Universal Translator

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Democracy by Date Rape, Representation by Roofie

So this morning I was alerted - via Anne Laurie over at Balloon Juice -- about this Jon Chait piece regarding Mitt Romney.  I've read the Chait piece in its entirety and its premise is that Mitt Romney is just a goddamned liar.  He lies repeatedly, he lies often, he lies regularly, and he lies without regard for the truth.  Good.  Glad Chait recognizes that.

But then, there's this from that same piece:
I've always had a soft spot for Mitt Romney, who strikes me, in a way I can't completely define, as a good guy.  The fact that he is an audacious liar does not strike me as a definitive judgment on his character, but primarily a reflection of the circumstances he finds himself in -- having to transition from winning a majority of a fairly liberal electorate to winning a majority of a rabidly conservative one, one that cannot be placated without indulging in all sorts of fantasies. 
I see him as a patrician pol, like George H. W. Bush, who believes deeply in public service but regards elections as a cynical process of pandering to rubes.
I gotta tell you . . . I'm not quite sure what to make of this.  I understand what Chait is saying here -- and I understand that his main take-away is that Romney is, in fact, an inveterate liar on the campaign trail -- but couple that with the foregoing and I think what I am listening to is an excuse for Romney to be a huge liar on the campaign trail.

The excuse goes something like:  Yeah, sure . . . Romney is lying, but he's only saying things he doesn't believe in order to get elected.  Deep down and underneath it all, he's not a bad guy -- he's like Poppy Bush.

An Old Man in School

Well, I'm back.  The frequency of posting obviously has gone down since the nursing classes in which I enrolled actually started.  The classes themselves consume 30 hours a week, and I am still juggling professional responsibilities in the Life from which I am slowly disentangling myself.

Also, a lot of my free time has been consumed by a bunch of additional extraneous errands necessary to get through the nursing program.  First, I had to get my shot records, which I was unable to find anywhere (I have never really had a regular doctor) and so just this Wednesday I ended up getting hit with about 6 different vaccines all at once and was sick as a dog for two days.  I also had to get a brief physical, which, it turns out, you can't get unless you can produce your shot records (had the physical today, and am in good health - if not great shape - thank you very much).  And finally - for some reason - a dentist has to say that my teeth look alright (I'm taking care of that Monday afternoon).

All of this is in addition to getting CPR certified (taken care of last week) and passing the criminal background check (which, between you and me, is the only one I was worried about and yet the easiest one to get through . . . mostly because it didn't require any effort on my part.)

Oh yeah . . . and I've moved again, which involved relocating myself, a good deal of my possessions, and the dogs.

So while I've been keeping abreast of recent goings on I haven't really had an opportunity to comment much on them.  And I intend to, shortly, but first I thought I'd talk about one aspect of my experience in the nursing program:  being the oldest guy in the class.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Romney: The Worst of Both Worlds for the GOP

I came across two interesting posts this morning that got me thinking some more about the Republican nomination contest.

The first is Steve Benen’s summation of Mitt Romney’s most recent political woes:

Think about where Mitt Romney stood a week ago. He’d won the nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire; his national lead was large and getting larger; and he enjoyed double-digit leads over his squabbling competitors in the South Carolina primary.
And then think about where Romney stands this morning. It turns out he lost Iowa to a candidate he outspent 7 to 1; his national lead has, according to Gallup, “collapsed” over the course of the last several days; he struggled through two widely-panned debate performances; and polls suggest he’s likely to lose the South Carolina primary.

It’s likely, in about 12 hours, the only contest Romney will have won will be in the state he lives in for much of the year.
Benen goes on to point out that far and away Romney’s biggest political liability is that voters just don’t like him – the more people see of him, the less likely they are to want to vote for him.
This ties in very well with Steve M.’s comment “A Blind Romney Finds a Nut,” in which he argues that Romney’s apparent refusal to participate in Monday’s GOP debate in Tampa may be the best way to quash Newt Gingrich’s surging momentum.  Newt doesn’t have the money to fund an ad campaign that can keep up with Romney’s in Florida, but Newt does very well in debate formats and has successfully leveraged those performances to keep his candidacy viable. 
Steve M. goes on to speculate that – as the “establishment Republican candidate” – Romney may well benefit by the GOP establishment deciding to simply cancel any further debates, thereby depriving Gingrich of the oxygen he needs to continue his assault on Romney.  I would suggest that such a move might also benefit Romney directly by keeping him from further alienating primary voters with his very personality.
Assuming both Steves’ observations are more or less on point, my question is:  what does the Republican Party hope to gain by engineering the nomination of the guy that the rabid Republican base simply cannot stand?
After all, Romney’s big selling point – the reason he was supposed to be the inevitable Republican nominee – has always been his supposed “electability.”  Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich . . . each was considered too extreme a candidate to do well in the general election.  So while the GOP base switched from one candidate to the other searching for the anti-Romney, a candidate about whom they could be excited, the GOP political apparatus quietly lined up behind Mitt.  The thinking seems to have been that nobody in the Republican Party liked Romney, but in the general election they would all hold their noses and grudgingly vote for him and that he might in fact be able to beat Barack Obama in November.
But while Romney may not be too blatantly “extreme,” it sure is beginning to look like he is too patently unlikeable to actually win.  When it comes to Romney, even the slightest degree of familiarity is sufficient to breed truckloads of contempt.
But if Romney is just as unelectable as the other candidates (albeit for a slightly different reason), then I just don’t see what the downside is for the Republicans if they ran Gingrich or Santorum instead.  They’d lose – sure – but at least they’d be running a candidate that actual Republican voters could be enthusiastic about.  Instead, what they are likely to end up doing is running a candidate that actual Republican voters simply cannot stand and then lose the contest anyway – the worst of both worlds for the GOP.
Unfortunately, it may very well be a lousy outcome for the rest of us as well.
As others have pointed out before me, losing with Romney will only exacerbate the current craziness of the GOP.  If they run Mitt Romney and he loses to Barack Obama – the man whom most Republican know-nothings have convinced themselves is the most reviled president in modern history – it will only be further confirmation that they lost by being too moderate.
They will – just as they did after the 2006 and 2008 elections – double-down on the Crazy.  If you thought the American political landscape has been a bit nutty since the Tea Partiers got started, just wait until you see what it’s going to be like after the unlikable “moderate” Mitt Romney dashes all those Teabaggers’ dreams.
The Crazification Factor will go all the way up to Eleven.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Reason to Organize, Occupadores!

Over at DKos Mark Sumner is rounding up the pundits and has this to say about Sam Tanenhaus's op-ed about Tea Party weakness:
What's making for weak Tea? In this case, the formula seems to contain plenty of uprising, but few core beliefs. The only demand placed on Tea Party candidates is that they be rabidly mad at Democrats, for any number of mostly make-believe reasons. That may be enough to win an election cycle, but as it turns out, it's not enough to sustain a movement. This party's over.  (emphasis added).

Look . . . I'm a Sumner fan and I don't like the Tea Party . . . but how is this also not an indictment of the Occupy movement as well?  Don't get me wrong, I think that the Tea Party is as doomed as a political movement as Sumner thinks it is but . . .  well, doesn't the same thing apply to Occupy?

This is the reason I and so many other people have been saying that Occupy needs to rally around/behind at least one or two political causes:  because without having something to fight for, any movement eventually just becomes noise.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Making a Life Change

Well, I’ve not been around for a while.  Real Life, as they say, has gotten in the way of blogging.  If anyone’s missed the running commentary, I’m sorry ‘bout that and I promise to try to do better in the coming weeks.  Although that may not always be easy.

I’m trying something new these days, and it is gripping and exciting and very, very different than anything I’ve done before with my adult life, but it is also demanding quite a bit of my time, so blogging may be a bit sporadic until I get more of a routine down.  I’ll tell you about it, but let me first back into it by telling you a bit more about me and how I came to be where I am today . . .

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Santorum: Fishing in the Crab Pot

There is a disturbing tendency among a lot of people to equate suffering with virtue, to equate ignorance with “common sense,” and to equate sacrifice with value.  It appears that Rick Santorum is treading these well-worn boards on the campaign trail.

It should be noted that Santorum earns hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as a lobbyist, a corporate consultant, and one of Fox News' gunsels-for-hire (go ahead . . . click on the link to find out what the word “gunsel” really means).  It should also be noted that his tax plan, were he to be elected president, would actually add about $6.5 trillion to the national debt, mostly by cutting taxes for corporations and the richest 1%.

Yet despite the fact Santorum is an unapologetic mouthpiece for the plutocracy, in two recent campaign speeches he can be seen attempting to garner working-class votes by telling voters they are the backbone of America and the salt of the earth -- even as he works to screw those people over.  Unfortunately, a great number of these Americans pay almost no attention to politics and therefore have no idea what Santorum's policies really portend, so when they hear someone like L'il Ricky give a speech lauding their willingness to work hard for little pay they naturally think:  Hey, he appreciates me.

No, no he doesn't.  He appreciates the fact that some of these people will vote for him even though he does intend to make them work harder for much less compensation, and he appreciates that some of the people that vote for him can be persuaded afterward that because they will then be suffering even more they will have somehow proved themselves to be "better" than people (like Santorum) who don't have to suffer at all.  Simply stated, Santorum is trading on the propensity people have to turn themselves needlessly into martyrs.

Reading Marx – Part XIII

(Routine Introduction:  For reasons explained here, I’m in the process of slogging through Marx’s Capital.  The plan is to read it in conjunction with watching David Harvey’s free on-line lectures about the book.  I’ll be posting notes and initial impressions as I read.  This will be an extremely long-term project.)

Today:  Vol. I, Book I, Part I, Chapter III, Section 2, Subsection c

Random Observations Re: Last Night’s Debate

When I finally tuned out last night, the bobbleheads were calling the debate for Mitt Rombot because (i) the Rombot failed to completely short circuit on stage, and (ii) none of the other contenders really went after it.  From the bobbleheads’ perspective, calling the debate in the Rombot’s favor is undoubtedly the safe call as the Rombot is almost certain to win the New Hampshire primary two days from now and apparently is topping the polls in South Carolina (curse you, Newt Gingrich!  You have once again proven that I simply cannot predict what Republican voters are likely to do.)

In no particular order, below the fold are some random observations about last night’s GOP debate:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Reading Marx – Part XII

(Routine Introduction:  For reasons explained here, I’m in the process of slogging through Marx’s Capital.  The plan is to read it in conjunction with watching David Harvey’s free on-line lectures about the book.  I’ll be posting notes and initial impressions as I read.  This will be an extremely long-term project.)

Today:  Vol. I, Book I, Part I, Chapter III, Section 2, Subsection b

Some Honest to God Good Employment News

Last month the US added 200,000 new jobs, and the official unemployment rate dropped to 8.5%.  This is a big deal, because as a rule of thumb the US needs to add about 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.  So, roughly speaking, 200,000 new jobs means that not only did we manage to accommodate all the new workers entering the labor force, but also that about 50,000 people who previously had been unemployed were able to get a job.

Yay, us.

There's still a long way to go, and all the usual caveats about potential future crises still apply (I for one am still keeping a wary eye on Europe), but good news on the employment front is fairly rare these days and I'm happy to have an opportunity to remark on something positive for a change.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Shameless Nixon Speculation

By now you may already have heard about Don Fulsom’s new book Nixon's Darkest Secrets:  The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President.  It has attracted some attention because in it Fulsom suggests that Richard Nixon may have been a closeted homosexual who carried on a long-term affair with Bebe Rebozo.

Is it true?  Who the hell knows?  My understanding is that the book’s argument is entirely circumstantial and that Nixon’s alleged homosexuality cannot be definitively proved one way or the other, even if the individual reader may find Fulsom’s argument persuasive.  I won’t be reading the book myself because my interest in a dead president’s sexual orientation ranks about on the same level as my interest in reading the US tax code from beginning to end.

I will say this though:  it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.  As a matter of fact, when I heard about the book my first thought was, That actually would explain a lot.  From everything else I’ve read about Nixon, the man’s naked ambition and lust for power seemed driven by a deep sense of inadequacy and self-loathing.  I can easily see how being a closeted homosexual – especially if he was a closeted homosexual who felt that his orientation made him “less of a man” – could have been the fuel that fired both Nixon’s self hatred and his unquenchable need to triumph over his enemies and detractors.

And I’d be willing to bet that – if Nixon really was homosexual – in his deepest heart of hearts he was always whispering to himself:  “If the President does it, it is not gay.”

Elder Abuse and Police Brutality

I learned something today that I did not know before about elder abuse, especially as it occurs in privately run assisted living facilities:  the inappropriate use of physical restraints for punishment or for the convenience of the staff is prosecutable as “elder abuse.”

In other words, the mere act of physically retraining a resident – be it by locking them in their room or raising the guard rails to keep them from getting out of bed – not even because the staff wishes to punish that resident or to hurt the resident, but just because doing so makes life easier for the facility’s staff, is considered to be a crime.

Instantly, I flashed on the increasingly common use by cops of non-lethal force such as pepper spray or tasers as a convenient means of coercing citizens to comply with police orders.  From the infamous John Pike’s pepper-spraying of protesting college students at UC-Davis for refusing his order to disperse, to this story involving a middle-aged alumni couple being tazed for sitting in the wrong seats at a college football game, it seems increasingly clear that the police routinely employ physically abusive and quite painful practices simply because doing so makes the cops’ jobs more “convenient.”  Why bother actually talking to and calming down an irate or confused citizen when you can simply tazer them into instant submission?

And yet somehow almost nobody in American society seems to have a problem with the cops’ use of such force.  That really needs to change.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

All Thane’s Day and the Occupy Movement

Some time ago I wrote a post about the Occupy movement’s insistence on maintaining a non-hierarchical, horizontal organization even if keeping that kind of organization might not always be in its best interest.  I pointed out that for thousands of years humans naturally have been organizing ourselves into hierarchies for good reason:  a hierarchical structure brings with it a number of distinct advantages that consensus driven organizations just do not possess.

This afternoon, just to have something to look at while I ate my lunch, I randomly opened Jared Diamond’s fantastic book Guns, Germs and Steel and came across something Diamond wrote about social organization that seems to travel along the same line as my earlier critique.  I’m going to get to Diamond in a moment, but first I’d like to tell you about All Thane’s Day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Last Iowa Thought . . .

I spend a lot of time complaining about the sheer inanity of the US political press.  But after the Iowa caucus results last night, I think it may have hit a new low.

Until last night, Rick Santorum was a joke candidate.  Best known for the result one pulls up on Google when running a search on his last name, this is a man who has recently declared that the government should prohibit US citizens from using any form of contraception, and that no one should be having sex unless it is for the purposes of procreation.

You get that?  His official presidential policy is:  No Americans Are Allowed to Have Sex Just For Fun.

None of that has changed.  And yet . . . I've been scanning the political punditry all day, and I've yet to see anybody claim other than that Rick "Frothy" Santorum is a credible candidate for the US presidency.

Are.  You.  Fucking.  Kidding.  Me?

Either the world's gone insane or I have, but there is just no way in hell a guy whose presidential platforms is:  The proper role of the government is to regulate your sex lives, Americans is anything other than a joke. I don't care if he did only lose the Iowa caucuses by 8 votes.

It simply boggles my mind that under the modern rules of political punditry they actually have to take this guy seriously.

The Scylla and Charybdis of Voting For Democrats

One of the things I see a lot of on the Left is fighting amongst Progressives over the proper reaction to the perennial selling out and betrayal of liberal principles by Democratic politicians whom we elect to office.  Every two years we mobilize on behalf of some Democrats, help to get ‘em elected and then – at some point during their term – find ourselves yelling, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

It’s like clockwork.

Reading Marx – Part XI

(Routine Introduction:  For reasons explained here, I’m in the process of slogging through Marx’s Capital.  The plan is to read it in conjunction with watching David Harvey’s free on-line lectures about the book.  I’ll be posting notes and initial impressions as I read.  This will be an extremely long-term project.)

Today:  Vol. I, Book I, Part I, Chapter III, Section 2, Subsection a

Everybody in America Thinks They’re Middle Class

Over at Washington Monthly, Steve Benen expresses confusion about Mitt Romney’s claim yesterday morning on MSNBC that “Somebody who’s fallen from the middle class to poverty, in my opinion is still middle class.”  Benen asks

I’m just not sure what Romney means when he defines “middle class.” As he sees it, even if someone falls into poverty, he or she is still middle class? In what universe does that make sense?

Actually, I think I understand perfectly what Romney is saying here, and it is the reason many Americans are still resistant to the straightforward complaints being made by the Occupy movement:  in America everybody considers themselves to be “the middle class.”

The truth is, Americans don’t really think about class in a truly economic way, but in a social status, lifestyle kind of way.  This is why, even though the median household income in the US is only around $50,000, professionals making several hundreds of thousands of dollars or more each year still consider themselves middle class – they’re not rich like the people they see on the TeeVee, who can charter private jets and take expensive vacations.

It is also the reason why the people who are increasingly falling behind economically probably enjoy hearing that – regardless of their actual economic standing – Romney still recognizes that they are “middle class at heart.”  For these people, if they used to have a house and a nice paying job but were then laid off and lost the home in foreclosure . . . well, they still don’t consider themselves really poor.  Not at heart.  ‘Cause then they’d be losers.

Like I said, it is one of the reasons I think a lot of people hate to recognize the growing wealth disparity that exists in this county – because if they did then they would also have to recognize that they’re on the losing end of that growing gap.

Fraud Creates the Market

In his latest post about Goldman Sachs, Matt Taibbi points out that the investment bank has developed a record now of recommending that its clients buy various financial products at the same time that Goldman Sachs – coincidentally – is selling those products from out of its own accounts.  Inevitably, Goldman Sachs’s turns out to have been wrong and those financial products tank . . . but Goldman Sachs makes out like a bandit by moving those assets off of its own books before they tank.

Taibbi’s post reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now, something that occurred to me when Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Big Money Boyz showed up a year or so ago to testify before Congress as to why their selling mortgage backed securities that they knew to be “shitty” wasn’t unethical.  To a one, they all pointed out (i) that the people they were dealing with were “sophisticated investors” who “knew what they were doing,” (i) that these were “arm’s length transactions,” and therefore (iii) they had no responsibility to advise their customers that they personally considered these instruments to be “shitty.”

It always seemed to me that this defense rested on the investment banks’ fundamental unwillingness to acknowledge the real role they played as the creators of those mortgage-backed instruments:  the role of the “market gatekeeper.”

Instant Iowa Analysis


I’ve been biting my tongue the past few weeks while being told repeatedly not only by the TeeVee Talking Heads (who do little but spew Conventional Wisdom) but also by most of the independent political bloggers whom I respect, that Newt Gingrich’s campaign to snag the Republican nomination is over and done with.  Looking at the Iowa results, I still can’t see that.

Here’s my fast-n-loose assessment of what went down last night and yet more shameless speculation about "what it all means" going forward:

Reading Marx – Part X

(Routine Introduction:  For reasons explained here, I’m in the process of slogging through Marx’s Capital.  The plan is to read it in conjunction with watching David Harvey’s free on-line lectures about the book.  I’ll be posting notes and initial impressions as I read.  This will be an extremely long-term project.)

Today:  Vol. I, Book I, Part I, Chapter III, Section 1

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Liberalism vs. Libertarianism

Over at Digby's, David Atkins has a great post up titled "No, Stoller and Sullivan:  There Is No Liberal Conflict Over Ron Paul."

One of the things I like about it is that he doesn't shy away from the fact that - at its heart - Liberalism is paternalistic:  that the liberal philosophy is one that recognizes that the proper role of the government is to prevent the rich, the powerful, and the ruthless from simply running roughshod over those less rich, less powerful and more mild-mannered.  Here is the nut of the thing, but do click over to read it in its entirety:

Liberalism is and has always been about intervention. It is the opposite of libertarianism, and always has been. Liberals understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so. It is not because we are taught to do so. It's just innate human nature. If this were not the case, libertarianism would work as an ideology. It does not, and never has at any point in history.

When the government steps in to stop a corporation from dumping noxious chemicals into a stream, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. When the government steps in to enforce desegretation in schools, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless.

[snip ]

This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place--yes, by force--to prevent them from doing otherwise.

Conservatives use force of government as well, of course, but not in defense of the weak and oppressed, but rather to maintain the power of money, of patriarchy and of the established social pecking order. Where the oppressive hand of government helps them achieve that, they utilize it. Where libertarian ideology helps them keep power in the hands of the local good old boys, they use that instead.

But a liberal--a progressive, if you will--is always an interventionist, because a liberal understands that society is constantly on a path of self-perfection, in an effort to use reason and good moral judgment to prevent insofar as possible the exploitation of one person by another.

The division between liberals lies in how far to intervene . . . .

Toward a Woldview-Centric Assessment of Politicians

A few days ago Taryn Hart over at Plutocracy Files had an excellent piece up titled “Glenn Greenwald on Ron Paul:  Why Worldview Matters.”  Essentially, Hart critiqued Greenwald’s reductionist evaluation of Ron Paul in which he looked only at Paul’s asserted positions on isolated issues, and argued that a better means of evaluating political candidates is to try and suss out their overall worldview:

[I]t’s not just a candidate’s positions on individual issues that are important, what’s also important (in most instances more important) is the candidate’s worldview.  A President’s worldview will determine the outcome of thousands of decisions the President will make, almost all of which will not be campaign issues and many of which are unforeseeable.

Thus, it matters to me that Ron Paul doesn’t believe in evolution, not because I think teaching evolution in schools should be prioritized above the lives of Muslim children, but because it’s proof that Paul rejects science, evidence and rationality, which tells us a good deal about how Paul could be expected to approach the thousands of decisions he would have to make as President.  Similarly, it matters to me that Ron Paul is anti-choice and claims to be a libertarian, as it suggests to me his defense of freedom is disingenuous and that his positions are likely motivated by a defense of hierarchy and patriarchy.  (footnote deleted).

I think this assessment of Ron Paul is spot-on.  For too long Paul has gotten a pass for on his “libertarianism” because he opposes current practices that he feels violates individual rights.  For example, he opposes the federal government’s War on Drugs.  But it is important to understand exactly why Paul opposes the War on Drugs – because it is federal in nature

On every single issue in which Ron Paul claims the government has overstepped its bounds he always devolves to the same position:  the federal government has no right to proscribe personal conduct, but the states do.  This is why Paul can justify attacking the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – not necessarily because he is a bigot, but because they are (in his mind) examples of federal government overreach. 

According to Paul, each of the 50 states has the authority to define the rights and freedoms of its citizens.  He isn’t angry that Texans now have to treat black people equally, he’s angry that Texans have to treat black people equally because a majority of US citizens from outside of Texas told them they had to – Paul thinks Texans should still be free to discriminate against black people if that’s what they want to do.  His overriding belief is not in the sanctity of personal freedom but in the supremacy of state law.

But this, of course, is insane and is in no way reflective of actual Libertarian principles.  A Libertarian, for example, holds that “adults have the right to put whatever they want into their own bodies, and therefore criminalizing drug use is wrong.”  Ron Paul holds that “adults have the right to put whatever they want into their own bodies, unless their state government tells them otherwise.”  As many others have pointed out elsewhere, Ron Paul isn’t fighting for the Constitution, he’s fighting for the Articles of Confederation. 

Of course, devolving authority downward – away from the federal level and onto more local levels – is exactly the “defense of hierarchy and patriarchy” that Hart argues one should expect to see from a man who rejects science in favor of ideology and who claims at once to be for freedom but not for the freedom of a woman to control her own reproduction. 

The utility of a “worldview-centric” assessment of candidates is that it allows you to think about and predict what a candidate’s position is likely to be on issues about which he or she hasn’t been asked.  I don’t know, for example, whether Ron Paul believes that wives are supposed to be subordinate to their husbands because I don’t know that he’s ever been asked that question.  But in light of Paul’s belief in local authority and his general policy of strict non-interference, I suspect he still adheres to the old phrase “every man is a king in his own home” – and that’s the kind of thinking that stripped women of their individual rights once they got married. 

It seems to me that these are the kinds of things people should be thinking about when they consider political candidates, and the “worldview-centric” way of considering candidates is really the only way to do so.

The Witch Doctor Understanding of Language

As you probably already know, Eric Cantor appeared on 60 Minutes over the weekend.  Here is the full interview, which clocks in at about 12:30 minutes:

Of course, it is the bit at about 10:50 that has drawn the most attention.  At that point Leslie Stahl asked about Cantor’s assertion that no one should ever compromise their principles in politics, and pointed out that Cantor’s hero – Ronald Reagan – did in fact compromise his own principles by raising taxes numerous times during his two-term presidency.

STAHL:          And at that point, Cantor’s press secretary interrupted, yelling from off camera that what I was saying wasn’t true.

                        [Plays videotape of Ronald Reagan announcing a tax increase.]

STAHL:          There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession.

Over at DKos yesterday, Hunter pointed out that this shouldn’t be a “difficulty” at all.  We have videotape, like the one Stahl ran, showing Ronald Reagan sitting in the Oval Office and announcing a tax increase – which he explicitly described as “a compromise.”  Hunter speculatively explains what happens as follows:

Conservatives vowed they would not raise any tax by any amount of money, ever, because it would make Reagan and the Conservative Baby Jesus cry.  Democrats and others began to rightly point out that this was, historically, simply an untenable position to have, and that even the most conservative conservative who ever conservatived, Ronald Reagan, raised some taxes on some things in order to not have government auger itself into the ground.  This caused a bout of cognitive dissonance within the conservative hive mind, first manifesting itself as profound irritation that anyone would ever bring up such a thing, then transforming into a full-fledged demand that anyone saying such things shut up already, and finally morphing into the rather impressive psychological feat of simply denying that any such thing ever happened.  History itself, apparently, had to be changed to accommodate the grand conservative need to believe unambiguously in the absolute truth of their own ideological pronouncements.

That sounds about right, but I would go even further.  I’ve been watching Movement Conservatism for a while now, and the True Believers exhibit what I’ve come to think of as the “Witch Doctor Understanding of Language.”

Monday, January 2, 2012

Americans Elect: Using “Bipartisanship” to Advance the 1%

If you’re not familiar with “Americans Elect,” this post by Dante Atkins at DKos yesterday will help bring you up to speed.  Essentially, AE is an online group that intends to field its own presidential candidate in this year’s election.  Supposedly, its nominee will be selected by successive online votes by everybody who joins AE, culminating with a final “election” in June.  That nominee would then select a running mate who must be from a political party other than the nominee’s own.

The more I find out about this organization, the more it sounds like nothing so much as a front group working to advance the interests of the 1%.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reading Marx – Intermezzo

That’s right . . . first post of 2012 is about Marx, homies.  ‘Cause that’s just how I roll, yo!

(Sorry.  Had to get that out of my system.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I got the first three seasons of Breaking Bad as a Christmas present.)

So I’m getting ready to plunge back into Capitalism, having taken a week or so off to gird my loins before doing battle with The Dread Chapter Three, but I did watch – as I always do before I plunge into the actual reading – David Harvey’s lecture on the reading material. 

Maybe it is just that Harvey is a very good professor, but despite all of his warnings that this is the point at which most adventurers turn back I think Chapter Three sounds kind of interesting.  Marx apparently is going to begin expounding upon the fundamental changes that money works in what heretofore had been strictly conceptualized as a commodity-based system, how those changes are necessary for the new money-based system to function, and what those changes portend in terms of the value of commodities and the power of participants in that system.  I am especially intrigued to see how Marx ends up arguing that debt is functionally necessary to a capitalist system.

But over the weekend I went back and found the original London Review of Books article I read months ago that first got me on this kick – as well as my original post about that article – and a possibility occurred to me that I had not considered before:  Marx may in fact be entirely correct and yet wholly irrelevant in his critique of capitalism.  It all has to do with temporal considerations.