Friday, April 25, 2014

Not all rich folks are the same… nor all Christians… nor opponents to Obamacare

With a re-ignited American Civil War already underway, it is important to remind folks that we do not have to exaggerate, or oversimplify, or categorize all people of one 'type' as automatically friends or enemies. Let me start with a couple of telling examples.

showtime-years-of-living-dangerously-jessica-alba1) I had been waiting and hoping for a person like this to arrive. A smart and scientific conservative with deep, heartland values, who can communicate with Red Americans that their Christianity and conservatism do not have to automatically align with a trumped-up War on Science.   I figure millions are ready for the message -- that they can pick and choose, and maybe escape the simplistic narrative being crammed down their throats by hate-media. 

That was the hope! An lo -- here is Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, married to a pastor, living in conservative West Texas, and widely regarded as a top-notch climate scientist, actively engaged in weaning heartland folks off of anti-science dogmatism. Her book, A Climate for Change offers Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.

Liberals, too, should study this person and shuck their own preconceptions. Dr. Hayhoe appears on Showtime's new documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, which explores humanity's impact on climate change.

Wealth-America2) One of the moderate conservative members of my blog community went to public records -- Forbes 400 list and Opensecrets.org -- to provide the following summary of rich Americans and where they contribute their political largesse. Give it a look over and I"ll comment.

1 (D) Bill Gates $54 B 55 Medina, WA Microsoft
2 (D) Warren Buffett $45 B 80 Omaha, NE Berkshire Hathaway
3 (D) Larry Ellison $27 B 66 Woodside, CA Oracle
4 (R) Christy Walton & family $24 B 56 Jackson, WY Walmart
5 (R) Charles Koch $21.5 B 75 Wichita, KS Diversified
6 (R) David Koch $21.5 B 70 New York , NY Diversified
7 (R) Jim Walton $20.1 B 63 Bentonville, AR Walmart
8 (R) Alice Walton $20 B 61 Fort Worth, TX Walmart
9 (R) S. Robson Walton $19.7 B 67 Bentonville, AR Walmart
10 (D,I,R) Michael Bloomberg $18 B 69 New York , NY Bloomberg
11 (D,I,R) Larry Page $15 B 37 Palo Alto, CA Google
12  Sergey Brin $15 B 37 San Francisco, CA Google (Politics unknown)
13 (R) Sheldon Adelson $14.7 B 77 Las Vegas, NV casinos
14 (D,R) George Soros $14.2 B 80 Westchester, NY hedge funds
15 (R) Michael Dell $14 B 46 Austin, TX Dell
16 (R,D) Steve Ballmer $13.1 B 54 Seattle, WA Microsoft
17 (D,R) Paul Allen $12.7 B 58 Mercer Island, WA Microsoft, investments
18 (D) Jeff Bezos $12.6 B 47 Seattle, WA Amazon
19 (D) Anne Cox Chambers $12.5 B 91 Atlanta, GA Cox Enterprises
20 (D,R) John Paulson $12.4 B 55 New York, NY hedge funds

Letters indicate which political party they donated to:
 D = Democrat, R= Republican, I= Independent (presented in order of giving amounts)

The crux, it pretty much matches my past assertions. With the exception of Michael Dell, nearly all the self-made tech billionaires donate democrat. They invest in the diamond shaped society that made them and that engendered the engineers and scientists whose skills got them rich. In their public statements, they mostly profess faith in positive sum games and several have explicitly said "my taxes ought to be higher than they are."

Those who -- in contrast -- mostly-inherited their high position, or exploited sweetheart deals to extract resources from public lands, or got it through gambling or cable monopolies… pour their largesse into the Republican Party. (With Anne Cox Chambers a noted exception.)

This list leaves out Rupert Murdoch and the Saudis and foreign sovereign wealth funds, all of who are lavish in support of the GOP.

Also not listed… the Hollywood types who -- though rich -- fall below this top twenty. They tend to side with the Silicon Valley moguls. While another clade -- the WallStreeters and top CEOs… well, you know…

Which leaves us with the most telling and indicative of them all. The smartest man in the world, whose wholesome, down-to-Earth values are also an example to us all. Warren Buffett. People who bet against him have always, always proved themselves to be just plain old dumb.

== When will the GOP proclaim “It was our idea all along!” ==

AFFORDABLE-CARE-ACTThe nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its latest Obamacare report card (pdf), and for supporters of the law, the news is good: The CBO now projects that over 10 years the law will cover more people—25 million, up from 24 million—and cost a lot less—$104 billion less—than it had previously forecast. Combine this with the fact that, since the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, health care costs in the U.S. have risen at their slowest pace in decades.

All of these results would presumably have been even better, had the GOP spent the last 4 years working to negotiate improvements and fix flaws, instead of railing and passing futile House gestures (fifty of them) to repeal the ACA, while condemning it as "communism."

Indeed, ironies abound. Let's be clear: moderate and reasonable democrats never wanted the proposed "health care system" that became Obamacare! It was always viewed as a miserable, halfway option that catered to insurance companies and is far more complicated and less effective than, say, the far simpler and less costly Canadian system.  Obamacare essentially saves and extends the ancient U.S. system of private insurance and its positive effects were achieved using market forces… a fact that quintuples the irony, since the ACA originally was the REPUBLICAN PARTY's own damn plan.

Crafted by The Heritage Foundation and the AEI, sealed into several GOP platforms, enacted in Massachusetts by Governor Romney to huge Fox News fanfare and jubilation, and yes, indeed, all of those versions were almost identical to the ACA. (See the comparison.)

Obama and the Dems only settled on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after having all of their own plans shot down by the most disciplined party of opposition the nation has ever seen. Hence, in what they thought would be a clever judo move, the Dems put forward the GOP's own plan, in the weirdly optimistic hope that Republicans would thereupon negotiate in good faith over their own plan… working as legislators engaged in deliberation and compromise to find flaws and correct them and produce a proper bill.

What naiveté! Hey, I never said the democrats were sane.  They are a loopy as jay birds.

Again. All current flaws might have been discussed, appraised and dealt with by negotiation and pragmatic improvement -- a process that was ruled out in favor of all-or-nothing rage. Indeed, this is all according to the Hastert Rule, to never, ever ever cooperate or negotiate with their opponents, over anything. Ever. Instead, the GOP's sole aim has been to ensure that their own plan would fail.

In fact, if the tide of good news continues, you can be sure that the GOP will veer tracks and start proclaiming "It was our own plan, all along!"  

What?  And you'll be surprised when that happens?

30 comments:

Andy said...

David re comments in previous post about sci-fi movies... have you seen the recent movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix? A beautiful, thoughtful and moving exploration of the psychological links that will soon develop between humans and our sentient operating systems.

David Brin said...

I haven't yet seen Her. From what I have… her'd… it seems to be the optimistic film I had hoped Transcendence would be.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Jones said...

I will second the recommendation for Her.

While it is primarily a relationship story, hints are dropped, several scenes before the end, that something like a Vinge Singularity is underway.

* * *
I am in now way a commie or revolutionary . . . but I think we're going to need something like the Purple Wage if we want to avoid a hideously stratified and miserable society. They to making it more than "bread and circuses" is universal in-depth education aimed at allowing every person to make the most of their potential. Society would have to be broad-minded and inclusive and humane.

David Brin said...

Stefan, okay. I give. You convinced me. ;-)

Litch said...

At least a part of the reason Michael Dell donates to republicans is because he and his company is located in Texas. If you look at the larger list they tend to donate to the party that controls their state. Interestingly the exceptions are Buffett, one of the Kochs, and Chambers.

Paul451 said...

"in what they thought would be a clever judo move, the Dems put forward the GOP's own plan"

No, the Dems did what they've done on every issue for the past decade or so. Pre-emptive concessions. "If we keep giving them what they want, surely they'll be more reasonable." And it has never, ever worked. But no matter how many times it fails, the Dems keep doing it.

The Dems after 2008 had control of both houses, plus the President, plus a popular wave of enthusiasm from their supporters with a feeling that the nation had turned the corner from the poison of the Bush era. But so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats blocked the reform agenda, voting with Republicans for fear of ostracising their conservative voters. And in the 2010 midterms, what was their reward for betraying their own supporters and pandering to the right? Every one of them lost their seats, the Dems lost the House and almost lost the Senate.

And ACA, the Republican Party's own damn plan, created by the ultra-rightwing Heritage Foundation, even that joke of a policy was still only passed at the last minute by a lame-duck House just before losing their majority. I mean, you've lost your own seat, you're gone, and your party has just a few days of control left... and at that moment, with nothing to lose, you can just barely manage to vote for the other party's plan.

Is it any wonder people are disenchanted when your choices are incompetent-(mostly)good or competent-(mostly)evil?

Unknown said...

I'd be a wee bit skeptical about endorsing Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. Looking at the content Amazon allows one to view of her book, plus the comments, it is clear that she steers around the issue of the age of the Earth so as not to conflict with Christian fundamentalist teachings in this area. What might happen if she is asked to comment on evolution at some future time, in the capacity of a scientist who is an Evangelical Christian. While I applaud her taking on climate change in a way that can reach her intended audience, I think such "science allies" may prove problematic when the science requires that they either choose to retain or discard their religious beliefs.

Nebris said...

Paul451 pretty much nailed it. The Corporate State owns both parties outright.

What makes the Dems 'better' is that they are not overtly racist-misogynist-homophobic and they still make some attempt at governance.

Meanwhile, the GOP has painted itself into a corner somewhere out in Bat Country, you know, round about where Cliven Bundy lives.

Andy said...

I was somewhat disappointed with Transcendence. It tried to portray both the positive and negative aspects of a singularity, but the ending was rather ambiguous and wishy-washy. And does Johny Depp not possess any facial expressions other than a blank deadpan stare? Oh well. Glad to see others enjoyed Her as well!

LarryHart said...

Nebris:

Paul451 pretty much nailed it. The Corporate State owns both parties outright.

What makes the Dems 'better' is that they are not overtly racist-misogynist-homophobic and they still make some attempt at governance.


That seems about right. Neither party at this point is going to do a "Roosevelt" (either Roosevelt) and take on the oligarchs in issues involving commerce. But the Dems will at least work to improve the lot of ordinary Americans in other ways, whereas the GOP will only do so if ways can be found for a private company to make millions of dollars in the process.


Meanwhile, the GOP has painted itself into a corner somewhere out in Bat Country, you know, round about where Cliven Bundy lives.


There's going to be blowback from the right about "the media" making a big deal about Bundy's assessment of the negro, to the effect that Bundy is speaking truth and is being vilified by "the media" for political incorrectness.

Still and all, I find Bundy's statements offensive and chilling, not because they might make black people feel bad, but because I have to believe he is a representative sample of a non-trivial subset of the Republican-voting public. And what he truly seems to believe is that American slavery was not a bad thing for the slaves because it gave them steady employment. Somehow, this state of things gave the slaves "more freedom" then they have now "living off of the government". The fact that slaves did not even have the ownership of their own bodies that libertarians consider fundamental, and that they could be tortured to death at the whim of their masters--this is a trivial detail of little significance.

David Brin said...

Bundy may have become the poster boy for the dems' get-out-the-vote campaign.

reformed tourist said...

The latest estimate for the Kochs' capital wealth is significantly higher than that mentioned which is ca. 2011 - figures as much as double that have recently been published. One might ascribe to them the passion of philosophical conviction regarding what benefits all mankind...Naah.

Also, Michael Dell was one of the original Bush Pioneers, which suggests a depth of commitment greater than simply investing in one's state's "ruling" party.

locumranch said...

As Stefan's reference of Farmer's 'Riders of the Purple Wage' attests, the purpose of civilization is to serve the needs of the individual in a mechanistic fashion, meaning that a civilization & its 'needs’ (the social mechanism) are worth 'less' than those of the tool-using individual.

Now, only a dissembler or fool would argue that 'civilization is worth MORE than the plight of each individual’, but this is exactly what David does by postulating an 'all civilization is worthless’ straw man argument in order to rationalize its illogical converse, even though this very rationalization has been used to justify the sacrifice of over 6 million individuals for the promise of ‘social stability’ lasting a thousand years.

Arguments like these, the idiot (straw man) plot & its illogical converse, are examples of synecdochical fallacy: The confusion of a part for the whole, the whole for a part, the specific for the general, the general for the specific, or the material for the thing made from it.

Synechdochical fallacy allows us to argue the following:

That the individual is indistinguishable from the group; that the whole is worth more than the sum of individual parts; that the incorporated group is more important than the employee; that the product is either indistinguishable from or more important than the producer; and, finally, that individual has little or no value when compared to the group.

Inverting the social order, this type of fallacious 'groupthink' disgusts me. It makes the individual maker subservient to mechanistic group; and it transposes maker for mechanism.

The protagonist in the film 'Her' falls 'in love' with a mechanism, his ‘OS’, his cellphone. Romantic, maybe, until we substitute an inflatable rubber doll, then eeyeew & yuck !! Committing the same error, David ‘loves on’ his particular mechanism, smothering 'civilization' with sloppy wet non-judgmental kisses, and there is no greater fool than a fool in love.


Best.

Tony Fisk said...

Loovum's restocked on whatever it is he's toking.
To paraphrase Churchill: the only thing worse than civilisation is its absence.

reformed tourist said...

I believe locumranch has somewhat misstated the purpose of civilization which parallels that of the organisms that compose it; to survive.

Scholars of various fields including both the "hard" and "soft" sciences tend to speak about symbiotic activity as a survival mechanism. Civilization is demonstrably such.

While certain forms of civilization provide greater or lesser opportunity for individuals to prosper individually, the long term viability of the system employed requires some degree of opportunity for all within it. History abounds with examples.

David Brin said...

Yep, he's back "on" whatever he was on, before. Spouting polysyllabic phrases that would be nonsense in their own context, let alone aimed at a strawman that bears absolutely no relationship to anything that I remotely said.

I am much more relaxed now when he does this, since clearly, pity is in order.

===
Elsewhere I encapsulated the entire story of the Republican response to "Obamacare":

"According to the Hastert Rule, now that you liberals have touched OurOwnDamnPlan, it has cooties and we hate it!

"We will scream 'communism' at OurOwnDamnPlan and do everything to make it fail…"

"Oh, and when it succeeds somewhat, despite our every sabotage? Then we will rear up and remind you all that it was OurOwnDamnPlan, all along!"

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

A tangential reading of the Republican response to Obamacare is that TheirOwnDamnPlan was never designed to work--only to be a political response to Hillary'sDamnPlan. The more astute among them must have known all along that TheirOwnDamnPlan couldn't work, and now that the Democratic president is implementing it, they're screaming about all those reasons that they knew all along would be problems with TheirOwnDamnPlan.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

"Oh, and when it succeeds somewhat, despite our every sabotage? Then we will rear up and remind you all that it was OurOwnDamnPlan, all along!"


My old conservative buddy (who used to be a reasonable conservative until Obama's election drove him insane) used to argue with a stright face that it was a credit to conservatism as a philosophy that it resists liberalism's social changes, but then grudgingly accepts the ones that work as its own.

Tony Fisk said...

Meanwhile downunder, we are witnessing what happens when both major parties are seen to be captured.
The votes flow to the minor parties (Greens and the Palmer United Party)
Palmer is currently having fun throwing his not inconsiderable weight around: threatening to block Direct Action (Abbott's alternative to the carbon tax) I think his intention is to repeal the tax and block the alternative. However, since DA is tied up in the budget, he might end up voting to block supply, which would be a trigger for a double dissolution.
All talk at the moment but, come July, there may be fireworks.

locumranch said...

When David says that ‘all rich folks are not the same', does he mean to say that (1) the group identified as ‘rich folks’ is not an actual group, (2) individual ‘rich folks’ are somehow neither ‘rich’ nor ‘folks’, or (3) all groups, especially the ‘rich folks' group, are composed of disparate individuals?

Either way, such a statement is either disingenuous or semantically corrupt because (1) the act of ‘grouping' requires the identification of similarities, (2) the presence of similarity is a matter of definition, and (3) individuals are the basis of every grouping howsoever defined.

I suspect that the purpose of such semantic meaninglessness is moral in that David wishes to divide such groups into moral cohorts, some ‘good’ and some ‘evil’, in order to defend the moral system responsible for the creation, enforcement and perpetuation of such arbitrary inequality through the use of synecdochical fallacy.

Note, also, how Tony defends the concept of ‘civilization’ by invoking its imaginary absence with David's 'idiot plot', giving only the false choice of possessing All-or-None, never offering the more reasonable options of Less, More or Some.

By either presence or absence, it appears that we are all 'doomed' by All-or-None gun rights, industry, politics, infrastructure, Obamacare & climate change because 'some' can only equal 'all' or 'none'.

Or so we are told.

Best.

David Brin said...

At times, I do find the fellow hilarious. He bandies words like "semantically" in a fashion that is cute and almost sounds as if he knows their meaning!

If fact, when dealing with an array of entities with many complex properties, it is legitimate to first group them according to one parameter -- e.g. size -- and then sup -examine other parameters -- e.g. color or shape. To lump 'the rich' together… and then examine how

that parameter then gets assorted among others -- e.g. ability to exhibit both horizon-gaze and enlightened self-interest… or loyalty to civilization -- is completely legitimate and this is one more piece of evidence that we have a myna bird here… able to utter strings of polysyllabic words without a clue what they mean.

David Brin said...

LarryHart said : "My old conservative buddy (who used to be a reasonable conservative until Obama's election drove him insane) used to argue with a stright face that it was a credit to conservatism as a philosophy that it resists liberalism's social changes, but then grudgingly accepts the ones that work as its own."

Hm… well, in fact I am going to defend your pal (the older, saner version of him. ) In fact, I deem the greatest service played by old-style, courteous and intelligent conservatism to be its role as the source of doubt and skeptical questioning off half-baked, overly confident and zealous utopian plans.

When conservatism opposes the exploration of horizons for problems to be fixed -- faults of inadequate inclusion (racism, sexism etc) or faults of ignoring downstream consequences (e.g. pollution), or faults of deteriorating accountability -- that is despicable troglotytism.

But when it is about applying friction to specific, eager "solutions" they may be irritating and inconvenient, but they are also doing their JOB in the political process.

Yes, they are wrong far more often than right. There are countless problems on our horizons that need to be fixed and we have benefited from most of the major liberal endeavors.

But still, there are exceptions. One was School Busing for integration, a liberal-lefty endeavor of staggering expense and even more staggering stupidity, that wound up deeply wounding and discrediting liberalism in the eyes of millions who left and never came back.

No, I consider your pal to have said something that -- while hypocritical in a sense and infuriating -- is also correct. If the left were allowed to have its way, without friction, we might get Harrison Bergeron.

Jumper said...

How long did Dems control the Senate? At least the truth makes them appear less spineless.
http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/did-the-democrats-ever-really-have-60-votes-in-the-senate-and-for-how-long/

(locum gets a biscuit for "synechdocical." "Synechdoche" is better than illiterate, but the correct adjectival form is absolutely as used.)

Jumper said...

A bit simian today, eh, locum? All this ranking as greater and lesser importance is reminiscent of monkeys' need to formulate a pecking order. Is civilization more indebted to paper makers or the printer?

No worries; so am I...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3CIhGXnntM

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Hm… well, in fact I am going to defend your pal (the older, saner version of him. ) In fact, I deem the greatest service played by old-style, courteous and intelligent conservatism to be its role as the source of doubt and skeptical questioning off half-baked, overly confident and zealous utopian plans.


I did get his point at the time.

Here's what I object to, though. Conservatives oppose liberal changes as a knee-jerk reaction, implicilty saying "Everything works fine the way it is right now, so don't upset the apple cart".

Now that conservatives (Cliven bundy excepted) pretty much accept abolition of slavery as one of those liberal ideas that "works" and therefore belongs to conservatism, the least they could do is admit the corrolary "Liberals aren't always wrong."

As long as conservatives continue to insist that social change is a bad thing, but also claim those changes proven to work as their own, I will not concede the point.

Me personally, I have often stated that a functioning civilization requires both ideas--conservatives to remind us that the system has evolved the way it is over time for very good structural reasons; and liberals to remind us that our enviormnent is not static, and our grandfathers' methods may no longer be the appropraite responses. Successful species require both dominant and recessive traits for much the same reason.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

When David says that ‘all rich folks are not the same', does he mean to say that (1) the group identified as ‘rich folks’ is not an actual group, (2) individual ‘rich folks’ are somehow neither ‘rich’ nor ‘folks’, or (3) all groups, especially the ‘rich folks' group, are composed of disparate individuals?


I expect (3) is the obvious choice.


Either way, such a statement is either disingenuous or semantically corrupt because (1) the act of ‘grouping' requires the identification of similarities, (2) the presence of similarity is a matter of definition, and (3) individuals are the basis of every grouping howsoever defined.


In context, the (to me) obvious point was "While there is currently a political conflict between rich people and everybody else, don't forget that not all rich people are waging that conflict, and not all rich people are enemies of the rest of us." Perhaps the statement is obvious, but sometimes in the heat of battle or argument, the obvious is not noticed, and has to be pointed out.

Semantically, Dr Brin's statement is equivalent to "Not all of locumranch's posts are the same."

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

How long did Dems control the Senate? At least the truth makes them appear less spineless.


The Democrats never controlled the Senate to the extent that they could ram anything Nancy Pelosi and President Obama wanted through the body.

There was only a brief window when they had 60 Senate votes, between Al Franken's disputed win over Norm Coleman and the death of Ted Kennedy. Outside of that small period, the well-disciplined Republicans could always mount a filibuster.

And even when the briefly did have 60 votes, that number is misleading. The sixty included independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman. The former could be counted on to vote liberal, but the latter (despite having previously been a Democrat) often voted with the Republicans. So did Ben Nelson of Nebraska and a few other "Blue Dog" Democrats.

It is simply not true that there was ever a time President Obama could get anything he wanted past congress without negotiation. And sometimes not even then.*

* That's a favorite line from an old 1980s Iron Man issue, where Tony Stark's matronly secretary sees Tony kissing his girlfriend and huffs "In my day, we didn't do that until we were married, and sometimes not even then!"

LarryHart said...

and I meant to add...

When Ted Kennedy died and Scott Brown won his Senate seat, I posted on-line to that same conservative buddy I mentioned above and congratulated his side on "taking back the Senate". He didn't appreciate the snark, and insisted on reminding me that the Democrats still had the majority as well as full control of the House and the Presidency.

And yet, in hindsight, my snarky comment contained more truth than not. Chris (the conservative guy) was correct to the extent that Republicans could not put forth their own agenda, but I was also correct that from that point on, the Democrats could not either, despite their control of the House and presidency and nominal control of the Senate. The Republicans could and did prevent anything they wished.

David Brin said...

onward