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.


aedmunde said...

David; Thank you!
A very nice list of references. Too bad most of the "already made up their mind folks" won't read it.
But well done, none the less for that.

infanttyrone said...

... 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.

I don't recall when we went from real filibusters to today's virtual ones.
Anyone here have an analysis of why the Democrats continue to agree to new Senate rules that allow the GOP to effectively quash a bill without a marathon speaking performance ?

David Brin said...

The failure of dem senators to force their gopper colleagues to actually TALK in order to filibuster... it makes me furious.

Ken said...

So this is what you mean by "negotiating like adults"?

David Brin said...

Unknown.What do you call a fool who keeps trying to play nice when the other side has declared outright civil war?

Till now the iron rule has been: Democratic congresses negotiate with Republican Presidents. GOP congresses NEVER (except in the miracle year 1997) ever ever negotiate with Democratic presidents.

In 1997, Gingrich pulled an exception and worked with Clinton to get both Welfare Reform and a great budget balancing bill. Both were huge successes... and the GOP leaders swore OPENLY that it would never ever happen again.

In the last 4 years, GOP senators have done more filibusters than in the previous history of the US combined. So do NOT try to complain when dems get fed up and say "Okay? Is that how you want to play?"

sociotard said...

In fairness, the XKCD graph also shows that the Democratic party is also more disciplined. take a look at the mid-sixties when some of the Democrats were actually to the right of some Republicans.

Anyway, you should also take a look at the XKCD forum entry for that issue, which uncovers the many mistakes. It makes for a good grain of salt to take the graph with.

Oh, and I would say that the civil war will never end UNTIL one side lays down arms.

duncan cairncross said...

Interesting article about Romney making out like a bandit from the Auto bailout

And about who stole the Delphi pensioners money

rewinn said...

@Dr. Brin - as usual, your policy analysis is spot on and helpfully annotated by hyperlinks. And policy may matter, especially to the corporate-but-not-suicidal clade, best represented by Bloomberg.

However, I'd love to see (after the voting and the legal battles, when GOTV can be let go until the start of the next election [roughly January 22, 2013]), some analysis of the cutover from passively relying on TV commercials (whether paid commercials or "News" [disinformatzia] programs) to interactive habits, especially fact-checking. I may be guilty of observer bias, but the people I hang with enjoy fact-checking. For example, responding to a "Benghazi-Is-A-Scandal" Trolls with Third Party dispassionate debunking combines the brute in-your-face joy of pro sports with the not-so-secret desire to Know Things You Don't Know!
In 2012 the factchecking trend may not be enough to overcome the Bretz Flood money, but is it not a hopeful trend regardless of one's party affiliation? (One would have to be naiive indeed to think ... as I confess I may have at one time ... that the Democrats don't need independent fact checkers as well.)

RJJ said...

Thanks David...will share...

Ian said...

As Americans prepare to vote, spare a thought for Kuwaitis.

Up to 200,000 people - in a country with a population of around 3 million - turned out to protest changes to the electroal law designed to deliver a pro-government majority at a snap poll called for December 1st.

This report is on a previous rally, hence the disparity in numbers:

Neil in Chicago said...

do you think that this is still about "politics" anymore?
In the broadest sense of social power, yes. If racism were not the biggest issue would this election be anywhere near close?

And you're revealing your age when you talk about "moderate Republicans". If Obama were not quite so far right, he would be one.

Tacitus said...

In a rather short while we can discuss either how the polls were wrong, I'm lookin' at you Nate Silver!, or how Mr. Obama will attempt to govern without a mandate. Or a functioning D Congressional majority. And as a side show we can start the 2016 D and R primary campaign. The D side could be especially entertaining.....


matthew said...

So, if Nate Silver is wrong with his predictions, and then the exit polls do not reflect the official vote counts in ohio, what then? Are we supposed to let a third presidential election out of the last four be decided by electoral fraud?
Nate Silver is basing his predictions on the aggregate of all polls - if he isn't in the ballpark then is poling broken? Exit polls are the #1 way to spot electoral fraud, worldwide. But should they not work (Ohio in 2004, anyone?), do we throw them out too?
Our do we just face the probability that for the third time in twelve years our president is not a valid winner of the electoral process?
It is civil war. And the blue side is losing. The refusal of intelligent moderates to understand what has happened to our elections is sickening.
There is math, math that worked up until the year 2000. Now that math does no longer work. Ask yourself why.

Acacia H. said...

I think what will happen is if Romney wins this election, there will be grumbling but nothing will happen. Then in four to eight years when Republicans steal yet another election and we see Blue states turning Red, people are going to rise up and we'll see massive protests that'll make the Occupy movement look tame. At that point Republicans will have only one hope: that they were able to corrupt the military enough (or downsize it and utilize Blackwater-like auxiliaries) to violently break the heart of the protest movement and turn the United States into a dictatorship. And even then it'll be a matter of time, because when they turn on the "liberal" and moderate protesters, then all of the Tea Party fanatics will suddenly open their eyes and see what has happened... and take up arms.

Might make for an interesting science fiction story really.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, talk about governing without a mandate? Geez! GWBush entered office with most voters having voted against him! A decent, humble person would have

1) at once asked two electors to switch their vote for VP and chosen Lieberman, as a gesture of good will to that majority -- heck, though Lieberman was ostensibly a democrat we'd have had a conservative republican (Goldwater type) instead of a lunatic-olugarch-old-manshoting-criminal.

2) He'd have negotiated.

Obama tossed all democrat health proposals and brought the GOP plan to the table. That is called negotiation.

Matthew, if Obama loses due to blatant cheating in precincts with non-auditable e-voting, I say it is time to wear blue union kepis.

rewinn said...

I suggest that we do Mr. Romney the honor of assuming that, were he to take the Oath of Office in January, he would put into place the economic plan he has laid out.
While he has lofty goals, the means he proposes effectively continue to export jobs and shift wealth upward. Since we are already well on track for recovery, our nation might recover long enough to give him a 2nd term in 2020 (with the aid of a small war somewhere, as needed...) but by 2024 we should be pretty much sucked dry, and then Romney and his 0.0001% pals can withdraw to their fortress communities and the Caymans, leaving to the Democrats the task of ruling over the collapse.

Whatever happens, there will be and should be no shooting civil war, most of all because it could be even worse than the picture above (ponder our 19th-Century Civil War for a moment...), but also because it would be completely ineffective at solving the problem, and therefore immoral. The inter-nation conflicts of this century are primarily economic and scientific, not military, so the economic alliance between today's GOP, the PRC and the Saudis cannot be fought with arms. How they can be dealt with I don't know, except that both the PRC and the Saudis seem to be economically rational in the practice (crazy as bedbugs in ideology of course, but perhaps that's just for the rubes?) and therefore negotiations may be possible, on the basis that an America with a healthy real economy and strong middle class may be a better trading partner than just another Dickensian nightmare. But I don't know; let's try not to find out. Holland used to be a mighty empire not so long ago.

Tom Crowl said...

The technology of elections and lobbying is archaic...

"Florida Early Voting Fiasco: Voters Wait For Hours At Polls As Rick Scott Refuses To Budge"

We landed Curiosity on Mars beautifully, without a hitch...

But this is supposed to be hard?

Actually I suppose it does take some skill to put together systems this messed-up...

And maybe even more to get citizens to accept it!

Unbelievable... really pitiful.

That's the scary part.

Like frogs in a pan of water on a stove... we'll sit there and boil to death.

Tacitus said...

Calm down now.

I believe Mr. Silver's methodology can be questioned. It's been a while since I exchanged email with him. But he seems to factor in various economic markers in his prediction of probability for the outcome of this campaign. He may not be looking at the right numbers. Or perhaps even honest ones...seems like the slightly rosier employment numbers of the last few months always get quietly readjusted downwards a few weeks later and a few pages farther back in the New York Times.
Not all close elections go Red. Even Richard Nixon, a genuine crook, sighed and shook his head over Illinois in 1960. And the most recent squeaker of import, the MN Senate race, similarly got looked at, appropriately so, and the Republican stood aside. Giving us that worthy Solon Senator Franken.

Exit polls are dependent on the response rate of those exiting. All other polls depend on sample selection, likliehood they actually vote, etc.

And the various polls all put partisan "fudge factors" in to try and adjust for what they can't measure directly.

Again....calm down.


Anonymous said...

It looks like the media in general is more biased against Romney than Fox is against Obama.

Oh, that's right. Negative reporting about Romney is honest while negative reporting about Obama is bias. My mistake.

Acacia H. said...

Is it negative reporting to report the truth? If you report someone's lies and the person continues to lie so you continue reporting more and more lies... then of course your reporting will appear "negative" - the thing is, Romney has not been doing a lot to encourage positive stories about himself. If he embraced a policy of transparency and openness concerning his policies and plans then we'd have seen a far more "positive" news environment for him. Instead he has relied on secrecy, claiming that if he reveals his plans they'll be torn apart by his opponents.

The thing is, if his policies would work, then why not expose them to the light? We already know that Barack Obama is open to viable Republican policies. Obamacare is in fact Romneycare on a national scale... which Romney himself just four years earlier tried to campaign upon (and would have succeeded if McCain's little engine that could hadn't proven the hare and tortoise story to be fact - which Romney himself then used to win the 2012 primary).

So then. Is the negativity against Romney because of news bias? Or is it because Romney has refused to let his policies be examined in depth by economists and news media to determine what parts of it work best and which might in fact need further revision? And as such... is the negativity then because of the news media, or because Romney himself has denied the media a different path?

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Anecdotal. NC early voting lines rivaled '08 in the city. NC has in my view a fairly secure election process. This thanks to some outrage in the '00s by activists primarily in NC's Research Triangle area - activists from both parties who disapprove of gaping holes in ANY code. As do I, of course!

Oh dear, a captcha of dark snark: eau nc pu