Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Straight from the horse's mouth

There has been a suspicion among certain people that the Right has let slip the constricting bonds of reality, and sprung untethered into the world of fantasy. This started with the Laffer curve and back-of-the-napkin economics, grew stronger in light of the Bush party flack who said empires "create their own reality," and now has been revealed in plain, simple language by the Romneyites:
"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.
And here's a perfect example:

Coal miners lost pay for mandatory appearance at Romney photo-op

What more perfect illustration could you ask for? In the Romney world, working-class people are props that not only can be bossed around without compunction, but also without pay.

These aristocrats really think that white, working-class people are so afraid of losing your status and sinking to the level of poor coloreds that they'll vote for them no matter how they act. It would laughable... if it weren't working so well.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Romney needs to do better

This is supposed to be an election about Reaganomics; the country is supposed to be choosing between Keynes, FDR, and the New Deal vs. Hayek, Reagan, and Ayn Rand's 18th century plutocracy.

But Mitt Romney is such a terrible candidate that I am afraid he's going to lose all on his own. Which means we'll have to do it all over again in four more years.

Please, please, Mitt: stop making gaffes and endorsing extreme social policies. Just talk about economics!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's in Romney's taxes?

First, we know that he gave 23 years of taxes to John McCain, back in 2008. McCain has said that taxes weren't the issue, which isn't worth much, but the point is Romney really didn't object to revealing his taxes then.

Next we see that Romney is willing to release the last two years, and has already admitted he paid about 13% throughout the last decade. He's doubled down on the claim that he never paid 0%, which isn't worth much, but the point is that if all he had done was escape with a low tax rate, he's basically already admitted it.

Finally, we see the Obama campaign promising to stop asking after the last five.

All of this points to exactly one year: 2009. And what happened in 2009, that hadn't happened in 2008 and indeed didn't look like it would ever happen then?

The Swiss cracked. They agreed to open their books to the IRS. And tax cheats rushed to sign up for the amnesty program, trading a hefty penalty for immunity to prosecution.

My prediction is that Romney took the amnesty. If this comes out before the election, it will kill him; if it comes out after the election, it's an impeachable offense. And the idea that it won't ever come out is left over from the Nixon era. Which describes Romney, actually.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Snow White & the Hunstman

Just saw the movie. About halfway through I was a bit thrown out of the frame by seeing Al Sweargin, the filthy-mouthed ethically-challenged saloon owner from Deadwood, as a dwarf.

It was a little uneven, but overall I really enjoyed it. As a writer I am incredibly envious of the film-maker's ability to create visually stunning scenes, which SW&tH is full of (the White Hart transforming into a cloud of butterflies is my favorite).

But the movie only hinted at themes that a book would have been able to develop (or, to be honest, a better movie - the ending in particular showed a lack of imaginative use of the elements already developed). You can get deeper in a movie, but not if you have a sword fight; it's either Serious Drama or Action-Adventure. Any film that mixes genre too much risks confusing its audience. A book, on the other hand, is longer; people spend more than 90 minutes there, and that gives you time to show what's in your character's heads and why it matters.

So I came out of it inspired to write more fantasy. In my book (hehe) that qualifies it as a successful movie. I'm happy to have spent 56$ on it. Hmm... I wonder if I can write it off as an expense?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why I am glad Romney picked Ryan

I've been saying all along that Obama wanted to focus the election on supply-side economics. Obama's been saying it for the last few months. And now Mitt Romney is saying it.

For once we have an election around a very clear policy issue. Everybody agrees the current system aren't working; so much is obvious. The question is whether the current problems are because we're going in the wrong direction, or because we haven't gone far enough.

The good thing about Ryan is that he is willing to explain exactly what "far enough" means. The Ryan plan is the logical extension of Reaganomics; it's where trickle-down economics has to eventually go. The logical extension of the Obama plan, of course, is Europe or Australia.

Americans get to decide what they want. All the side issues, Romney's taxes and Obama's birth certificates and all that jazz, will fade into noise: what really matters is the direction of policy, and to his credit, Romney has joined Obama in making this choice clear and obvious for the electorate.

We get to choose our future. As unambiguously as the choice has ever been. Either we go back to the New Deal, or we abandon it. Either we forge ahead to Ryan's vision of the future, or we turn into some version Europe. There's no middle path, no imaginary compromise that leaves the USA unchanged except for the bad parts. We can't stall any longer, living off the past: we have to pick a direction and move.

I say we, but of course, I mean you. I've already picked a direction and moved. Speaking as it were from one possible future, I have to say: the nanny state can be silly at times or even slacking (we have laws against pornography to protect people, but still don't have gay marriage!), but it's wonderful to not live under a cloud of fear and gloom. Simply knowing that no matter what, I will always have access to health care, is a huge relief. Knowing that the clerks at the gas station are making a living wage, with the same health care, with the same educational opportunities for their children, makes a better life for me. Even if I can only go out to dinner once a month instead of once a week. (And have to pay 21% tax instead of 19%.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The least defaming defamation imaginable

So apparently Harry Reid is a "dirty lair" and the most despicable person on Earth for starting nasty rumors.

Never mind that for years various Republican politicians have refused to condemn the attacks made by other Republican figures. People as famous as Donald Trump question whether Obama is even an American, and the best Romney can come up with is "I wouldn't have used those words." Never mind that Obama has been called a secret Muslim Marxist member of the Gay alliance, out to destroy America.

Just consider what Harry Reid is accusing Mitt of. He is accusing Mitt of following the law. Of doing something perfectly legal, something that is not only plausible but already documented. He is accusing Mitt of being a really sharp financial whiz who knew how to game the system to his best interests.

And yet everybody Left and Right seems to be hitting the fainting couches.

This is what it looks like when the bullied kid finally hits back. Recall my post on privilege, and you'll see that Republicans are operating from a mind-set of privilege. They simply can't believe the other side is allowed to fight back, let alone begin to approximate their own tactics. Which makes a lot of sense, as the entire Right Wing freakout about Obama basically boils down to a fear of loss of privilege.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Privilege explained in a comment thread

This is a comment about religious privilege, but really, its central precepts can be extended to every form of privilege: racism, sexism, class warfare, etc. The central insight is that the privileged party has no idea they are privileged; they actually think they live in a fair and balanced place, and the people who keep squeaking are just being unreasonable. It has nothing to do with that boot on their throat. The second insight is that the privileged have absorbed their privilege so completely that they identify with it; challenging a racist's claim that some skin color is inferior is not merely a factual, scientific challenge, it is a threat to their own self-identity. They are so completely intertwined that if you suggest a world without racism, they see a world without them.

Mind you, people don't get like this on purpose; it's just something that happens. Fish don't know they live in water, they just live. But as rational, sentient beings, it is required of us to step back and question with boldness even the most fundamental assumptions of our lives, and to that end, Rieux does a wonderful job.

To read the whole piece you need to go here and scroll through the comments  Here are some highlight:

Yes, from the perspective of a bigoted hegemon (and its fans), that hegemon's power plays rarely look like power plays. That's one of the uglier consequences of privilege: you don't have to give a shit about the interests or rights of the despised minorities you're trying to shove around; you can lie to yourself, and them, about what you're actually doing.

None of that disingenuousness changes the real world, though, in which you are in fact attempting to use privilege and hegemonic power to silence a minority for the high crime of making you uncomfortable.

More central to your problem, though, is that classic illogical privilege leap you've just made: from liberal theists' "defense of theism" to their fear that "once fundamentalism is gone, they"—theists—"are next on the list." In your hands, attacks on theism become attacks on theists, because you (and they) are too arrogant and privileged to notice the difference between ideas and people.

If, as you describe, theists worry that attacks on theism means that they personally are (or will be) targeted, then the problem is their privileged illusion that their ideas and their selves are the same thing. You obviously have bought into that bigoted fallacy, but it is nonetheless a fallacy, and a severely destructive one.

...Again, however deep your denial may be, theism is an idea, and the fundamental point of the free marketplace of ideas is that we all have the right to challenge and criticize (and deconstruct and attack and mock) ideas.

The "reassurance" you order is just another form of the power play you pretend doesn't exist: you demand that we forfeit our place in the free marketplace of ideas, our right to treat theism the way we see fit, in exchange for the theist hegemon's cooperation on public-policy issues that have nothing necessarily to do with theism. You are making your priorities entirely clear: silencing atheist criticism of religion is more important to you than protecting LBGT or reproductive rights or secular education.