Saturday, October 27, 2012

Those Who Do Not Remember Their Past...

After reading about Obama's belief that he can achieve a "grand bargain" with Republicans within the first year of a second term (a goal which, of course, goes against the will of much of the public), I began to take a nice stroll down history lane.  (History lane, of course, is a few blocks over from memory lane.)....

In the wake of an economic downturn that resulted from over a decade of financial recklessness, a Democratic President, promising a brighter future, is elected.  In his first term, he manages to pass moderate banking regulations and moderate economic stimulus as well as historic social legislation, despite having to weaken it in order to appeal to conservative members in his own party.  Despite the attempts of conservative forces to claim the populist rhetoric which the president had embraced, he manages to get re-elected because of a growing party coalition rooted in the new demographics of the big cities.  Upon re-election, in accord with his own centrist leanings and on the advice of his more conservative economic advisors, he decides to shift his efforts away from helping the suffering economy reach full employment and instead to balancing the budget and reducing the deficit.  The previously recovering economy then suffers another downturn.  Let’s hope the last two sentences here don’t happen again as they did 75 years ago.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to Design a Romney-Style To Do List

How to design a Romney-style to do list:

(1) Develop a five-point plan of things you think would be nice to accomplish today. Don't just limit yourself to the realm of facts, logical consistency, or mathematical possibility. The sky is the limit!

(2) Midway through the day, tell yourself that it does not matter that you did not accomplish as much as you would have liked because, in fact, this was a to-do list for the WEEK, not the DAY. You never said it would get done in a day.

One week later:
(1) Look at that: You got your to-do list down to only five points! Smile smugly.

(2) Go back to looking at binders full of women.


Image source

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Will Not Bore You To Death with This Blog Post: Why Negative Statements Make For Horrible Messaging

When you read the title of this post, it is likely that you immediately began to reflect on whether or not the contents of the post itself would bore you.  Why is he being so defensive about the non-boringness of his writing?  Has someone called it boring in the past?

I doubt you thought, "This will be the most lively and thought-provoking piece of writing I'll read all day."

Keeping this in mind, now look at the following graphic from the "Environmentalists for Obama" section of Obama's campaign site. 

The quote in the graphic comes from his speech at the DNC in Charlotte.  However, look at how he expresses his belief in climate change and the legitimacy and necessity of action:  'Climate change is not a hoax."

What is the most salient word in that sentence?  That's right:  hoax.

By repeating the language and argument of his opponents, like Sen. Jim Inhofe, he not only foregrounded it in his audience's minds, but he (more importantly and more destructively) legitimated the argument "climate change is a hoax" by deeming it worthy of counter-argument.  When the scientific consensus lies firmly on one side, there is no empirical debate about the existence of human-induced climate change; the debate is on just how damaging it will be and how much time we have left to take effective action.

Obama could have said, "My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is a real and pressing threat [to our health and security]."

Calling something "not a hoax" does not provide a compelling reason for action. It could not be a hoax but still not warrant our attention; it could not be a hoax but still be a minor problem.  However, climate change does warrant our attention and will soon become a major problem if not addressed, and we need affirmative, morally-driven calls to action and sound policy in order to move forward.

Friday, October 19, 2012

When is a War Not a War

Silly liberals, there's no GOP war on women.  There was no official declaration, so it's just a "police action."  Kind of like Korea.

(Image from Tom Tomorrow in the Daily Kos)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Body Politic, or Why I Like Extended Metaphors

The other day, when reading recent news of the crises in Spain and Greece, I thought to myself, "Austerity is like recommending anorexia to a sick person."  The parallel drawn between economic and physical health got me thinking, and I began to realize that the extended metaphor of the body politic can be quite telling.

Think of the different governing philosophies as different views of physical well-being and fitness for the body politic, or Lady Government (if we are to anthropomorphize and gender).

Let me begin this extended metaphor by comparing the idea of a "tax and spend liberal" to that of someone in fitness training--an acknowledgement that, to boost health, one must both take in enough (not too much, but a solid amount) of food and must then exercise to expend the energy gained.
The problem with Communism, then, becomes the fetishiziation of government as the uber-muscular figure, which takes in ridiculously large quantities of food and expends large quantities of energy, but in doing so, because of the repetition of the process to the extreme, the body ends up looking  malformed if not deformed.  And rather than achieving the dream of the perfectly-functioning body, one is left with ill health.

The Green would differ from the liberal in attitude to the source of the food being ingested.  Although both agree that the Body Politic should ingest and expend, the Green sees the need for an organic, vegan, or local diet for achieving physical well-being.  To the Green, the liberal's agreement to consume food produced through oppression or exploitation  shows a weakness of principle and a refusal to question the underlying motive and values that dominate attitudes toward health, diet, and the whole working of the system of food production.

Conservatism, on the opposite side of the spectrum, looks at the government and always sees it as too fat--perhaps even morbidly obese. "You know, Government, you could afford to lose a few pounds. Do you really need to take in those extra taxes--you are looking pretty bloated today?" Then, when Lady Government starts eating less, the conservative continues the same refrain, for Lady Government in the eyes of the Republican will always be fat. She can always afford to lose a few pounds--or the equivalent of a person. The fit or figured shape of the "tax-and-spend liberal" ideal of Lady Government might have a few extra pounds (because you need some extra weight when you get sick) but is overall obviously in good health. However, the Marilyn Monroe (let's say) of the "tax-and-spend liberal" is always too fat to the conservative.

And even when Lady Government gets ill--or when the cancer that is inevitable financial crisis goes out of remission, the solution of the Republican is still to tell Lady Government to lose weight. The conservative might see Lady Government's newfound difficulty with ingesting and then begin to praise how lovely she now looks, how she has never been better, and that she should start ingesting even less not just involuntarily out of diseaseAnorexia is still the solution to the sick--no matter how illogical that may be and no matter how weak it puts the body to defense against disease. And, now that Lady Government is sick and cannot ingest as much as she could before, the Republican begins to praise the reduced consumption and champion that Lady Government should continue to consume less--not out of ill health but out of will. The conservative might even succeed in altering the whole societal ideal of beauty--pushing the gaunt image of Lady Government that it has championed into the mainstream and forcing liberals to begin to think that their ideal could really shed a few pounds, that its curves are misshapen.

However, the conservative ideal is not just thin--the ideal of the conservative is to get the government to be so thin, so gaunt, so anorexic that it can no longer function.  The body, no more than a mess of bones and organs, becomes no more than a blunt weapon with which to batter down enemies.

Friday, October 5, 2012

In Shared Prosperity 101, 11 Senators Flunked, but 21 Made Honor Roll

The Institute for Policy Studies recently released a Congressional report card for the 99%, grading our Senators and Representatives on the votes from the 2011-2012 session that would have reduced or worsened the growing levels of income inequality in the US.

  • Positively, he Senate had 21 A students, all Democrats (or members of the Dem Caucus):
    • 5 A+'s : Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    • 9 A's: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
    • 7 A-'s: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
  •  Unfortunately, though, 11 Senators flunked, all Republicans: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY)
 In California, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Vermont, both Senators made the Honor Roll.  In Georgia, both Senators flunked.

 No Senate Republicans received higher grades than Senate Democrats; however, several from both parties met together in C-student land:
  • 6 C-student Senate Democrats: Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)
  • 3 C-student Senate Republicans: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (D-AK), Sen. Susan Collins (D-ME), Sen. Olympia Snowe (D-ME)

 In the House, the lowest-ranked Democrats tied with the highest-ranked Republicans, converging on a grade of C+.  9 Democratic Rep's and 9 Republican Rep's received a C+:
  • Democrats: Rep. Joe Donnelly (D IN-2), Rep. Ben Chandler (D KY-6), Rep. Timothy Walz (D MN-1), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D NC-7), Rep. Larry Kissell (D NC-8), Rep. Bill Owens (D NY-23), Rep. Dan Boren (D OK-2), Rep. Henry Cuellar (D TX-28), Rep. Jim Matheson (D UT-2)
  • Republicans: Rep. Raul Labrador (R ID-1), Rep. Timothy Johnson (R IL-15), Rep. Justin Amash (R MI-3), Rep. Walter Jones (R NC-3), Rep. Michael Grimm (R NY-20), Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), Rep. Steven LaTourette (R OH-14), Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R PA-8), , Rep. David McKinley (R WV-1)