Celebrating Stupidity: Wisconsin Recall

The Wisconsin recall debacle answers for us in devastating fashion which power is greater.

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been really busy of late but I had to throw in my two cents on the Wisconsin recall election.

Okay, so 2 pretty significant points come to mind here:

1.  This may very well have been the death knell of our democracy.  Not the end, but the beginning of the end.  Despite being perhaps the most active and focused grass roots campaign in recent memory, with millions of people fully committed to effecting change, the recall movement was crushed under an ocean of money.  Out of state billionaires gave embattled governor Scott Walker $30 million in spending money and he used it to shove challenger and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barret’s nose in the dirt. $30 million. It’s a nearly 10 to 1 spending differential over the state Democrats.  We’re talking about a gubernatorial election in Wisconsin.

Not long ago that was presidential campaign money.  Republican strategists are already calling Wisconsin a model for every other state in the nation.   If the Wisconsin governorship only costs $30 million, it’s possible that every governor’s seat in the country can be bought for less than $1 billion.  Mitt Romney and his corporations are looking to raise nearly $2 billion to buy the presidency.  It’s a fair estimate that the United States federal government–complete with the most powerful military on earth–can be bought entirely and filled with yes men for under $10 billion.  Neat.

The most startling aspect of this story is that 36% of union families voted FOR the union busting governor.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  Union jobs have been one of the key forces behind the difference between labor conditions and wages in the United States and those in Mexico.  36% of Wisconsin’s union-employed voters just chose to narrow that gap in the wrong direction.  It’s like 36% of dolphins voting to drain the Pacific Ocean.

Sure, there were mitigating factors, recall fatigue, unrelated social wedge issues, and Walker’s aforementioned campaign megabucks; but I maintain the results underline the fact that many Americans don’t have the skills or information needed to vote–or think–critically and rationally; and thus are highly susceptible to suggestive messaging such as negative campaign ads…ads bought with corporate PAC money.

We have become so divided as a nation that people will vote against their own self interest because of party and political labels.  For many Americans, unions–much like the federal government, are to be held as eternal and unquestionable evils.

Embattled Wisconsin governor Scot Walker celebrates his crushing victory in the 2012 recall.

Nevermind that Walker blew a gigantic, $3.6 billion hole in the state budget by giving corporations and wealthy Wisconsinites a high-income tax cut.  He then worked to balance that deficit by dramatically cutting education funding, enacting massive public employee layoffs and wage reductions, and stealing $25 million in foreclosure settlement money designated–by the evil federal government–to help families keep their homes.  THEN he went after the collective bargaining rights of the public unions (except police and firefighters…the two unions that supported his campaign).  He admitted, on tape, that he had considered using bat-wielding thugs to disperse the protestors outside the capital and that his goal is to divide and conquer the unions and make Wisconsin a right-to-work state.

For mindless conservative voters all of that chicanery is forgivable so long as a union–the main campaign financiers of the Democratic party–was stopped.

2.  The Democratic party is too weak, stupid, and/or pathetic to help anyone, even themselves.  Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks likens them to the Washington Generals who lose spectacularly–and deliberately–to the Harlem Globetrotters.  The national party did not play cavalry with volunteers, organizational support, or even funding until roughly three weeks before the election.  Unfortunately for them, polls showed that Wisconsin voters had made up their minds months ago, before the Democratic party had even finished its primary.  Whoops-a-daisy.

Barrack Obama lets Wisconsin voters know he’s sorry for all this union busting nonsense and he hopes the recall goes well for them, but he’s gotta bounce.

During the 2008 campaign Barrack Obama proclaimed that if anyone went after collective bargaining he’d put on his walking shoes and march along side them.  When Scott Walker (among others) did go after collective bargaining rights, the White House fell silent as a grave.  I don’t know if he’s playing, as he supporters put it, masterful 3-dimensional political chess, but on its surface, this Wisconsin recall looks like a Titanic failure.  17% of the people who voted to keep Scott Walker in office are also Obama supporters.  His involvement in this election might very well have reversed the outcome. Instead, he and the Democratic National Party left all those people who marched and protested for their rights crushed by the corporatocracy.  Increased voter apathy is as understandable as it is inevitable. In an apparent effort to not offend any part of that 17% crossover, the president may very well have lost half of his supporters on the left.  But that’s today’s Democrat, so weak and spineless it makes one nauseous at the sight of Jell-o.

I don’t know if the Democrats are just playing their part in a rigged game or they’re actually that terrified of what Republicans might say.  Either way, from my perspective, their pussification is complete.  It’s now a 90% certainty that I will not be spending my vote on barrack Obama’s re-election this year.

And I fear there will be no more Teddy Roosevelts, FDRs or JFKs until we get money out of politics.  And these…puwusses out of office.

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What I Hate About Republicans–Anti-intellectualism

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”  -Stephen Colbert

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate in the Affordable Care Act.  Several Republican leaders, including Republican 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, appeared on the steps of the Supreme Court building to dispute the constitutionality of the mandate and express their hopes of seeing it repealed.  Of course, the individual mandate they find so unconstitutional is actually a Republican conception.

It was proposed in 1993 as a “free market” counter to then-president Bill Clinton’s employer mandate for providing healthcare and was supported by Republicans as late as the 2008 election by, among others, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.  It was signed into law in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. Both of these men are running for office in 2012.

Understand, Republicans didn’t oppose the mandate until Barack Obama began supporting it–in yet another unjustifiable concession b y the president–during the healthcare debates in 2009-2010.

So, to be clear: the Republican party leadership is gathered on the steps outside the Supreme Court to argue against the constitutionality of their own proposal.

Of course, short-sighted, narrow-minded, wildly hypocritical governance is now the Republican modus operandi.  They write confounding legislation like Stand Your Ground, then double down on their support for the law after tragedy strikes.  They unnecessarily ban Sharia Law-based legislation–which is already unconstitutional per the Establishment Clause (separating church and state) they so often lament.  They roll out religious leaders to support their anti-contraception agenda then–a few weeks later–ignore religious leaders when they denounce the Republican budget plan.

I know, it makes no sense.  (And for all those who would argue that Democrats also do a bunch of boneheaded things, that is not a defense.  It’s like a murderer saying he shouldn’t go to jail for killing his wife because other people commit murder, too.)

This kind of dim-witted lawmaking has overrun the Republican politics because Republican culture is not very big on thinking…or thinkers for that matter.  It’s like they’re allergic to facts.  Actually, it’s anti-intellectualism, relegating thought to simple reasoning and selective memory, prioritizing opinion over fact and propaganda over truth.

This may seem like an unfair charge.  So, in the interest of not over-generalizing, only those who subscribe to the following beliefs can be considered fact allergic conservatives:

  • Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats.
  • Unregulated industries police themselves.
  • Markets are driven by low employee wages and tax rates.
  • The effective U.S. corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world.
  • Taxes are unconstitutional.
  • Not raising the debt ceiling IS constitutional
  • Gay marriage threatens traditional marriage.
  • Barack Obama is a socialist.
  • Barack Obama is a Muslim
  • Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
  • Creationism is an equivalent alternative theory to Evolution.
  • Global warming is a hoax.

I could go on, but I believe this cuts a wide enough swath.  I’m not going to demonstrate how each of these beliefs is false.  There is a plethora of easily-accessed, unbiased information for disproval, from Barack Obama’s birth certificate to the U.S. Constitution. The problem is not with the facts.  It’s with Republicans’ unwillingness–perhaps inability–to trust those facts or process them objectively.

The reason for this lies partly with conservatism itself which is based on maintaining–or returning to–traditional institutions, values, and systems.   Yet progress–the advancement of social inclusion, knowledge, and technological capability–often disproves or revaluates our previous understanding.  So to protect beliefs that are constantly being  invalidated, conservatives,and especially Republicans, distrust contradictory facts and the people that provide them.

Before we go forward we have to separate Republican leadership which uses anti-intellectualism to control and manipulate uninformed and uneducated voting blocks.  They’re as bought out by the corporations as the Democrats and the media.  They’re part of that machine and therefore not really included in this discussion.

So why do Republicans subscribe to anti-intellectualism?  It seems that has to do with the make up of the conservative mind.

As more and more studies show, conservatives tend to see the world in a much more negative light than liberals.  A 2008 study conducted at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln demonstrated that conservatives had a much greater physiological response to negative stimuli than their liberal counterparts.  Notice the study didn’t just conduct surveys or fill out questionnaires.  They measured physiological responses, i.e., the body’s integrated fight or flight defense mechanisms (changes in heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, respiration rate and depth, sweating, etc.).  The study also found that subjects who favored capital punishment, patriotism, and defense spending were highly responsive to threatening images.

A preliminary study by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience demonstrated that conservative brains tend to have larger amygdalas–responsible for fear conditioning–while also having smaller anterior cingulates–the part of the brain responsible for rational cognitive functions, such as optimism, decision-making, empathy, and emotion–than liberal brains.

Likewise, a study at Brock University in Ontario suggests “that low-intelligence  adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies.”  According to Gordon Hodson, the lead researcher of the study, “Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice”.

These studies alone are hardly definitive, but as more studies on the subject come out, the more they support these conclusions.  In fact, I have yet to see a reputable study that contradicts these findings. More importantly, these study concord with what we see in societies across the globe.

The universality  of fear, ignorance, and a dearth of critical thinking leads many conservatives to de-emphasize facts.  These are the conditions that allowed propaganda threatening a mushroom cloud over a major U.S. city to overwhelm the fact that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were political and religious enemies and therefore unlikely to cooperate. Thus leading us into an unnecessary war that cost the loves of thousands of Americans.

It should go without saying that stupidity is not exclusive to conservatives or Republicans.  There is more than enough idiocy and ignorance to go around.  Still, there are a lot of conservatives ruled by fear, anger, and factionalism.  Republicans cater to this element and perpetuate it.

As always, the problem is exacerbated by the compliance–or silence–coming from free-thinking conservatives.  Those who know better have a responsibility to lay aside their “liberals do it, too” cop-out apologism and take control of their faction or distance themselves from it (which, of course, liberals need to do as well).  There can be no legitimate discourse when facts are being ignored and dismissed purely on whim.

The only way we will get past this political dystopia is if the better minds and purer hearts among us put partisanship aside–albeit momentarily–step away from the fray, acknowledge the system is broken, and commit to rebuild it.

Otherwise people like this are going to get more power and more influence and bring this beautiful dream crashing down.

By comparison, this is what a real free-thinking conservative sounds like:

The Ugly Head of Citizens United Rears Up

Remember during the 2010 State Of The Union Address when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shook his head in dissent when Barack Obama commented on how the Citizen’s United decision would greatly affect elections (Or when Alito and the other conservative Justices didn’t attend the 2011 State of the Union Address)?

I wonder what Alito thinks now.

The Young Turks break down the impact of the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission in the form of a phenomenon newly prevalent in this election: the billionaire sugar-daddy.

I believe that this is the number one problem we face in our country today.  Sure, there are more severe issues surrounding war and poverty, life and death stuff.  There’s corruption and greed, too.

But in the end, it all flows back to Citizen’s United, wherein the activist Supreme Court decided that money represents free speech.

The Citizen's United Decision is reverting us back to the political boss system.

Thus, corporations and special interest groups pumping billions of dollars into elections with minimal identification standards and no standards for honesty or truth-telling, is simply an expression of free speech.

“What’s that you say?  The electorate has been so turned around by all this heavily funded misinformation and outright lying that they don’t know which way is up?  Whoops!  Pure happenstance–hey, is that Glee playing on the t.v.?  That looks like a hoot!”

Never mind that China–or any foreign government or group–could theoretically be footing the bill.  Those interests would simply be exercising their freedom of speech.  Here.  In America’s political system.

Citizen’s United is the reason why we have privatized prisons and crappy public schools and stagnant wages and and humorous financial reform law and even more (or less) humorous health care reform and record breaking corporate profits and record-breaking executive bonuses and draconian online piracy bills and all the other situations that occur when financing elections adds to the profit margin.

We all have a voice, some voices are louder or farther reaching, but essentially, it’s an equivalent right.  When we talk about dollars, it’s not equal.  And that’s the point of capitalism.  If it was all equal it would be communism.  So by definition, the Citizen’s United decision gives those that have lots of money even more rights than the rest of us.  Supreme Court activism at its worst.

You know what?  I could care less what Alito thinks.  I could care less what any politician thinks.  It is imperative that we get money out of politics.  The future of our nation depends on it.

(Constitution correction image from: http://www.laprogressive.com/citizens-united-corporate-power/.  Citizen’s united logo from: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/citizens_united.php.  Pledge Allegiance Cartoon from: http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2011/12/30/citizens-united-loses-in-montana-supreme-court-upholds-state-ban-on-corporate-spending/.)

Into The Margins

The 2012 Republican presidential candidates don't inspire much hope for the future.

I feel like the Republicans are done for in 2012.

As vulnerable (and mediocre) as President Obama has been, the GOP was unable to find anyone better than the murderer’s row of assholes currently working the Primary Season Tour.  Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum suck so badly they can’t even beat Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum.  The candidates are tearing themselves apart in an ugly primary conflict that could drag out and irreparably devastate whoever is left standing to accept the nomination.

At least one can hope.

Ron Paul manages to get about 50% of what he says right.  And he’s pretty damn honest for a politician.  Unfortunately, the 50% he gets wrong he gets waaaaayyyy wrong.  I mean, the Department of Education is Unconstitutional?  By that logic so is the United States Air Force and the FBI.  (And I’m not even touching on how he printed (and profited from) a White Power themed newsletter for 20 years.)

Ron Paul has some intriguing qualities. Too bad he's tin shit-house crazy.

But more than any particular candidate’s shortcomings, I think the actual Republican Party has pushed itself out of the mainstream.

They’ve been virulently opposed to women’s reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade and against sensible immigration reform for a decade.  They’ve spewed rhetoric against multiculturalism,  the labor unions, and entitlement programs for years.  They’ve been trying to shove their interpretation of the Bible down our throats since the 1980’s.  And they’ve tried to disenfranchise left-leaning voters since the Nixon era.  None of that is new.

GOP Women's Rights Platform

What is new is that they’re going after all of these groups at the same time.  They started as soon as they took power following the 2010 elections and they haven’t let up since.  I doubt they will relent going forward either.  Maybe they feel like they’re going to get voted out of office soon and they want to make hay while the sun’s shining.  I don’t know.

Actually, I wish the Democrats would legislate with as much vigor.

Republican governors on the hot seat.

Another new element is how far they’re trying to turn things back.  Conservatives always want to roll things back, but it seems like these guys want to go back to Dwight Eisenhower’s America.  I mean, anti-contraception?  Seriously?    Then there are things like the trans-vaginal ultrasounds and mandatory drug tests for people receiving unemployment (as well as anyone–who is poor–receiving government assistance).  They’re talking about moon colonies and poor kids cleaning their schools.  Mind you this is in the election immediately following the chickens for healthcare debacle.  It makes them seem very wacky.

It’s already turning people off.  The ultrasound bill looks like it’s been effectively killed.  Scott Walker is being recalled in Wisconsin.  John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida are teetering on the brink.  To top it off, the Republicans came out on the short end of the debt ceiling debate (which may be starting up again around election time).

Wisconsin voters not havin' it. (Feb. 16, 2011)

And for all their efforts, mainstream America is not happy with the Republicans.  Of course, no no one is happy with the Democrats either (although Obama’s labors are now starting to bear fruit).  But the Republicans have done a lot more to alienate voters. They are out of touch with what people are dealing with.  They are too openly supportive of big business.  And they’ve got enemies all over the electorate.

In the end, I think it will probably cost them the election.  And not just the presidency.

(Approval ratings image from: http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx.  Republican hopefuls image from: https://plus.google.com/117458573761796006397/posts/75neNe6QxwU.  Ron paul image from:  http://speakup-usa.com/.  Wisconsin protestors image from: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_62326.shtml.  Mittually assured destruction motivational from: http://www.stridentconservative.com/?p=2097.  The governors image from:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/19/republican-governor-popularity-plummets-from-ohios-kasich-to-floridas-scott-to-wisconsins-walker.html.  The spanked woman image from: http://www.politicususa.com/en/shame-american-women)