Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Thus Spake the Rube

For the hundredth time the foreign-born Muslim commie Nazi extends an olive branch across the aisle, and for the hundredth time it’s dashed to the floor, stomped on and set ablaze – along with the latest spokes-liars trousers.   It became a conflagration that the infamous water-stop could not staunch.

Early in Marco Rubio’s alleged rebuttal to B. Hoover Obama’s latest exercise in political theater it became painfully obvious that his pants were on fire.  This was even before it became obvious that his diatribe was utterly incoherent.  Steve Benen explains.

By any sensible measure, Rubio’s entire pitch was incoherent gibberish. He thinks President Obama is hostile to free enterprise and wants to increase the deficit, neither of which makes any sense. Rubio thinks the housing crisis was caused by big government, which is simply idiotic. Rubio celebrates his family’s history of dependence on government social programs like student loans and Medicare, while articulating a policy agenda that guts government social programs like student loans and Medicare.
Forget ideology, subjectivity, and areas of opinion — the fact is Marco Rubio’s speech was filled with a series of claims with no meaningful connection to reality. The senator even thinks combating the climate crisis means asking government to “control the weather,” which is just genuinely dumb.

Part way through I started taking notes, and discovered an unappetizing platter of rewarmed left-overs [or more accurately: right-overs] of Romney’s failed presidential campaign, where lying and incoherence were the norm.  It was deja vu all over again. Viz:

Obama’s obsession with raising taxes
Solyndra [God help us – I am not making this up]
We should open Federal lands to energy exploration
Grow Energy industry [but not renewables]
Lower Corp tax rate [Highest in the world, don’t cha know]
Incentivise school districts
Schools of choice
Solve the debt problem [As if BHO ignored it – or, more importantly – as if it were a real problem]
Obama created the debt with excessive spending  [my personal favorite]
Need a balanced budget amendment  [the ignorance – it burns, too]
Obama’s in favor of leaving Medicare just the way it is [though he clearly stated otherwise]
He also wants to unconstitutionally undermine 2nd amendment rights
The President’s devastating cuts to our military [Seriously — WTH?!?]
Moral breakdown in society – need more faith
Economic liberty

That’s what I was able to capture as Rubio’s litany of [mostly] decades old Republican clap-trap spewed forth almost faster than I could record it.

One of the MSNBC commentators pointed out that this nonsense wasn’t directed to the American public, who I hope are beginning to see through the smoke screen, but to the hard-core right-wing base.  As such, it’s Rubio’s first gambit in his run for the 2016 presidential nomination.

I don’t know if I should laugh, cry, or drink myself into a stupor.

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Topical thread: Tea Party politics

Via National memo comes a review of a book on the ‘Tea Party’.

One might imagine the changes that worry Tea Partiers to be primarily economic. But Tea Party members rarely emphasize economic concerns. The nightmare of societal decline is usually painted in cultural hues, and the villains in the picture are freeloading social groups, liberal politicians, bossy professionals, big government and the news media. Forces conspire, Arizona retiree Stella Fisher says, “to the breaking down of conservative society.” Kids today, she says, think “it’s not so important that you get married, even if you have a baby with somebody.” Members of the Tea Party peer out at a fast-changing society and worry. The public image of the Tea Party is one of anger. But in our experience, the more typical emotion is fear. (Theda Skocpol is a professor of government and sociology at Harvard University. Vanessa Williamson is a doctoral candidate in government and social policy at Harvard. This is an excerpt from their forthcoming book, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism to be published Jan. 2 by Oxford University Press.)

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What’s a person to do? or ‘motivated avoidance’

What’s a person to do? or ‘Motivated avoidance’

 From the American Psychological Association comes two studies here and here.

Individuals are often confronted with information that they do not know how to comprehend or evaluate, even though this information can be of critical importance to the self (or society as a whole). In the case of energy, nearly 40% of respondents in a Public Agenda (2009) survey could not identify a fossil fuel. Nearly one third could not identify a renewable energy source and incorrectly believed that solar energy contributes to global warming. This lack of knowledge should be of concern to these individuals, as 89% of respondents worry about increasing fuel costs, and 71% worry about global warming.
 
The economy serves as another example.

Approximately half of surveyed adults did not know what an increase in gross domestic product meant and thought that “money holds its value well in times of inflation” (National Council on Economic Education, 2005). Worse still, in a national survey of American adults, 54% of respondents did not know what a subprime mortgage was (Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, 2009), despite the fact that the subprime mortgage crisis was a significant contributor to the economic recession that began in 2008, and almost certainly affected some substantial portion of those surveyed. In short, it is apparent that a solid grasp of the basics (let alone the complexities) of these domains elude many people, and there appears to be a discrepancy between how much people know about social issues and their importance and relevance to one’s day-to-day life.

….
Given the psychological discomfort associated with epistemic uncertainty, one appealing way to deal with the anxiety of being unable to comprehend or manage information is to simply outsource personal responsibility to supposed qualified others. This strategy may, at times, be considerably more appealing than seeking
out knowledge and information for oneself, which assumes that people have the time and ability to sieve through challenging, and potentially threatening, information. The amount of information available to us to sort, comprehend, and assimilate has substantially increased due to technological advances, all of which compete for our time and attention. As a result, trade-offs have been made over time whereby society’s members have forfeited a certain amount of autonomy to have these burdens placed onto systems of power composed of knowledgeable others. Society has prescribed that, for example, our health is managed by health professionals, our buildings by engineers and contractors, and, relevant to the present research, our social and economic security is managed by the government. Indeed, survey data show that 88% of adult respondents thought it was very important for politicians to have a good understanding of economics,

only are people motivated to avoid social issues when they feel issues are complex—thus maintaining their present level of unfamiliarity— but this effect appears strongest for those issues believed to be most urgent and serious. It is at times when change is most needed, therefore, that people may become the most likely to
defend the status quo and agents of sociopolitical systems. As such, the present studies suggest that rather than ensuring those in charge are maximally qualified to be in charge, and rather than remaining especially attuned to any limitations of the system, the psychological processes that are instigated when issues are seen as both severe and complex may limit any criticism of the current system and its decision-making process. And, perhaps even more critically, they may also prevent the types of behaviors, such as information gathering, that are necessary to efficacious social action
(Attari et al., 2010; Larrick & Soll, 2008).

italics are mine

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Guess who wrote this op-ed??

(Elizabeth Warren has hired a campaign manager and has thousands of volunteers signing up for her campaign for the Senate seat in MA that Senator Scott Brown currently occupies. He has a lot of work to do for this election.)

Guess who wrote this op-ed??

The moment you threaten to strip politicians of their legal graft, they’ll moan that they can’t govern effectively without it. Perhaps they’ll gravitate toward reform, but often their idea of reform is to limit the right of “We the people” to exercise our freedom of speech in the political process.

I’ve learned from local, state and national political experience that the only solution to entrenched corruption is sudden and relentless reform. Sudden because our permanent political class is adept at changing the subject to divert the public’s attention—and we can no longer afford to be indifferent to this system of graft when our country is going bankrupt. Reform must be relentless because fighting corruption is like a game of whack-a-mole. You knock it down in one area only to see it pop up in another.

What are the solutions? We need reform that provides real transparency. Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act like everyone else. We need more detailed financial disclosure reports, and members should submit reports much more often than once a year. All stock transactions above $5,000 should be disclosed within five days.

We need equality under the law. From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress, including whistleblower, conflict-of-interest and insider-trading laws. Trading on nonpublic government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it. (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren’t really blind because they’re managed by family members or friends.)

No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors. No gifts of IPO shares. No trading of stocks related to committee assignments. No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit. No accepting campaign contributions while Congress is in session. No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.

Sarah Palin

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"Free trade" and the Tea Party Congress

An op-ed in the Washington Post points to an idea worth exploring:

For all the talk of populist foment – the Tea Party on the right and the new Occupy Wall Street movement on the left – business interests remain firmly in control. Forced to choose between their voters and their donors, lawmakers don’t hesitate before choosing the latter.

There is little doubt about where the Tea Party faithful stands on free trade. A year ago, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 61 percent of Tea Party supporters thought free-trade agreements had hurt the country, compared to 53 percent of Americans overall who held that view. Shortly after that, a Pew Research Center poll found that only 24 percent of Tea Party supporters thought free-trade agreements were good for America.

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