Monday, November 12, 2012

Canadians are richer than Americans: because of a rational sociopolitical setup

I read in Foreign Policy that the average Canadian is for the first time richer than the average American. The article states that Canada slashed its deficit in the 90s, but so did the US under Clinton - even generating a surplus - before Bush's tax cuts for the rich and wars spending and Obama's poorly designed stimulus package. 

So is this increased prosperity because Canadians have a rational health care system that provides coverage for all thus reducing costs? Or because they resisted the ideology of mindless deregulation for its own sake thus largely inoculating themselves from the effects of the 2008 financial crash? Or maybe because their government isn't nearly as comprehensively owned by corporations and is much more diverse thus resulting in wiser public policy? Or maybe a combination of these?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Obama is a terrorist president? Liberals don't care either way.

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday ran an interview with Gregory Johnsen, author of a book about the US bombing campaign in Yemen and the way its massively undermined America's national security. The author points out that when the bombing campaign began, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula counted only 200 members; now it's many times higher. This is because all the 'collateral damage' caused by the bombings has created a massive amount of resentment and thus new recruits for the armed organization.

In, Glenn Greenwald highlights a despicable practice of the Obama administration. It not only does 'regular' bombings of suspected terrorists but it also specifically targets funerals and those who've come to the aid of victims in earlier bombings. Greenwald points out that this is a signature tactic of Hamas and other groups designated 'terrorist' by the very same US government.

It really shows how tribal and devoid of principle American *voters* have become; we can't blame it all on politicians. If the Nobel Peace Prize winner had done this as a member of the conservative tribe, liberals (or what passes for them in this country) would have taken to the streets in indignant outrage demanding that this abominable president be impeached and tried for war crimes. And rightly so.

But because he did so as a member of their tribe, there is a deafening silence amongst so-called liberals while they entertain themselves mocking whichever irrelevant figure happens to be designated the right-wing buffoon of the week.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Climate change denialists will flip flop

I predict that within 5 or 6 years, conservative ideology will drop its Flat Earther denial of climate change. Instead, they will start saying, “There’s nothing we can do to reverse it (because they’ve stonewalled for 20 years) so let’s benefit while we can.” 

Here’s why.

A good barometer of reality is to look at how big business invests large sums of money. Big business is amoral. It is not burdened by ethics - except when it makes for good PR and thus good for the overall bottom line - or by ideology. It does not wear rose-colored glasses. Its primary objective is to make money. Everything else is based toward that goal.

As such, it make decisions on how to make that money based on a cold-hearted unsentimental analysis of reality. I’m not saying it’s bad or good. It’s just how they do things. 

If big energy companies are investing hugesums of money in exploiting the areas of the Arctic, it is because they are adapting to the reality that the ice is melting and what’s underneath is more easily accessible. 

If they’re adapting to the reality, maybe we should start doing so as well.

Friday, November 09, 2012

America won’t go bankrupt just because Barack Obama got re-elected...

... and if it does, it’ll be the consequence of very bipartisan efforts.

Here’s a little reality check for all the hysteria out there I’ve seen.

Democrats will continue to control the presidency and the US Senate.

Republicans will continue to control the US House, almost 60% of the governorships and, quite significantly, almost 65% of the state legislative chambers.

We’re not suddenly lurching toward a Democratic Party dictatorship. The two corporate controlled parties have a pretty good split on power amongst themselves. 

(And if you believe Republicans and Democrats are two different social issues-based factions of the same corporate-controlled party, then it’s been that way since Clinton’s reign. Obama’s re-election changes this in no way.)

To all the people who didn’t care about the debt/deficit during Bush’s reign and suddenly got all worked up once a Democrat entered the White House, here’s a little reminder of 8th grade social studies.

All federal spending bills originate in the House of Representatives.

The president can submit a budget but it’s nothing more than a suggestion. No budgets get passed without the approval of the House. The House will remain comfortably controlled by... Republicans.

The national debt increased from nothing to a little under $5 trillion in the 220 or so years leading up to 1995. Though it started increasing consistently during the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

Since 1995, the national debt has increased by $12 trillion in a mere 18 years.

The Republicans have controlled the House for 14 of those 18 years. The Democrats have controlled the presidency for 10 of those 18 years.

So if you think the debt is a problem, it’s a problem that resulted out of that most sainted of actions: bipartisanship.

If the nation goes bankrupt, which it wouldn’t if we had rational military spending (another sensible idea blocked by bipartisanship), it won’t be because Pres. Obama and the Democrats did it by themselves.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I was wrong: people really are content with our political system

Looks like it's time for a mea culpa.

It seems Americans are overwhelmingly content with how our political system is functioning.

I believe there were only four candidates who were on the ballot in enough states to form an electoral college majority. Democrat Obama, Republican Romney, Green Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

If you wanted a candidate who represented real human beings (presuming you didn't consider corporations to be such), if you wanted someone who opposed militarism and if you wanted someone who opposed corporate control of government, there were only two choices: Stein and Johnson. They were very different candidates but they were the only candidates who were pushing those fundamental conditions needed to make America into a true republican democracy.

I thought the time was right for a decent smaller party showing. People were very lukewarm about Obama and Romney. The last few years saw some very significant grassroots movements in the Tea Party (which we forget really was grassroots originally before it was hijacked by the far right money machine), by Occupy movement and the Ron Paul insurgency inside the Republican Party. This was anti-establishment discontent we hadn't seen since the days of the Vietnam aggression. Johnson and Stein were two very active, substantive candidates. They were aggressive in their use of social media (whose influence on politics is vastly overstated but in the face of a media blacklist, it was the best they could do). Each represented a significant demographic: true small government advocates dissatisfied with Republican hypocrisy on the issue and progressives disillusioned with Obama's complete abandonment of their agenda. I knew the media blacklist would be a significant barrier but I still Johnson and Stein had a reasonable shot to get 5 or 6 percent of the vote between them.

They actually combined to get 1.3 percent of the vote; all smaller candidates only combined for 2 percent. Now, 1.3 and 2 percents were orders of magnitude greater than the amount of media coverage they received, but it was still only 2 percent who voted for real change of some sort or other to our political system. 

Thus 98 percent of voters voted to fundamentally preserve the status quo.

Americans complain about divided government but elected another divided government.

Congress has an approval rating of 21 percent but 90-something percent of incumbents were re-elected, as is usually the case.

People complain about both Democrats and Republicans but over 99 percent of members of Congress will be of those two parties.

Everything bad piece of public policy Americans complain about was enacted by Republicans, Democrats or, more often, both. Every 'onerous tax,' every 'job killing regulation,' every billion wasted on corporate welfare, every war of aggression that you complain about was enacted by one or both of the parties supported by 98 percent of the voters.

From this, I can draw one of two conclusions. Either Americans are actually fairly satisfied with the functioning of our political system or they are unhappy but aren't really interested in doing anything about it. Either way, the incessant whining is not compatible with either of these two options. If you're happy, why are you whining? If you're unhappy, then go beyond whining and try to do something about it.

I was wrong. I believed people when they said they wanted certain things or held certain values. But I guess was wrong to assume they'd vote for those things or values. And of course, some truly did. But from what I can tell, most didn't. Most voted against a candidate, not for one. That's their prerogative. And I'd be wrong to say I don't understand the reasoning. But I simply fail to see how change will every happen if only 2 percent of the people are willing to make it happen. 

Or maybe they really don't want it to happen. Maybe they are not interested in any sort of real change on the federal level. So be it. I accept that's democracy. Just quit whining when you get what you choose.

Now people need to take the next step and quit whining about what they don't want or are not willing to change.