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      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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Melange:A World of Woo, tribal belief, willful self-delusion and Jane Mayer

There are a lot of interesting nuggets in the intertoobz these days.  Some of these things go together and show the lengths we will go to delude ourselves or cling to tribal beliefs.

Let’s start with a podcast.  So, you’ve given up the Judeo-Christian belief system for God 2.0 or no god at all.  Some of us would call this progress.  Giving up bronze age superstition and tradition for something more modern and relevant is quite a bold step.  So, why are so many of you turning to woo?  Woo is defined as “ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers”. Woo includes the belief in astrology, auras, energy fields, homeopathy, accupuncture, chiropracty and vaccination phobia.  Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist interviews various professionals who debunk these woos and tries to explain why otherwise rational people are attracted to them. Let’s put it this way, if you’re into woo, it’s hard to take anything you say seriously. You’d might as well be a nutcase fundy eschatologist.   Check out Seth’s recent podcast here.

Jay Ackroyd tries to lead Digby to the light when it comes to Obama’s commitment to a Grand Bargain on Social Security and Medicare.  First, go read the piece from Digby where she actually sounds like she’s blown right on past where Conflucians are sitting straight into the arms of the former Democrats who are so angry they’ve started to identify with the Tea Party.  Wow.  That’s quite a leap.  I know the party will reel her back in and, to be honest, we don’t really need more Tea Partiers in Congress, thank you very much.  But, yeah, Digby.  Jay’s right.  The Obama contingent are not liberals.  However, Jay is not right that they’re centrists.  The Obama contingent is definitely on the right side of center.  Nooooo doubt about it.  The only way that they are centrists is if you consider moderate republicanism centrist.  That would make Bill Clinton a flaming commie.  No, no, don’t go there, Jay.  We have seen the studies.  There’s no way in hell that Bill Clinton is a centrist in the same way that Obama is a “centrist”.  The center moved in the past 12 years.  You guys have got to accept this because your irrational belief that Clinton is an evil Republican dude compared to Obama, is what got Obama elected in the first place.  You’ve been done in by your tribe’s woo.  I mean, think about it: your group is asking us to believe that Bill Clinton is, was and always will be more conservative than Barack Obama.  Step back and think about that and ask yourselves if that’s rational given everything you now know.  If YOU can’t swallow it, why are you asking US to believe it?

As for Digby, I really like her and I’ve found her recent evolution to be promising, if only temporary in the lead up to the election.  I expect her to chicken out even though her “Hey! We’re eating grass!” moments are fun to read.  There is a place for left of center Democrats who don’t have our minds so wide open that our brains have fallen out.  We just need to create it.  It probably won’t happen this election cycle unless the Obama half of the party is defeated by the Clinton half of the party.  That’s where we are now.  You may not think the Clinton half is sufficiently liberal but the American people do.  In any case, they’ll drag the party back leftwards like an earthquake in Japan.  It could be a true realignment on the way back to sanity.  And remember, Wall Street rejected the Clinton half last time.  So, you know, how much more proof do you need??  Besides, there is no hope for Howard Dean.  Most people don’t know who he is and wouldn’t like him if they did.  We need to be realistic and work with what we’ve got.  And as far as I can tell, Americans would be ecstatic to return to the Clinton years, even if they were supervised by his wife. A woman in charge would be very good for women in general, wouldn’t you agree?  Especially when that woman is a passionate defender of women’s reproductive rights?  I mean, can women really trust Obama after they way he dragged his feet on the conscience rule, betrayed us in the healthcare law and kept Plan B behind a counter?

As far as everyone having “skin in the game”, Obama’s term for sacrificing in the upcoming Grand Bargain, um, I’ve seen my industry devastated by Wall Street grasshoppers and I’ve lost a very good living, permanently.  So, you know, I’ve already been flayed.  Not only that but I’m in the age cohort who has to wait until I’m 67 before I get the Social Security I prepaid for decades.  I’m not sacrificing anymore skin.  No, do not even ask.  Don’t make us come down there to Washington to make your lives miserable.  You do not want crowds from the size of my graduating class on the mall.  No, you do not.  I suggest that Congress go hunt people with an excess of skin, ie wealthy people.  Give them a good reason to whine.

The last bit is an interview of Jane Mayer on Fresh Air with Terry Gross entitled “Obama in Impossible Bind Over Donors”.  The Impossible Bind is that he wants and needs money from the wealthy and Wall Street but he doesn’t want average voters to know how indebted he is to his big donors so he has to blow the donors off in public.  It’s a sad, sad situation.  Terry, to her credit, seems to have come around after being such an insufferable Obama fangirl in 2008.  Jane Mayer valiantly tries to make Obama look good when it comes to fundraising.  You can almost hear Jane pleading with the audience to understand what Obama is up against but I found her extreme earnestness irritating.  It’s a cruel world out there.  Poor Obama, forced to accept SuperPAC money and trying to make it look like he doesn’t like it.  It’s all the fault of the mean Republicans that he’s sucking up all the money he said he didn’t want.  And while Romney is appearing at the SuperPAC soirees, Mitt has a deputy actually ask for the money, while Obama goes to the soirees and the money just mysteriously appears for him but he doesn’t suck up to anyone to get it.  I find the distinction indistinct.

Oh, but Obama isn’t giving away the Lincoln Bedroom!  So, you know, there’s that.  And that’s presumably why the donors are complaining.  They get nothing from Obama.  Not even a tote bag.  He won’t even take pictures with his donors so they can use that to name drop. It sounds like Obama got too much of a reputation as a schmoozer in 2008 and he’s desperate to squash that meme this year but that doesn’t mean he’ll be turning the filthy lucre down.  He just doesn’t want to have to thank anyone publicly for it.

But the funniest part of the interview is when Mayer is forced to debunk the idea that Obama made the bulk of his campaign money from millions of teensy contributions.  I know, you’re probably thinking that small contributions mean less than $100 because that’s what the Obama campaign lead us to believe in 2008.  We were all under the impression that millions and millions of working class Joes were mailing $20 to him in gratitude with a little note saying, “Bless you, Barack!  Save the Republic.  We’ve been waiting all our lives for you!”  Right?  Intellectually, you know it’s not true because the sheer size of the amount of money he collected, plus all of the contributions from wealthy Wall Street contributors, is public information. But the meme kinda slipped into the chinks of the gray matter and created it’s own woo.  It just *had* to be true because so many people repeated it.  It’s sort of like that woo we debunked about Obama running a fabulous campaign.  Um, no he didn’t, unless you consider gaming the caucuses and paying off the superdelegates and DNC fabulous, and we can prove it but myths die hard.

Anyway, it turns out that the definition of small depends on who is using it.  Small donations to you and me would be less than $100.  Small donations to the Obama campaign means maxing out at $5000.  See the difference?  One is $4900 more than the other. What working class stiff has $5000 to stuff into an envelope for a guy who had less than two years of national political experience before he decided to run for president?  And inadvertently, Mayer exposes what the Obama campaign thinks of the people who gave less than $5K.  They’re not even on the campaign’s radar.

But the final bit of silliness from Mayer is when she contrasts Bill Clinton’s extroversion against Obama’s intellectualism.  That’s got to be a first.  Whatever you might think of Bill Clinton,  making the guy who went to Georgetown, Yale Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar sound like a high school dropout car salesman next to Obama doesn’t really work too well.  What she’s really trying to say is that Clinton is a gregarious politician who likes politics and can carry on an intelligent conversation with anyone, even his enemies, but that the Obama contingent doesn’t like politics and getting hands dirty and actually doing the stuff that gets things done.  I know that she didn’t mean to say that but that’s essentially what she said.  If you were a big money donor, whose campaign would you rather give $5 million to?  (George Soros, call me!)

Once the bloom is off of Obama’s rose, you can’t listen to this stuff without laughing at all of the holes in the arguments.  The woo is gone.

Monday: Colbert’s brilliant ad

I have a post knocking around in my head about the after effects of the 2008 election season on women but it’s not quite there yet.  In the meantime, add me to the growing list of admirers of Stephan Colbert’s, sorry, JON STEWART’S SuperPAC ad.  For those of you who missed it last week, Colbert gave up his PAC to his business partner, Stewart, when he decided to form an exploratory committee to run for the President of South Carolina.  As the owner of a SuperPAC, legally he can’t coordinate it with his campaign committee or even know what it’s up to but he can transfer ownership of the PAC to his business partner and if they chat now and again about stuff and it looks like the two entities share the same vision, that’s merely coincidental.

Anyway, here’s the ad:

So, let’s talk briefly about the pros of this ad.  What I like the most about this ad was that it expresses in 30 seconds what I have been trying to say less successfully for a couple of years now.  There is a place for corporations in the American business landscape and we don’t need to always be hostile to them.  Those corporations are not people but they are made up of people.  Those people make the widgets or build the cars or design the airbuses or discover the drugs.  To do and build on this scale requires teams of people, working together, and sometimes, this just works more efficiently when they work in a corporate environment.  It’s like a department store where everyone needs what’s in the everyone else’s department.  For example, you can’t do drug discovery very easily outside of a corporation.  Those of us who are out of corporate settings realize that the level of coordination and high start up costs, coupled with the reluctance of banks to lend and vulture capitalists to invest, make new drug discovery companies very risky propositions.

Colbert doesn’t take any shots at those people who work for corporations.  The left could take a lesson from that.  He is not offending anyone who due to the circumstances of where they live or what their talents are, end up working for corporations.  Those people are not evil and they shouldn’t feel any shame for not being able to build a car or develop a drug all by themselves or with a couple of friends in a garage.  The “you ought to be ashamed for working for {{insert nasty corporation here}}” attitude is thick in the left blogosphere.  It is very offensive.  Yes, I think that most of the lefties who have this attitude, especially those who want desperately to fit in, have no idea how incredibly offensive they can be.  And insulting.  Did I mention that?  Failure to discriminate the portions of a corporation that are responsible for all the pain and suffering from the people who are suffering, including some of the corporation’s workers, leads to a lot of resentment towards the left from people who should be its allies.  Over and over again, the left’s insistence on moral purity alienates it from the very people they say they want to help.  It’s not helping, guys.  So, stop doing it.  It’s insulting to condemn people who work for corporations -who are in the rank and file.

It’s quite another thing to be critical of the people who run corporations and seem to be in it only to enrich themselves or gain some kind of social status.  THOSE people really do have a problem.  But the average assembler, engineer, CADD designer or labrat?  No, these people deserve your respect.  Stephan Colbert gives it to them and puts the blame where it belongs- at the top of the corporate ladder.

Now, Colbert is taking well deserved pot shots at Romney.  But I think we can see that down the road, he’s going to have a problem.  Because Barack Obama is indistinguishable from the corporate overlords who yank his junk.  In fact, this is the primary reason why I couldn’t support him.  He is their creature.  He is a schmoozer who rose to the presidency because he embraced the corporate executive culture.  He adopted their values and their tactics.  Do you think Obama is the first dude who rose to the top of an organization who had absolutely no idea what the business does for a living or how it operates?  Heck no, the country’s corporations are stuffed to the gills with guys like that.  Their prestigious Wharton B. School MBAs, Harvard law degrees, personal connections and ability to kiss ass, while cold bloodedly, unscrupulously and ruthlessly stabbing their competition, are their tickets to success.  The fact that they run companies or governments where thousands or millions of people are dependent on good decision making is tangential to their personal goals and aspirations.  Their success story doesn’t involve making a brilliant new product or turning around a struggling enterprise in a changing economy.  It involves their own personal struggle and self actualization.  They write books about the ascent of man told from their own intimate experience.  They are testaments to rugged individualism in the boardroom and fortitude on the back nine.  This is Obama’s reality.  It has nothing to do with YOU.  Why are you making unreasonable demands on him?  Hasn’t he shown you the way to accomplishing your own dream?  That’s what he was born to do: to make his own personal experience something that you can aspire to.  That was the secret to his electoral success in 2008.  He convinced a whole generation of Whole Foods shoppers that they were special people who could be the ambitious, intrepid masters of their own personal universes.  Yes, You Can!  Yes, You Can!  {{rolling eyes}}.

There are other reasons to not want him for four more years as president, like, he’s not a good politician and he’s lousy at making policy.  If you wanted someone who would have come to the White House prepared to make good policy and stick with core Democratic values, Hillary Clinton was your guy.  According to Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Obama had no idea how to actually do policy.  He has some kind of vision and then says to his minions, “Go do it!”.  He gives them very little guidance beyond that.  And that’s because he either doesn’t believe what his corporate overlords tell him not to believe or because he just doesn’t have the experience or interest to buckle down and concentrate on the task at hand.

Unfortunately, this is the person the Democrats keep saying (at this time) that they want in the White House for four more years.  I am of the opinion that until the Democratic party is willing to sit down and negotiate with its voters, those voters would be well advised to go on strike.  After all, we have zero influence over the Republicans.  There’s nothing we can do or say that will ever have any effect on them.  But we might be able to persuade Democrats that they will be in the political wilderness for a generation if they don’t get their shit together.  And then, we should find a third party candidate to the left of the Democrats, it doesn’t matter who it is, and vote for that person.  If Romney wins in November, I guarantee that you will not know the difference when it comes to who is occupying the White House, ask any of the thousands and thousands of laid off scientists who Obama ignored in the past 3 years while their corporate overlords slashed their way through the payrolls and pension funds to “enhance shareholder value” and their own bottom lines.  Obama was an accomplice to the serial killing of the American scientific infrastructure.  He was golf buddy to those homocidal maniacs.  So, why reward the Democrats by voting for him?  Congress is a different thing.  I’d primary every incumbent congresscritter of either party with few exceptions.

Now, can Citizens for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow craft an ad that takes on the Democrats?  That remains to be seen.  If the PAC is to be successful, it has to motivate Democrats to take action, it can’t simply be content to trash Republicans.  Because when November rolls around, the Republicans will once again rile up its Christian conservative base to go to the polls.  To go to the polls, you need motivation and Republicans seem to be highlighting “religious freedom” this year, as in, anything the Democrats propose will be an infringement on the rights of fundamentalist Christians with Fox induced Acquired Stupidity Syndrome to push their Old Testament tribalism on the rest of us who don’t give a damn.  But right now, what is motivating Democrats to go to the polls?  Having new, more vigorous blood in the party would motivate many of us Democrats in Exile.

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