Showing posts with label election 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label election 2012. Show all posts

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gerrymandering: as it declines - surprising results

Gerrymandering - I appraised it back when most blue and Red states shared equally in this crime against democracy. Now, big changes are afoot, at long last, and reform has veered in unexpected ways. Prepare for several surprises.

First a little background. Post-election, shallow rationalizations fingerpoint at California, where Democrats increased their control over the legislature to a 2/3 majority in both houses. Many Republican friends bemoan this, attributing the partisan tsunami to everything from demographic shifts away from white-male supremacy to a growing "culture of dependency."

== Rule by the Takers? ==

Bill O'Reilly leads the sour grapes refrain -- that a majority of voters, lacking any concept of citizenship or deferred gratification, are interested only in "voting themselves stuff..."

...which is another grumbled version of the Tytler Calumny... (O'Reilly only replaces a smartypants word "largesse" with "stuff.") This slander against democracy has been dogma in grouchy circles for 90 years, even though it lacks a single actual example from all of human history.

Grouches call the Tytler Calumny an iron law - that democracies are all doomed as citizens become greedy, lazy and decadent, causing collapse, followed by the inevitable return of oligarchy and tyranny. They call Abe Lincoln a fool to hope -- "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."  

Whiney, disloyal... and wrong.

Sure, demographic shifts have some effect. (Watch Jon Stewart remind O'Reilly of times when "white America" fretted about unclean immigrants called "the Irish.") But that's not the real explanation for what happened in California.

There is news under the news, a political revolution that ignores the chattering caste and the lobotomizing "left-right political axis." It does bear on real differences between Red and Blue America, but not those that you think.

Care to explore what really happened?

== California's three-part citizen rebellion ==

The stunning event was a triple whammy that swept California a few years ago, when voters rose up and voted-in a trio of constitutional changes that would:

(1) end gerrymandering and require impartial redistricting

(2) turn the general election into a run-off between the top two vote-getting candidates in the primaries, regardless of parties

(3) make those primaries open, so that all voters could pick among all candidates, choosing the pair in each race who would run-off in the fall.
2012 was the first year with clear results, which were unexpected and epochal because of how the three reforms interplay. I'll get to all that in a minute.

Only first note this.  The anti-gerrymandering initiative was originally authored and pushed by the Californian Republican Party (CA-GOP). An act of hypocrisy, since every Red State indulges in the foul practice far more vigorously - - from Texas to Georgia to Alaska -- to a degree that would embarrass even a Chicago ward heeler!  No problem. CA-GOP figured they'd take advantage of Blue Staters' penchant for reasonableness and low levels of party loyalty, plus their ability to see how wretchedly unjust the old system was. For purely self-interested reasons, CA-GOP urged state voters to do the right and logical thing! Of course, CA-GOP's true aim was more conniving -- to rob their adversaries of an advantage in the biggest blue state.  (In fairness, the Democratic Party has tried to talk Red State voters into doing this... with zero results.)

Now I confess - I voted against the referendum, despite my long record inveighing about Gerrymandering!  I still hoped for a multi-state deal, with California dropping the practice in exchange for (say) Texas and Indiana.  That would leave neither party disadvantaged and thus...

... but of course, that never would have happened. I was wrong and the people were right. Someone had to do it first. And, in fact, California voters proved stunningly wise.

== The wisdom of three ==

Think about those triple reforms I listed above. The combined effects of the triple whammy are stunning:

1) No longer able to arrange purely safe districts for themselves, nearly all state legislators and congressfolk now have to work harder in the general election than before. Aw. Too bad.

2) Radicals of both parties were robbed of influence because now republicans in largely democratic districts can vote in the primary, the election that matters, and vice versa in GOP majority districts. Moderation was the huge winner. (And would be in Red America, if this happened there. Think about what that would mean to the radicals in the current GOP U.S. House delegation.)

3) In many cases, the result has been a general election in which two republicans face off against each other, or two democrats!  Suddenly they are interested in, and are listening to and trying to please folks who are the minority in their district. That minority transforms into tie-breakers, the king-makers.

Ponder that. For the first time, if you are in the minority party of your district, someone will listen to you anyway. Your vote will actually matter. If you are a republican in a largely democratic district, you may never have a conservative representative. But you'll be able to tip the balance between two liberals. And they'll know that fact. They'll talk to you.

4) And finally, the big surprise result that no one expected. The dems picked up more seats in the Assembly, State Senate and Congress.

But... but how did the democrats do even better without gerrymandering?  That shouldn't happen, because the districts are now fair! I will tell you how, and it should have been obvious all along.

== The surprise outcome, and what it means ==

Under gerrymandering, the ruling party jiggers districts to their own advantage. In Texas, not long ago, some were more than a hundred twisty miles long with necks less than one mile wide. (Be proud, you Republicans, be very proud.) They arrange boundaries so that there are a few tortuous districts with 90% or more democratic voters and a lot more districts with 65% republican voters. The result, in theory, should be more republican seats. That is the logic and it is why republican voters in the state go along with such a blatantly cynical and rapacious scheme. Out of partisan loyalty.

But it's a lie!

In California, the new redistricting law replaced this system (though it had never been as horrific as Texas) with sensible, compact districts... a whole lot of which happened to be merely 55% democratic.  This meant that the local politicians could not take victory for granted, they had to work hard and woo some republicans... but the odds were still slightly in their favor, since CA has an overall demo-tilt. And this showed in a year when democrats were highly motivated to vote. They worked harder... and their party gained seats.

Now think about this result.  What it means is that gerrymandering was never what the politicians claimed it to be! A way for democrats in California or republicans in Texas to eke out a few more seats for their side.  That justification, after all, might persuade your radical Tea Party voter to shrug and go along, because Fox has him so riled up he will forgive an obvious scam (gerrymandering) because it hurts the hated other side.

But no, gerrymandering is not about party advantage, at all!

It is about reinforcing radicalism and -- above all -- it is a job protection racket for elected politicians. Designed to preserve safe seats and ensure that the pol needn't ever fear a threat that voters might actually judge him, consider alternatives, or even fire him.  Just look at the results! Congress as a whole has a national approval rating of just 9%!  Yet, individual representatives in safe districts get returned again and again. This is the biggest reason.

== The key come-away lesson ==

It is possible to do everywhere what Californians have done. Banish a foul and disgusting crime against democracy that's been committed by the entire political caste, regardless of where they stand along the largely irrelevant left-right "axis."

Yes, there is a partisan tint to all this... voters have risen up against gerrymandering in several blue states but not a single red one, and this shows in the radical, never-compromise, manichean dogmatism of the Republican House. It shows in the fact that the not-gerrymandered U.S. Senate shifted left this election along with the overall electorate re-picking President Obama, while the gerried House only nudged a little, even in the face of 9% approval ratings for the institution.

But the partisan tint does not matter.  By any standard, gerrymandering is filth. It is crime. Its nineteenth century vileness is indefensible in the 21st. It doesn't even make logical sense in the terms used by its defenders!

And we will all have a better America when it's gone.

== Can we get rid of it? ==

Given the entrenchment of both partisanship and job-protection thinking among the politicians in some parts of the country, it's hard to see this obscenity ever being negotiated away.  I am hoping that a few more blue states -- notably Maryland, New Jersey and Illinois -- will see citizen uprisings against gerrymandering. But the GOP has probably learned its lesson from the surprising way things turned out in California. They will be tepid, at best, and possibly help to oppose such reforms in states like New York.

No, there is just one locus for salvation and hope -- one that should have stepped in ages ago to save us. The courts. Because gerrymandering is blatantly, despicably an outright effort to steal elections and votes - a guild-protection racket by a profession against its customers, deliberately repressing competition in restraint of fair trade. A scheme to disenfranchise 40% of the electorate in any state, denying them the chance, ever, of voting for a person they feel actually listens to them or might represent them.

It has exacerbated partisan radicalism, fury and impracticality in American political life. And it does even more foul things that you can read about in my older essay on the subject.

Will the courts ever throw out this blatant violation of the principle of one person, one vote?

Not while Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts and Kennedy sit on the high bench. Which is why we may just have to wait. Maybe quite a while.  Even though this whole issue has nothing to do with classic left-right, or capitalism/socialism, or liberal-conservative or any other legitimate political matter. Nor is it even about the Republican Party, whose health would likely improve a lot if California-style reforms took place across Red America.  (They are currently unable to adapt to their shellacking in the 2012 elections, because gerrymandered radicalism stands in the way of pragmatic re-evaluation.)

No, this Court won't rule in favor of the people because... because...

...well... I honestly can't figure any clear or logical or cogent reason why. As I've shown, only short-sighted fools believe anymore that gerrymandering is actually about partisan advantage. One can picture the clever - if biliously partisan - Justice Scalia finally realizing this. One can envision him accepting that there's no justification - not even a cynical one - for the outrageously unjustifiable, and at last voting to end the crime, bringing Thomas and Alito with him. Yes, one can picture it.

Still, you know they won't do it, as sure as day. A future court, honored by posterity, will erase this felony, a crime in which history will judge this court to be complicit.

And so -- we'll wait.



1. See the same California transition and realization, told interestingly from a more partisan democratic perspective.  As I said, the real victor in California was moderation. Hence, although the California legislature is now 2/3 democratic, the big surge came among moderates. Don't expect compulsory Druid-worship. Or broccoli-eating mandated by Jerry Brown's denim-levi secret police. I'll take wagers on this.

2.  If you live in a still-gerrymandered state, you aren't helpless! Try a lovely judo tactic. Register in whatever party "owns" your district! All democrats in republican districts should talk fellow democrats into registering republican! And vice versa for you republicans in democrat-gerried districts.  Forget labels, or which party has your loyalty nationally or by doctrine.  The election that matters to you is the primary! If enough of your neighbors do this, you'll be able to help a moderate republican take on the radical republican incumbent. (Or the same thing in a dem-held area.) You and others who pull this trick - you will become the swing voters, the king-makers. Your vote will matter again.

3. For more political suggestions, see: Politics for the 21st century

David Brin
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Monday, November 05, 2012

Campaign 2012: What's the Fundamental Issue?

We'll conclude this election season with some hard-hitting facts and a bit of entertaining polemic... followed by an appeal for us all return to the sci fi mentality of optimism and rising above petty squabbles.  Because we all should - along with our civilization - go "back to the future."

Me? I'm going to surprise you all by saying that I have not completely made up my mind for whom my presidential vote will be cast! 

As a registered republican who admired Goldwater and Buckley and who pushes the writings of Adam Smith, I am deeply saddened to see the Republican Party fallen into its sorry state, unable to point to a single unalloyedly positive accomplishment in the last 25 years or to a "record" as their basis for demanding votes. Their campaign amounts to: "Please don't ever ask us about our extensive record of governance over the United States, nor ask about our former president, the bills we passed or their outcomes! Instead, look here at these assertions, distractions and promises!"

Given their war on science, their incompetent and horrifically costly fumblings at war, their economic voodoo, and their glaring propensity for cheating, I have to conclude that Pax Americana hasn't faced a recent danger worse than these fools who most rabidly wave its flag. (Click to look over my careful compilations on each of those subjects.)

In fact, the fate of our very species may depend on good, smart conservatives rising up and taking back their movement from the loonies who have hijacked it. From the shills of Rupert Murdoch and his petro-prince co-owners of Fox, whose transformation of conservatism has Barry Goldwater supplying half the power in Arizona -- from the spinning in his grave.

== What is a smart-decent, science friendly conservative to do? ==

I know many such good, smart, pro-science conservatives... men and women who believe in facts and professionalism and who want small government without needing to reflexively hate all government. To denounce even the word: "government" and to declare it a hopeless fraud. (Have you ever actually read Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? Go and re-read the last few lines right now!)  Some of these good folks know that the GOP will only reform itself after a good trouncing! So they are holding their noses and voting Democratic down the line.

Others, knowing that tax rates are at their lowest in 70 years, that the federal share of the economy at its lowest in 50 years, and with discretionary spending the smallest contributor to the deficit, aren't even holding their noses. They are the adaptable ones who know that threats to freedom can come from any direction. They know that our biggest danger right now is not from pathetic, declining labor unions, but from an oligarchic clade that wants to buy our democracy and bring us to wealth and income disparities as bad as France in 1789.

More on that, in a minute.

== The Gary Johnson Option! ==

Other decent, smart conservatives - like author scientist Gregory Benford - have done something eminently fine this year, throwing their support behind Gary Johnson, by far the best candidate ever fielded by the Libertarian Party in 48 states. A moderate and not a dogmatist, whose small-government notions and fiscal restraint come unencumbered by the crazy stuff that too often accompanies those things, crammed at us by the culture war inciters on Fox. If Johnson does well, this time, if his version of the movement jumps ahead to just the 5% threshold, he'll be in the debates next time, and everything will change. Smart, reasonable, science-friendly small-government types will find they have a home, for the first time in 20+ years.

I sent Johnson some money. And I try to vote for at least one libertarian every year. Indeed, because I can vote in California after 5pm, when projections are coming in from the east - I might even vote for Johnson for president! If I know by then that the country is safe from Bush III. You other westerners, consider it!

But if you are in a swing state... or on the east coast... or if the popular vote looks tight... it is the wrong thing to do.  We are in a fight for civilization, so prioritize.  You pot-heads in Colorado, you know I'm talking to you! Go ahead and vote for the legalization initiative and try to talk your Oregon pals into voting Johnson for you.  But don't let Romney get your state's electoral votes and thereby turn yourself into one of those folks who curse themselves forever, for voting Nader in Florida in 2000.

As for you surfers in Hawaii? And you Alaskan sourdoughs? Vote libertarian without a moment's hesitation! Boost Johnson's numbers. Do it for the rest of us!

(* Alert! Monday evening at 9pm Eastern the Small Party Candidates will hold their own pre-election debate.)

== The core question ==

Again... the challenge that has gone unanswered for six years! Name for me one unambiguous statistical metric of US national health that clearly improved across the span of and because of Republican Rule. 

One. Just one! Democrats can do this, easily, for their own (shorter) spans in power! Bill Clinton filled his convention speech with dozens of clear metrics that you can check, including vastly more jobs created and rising health of the middle class. And yes, more startups and entrepreneurship and return on investments... and investment in science, by far.

Not one of the erudite and knowledgeable conservatives I've challenged -- for 6 years -- has met this dare or come up with such a counter-example to the stark and utter uniformity of bad outcomes from GOP rule. Bill O'Reilly offers the lame excuse "Bush is gone!"  (What a terrific campaign slogan!)  But look who surrounds Romney. The entire Cheney team... and you'd hire them back?

== The deeper matter at stake ==

Here's the deal.  Americans are raised under memes of Suspicion of Authority (SOA). Each of us thinks he or she invented it and that the potential Big Brothers we hate are the only possible threats to freedom.  It is rare to be agile enough to turn your head and look at threats that might arise from your own, favorite side. Indeed, your most-hated boogey men may not be this decade's main danger.

I am not a "liberal" in any pure sense and have given speeches to libertarian gatherings, spending long sessions with pals in that uniquely American movement. I despise true leftists. I lived in Europe and saw the dogmatic left's foolishness. I fought the USSR and know dire threats can come from that direction.

But the soviets are gone and we've proved smarter than the Europeans in some (not all) ways.  Our banks are healthy now while theirs are wrecks. And US manufacturing hasn't been this optimistic in 20 years.  I'm investing in export companies.

It is simply monomaniacal, at a time when we're facing a frontal onslaught from the Olde Enemy of freedom... the one that crushed it in 99% of human societies... the foe whom Adam Smith denounced and our Founders rebelled against... it is simply narrowminded and foolish for smart people to declare obstinately that freedom and markets can only be threatened by pathetic declining labor unions and demoralized bureaucrats and taxation (when we currently have the lowest tax rates in 70 years.) And to wave away any reminder about Adam Smith's warnings. About the Olde Foe of freedom.

That is just as stupid as the American socialists of 1945 who refused to admit that Uncle Joe Stalin could possibly be a bad dude.  Yes, that is an exact parallel. 

To ignore the oligarchs' skyrocketing accumulations of wealth and conniving monopolistic power and ability to manipulate and crush competition, with wealth and income disparities now approaching the same levels as 1789 France... you can talk yourself into ignoring that?

All good things can go toxic... when they get too concentrated in one place. 

Water, food,  oxygen -- and yes, even the wealth that propels market enterprise and capitalism. 

Yay wealth! Yay entrepreneurial enterprise! 

But dense concentrations of wealth can be toxic too. As Andrew Carnegie proclaimed!  As Henry Ford said!  As Warren Buffett and Bill Gates tell us! As almost every decade of almost every society in human history shows.

If you deny this... jeez... please finally actually read Adam Smith.  Or else admit that you are a Tory. Hang a picture of King George.  And get ready for the revolution, because Blue America will reach a point (as in 1861) when we've had enough.

== And now... onward...  

I am guardedly optimistic. Whoever wins the White House will inherit an economy clearly on the mend, in less recovery time than the historical average for deep recessions.  
The wave of new sustainable technologies are paying off big time, with car mileage rates climbing and new kinds of energy booming and we'll all benefit from the new US energy independence.

Our fundamentals are good and the next president will get credit.

But it actually belongs to us.  And if we can rediscover the normal gifts of peacetime -- especially our treasured national talent for calm argument, negotiation, pragmatic compromise, mixed solutions, scientific curiosity, willingness to recite "I might be wrong about that"... and to accept the contingent hopefulness of a gaze that looks ever FORWARD and not into a nostalgic pretend-past...

...then yes, I think the prospects are good.  Not just for America, or Pax Americana, or the Periclean Enlightenment that reaches now into most continents, or civilization as a whole, or humanity or Planet Earth.  

As I discuss in both EARTH and EXISTENCE, so much more may be at stake. 

We are the chance, the possibility.

And the galaxy may be waiting for us.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Last Minute "Big Picture" Political Snips & Snarks

For my second-to-last pre-election post, let's offer up a potpourri of potent political snippets and graphics for the undecided, before I return on Monday to sum up the case for our Periclean Enlightenment.

But first a reminder of these earlier, devastatingly fact-full, Big Picture overviews of the main issues.

"Democrats & Republicans differ at defense and waging war." Gone viral! In harsh times, compare who does defense well.

"The Eight Top Causes of the Deficit "Fiscal Cliff," One party was solely responsible for five out of the eight main causes of red ink. The other three were bipartisan. With tax rates near their lowest in 70 years, what's the beef?

Will cheating be a factor in this election?  A warning to "henchmen." Those pulling vote-count scams may want a Plan B. Tell any henchmen you know.

"Which party stands up for science?"  The most devastating of all.

--- Speaking of science: Bill Nye (my friend and President of the Planetary Society) takes on Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga) chairman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, whose most recent (of many) anti science tirades include this videotaped gem. Broun called what he had been taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang theory "all lies straight from the pit of Hell," intended to "keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior." That's the chairman. Of the Science Committee. Of the House of Representatives. Of the United States of America.

Seriously, after watching a flood of other appalling statements by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo), Richard Mourdock, and so many other Republicans from the new-radicalism movement... do you think that this is still about "politics" anymore? Is there a reason why President Obama mentioned the word "science" fourteen separate times in the debates? We who believe in the western renaissance are fighting for our lives.

== Snippets that cut deep ==

The extinction of the "moderate republican" is clear in a fantastic graphic from xkcd, showing how the GOP has become the most tightly disciplined and partisan political force in US history, marshalled and commanded by one man... Roger Ailes.

Consider plus-plus vs minus-minus.  For 20 years the GOP blocked efforts to increase car mileage standards in the US. Their surface reason? "Saving the US auto industry." The under-reason? Pressure from big oil, because no other measure could do as much to reduce U.S. dependance. So what eventually happened?

Over GOP objections, the dems both raised the mileage standards and saved Detroit. Now? US automakers are booming and we get rapidly rising mileage. And you'd vote for dolts who obstructed that, with all their might?

If you admit the GOP's gone mad, but can't bring yourself to vote for a democrat, then look up Gary Johnson. The best libertarian candidate ever, he may change party politics in America! You could help make it happen.

== Romney is Bush III ==

Can you imagine a party running for office on the platform "Ignore everything we ever did in the past!" Have you heard Romney or Ryan refer to past GOP governance (a majority of the last 30 years) at all?  Ever? Or mention the name of the previous GOP president?  Once? The only thing more stunningly unbelievable is that the dems don't pounce on it.

But while never mentioning the name George W. Bush and pretending the GOP record is of no relevance -- shaking a clean slate -- Mitt has nevertheless surrounded himself with advisers and would-be appointees "about two-thirds of whom are veterans of the Bush Administration." In fact, 17 of his 24 top advisers served under Bush.

That matters. You aren't just having vote with a man, you are having vote with his  entire party and with every corrupt/incompetent official who helped to make it a toxic mess that poisoned America, with a record so awful that they themselves never, ever mention it. Like herpes. An electionally transmitted disease.

Gary Brecher makes my point about War more glibly in Obama's Wars - Good Fighter, Can’t Cheerlead Worth A Damn.

My distilled challenge to sincere and decent Republicans: "Name one clear, direct and good-for-America outcome from the GOP 's long tenure in power since 1988. Even One!" When a party has a record of unalloyedly perfect damage to the republic and no accomplishments of any positive nature to point to, they are a threat to our childrens' chances of inheriting the stars.

== Abandoning a Sinking Ship ==

David Stockman – yes, Ronald Reagan’s budget director and top economic advisor, who now helps lead a rising movement to take back conservatism from the monstrous path it has been taken by Rupert Murdoch, shows how – from an entirely conservative perspective – Paul Ryan’s so-called budget-balancing plan, that has the backing of the entire GOP, is loopy to the point of jibbering incoherence.

I don’t agree with all of Stockman’s counter recommendations… he is, after all, a Reagan Conservative and I would argue with him over many of his proposals.

But I acknowledge them to be sane conservative  proposals worth discussion by adults.  Of the  sort that Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley might have made.  Back when top conservatives believed in intellect, in science and facts. And negotiating like adults.

== R.I.P. "supply side economics" ==

Only... in that context take this proof of what I've long held. The blatant fact that Supply Side economics has never been true. In a November 1 report we learn that Senate Republicans applied pressure on the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) in September to withdraw a report finding that lowering marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans had no effect on economic growth or job creation.

"The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical," the Times reported. Democrats in Congress resurfaced the report. Republicans objected that it underminded the governing fiscal philosophy of the party, that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth and benefit everybody.
Changes over 65 years in top marginal tax and capital gains rates do not correlate with economic growth. Reduction in top rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. Top rate reductions do associate with increasing divergence of national income going to the top 0.1%.

(Note: CRS is one of the last nonpartisan, professional services that used to report to Congress about matters of fact and outcome.  Most, including the Office of Technology Assessment and other groups that advised Congress impartially from the 1940s through 1998, were banished  under Newt Gingrich for the crime of pestering dogmatists with inconveniences called facts.)

This clear determination about Supply Side is important... and was always obvious.  Even in 1776, Adam Smith described what most rich folks actually do with sudden cash infusions. They put the new wealth to work in "passive rent seeking" and only rarely into capital equipment or risky new products and services. (Risk taking entrepreneurship can be rewarded in better ways than simply flooding most of society's wealth into oligarch pockets.)

Moreover, that cash flow to the rich reduces the velocity of money. If there were ever a time not to do that, it is during a recession! When we want high money velocity, put cash in middle class pockets! (In fairness, there are times, e.g. runaway inflation, when largesse to the rich - reducing money velocity - actually makes some sense.)

George H.W. Bush called Supply Side "voodoo economics." It was and is and always will be.

== Should the recovery have been faster? ==

Those who condemn our gradual (though steady and accelerating) rate of recovery from the Bush Collapse... the worst U.S. economic crisis since the Great Depression... imply that is should have happened faster, somehow.

But appraisal of past crashes makes very clear - recovery is always slow and painful.

In fact, the Obama Recovery scores high for its speed and effectiveness.  So effective that one wonders what Mitt Romney would do differently. He won't say much, except calling for the same Supply Side prescriptions pushed by Bush.

Indeed, consider this.  In no other recession/depression did the nation face six hundred trillion dollars in toxic Wall Street gambles on its books.  If not handled right, that poison pill might have killed the economy dead! Instead, the Economist in London recently lauded President Obama. "U.S. Banks are now the healthiest in the world, in far better shape than dismal European banks, and poised to lead the world out of this mess."

In fact?  There are dozens of aspects to the last four years I can criticize!  Like Timothy Geithner's giving a free ride to Goldmann Sachs and the choice to use a light hand on the banks we rescued, who have been slow to lend out the cash WE lent to bail them out.  But these are quibbles compared to recognizing what that toxic 600 $Trillion could have done to us... but did not!  Because the Bushites were replaced by basically (roughly) sensible people.

== More from Mark Anderson ==

"Romney's unprecedented refusal to disclose multiple past-year tax statements has to be an almost-disqualifying issue for careful voters. Given that he required 10 years' worth of statements from his VP candidate, it is also hypocritical: obviously, he understands and believes in the importance of past tax filings in judging a candidate's suitability for the highest office."

Mitt Romney's Tax Dodge: A guide to how the multimillionaire twists the law to hide his massive fortune - and avoid paying his fair share in taxes. Including profiting from supposed gifts to his own church. Yipe, it is a long long loooooong list!  Your ostrich uncle could wave away one or two.  If he waves away twenty?  Then he's the sort who would have sided with King George in the Revolution.

Who bought the candidate? Identify top corporate donors in house and senate races... but remember, this excludes PACs!

Mitt Romney's Real Agenda: This hard-hitting, fact-filled article is poorly named but important reading. "Mitt Romney's real agenda" says very little about Romney's actual plans for governance since, indeed, he has been beyond-miserly with specifics.  Instead, the article lays out the long series of bills and declarations by the 2010 Republican House of Representatives, which is undeniably the most radical Congressional House in more than a hundred years.  Led largely by Romney's VP choice, Rep. Paul Ryan, the House has indeed created a vast record of declared goals that any American voter, of whatever political leanings, ought to read most carefully.  Ignore the reporter's sometimes whiney commentary.  The facts speak for themselves, and chillingly remind me of 1789 France.

Alas, by concentrating on the GOP led House, he ignores the Senate, where the democrats have been able to block insane House bills... but the Senate faced utter gridlock as the GOP senate minority has thrown - in just two years - more filibusters than in the entire previous history of the United States of America. Is that the precedent they want to set?

If Romney wins, does he want that behavior turned back on him?

== More stuff! ==

Cuba has accused the United States of helping Cuban dissidents access the internet as part of a campaign to undermine the communist government.  I know Hillary Clinton's "Worldwide Net-Tech" guy and this is part and parcel of her strategy to spread internet access all over the world, that can let people side-step around their tyrannical governments.  

It is 22 days since Mitt answered a single question from the press.  Does that courage impress you?

Maybe he's too busy debating himself!  See this video of contradictions.

== And finally ==

The dems are Big Spenders?  See this graphic showing the rates of increase of domestic discretionary spending increase, showing that, for the GOP to tar the dems with that brush is the grossest hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, for the GOP and Fox to focus on the recent tragedy in Benghazi is utter (if painful) hilarity, alas.  See the rates of attacks on US diplomatic missions, which plummeted under Bill Clinton, increased under W and are now very low.

Compare Benghazi to miring us in decade-long, multi-trillion-dollar quagmire wars of attrition and "nation building" in Asia that left thousands of American boys and girls killed or maimed... for what? To create new satrapies for Iran?

Compare the number of U.S. citizens to die of terror on each president's watch.  Compare the rates at which the terror networks have been punished, with Al Qaeda losing more top leaders in any one year - under Obama - than under all the Bush years (Junior and Senior) combined.

Please.  Compare.