Archive for October 2012

Denial

I heard an interview on CNN that kind of capsulates the whole problem of America. We are living in denial. A woman and her husband were on the phone to a CNN talking head and she was out on the barrier islands where they were told to evacuate and they did not. Now they were waiting for rescue and fretting why their rescuers had not come. The reporter asked the obvious question and that was why she and he husband chose not to evacuate. Her answer was the epitome of the denial that defines where we are today. According to her, this was only a Category 1 storm and they had ridden out worse.

Now the fact that this storm was called Frankenstorm by the weather forecasters before it hit, and that the storm surges were predicted well in advance was totally ignored by her and her husband. Why? Because it was not part of their experience. That is how people ignore global warming, or the forecast for more and more extreme storms. And as one scientist pointed out, global warming, whether it caused this storm or not, made it worse with warmer temperatures this time of year. It is how women can vote for Mitt Romney, not believing that control of their bodies is at stake. They are in denial about the hold of religious conservatives on the Party and Mitt.

There was a story in the paper this morning about how women had swung back to Mitt Romney because they think he will be better for the economy, making this determination based upon the fact that Obama hasn’t improved it enough. The fact that Mitt offers an approach that is guaranteed to tank the economy (austerity) and implement the same policies that led to the housing bubble is lost on these information challenged voters. But what is worse is their total denial of what he stands for in contraception and woman’s rights, including equal pay. “Oh, he won’t do that, he is really a moderate.” It is the same denial that left the woman and her husband stranded and demanding someone to save them.

Then there is the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa for Mitt Romney for President. Here is some of their logic:

That Obama’s “best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy has fallen short. Nothing indicates it would change in a second term in the White House”

This is glaring in its denial of the obstruction of the Republicans (247 filibusters for this Congress) or even a consideration that the policies the Republicans want to pursue are those that are crippling Europe and got us into this mess in the first place.

“Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation’s fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America — with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed.”

Their idea of “imploding” the partisan gridlock is to cave totally to the Tea Party. This is the worst thing a democracy could do because there would be no compromise, just Tea Party tyranny.

Then we have David Brooks in his column on Tueday. David is a smart man who uses his intellect to twist himself into a pretzel trying to justify his conservative politics. It leaves him senseless:

If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done.

He is in total denial. His definition of bipartisan reform is the same as Des Moines Register, Tea Party Tryanny. But David’s denial goes one step further:

He would also observe the core lesson of this campaign: conservatism loses; moderation wins. Romney’s prospects began to look decent only when he shifted to the center. A President Romney would look at the way Tea Party extremism had cost the G.O.P. Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada — and possibly Missouri and Indiana.

Except that he would have never gotten the nomination had he not tacked hard right and if he wants a second term, as they all do, he had better service his base. David, like many Americans is in total denial about the extremism of the Republican Party and their hold on power. Kiss a woman’s right to chose goodbye, Obamacare, gay rights, and say hello to European type austerity. There would be no bipartisanship, just the tyranny of the Tea Party as they wreck havoc on the country.

What is really sad is that the facts are obvious, from the need for a strong central government to the failure of conservative economic ideas, and we live in denial so we can hold on to the past, a past that never really existed for most of us. This election is very, very important. Please get out and vote.

Hurricane Sandy

One of those lazy government employees risking his life to secure glass panels on roof to prevent injury below at hotel in New York City on Monday

Well what have we learned from this Storm? If you believe in God (I don’t) maybe it was a wakeup call. Well God or no God it was a wakeup call. Here are the things that come to my mind:

  • Well government has a damn important role in our lives and the Federal government working with state governments is critical to coordinate activities and bring in resources the states can’t afford
  • We depend on those lazy worthless government workers who suck our tax base dry as they were the ones out in this storm trying to rescue us (See photo)
  • Our infrastructure (subways, roads, bridges, electrical systems) is in a bad shape and this storm showed how vulnerable they are. We will need major investments to protect our future, the deficit be damned
  • During the storm, our politicians in the affected area seem to have risen to the challenge and worked effectively together regardless of partisan differences. I wonder if they recognize that our present economic state requires the same cooperation instead of the obstructionism the Republicans have offered?
  • Our voting system is archaic and inefficient, discouraging voting and this storm will further hinder getting our citizens to the polls. We can do better than this
  • President Obama’s willingness to work directly with those like Governor Christie who have attacked him savagely on political issues shows the caliber of his leadership
  • If we followed Republican policies, we would have defunded FEMA and made this response the total responsibility of the states who would be overwhelmed like they were in Katrina
  • Oh, could this be part of the weather changes that Global Warming is bringing us.  Just continue to deny science you morons
  • Even Chris Christie said that FEMA has been outstanding, but you Republicans hold on to that belief that government can’t do anything well

Well think about it. I saw NYU hospital being evacuated because they lost both primary and backup power and the guys doing the evacuation were wearing NorCal (Northern California) Emergency Services jackets. When shit happens, we are in this together and we help each other out. We are seeing that on full display and yet that is exactly the opposite approach the Republicans offer us in our politics. Maybe it is because a storm can’t be blamed on someone’s laziness that we can do this, but we still bail out people who do stupid things like stay in areas that were order to be evacuated. You think the voters will figure this lesson out before they vote? I hope so or we are headed for a lot more, “Brownie your doing a heckuva job” moments.

The Future of Higher Education

The conventional wisdom is that we need more education so that jobs that go wanting will have qualified applicants in the future.  This is the structural argument about joblessness that says that jobs are going unfilled because there are not enough qualified applicants for the jobs and until we realign our workforce with the jobs of the evolving economy, high unemployment will continue.  But economists are telling us that the data does not reflect that.  If jobs were going unfilled, there would be a bidding war for those qualified applicants.  But there isn’t, and generally wages are stagnating.  So maybe the near term problem is not structural, but a lack of demand, or more simply said, there are simply not enough jobs for those who want them (demand is driving the problem, not supply).

The same arguments were made prior to WWII and then when the build up of the war manufactuing machine occurred, suddenly employment went to zip.  It had nothing to do with skills, simply not enough jobs, and when government created a need for armanent, there were jobs for those who wanted them and unemployment went to zero.  Those skills needed were quickly acquired when there were jobs to be filled.  This also kind of blows a large hole in the Republican conventional wisdom that government cannot create real jobs.

But having said that (and trying to blow holes in another conventional wisdom about structural unemployment that has it totally wrong), clearly unemployment for the well educated is much less than the general population and if we are going to be competitive in the future we need more, not less, advanced education.  So how do we get it for the majority of Americans, and what exactly should advanced education be about?  Oh how the devil is in the details.

We all know that one of the major stumbling blocks to higher education is cost.  We also know the Republican solution to this problem, which is to borrow from you parents and shop around (no, Mitt the Nit actually said that).  So what does President Obama offer?  Well, in my search for evaluating the economic plans of both candidates, I found some interesting things:

  • For Republicans, Mitt’s Five Point Plan basically ignores this issue and makes $5 trillion in tax cuts and pays for them with $800 million in unnamed tax loophole closures.  No, the math does not add up.
  • For Democrats, Obama put out a 26 Point Plan that is to say the least, underwhelming, but does add up, and yes he did address education, and like the Republican Plan, is short on details.

So in the Democrats 26 point plan, it reads like a Republican plan from the 1980s with most of the items tax cuts, tax credits, closing loop holes, reform, with very little real spending to create jobs.  There is a promise to invest in infrastructure with savings from the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, and for eduction, and investment (a little over a Billion) in state support of their colleges and universities.  And is it true that he has worked to get student loans out of the hands of Banks (and layered profit) and to be pure fixed low rate government loans, but it doesn’t really address the issue of making education more available to all our capabile young and old people.  Some countries make higher education mostly universally available (free or substantially subsidized).  A first step here could be to make all community colleges free, but we are not willing to do that.  Instead, it looks like we are going down the road of partnerships between business and universities.  How could that be bad?

It is clearly true that in Silicon Valley, businesses are aligning with the excellent universities in that area to fill vacancies including supporting and underwriting not only research at the universities, but financing undergraduate and graduate studies of promising future employees.  Shouldn’t this be the model with our colleges and universities aligned with the business communities to provide the kinds of training and trained employees our economy needs, not to mention business/university aligned research?

Well here is a cautionary tale that we need to think about if this is what we are going to do (Art That Irked Energy Executives Is Gone, but Wyoming Dispute Whirls On).  At the University of Wyoming they had a series of campus installations commissioned by the university’s art museum, one of which included an exhibit called Carbon Sink: a swirl of dead wood and lumps of coal, intended to show the link between global warming and the pine beetle infestation that has ravaged forests across the Rockies.  Apparently those business leaders who support carbon intense energy industries were not pleased:  “Objections were raised by local lawmakers and officials in Wyoming’s energy industry, which helps support the university through state taxes and felt betrayed.”

What is this? Marion Loomis, the executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said to a university official in an e-mail, using a mild profanity for emphasis. “I am all for freedom of expression, but putting a permanent piece blasting the coal industry while taking millions in royalties, A.M.L. (abandoned mine lands, refers to a reclamation) fees and severance taxes strikes me as a stab in the back.”

In another e-mail, to Dr. Buchanan, State Representative Thomas E. Lubnau II threatened to introduce legislation that would ensure that “no fossil-fuel-derived tax dollars find their way in the University of Wyoming funding stream.”

So the exhibit was removed early and the controversay swirls as officials say they did not buckle to industry pressure, but a broken irrigation line under the exhibit.  As a result, for those who want to think about it, the issue is starkly revealed.  While business interests can support and aid advanced education, it can also be used as a lever to stifle debate, alternate points of view, and research it finds threatening.  So is education really about providing drones for industry to maximize profits?  Should universities be about the search for knowledge or only certain knowledge?  Just how much does funding from the business community shape that search and stifle others?  Is education to serve the educated or the industries who want to use their education.  I know what my answers to these would be, but have you even thought about it.  Maybe it is time to read Brave New World Again.
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Money in Politics

I lied about my last political thought of the day, but I can’t help being a contrarian.  Is money and the amazing amount of money spent in politics really that bad?  I don’t think so.  If you are a Keynesian and you believe that the problem is that we need more spending, isn’t this spending and does it not create commerce and jobs?  Wait you say, how can these powerful PACs be good for controlling the message, and I would answer, that is a different question.  Money and how much money is in politics is not the issue, but who is spending the money and controlling the message is the issue.  If the contribution was limited as it was before the Citizens United decision, then it is free speech.  Once it became unlimited and focused in the very rich, it made some people’s speech much more free than others, a very undemocratic idea.  So quit worrying about the amount of money spent, worry about how the spending is concentrated in a few hands and think about what we need to do to limit that.

Who Said it Best Today: Explaining Obama- Frank Bruni

This will be my last political post today as I must put all my energy into willing Detroit to winning tonight’s game so baseball is not over for another year and the World Series goes down as a yawner.

One has to wonder with the absolute rediculousness of the Mitt Romney campaign, the lying, the miss steps, the war on women, the alienating of the Hispanic vote, how he could still be in the race.  I have been trying to explain this to myself now for the last 12 months, but I think Frank Bruni in his op-ed piece in the NYT said it best (Obama’s Squandered Advantages):

The main cause for this contest’s closeness is arguably Obama — and the ways in which he has disappointed, confused and alienated some of the voters who warmed and even thrilled to him four years ago. During his first term, he at times misjudged and mishandled his Republican opposition. As a communicator, he repeatedly failed to sell his policies clearly and forcefully enough.

His tone is markedly changed from 2008, a tactical decision that may not be the right one. And his moments of genuine oratorical transcendence are interspersed, as they’ve always been, with spells of detachment, defensiveness, disgruntlement. Denver wasn’t the first or only time that he seemed put out by the madness of the political merry-go-round, even though it’s a whirl he himself elected.

I still think he’ll win this thing, and I think he’ll win it because he’s a seriously intelligent, thoughtful leader more in tune and in touch with Americans’ lives than his sheltered opponent is. He still has poetry in him, and he still has fight. But this campaign has illuminated nothing so brightly as the limits of his magic, along with shortcomings that he would carry with him into a second term (should he get one) and would be wise to address.

Well there is that and the absolute denial of so many in this country about what the Republicans are about.  See my last post on Kathleen Parker’s unbelievable denial of the Republican position and plans for women.  We need a fighter who will wake people up, and so far, President Obama has disappointed those of us that thought in 2008 that the Republican nightmare was over.  He let them back in and I share Frank Bruni’s sentiments, he would be wise to address these flaws in the next term.  If he repeats the same mistakes of thinking they will work with him, we are in for a long four years with another nail biter election in 2016.  Hpefully somebody who understands the Republican party like Hillary is around for that battle.

 

Kathleen Parker and Why the Republicans are Their Base

One has to wonder how the wacky base has so captured the Republican Party, and then I picked up an editorial by Kathleen Parker, a moderate Republican, and there on full display is why the Party is devolving into nut cases. The moderates are in denial and la-la land. The particular editorial is Electoral culture war grabs a few headlines.

She starts out by lamenting that we are not focusing on the issues, but have devolved into talking about the cultural wars, blaming it on Obama and his attempt to get contraceptives covered under the affordable care act. Really? I would think this is a health issue and then she claimed the Democrats have pushed the “War on Women” line as though poor Republicans were just bystanders pulled into the fray while quietly practicing their religion. She calls the statements by Todd Akin and Scott Mourdock:

Random comments by a couple of outliers provided wind for Obama’s sails. Akin’s remarks, that women don’t get pregnant when “legitimately” raped, was just idiotic and immediately dismissed by Republican Party leadership, including Romney. Yet Mourdock’s view, that a child conceived by rape is God’s will, deserves some perspective.

These are just the heartfelt feelings of a few and of course they would not try to force them down the throats of the rest of us. She ignores the last two years of bill after bill in both Congress and State legislatures to deny woman the right to control their bodies, the bills co-authored with Paul Ryan by both of these, “outliers”, the Blunt Amendment, or the Republican Party Platform. She is in total denial.

Then she says:

Although most Americans, including those who are enthusiastically pro-life, support exemptions for rape and incest, Mourdock’s argument is not nonsensical. If life begins at conception, then one life is not worth less than another owing to the circumstances of creation. The embryo bears no blame.

Given this context, Mourdock’s argument is logical.

Again she ignores the fact that this is his religious belief and he wants to legislate it on the rest of us. Do you remember when the conservatives used to believe we need to keep government out of our private life? Once again it is a rationalization of denial that is almost breathtaking and truly sad.

She continues:

Romney’s position on the subject is clear. He supports exceptions for rape and incest. He also said early in the primary season: “Contraception, it’s working just fine. Just leave it alone.”

Really? That is true he did say that. He also said he supported the Blunt Amendment and that life begins at conception, so which is it Kathleen? You are picking your facts selectively to live in a fantasy world.

Probably the most galling claim came at the end when she said:

The same ol’ culture wars. But, of course, women have had access to birth control for decades and no one is trying to take it away. Anyone who suggests otherwise may have been spending too much time with Big Bird.

Yep Kathleen, the Democrats invented this whole thing to take the voters eye off the ball and nobody in the Republican Party wants to take away contraception or the subject you totally ignore, control of their bodies. Apparently she did not read the Blunt Amendment that all the Republicans voted for in the House or read the Republican Party Platform, or paid attention to the legislative attempts to control woman’s bodies, or let their employer choose their health coverage and deny them procedures they find offensive. Sadly this is the state of Republican moderates and is one more person I don’t have to read anymore as they beam themselves to the la-la land of denial.

Trampling on Conventional Wisdom

I call this new segment of my blog Trampling on Conventional Wisdom because part of the point of this blog is to look at what we take for granted, and poke holes in it. We base so much of our politics on erroneous assumptions that it is amazing we still exist. Here is one from Dean Baker, economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, that ought to get you thinking about “energy independence” or said another way, “drill baby drill”:

“As those of us who took intro economics have tried to explain to the reporters covering the campaign, being energy independent doesn’t mean anything unless we are at war and somehow cut off from foreign oil supplies. (If this is our concern then drilling out our oil and gas now is incredibly stupid. That means that it will not be there if we ever face such a crisis.)

Oil prices are determined on world market just like the prices of wheat and corn. When a drought in Asia sends up the price of wheat, we will pay more for wheat in the United States even though we are a huge net exporter of wheat. And, as the Planet Money crew showed us, when the world price of oil skyrockets people in Canada pay more for gas even though they are energy independent, as would we even if we were energy independent.”

Real energy independence would be not being dependent on oil for our major source of energy. That doesn’t mean drilling more. It means finding other sources of energy to wean ourselves from fluctuating oil markets. No Duh, but we have, I would bet, 90% of Americans thinking the answer to our problem is drilling more. It is another one of those anologies to home economics that doesn’t apply in the world market place and why simpletons like Sarah Palin will never get it.

Postscript:

Will the price of oil ever go down? I don’t think so because the drilling that is supporting the expanded oil exploration and shale oil extraction is expensive and is only justified when the price is above $90/barrel. If the price were to come down, the market would correct to limit drilling and supply to push the price right back up there. Remember in the debate between Mitt the Nit and President Obama when President Obama made the point that he was taking away oil leases because they weren’t drilling on them? Oil and gas companies aren’t stupid and want oil prices at certain levels before they will incur the cost of exploration.

Alternate souces of energy do not include “clean coal” because there isn’t any, from the extraction methods to the burning of it. It means renewable sources that the rising price of oil are making more and more competitive. It may just be the high cost of oil that will save us from our enviromental destroying ways. Carbon emissions are already way down because we are burning more natural gas because of its abundance and the high cost of fuel oil. The verdict on fracking is still out and may make natural gas not such a cost effective approach either although easier on carbon emissions in the short run.

Finally, why were President Obama and Mitt the Nit having a pissing contest in one of the debates about who is opening up more land for drilling if all the above is true? They are not stupid people. Well for Mitt the Nit, the answer is the oil and gas companies that basically want nothing to change. For President Obama, sadly, he was pandering to the mistaken beliefs of most Americans. I am not sure what that says about his future leadership if he panders to mistaken beliefs to get elected instead of leading with the truth.

Sports and Baseball

At the risk of offending many of my friends (that never stopped me before), I would like to see Detroit win tonight. I live in Giants’ land and being an A’s fan causes my friends to look strangely at me. How can you love a team that doesn’t have a chance with all those young players, has a crappy stadium in a bad area of town, and lousy food? Maybe because all of the above and seeing what they have overcome to win. Now that the A’s are out, you are supposed to be a fanatic Giants fan, which I am not. What I am is a baseball fan. I love to watch baseball because the game is, or should be one of incremental advantages. There is more than just bashing the ball and making spectactular catches. It is that edge one gets in the pitch count, the proper shift for a hitter, the pitch selection, adjusting to the umpire’s strike zone, and of course the athletic ability of the players. The players know this and that is what they respect in each other.

Winning is important, but how you win either makes the win great or just another game. We all think about the great comebacks (A’s were masters of that this season with 15 walkoff wins), a team that doesn’t go quietly into the night. Giants got to the World Series in some absolutely great games with great comebacks. But what I love most about baseball is the respect that baseball players generally have for each other. It is a game where you are not out to damage the other guy, and in general, they like each other. It is about focus and expertise without the belligence, vainness, and showmanship strutting BS of football. It is a game about patience and the long haul.

I have a friend who posted on Facebook durring a game, “YEAH! GO GIANTS! KICK THEIR BUTTS!” I don’t think this person really understands or loves baseball, but loves winning. Well, who doesn’t? Well not me, at least not in a boring sweep except maybe on November 6th. If the Giants sweep in four games, I feel like we didn’t really get to see great baseball that we could have seen and the title is somewhat tainted.  Great baseball is when both teams are in it to the end. Maybe the Giants are that much better than Detroit, but I don’t think so. I want to see Detroit play at the level they are capable of and see this thing go to the wire. In the end, the best team will win, but I would like to see some baseball inbetween.  I want to see both teams walk off the field with their heads held high.

More Data on Just How Evil Republicans Are

One of the things that has become abundantly clear is that for the Republicans, nothing else matters but power, and as the old saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. This morning, the news is that the economy grew by 2% which is not great, but is good. And then I thought, Republicans must be just livid. They must be thinking, “This is a plot to counter our quest for power. Just like the employment numbers, this can’t be true. The economy must be tanking. It has to be tanking. What more can we do to make it tank so we are in power?” This is not evil?

Republicans have told us that Obama has done nothing to help the economy and fail to mention their 247 filibusters to prevent anything that might help the economy from passing. Bob Cesca in the Huffington Post (Republicans Filibuster Everything, Romney Blames Obama for Not Working with Congress) laid out their obstructionism, not out of honest differences, but to try to tank the economy so that they can gain power. They are evil.

Colin Powell comes out and supports Obama, laying out the disaster that would be Romney in foreign affairs bringing back the neocons that got everything so wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they label Colin a black toady. Yep, the reason he supports Obama is racism, he is black. And they are not evil? I suppose the Washington Post’s endorsement along the same lines is because of white guilt. What we have in a large segment of the Republican Base is outright racism. And racism is evil. You know you are really a racist when you believe things that are patently false just so you can hate Obama.

My favorite is the rape thing. It has exposed their distain for women and their intolerance of any belief except their own. Women, I hope, are waking up to the fact that if Republicans gain office, life will begin at conception and say goodbye to Roe v. Wade and contraception. An overreach by me? Read their platform. Women who are voting Republican are in denial and are voting to be second class citizens where fat white men control their bodies (let’s just stick this little probe up there). But the best part of this is that it shows Republican’s total destain for democracy and the rights of others. The latest slip of the tongue by Richard Mourdock, Senate candidate and 51st vote in Senate to appoint conservative judges from Indiana, started with the statement that he respects those who disagree with him. No he doesn’t. He wants to pass a law to outlaw your belief. And if you fools think Mitt won’t do that, ask yourself why he hasn’t distanced himself from Mourdock. Because he needs that crazy base and he will need them to govern.

Then there is the voter fraud thing. The reality is it doesn’t exist and was a thinly veiled attempt to deny those who disagree with you, the vote. Again they hate democracy if it is not their democracy. The funny thing is that the real voter fraud is being done by Republicans tearing up voter registrations if the person registers Democrat. The attempt to limit access to the polls by cutting off early voting is clearly another attempt to limit the turnout and advantage their candidates. Oh, but they want to take back their country, even if they have to destroy it to do it. They are so evil.

We have to look at Romney and Ryan themselves to understand how evil they are. In the first debate Romney lied, and lied, and lied. His whole campaign is a fabrication of lies about Obama and the economy, and this is not evil? Isn’t democracy about an exchange of ideas to find truth? Yet their whole campaign is based upon obscuring the truth. Take Romney’s budget plan, $5 trillion in tax cuts paid for with $800 million in tax reform. Then Ryan comes out as the defender of the poor, Social Security, and Medicare, and any rational look at what they have proposed, guts all of them. They look us in the eye and lie and mislead, hoping America is just that stupid. That is pure manipulation for power. That is not evil? Oh, and apparently a large portion of America is that stupid and uniformed. But we are exceptional.

But the most evil part of the Republican Party is in their economic plan. It basically puts a plutocracy in place, unlevels the playing field, and makes sure those that have will continue to have, and those that have not, will not. Think about it: Low tax rates (we have the lowest as a percent of GDP in 60 years) has not created jobs; the rich have gotten richer by keeping their spoils and there has been no flow down; where austerity has been implemented to “build confidence” it has made things demonstrably worse. It doesn’t work, but it does keep those in power, well, in power. Their whole philosophy is geared to accruing power in the hands of the few and making sure the many have little or no say. And the funny thing is, as Chrystia Freeland points out in her book, Plutocracy, The Rise of the Super Rich and the Fall of Everybody Else , it will destroy our economy and is not in their own long term interests. There policies are about one thing, keeping the very wealthy, wealthy and in power and disenfranchising everyone else with Ayn Rand nonsense that those that are disenfranchised deserve it.

So there you have it. There is evil in the world and it is Republicans, those who embrace this Party, and those who foolishly vote for them. This isn’t about an honest disagreement about policies, this is about dishonesty to gain power. It is about pure selfishness to justify taking all the spoils and keeping them. As evidenced by Mitt and Paul, they will tell you whatever you want to hear, but we have little faith that they will actually do those things. They have invented a reality that does not exist and they deny reality when it intrudes on their fantasy. They are rapidly bringing this country down and no we should not respect their point of view. That is like saying Hitler had a respectable point of view. You want to be a hero? Get out and vote these morons out of office.

Ah, American Exceptionalism

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear that phrase. I have to wonder, what American exceptionalism? Okay, I will grant you that the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution stand among the greatest documents in the history of mankind to establish justice, freedom, and individual liberty. I will grant you that America, as a place to come to regardless of color, sex, or religion, is a place where you could succeed and grow, but that exceptionalism is being trampled on. It is being trampled on by ignorance and denial. The very people who trumpeted exceptionalism the most (Republicans although they all do it) are working day and night to destroy it.

Let me step back. Scott Shane wrote an article in the New York Times a few days ago called The Opiate of American Exceptionalism which stated:

“IMAGINE a presidential candidate who spoke with blunt honesty about American problems, dwelling on measures by which the United States lags its economic peers.

What might this mythical candidate talk about on the stump? He might vow to turn around the dismal statistics on child poverty, declaring it an outrage that of the 35 most economically advanced countries, the United States ranks 34th, edging out only Romania. He might take on educational achievement, noting that this country comes in only 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, and at the other end of the scale, 14th in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a higher education. He might hammer on infant mortality, where the United States ranks worse than 48 other countries and territories, or point out that, contrary to fervent popular belief, the United States trails most of Europe, Australia and Canada in social mobility.”

His point was simple, this candidate, which told the truth to Americans, would not get elected. So I have to conclude, what exceptionalism? We have fallen further and further behind and we have a whole segment of our population who not only denies this, but promotes policies that only continue this trend. It is like being an addict. Until we are really willing to face ourselves and realize we are the problem, intervention won’t help.

What I find so disturbing is failure of most Americans to think critically. I picked up the paper this morning to read how some undecided women in this election think they will vote for Mitt because their number one issue is the economy. So I would ask them who crashed the economy and are not those same policies what MItt promises? Have you seen Europe these days under Republican austerity? Nicholas Kristof gives an example this morning in his Romney’s Economic Model of critical thinking applied to being unhappy with the economy and wanting change:

“Under President Obama, the American economy has remained excruciatingly weak, far underperforming the White House’s own projections.
That’s a fair criticism.
But Obama’s best response could be this: If you want to see how Romney’s economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe. And weep.
In the last few years, Germany and Britain, in particular, have implemented precisely the policies that Romney favors, and they have been richly praised by Republicans here as a result. Yet these days those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput.
Is Europe a fair comparison? Well, Republicans seem to think so, because they came up with it. In the last few years, they’ve repeatedly cited Republican-style austerity in places like Germany and Britain as a model for America.”

So this is the change you pine for? Is your brain engaged? Is this American exceptionalism?

Thomas Jefferson knew what American exceptionalism is. So did Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America). They wrote of a country where opportunity abounded for everyone. They wrote of a country where we were all in this together, and the separation between common man and monied gentry was not too great, each have an important say in our government, and an equal opportunity to power. This was and is American exceptionalism. What the Republicans bring us is the favored class and the unlevel playing field that destroys this exceptionalism. Tax laws that favor the wealthy to be more wealthy, and the imbalance of power, influence, and access destroy this exceptionalism. Government levels the playing field and they want to destroy it. It turns all the benefits of capitalism on its head. Yet we have a large majority of our citizens who think these policies are change and would benefit them. What exceptionalism?

Mr. Shane ends his article with one of the most profound insights into us as Americans as he describes a teacher who is trying to teach critical thinking:

“Of course, the reason talking directly about serious American problems is risky is that most voters don’t like it. Mark Rice, who teaches American studies at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., said students often arrived at his classes steeped in the notion that the United States excelled at everything. He started a blog, Ranking America, to challenge their assumptions with a wild assortment of country comparisons, some sober (the United States is No. 1 in small arms ownership) and others less so (the United States is tied for 24th with Nigeria in frequency of sex).

“Sure, we’re No. 1 in gross domestic product and military expenditures,” Mr. Rice says. “But on a lot of measures of quality of life, the U.S. ranking is far lower. I try to be as accurate as I can and I avoid editorializing. I try to complicate their thinking.”

Oh if the rest of the nation could just complicate their thinking and see the disaster they are brewing with a vote for Mitt and the Republicans in the name of change.