in any position of responsibility.

Hell, just the idea that she persistently claimed that Alaska’s proximity to the farthest reaches of Russia magically endowed her with foreign policy credentials is enough for me. As for irresponsibility, the trend she set for politicians in elections to deny press access and communicate only through thoroughly biased sources is a huge one. I find myself wanting to go on (“In what way, Charlie?”), but the point should be clear–there is no end to the reasons why Palin should never be trusted by anyone. Just as well to leave the whole Trig mess behind. Indeed, focusing on the one thing Palin can most easily defend herself on only gives her strength and credence.

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Bits & Pieces: April 7, 2011

April 7th, 2011 3 comments

Shutdown or no shutdown, it’s pretty damned clear which side wants one, which side has been pushing for one and still is. A Tea Party rally in D.C. was populated with signs urging a shutdown, while the crowd chanted, “Shut ‘er down! Shut ‘er down!” All this while trying to blame it on the Democrats. CNN called this “mixed signals,” as if there were no unified game plan here.

The Wisconsin election for the state’s supreme court chief justice brought out the crowds, tripling participation from the last such election. David Prosser, claiming to be a non-partisan independent who just happens to be a Tea Party favorite, is endorsed by Sarah Palin, and goes around the state addressing right-wing organizations, was in fact rather easily identified as a conservative who would rule in favor of governor Walker. Before this whole union issue, Prosser was expected to win hands-down. Having won 55% in the general primary, with his challenger, assistant attorney general JoAnne Kloppenburg getting only 25%, Prosser was still expected to win easily. However, Kloppenburg, labeled as an inexperienced extremist in the millions of dollars of of out-of-state, Tea-party-funded advertising, surged way beyond her primary numbers as Prosser faded–so that now it is a virtual tie, with Kloppenburg ahead by only about two hundred votes. Even if Prosser winds up winning in a recount, this will be a hard slap in the face for state Republicans, who lost most of the other races outright.

So, naturally, the moment this is announced, the right-wingers start shoutingvote fraud.” Gee whiz, who could have predicted that would happen?

Glenn Beck is leaving Fox News. Who will we buy gold from now?

The new GOP plan to private Medicare and gut Medicaid will save $5.8 trillion in the next ten years, we are told. Except that the numbers they predict for economic growth and unemployment due to their miraculous plan are so ludicrous that they are almost literally laughable. We’re talking Magic Pony numbers here. Rep. Paul Ryan claims that his budget will create gazillions of jobs, bringing unemployment down to 2.8%, a number so far-fetched that even conservatives are shaking their heads. The “$5.8 trillion” he claims he will save is just as fictional, with $1.4 trillion coming from scrapping Obama’s Health Care Reform, which is strange, as the CBO said Obama’s plan would save almost exactly that much over the next 20 years. And his plan to “save” Medicare would only end up costing seniors more. Just like the GOP’s alternative to the Democrats’ health care reform, Republicans are claiming Democrats will send us to the poorhouse while GOP alternatives will bring cause money to fall from rainbows. Too bad the Congressional Budget Office disagrees. All the time.

Hmm. Some of the major blogs seem to be agreeing with what I wrote two days ago.

Categories: Political Ranting Tags:

Setting Laborers Against Labor

March 29th, 2011 1 comment

How the right wing is maintaining it’s all-out assault on labor is mystifying to me, in that labor is, essentially, what almost every American person who goes to work actually does. Somehow, people have started believing that labor only represents and benefits a selected few, people who are incompetent leeches who do little of value while receiving fat paychecks and exorbitant benefits packages.

That definition better describes corporate executives, not working stiffs. And yet conservatives have convinced a huge swath of laborers that “labor” describes only specific workers who are causing all their woes, and that the corporate fat cats are the ones who need protecting. “Labor” is people who work for a living. Not just teachers, not just union members. It’s anyone who works for a wage.

Labor laws which make sure your employer can’t abuse you, must pay you a minimum wage, must provide a safe workplace–these are what the labor movement, and yes, even those evil unions, have given us.

And yet somehow people are being led to believe that the laws that keep workers safe and free from abuse are actually damaging and destroying jobs because of how stifling and repressive they are, and that laws which guarantee a basic living wage are bad for the worker due to a superficial rationale that sounds correct but, strangely, has never been demonstrated in reality.

We know that conservatives have been doing this for quite some time, but now they have broken free from the constraints that previously held them in place. It is in part due to the rather notable swing to the right the country has taken, and the pathetic attempt by the left to stay relevant by swinging almost as much to the right. It is in part due to the drive to redefine almost everything in conservative terms, a movement propelled by Gingrich in the 1990’s and sustained by the non-stop conservative campaign in the media via the preponderance of conservative commentators and the juggernaut which is Fox News. It was given false legitimacy during the Bush administration, where all manner of illegalities could be committed and were rarely investigated or punished, to the point where people just take such things for granted now and don’t even blink when they see news about them. And now it has been given new fire by this nebulous Tea Party movement, which, like most conservative movements, is a small minority, and yet commands almost irresistible influence.

So we see the Republicans in Wisconsin coming up with a transparent lie that the budget is being busted by teachers unions, and so they unilaterally strip educators of their collective bargaining rights, a ploy being attempted in many Republican-held legislatures across the country. In its wake, we see the path littered with individual acts of malfeasance, from the Republican Party’s attempt to intimidate a professor for speaking out by demanding access to his emails, to an out-of-state Republican seriously proposing a “false flag” operation, where someone pretending to be in labor would make an assassination attempt against the Republican governor so as to stir public animosity against their opponents. All while Fox News heavily tilted coverage and faked their own news of union violence.

The governor of Maine, in an act far less serious but just as indicative of anti-union sentiment, actually had a mural depicting laborers removed from the lobby of the Labor Department for the state. Why? Because it wasn’t pro-business enough. Yes, god forbid the labor department be about labor instead of business. Have you ever heard a Democrat complaining that the Department of Commerce was too pro-business? Seriously?

It doesn’t matter if you are not a union member. Unions and labor movements are why you have a halfway decent job–and if you don’t have a halfway decent job, the lack of labor protection is probably why. Labor movements are why you’re not being paid a dollar an hour to work in unsafe conditions with your employer having all the power and you having none. People take these conditions for granted, assume that they cannot regress or that if they can, it has nothing to do with labor organizations. And they will probably continue to believe so even as their work conditions continue to degrade to the point where they will feel it necessary to do something about it.

And even then, they will probably lack the will to start anything resembling a union, because unions are bad. Everyone knows that.

Japan and Building Codes

March 12th, 2011 4 comments

About a week ago, Sachi and I visited the offices of the firm that built our house. We saw videos showing the engineering technologies to protect against quake damage. The two I recall specifically are wall panels that protect against structure collapse, and structural posts which keep the building from separating from its foundations.

An article from the New York Times says that Japan’s strict building codes probably saved a lot of lives:

In Japan, where earthquakes are far more common than they are in the United States, the building codes have long been much more stringent on specific matters like how much a building may sway during a quake. …

Japan has gone much further than the United States in outfitting new buildings with advanced devices called base isolation pads and energy dissipation units to dampen the ground’s shaking during an earthquake.

The isolation devices are essentially giant rubber-and-steel pads that are installed at the very bottom of the excavation for a building, which then simply sits on top of the pads. The dissipation units are built into a building’s structural skeleton. They are hydraulic cylinders that elongate and contract as the building sways, sapping the motion of energy. …

New apartment and office developments in Japan flaunt their seismic resistance as a marketing technique, a fact that has accelerated the use of the latest technologies, said Ronald O. Hamburger, a structural engineer in the civil engineering society and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, a San Francisco engineering firm.

Later today, I’ll be driving over to the new house to check it out, but I will be very surprised if it shows any damage.

I would, however, like to make a small political point here. The building codes and other rules that saved so many lives? That’s what you call “government regulation.” The purpose of which is not to stifle or dominate, but to protect and safeguard. In this case, it kept people from dying as much. In other cases, it safeguards against damage done by people and corporations. Regulation, far more often than not, is a good thing.