Fact Checked to Death?

A friend sent me a New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress which expressed in that magazine’s typically wry manner a frequent thought I have .   In  the cartoon a man and woman are walking down a street and the caption has her saying to him:    “My desire to be well informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.”

You may have similar thoughts when thinking about our politics, economy and media.   Recently, I have dwelt on the issue of “post-truth politics” (*1)  because our politics are so polluted with misinformation that it is hard to find our bearings in relation to truth.    The creation of a cottage industry of fact checkers helps, but who besides an old bachelor with a limited social life or a younger, obsessive policy wonk is willing to do that?     Most people have lives.

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) rel...

icon for smartphone (smart phone) related content (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the bright side, you may have heard there is a new smart phone ap that reveals the sponsors of Super PAC ads and their orientation, but at this stage it still depends on also checking with the fact checkers, which puts you smart-phoners back into my old boat.  However, in four years (Two?  Next month?), I bet they have the truth ap down, so one gets an instant truth reading and people like me won’t feel a need to synthesize fact checkers as I did in my previous post.  The only down side I see is that it will compel me to buy a smart phone.

But all of that does not quite get at a lingering anxiety that I have felt while writing most of what I have written lately.   When I dwell on the nuances of truth, I may seem to be missing the big picture, which is not who will be elected, but what will the retained or new President and another likely gridlocked Congress be able to accomplish once they are elected.  I just want you to know that I’m not missing the main point, I’m just not discussing it right now because there is no rush.  Nothing will be done about the “big picture” until this election is over.

Now that the NFL is back in season, I sometimes watch their pundits analyze likely outcomes and feel it no different then watching the political pundits analyze the win potential of the candidates.   There is a difference, however.  In football they are analyzing the real game about to be played.  In politics they are analyzing the potential of candidates to make the team that will play the real game  after Nov 6.   Another difference is it will take longer for us to see whether we picked a losing team or not.

When the real political game begins, the first question will be:  How are we going to navigate through what is often called the “fiscal cliff” which in line with my Titanic theme I envision as a field of  icebergs.    Many economists believe that poor navigation could send our economy in reverse early next year, something I did not see brought up at either convention.   (It’s complicated and doesn’t make for a simple sound bite likely to prompt cheers).

If you don’t know about the fiscal cliff…..you might as well remain blissfully unawares for another football weekend or two.   I’ll get to it soon enough in a post, but until then you might as well stay unawares, especially since our politicians won’t get around to it until some time after Nov 6.

Today I just wanted to make you aware that assessing who is lying more about whom is actually not my central interest, despite being closely tied.  My primary interest lies  in how the new captain and crew will direct our ship of state.  Will we come to feel more or less like passengers on our own Titanic?  I particularly wanted to make one reader/friend aware of this, as he may have gotten impatient with  my trying to parse the truthfulness of Bill Clinton’s speech in my previous post.

As he wrote to me privately:

“Exactly NOBODY addresses the problems.  They all throw out meaningless phrases – “Family values”, “Return the Country to Prosperity”, “Create jobs for everyone”, “live the American Dream”.  They never provide specific programs or how programs are to be funded.  Has anybody once said we have to fix SS and them make specific proposals to achieve that goal.

None of them have any integrity or courage to tell the voters that they can’t have everything, they have to pay more in taxes, and entitlements will be cut.

That is why I have not watched one single minute of either convention.  It is all how to manipulate voters to vote for someone and nothing else.”

I hear you brother.   I hear you….

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(*1)  In an earlier post I suggested that Paul Krugman may have come up with the term “post-truth politics” which is now commonly used.  David Roberts, who writes a blog on “energy, politics and more” claims credit for coining the term and then Krugman popularizing it in this piece.

A Dear John Letter

(NOTE:   John is a reader who  made a couple of comments regarding my last post and responded to a previous post as well, which has prompted me to provide a couple of suggestions to him and others who might want to comment in the future…..the comments button can be found at the bottom of each post, though it is easy to miss given all the tags and categories also there.)

President Barack Obama and Warren Buffett in t...

President Barack Obama and Warren Buffett in the Oval Office, July 14, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear John,

After I called you “silly” for pulling  out your “wascally Republican” line for a second time in response to my last post, implying the obvious point that Democrats provide misleading information as well, you wrote again, this time much more.   In turn, I initially regretted responding to the first comment, but now see it as an opportunity to give a couple of guidelines to you or anyone else who wants to comment on my posts.

Rule #1:  Pay attention to what I have written and respond to that.  Don’t use my space as an opportunity to spout your political philosophy, as if there is something novel about it.   You dream about the good old days of a much smaller government that we will never see again.  Get together with other like minded folks and have a Tea Party.   Entertain each other, but please refrain from boring me and other readers with your simple minded fantasy.

Rule #2:   Pay enough attention to what I have written so that you can write an intelligent response.  Like much of what I have written, the previous post related to the manipulation of facts and distortion of truth in politics.  Lying and misleading have always been a part of politics, but there are various degrees of distortion and the degrees matter when judging the truth of any political statement and the sincerity of  one spokesman or another.  It is particularly important to note when one side denies the plausibility of any outside criticism of the truth of their statements, which is the same as saying one’s own propaganda is truth, which is a totalitarian trait and has no place in a democracy.   As I pointed out, a Republican spokesman did just that.

This may fall on deaf ears since your analysis lacks any such distinctions  (“So getting back to your article, I don’t worry so much about the lies. They all do it, those are to be expected.”).   As such, I don’t expect you to be interested in the nuances I illuminate.  However, it is ironic that you go on to say:   “What jolts me awake however is when a politician actually tells the truth. I think we heard a candidate do such a thing recently. He truthfully told us exactly what he believes. ‘You didn’t build that.’ Chilling.”

First of all, John, you’re still asleep.   It is not chilling if you actually read the other sentences that formed the context around that one, instead of just swallowing the Republican propaganda.   Here is the context of that “chilling” statement.  Read it and note that Obama states:  “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together and support each . ”  He is not dismissing individual effort, but balancing it with the support we all need at one time or another in our lives.  “We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

Now, given your predilections, even after reading the full statement, you may still think that all of what Obama said  is b. s. except for that one imagined “Freudian slip” which speaks to your prejudice that he is a not-so-secret socialist.   If that is the case there is no hope for you and you might as well just keep reading other stuff on line that supports your delusions.

Just one question before you go, though:   If Obama is a socialist at heart, why is Warren Buffett such a staunch supporter?   You know, Warren Buffett, the third richest man in the world and one thankful to capitalism and many other elements in his life that have helped him become so amazingly successful?  Shouldn’t he be the perfect Republican, toasted at the recent convention?

Here’s a clue why he is not.  Mr. Buffett, like President Obama, is thankful for what he has achieved in life and empathetic and compassionate for those who have been much less fortunate.  Only to those who glorify their own efforts and disdain those less successful can mistake empathy and compassion for socialism.  Or, more cynically, caricature President Obama as a socialist.

I know, John, you think I should lighten up.    Well, if you could write something that was either clever or funny it would help.   But, lacking an expectation of that, I will at least try to lighten up in my next post with the help of a parody that maybe both you and I can enjoy.

We’ll see.   That is if you’re still around.

“Has God forsaken the Republicans?”

In my my last three posts I’ve considered the problems that the Romney/Ryan ticket has created for themselves.   Given the happenings over the past few days, Todd Akin in particular, I have pondered the difficulties the Republicans have had in launching an effective campaign from the beginning.  Has the divine hand of providence been backing the other side?  At least certainly not the group soon to meet in Tampa.

Medicare

Medicare (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

Thinking of the hand of providence, I recalled the time a guy named Barack Hussein Obama, half black and half white, was elected President of the United States.  That remains a remarkable event even in this land of so yesterday.  I believe Barry Obama to be a unique combination of racial backgrounds that allowed him to win.  I would say he won because, in addition to running a great campaign, he transcends race.  He is the personification of the American melting pot, which has prompted the far right to work all the harder to  caricature him as a secret Muslim socialist  born in Kenya.

His winning the Presidency was remarkable, even if his Presidency has been far less so, though given the circumstances far better than the Republicans portray.   Given continued 8% unemployment and a sluggish economy, what I also find remarkable is the inability of the Republicans to mount a strong campaign against him.   To begin with they couldn’t  even find a candidate they really liked (too soon for another Bush and too early for Chris Christie), so they wound up with Mitt Romney.   There was some truth in Rick Santorum’s assertion that Romney was the “worst candidate” for the Republicans .  The problem was the others available, including Santorum, were worster.  If they wanted to win that is.

I wasn’t being entirely facetious in a previous post when I suggested that Romney chose Ryan as his running mate because he was dying to be liked by his own party.  Certainly if the pick was more rational, the campaign brains didn’t think it through, as I have also argued in recent posts.  And that was before the Akin factor.

Etch-a-sketch Romney combined with facts and figures and clear cut statements on record by Ryan has been like trying to stir together oil and water.  And one undissolved hunk is Ryan’s stance on Medicare, aimed at  saving some form of the program but at what cost to recipients?  This would  seem the last thing the Republicans would want as a banner item at their Tampa convention in the grayest state in the union.

But wait,  Missouri Republican Senatorial candidate Todd Akin topped that when bursting on to the national  scene like a hand grenade with his novel theory of a woman’s body being able to shut down and prevent conception as long as the rape is “legitimate.”   Trying to avoid the shrapnel from his statements, Republicans distanced themselves and one by one called for him to resign.  John McCain called him an “idiot” and the normally intemperate Ann Coulter, hearing that Akin refused to drop out of the race, outdid herself with:  “I officially hate him.”   Romney seemed to wait for others to demand the resignation before he felt it necessary to demand it as well.

Unfortunately, new VP candidate Paul Ryan can’t distance himself completely because he and Akin co-sponsored a number of bills limiting abortion, with no clauses exempting women who are raped, which also just happens to be a party plank at the convention that now has drawn unwanted attention as well.

Medicare, rape and abortion – all tied to Paul Ryan in some way –  just what the Republicans don’t want in the news right before their convention.  And of course you’ve heard about this budding hurricane working its way toward the Tampa area.  

I don’t know about God forsaking the Republicans, but he, she or it sure doesn’t have their backs at the moment.

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P. S. –   I stole the title for this  post  from an editorial by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post a few days ago.   I had begun my piece when encountering Milbank’s and was going to just scrap my own and link you to his, as we cover much the same ground in a similar way.  But I wanted to add a few things of my own, so ……….    Also, his piece offers some additional details, so I suggest you read it as well.  Linked right here.

Finally, I think it curious that current Republican events seemed bizarre enough that both Milbank and I were prompted to look for para-normal explanations.

From “Hope and Change” to Believe Nothing

I don’t expect to see much I like in this election.  Just a war of attrition with the  presidential candidate whom the public dislikes a bit less than the other to win.

I know this election campaign is more like watching a wrestling match than a contest between ideas despite both camps frequently mouthing the big differences between them and how this decision will shape America’s future.  I expect both camps to portray the opposition in the least favorable light.

What I didn’t expect is for the Democrats to dive deeper into the gutter than the Republicans AND feign innocence in the process.   I’m speaking about a Super PAC ad this week that has Joe Soptic telling of his wife’s death of cancer after he was layed off from a Bain Capital controlled company.    As the Chicago Tribute states in an editorial:  “What’s implied: Romney, who led Bain in the 1990s, is partly to blame for her death.”  The ad is shameful, made more so in contrast to the tenor set by Obama in the last election.   Even more shameful is the administration’s failure to disown it.  They seem to have decided that in this election Limbo dance, the’ll vie for how low can you go.

I  know, I know.  We could list a host of ads run by the Romney campaign as well as its Super PACS that include lies, but none quite reach the sewer level of accusing the candidate of being virtually guilty of participation in manslaughter.  Yes, the Republicans have been reprehensible in portraying Obama as foreign, un-American, a detached egg head who doesn’t understand our economy, etc. etc.

But what would you expect from a party that cringes whenever radio demagogue Rush Limbaugh takes one of them to task for not being sufficiently Limbau-esque? And,  in addition to the lying Donald Trump and the half-wits who refuse to believe Obama could really be an American, we’ve seen Republican party leaders  willing to keep the “debate” going with statements like “as far as I know he was born in Hawaii.”  Anything that can trump up disrespect for the President has been fine with most of them.

I still prefer Barack Obama to a Mitt Romney, who seems willing to campaign as the stealth candidate, given his three major credentials – Bain Capital, being governor and being a devout Mormon leader – are things he’d prefer not to talk about.   I could add the Winter Olympics of 2oo2, but he has already managed to turn that into a foreign policy faux pas.  He apparently is hoping that things will get just bad enough in the economy for him to be chosen as our hope for the future.

So, yes, I still prefer Obama, but if the Joe Soptic ad becomes a Democratic habit I might just get so sick of it all that I won’t bother to vote.  No big deal, I know, unless there are many other independents out there who feel as I do.

Killer X and Our Latest Slaughter

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.   A white guy g0es into a school, or place of work or political rally with guns and blows away as many people as he can before killing himself.   The latest of these stories played out in Aurora, Colorado a few days ago, but this time the killer surrendered, perhaps after almost escaping since his outfit resembled that of a SWAT officer .  Also, the theater scenario was novel, the blending of real evil with a  fantasy movie format by a killer who told police he was “the Joker,”  the diabolical antithesis of the caped crusader in the Batman saga.   Killer x died his hair red like the Joker’s.

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web

(Photo credit: kevindean)

The scrutiny is now in full swing, of course.  Just how crazy is this guy and is there any way this could have been prevented?   If one plans for months to devastate others while choosing a scenario that makes real a movie fantasy of good vs. evil, by playing the part of  evil incarnate, is that man really insane?  Or has he just given up on good and chosen evil?   I don’t know.

And as for prevention?   I am at a loss to say.  All I  know is this did not shock me.  And I don’t believe it shocked most of you, either, unless you know the victims.  It has become part of our  way of life.   Back in 1966 when this kind of rage was expressed by a sniper who shot people at random from a 300 foot tower at the University of Texas…..NOW THAT WAS SHOCKING?   It was something new and incomprehensible back then.

Now it is old hat.   On the other hand, if you were shocked, maybe I’m speaking only for my jaded old self.   Still, I’m not so jaded as to sit stone faced watching the  Aurora, Colorado prayer vigil Sunday evening.

Tears welled up hearing of the death of  six year old Veronica Moser-Sullivan and the heroism of three others.  A TV reporter  interviewed Chantel, the  “estranged” wife of one of the heroes, 26 year old Jonathan Blunk,  another of the twelve who were murdered.   The navy veteran died shielding a woman friend  who survived.  He had wanted to reenlist in hopes of becoming a Navy Seal.  Chantel said he was a good guy who “wanted to die as a hero.”  He did.

President Obama was there and told of the bravery of two young friends, Allie Young and Stephanie Davies.   After the gunman threw a smoke bomb on the floor of the movie theater Allie was shot in the neck as she rose to notify others of what was happening. Stephanie placed her finger over Allie’s neck where she had been shot and  called 911.  She refused to leave her friend’s side, even as the shooting continued around them.  She may have saved Allie Young’s life by applying pressure to the wound.

I was touched by both the courage and loss.  Speaking of the actions of these people and others as well as the large gathering and numerous expressions of sympathy, someone said:  “It is amazing that one bad person has brought out so much good.”

Adding to the “good” was the President’s not mentioning the name of the killer as requested by a relative of one of the slain.  Of course, we will hear his name often in upcoming days, but I will keep thinking of him as killer x.   They keep showing that same photo  on TV and in the papers, and I can’t tell if his smile would look so creepy if I did not know what he had done.  I would like to see no pictures of him.   While there are reasons to try to understand him better, can we somehow limit the notoriety in the process?

Another man who never wants to see another photo of killer x is Tom Teves, father of Alex, another who died shielding a woman friend from the killer’s bullets.  A regular reader of USA Today, he has stopped because they show that photo regularly.   Mr. Teves urged CNN and all networks to “move on” and not dwell on the killer.  Instead focus on the heroes, victims and survivors.   Anderson Cooper of CNN was respectful of that in his interview.

In a divided  society that has lost the traditional distinction between the famous and the infamous, blurred by the rise of THE CELEBRITY, can we all at least  agree not to celebrate a murderer with our attention?    Not mentioning his name at the vigil was one small step in the right direction.   Tom Teves suggested another.

Hopefully we will learn how to do this better since this is part of our way of life now.

Affordable Care Act – Some Perspective

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Affordable Care Act is reportedly about 2700 pages.    I wonder how many people have actually read the whole thing:  1,000, 10,000, ten?  Given its complexity, how can John or Jane Q Public hope to understand the issues at all?  It seems good to start with someone whose life’s work has been in the area of health care reform,  Stuart Altman.  He has been an adviser and architect of health care reform policy for five U.S. presidents — both Democrat and Republican.

In short, he figures to know as much as anyone about our health care controversy, so I have linked you to an 11 minute video interview of him, which figures to be more illuminating than anything I have say.  Still, that will not prevent me from adding my two cents (or maybe four if you figure inflation in) in future posts.

Here are a few points Altman makes in the video:

  • Developing a uniquely American health care system has been an evolutionary process beginning with President Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago.
  • While the Obama plan is based largely on the Romney plan in MA, both have their roots in a plan Altman worked on during the Nixon administration, which Senator Teddy Kennedy almost backed.
  • Most of the Obama’s program’s costs and benefits do not kick in until 2014.  Over a 10 year period additional costs are “projected” to be counter balanced by additional savings.
  • Even if  the ACA plan is rolled out as projected, more changes will need to occur in our health care system to really get costs under control.  A key to real savings is to replace the “fee-for-service” model now used, which rewards providers to simply do more. We need a model  with incentives to be more efficient and make better choices.

So, at your convenience take a gander at the video and I’ll see you Tuesday or whenever you get back.

SMATTERINGS – July 6, 2012

While working on this blog I come across all sorts of information.  I would like to share more of it than can be squeezed into a couple of posts a week, yet not so much as to  overload readers’ psyches,  so periodically I will have posts that combine a little of this and that.

UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (this section was rewritten July 7, due to my misstatement of Silver’s “odds”)

I mentioned Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeightblog in my previous Smatterings and his picking the winner of all but one state  in the 2008 presidential election.   Even though the cable chatter often makes this seem a close race, Silver has consistently given Obama a “chance of winning” in the 60s percentage-wise.

After the jobs report that came out yesterday (tepid for the third month in a row) Silver reduced Obama’s “winning chance” from 68.9% to 66.9%, but still a solid advantage.

Speaking of  winning chances, yesterday I checked some Vegas odds on the race at an online site called Bovada.  A $100 bet on Obama will net you $58.82 if he wins.   Romney gives you better odds if he wins,  your $100 netting $140, but you get a better payoff  because he appears less likely to win.

IT’S EVEN WORSE THAN IT LOOKS

That’s the title of a book by two well respected centrists, Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.  One reason I judge them as centrists is because other centrists, like former Republican Senator Chuck Hegel and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker have praised the book.   It takes one to know one, as they say.  However, since the book blames a right moving Republican party for the lion’s share of our congressional gridlock, the authors are obviously liberals to those they criticize, if not socialists or, in the case of Representative Alan West, communists.

This weekend Mann and Ornstein are slated to be on UpwithChrisHayes, my favorite political discussion show which is on MSNBC on both Saturday and Sunday from 8-to-10 ET, which makes it 5-to-7 my time and one reason why I record it.  Another reason is it allows me to watch it in segments during the rest of the week, instead of watching a number of programs that are not nearly as illuminating.

Being on MSNBC, it is no surprise that most of the guests are liberals, though there is often a conservative in attendance and Hayes does a good job of keeping the conversation flowing as opposed to verbal head butting.

I’m not sure which day the authors will be on, but that’s another reason to check the program out on both days  this weekend.

OBAMA CELEBRATES FOURTH OF JULY IN FRANCE

Not really, but that was the story that went through conservative social media like the Colorado forest fire.  It is worth examining, as Ezra Klein did on MSNBC, as it illustrates the eagerness of the right to immediately circulate anything that smears Obama, accuracy be damned.

According to Klein,  the Hollywood Reporter had a piece about the European branch of the Obama campaign having a fundraiser in Paris for American x-pats on the 4th.  Seeing that, Ben Shapiro wrote about the Paris fundraiser in the conservative Breitbart.com, ending with:  “That also may be the only place Obama can still find cheering throngs.”

Shapiro didn’t say Obama was in France, but apparently Andrew McCarthy of the National Review thought he did when he wrote the following :

“Final Jeopardy – Category is OBAMA: The answer is: Fundraising in Paris….with a link to Breitbart.  Carl Rove saw that and ever the eager beaver when it comes to smearing Obama, tweeted it to his legions of followers, who replied with responses such as:  “Fitting. Comrade Obama to celebrate the 4th in socialist France.”

And Lars Larson,  a conservative talk show host, ran with it like “wrong way Corrigan”:  “What would you expect the president do on our day of independence? Perhaps give a speech or visit wounded warriors. At least something in America. Not this president. Not Barack Obama.”

Well, actually, on the 4th Obama was meeting with active duty U.S. service members who are becoming naturalized U.S. citizens at the White House.

I agree with conservatives that our media tend to reflect liberal biases, but at least they also have a journalistic tradition of checking the facts.  And they do seem embarrassed when they get the facts wrong.

Not so with the parade of verbal henchman listed above beginning with McCarthy who is further taken to task in the article below.

Smarter than the Average Bear and Nary a Clue

Constitutional Amendments 101

(Photo credit: Village Square)

The title above refers to me.  After writing my previous post suggesting consideration of  a constitutional amendment to combat the ever increasing role of money in politics,  I have come to see what deep waters I jumped into.  It all looks murky from below sea level.   After a response from a lawyer friend and watching a segment on UpwithChrisHayes Sunday.  I have several second thoughts, a few which I’ll mention.

This instance exemplifies how difficult it is to be a so-called informed citizen these days when the key issues are so complex they would be hard to figure out even if  the information available to us could be trusted.  As reflected in the growth of public fact checkers, such as factcheck.org, understanding requires much sorting out with questionable results from one’s efforts.

As I have written in this blog at various times, while  I have left of center biases, I am more concerned with illuminating issues than in pushing a political agenda.   The one thing I know right now is that the financial amendment issue, like so many other political issues I encounter,  probably deserves at least a book.   I cannot write a book on each issue, but I will try to do something useful short of that.  Though it will take time.

First, a couple of  second thoughts on that last post.  There I mentioned  two proposed constitutional amendments restricting political contributions, one proposed by an organization called Move To Amend, and the other by Lawrence Tribe, “one of the nation’s pre-eminent liberal legal scholars.”  The former amendment goes like this:

“We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. ” (bold added).

That seemed to make sense, so I signed the petition.   Money isn’t speech and corporations are not people, right?   Well, legally not so fast.   My lawyer friend pointed out that corporations are usually treated like people, in that they have rights and restrictions.  As he wrote:

“I am saying that legal entities have the same rights as individuals (almost all statutes classify a business entity as a “person”)  Once you start limiting the rights of certain legal structures you head down a very steep and slippery slope because who is doing the limiting and where does the limiting end?”

Hmm….  Remember when Mitt Romney said  “corporations are people, too”?  I found that hard to swallow, but in this legal sense, a corporation does seem like a real person, just like Mitt Romney.

Then I watched the Chris Hayes show on Sunday and  saw Glenn Greenwald, who is hard to peg politically other than he is very concerned with civil rights.   He explained why he and a number of liberals (including the ACLU) favored the Citizens United  decision because they did not want government to regulate speech.  As someone at the ACLU wrote:   “…the ACLU does not support campaign finance regulation premised on the notion that the answer to money in politics is to ban political speech.”

So, we have some people on the left and the right joining together to resist bans on political speech.  They seem to be saying “money is speech.”  In any event, rather than restrict this “speech”  the ACLU and Greenwald  favor robust public campaign financing, while the ACLU also backs greater disclosure rules as ways to check the escalating cost of political campaigns.

Meanwhile my lawyer friend seems to like the Lawrence Tribe amendment, but I’ll save his reasoning for later after I try to understand it myself.  I will also develop a Constitutional Amendment page under the Centerville category above, where I will gather and sort out information on this topic.   I welcome help with this, especially from those with legal training  (I’ll have a comment button at the bottom of the Amendment page)Right now there doesn’t seem a need to rush.

I still think it a good idea to sign the petition at  Move To Amend, even if you disagree with the wording of the amendment.   That wording can change and a good response will suggest some people out here do care.   Also, I believe it good to do small political acts just to get in the habit should a day come when we can do big political ones together.   It’s  sort of like making a habit of doing  “random acts of kindness.”

Campaign Finance Reform … Yawn

When I was young the word “reform” had positive connotations, but after years of observing re-forms that turned out worse than the original forms, and others that only had the appearance of reform, I find myself falling asleep when now encountering the word.

Citizens United

Citizens United (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While we need campaign financial reforms, it is hard to get excited about them for they tend to be complicated and take lots of time to pass and then most of us have little idea of what the real outcome will be.

Take the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002.  The immediate results seemed mixed and, though a step forward,  with the Citizens United decision of 2010 (discussed in my previous post), big money seems to have found yet another end run around good intentions.   So much so that one observer argued a few months ago we would be better off now if we repealed the act.

I don’t know enough to judge that, but after the U. S. Supreme Court just struck down the Montana state law limiting financial political contributions both the state’s Democrat governor and Republican Lt. Governor called for a constitutional amendment to offset the Citizen’s United decision.

I had heard here and there other calls for a constitutional amendment, including one from Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who had has long opposed such tinkering.   However, he has changed his mind now that the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.”  Writing recently for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, which has since been introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures.

As the related article at the bottom of this post indicates, some have criticisms of the wording of Tribe’s amendment, but there will be a lot of quibbling over the exact wording should an amendment gain momentum.   Also, need I point out that given the election, the real battles over this won’t likely be fought until 2013?

Still, it will take months to develop momentum anyway.  In Googling the amendment issue I just discovered an organization that I had never heard of, established in 2009, Move To Amend.   Obviously they were working to reduce the political  influence of big money even before the flood gates were opened wide with Citizens United.  And if you look around the site for a few minutes, you’ll find a host of organizations that support their efforts, along with a comparison of their suggested amendment to that of others (though not of Tribe’s as yet).

They are asking for people to sign a petition that goes as follows:   “We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. “

That makes sense to me.  Perhaps their wording could prompt problems, too, but there is nothing binding there and signing it seems a positive gesture, so I did.  It has been signed by over 200,000 others while their goal is to reach  500,000.   I would be interested in feedback if you did sign  or have reasons not to sign that  you are willing to share.

SMATTERINGS – June 22, 2012

English: A map based on the candidates running...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While working on this blog I come across all sorts of information.  I would like to share more of it than can be squeezed into a couple of posts a week, yet not so much as to produce psychic  overload, so periodically I will have posts that combine a little of this and that….

ONE STOP SHOPPING FOR  ELECTION PREDICTIONS

Is this presidential election going to be close?  Not according to Nate Silver’s recent “chance of winning” prediction  in his Fivethirtyeight blog.  He regularly gives  Obama a large betting edge, today 62.7 % to 37.3% over Romney.  A lot of this has to do with Obama having a strong lead in the projected electoral vote despite only a narrow one in likely overall voters.

Silver analyses the polls and made a name for himself in predicting all but one state, Indiana (a 1% vote difference) in the 2008 presidential election.   Rather than listen to the political chatter –  like the impact of Romney not vetting Marco Rubio for VP – check in with Silver when you’re curious how the tide is turning.  To make that easier for you, I’ll put his blog in my Blogroll to the lower left.

OUR LATEST WAR

Both Democrats and Republicans have “war rooms”, staffed with people whose job is to find every weakness in the “enemy” and exploit it.  Jake Tapper of ABC got a guided tour of the Republican war room in April.   Check out the video.   All the flack produced is one more reason to save time and just check with Nate.

I would have mentioned the Tapper video earlier, but was waiting for him to do a similar piece on the Dem war room.   I’m still waiting.   Maybe the Democrats  changed their minds after seeing the Republicans look like vultures.

POST TRUTH POLITICS

Adam McCay in Huff Post yesterday reminded me of me, decrying the current state of our media news :  “… instead of useful information we get opinions decorated with misleading info. And the result is that we are a shockingly misinformed country.”

His suggestion:  “We must create an INFORMATION BUCKET BRIGADE…Once a week every one of us must pass on a rock-solid fact with context at the ready to someone else we know. If it’s someone who disagrees with you, you get bonus points. Whether it’s through email, Twitter, Facebook, text, or conversation, all that matters is that fact is passed on and the person you pass it on to passes it on.”  He does add that in passing it on it should not include something snotty about the recipient’s politics or I. Q.

To me illuminating a misleading “fact” is in keeping with McCay’s suggestion and here’s one:   One Republican talking point is to hammer Dems for having large majorities in both houses the first two years of their administration with  little to show for it.  They say it often and I never see it challenged.  

Yes, the statement is factually true, but the former big majority in the Senate – 60-to-40 – just seems big.   With the Dem party caucus stretching from socialist independent Bernie Sanders on the left to conservative Ben Nelson on the right, this was never a solid 60 votes, the number required to avoid a  veto by the filibuster-happy Republicans.   The need to corral all of the Dem caucus, including independents Sanders and Joe Lieberman, helped create a mishmash of a health care act.

And for the first six months the Dems didn’t even have 60 because Al Franken’s election win was challenged in court.  

SIDE BOOBS ARE GETTING EVEN BIGGER

In case you thought I was being just flippant or downright weird in my post haling the power of boobs, I’ll have you know that I was on the curvaceous edge.  Huff Post now has a whole section devoted to those tangential talking points.   No lie.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/sideboob