The perils of self rule

Either these elections are getting worse or i’m getting more cynical, or maybe both. Look, i can respect opinions other than my own so i can see a healthy republic that isn’t a model of my political views. But there’s nothing to salvage here. The political system is well and truly fucked. We’ve got two candidates who will gut the social contract to the full extent of their ability. Both will continue solidifying and expanding the imperial presidency. We’re all inside the disposition matrix now. The poor, a healthy economy, the environment, these truths we hold to be self-evident and whatever else gets in the way will be sacrificed for the power and wealth of the few.

And if all that shit wasn’t enough, the answer to a dysfunctional political system appears to be ballot measures. Now i’d be in favor of a little direct democracy, but these ballot measures are even more easily manipulated than our politicians. For example, we’ve got one about building a second bridge to Canada on the ballot. The ballot language is such that if you’re against it, then you have to vote “yes.” Granted, ballot language is always confusing but the new wave of direct democracy seems particularly well designed to confuse the average voter…who is likely to be ignorant, irrational, and willfully misinformed, because that’s what makes us great. These measures are written and fought over in the public square by the dreaded “special interests.” They’re the ones buying the commercials and sending me flyers. We complain about politicians not reading the bills they vote on, but I can’t imagine that my fellow Americans are reading (and understanding) the measures they’re voting on. They’re doing what they’re told by liars, based on whose lies most comport with their personal feelings.

We’ve also got a “collective bargaining” measure that sounds good if you’re for the Platonic ideal of organized labor. But it may only be for public sector unions, admittedly under the gun of our new breed of Randian superheroes and self-made men with public educations collecting a paycheck from the State. See, i haven’t read the amendment either, and i know that i should as well as likely being capable of understanding it … which says nothing about whether my understanding will have anything to do with the implementation of the amendment.

And then there’s one about renewable energy mandates, which if the eyes of the actors in the commercial are to believed, will cause you to have a stroke when you open your electric bill. I like the idea of renewable energy and I get that without significant prodding, the holy market can be slow to react and accomplish what needs to be done. The problem is, do i trust the people writing the measure that we can pass into law to be doing it honestly and without corruption … and well … any more than I trust voting for assholes who think that rape is just all part of god’s plan?

No.

I voted for our medical marijuana amendment four years ago, enthusiastically, and cheered when the results came back showing that dope is significantly more popular than hope and John McCain is a distant third in that popularity contest. I don’t have a card. I just saw an opportunity for the people of my state to end run the colossal stupidity of the war on drugs. But as it turns out, that was a horribly written amendment. It left all sorts of loose ends like not establishing a legal distribution network beyond decriminalizing the black market network. So of course the politicians and cops have attacked that glaring loophole in addition to trying to find a way to overturn the will of the people. The same thing is happening with Arizona’smedical marijuana law. And if Colorado passes its brave decriminalization bill you can bet that all holy hell will break loose. Either of the liars that may win the presidency will come down with the full force of the federal government on Colorado for daring to practice democracy.

We like to think of ourselves as a nation of laws rather than men, but when you go to the polls tomorrow, stop and think about the men you’re electing to write and implement those laws. Think about your fellow men (and take a long look in the mirror) who are crafting and voting on these ballot measures. It is men who will be enforcing the laws. It is men who will take your vote as an enthusiastic acceptance and support for them doing whatever the hell they want to do. And don’t forget that it is men who will look at the results of your experiments in direct democracy and decide whether you’re right, wrong, or incompetent to make those decisions. Unfortunately, we probably are incompetent to make those decisions, and since we vote for politicians based on who we’d like to have a beer with and which church they attend, those assholes are every bit as incompetent as we are.

I’ll go vote. I was raised to view it as an obligation. But it won’t be for Obama or Romney. It won’t be for Stabenow or Hoekstra. It won’t be for McDowell or Benishek. I don’t know what i’ll do with the constitutional amendments on my MI ballot. I should probably abstain, because i’m old, cynical, and apathetic enough to realize that none will be what they seem and most will be the equivalent of voting Democratic or Republican. I won’t vote for a Democrat or a Republican for the rest of my life. i wouldn’t vote for Obama if i knew ahead of time that mine would be the deciding vote. Let it end in a tie and they can fight to the death for it. And more, and more, i’m coming to the conclusion that my compatriots who vote for either of these parties hate America, freedom, Democracy. That you tactical, strategic, and disturbingly ideological voters are what’s wrong with this nation; it’s you that allow the foxes into the henhouse and the chickenhawks to rule the roost.

God Bless America. We’re gonna need it, because the people entrusted with maintaining the Republic sure as shit aren’t up to the task.

A vote, but not for any candidate

Romney vs. Obama. This is the exact matchup I was hoping for a year ago when the Republicans were looking under rocks and tearing up logs to find someone, anyone who wasn’t the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon. But at the time, Romney was the reasonable, adult candidate compared to the other candidates in the field. Perry? Newt? Santorum? Bachmann? Lunatics running the asylum.

There was a point in this election season when I wasn’t sure who I’d vote for in a (then) hypothetical Romney vs. Obama race. I was so unhappy about Obama’s lack of progress in solving our nation’s real problems (with one thoroughly mixed bag, namely health care) that I was ready to vote for a change.

But then Romney tacked hard to the right and started running against the very things that made me consider him in the first place. He went from being the moderate governor of a blue state to a firebrand Tea Party member in order to appeal more to the base of the Republican party, and in the process he threw away his own sanity and joined the lunatics.

When Romney did that, he made my decision easy because he demonstrated that he was a slug – small-minded, spineless, and slimy. If elected, would Romney run the country as he had the state of Massachusetts, or would he rule as a Tea Party king over the 99%? I don’t know, but I do know that his personal transformation clearly demonstrates that Romney lacks a properly functioning ethical compass.

I’m still saddened that voting for Obama became so easy, though. It’s not like I’m really voting FOR Obama, since he’s not really my candidate – he’s ignored climate disruption, expanded the use of drones, failed to shut down Guantanamo, expanded the imperial presidency, and adopted too many of Bush II’s policies just for starters – it’s more that I’m voting against Romney.

And when I fill in the bubble next to Obama’s name tomorrow, I’ll worry that I’m doing the wrong thing. Not because I think Romney would be good for the United States of America over the short run – he’ll be horrible for the country over the short run – but because there’s an argument to be made that Romney will be so bad for the country that the backlash will create a generation of honestly progressive leadership and change.

Romney winning would lead to an era of internal conflict that the USA hasn’t seen since at least Vietnam, and as horrible as that would be for us to live through, I’m not convinced that there is any way to avoid it. And if you can’t avoid the pain, best to get it over quickly so you can start healing sooner.

The United States faces real issues. The perversion of our election process by money, a faltering education system, pollution, industrial climate disruption (aka climate change), degrading soil, health care, a bloated defense budget, etc. all need to be addressed, and by leaders who are serious about addressing them. Back in 2008 I hoped that Obama would do that, and I have been largely disappointed. I will vote tomorrow in the hope that Obama’s second term will be when he can focus on the real, serious issues that need to be solved and turn away from all the stupid bullshit that merely distracts.

And I’ll vote against the candidate whose entire campaign has been about distraction.

The seven kinds of rape (thx to the GOP for sorting this out)

Back in the old days rape was rape. Or, at most, there were two kinds. There was the “put on a ski mask and rape her at knifepoint” type and there was the “she said she was 18” statutory type. Which wasn’t really rape at all, because, I mean, LOOK at her. And she really wanted it.

These days it’s more complicated. There’s ALL KINDS of rape, and it’s important to understand the differences because some of them have distinctly religious implications. That is, if you’re being raped, it helps to be aware of whether or not it’s God’s will, for instance. That way you can know whether or not you should be enjoying it (in a holy spirit way, not a sins of the flesh way, you whore) and you can even be thinking about whether or not you’ll be blessed with a pregnancy. Maybe you can even start thinking about baby names.

Brainwrap over at Kos has updated the handy-dandy Republican Rape Advisory Chart you may have seen floating around on Facebook. It explains the different kinds of rape and provides certifying information from Republican candidates for elected office so that you know it’s valid and not some shit that a bozo just made up.

Please share this with any friends you think might benefit from it. You know, like potential rapists or undecided women voters.

On Nov. 6, I'll vote for a liar for president

No matter how I try to rationalize it, I’m going to vote for a liar for president of the United States. And, no matter how I try to ignore history, I realize that I likely have always voted for a liar for virtually any political office.

I do not know anyone who has not told a lie. Size and intent of the lie does not matter; lies are lies. I know that lies come in a variety of shades, some of which have become socially acceptable. Honey, does this dress make my ass look fat? A man who answers no lies to protect the dignity of the woman. Oh, don’t worry about those few extra pounds. You still look hot to me. The woman who says that protects the frail ego of a man. When the pet rabbit dies, mom or dad tells little Bobby I’m sure Hoppy went to heaven.

We lie to protect the feelings of others. But we still lie, because we know absolute truth corrodes relationships.

But politicians lie to manipulatively establish and maintain relationships. Lies fertilize the ground on which campaigns are constructed. Candidates at all levels of politics lie, cheat, and deceive. Google “political lies” and explanations of why they lie abound.

Politicians lie for one seriously egregious reason. The lie: I’m running for office to bring real solutions to the American people. The truth: I want to achieve status and power. Then, if I can help the people — especially those who helped me buy my way to status and power — I’ll do so. A few decades ago, particularly odiferous political lies were usually caught by the press, reported by same, and produced revulsion in the electorate. Ask Richard Nixon.

But not so much now. We longer believe truth is possible in political campaigns. The sheer volume of corporate-supported advertising bearing lies, falsehoods, prevarications, deceptions, and context-free “facts” has inured the electorate. After all, candidates in many deceptive ads say, I approved this message. They have permitted lies in their names. So we expect lies. Lies become Truth-Lite™, what candidates believe we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.

The press has been complicit in fostering the staggering growth in political deceit: As media critics have noted, journalists have often focused on who’s lying more effectively rather than correcting the discursive record distorted by lies — the new post-truth journalism. Add the notion that the electoral audience is now firmly camped in an endless electronic chat room less reliant on “gatekeepers.”

The methods of lying have become the news and the fodder of pundits — not the lies themselves. That’s made lying by politicians easier. It has allowed politicians to lie with far more sophistication and not be corrected on the record. Consider the emergence of false equivalence — the tendency fostered by the political press that “objectivity” is a function of “balance,” that “both sides do it all the time.”

The invention of issues by pundits has created discourse that isn’t grounded in reality in the first place — so lies fill the void, and they’re effective if the pundits have ingratiated themselves with an audience eager to be lied to. It’s called motivating the political base. Lying to the already converted — those resistant to reason and cordoned off by ideological choice from rhetorical reality — is highly effective modern political practice.

The modern media universe of celebrity and “tell all” journalism has not made lying less profitable. No lie is too large to halt the deluge of money from donors. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and given to politicians who lie. Therefore, politicians have permission to lie even more.

If lying has no significant political cost (although Sen. Gary Hart’s lie cost him his chance for the presidency), then lies beget more lies. Information becomes disinformation and misinformation. The public square has no shared factual commitments essential to honest discourse. Lying has eroded our ability to assess the moral compasses of our politicians. Are we now stuck with determining who lies less as the new standard for electability rather than who utters truth?

When it comes to our two presidential candidates, even the fact-checkers, it seems, cannot agree on which man lies most.

They both lie. So no matter which one I support, I will be supporting a liar.

Would someone please explain to me what we gain by having liars in the White House, Congress, and the statehouses of America?

h/t to my fellow Scrogues who allowed me to steal their ideas.

It’s election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part IV

Ten CommandmentsPart IV of a series.

Today my ever-so-patient readers get off easy. Why? Because as cynical as I am, I simply am not psychic.

The fourth commandment (as per the previous posts, as reckoned by Catholicism) is:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
Exodus 20:12 (NASB) 

Simply, I fail to find anything that would indicate that the parents of either Governor Romney or President Obama ever commanded them to govern or campaign as they do, or otherwise. Continue reading

It’s election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part III

Ten CommandmentsPart III of a series.

Once again, it is time to challenge the gentle reader who votes on faith to take a good, hard look at the candidate for whom they intend to vote. Even as one who likely does not share your faith, I respect the importance this decision has for you. More than that, I respect the manner in which you need to make this decision, especially this year. For an observer looking at the choice and the nature of the choice from the outside, it seems you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I might not vote on faith, but I do vote on conscience. Trust me, it sure feels like an equally ugly decision.

As for today’s topic, the third of the Ten Commandments (as reckoned by Catholicism), I must confess…this one is awfully tricky. Continue reading

Obama wins Twitter statfest. So what?

In the world of meaningless statistics (see many NBA, NFL, MLB, and other sports stats), TPM has emerged as a new faux arbiter of political reality. You don’t grok TPM? That’s “Tweets Per Minute,” knuckleheads.

From @gov, Twitter’s government and politics team:

A new record political moment on Twitter: @barackobama drives 52,757 Tweets per minute. Over 9 million Tweets sent about #DNC2012.

And PCMag enthusiastically passes on Twitter’s parsing of the tweets by one-liners in the speech:

• 43,646: “I’m no longer just the candidate, I’m the President.”
• 39,002: “I will never turn medicare into a voucher.”
• 38,597: Discussing Medicare
• 37,694: “We don’t think government can solve all our problems.”
• 34,572: Quips about the Olympics and “Cold War mind warp.”

And more tweet stats are offered as well without an ounce of analysis what they mean — if anything.
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It's election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part II

Ten CommandmentsPart II of a series.

When last I ventured into the blogsophere, I had some opinions to share on the alleged righteousness of our two dominant candidates for President of the United States, through the lens of the first commandment. Today I’ll attempt a similar analysis by assessing them against the second Commandment, but first, a bit of what only appears to be a digression.

As anyone who has read my previous observations on American religious culture, particular on Christian culture, may guess, I have rather strong feelings on the matter. Continue reading

It's election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part I

Ten CommandmentsPart I of a series.

In just over two months it’s time to exercise your right, nay, your duty as an American citizen. Odds are good you’ve already made up your mind about which candidate gets your vote. But on what basis, exactly? As Dr. Denny points out in his latest missive,

We should be angry. We should be outraged. We should be furious at the unabashed effrontery of candidates for national office who lie directly to our collective face. But the sheer volume of repetitions of deceit, especially through the mass-mediated, billionaire-paid-for negative ads, arrives at our collective ears as so much endless white noise. Continue reading

American values: Mom, God, apple pie, 'post-truth'

Survey question: Who is left in America’s national political life who holds the unreserved admiration of the majority of respondents?

Suppose that survey question (as poorly worded as it is) had been administered just 20 years ago for comparison. The smart money would bet it’s a much shorter list these days than the list of yore.

Why would the list be shorter? Part of the reason lies in individual assessment of life’s fortunes. National candidates trot out an old canard every two and four years: Are you better off today than (fill in the blank)? Two decades ago, only as far back as 1992 — before a startling increase in multi-hundred-billion-dollar, unprosecuted financial shenanigans; before more faraway wars of choice, before fears of terrorist attacks trumped the privacy of citizens; before the tech bubble and then the housing bubble popped after the greedy got theirs; before the highest court in the land declared money to be protected speech; before ideologues reframed citizen dissent as a lack of patriotism; before members of Congress spent more time dialing for dollars than legislating; before two Bushes and an Obama (and now a Romney) promised the undeliverable — could your imagination have conjured up the Grand American Fubar™ in which we now struggle to live, let alone prosper? Continue reading

News media failing with blatant bias

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Just spent the past three days surfing in and out of the GOP’s Isaac-shortened convention. PBS carried it a lot. The commercial networks gave it just an hour a night.

The armchair commentators of the networks, with the exception, of course, of Fox News, was subtly and, at times, blatantly biased against Mitt Romney and Republicans, in general.

For several years a neighbor of mine, who is far to the right, has complained about liberal media bias. As a journalist, I have been a staunch defender of news coverage which on a local, daily basis is often as fair and accurate as can be expected. I know how eyewitnesses can observe vastly different versions of the same event, how politicians can spin a message then deny saying it, how covering sad and gruesome events like plane crashes, tornadoes, hurricanes, car accidents and violence can be difficult and how hard I used to try, and my colleagues, too, to do our jobs with accuracy and thoroughness. Continue reading

Romney set to make campaign history? (#WTF alert)

Earlier this year, as the Man of the People® Tour rolled around the nation in search of new constituencies to offend, it became apparent that presumptive GOP nominee Thurston Howell III Mitt Romney is the sort of man who sometimes doesn’t think things through all the way. Which is bad for him, but fun for the political theater fans amongst us. Chevy Chase probably has his agent on the phone with Lorne Michaels right now. After what Chase did to the Gerald Ford campaign, it boggles the mind imagining what he’d do with Mitt.

Now this:

Romney steps away from Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts Continue reading

Questions from the presidential campaign debate moderator and how Lawrence O'Donnell has it so wrong

Hot AirOn the subject of tax returns, Lawrence O’Donnell, with whom I often agree, has the whole idea of the question the debate moderator ought to ask specifically of the Romney/Ryan side…all wrong. To challenge the secrecy of the Romney/Ryan camp, O’Donnell wants to grossly oversimplify with the one word question, “Why?”

To be fair, he did expand the question a bit, but I still think he misses the boat. Why, however framed, is still the kind of open-ended invitation to hot air that the candidates will thrive on.

Governor Romney, given the fact that you found it perfectly reasonable to release twenty-three years of your tax returns to the McCain campaign four years ago when they were considering you for the vice presidential nomination, and given the fact that you demanded to see several years of Paul Ryan’s tax returns to evaluate his fitness to serve as vice president, why shouldn’t voters be able to see your tax returns and Paul Ryan’s tax returns to make the same judgment you did about candidates fitness to serve? Continue reading

Genuine political fakes vs. a rank imposter

Romney the imposterBy Robert Becker

Great news this week for majority rule: CNN polling reported 63% think Bain Capital exploits make Mitt Romney more likely to “make good decisions handling” the economy over the next four years. What else matters to hardscrabble anguish in towns like Peoria, Illinois? Let’s hire a tough, no-nonsense CEO to remake America as Bain remade venture capital — and none of that feel-good, sentimental socialism.

Moreover, six in ten honorable voters (CBS/NY Times) won’t let jaw-dropping Bain revelations “matter to their vote” (so much for predation, outsourcing, job demolition, and tax-avoidance sleaze). Finally, 54% (USA Today/Gallup) affirm Mitt’s “personality and leadership qualities” are what a “president should have.” Exactly what “qualities,” pray tell, other than deviant capitalism and a gaffe-filled, policy-free pageant that glorifies his zealous “elasticity”? Continue reading

Good week in the courts for the Obama Administration

It’s been a good week in the federal courts for the Obama Administration.

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency – and against a legion of state Attorneys General and industry groups – on the EPA’s greenhouse gas Endangerment Finding. The states and industry groups had asked the appeals court to overturn the Endangerment Finding based on a host of arguments ranging from “there’s too much uncertainty in the science” to “the EPA abused its authority” to “the EPA misread the Clean Air Act.” The court disagreed, emphatically and occasionally sardonically, and dismissed every one of 26 separate petitions that the various states and industry groups had filed. S&R is analyzing the 82 page opinion in detail and will be publishing several posts about it in the coming weeks.

And today, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. Continue reading

Defense spending: How much is enough? Who decides? How?

The preamble to the American Constitution requires that government “provide for the common defence.” I would hope that no American would wish this country to be inadequately prepared to fend off threats to the survival of the Republic.

But what is adequate? Where is the substantive, deliberative debate on how to define adequacy of American military power?

Our two principal presidential candidates, challenger Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama, have differing views on the current adequacy of the nation’s defense capability. Speeches and extemporaneous rhetoric aside, neither of their official, eponymous campaign websites clearly define such adequacy or how they’d reach it.
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Time to revisit high-school civics lesson: Does your vote matter any more?

I first voted in an American national election in 1964. Lyndon Baines Johnson ran against Barry (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”) Goldwater, the elder-statesman conservative who later successfully persuaded Richard Nixon to resign.

I voted for LBJ. The landslide swept Goldwater into a conservative backwater.

I have voted in every national election since then. But not voting this November has crept into my mind. And it’s not because I believe both candidates for president are hapless morons incapable of governing with some degree of effectiveness. (Yeah, I’ve got my doubts about both of these guys. They’re not that different.) And it’s not because I’ve grown weary of my own senator, the estimable three-termer Chuck Schumer, glomming onto every microphone and minicam he can find.

No, it’s because I’ve come to believe massive amounts of money from very few people have trumped my individual vote. And that money — much of it political largesse from billionaires — has made my individual vote a largely ineffective tool with which to dislodge an incumbent.
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Did Romney just promise to end all federal subsidies — including oil and farm aid?

Once again, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has taken to task the president of the United States. This time, it’s over the federal subsidies provided to A123 Systems, a manufacturer of batteries for electric cars. A123, report Bill Vlasic and Matt Wald of The New York Times, is supposed to be “a centerpiece of his administration’s effort to use $2 billion in government subsidies to jump-start production of sophisticated electric batteries in the United States.”

A123, despite the promise of a new technology it plans to reveal soon, has been losing money — and some of that money has been provided as a subsidy by the feds. There are reasons, of course: a weak economy, lukewarm demand for electric vehicles whose prices have yet to descend to the financial means of the masses, and difficult, complicated issues unresolved by engineers.

President Obama faced a political debacle after Solyndra stumbled and failed. So A123 failure coupled to his desire to use government funding to enhance a new energy economy has provided Romney with a chance to roar again about the power of the free market.
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Romney vs. Obama: Big campaign cash spent neither wisely nor well

On the north wall of my living room is a 37- by 58-inch map of the United States. It shows only landforms and drainage. It is beautifully executed.

There are no state boundaries on the map. There are no political divisions on the map of any kind, not even the names of states or cities or towns. There are just landforms — rivers, mountains, valleys, plateaus, lakes.

This map is all of us, commingled in our differences. But until November, we will be shown differing, even disturbing, realities in other media-manufactured and “Magic Wall” maps of the United States. Pundits and candidates will talk about red states and blue states and purple states — battleground states vs. safe states. And we’ll likely be shown maps with different shades of green.

Those green maps will show who’s spending what amounts of political money where. (For example, scroll down to this Washington Post map showing political ad spending by states. Some markets get plenty; many get bupkis.) But it’s not likely that we’ll be shown maps identifying the sources of that money — because, it seems, the Supreme Court of these United States says much of this money, given by the few, can be hidden from us, the many.
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Slogging 'Forward' toward campaign slogans

powerlinesBy Robert Becker

Finally, erratic Obama wordsmiths have slogged their way to the ideal slogan: “Forward,” aptly safe and succinct and vacuous. What if it echoes MSNBC’s “Lean Forward,” itself no powerhouse of punch? Less is certainly more these days, and this president notches one more historic threshold: no other slogan since 1844 relies on only one word.

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic explained, slogans vary when focus shifts — from foreign policy to health care, now to the economy. But “nobody seems to know exactly what the message is, or what this campaign is about,” she opined, a main “part of the problem with Obama’s presidency. It’s sort of been all over the place.”

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