Friday, December 28, 2012

Conversation with a masochistic voter.

Many of Romney's eschewed 47% voted for him and will continue to vote for republicans who, while they are more tactful than Romney, share his disdain and his lack of empathy or support for them. They continue to vote against their own best interests and no amount of logic, fact or history will change them.  Some are republican because their parents or peers are republicans.  This is probably offset by as many democrats who do the same.

My concern or question is why do seemingly politically engaged poor republicans do so; not just poor but people whose well being is very much dependent on public policy favored by democrats. They are disrespected by the party they vote for and when they hear it from politicians, as they did from Romney,  there is a disconnect.  "They are talking about my democratic friends, not me," they tell themselves.

Some of it can be explained by emotion packed so called "wedge issues."  Gay marriage and other gay rights such as their right to serve in the military has been used successfully both in national political campaigns as well as local ones.  Now the general public support of these gay rights have become more populist and have turned the tables on the republicans.  Gun  rights have decided at least one national election and who knows how many local ones.  The democrats have finally given this one up. Unfortunately, the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticutt, has given it legs again and if the democrats don't let it pass they may revive the republican party in 2014.  Truth is, while gun control laws are intrinsically healthy, they would be ineffective in controlling killings like in Newtown or Columbine; this would require a change in morality not gun laws.

Abortion or a woman's right to choose has been effective for republicans but public sentiment has also changed here and it is no longer used effectively by republicans.  In fact, extremism in so called "right to life" candidates have lost a couple of national elections.

Racism has always been a factor in people voting for candidates who support issues not in their own best interest. Not just the race of the candidate him or herself as with Obama but the position of the candidate on issues that effect race.  For example, many vote against welfare issues even though they are negatively effected by voting against them but because of the ingrained belief by many whites that welfare is just about Africa Americans. The civil rights movement of the 60's turned voters of an entire part of the United States, from democrat to republican.  It's true that these voters were republican mostly because of the post Civil War era policies of the republican party and many times voted against their own best interest because of their customized reaction to the history of the republican party; another example of self damaging voting behavior. Today this same low information voting pattern works to the republican's advantage and along with racism explains the deadly virulent hatred for Obama and the democrats.

Another reason for poor people to support less government involvement, hence republican, because they consider themselves as tough individualists who would become part of the upper class if government would just get out of their way. The truth is that upward mobility is possible but not common and becoming more difficult. Another problem in their thinking is that they see no quid pro quo relationship when they buy government services with their tax dollar as they do when they lay a buck on the counter for a loaf of bread. Their reasoning capability or energy just does not make the connection. To them the highways are just there.

The above examples can be explained rationally - not reason by the voters themselves, but by reason in understanding their voting  patterns.  Others are not so easily explained. I will never understand why police officers are predominantly conservative and vote republican. I was a cop for 26 years and it has been my experience that democrats, as a rule and on the average, support higher pay and better benefits for public employees. It's true that liberal judges tend to be softer on criminals as seen in the exclusionary rule but cops voted for republicans before the Miranda Decision. Exemplifying this schizophrenia on the part of cops is the California police union, PORAC, who supported Governor Brown as a body but voted against him as individual members. In spite of the fact, that the NRA supports the free sale of armor piercing ammunition and things like finger proof pistol handles, cops support them and many even are members. I am speaking from personal experience which has been predominantly with California cops.  Also, this may be changing with the recent movement toward unionization by cops and republican attacks on public unions. The bottom line is, their has been no rational explanation for political leanings of cops.

it is also difficult to explain the penchant for servicemen to be conservative.  I can understand the professional servicemen who favor the republicans because they have historically, perhaps with the exception of pre-WII,   been for larger military outlays and recently, and ominously, have become part of the military-industrial complex of which President Eisenhower warned. They see more opportunity for professional advancement with republican administrations.  This is rational and understandable. Now, with the all volunteer army, it might also be rational, if not correct, for enlisted men to vote republican.

The epitome of enigmatic voting patterns was demonstrated to me in a recent conversation with a army veteran.  He joined for the minimal enlistment period but was caught in the Iraq war and was held in the service by the stop loss feature of military duty; he was too valuable to be released.  He ended up being discharged after ten years. He is now going to school on the GI Bill and has been the recipient of federal unemployment compensation.

Army veteran, entering the room:  Well, thanks to Obama my unemployment compensation is ending in December.

Me:  Obama is not responsible for the termination of your unemployment benefits. He wants to entend them. The republicans want them to end.

AV:  Well, if he was more cooperative, they could come to an agreement.

Me:  You mean more cooperative by agreeing to end your unemployment benefits?

AV:  No, I mean more cooperative in other ways.

Me:  So, you like government benefits for yourself but not for others.

AV:  Blank stare.

Me:  By the way, who is paying your tuition to go to school?

AV:  It's part of the GI Bill.  I earned it.

Me:  I agree. You did earn it, but the republicans voted against it. Also, I earned my social security but the republicans want to end it.

AV: No they didn't.

Me: No they didn't what? Vote against the GI Bill or want to end my Social Security.

AV:  Vote against the GI Bill.  I'm against entitlements, we can't afford them.

Me:  Yeah, they did vote against it, check it out.  While you're at it check out privatization of Social Security by Paul Ryan.  It's easy to find on Google.

AV:  That's not what Fox News says!

Me:  Fox News is wrong.  Check it out for yourself.

AV:  Blank stare...then, I will but I know they are right.

Me: So you won't check it out for yourself, will you.

AV:  Blank stare.

Me:  BTW, why did you vote for Romney after he said you were irresponsible and part of the 47% that didn't pay taxes and didn't want to take charge of your own life.

AV:  He didn't actually mean that and besides I hate Obama.

Me:  Why do you hate Obama.  He and the democrats have given you free tuition and unemployment benefits and you've never had a job except in the army and your salary was paid by taxes.  In fact, you've never earned a dollar that wasn't paid for by taxes.

AV:  Because he embarrassed the military by apologizing to the Europeans.

Me:  When did he apologize, who did he apologize to and what for.

AV:  Fox News and Romney said he went on an apology tour to the Middle East and Europe.

Me: What did he apologize for?

AV:  For everything!

Me: For example?

AV: Blank stare.

Me:  When President Obama began his term, he made a number of speeches in the middle east and elsewhere -- all designed to forge better ties with Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, but he never apologized to anyone for anything...Although, many think an apology is in order for invading Iraq on false pretenses and without UN Sanctions. The truth is American relations are better with other nations and we are more respected than we were when Bush was president. 

AV:  That's not what Fox News says.  

Me:  You need to expand your horizon.  Try watching CNN or the networks.

AV, with renewed vigor:  Obama wants to increase taxes - right in the middle of a recession.

Me:  We're not in a recession, we're in a slow recovery and he doesn't want to raise your taxes.  Number one, you're not paying taxes, you're part of Romney's irresponsible 47%, and number two the taxes are going up for everyone because the republicans won't agree on making the Bush tax cuts permanent for incomes below $250,000 unless they include the ones making more.  

AV:  Blank stare. That's not what Fox News says.

Me:  Hopeless blank stare.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Obama facing the most dangerous crisis since JFK in the missile showdown.

With the exception of the Civil War, Cuban missile, Pearl Harbor and the 1929 crash, America is in more danger than it has been in the last 100 years. What makes this one unique is it is entirely self inflicted and could be resolved in 24 hours. It won't be. While I don't agree with the major recommendations of the link above, they have accurately described the situation - at least at the time. Unfortunately, it has worsened and, sadly, just as we are on the brink of avoiding exacerbation of the situation. If we do not agree on a budget before the end of the year, we are going over the cliff and the consequences are frightening.

While Obama's plan is not perfect, in fact it is not totally accepted by his base (I personally do not totally agree with it.), it would go a long way toward reducing an over hyped deficit and would keep the weak recovery moving in the right direction - maybe even accelerate it a little.  It is being prevented by 51 members of the House of Representatives; the Teaparty caucus, fianced by the Koch Brothers and corporate lobbying groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and American for Prosperity. Speaker Boehner has been unable to move them out of their totally intransigent position and has only made himself less effective and less credible with his transparent and feeble attempts to shift responsibility onto Obama. Too many members of this group are amateur legislators or ignorant ideologues who campaign on the idea that government doesn't work and are willing to destroy the economy to prove it. Their short-sightedness and that of their corporate sponsors is reminiscent of the high rollers of 1928.

The crisis Obama faces goes beyond the current situation. The plight of 15 million out-of-work Americans and their families is sad enough without being forced into another world depression. Our proclivity for economic colonialism along with our insistence on being the only world superpower and, therefore, the universal police agency has put us into a dilemma that could be fatal. Wealth is usually needed to underpin military power, and military power is usually needed to acquire and protect wealth. While worrying about their foes, states playing in the world arena must constantly maintain a delicate internal equilibrium. Armies are required for security, but they cost money. Military superiority by itself is often deceiving, since it may be weakening a state's ability to compete economically and fund future conflicts.

We simply have to protect our borders by ending our oil wars and keeping our military at home; and with economic policy that stops jobs from going overseas as we create non-exportable jobs at home. We need to become totally independent, not of foreign oil, but of globalized American oil corporations.  We need to protect our borders from the importation products produced by firms like WalMart using slave labor.  It would be naive to believe that Obama's proposed economic plan would do all that but it would be a positive step in the right direction and would reverse the destructive policies of the last 30 years that have concentrated too much wealth at the top and is fast reducing the middle class to irrelevance as consumers. 

We will not get any cooperation with the 51 egocentric corporate sycophants and Obama will be tested as no president has since FDR.  There are ways to address the automatic spending cuts and to adjust the tax structure without their help. America's future depends on his success.  To be perfectly honest, I wish Hillary Clinton, whom I didn't support, was president but she isn't.

In the words of William Shakespeare, "Some people are born great, some people achieve greatness and some people have greatness thrust upon them."  Let's hope that Obama falls under one of those categories. America may well be in the balance.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On life support, the Teaparty may still prove their theory.

That is,  that government doesn't work. They consider the destruction of the economy as collateral damage.  The Tea party started out sincerely enough.  It was born in February, 2009, and with the help of networking sites like Twitter and Facebook grew to the point that 28% of voters had a positive attitude toward it. They held a seemingly politically impossible melange of complaints and grievances.  The unifying thread that tied them together was hatred of big government, big business and Obama.  Their early protests focused on the 
stimulus package, the bank bailouts, and health-care legislation.  As their demonstrations spread and they invaded the town hall meetings, their militancy grew and the movement was commandeered by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks Organization - the right's answer to  The final end to the movements grass roots quality came with the takeover by the Koch Brothers who re-purposed them for a fight for capitalist fascism and against democracy.  

They were heavily finance in the 2010 elections and won some key elections. The fear of their political power paralyzed the main-stream republican party and, in effect, this radical movement took over. With minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Tea party favorite, at the helm, the republican party's main goal became the failure of President Obama. Obama had a successful two years passing some major legislation but after the 2010 elections, the GOteaParty used the filibuster a record 360 times to stall economic recovery.  Their radicalism cost the GOP dearly in the recent elections and the conventional wisdom saw a realignment of the party with the new reality and cooperation on the reduction of the deficit and stimulation of the anemic recovery.  It hasn't happened and probably won't.

Efforts of Speaker Boehner for unification have gotten nowhere.  He hasn't even been an effective liar - though he has tried.  Obama has already gone further with his concessions than he has promised his liberal base and there has been NO movement toward compromise by the Republican controlled House.  Don't overlook the roll that racism has played in the national politick  The Birther movement is still alive and infects many, if not most, of the Neorepublican party. The thin veneer of decency and tolerance of a relatively small group of our citizenry has been overcome by their reemerging and now un-controlled hatred. These people have taken over the Republican Party and have become irrationally vocal. You saw them at the Town Hall meetings where they completely blocked any dialogue.

They have kept their racism and hatred below the surface for the past thirty years or so because blatant racism became unpopular. Now the election of an African American president has brought it back to the surface. They are so blind with rage, they no longer care what decent people think. They have retreated into their own ideological commune; unfortunately, they have pulled the bulk or a large share of the once honorable republican party along with them. Of course there has always been the animosity between the right and the left that had nothing to do with race. But the re-emergence of racism has intensified that as well. Politics has become ugly and has to a large extent grown to define friendships. I can remember when you were more likely to get into a shouting match over whether your Ford was better than his Chevy than over who was running for president.
Predictions of the consequences of the so-called fiscal cliff vary with economists but are so dire that most cannot conceive of not finding some kind of compromise.  In my view, going over the cliff will result in a new economic failure at least as bad as 1929.  Do the radicals in the House care? Not really, like so many in 1929, they think they are bullet proof. They are not. It looks like they are going to prove that government does not work - at least as long as they hold office.  I see a race toward the 2014 elections.

Monday, December 17, 2012

We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us!

Here we go again!  Still another mass killing and the same old outrage and litany of panaceas; and once again, the emotion will recede, the NRA money will start talking again and nothing will change significantly and in a few months, it will happen still again! Here is a list of the most prominent solutions:

1. A ban on assault weapons and conversion kits.  Who can logically argue against this?  No one; but the NRA, backed by gun nuts,  will argue against  it illogically (more guns not fewer - arm the students!) and effectively. Gun control advocates in supporting their position after a horrific mass killing like Columbine or Newtown will use the specious statistics of killings in and around the home; domestic violence, suicides and accidents.  The problem here is that these killings don't involve assault weapons.  A ban on assault weapons would have had no effect in Columbine because this assault was planned for days and illegal  weapons are available. It would not have had an effect in Newtown because assault weapons were not used.

2.  Background checks by gun dealers.  Once again, who can logically argue against this?  Again, no one; but the NRA and their sycophants will do it effectively with the color of money. As in Columbine, this would not have had any effect. Illegal guns are readily available.  It would not have stopped the Newtown murders because the owner of the guns would have passed a background review.

3.  Identification of and treatment for mentally disturbed.  A poignant and convincing argument for this approach was made by Liza Long, using a real situation with her son that has the potential of becoming another Newtown-like killing.  Who can argue with the logic of this approach? No one; and the program has intrinsic value beyond mass killings.  The problem is that it takes money and would be opposed by the same group who oppose an assault weapons ban...or any gun control laws.  It is doubtful, also, that any program could be effective in reaching enough disturbed people to be effective.

4.  A ban on all guns.  This is the only law that could be effective but WILL NEVER HAPPEN. The state of New York comes the closest to such a ban but with local controls superseding state law, a patchwork of rules and regulations has made the law difficult to enforce and minimally effective.  What the New York law has done is successfully challenged the gun lobby claim that gun control laws are in violation of the 2nd Amendment. It is obvious that the amendment was not intended to permit the unfettered possession of arms by the general public. Such a law, a total ban, would be opposed emotionally and effectively by a majority of US voters whose love of the gun may be as strong, or stronger, than the love of the automobile. There are a number of reasons people want guns in their home:

Self protection. This is a legitimate concern but futile. I have a gun for such a reason but am under no delusion that it is anything more than visceral and would have no problem turning mine in if required by law.

Hunting weapons.  The love of hunting in pervasive.

Gun collections.  Many people have an interest in weapons historically. Personally, I would be interested in visiting a museum to see all the weapons I was trained to use while in the army.  I don't need them in my family room, however. Many gun collectors, however, transcend an historical interest and have become part of the small but growing militia mindset.  They see themselves as the last line of defense against a tyrannical government which is inexorably, and by conspiratorial design, destined to enslave the people. This feeling was apparent during the early so called town hall meetings which gave birth to the Teaparty.  These meetings, sponsored by those like the Koch Brothers, were attended by a group who had grievances that were inconsistent with each other.  The one thing they had in common was the unwillingness to accept an African American as president.  The use of guns, as displayed at their rallies,  was seen as the "final solution" to their dilemma.

For whatever reason, violence and guns have become part of the American montage.  It pervades our government, entertainment and international politics.  I don't pretend to understand how this happened.  We are like Sicily with organization.  Killing is still the paramount part of the "final solution."  We still worship the "wild west." Movies like the spaghetti westerns didn't make us like this, our attitude inspired the spaghetti westerns.  Clint Eastwood and the Duke never even stuck around long enough to bury their victims. It has finally pervaded our national policy.  We no longer defend our country with troops on the ready in our borders.  The 82nd Airborne, America's guard of honor, is deployed in the middle east.  Dick Cheney's one-percent doctrine was the unannounced but de facto policy of the Bush Administration. We invaded Iraq using the excuse, the public one anyway, that they might someday have nuclear weapons and might someday use them against us.  Hundreds of thousand Iraqis were killed, along with thousands of Americans,  because of it.

We have learned that this kind of murder is too expensive so have pared our preemptive murders, with the Drone attacks, down to where a minimal number of people are killed in order to kill someone who might have planned an attack against us or might someday do so.  No one can argue the effectiveness and economy of this approach but an American should ask how many innocent victims is it appropriate to kill in order to prevent another 9/11. We like to call ourselves a Christian nation, in fact there are some who will kill to prove it, but we need to ask the question in considering the above question, "What would Christ do?"

Is it terribly surprising that a mentally or emotional disturbed person, or an out of control malcontent, would resort to guns and murder as their "final solution"? We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us!

Recmmended reading.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Obama just blinked - AGAIN!

He just told the GOteaParty that he has no stomach for infighting.  Any chance for any concessions from the Koch boys was just killed.  They are now sure he will blink. I don't know if Rice was qualified or not but everyone except John McCain seemed to think so...including Obama when he showed his first and only signs of a temper defending her against McCain.

And how about McCain.  What a wee man he has become! Placing his own petty self interests over the good of the country and throwing the career of a young woman under the bus for doing absolutely nothing wrong. He exploited an image of heroism, an image that he helped create, into a powerful position in the Senate and a run at the White House. There is no question that  he made a sacrifice but it wasn't something that he volunteered for. Hundreds of pilots flew dangerous missions over Viet Nam; he just happened to get shot down. And his behavior as a POW was not heroic.  He made propaganda tapes for the enemy and later blocked investigation into the plight of over 100 missing prisoners of war still believed to me in Viet Nam after the war. He was severely criticized by his own party for doing so.

What happened to the man that people of both parties admired - that I admired.  What happened to the man that rose above criticism and spoke out for what he believed.  How has he degenerated into what he has become?  Is it bitterness at Obama for defeating him and keeping him from his dream? Is it senility, or is it fear of becoming irrelevant; a fear of a descent into political oblivion.  His last significant act may well be to force this nation into economic chaos.

I'm reluctant to face this possibility because I supported him and contributed, generously for my means, to his campaign but I am beginning to fear that he is frightened warrior.  Does anyone doubt that Donna Rice, had Hillary won the election and chosen her, would have been confirmed.  As much as I dislike Bush, and everything he stands for, and his disastrous presidencey, he had guts and would have backed his nominee for such an important office. Obama can forget about the republicans blinking...they are now confident that he will.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Right to work means no rights at all!

I watched an old move called "Days of Heaven" a couple of days ago.  It was about three migrant farm workers in 1910 America.  It started with a group of migrant workers waiting for a ranch foreman to pick some out of the group to work harvesting wheat on an East Texas farm.  The story, a sad and poignant one, evolved out of the travails of the migrant workers in general and these three specifically.  It was narrated by one of the three, a young girl about 10 years old.  While showing the group hard at labor, the little girl said,
"They didn't care about us, they could replace any of us anytime they chose."  That simple statement describes the plight of the American worker, even skilled workers, before unions.

I was born in 1929 and lived through the depression.  I experienced poverty as bad as ever experienced in the USA.  It was nearly universal and those hardest hit had absolutely no control of their plight.  We lived in a shack without floors or plumbing.  My dad worked in a coal mine in Utah 12 hours a day for barely enough to eat.  We moved out of the mines and my father got into the construction business. I remember being told about the workers following a material truck to a job site were the contractor opened up reverse bidding for a day or two's work; many times for enough to barely buy gas back home. "They didn't care about the workers, they could replace any of them anytime they wanted."

Years later, in Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" I read about the dust bowl victims doing the same thing for ranchers in California.  Fruit was rotting on the trees and people were starving because they couldn't afford to buy it; and the ranchers couldn't give it away, obviously, so they tried to lower the price by lowering wages but with such low wages, the workers still couldn't afford to buy food.  The ranchers "didn't care about the pickers, they could replace any of them anytime they wanted." Even as the depression was ending, they could still replace any of them anytime they wanted and the workers were totally at the mercy, of which there was none, of the ranchers.

Then a funny thing happened, someone convinced the workers that if they bonded together they could demand, as a group, a decent price for their labor. The American Federation of Labor was formed and the Roosevelt administration passed a law, The Wagner Act, formally the National Labor Relations Act which gave workers the right to organize into unions and to discuss the unionization in the work place.  From that day on businesses still didn't care about the workers but they couldn't replace them anytime they wanted. The American middle class was born that day.  Things improved for the worker steadily and unions grew stronger during and after the big war.  Ironically, businesses and entrepreneurs also thrived.  The pie grew bigger and everyone was satisfied with their share of the pie.

When I graduated from high school, I went to work as a lather.  For the first time in years, I no longer lived on welfare.  I had to wait from June, 1947, until November to get in the union.  No one could work in the building trades, at least in Southern California, unless they were in the union. It was a nuisance  to me at the time;  the contractors still didn't care about us but they couldn't replace us anytime they wanted - at least not all of us.  Things were looking up for me.   As an apprentice and later as a journeyman and then a forman, I made good wages and supported a family of four in a little home I bought with no down payment thanks to my VA loan for which I qualified as a Korean War veteran.

It's a natural act for business owners to want to make more money.  It's as natural as beasts of the forests killing smaller or weaker animals for food.  The object of any business is to make a profit, as big a profit as possible - regardless of what happens to the consumer, product quality or worker, or even to future profits; and businesses, the big ones, the corporations, saw the elimination of bargaining rights of workers as a way to enhance those profits; and aided by Ronald Reagan, the father of the incorporation of America, they began to chip away at the bargaining power of collective bargaining.  One of the crown jewels of the union killing was the so called "Right to Work laws," passed state by state, which made closed shops illegal. These laws were the death knell of collective bargaining in those states.  These laws have lowered average wages where implemented.

I retired as a building contractor in California and moved to Southern Utah in 1991, I was forced by circumstances into resuming my business there.  I didn't want to hire a framing crew so I subcontracted the framing to a friend in the area. I kept close records of my expenses and had started to use a computer. I learned the workers, in all trades,  were payed about 20% less than in Sacramento but the price of the homes, extrapolating for the cheaper land was exactly the same.  None of the savings were passed on to the consumer. Furthermore, not one of the workers who I got to know could afford to buy one of my homes. They were all bought by people moving into the area from out of state- mostly California.  In other words, "they didn't care about the workers, they could have replaced them anytime.

Right to work mean no rights at all.