Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney Speech Full of Sound and Not Much Fury

See Mitt run, see Mitt has empathy.

In all fairness to Mitt, though, it didn't have as many distortions as Paul Ryan's catastrophe. I won't mention Clint Eastwood, oops, just did.

Yet, like a lot of observers, I don't know what to make of the whole exercise known as the Republican National Convention 2012, except to feel, as an outside observer, that it didn't amount too much. It will be analyzed for its truthiness, thanks to Ryan's whoopers, and that can't be good, even if the Republican ticket's handlers said that they wouldn't be intimidated by fact-checkers (what?). In the end, no amount of misty-eyed, empathetic-looking, "I care about your family" rhetoric is going to help Romney out of the first impression of voters that he's, well, kind of a stiff and a guy with few, clear policy positions other than "I'm not Obama."

Let's sample some opinion around the country:

Washington Post:
But Mr. Romney mostly repeated his five rather vague priorities for fixing the economy, adding little meat to the gauziness of past declarations. There was nostalgia for an earlier era of greater American confidence, without much detail about how to achieve a restoration. Promising to begin his presidency “with a jobs tour” — and jabbing, inaccurately, at Mr. Obama for starting his with an “apology tour” — is not a substitute for a serious policy.
Okay, I left out the part of the editorial that said Romney sorta, kinda did okay at other parts. Meh.

New York Times:
Mr. Romney’s big speech, delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears, was of a piece with the rest of the convention. Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception.
I did leave out the part where they didn't like Romney's distortions about how the Republicans tried to help Obama succeed. Jeez.

In Tampa on Thursday night, Mitt Romney delivered what was probably the best, most effective and most revealing speech of his life. But the bar for that achievement was low. And while Romney was smooth, warm and at times endearing, his speech was not quite the command performance that might solve the lasting problem of his personal image.
 "...the lasting problem of his personal image." I think that means that he's not that likeable and doesn't have any great ideas other than me wants to be president bad.

Graphic from Newsweek: Are they trying to tell us something?


Let's be blunt: he failed. Romney, never an electrifying presence, couldn't generate enough wattage to power a refrigerator light. 

Romney showed rare and genuine emotion talking about his parents. Not to get all Freudian on you, but one wonders if he knows deep in his heart that his kook-right pandering and hiding his tax returns would not meet with George Romney's approval. “My folks gave us the greatest gift of all,” Romney said, “unconditional love.” And a free ride to Harvard. And stock options.
Okay, this is Paul Begala, a pretty partisan dude, but Newsweek put his opinion at the top of their list, and other writers were no less unkind.

USA Today:
After 5½ years of campaigning for president, Willard Mitt Romney took his most important step toward telling the American people who he is and what he stands for.

In doing so, he appeared to unify a Republican Party that had doubted both his record and his resolve. It helped that he brought his new best friend, a rock-ribbed conservative running mate named Paul Davis Ryan, along for the ride.
If there are any misgivings remaining among the party faithful, their determination to run President Obama out of the White House in November may be incentive enough to join the Romney-Ryan bandwagon.
This was the kindest evaluation I saw, but then I looked for the mainstream opinion. Still, pretty tepid, eh?

One more interesting take, one I really didn't like, especially because it may be true:

Nate Silver (NY Times):
Instead, Mr. Romney’s strategy was pretty clear. He was seeking to fulfill the role of the generic Republican — a safe and unobjectionable alternative with a nice family and a nice career – and whose main credential is that he is not Mr. Obama, the Democratic president with tepid approval ratings and middling economic numbers.
It may be a smart approach.
 I hope not. See you later in the campaign. Next up: the Democratic National Convention. Any bets Barack Obama's speech will be better?

Ah, he didn't lay a glove on me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paul Ryan: The First Truly Orwellian Convention Speech?

Our advisers tell us we can get away with this. So, all in!
Orwellian, or is this more of a Big Lie propaganda effort? Let's look at the reports:

Fox News:
Paul Ryan's speech in three words
2. Deceiving
On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was  Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.
The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.

Talking Points Memo:
Top 5 Fibs In Paul Ryan's Convention Speech
Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s headlining speech at the GOP convention in Tampa Wednesday night touched on many of the election’s defining issues. But it was also filled with prevarications — not just recitations of the conventions “you didn’t build that” theme, but on the very policy matters that have endeared him to the political establishment in Washington.

Huffington Post:
Paul Ryan Address: Convention Speech Built On Demonstrably Misleading Assertions
Ryan then noted that Obama, while campaigning for president, promised that a GM plant in Wisconsin would not shut down. "That plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight," Ryan said.
Except Obama didn't promise that. And the plant closed in December 2008 -- while George W. Bush was president.
It was just one of several striking and demonstrably misleading elements of Ryan's much-anticipated acceptance speech. And it comes just days after Romney pollster Neil Newhouse warned, defending the campaign's demonstrably false ads claiming Obama removed work requirements from welfare, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."

New York Times:
The Vacuum Behind the Slogans
Mr. Ryan, who rose to prominence on the Republican barricades with a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, never uttered the word “voucher” to the convention. He said Medicare was there for his grandmother and mother, but neglected to say that he considers it too generous to be there in the same form for future grandmothers (while firmly opposing the higher taxes on the rich that could keep it strong). He never mentioned his plan to abandon Medicaid on the doorstep of the states, or that his budget wouldn’t come close to a balance for 28 years.
The reasons for that are clear: Details are a turn-off, at a boisterous convention or apparently in a full campaign.

Bloomberg News:
Paul Ryan’s Hypocritical Attack on Barack Obama
Ryan criticized Obama for ignoring his own debt commission. “They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” That urgent report? Technically, it wasn’t a report from the debt commission. Too many of its members dissented from the report for it to be adopted as the commission’s official report. One of those dissenters was Paul Ryan.

Associated Press:
FACT CHECK: Convention speakers stray from reality
RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."
THE FACTS: Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. And the cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.
In addition, Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.

David Weigel, Slate:
Entry 13: Here’s a list of some of the whoppers that Paul Ryan served up Wednesday night.
So I was in the cheap seats, not on carpet, when Ryan plowed through one of the more impressive strings of whoppers we've seen at this level. Ryan's been doling out chunks of this speech for weeks, which made the fibs sound even stranger.

So, there we have it, the media response to Paul Ryan, from Fox News to the Associated Press, and the central reaction was that Paul Ryan is lying about the principal points of of his critique of Barack Obama, and this critique is the entirety of the Romney/Ryan campaign. Just wow. Read all the linked articles, and then visit this final web page from Daily Kos, called Abbreviated Pundit Round-up. In today's report, almost all linked articles speak to the general falsity of the Romney campaign. Where do we go from here? I'm afraid to contemplate.

The media know we're lying. We're betting the people won't figure it out.
Update. The Washington Post editorial board doesn't mince words:

Paul Ryan's misleading speech

Read it.

Update 2. A media storm is developing, discussing if the media will actually start to call out the Romney/Ryan campaign on its lies:

Calling out the lies in your headlines 

Will the media finally do its job? We'll see.

Update 3. Yahoo!'s Jeff Greenfield says yes, but it'll reinforce the public's perception that the "liberal media" is in the tank for Obama:

Paul Ryan’s Speech Was Filled With Economic Inaccuracies

Good grief.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Republicans 2012: The First Truly Orwellian Campaign?

George Orwell
George Orwell, the author of 1984, is well-known for his early understanding of the nature of political language. In the novel, the all-powerful state had created a new language, impoverished of all ideas of individual freedom, called Newspeak. Phrases like "ignorance is strength" and "freedom is slavery" are examples.

Flash forward to the Republican presidential campaign in 2012. While I'd be hard-pressed to claim that Mitt Romney is responsible for the proliferation of Newspeak in political campaigns, I am accurate in saying that the Republican Party has almost single-handedly brought the art of political speech to new heights, or depths if you prefer.

Others may rightfully be credited for their contribution to these dark arts, but I'll speak only to what I know or have observed. A key practitioner is Frank Luntz, poster child for language manipulation by the Republican Party. His forte is messaging. He currently has a messaging consultant business and is an analyst for Fox News.

He is responsible for some, but not all, of the following Republican-originated terms:

Death tax: Taxing inheritances has long been an acceptable way of distributing wealth and preventing the rise of oligarchies. This is not so after terming it a "death tax." Who can tax the dead? (Which, of course, we're not doing.)

Clear Skies Act: An example of Bush Doublespeak, it never became law, partly because it reduced air pollution controls and increased allowable levels of known pollutants.

Healthy Forests Initiative: Same Bush-era Republican use of language to mask a giveaway to business and a curbing of environmental impact report requirements. The courts agreed and limited its impact.

Job Killer: Mostly used in the Obama era by Republicans when referring to taxes. That these taxes could be used to fund needed public-sector jobs is, for Republicans, not germane.

Job creators: Another priceless bit of Orwellian language by the Republican congressional leadership, this term refers to the wealthy. We can't tax the wealthy, they're the job creators.

Death panels: Hate to give her credit for this, but Sarah Palin, by all accounts, crafted this term to falsely brand the aspect of the ACA Act that paid physicians for voluntarily counseling patients about living wills, advanced directives, and end-of-life options.

Job-killing, death-taxing, European-loving, death panels, I tell ya.

Rational observers of all stripes know that this use and abuse of language for political messaging has little if any foundation in truth, but that hasn't harmed the Republican Party much and in fact is credited with much of the gains the party made in the 2010 midterm elections.

So it's no surprise that the Romney campaign has been hard at it with similar tactics. There are, however, some significant differences.

This guy you know.
The key, so far, to what success can be claimed by the Romney campaign in making inroads against Barack Obama appears to be in Romney's use of the "Big Lie." The first origins of this propaganda technique is found in Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic screed Mein Kampf, in which he accused the Jews of using the Big Lie to blame a German military officer for losing World War I.

Note. I bring this history of propaganda up not to try to liken Romney or Ryan or any Republican to Hitler and Goebbels, okay? I'm just putting this use of political propaganda in proper historical context. Got it?

Hitler used this Big Lie propaganda technique to fire up the German people to exterminate the Jews because the Jews were planning to exterminate the Germans, and so the Germans had a right to exterminate the Jews in self-defense.

Joseph Goebbels
Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels is largely credited with the expression "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it," which is a clear derivative of the Big Lie maneuver. Goebbels basic premise was that people told little lies all the time but were too ashamed of uttering falsehoods to ever engage in a really big one. Therefore, they were susceptible to the Big Lie because they could never imagine anyone actually telling one.

And, yes, I'm directly accusing Mitt Romney, his campaign, and now his vice-presidential pick of using the propaganda technique known as the Big Lie. Sure, a number of little lies are wrapped around it, but in general this is what they're doing. Example? You know them, but here they are:

Obama is gutting Medicare by stealing $716 billion away from program. This is demonstrably and provably false. The president has eliminated a private-insurance subsidy as well as enacting a previously negotiated reduction of payments to hospitals and services providers, among other provisions, in order to extend all benefits untouched for an additional eight years, to 2024. If Mitt Romney restores these cuts, as he has promised, he will cause the Medicare system to run a deficit by 2016. All experts know this, and so, presumably, does Mitt Romney. What Romney also knows is that this attack is intended to scare old white people, especially in Florida.

Don't take our Medicare...

Obama has decided to gut the welfare-to-work program by removing the work requirement. This is false and is intended as a racial scare tactic. The president is only offering states flexibility, as long as they maintain or even strengthen the work requirement. This is a two-fer in that coupled with the Medicare scare, old white people will think that Obama is stealing their money to give it to shiftless black people on welfare, who no longer need to work. they can drive Cadillacs.

Obama's comment, "You didn't build that," was an attack on entrepreneurs. Of course it wasn't. It was a direct expression of the interdependence between government-sponsored infrastructure, prior private-sector development, and new business, big and small. The quote, taken out of context, is both Orwellian and Big Lie. It's been debunked over and over, but it's still a centerpiece of the Romney/Ryan campaign.

Job-killin', budget-bustin', uh, infrastructure (you-didn't-build-that edition).

The Romney/Ryan Medicare plan will "preserve and protect" the program. This is patently false. They will convert Medicare to a voucher program and privatize it. Over time, the program will be eroded, and seniors will suffer. Also, they do intend to privatize Social Security, which means eliminate it, just as defined-benefit pensions have been eclipsed by 401(k) plans.

If elected, Mitt Romney will lower taxes and everybody will have jobs and the middle class will thrive once again. This is more Orwellian than classic Big Lie, but it's got a little of that, too. I actually believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan know that they'll never be able to lower taxes. But they will extend all Bush tax cuts indefinitely. The "reduce taxes on rich people" promise is just a ruse to get elected. If they actually could lower taxes even more, God help us.

Enough. But please understand one thing clearly: These lies are being repeated over and over again because they have to be for the technique to work. So you will hear them ad nauseum. They have become the centerpiece of the campaign because, since the economy refuses so far to tank, they got nuttin'.

George Orwell is turning over in his grave. And, of course, so are FDR, Ike, LBJ, and, believe it or not, Richard Nixon. They all believed in the social safety net and government-sponsored infrastructure.

Hitler and Goebbels give us a sad. But their propaganda techniques are a hoot!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Whitest Convention Ever?

Okay. I don't want to play the race card. That's Mitt Romney's job. Still:

Okay! Black man!

Way to go, Republican Party! (Okay, I admit it, Condoleeza Rice was there, too.)

Mitt Romney Gets Women!

See? He's surrounded by them:

He's obviously a ladies man. I'm going to vote for him now.

Do Yourself a Favor: Read the Republican Party Platform

Here it is. From the web page, you can also download a PDF. You'll notice that the party's platform is very, very, very red, white and blue.

Here's the platform in pictures:

These people should get married.

These people should not.

These people should have health care.

These people should not.

These people should pay more taxes.

These people should not.

These people have family values.

These people do not.

These people should control what happens to their bodies.

These people should not.

God loves these people.

These people, not so much.

These people are welcome in America.

These people are not.

This has been your Republican Party platform in pictures.

And Now for Something Completely Different: Back Apple? Hack Apple!

I could oppose the Iraq War, I just couldn't write about it.
I was a tech columnist for quite a number of years, and the only time a column of mine was pulled was when I got "political." In the early days of the Internet, I talked of how one could take political action on the net by emailing their congresspeople -- this was in the days before such things were so simplified and automated. Anyway, I tried to be politically neutral, but I said that, for instance, if you were against going to war with Iraq -- which I was, and I said so -- you could email your congresspeople to express your opinion. Bang. Column pulled.

If I wanted to raise a ruckus and not get my column pulled, bang, all I had to do was attack Apple. I considered Apple elitist, likening them to the BMW, with Microsoft being the Volkswagen, a people's product. Each time I did this I unleashed a firestorm of letters and emails, which my editors passed on to me, this before all newspapers had a web presence.

I say this so you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. I don't like Apple, never did. I've never bought an Apple product, probably never will (never say never). Why? It's not because they don't make good products, their products are, recently, quite stylish, useful, and inventive. Good for them. But I hate their smugness, and now that I've seen how they exploit overseas labor and avoid paying U.S. taxes, I have reason to dislike them still more. I should say that in the John Sculley days, I also thought they made crap, and I've always hated how they strictly controlled their APIs and hamstrung developers.

Gates and Jobs both stole their best ideas. It's business.
Now we've just gotten the Samsung verdict, and my dislike of Apple grows still more. Patenting the "look and feel!" I hate that, it's stupid. It's what Apple originally sued -- and won -- Microsoft for over Windows. The nerve: Apple stole its original ideas from Xerox, who didn't see value in a graphic user interface, much like IBM didn't see the value in developing an operating system and ceded that market to Microsoft, and the rest is history. I find it hilarious that Apple stole the very idea for its GUI from Xerox, and then sued Microsoft for copying it in Windows. Grit.

Anyway, Apple has its nerve.

So what do we do? Well, I know they're coming after Google and Android next, and if Android has an advantage it's because it's open source and related to Linux and thus has a worldwide army of developers. If Apple wants to demand that Android pull its "pinch-to-zoom" feature, then let's just hack the feature. Whatever Apple demands that the open-source movement do -- Google is at this point allied with the movement -- the hackers should place online in its place. It'll be developer whack-a-mole. Apple sues. Open-source developers hack.

I'm not suggesting that Anonymous start sabotaging Apple with viruses and Trojan horses, though they might choose to. And I'm not suggesting anyone harm Apple users the way Microsoft and its users suffered because of Microsoft's ubiquity. I am, however, suggesting that it might happen.

I do, however, recommend that Android developers of the world, unite! Let no (Apple) patent go unhacked, let no Android lawsuit go unchecked. Open means open, fer chrissake. If someone tries to take the pinch-to-zoom out of my Android-hacked Nook Color, I'll be searching online for the code to restore it. Yippee! Game on.

B&N Nook Color, Android-hacked like mine. Street legal, by the way.
Update. Yes, I do own Microsoft and Nokia stock, not much, but some. So I'm financially happy, just not happy happy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Obama Goes All Hollywood on Mitt Romney

This is on YouTube, so it might just be a free ad, one that won't actually play in any markets. I don't think it has to. Talk about a Mad Men moment:


Chris Matthews Nails Reince Priebus

Serious truth-telling erupts on Morning Joe:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The shock that the hosts of the show feel about Chris laying it out straight is quite telling. Matthews wasn't playing by the rules. How so? He wasn't supposed to let people know the inside game of politics. Republicans get away with this because of the usual common decency of liberals.

If you want to know why I can say this about Republicans, here's a little thought experiment. Imagine, if you will, liberals who say things as vitriolic and over the top as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, and Glenn Beck do (who's he?). You can't. End of experiment.

Chris Matthews legitimately called out Reince Priebus on the racial aspects of the birther business and the false welfare work-requirement attacks. They are racist, without question.

While I'm at it, let me throw in an audio-based video from 2010 that demonstrates how an Irish politician tells the truth in a media interview. Notice that as Michael Higgins of Ireland offers his opinion in a radio debate with Michael Graham, a tea-party radio personality from Boston, Graham doesn't interrupt him thirty times trying to keep him from making his point. Don't know if this is cultural, but this took place on an Irish radio station. Compare and contrast the political and cultural ideas expressed and the means by which they were expressed. The Irish politician, by the way, is Michael Higgins, who wasn't then but is now President of Ireland. Here he talks about the policy in the U.S., especially the social safety net:

I loved how he ended with celebrating that young people in America are welcome now around the world because Barack Obama's foreign policy is less threatening. I remember living abroad and traveling around Europe in the early 70s and telling folks I was from San Francisco, still then very much thought of as the City of Love. It was wonderful the warmth with which I was greeted. I worried about that after George W. Bush. I'm glad it's getting better again. Time to hit Europe again, especially Ireland.

And certainly time to call out the inherent racism in the policy positions of the Republican Party, not to mention the horrifying lack of empathy toward the dispossessed that the Republican Party represents and is so deservedly called out for by President Michael Graham in this wondrously crafted diatribe.

More of Matthews and Graham, please. Democrats, do it this way.

Update. Can't help including this from George Carlin (h/t Daily Kos) that so suitably belongs in this balanced box set of commentary on our conservative brethren. George, wish you were still here to help us get through this election cycle:


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mitt, We Don't Like You, (Non-) Endorsement Edition

For Crist, the hug heard 'round the world.

It was surprising enough, really, that Charlie Crist, former Republican governor of Florida came out in support of Barack Obama. (Or, maybe not, considering Crist was essentially hounded out of the Republican Party for being seen hugging Obama on stage.)
As Republicans gather in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney, Americans can expect to hear tales of how President Obama has failed to work with their party or turn the economy around.
But an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they've proven incapable of governing for the people. Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims.
The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.
Ouch. It remains to be seen what effect this might have on Romney's chances in Florida, but it can't help.

But for The Economist, the essential conservative money magazine of Britain, highly respected in the U.S., to come out so powerfully against Mitt Romney speaks volumes about just what a failure the Romney campaign has been, so far, in convincing knowledgeable people of his value to the nation and, apparently, the world:
But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper.
 Double ouch.
The damage done to a Romney presidency by his courting of the isolationist right in the primaries could prove more substantial. He has threatened to label China as a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency. Even if it is unclear what would follow from that, risking a trade war with one of America’s largest trading partners when the recovery is so sickly seems especially mindless. Some of his anti-immigration policies won’t help, either. And his attempts to lure American Jews with near-racist talk about Arabs and belligerence against Iran could ill serve the interests of his country (and, for that matter, Israel’s).
Here The Economist speaks directly to a point that I've been making, that Mitt Romney has been so boxed in by his move to gather the core conservative base around him that he can't get out, no matter his desire to etch-a-sketch a moderate view for the general election. The idea that, were he to win the presidency, this boxing effect would continue and lead to disastrous policies is a bit frightening. It's Mitt's Faustian bargain: to gain the power and glory of the highest office in the world, he would have to risk blowing it up.

That is Mitt's gamble. I really hope he loses. So does a growing chorus of Serious People.

They don't like me, they really, really don't like me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Obama as a Respectable Tory? Think about It.

The first Tory president.

I know some of my liberal friends -- and those I read -- might dispute this idea put forth by Andrew Sullivan, a conservative I read because he so often makes, if not sense, then at least an unrefracted offering of something resembling sense -- for a conservative.

Example: Sullivan supported Kerry, Obama, and now, again, Obama. Why? Sullivan tells us:
Of which other Western right of center party could the following be said: it holds that  man-made climate change is a hoax and that more carbon energy is harmless and indeed vital. On immigration, the party supports a vast wall across the Southern border, and eventual deportation by attrition of 11 million illegal immigrants. On the deficit and debt, the GOP is the only party in the West that refuses to raise any revenues to close the gap, even as revenues are at 60 year lows. On social issues, the GOP would ban any recognition for gay couples, including civil unions and would criminalize abortion in every state by constitutional amendment. More amazingly, a Romney presidency would tackle the genuinely dangerous debt and deficit by cutting taxes on everyone, especially the super-rich, vastly increasing defense spending, and making all the cuts in government medical care for the elderly and the poor. The poor get shafted first by gutting Medicaid; then the elderly get cosseted for another generation until mine and those younger than me - much poorer than the boomers - take the hit. It is, to put it bluntly, a near-parody of far-right extremism.

That, according to Sullivan, makes Obama a small-c conservative. I have long agreed, even though as a liberal I want all the things that are missing from this Obama administration. One of the commentators quoted in Sullivan's post, Daniel Larison, explains this to my satisfaction:
 If Obama had come to power in happier times he might have run a different, more expressly liberal, administration. (Then again: in happier times he might never have run for the Presidency, far less won it). But constrained by circumstance and events he’s been compelled to lead in a notable unideological fashion. Rather like one kind of old-fashioned Tory, in other words.

I can accept this view. I don't have to like it, when it comes to my Obama disappointments, but it goes along way toward my understanding why he's gone the way he has and why I hope he gets to go along for another four years.

I'm not all things to all people, but not because I haven't tried.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ryan's Post-Truthiness, Plus Insight from George Lakoff

The Todd Akin kerfuffle has Paul Ryan having to lie through his teeth about previously held beliefs. Daily Kos has a good breakdown:
Poor Paul Ryan. As one of the most fervent anti-woman Republicans in the House, he must be aching to come to the defense of his bestest bud Todd Akin. After all, they've voted together 93 percent of the time, so they see eye-to-eye on pretty much everything—including whether there are different types of rape that are not as bad as real rape and whether it's ever okay for women to have abortions. (Spoiler alert: Yes and no.)
But because Ryan is now Mitt Romney's running mate, he has to keep a lid on the crazy. The campaign even forced Ryan to sit down for an interview to disavow Akin's claims and pretend that he's shocked and offended by Akin articulating exactly what Ryan also believes.
Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin that would have separated out "forcible rape" from other kinds of rape. End of story. Oops, unless you're running for VP:

Soooo, Paul Ryan is a staunch pro-life candidate in every respect, until he isn't. What will his conservative base think? He'd better start wink-winking and nudge-nudging very soon.

*          *          *

Also for your edification I offer a gentleman named George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at UC Berkeley, whose theories have fascinated me since I met him at an education conference some years back. He writes today in the Huffington Post:
America was born with a great soul, a moral view of Democracy in which citizens care about their fellow citizens and join together to take responsibility not just for themselves but for each other, for America as a union, a joint enterprise. The government's job was to carry out that moral vision and to do so it created what we call The Public, the provision of basic protection and empowerment for all.
From the beginning of America, the Public provided roads and bridges, public schools, hospitals, a national bank, a patent office, police, a justice system, public buildings and records, and more. Since then the Public has expanded as public needs have expanded -- sewers, clean water, public transportation, public health and disease control, scientific research, the internet, GPS, an energy grid, parks, and much, much more.
The Public provides freedom, the freedom to use what the Public provides to live a decent life and to start businesses. Without the public, there would be no American way of life, no freedom to live a decent life, to run or work in businesses, or work as a public servant. The Public carries out the work of America's soul.

George Lakoff
Lakoff goes on to call a budget that doesn't provide for such public works a "Devil's Budget," which sounds a bit over the top until you stop to think exactly what he means: a budget that promises you that you don't have to pay for this stuff anymore because you won't have to pay taxes when you become incredibly wealthy with all this Randian, libertarian freedom is, in essence, a Faustian deal with the Devil. Why? It's simply because you don't get rich shipping your products on crumbling roads and collapsing bridges, or spotty Internet service or untrustworthy financial institutions, for that matter.

There's Hell to pay eventually. And it isn't hyperbole. It's what's for dinner, after the electrical grid fails.

Lakoff also attracted my attention with another point in his piece:
[...] A significant number of Americans do not share America's founding moral vision. They have a different one. Democracy in America provides the liberty to seek one's own interests and well-being, without being responsible for the interests or well-being of anyone else. It's a morality of personal, but not social, responsibility. The only freedom you should have is what you can provide for yourself, not what the Public provides for you to start out. [boldface mine.]
 Why this resonated so well with me is because of the blow-back -- even from some liberals -- I got when making the case for banning nearly all guns. I thought, what's so important about gun ownership in a society that already has such a robust police presence?

The immediate assumption is that citizens in the U.S. want to be armed to insure that the government can never take away their rights or to insure that a police state could never be imposed. That, however, isn't the reason, in my view, if only because, let's face it, we Americans have already ceded many of our rights -- and continue to let them slip away a little bit at a time -- and we already live in a police state. And the odd thing is that conservatives, who should stand most mightily against this eventuality, are principally to blame, with their law-and-order stance and staunch support of things such as the Patriot Act.

Lakoff's comments, especially the one I highlighted in boldface above, clued me in: conservatives do believe in and support law-and-order positions and laws such as the Patriot Act primarily because they don't think they apply to them. They truly believe it's the "bad guys" that are affected.

North Idaho's Lightfoot Militia: Not the bad guys?

As for the fascination with guns, they want gun ownership in order to maintain their personal prerogatives, even as guns don't actually do so. This they want, in spite of the police state they've encouraged and in spite of the fact that the freedom to own so many lethal weapons often blow back on them in the form of gun violence.

The bad guys.

That's why episodes like Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Columbine capture America's attention so vividly. When it's the "bad guys" or the "other guys" -- read urban blacks and Latino gangs -- who cares? When it's whites in suburban settings, it's real.

The Aurora, Colorado, victims.

The personal prerogatives, the individual needs of citizens trump the well-being of society. Truly a Devil's bargain.

James Holme's personal prerogatives included a hundred-round magazine.

It's the same with financial reform and regulations. Conservatives actually believe that law and order is for suckers, the "other guys." They want loose regulations so they can get theirs. Can't they see that they're the ones so often gotten?

Did Bernie Madoff's personal prerogatives include tight financial regulations?

And we all breath the same air whether we're "libtards" or drill-baby-drill, live-free-or-die conservatives.

What's so conservative about coal-fired power plants?

Obviously, you can put me in the public-good camp. If that makes me a socialist -- in favor of what's good for society -- call me that, too. I happen to believe that a true conservative would be a socialist, too.

Who created the government-regulated, single-payer healthcare system in Canada? The Canadian Parliament did by a unanimous vote, which included every single member of the Conservative Party. Wow. Some "Americans" do appreciate the public good.