Category Archives: Politics

Why Do Republicans Think They Are Entitled To Their Own Facts?

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While the vote counting isn’t quite finished as of now it stands at Obama 60,662,174 to Romney 57.820,742.

For more fun, read Salon’s play-by-play description of Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News last night.

If you didn’t get to see it, Rove’s attempt to overturn Fox’s 11:15 P.M. call of Ohio and the election was completely nuts. First of all, co-anchors Kelly and Bret Baier were caught by surprise when a graphic went up announcing that Obama had been reelected. You could almost feel the disapproval emanating from Brit Hume, who may be a right-winger but is a genuine newsman and a TV professional. Then Rove, getting increasingly hot under the collar, began to protest that unnamed sources in the Romney camp weren’t happy about this, and that the president’s margin in Ohio was disappearing. This led Kelly to wander through a backstage corridor with a cameraman in tow, like a character in a backstage drama or reality show, in order to confront the statistics wonks at the “decision desk,” or at least to escape from Rove’s blather about whether the outstanding votes from Hamilton County, Ohio, were or were not from the city of Cincinnati.

In the end, Fox News showed its true character by blaming the Republican loss on minorities.  Bill O’Reilly said, on the air, “The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. …  the white establishment is now the minority. … And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them, and they want stuff. You’re going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way.”

So the Republicans deny evolution, climate change, same sex marriage, equal rights for women and now apparently they are also seeking to deny basic arithmetic.  Apparently one plus one no longer equals two if your name is Karl Rove or Donald Trump.

By the way, here’s some numbers via Huffington Post:

  • Total money spent by Obama and the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA:$853 million
  • Total money spent by Romney and the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future: $752.3 million
  • (PBS’s annual budget – $530 million)
  • Total money raised by those super PACs: $661 million
  • Money given to conservative super PACs by the family of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson: $54 million
  • Money spent on negative ads attacking Romney: $295 million
  • Money spent on negative ads attacking Obama: $351 million
  • Number of super PAC donors who’ve given at least half a million dollars this cycle: 209
  • Number of political ads run to support or oppose either presidential candidate since June 1: 1,015,615

Regardless of which party you follow, some of these numbers are obscene.

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Yes

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Brilliant photo by Doug Mills for the New York Times.

Romney couldn’t even carry Massachusetts or Michigan.

And there’s more good news – several states voted in marriage equality and two states voted in recreational marijuana use.  In Indiana, Mourdock, the whack job who said that if a rape victim got pregnant it was God’s will, lost.  Todd Akin, who insisted that women could not become pregnant from rape, also lost.   Wisconsin brings us our first openly gay (and female) Senator.  In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren beat tea bagger Scott Brown.   While the Republicans held onto their majority in the House, I think it’s clear that Americans prefer the centrist policies of Obama to the factions on the extreme right that have lately dominated the Republican party.

One might hope that with the election over, the people of the U.S. will all work together to deal with the major issues that the country is facing.  But that would be to deny reality.

Sure, thick-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump sits outside of the mainstream Republican party.  But he won’t be the last extremist out there with access to media.  And then there’s Fox News blaming “the mainstream” media for Romney’s loss.  As if Fox News wasn’t mainstream?  As if it wasn’t Romney and his proposed policies and the Republican party itself that were responsible for the loss.

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Whiter Than This?

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The great Randy Newman wrote many songs where he would skewer some ludicrous belief by taking on the voice of the person believing that nonsense.  Songs like Sail Away, God’s Song, Political Science and most famously, Short People. At least that’s what he did a lot of before he became the go-to guy for songs for Pixar films.  Well, okay, it did get him the recognition and presumably the money that eluded him for so long. Two Academy Awards (20 nominations!), 3 Emmys, 5 Grammys.

But if Randy Newman you know and love is the one from that string of great albums in the 70s, then you’ll be pleased to know that that Randy Newman is back with a new song, I’m Dreaming.   You can watch the video for it on Youtube.  You can download an MP3 of the song for free (legally).

The lyrics are worth repeating:

George Washington was a white man
Adams and Jefferson too
Abe Lincoln was a white man, probably
And William McKinley the whitest of them all
Shot down by an immigrant in Buffalo
And a star fell out of heaven

I’m dreaming of a white President
Just like the ones we’ve always had
A real live white man
Who knows the score
How to handle money or start a war
Wouldn’t even have to tell me what we were fighting for
He’d be the right man
If he were a (everybody)

I’m dreaming of a white President
Someone whom we can understand
Someone who knows where we’re coming from
And that the law of the jungle is not the law of this land

In deepest darkest Africa nineteen three
A little boy says, “Daddy, I just discovered relativity.
A big eclipse is coming
And I’ll prove it. Wait and see!”

“You better eclipse yourself outta here, son
Find yourself a tree
There’s a lion in the front yard
He knows he won’t catch me.”

How many little Albert Einsteins
Cut down in their prime?
How many little Ronald Reagans
Gobbled up before their time?

I don’t believe in evolution
But it does occur to me,
What if little William Howard Taft had to face a lion
Or God forbid, climb a tree?
Where would this country be?

I’m dreaming …
Buh buh buh buh
‘Cause things have never been this bad
So he won’t run the hundred in ten seconds flat
So he won’t have a pretty jump shot
Or be an Olympic acrobat
So he won’t know much about global warming
Is that really where you’re at?
He won’t be the brightest, perhaps
But he’ll be the whitest
And I’ll vote for that

Whiter than this?
Yes
Whiter than this?
Yes
Whiter than this?
Yes
Whiter than this?
Oh yeah

 

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Who Built This?

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In the US, there was a minor kerfuffle during the campaign when President Obama, in a speech, said roughly, “You didn’t build that.”  What he meant by that was that many things contribute to the success of any business – not the least of which is the infrastructure (the power grid), the roads and mass transit that enable people to get to work and shipping of goods, services from the police & fire department, the laws and courts that protect people and corporations, the schools that train people for the workplace, and so on.  The Republicans seized on the phrase, out of context as they usually do, and went on the attack.

Something similar, on an infinitesimally smaller scale, in the Letter pages of the SCMP.

Here’s a letter from Graham Williamson of Cheung Sha Wan published on September 9th:

I’m compelled to respond to Paul Lee’s letter (“Unfair treaty no cause for celebration”, September 2) in response to Stuart Heaver’s excellent article on the Treaty of Nanking (“Big deal”, August 26).

While it is widely agreed that it was indeed an unfair treaty, nobody can refute that Great Britain built Hong Kong.

The British built the infrastructure, banking industry, legal environment and political institutions that made Hong Kong the great city that it is, not the early Chinese settlers. That’s why Taipei and Macau, both the recipients of many mainlander refugees, can’t hold a candle to Hong Kong.

Sorry Mr Lee, read the article again; the author approached no less than five mainland academics and they were too scared to comment.

That’s not the mark of a society that can accomplish great things.

The question for Hong Kong people now is: are they going to acknowledge the past and help the mainland build a better society, or are they going to distort the past and acquiesce to mediocrity?

Apparently lots of people can, and will, refute that Mr. Williamson.

I know, you’re expecting something from Pierce Lam.  However the response today comes from one Esther Lee Wong in Central.

I would question Graham Williamson’s simplistic opinion about the development of this city (“It is a fact that Great Britain built HK”, September 9).

Hong Kong was not built by Great Britain. It would have remained “a barren rock” , which the British occupied by unequal treaty , without its population. Their industry, perseverance, flexibility and most importantly, intelligence, made Hong Kong what it is today.

Without their enterprise it would at best be a staging post for the opium trade which made many “hongs” rich. It is true that the British built the infrastructure, provided services and some good schools, and foisted the Christian faith on the colony. However, all this was done to train clerks and functionaries to maintain their colonial administration.

The colonial teachers had not reckoned that their subjects would far exceed their expectations of providing a steady supply of docile junior administrators.

Hong Kong’s infrastructure and services merely facilitate the population, which epitomises the essence of the city and enables it to remain vibrant through communal efforts.

The Chinese are known to refrain from commenting on complex issues not because they are “too scared to comment” but rather because they are reluctant to sound simplistic or boorish.

Mr Williamson should try to avoid making sweeping pronouncements and attempt to distinguish illusion from fact as well as give credit where credit is due.

While I don’t agree with Williamson 100% I do take his point.  Ms. Wong seems to miss it.  Williamson is coming at this from the same direction as Obama.  The British brought several key things to Hong Kong that fed into its success, not least of which are the Rule of Law and a sort of smoothly running and basically honest civil service.

But geez, can’t we all get along?  Mr. Williamson says it was the British.  Ms. Wong says sod that, it was the Chinese.  Does national or ethnic pride get so in the way that you can’t say that Hong Kong was built by the British and the Chinese (and several thousand boatloads of other nationalities and races contributed as well)?

It’s immature.

Oh, but wait, another voice pops up, seconding Ms. Wong’s emotion.  Here’s Ng Hong-kay from Fanling:

I presume Graham Williamson (“It is a fact that Great Britain built HK”, September 9) would also claim “Great” Britain built the United States, India, Pakistan, Ireland and many other countries around the world because it colonised them at some stage in history.

He is obviously very proud of what happened to the indigenous populations in these countries as a result of the “greatness” of Britain.

I should point out that when I landed in my “mother country” with my British passport, as a result of being born on the British soil of Hong Kong, I was greeted with the comment, “Go get lost, you Chinaman.”

I am sure your correspondent must agree that it was us, the “Chinamen” of Hong Kong, who built this city.

I appreciate his comments about building a better society on the mainland.

However, when talking of Great Britain and building better societies, we should not forget what happened in Northern Ireland.

I think that if by “your correspondent” he is referring to Williamson, then why is he so sure that he would agree when he wrote a letter indicating the direct opposite?

The only thing more bizarre in the Letters column today is one of those letters that has nothing to do with anything that the SCMP seems to delight in running.  Let’s pass the mike over to Wong Yuen-man of Tseung Kwan O.

Technology can be useful for all of us in so many ways.

We all seem to be heavily reliant on the internet and portable electronic gadgets, but I feel that sometimes people lose a proper sense of perspective.

The use of devices like mobile phones and the internet becomes addictive.

Take cell phones, for example. They are hugely popular throughout the world. There are now so many functions and apps on your average smartphone.

On public transport and in the street you will often see people with their face down constantly checking them for messages. I have seen people joining others for a meal and constantly checking their smartphone at the dinner table, which is very impolite. I wonder how many of them could actually go just a day without the phone.

As with all things, when it comes to new technology, despite its advantages, we must all learn to practise self-control.

Really, that’s what you got?  Cell phones are popular and have a lot of apps?  Ah well, must be a slow news day.

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Hong Kong’s Violent Campaign

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I just saw this post over at Dictionary of Politically Incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese and want to share a bit of it with you.  There’s a political party in Hong Kong called the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions aka the FTU, one of Hong Kong’s many inexplicably pro-Beijing parties.  One of the people in this party running for election on September 9th is Wong Kwok-Hing, who in the past has run for both the FTU and the despicable DAB.  Here’s his campaign poster.

Yeah, that’s right, he’s holding what appears to be an assault rifle and the tagline says “See you there!”  The words “bad taste” don’t begin to describe it in any event but especially in light of recent shootings in the U.S.  No, I don’t want to see you any fucking where, especially if you’re bringing your “little friend” along.

What the hell is anyone supposed to make of this poster?

“Strive for paying to those, who work hard, fair and equitably.”  What the fuck dude?  Aside from the horrible grammar, that’s how you intend to get paid, with a gun?

Ah, girls with guns, a proven turn-on for people with serious mental health problems.

This is sick shit (and I say this as the world’s biggest fan of Sam Peckinpah movies) and has no place in an election in a civilized society.

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The Veil of Opulence

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I absolutely love this Op-Ed piece in the NY Times by Benjamin Hale.

The idea behind the veil of ignorance is relatively simple: to force us to think outside of our parochial personal concerns in order that we consider others. What Rawls saw clearly is that it is not easy for us to put ourselves in the position of others. We tend to think about others always from our own personal vantage; we tend to equate another person’s predicament with our own. Imagining what it must be like to be poor, for instance, we import presumptions about available resources, talents and opportunities — encouraging, say, the homeless to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and to just get a job, any job, as if getting a job is as simple as filling out an application. Meanwhile, we give little thought to how challenging this can be for those who suffer from chronic illnesses or disabling conditions. What Rawls also saw clearly was that other classic principles of justice, like the golden rule or mutual benevolence, are subject to distortion precisely because we tend to do this.

Nowadays, the veil of ignorance is challenged by a powerful but ancient contender: the veil of opulence. While no serious political philosopher actually defends such a device — the term is my own — the veil of opulence runs thick in our political discourse. Where the veil of ignorance offers a test for fairness from an impersonal, universal point of view — “What system would I want if I had no idea who I was going to be, or what talents and resources I was going to have?” — the veil of opulence offers a test for fairness from the first-person, partial point of view: “What system would I want if I were so-and-so?” These two doctrines of fairness — the universal view and the first-person view — are both compelling in their own way, but only one of them offers moral clarity impartial enough to guide our policy decisions.

Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or extremely successful business entrepreneurs. They vote and set policies according to this fantasy. “If I were such and such a wealthy person,” they ask, “how would I feel about giving X percentage of my income, or Y real dollars per year, to pay for services that I will never see nor use?” We see this repeatedly in our tax policy discussions, and we have just seen the latest instance of it in the Tax Policy Center’s comparison of President Obama’s tax plan versus Mitt Romney’s tax plan.  “He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can pay less,” Obama said last week, “so that people like me pay less.” Last Monday he drove the point even harder, saying that Romney’s plan is like “Robin Hood in reverse.” And certainly, Romney’s selection on Saturday of Paul Ryan as his running mate will keep this issue in the forefront of our political discourse.

It is one thing for the very well off to make these arguments. What is curious is that frequently the same people who pose these questions are not themselves wealthy, nor even particularly healthy. Instead, they ask these questions under the supposition that they are insisting upon fairness. But the veil of opulence operates only under the guise of fairness. It is rather a distortion of fairness, by virtue of the partiality that it smuggles in. It asks not whether a policy is fair given the huge range of advantages or hardships the universe might throw at a person but rather whether it is fair that a very fortunate person should shoulder the burdens of others. That is, the veil of opulence insists that people imagine that resources and opportunities and talents are freely available to all, that such goods are widely abundant, that there is no element of randomness or chance that may negatively impact those who struggle to succeed but sadly fail through no fault of their own. It blankets off the obstacles that impede the road to success. It turns a blind eye to the adversity that some people, let’s face it, are born into. By insisting that we consider public policy from the perspective of the most-advantaged, the veil of opulence obscures the vagaries of brute luck.

The question of fairness has widespread application throughout our political discourse. It affects taxation, health care, education, social safety nets and so on. The veil of opulence would have us screen for fairness by asking what the most fortunate among us are willing to bear. The veil of ignorance would have us screen for fairness by asking what any of us would be willing to bear, if it were the case that we, or the ones we love, might be born into difficult circumstances or, despite our hard work, blindsided by misfortune. Society is in place to correct for the injustices of the universe, to ensure that our lives can run smoothly despite the stuff that is far out of our control: not to hand us what we need, but to give us the opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness. The veil of ignorance helps us see that. The veil of opulence keeps us in the dark.

 

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A Candidate Named Starry?

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Yeah, her name is Starry Lee.  If the mere fact that she’s a member of DAB doesn’t sway you against her, then perhaps the logic that she thinks that “Starry” is the sort of English name that would be taken seriously might.

I actually kind of like some of what she has to say:

Rise Above Conflicts, All For Hong Kong

Hong Kong is our home and needs our protection.

We must rise above the fray and join hands to implement universal suffrage.

We must care for those left behind in social and economic developments.

We must create opportunities for all, and not only for those in finance and property business.

We must ensure resources and services for local residents WON’T be eroded in an open economy.

We must safeguard the interest of Hong Kong people by maintaining proper functioning of all political institutions.
But I don’t get this whole thing of “rise above the fray.”  What fray?  It smacks of the whole Beijing thing of social order being the priority.  So, what, no debate, no disagreement, as long as you agree with her?
In her favor – one of the few candidates sending out this sort of spam “vote for me” email who sent me something in English.

 

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Romney-Ryan Analysis

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Posted without further comment, some excerpts from this analysis of the Ryan choice, by Nate Silver in the NY Times:

 Mr. Romney’s campaign could have cherry-picked the polls that showed him ahead, the worst economic statistics, the most favorable historical precedents, and concluded that it was a favorite.

Evidently, it did not do that. The ability to perform an honest self-assessment is rare for all of us. Mr. Romney, in making this outlook, may have been aided by his background in seeking to turn around distressed companies.

Why am I concluding that Mr. Romney would have chosen Mr. Ryan only if he felt he was losing? Because from a Politics 101 point of view, this isn’t the most natural choice.

Mr. Ryan is a national figure of some repute — before Saturday morning, his national name recognition was about 50 percent — but he has never been elected to anything larger than his Congressional district of about 700,000 people. Members of the House of Representatives have only occasionally been selected as running mates. The last one on a winning ticket was John Nance Garner, the speaker of the House, in 1932. The last time an ordinary member of the House was elected vice president, and the last Republican, was more than 100 years ago: in 1908, when William Howard Taft and James S. Sherman, a New York congressman, were chosen by voters. (Coincidentally, that fall was also the last time that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.)

Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center. (The statistic does not provide scores for governors and other vice-presidential nominees who never served in Congress.)

Mr. Romney decided to change his strategy rather than to make a tactical choice. He wants to shake up the race, and I expect Mr. Ryan to do that.

Young, attractive and outspoken, Mr. Ryan will be loved by conservatives — and just as assuredly, detested by liberals. In a race that lacks compelling story lines and fresh faces, he may become the focal point. It seems entirely plausible that his rallies will draw larger crowds than either of the presidential candidates themselves, and that stories about him will draw more Internet traffic, especially in the early days of his candidacy. He should also be a fund-raising magnet — for Mr. Romney, and probably also for Mr. Obama.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly can guess who I’ll be voting for, but just in case there’s any doubt in your mind:

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Rush Limbaugh Is a Headline Grabbing Gasbag

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When you want to talk about the lowering of the level of political discourse in the United States, no one is more despicable than Rush Limbaugh.  I think he’s a very smart guy who knows that the more outrageous his statements, the more coverage he’ll receive (and therefore ratings and therefore ad dollars).  Call me guilty here but I can’t resist this bait that he put out there.

Rush is claiming that the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises represents a liberal conspiracy because the villain in the film is named Bane and the company that Mittens Romney used to run is named Bain.  And that people will see the movie and associate Romney with the bad guy and based solely on that they’ll vote for Obama.

I know, this descends beyond the 7th circle of stupidity.  I’d call it inane but that would be an insult to everything else that’s inane.   It has nothing to do with anything evenly remotely relevant to the election or the issues that the United States should be trying to solve.

And this makes it even dumber.  Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan created the character Bane.  Dixon said in an interview yesterday:

“The idea that there’s some kind of liberal agenda behind the use of Bane in the new movie is silly,” Dixon told ComicBook.com in the aftermath of the Limbaugh segment. “I refuted this within hours of the article in the Washington Examiner suggesting that Bane would be tied to Bain Capital and Mitt Romney appearing. Bane was created by me and Graham Nolan and we are lifelong conservatives and as far from left-wing mouthpieces as you are likely to find in comics.”

Tell you what, I’m gonna claim that the movie True Romance was a conservative conspiracy because Patricia Arquette plays a character named Alabama and she’s a prostitute and a killer.  I think but don’t remember for certain that sometimes in the film her character gets called ‘Bama and that’s kind of like Obama and even though the film came out in 1993 …..

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