Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
Here is what I would like to see. The universe needs to move along two different timelines after election day 2012. In one universe Romney wins; in another Obama. Those who voted for Romney must live in the timeline in which he won. Likewise for the Obama supporters. Let’s also assume that after four years each universe has a window into the other.
Here is my bet. Those in the Romney universe who are not wealthy, who are middle class, women, minorities, students, working people, etc., will curse the day that they voted for Mitt. They will discover that he deceived them. That his five point plan went nowhere. That it wasn’t really a plan. The government will be locked in battles as Romney tries to placate his extreme right-wing. Insurance companies will not have to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Students will have less options to pay for college. The wealthy will be doing better than ever and middle class folks will be stuck just where they are (or worse). The next generation will not be able to count on Medicare and Medicaid as they do today.
How can this be? Mitt’s a businessman, a financier. He will know how to fix the economy. Get things moving again. But there is no evidence that business skills translate into being a good president, especially in terms of the economy. Knowing how to make money in the private sector is simply not the same thing as governing. For what it’s worth, let’s look at the record here. We have had three presidents who were businessmen in the last 60 years: Jimmy Carter, George Bush I, and George Bush II. Carter was a peanut farmer. Bush I was in oil, and he also served in the government. Bush II was a businessman with the same degree from the same school as Romney. Each of these presidents had significant problems with the economy, and Bush II was a dramatic failure. (As a matter of fact, try to name one truly successful president who was a businessman. Perhaps Truman. But I don’t know if running a haberdashery for a short time counts. And farmers and landowners in the 19th century are just not what we think of today as businessmen.)
And what did Mitt’s business experience do for the people of Massachusetts? Oh, he would have you believe he helped create a marvelous economy in the state. But here is actually what happened.
“Unlike Obama, Romney took office during an economic uptick. Massachusetts had a net job growth of 1.4 percent under Romney. However, that was far slower growth than the national average of 5.3%. As Romney’s opponents have frequently, and correctly, noted, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth over the entirety of Romney’s term. The only states that did worse: Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.” [Fact Check, USA Today, 1/5/12]
And what will the Obama universe look like? In the Obama timeline Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans will all be protected. Insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions and thirty million more Americans will have coverage. Baring a world financial meltdown, the economy will continue to improve and the wealthy will pay a fairer share of the nation’s taxes. The debt will gradually decrease as a proportion of GNP as the economy turns around and reasonable cost cutting measures are put in place. We have seen this universe. It’s the one we are beginning to live in.
What Mitt is really good at doing is selling himself, and he certainly will change his positions in order to do so. But before you vote for this man for any season, try playing the parallel universe game.
[Thanks to a commentator on a newspaper article who suggested that country should split based on which states went which way in the election, that is, people should be forced to live under the president their state voted for. Not exactly my idea here, but close. Sorry that I don't recall where I saw the comment. I read a lot of them.]
There is little question that during Wednesday’s debate Romney lied and changed his positions. (See, for example, “At Last Night’s Debate Romney told 27 Myths in 38 minutes.”) But the biggest lie of the debate didn’t occur on Wednesday evening. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on September 14, 2012, less than three weeks ago, Romney said that he expected the president to lie during the debate:
But I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true. And in attacking his opponents. I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, “Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”
Psychologists talk about the phenomenon of projection in which a person claims that someone else is doing what he or she is doing. However, Romney wasn’t only projecting his own expectation of lying during the debate onto Obama. Romney and his strategists knew that he would need his Etch-a-Sketch moment, the one in which he portrays himself as a moderate after tacking far right for months. It couldn’t happen at the convention because of how far right the delegates leaned. So they saved it for the first debate. But there was a small problem. If Romney just shifted his positions, he would appear to be flip flop Romney, once again. Solution: devise a narrative in which Obama is made to appear as if he is lying when he challenges Romney.
Romney started setting the stage for this narrative weeks ago and carried it into the debate. From the transcript of the debate:
21:16:44: ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.
Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans. (Emphasis added.)
At the moment when Romney is making extremely misleading statements about his tax plan, a crucial issue for him, he pivots and says, “Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true.” So, Obama, if you challenge me, you are a liar. This wasn’t a spontaneous remark. It was at the heart of Romney’s strategy for the debate. Leaving aside the question of the status of truth in the Romney household, this was certainly a prepared response, perhaps one of the “zingers” that Romney’s team promised.
And let’s not forget another memorable Romney zinger, “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”
The bottom line here is that Romney didn’t just lie during the debate; he had a strategy to cover his lies by claiming that his opponent is a liar. An old rhetorical gambit. Well played. But it only makes Romney even more of a liar and less trustworthy. If this man is elected president, we will never know if he is telling us the truth.
Ah, Romney and his taxes are back, after his campaign’s Friday release of his 2011 taxes. Not only did they dump the stuff on Friday hoping that less attention would be paid to them, but they would only take questions about them by email. (I know, it sounds like a skit from Comedy Central.) There are hundreds of pages in the filing but one important fact surfaced immediately. Romney had said that his effective tax rate was never below 13% in the last decade. And in 2011 this appears to be true. He paid 14.1% . But this was only after he didn’t use allowable deductions on contributions. Had he used the deductions his rate would have been closer to 10%.
So what’s the issue here? Romney (the hard-nosed businessman) made a rather self-righteous proclamation last summer: if he paid more taxes than he owed, he wouldn’t be qualified to be president. Here is how this was reported in today’s New York Times, “Romney Reveals He Paid 14% Rate in 2011 Tax Return.”
Mr. Romney’s tax return for last year showed just how sensitive a political matter his wealth and tax rate has become. In a bit of reverse financial engineering, he and his wife, Ann, gave up $1.75 million worth of charitable deductions, raising his tax payments significantly.
Had he claimed all the deductions to which he was entitled in 2011, his effective rate could have dipped to near 10 percent, contradicting his past assurances that he had never paid below 13 percent.
But forgoing the full deductions available to him put him at odds with his own past assertions that he had never paid more taxes than he owed and his statement that if he had done so, “I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president,” as he put it to ABC News in July.
We here at UP@NIGHT suspect that Mitt has changed his mind about his qualifications. Not a problem for him. It’s clear that he took Obama’s campaign message in 2008 about change rather personally. (Oh, and one more telling point. It seems that Romney can submit a revised return later this year, which will allow him to take the deductions. Another change.)
When the economy tanked we all remember how Wall Street continued to give excessive bonuses to its executives in the face of huge losses in their divisions and accounts.
If there is any question that Mitt Romney is a creature of the same out of touch Wall Street culture, here is some further evidence.
The collective wisdom is that the Republican convention didn’t do much for Romney and friends, and it will most likely be remembered as the convention of the empty chair. The campaign as a whole has not been well run. But this didn’t stop old Mitt from handing out a slew of bonuses right after his nomination at the convention, when there was no evidence that his “executives” had been successful.
Another set of expenditures is likely to draw grumbles from Mr. Romney’s allies given his campaign’s current struggles: The day after accepting the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney gave what appeared to be $192,440 in bonuses to senior campaign staff members. At least nine aides received payments on Aug. 31 well in excess of their typical biweekly salaries, including $25,000 each for Matthew Rhoades, the campaign manager; Lanhee Chen, a policy adviser; and Katie Biber, the general counsel. Rich Beeson, the political director, received $37,500. (“Low on Cash, Romney Tries to Rally Donors for Final Phase,” New York Times, September 20, 2012.)
Mitt (Leopard) Romney won’t be changing his spots anytime soon. You can take that to the bank.
Why did Mitt Romney cross the road?
To avoid 47% of his fellow Americans.
We have all heard how furious the Wall Street big wigs are supposed to be at Obama. He is going to regulate us to death, kill the Market, etc. But it’s a good bet when dealing with Wall Street to avoid the rhetoric and follow the money. Forget Wall Streeters’ personal feelings about Obama and the Democrats. It’s clear that they don’t think that the world will end with an Obama reelection. Not only is the Market doing very well right now with Obama leading in the polls, it appears that traders are already betting with their electronic greenbacks on the reelection of the president.
Jeffrey Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, has developed an index that tracks how well industries are doing that would benefit from either a Republican or Democratic win in November. The index is clearly showing a move toward the Democrats. You can find the latest report at http://lplgraphics.com/~rss/LPL_RSS_Feeds_Publications/WSEP/Election_Polls_09132012.pdf
An article by Mark Gongloff, “Wall Street May Hate Obama, But It’s Betting On His Victory,” summarizes what Klientop has been up to.
You might be surprised that as part of the Defense Department’s mission to protect Americans, your tax dollars funded a workshop about aliens from “Star Trek” entitled: Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too? It’s just one questionable projects under the microscope of fiscal conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who’s taking his red pen to cuts that he sees as no-brainers.
Turns out that the question, as reported by the Christian Post, was proposed by a German professor. Here is part of CP’s account.
During a recent conference that focused on the possibilities and implications of long-term space flight, a German professor made an attempt at applying Christian theology to extraterrestrial aliens, leading him to ask the question “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?”
Christian Weidemann, a philosophy professor from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, gave the lecture on theology and aliens as part of the 100 Year Starship Study symposium in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend.
Given the Pentagon’s mission, at first glance this certainly seems suited for the red pen. But it turns out that if Coburn had spent some time on this he would have seen that he is taking a cheap shot. It is just this kind of myopic, knee jerk reaction to programs that conservative legislators haven’t bothered to examine that threatens, paradoxically, to undermine some of the very things that they support, for example, America as a world leader in technology. So, what’s the story here?
The conference in which Weidemann’s paper was presented was called the “100 Year Starship Symposium,” which was partially supported by DARPA. What is DARPA? From it’s web site:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.
To fulfill its mission, the Agency relies on diverse performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research. DARPA’s scientific investigations span the gamut from laboratory efforts to the creation of full-scale technology demonstrations in the fields of biology, medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, material sciences, social sciences, neurosciences and more. As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.
But DARPA does not limit its funding, especially in terms of seed money, only to directly fostering technologies. It seems to be taking a longer range view. The conference in which Weidemann’s paper was presented is described on DARPA’s site:
DARPA and NASA Ames Research Center are soliciting abstracts for papers and/or topics/members for discussion panels, to be presented at the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium to be held in Orlando, Florida from September 30 through October 2, 2011 (emphasis added).
The symposium is expected to attract roughly hundreds of people from around the world….
“This won’t just be another space technology conference – we’re hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we’re thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight,” said David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA. “This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming and innovation.”
“The 100 Year Starship Study” is currently funded by non-governmental organizations, which are concerned with innovation, space travel, education, and new technologies. It is described as follows on its website:
“An Inclusive, Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond” proposal won the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenge—to create “a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel possible.”
The non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, teamed with Icarus Interstellar and Foundation for Enterprise Development, received seed funding from DARPA to design, establish and implement this extensive program.
To make a long story short, it appears that DARPA provided seed money for the initiative and support for a conference that was meant to engage people in thinking about the implications of long term space travel. The latter, in turn, whether it occurs or doesn’t in the foreseeable future, has implications for the ways in which we think about current technologies. We talk all of the time about how America allows us to turn dreams into reality. But we don’t know what dreams have promise if we avoid opportunities for engaging in sustained discussion of them. Conferences and programs like this can be helpful. And given the size of the Pentagon’s budget, this sort of support is almost literally peanuts.
As to the paper on Klingons and Jesus, it doesn’t appear to have been a very compelling paper. But everyone who has organized large conferences knows that there are bound to be some weak and even off the wall papers that slip in. Nevertheless, the paper did work on a certain level, or at least its title did. For the point here is to get people thinking about the ethical implications of how we might respond to those who are different, space aliens, or perhaps just people who appear different from ourselves. (This relates to ethical issues that are involved in warfare, many of which are addressed in military codes of conduct. But this is a post for another day.) The conference organizers understood that technology is not just about things but the way that we think about them, dream about them, and use them, including in our relationships with other people or even Klingons.
Senator Coburn and his budget cutting friends should really do some cost benefit analyses, and they should pay attention to the future when they do so. It’s very easy to wave a red pen around.
After weeks of withering criticism from Fox News regarding Mitt Romney’s governorship of the liberal state of Massachusetts, the Romney camp finally addressed the issue in a statement.
Mitt Romney is not now and has never has been the Governor of Massachusetts. His twin sister, Mitsy Romney, well known for her moderate and even liberal positions on health care and women’s rights, was actually the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. Mitsy touted her moderate and progressive views, not Mitt.
When the campaign was immediately challenged by reporters and fact-checkers, who claimed that Mitt Romney had indeed been governor and presented himself as having moderate and progressive views, it responded with a statement from its lead pollster, Neil Newhouse.
The campaign also told reporters that if they questioned Mitsy’s term as governor, they could check out her Facebook Page (here). They are expecting many folks to comment on her Facebook Page and become friends with Mitsy in the days ahead.
The campaign also said that Mitsy would be reaching out to women voters in the weeks ahead.
I’ve been thinking about how the Supreme Court made it possible for rich donors to give millions and millions to political causes, which typically turn out to be candidates in some shape or form, who turn out to be mostly Republicans. This led me to start thinking about how money could help my blog. However, giving money away to people who visit UP@NIGHT wouldn’t work because it could get too expensive. But a couple of years back I noticed that if I put pictures of money on a post, it would often get tons of hits. It seems that people were coming to see or use images of money. So why not have a post of images of different denominations in order to lure people to my blog. It’s a lot less shameful and expensive than what is going on in the political arena. And so here it is, my ad, the money post.
When the Normans conquered a region of present day Italy in the eleventh century they engaged in extortion. They would start to burn the crops of the natives and then demand payment for putting the fire out.
This form of extortion parallels what the citizens of the U.S. face today from the GOP, with one noteworthy exception. You see, they helped create the economic mess that we have been in, that is, they set the fire. They did so through deregulating Wall Street and the banks, along with lax enforcement of existing regulations, which led the economy to tank at the end of the Bush years. (Yes, the Democrats did go along with some of these measures but the initiative to deregulate Wall Street and the banks has been based on Republican dogma.) But unlike the Normans, they can’t put the fire out. For the tools they would use to extinguish the fire are the same ones that helped start it in the first place.
Now you say this is unfair. The Normans intended to extort by setting the fires. The Republicans believed that what they were doing was good for the economy. They did not plan to extort. Fair enough. But we have now reached a point in which it doesn’t really matter what the Republicans’ intentions were or are. The fact is that they set the fire and they want to use the same flame thrower to put it out.
What does this actually amount to for us non-wealthy folk? We will have less protections against various kinds of fires, for example, illness, unemployment, lack of resources for retirement, etc. And we will be asked to pay more for any protections that are left. We will be told that this isn’t so by the GOP. They will tell us that by lowering taxes and deregulating we will unleash the as yet unleashed forces of the market. Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There are no free lunches. As the vast majority of experts on the economy will tell you, we can’t get out of our current fiscal situation without prudent entitlement policies and new taxes. This was the recommendation of the Simpson Bowles Commission, a recommendation which free market fanatics like Ryan helped tank because it suggested new taxes (although Ryan dishonestly has tried to blame Obama).
If the GOP wins this election and manages to push through more deregulation and tax cuts, especially for corporations and the rich, we and our children will end up having to pay more to cover the enormous debt and suffering that will be created by these policies. We will have to pay for the fire that they have started, once again.