Sunday, December 09, 2012

Loss of the Republic of Franklin

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Franklin's Republic Lost

Probably another apocryphal quote, but Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have been asked what the new American government was, and his answer is widely reported as "A republic, if you can keep it." Well, we just lost it. Not because President Obama won reelection, though that was a widespread lament of the right-wing authoritarians--but sometimes there is a grain of truth even in the rantings of nuts. There are plenty of extremists out there who are ready to be certified, but in this case they came close to a truth they couldn't see. The death knell of the American experiment with a representative republic was actually the victory of the incumbents in the House of Representatives.

Let me repeat that the crucial results in this election were NOT at the top in the presidential and Senatorial elections, but at the bottom, in the local elections for the House. In brief, most of the voters actually voted for Democratic Party candidates for the House of Representatives, and yet the result is that the Democratic Party only has about 45 percent of the members of the new House. The Congress went into this election with an approval rating around 10 percent, and yet roughly 90 percent of the incumbents were reelected to their positions.

Before considering the reasons, it's worth considering the rationale behind the design of the House of Representatives. The House was specifically designed to be highly responsive to the voting constituents. That's why their terms were set to only two years. The idea was that their accountability would make them responsible and for that reason they could be given the primary responsibility for controlling the purse strings.

On one level, the outcome represents the power of partisan gerrymandering, which is basically a triumph of the targeted investment of conservative money in lower-level elections, especially over the last few years. Entire States such as Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have had their Democratic voters packed into districts that essentially waste a large fraction of the Democratic votes. (My own district has been stretched 300 kilometers to flip away from the Democrats.) Meanwhile, the neo-GOP carefully distributes their own voters into statistically safe districts around 55% that maximize the number of districts they capture. At the presidential level, the Electoral College has the same effect of negating most voters as regards the presidency. (This pressure from big businessmen has been around for a long time, and it isn't the first time the GOP was trying to create a permanent majority. The major difference this time around involves the pro-money tilt of the Supreme Court, which certainly looks to be decisive as things stand now.)

There are several other factors that should be considered but mostly dismissed. One is the cooperation of the incumbents of both parties to insure their reelections. This is the only thing that both parties can agree on, but there is clearly a tipping point effect. It is quite clear that many states have passed the point where the Democratic Party has any influence on the redistricting process. Rather than cooperating with the more powerful politicians to make things smoother for everyone, they now target those opposition leaders quite deliberately. Another factor is the dominance of money, but correlation is NOT the same thing as causation. Yes, the candidate with more money usually wins, but the events are not independent, and it is more likely that the candidate who is most likely to win is going to have the easiest time collecting money. It's the motivation of the donations that matter. Some people donate as insurance, but the neo-GOP is now dominated by investors who expect specific returns in exchange for their donations. Let me reiterate that most businesspeople are fine and upstanding people who just want to play the game, but it is the LEAST ethical businessmen who make those investments in the most cheaply bribed politicians.

The next level is less obvious. The central idea of public elections is that the candidates are supposed to talk to the voters about the issues and their plans, and the so-called mainstream media is supposed to facilitate the political process by disseminating that information. However, what has actually happened is that the media coverage focuses on making the election look like an interesting horse race, and the serious, but difficult and even boring, discussions of the real issues get ignored.. The professional journalists are supposedly responsible to influence or even push the discussions so that the elections actually do involve substantial debates of the real issues facing the voters. What's wrong?

It's the money that drives the media to the horse races and away from the real issues. After this election, there has been some noise about how the neo-GOP wasted over a billion dollars in this election cycle, especially in the presidential race. Was that money wasted? Did it disappear? Absolutely not. The deeper story is where the money went. Most of it went to the media companies such as television stations that ran campaign ads, especially in the so-called swing states and hot districts. I read that the nonpublic SuperPACs sometimes had to pay 10 times the most favorable rates that the laws provide for the official public advertisements of the regular candidates. Talk about your windfall profits! It's also important to note that these profits were concentrated in only certain media markets. Not sure how large these profits were, but I am sure that the people who made them liked those profits and would be glad to get more in the next election.

So was the billion dollars wasted? If you got your beak wet, you wouldn't think so, would you? My new hypothesis is that the billion dollars wasn't wasted, but represents highly effective bribes invested in the mainstream media to insure they play the same games in the the next election. It's worth noting that negative money is less evidently less effective at the higher levels, both because the higher level candidates are stronger and because of the blow-back taint that sometimes affects such high-level candidates. In contrast, in the low-level elections, it's relatively easier to find and sling enough mud to control the results--and it pretty clearly worked for the House of Representatives quite well this time.

My final conclusion is that the presidential election was mostly just a distraction, the bright shiny object that kept the voters from actually looking at the real problems of the nation, including the problems in the election system itself. Yes, the presidential election mattered, and I think that Romney's performance as president would have been on the scale from harmful to terrible, but the real damage was being done elsewhere. The political system has been disrupted and destroyed in a way that makes a mockery of the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Luck of Obama, but...

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The Luck of O'bama:
Is President Obama Secretly Irish?

This is basically a commentary on the election of 2012. I will explain why I think the outcome was mostly a matter of luck and why the entire thing (including most of the results) were just more symptoms of the ongoing sickness of democracy in modern America.

First I have to include a disclaimer to prevent neo-GOP authoritarians from claiming this proves liberals agree with their defense of their OWN incompetence and their OWN reality-divorced stupidity. They are projecting again. The rest of the world doesn't require monolithic thinking and conformance to the official party line. That was how the Bolsheviks, Nazis, and Maoists (among others) ran things, and for largely the same reason. When you actually represent an extremist minority position, you have to speak with a single voice and single opinion. If you try to cite my comments in defense of your propaganda, this disclaimer will emerge into the full context and I will be quite glad to say you are lying AGAIN. If there is ANY lesson you right-wing authoritarians should learn from this election, it is that there are limits to how far you can carry a lie. Even Romney reached his limits, and he is almost certainly the greatest liar I've over seen.

Here are my main points:
  1. President Obama is an extremely lucky fellow, and though luck is quite important, luck alone can't cure what ails America. Actually I feel like the best we can hope for is that Obama's luck helps keep the patient alive until a real cure appears. Unfortunately, even as an amateur historian, I'm unable to feel a lot of optimism.
  2. Superstorm Sandy was the primary factor that led to his reelection. Though it was bad fortune for a lot of people, the precise timing and location had a powerful and fortuitous effect on the election. I'm not saying it was the only factor, but it certainly mattered and in a narrow election, I tend to believe it was decisive. Extreme weather events are becoming almost routine as the climate changes, but the details are a matter of luck, uniformly bad in the case of Katrina (mostly due to poor preparations and responses), but relatively mixed in this case, especially considering how many more people could have died if the response had been weaker.
  3. The presidential election should not have been a close contest from the day when Romney picked Paul Ryan as his V-P nominee. Romney's statements about his policies and positions are meaningless, but picking Ryan was his first binding presidential decision, and it clearly defined Romney as part and parcel of the lunatic fringe of American politics.
  4. Even worse, the House of Representative, which is part of a Congress with a current approval rating around 10%, managed to reelect almost all of it's incumbents. The neo-GOP retained its House majority even though the neo-GOP candidates received substantially fewer votes than the Democratic Party candidates. The Founding Fathers intended that the House would be MORE responsive to the will of the voters, and this travesty is strong evidence that the system they created is on its last legs.
  5. In conclusion, if the neo-GOP extremists and authoritarians continue to block smooth evolutionary change, then the problems they are unintentionally and foolishly nurturing will lead to the chaotic revolution they most fear. Since the speed of change is so rapid these days, their catastrophe may arrive quite soon.
Now let me expand a bit on some of these points.

The tradition of how to win in American elections has been for both candidates to claim the center and sell themselves to the moderate voters. Romney's campaign had realized (probably from the start) that they needed to make a play for the center to win, and apparently their market research convinced them they could delay that play until the last few weeks of the campaign.

In the closing days of the campaign, Romney was pivoting to the center around a claim that President Obama was weak, incompetent, and too partisan to govern American effectively. Then Superstorm Sandy struck. Essentially for an entire week Obama received nothing but favorable media coverage showing how strong, competent, and bipartisan he actually is. Romney's attack ads were also cut from the air. It certainly helps that this view of Obama is basically the truth, and it put the lie to Romney's sales pitch. The attack on Obama as partisan was especially offensive insofar as the documented reality was that the neo-GOP had resolved NOT to cooperate in ANY way from the day that President Obama took his oath of office--and in spite of their OWN oaths to the Constitution.

However, the truth was never relevant to Romney's campaign, which was an endless stream of lies from beginning to end. At that point in the campaign Romney need to hold on to that particular set of lies for another week. There was no time to create plausible new lies with the appropriate new ads, and the result was President Obama's victory. I don't know how to price the week of free publicity and the loss of Romney's advertising airtime, but I think Romney's (mostly secret) monetary advantage was at least a billion dollars, and that was obviously cancelled out by Superstorm Sandy.

Romney's entire campaign was like a kleptomaniac visiting the lie store. I want to call it "Adventures of a Kleptomaniac in the Field of Lies", but a real kleptomaniac is sick and acting compulsively. As I've noted elsewhere, I think Romney just lies because the truth has no intrinsic value to him. He's like Nixon, in that I think he is smart enough to know what is true and false, but like Nixon, his only concern in his statements is instrumental, in whether or not he can use a statement to his advantage, and truth or falsity is irrelevant.

Romney never should have mounted a serious campaign because he didn't start with an albatross around his neck. It was more like several flocks of albatrosses, and President Obama's failure to use those albatrosses more effectively against Romney is the only reason I think the campaign was ever close. One flock could be tagged "Dubya", and even if you dismiss the junior Bush as irrelevant now, Romney had surrounded himself with many members of that disastrous administration. Another flock involved his business dealings and tax returns, and there was a third flock around his "severely conservative" performance as governor in Massachusetts. It wasn't until the end of the campaign that I learned how false were his claims of bipartisan leadership at that time, where the reality was large numbers of vetoes and many overrides of his vetoes by his legislature, sometimes even including the overriding votes of the members of his OWN party.

Early in the campaign I actually said this kind of outcome was worthless. We have already watched several years of the obstructionist Congress putting their neo-GOP partisan concerns ahead of the nation while loudly accusing their opponents of doing exactly that. I think President Obama should have almost turned his back on Romney in the campaign and focused great efforts on the worst of these political hacks. He should have made them into national figures and forced Romney to their defense, while also forcing the neo-GOP to pour money into those black holes such as Michele Bachmann, who barely managed to survive by outspending her opponent by $12 for every $1 (that we know of, but there was probably more money under her table). As it actually came out, only a few of these lunatics were defeated, and Romney was only caught in a couple of embarrassing endorsements. In one of those cases (the Senatorial race in Indiana), Obama's campaign advantageously exploited Romney's endorsement in a very powerful series of ads.

By the way, I only made two small donations in this campaign, and one of them was targeted at 11 of these extremists. Four or five of the 11 were defeated by relatively small leverage. Unfortunately Bachmann and the one Romney had endorsed were two of the survivors, but if the Democratic Party had gotten more heavily involved in these races, I think their defeats could have helped lead the way to the rout the neo-GOP Congress richly deserved. (My other donation was to Mother Jones for their part in publication of the 47% video, which quite probably hurt Romney's campaign as much as Superstorm Sandy.)

In spite of the pessimistic title of "Distant View of America's Fall", I want to end on an optimistic note. Maybe the neo-GOP will realize that there is no reason to be totally obstructive now. President Obama is done with his political career now, and he has nothing to do but run the country, more easily with their assistance (even if it is grudging), but it would suit me just as well if he did it on top of their political corpses. Most of them are going to have to run again in two years, and they could actually claim some credit if the country is in better shape at that time. So let me close with a few suggested issues that President Obama could use for seeking a more bipartisan working relationship with the same politicians who have tried to cut his hand off every time he's extended it towards them. Hope spring eternal, eh?

Here are some possible areas of bipartisan agreement:
  1. Disaster relief for Superstorm Sandy. No reason for the neo-GOP to punish the victims, even though many of them are still angry at Chris Christie for his 'treasonous' bipartisan behavior when his state was drowning.
  2. An agreement to defer to the states on marijuana. States' rights has been a favorite topic of many conservatives, and two states have just voted to decriminalize marijuana in spite of the federal laws.
  3. Normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Hey, even many of the neo-GOP pundits realize that their relationships with Hispanic-Americans need to be improved, and I think everyone should be able to agree that Castro is no longer relevant.
  4. Campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, there is already evidence that the neo-GOP extremists think the "real lesson" of this incredibly expensive campaign was that they didn't "invest" enough money in the campaigns, especially at the presidential and senatorial levels. Gamblers have a tendency to throw good money after bad.
  5. Stopping the neo-GOP war on women and their rights. Oh wait, now I'm babbling.

Friday, July 06, 2012

There will be more change

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There Will be More Change

An open letter to Lloyd Doggett (and Dan Grant):
There was once a time when I felt that I was participating in America's government and that my vote was just as good as the vote of any other American. That was a long time ago, and you [Llyod Doggett] were my representative to Congress in those days.

There will be change.

One of the older changes was that my district was gerrymandered. I didn't change my mind or move or decide that you no longer represented my [basically moderate] ideas. The district was deliberately changed and mangled to make it into a "safe" neo-GOP district. Amusingly, I just read that they had to gerrymander it some more to defend the trivial political tool whose name I can't recall. That district should be the poster child for anti-democratic neo-GOP tactics. (In response to the gerrymandering, you moved, and two Democratic representatives were reduced to one, which was the entire point of the exercise.)

Today I decided to do some searches on the big Internet. I was looking for a recent video of Lloyd Doggett and President Obama speaking together. Couldn't find one.

I searched for my district and found that someone named Dan Grant will apparently be the Democratic candidate for my district. I looked for a video of "Dan Grant and Obama". Nothing.

I visited both of your websites. You both want my money. Sorry, but that's a silly request. I can't help you against Sheldon Adelson and Mitt Romney and the Kolk Brothers and Karl Rove and a few of their extremely rich friends. For each dollar I would strain to give you, Sheldon Adelson can easily give a million.

The ONLY way my money donated to you could possibly matter is if there is a massive multiplier to make things more fair. Looking at the recent results in Wi$con$in and California (Proposition 29), that would take some convincing. You don't need to fool all of the people all of the time. You just need to fool about 20% of the voters on Election Day.

Here's a campaign suggestion. If I do that kind of search, I should get some videos. Show me President Obama endorsing the candidate and telling me that it's up to me--to ME personally--whether or not that candidate has a chance. It's up to ME whether democracy has a chance in America against the corporate money. I don't think Obama should go into the nitty-gritty local issues, but rather focus on corporate personhood. I actually think President Obama should endorse a simple Constitutional Amendment saying that human rights have priority OVER corporate rights, and I believe that ANY candidate I would support should agree to that position. (Of course, I think that the neo-GOP candidates would be lying about their agreement to negate the issue.)

Let's imagine that President Obama can flip a few districts from "safe neo-GOP incumbent" to "probable Democratic challenger". Here are my predictions for what would happen:

(1) Karl Rove and his friends would pour a FLOOD of black money into those districts, but it would be relatively visible (because of the concentration) and it would have a HUGE multiplier effect (since there would be almost no Democratic campaign money involved).

(2) Mill Romney would be obliged to respond by leaping to the defense, and most of the people he would be forced to defend and link himself to are extremist morons.

Here are some more changes America desperately needs: Joe Walsh, Allen West, Peter King, and a bunch of other rightwing lunatic neo-GOP politicians.

Some of those madmen should be black holes. They are SUCH bad candidates that NO amount of money will save them, but by making them prominent national figures and exploiting their irrational hatred of President Obama, the neo-GOP is liable to pour a LOT of money into those black holes before they figure that out. When they give up on those districts after accepting the challenge, they will be LOSERS in the most public and humiliating way possible--plus they will have that much less money to spend elsewhere.

Oh yeah. The neo-GOP thing. Today's so-called Republican Party is NOT the progressive and liberal party created by Abraham Lincoln. It is NOT the GOP of such leaders as Teddy Roosevelt and General "Ike" Eisenhower. The neocons were NOT conservative, and today's neo-GOP is even farther from their Republican so-called roots.

I want to rant on about political philosophy and flagrant liars in American politics, but let me try to reduce it to a simple theme. Most businesspeople are good folks, but the WORST businessmen are legally bribing the CHEAPEST professional politicians to write the WORST possible laws. At this point the rules of the game of American business require your company to become an evil cancer just to survive--and now, thanks to Citizens United, I think the corporations are calling the shots. The experiment in democracy in America was a glorious one, but I think it's over. Please prove me wrong.

A narrow victory of President Obama that retains an obstructionist Congress will NOT lead to change. We have seen that over the last years. The only hope for America is if the neo-GOP Congress is CRUSHED in November. Time to go on the offensive.

Freedom. It's about meaningful and unconstrained choice, not beer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

There will be change

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There Will be Change

An open letter to President Obama:

America is dying, and it's my fault. I'm not a powerful person, so the degree of my fault is relatively small. However, insofar as America is a representative democracy and my vote is as good as yours, then I share that degree of blame with you.

Insofar as you are a MORE powerful and influential person than I am, it is MORE your fault. In particular, if you are a professional politician using gerrymandering, lies, and the bribes you've received to make my vote ineffective, worthless, and meaningless, then your fault is just that much greater.

Insofar as President Obama is a much more powerful and influential person than you or I, it is much more his fault. He's supposed to be the leader of America, and he is not leading to positive change.

While we are alive, we change. Only in death does change stop--but America is dying.

There will be change. Good or bad?

President Obama campaigned on promises of good changes. He has not delivered those good changes. Pick your favorite promise and cry. Now Romney is campaigning on promises of bad changes. Romney promises to change back to policies that are already proven failures. Weep some more.

The choice of this election is apparently between empty promises and bad promises. Once again it's apparently a choice between bad and not quite so bad.

Does President Obama have a good excuse? Sort of. I believe he sincerely tried to help America and he at least tried to put America's good ahead of politics while his opponents put their personal hatred of Obama ahead of EVERYTHING else. There was a time when patriotic political opponents could still hope the president could succeed insofar as that was part of the success of America. Kind of hard to believe now. John Wayne probably said it best when he said "I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job," but...

Is there any hope for America? I really doubt it, but I think there is only one path that might lead towards good change.

If President Obama wins a narrow victory and continues to face an obstructionist Congress, we know there will be no change. If Romney wins, he will change America for the worse.

The only path for good change is with a massive defeat of the neo-GOP Congress. You'd think that would be easy given the low approval of Congress--but they've rigged the system in favor of the incumbents. That's the ONLY thing all of the professional politicians can agree on.

President Obama should mostly ignore Romney. That's just forces a choice between lesser evils.

President Obama should campaign DIRECTLY and primarily against the neo-GOP Congress. He should go to the districts of the worst neo-GOP Congressmen and try to flip them from 'safe neo-GOP incumbent' to 'probable Democratic challenger'. He should speak directly to the voters in those districts and tell them that they have the power of change. Not likely, but at least that would be a possibility.

Here are some of the things he could do in a target district: (1) Give a speech in the district focusing on the harms of Congress and the specific harms of that Congressman and personal attacks from that Congressman. (2) Appear with and strongly endorse the Democratic challenger. (3) Make short forms for advertising in that district. (4) Put videos of all of the above on the Internet addressed to the voters of that district. (Of course he should use similar tactics for the Senate, going for 61+ Democratic senators.)

Two helpful side effects of these tactics. First, he would provoke massive (and therefore relatively visible) expenditures of black SuperPAC money in those districts--and the natural and relatively inexpensive response is to ask those voters "Are you for sale?" How much money can the neo-GOP waste in such an uneven struggle against the bully pulpit? Second, he would provoke Romney into linking himself more closely to the most extreme elements of the neo-GOP. The American voters actually dislike extremists, no matter how much Romney lies about his own extremism. My own favorite target would be that West character in Florida. What about King in New York? Even my own district elected a progressive Democrat for many years until the gerrymandering--but maybe it could be flipped. Some of these targets are quite soft. At least some of those neo-GOP politicians are really soft in the head.

The Republican Party is no more. Abe Lincoln's original Republican Party was progressive and liberal, NOT conservative. The GOP of Teddy Roosevelt and Ike (Eisenhower for you children) was moderate and balanced, in favor of national parks and infrastructure such as roads, NOT extremely conservative, quite mindless and proudly ignorant, and against EVERYTHING that America needs for the future. Today's neo-GOP is something new, but a change for the MUCH worse. The only chance for positive change in America, the only hope for America's future, is if the neo-GOP is decisively defeated and crushed.

There will be change.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

President Obama versus the neo-GOP Congress

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Is There Still a Path to the Survival of Democracy in America?

In the future, there will be change. If it is not change for the better, then it will be change for the worse.

If President Obama is going to help America change for the better, then his only hope is to campaign against the Republican Congress. EVERY Congressional race for a seat held by a neo-GOP politician must become a referendum on the performance of Congress.

If President Obama wins reelection, but Congress remains a gang of noisy neo-GOP obstructionists, then there will be no change for the better. The last four years have proven this. A narrow Obama victory is a defeat.

I strongly believe that a Romney victory with a staunchly conservative neo-GOP Congress will lead to a change back to Dubya's failed policies (which were actually the policies of Rove and Cheney and their associates). Those policies did not succeed when Bush was in the White House, and they will do no better on the second, third, or 10th attempt. This will NOT be a change for better.

The only hope is if the neo-GOP politicians are punished for blocking constructive change. There is only one path to progressive and constructive change. The first step on that path is that President Obama has to win and the neo-GOP Congress has to lose.

In light of Citizens United and considering that so many Americans have been so well trained to obey the ads, the situation looks quite bleak. All good things must come to an end, and I fear that I am about to witness the end of America. I would much prefer to believe that I will not outlive my country.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Truth, justice, and the American way in Wi$con$in

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Truth, justice, and the American way? You silly rabbit! How much cash do you have? Thanks, Wi$con$in, and go to the devil.

Basically just recording my initial reactions to the debacle of Wisconsin. Unleash the hounds of hell? Well, the big, bad money has certainly been unleashed and we'll see its full wrath in November.

One question is why the same math (statistically sampling) apparently failed (again) for exit polling but apparently worked perfectly in predicting the final results within an hour of the polls closing. Apparently the exit polling showed a very close race. Statistically, that should mean that the actual result is quite close to even. Then they start looking at a different sample and almost instantly decide the result is NOT close to even. Do you believe in math? I think that's the real problem with the anti-evolution nuts. After all, genetics is really statistics, too. I would like to see detailed comparisons of the exit poll results and the actual results.

Obviously worth very little, but I can put my defense of democracy rather succinctly: Any system (1) will work better if all of the people involved care about making it work better and are trying to make it better. A system (2) will work worse in direct proportion to the number of people who are NOT sincerely trying to support it, and the system (3) will work worst of all when most of the people involved are working to destroy the system.

America was never a perfect democracy, but it used to be much closer to Clause (1) in a more democratic condition. There were periods of high social mobility when it really was possible for almost any white man in good health to succeed as an independent farmer. Most Americans could rationally feel they were roughly equal to most other Americans and had roughly equal prospects for the future. Not perfect, of course. For example, if you were a black slave, there was no reason you couldn't be worked to death, ordered to warm your master's bed, or worse.

The neo-GOP Congress is the perfect example of Clause (2), where an obstructionist minority is clearly most focused on their own political success to the point where they can't even stop themselves from cheering when they receive BAD news about the country. "Unemployment is up? GREAT--for US in November." I even think America is headed for Clause (3) in the style of the Russian Empire in the 19th century.

However, if you have enough money behind you, there are NO limits now. Our advertising and political propaganda technologies have reached the point where people routinely vote against their OWN future.

Rather safe prediction for the November is that there will be LOTS of secret black money poured into the campaign. President Obama's people have already realized that they will be badly outspent and that they need to focus their limited resources to have any chance of winning. However, such a narrow victory will be no victory at all. The only victory that would make a difference would be a victory that allowed us to get the money out of politics, a victory that would lead to LEGAL proof corporations are NOT people. For that meaningful victory, Obama needs a LARGE victory, not a narrow victory that will leave the obstructionists in place.

Yeah, I still love America, but it's evolving. It was already to the point where I had to compare it with love for a close relative in the last stages of an incurable disease. Now it's like the close relative has adopted crazy and self-destructive habits, snorting cocaine, juggling flaming clubs, and worse.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Secret Millionaire is EVIL propaganda

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Secret Millionaire is EVIL Propaganda

Just feeling morally obliged to at least briefly record my reactions to my first exposures to this this show. Actually, I'd heard of it a few times over the years, but never actually saw it until about two weeks ago, and then saw a few minutes of a second episode today. I then wandered over to Wikipedia and around the Internet a bit, but didn't even see any attempts to question the morality of this show.

Yes, it is emotional and I believe that the participants are sincere on most sides. However, the overall conception is so amazingly and obviously evil that it completely overwhelms every other aspect of the show. Why don't they just make a series of programs teaching poor people to gamble on the horses to reduce their suffering? That would be much more honest than this show. You can find plenty of other descriptions of what a lovely show it is, so I'm just going to present it in a rather bleak and cold-blooded way focusing on the evil side.

A rich person donates a few days of vacation time to visit a bunch of charities. One of the recurring themes of the shows (but remember that everything I'm saying is only based on watching parts of two episodes and reading some of the Wikipedia description) is that the millionaires are shocked by the poverty and even feel threatened by the dangerous neighborhoods. That's already a perfect tell for the utter falseness of the show. How much danger can you be in while you are surrounded by your very own film crew? If they want to be honest, they'd include a few pan shots of the crew, which probably includes as many security guards as necessary. That would be a touch of the awkward reality here.

Anyway, the rich person donates a few days to act all righteous. The money part is trivial to people of such wealth. Actually, I would start by asking whether or not they deducted the donations from their income taxes and continue by asking about any public relations value they received by appearing on television in such a favorable light. It's certainly not like they've reformed their lives and decided to donate the rest of their time and the bulk of their fortune to charity. I was actually being kind when I said I believe that they are sincere on the rich side, because the rich person could be lying about it and actually be showing a net profit on the deal while being coached on how to act. Given that the entire thing is canned, they can just burn the tapes if the rich person can't do the emotional part sufficiently well. The punchline here is that there might be some rich people who really are selflessly focused on helping, but whose tapes get burned because they just don't show their emotions so strongly for the camera.

On the side of the people running the charities, I think they are probably much more sincere. After all, they are not donating a few days, but have been involved in the work for some time, at least long enough to come to the attention of the producers of the show. However, from this side and considering the uses to which the video is being put, the important question is how the award decisions are being made. After they've had some experience making this show, I bet they've learned out how to avoid awkward moments that produce video like this: "Okay, thanks for the money. Now you've finished your puff piece about how holy you are, so get the hell out of here, go back to your stinking mansion, and let me get on with my work." According to Wikipedia, they've even followed up on some of the so-called winners, and I bet they don't show any videos where the prize money has caused the charity to collapse. (I saw "so-called" because this is fundamentally a situation where you win a few bucks by fighting a losing battle.) If I was a betting man, I'd bet that their selection criteria for the winners include how appreciative they will look and sound when they get the money--and even if the millionaire visited some much more worthy charities during the few days, that's just more video to burn.

Actually, that raises another important question that could be addressed by someone who has more stomach for this show than I do. (Obviously, I'm not planning to watch any more episodes.) How much of the show actually features non-winning charities? Maybe the entire game been rigged in advance? At this point, I can actually imagine the producers of the show visiting the target location in advance, picking the most suitable charities, and scheduling the entire thing even before the millionaire guest host arrives. In that case the winners are already known, and they are just playing around with which charity takes first, second, or third place.

The REAL point of this show is that there is no reason for large-scale efforts to reduce human suffering. You should just be quiet and wait for the millionaire to recognize your goodness, in this case in a cubic form by actively working to keep other people quiet in their suffering. Heaven forbid that the government should get involved in trying to improve the average of society! Perhaps this comic about the importance of considering the individual variance is the best illustration?

Lotteries are just taxes on people who are bad at math. Encouraging people to play the lottery is not a constructive solution to ANY real problem--unless you strongly believe in evolution and that it's just a great thing for the losers to die. Earlier, I asked the question "Why don't they just make a series of programs teaching poor people to gamble on the horses to reduce their suffering?" The answer is that most of them would only increase their suffering--and that's exactly the real purpose of this EVIL show.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Can Romney Lie His Way to the Presidency?

Version 0.3
Can Romney Lie His Way to the Presidency?

It seems to be time to make my prediction for this coming election. Pretty simple, actually. I think Romney will buy the GOP nomination and the neo-GOP will ride his coattails only because they sincerely hate President Obama, not because they think Romney is sincere about anything. It seems most likely that Romney will pivot SHARPLY to the left the day after he secures the nomination, possibly moving even to the left of Obama on many issues. Perhaps his final campaign slogan should be selected from this list:
  1. This time I'm telling you the truth! Really!
  2. Don't you just HATE President Obama!
  3. Vulture Capitalism Works!
  4. So that government of the corporations, by the lawyers, for the richest 0.1% of Americans, shall rule the earth.

You can certainly argue that Romney is a terrible businessman, at least when it comes to politics. While we know nothing about his real beliefs, we do know that Romney is spending a LOT of money to buy the nomination and will presumably spend much more to buy the presidency if he secures the nomination. Actually, if you're a sincere neo-GOP supporter, then you even regard Romney's only prior electoral success as a political liability, since he was a 'liberal' governor of a liberal state, so it certainly appears that he wasted ALL of the money he has spent on his numerous previous campaigns. All of that dough invested and NOTHING to show for it? So much for Romney's reputation as a so-called great businessman, eh?

Unfortunately, I feel that an election between Obama and Romney would be quite meaningless--which turns out to be an anti-freedom thing in my worldview. While I continue to feel that President Obama does stand for some good principles, his stands are mostly pretty weak, so it's hard to care much there.

In contrast, Romney stands for nothing that can be detected with any of my sensors. It seems that almost everything he has said at one time is contradicted by its opposite at another time for another audience. Perhaps it's a secret Mormon conspiracy to take over the afterworld with mass proxy baptisms?

Seriously, I feel there's no real choice there (because Romney is a meaningless choice), and meaningful (and unconstrained) choice is the essence of the important sense of freedom. For that reason, I conclude it would be quite good if Romney lost the nomination and the neo-GOP candidate (presumably the extremist Santorum) offered a REAL choice to the American voters. At least if Santorum or a neo-GOP politician won, then everyone would know for certain that America is finished. (I still love my country, but it's increasingly like the love for a close relative with a terminal disease. While I think Reagan and Dubya were rather minor symptoms, I definitely think Nixon and Cheney were quite serious indicators of malaise...)

Amusingly enough, I even think I know how to destroy Romney, but I don't know the person who could make it happen. What I 'think I know' is the central theme of a series of anti-Romney commercials. I think they will probably appear later on, but after Romney has the nomination it won't really matter even if they prevent him from winning, since the essential problem in America is now the lack of real choice (and thus the loss of freedom)--the so-called deficit of democracy in America. Maybe you know someone who can create some viral YouTube videos to get rid of Romney now? Before he wins the nomination and renders the election meaningless except as a contest in fund raising...

I can see these ads as running at various lengths, basically divided in two parts. The first part is essentially posing the question: Are you confused about what Mitt Romney believes? During this part of the video, the top should show the question, perhaps in the simplified form of "What does Romney believe?" while it shows paired clips of Romney contradicting himself on various issues. I think it might be best to do this part with a vertical split, freezing the first statement on one side as a visual reminder of each contradiction while it is showing Romney's second statement on the other side. Punch it up at the end with a big keyword diagonally displayed on top of each side? There are so many of these self-contradictions by Romney that they could run as long as desired, though of course the best pairs should be as diametrically opposed and as close together in time as possible.

Then it switches to a new theme: What I (the creator of the video) think Romney REALLY believes. In that part, it plays a pastiche video of Romney saying one sentence. I think it should be the Lincoln misquote mentioned in the facetious list above: "So that government of the corporations, by the lawyers, for the richest 0.1% of Americans, shall rule the earth." The punchline sentence is the only difficult part. You want it to show the cuts so that it is obvious it is not a claim of his actual in-context words, but you also want it to be smooth enough to be clearly audible and to get the message across... Perhaps display the words in a smooth scroll across the bottom as he 'says' them in the video snippets at the top?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Death of a Douche

Mostly I just wanted to react to a controversial public comment about the recent death of a prominent conservative agitator.

Reactions to "Death of a Douche" in the Rolling Stone

On one hand, I think it is not good to speak ill of the dead. On the other hand, I strongly believe in the Golden Rule. Not the neo-GOP version about people with gold making whatever rules they like by bribing the cheapest politicians. The old Golden Rule about doing unto others--and AB (Andrew Breitbart) certainly did a lot of things to other people.

Whenever I saw AB, my overwhelming impression was that he felt hate and anger towards his opponents. I can't even say they were political opponents, because he made it much more personal than that. In retrospect, I now wonder if he was just faking it. Knowing how often his statements were lies of various kinds, self-contradictions, counterfactual statements, partial truths, or even manufactured fake evidence, you have to conclude that he was either stupid or deluded. Some people claim he wasn't stupid, and I acknowledge that he showed plenty of cunning cleverness of the lowest sort. Does that mean he was deluded? Or maybe he was just faking the entire thing? Why would he fake it? Short, plausible answer: For the money. It certainly seemed he was doing okay financially, at least on the short term. That's the problem with so much of today's political fraud--the long term doesn't matter as long as you can get past the next election.

Does it matter? I guess that depends if you think there should be some lesson to be learned from his life and death. Oddly enough, the cause of death part is still pending. What's the complication there? Maybe the anger and hatred ate him up from the inside, and it's hard to figure that out from the autopsy results? I'm more inclined to the theory that he knew he was on the edge of death or at least likely to die young, and that motivated his anger and hatred. Perhaps there is evidence of foul play that they don't want to disclose for some reason? If AB was sincere about his public statements, I can actually imagine him trying to stage his own suicide to make it look like a murder committed by his adversaries.

Anyway, AB was just a symptom of the political dysfunction in America. He certainly wasn't the cause, and he certainly wasn't any part of a solution to any problem. I don't want to rejoice in his death, but I'm certainly not going to miss him and I'm glad that he will no longer part of making America's problems worse. Was he significant enough to matter one way or another? Obviously too soon to say, but I rather doubt it.

That was my comment about the article as added in the public comments of the linked article, but I don't know if I should add some additional context here...

I feel like it's just repeating myself to note that the American political system has become dysfunctional, and much of the problem is due to professional fakers like AB. It certainly seems he personally made a lot of money by destroying rationale political discourse, but of course the main financial beneficiaries are the corrupt businessmen who bribe the cheap politicians (referenced in my first paragraph about golden rules). The results are bad laws that remake the rules of the game, not just the game of politics, but even every game of doing business in America. Becoming more evil over time is no longer an option in America, it's the only way for a politician or business to survive beyond the short term.

Perhaps President Obama's greatest strength is that he hasn't been a professional politician on the long term? His entire political career has been relatively brief, and he didn't spend a long tine at any of the levels of politics.


About Me

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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...