Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monadnock Valley

One thing that a political party does not want is to be the party in charge during a disaster, especially one that the public considers preventable. An economic downturn is a prime example of this sort of event, where both parties try to take credit for any economic upswing and blame the other for any economic decline.

As bad as the current economic decline has been, something much worse is on the horizon, something that is preventable assuming even a little bit of political courage. Of course, needing a little bit of political courage is exactly why nothing will be done about the bust of Social Security in 2016. So rather than do anything about it, Obama may be playing to lose.

Now it appears that the Republicans may have caught on to that strategy. The Tea Party may have given the Republicans an unexpected victory, which would add yet one more reason for the mainstream Republican Party to dislike the Tea Party movement. But interestingly enough, before the 2010 victory, Republicans were not talking about Sarah Palin as a viable presidential candidate.

This could be an example of "Play to lose will you? Well then, take this: Candidate Palin."

Of course finding political connections between Palin and Soros adds an interesting twist.

But there is one more outcome if the Republicans have also decided to play to lose in 2012. They could pull a Monadnock Valley.

In "The Fountainhead," a con-man hires Howard Roark to build the Monadnock Valley vacation resort. Nobody can figure out what is wrong with the project until it is completed and starts turning a profit. It turned out that the con-man expected to fail and double sold the stock. If the project had failed he would keep the money from the excess stock sail, but since it succeeded he had to pay $2 in dividends for every $1 in profit.

The con-man chose Howard Roark because conventional wisdom said he was the worst architect, but it turned out that conventional wisdom was wrong he was actually the best architect.

The Republicans may wind up picking a “Monadnock candidate" in the 2012 elections. They may pick a candidate who they expect to lose, but will not only win but be able to handle the economic woes afflicting the nation. They wouldn’t handle then in a way that keeps the elite in their privileged positions, but the problems would be taken care of.

Who would be a "Monadnock candidate" if the Republicans did this? It would have to be someone that conventional wisdom considers to be a poor candidate but has the potential to deliver far more than conventional wisdom could ever anticipate. The list is not large, but it includes Representative Ron Paul, Senator Rand Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, and Governor Gary Johnson. Of course, the Democrats probably have their own "Monadnock candidates" but they will probably not run as Obama will likely be the Democrat candidate in 2012.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Opt Out Day

In response to the TSA giving passengers a choice between either being electronically strip searched or an overly aggressive pat-down, and threatening to fine those who upon discovering the choice decide to leave the airport, there is an event, National Opt Out Day. Those who have been protesting the TSA for years welcome everyone else to the protest, and are heartened to find out that there really is a limit to how much the American people will endure.

An “opt out” is when a passenger chooses to not undergo a virtual strip search, and instead endures the punitive pat-down instead. National Opt Out Day is a day when as many people as possible are encouraged to opt for the punitive pat-down instead of the virtual strip search. The participants are also supposed to insist on the optional private pat-down room.

The effects of a sufficiently large number of passengers doing this will be chaos. Checkpoints have a very limited number of private pat-down rooms, and a limited number of screeners to perform all of these examinations. Given that the standard operating procedure of the TSA is to put people into the virtual strip search machine whenever it is available, even if there are passengers waiting for the pat-down, this will create tremendous delays and tie up large amounts of TSA resources.

One possible outcome is that those who opt-out will simply have to wait until they receive their pat-down, even if that means they miss their flight. Another possible outcome is that the TSA will anticipate this by adding many additional screeners for that day and setting up impromptu private screening rooms. Another possible outcome is that the TSA will simply not operate the virtual strip search machines, although there is evidence that they absolutely will not back down at all.

For those who wish for an entertaining way to opt-out, there is an entertaining way to do so.

It has been determined that the technology does not penetrate skin very deeply, and as a result has a very difficult time scanning through leather. So in order to opt-out without actually saying "opt-out", the solution is to wear nothing but leather. This involves leather shirt, pants, and underwear.

A leather jacket is insufficient because the TSA requires passengers to remove jackets and sweaters. But if a sweater is worn as a shirt, the TSA will allow the passenger to leave it on. So the shirt and pants must both be leather without a jacket. As an additional layer of protection leather underwear will guarantee privacy protection. Being thick, when the TSA attempts to grope the passenger, leather provides a layer of additional protection by virtue of the thickness, giving protection from all but the most determined groping. All these items can be easily purchased on Amazon as a way to celebrate National Opt Out Day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Southern Strategy?

Whenever the Republicans lose an election, they blame it on "RINOs", since no person would actually cast an informed vote against a Republican. Whenever the Democrats lose an election, they blame it on the stupidity of the voting public, since no person would actually cast an informed vote against a Democrat. It's a very old pattern that found expression during the Bush election with the famous "Jesusland" map, as well as maps comparing the red versus blue states to the maps of the War Between the States. Since the current electoral results show Democrats losing, it is worthwhile to rebut one of the claims of how they unfairly lost.

The most insidious explanation for Democrat losses is "the Southern Strategy", which is a severe insult against all Southerners as ignorant racists. It is one of the most hyped theories around, but it is not a given that it even exists. It traces to the musings of one Republican who was a racist, but doesn't trace to any actual proof that any actual strategy even exists in the first place. All evidence for it is circumstantial - that since the late 60s the Solid South stopped voting Solid Democrat and started voting Republican a lot more often.

The Southern Strategy is allegedly based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the fact that it was signed by a Democrat president, even though it was put on his desk because Congressional Republicans pushed it through. Key votes are examined such as when Goldwater voted for every Civil Rights Act before the 1964 one, and key votes are ignored such as when Goldwater's opponents voted against every Civil Rights Act before the 1964 one.

The theory states that because a Democrat president signed the Civil Rights Act, the ignorant and racist South turned Republican. The facts do not support that assertion.

Democrat Jimmy Carter's won victories in every Southern state except for Virginia and Oklahoma in the 1976 Presidential election, years after the alleged emergence of the Southern Strategy.

Democrat Bill Clinton was able to win five southern states twice (Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia) and two states once (Georgia in 1992 and Florida in 1996). Virginia, Texas and North Carolina were won by the Republican candidates by significantly smaller margins than usual.

The first Southern state to give the GOP control of both its governorship and its legislature was Florida. It did not do this until 1998. Florida has an atypical population for a Southern state, with a large retiree population from northern states and also a large Cuban population that leans Republican due to a shared opposition to Fidel Castro.

Georgia did not elect its first post-Reconstruction GOP governor until 2002. Until 2005, Louisiana had been represented since Reconstruction only by Democratic Senators. Arkansas has two Democratic Senators, a Democratic governor, three out of four of their U.S. representatives are Democrats, every statewide office is held by a Democrat, and their state legislature is Democratic. Tennessee and North Carolina have a majority Democratic delegation in the U.S. House of representatives. Mississippi has a house delegation that is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

It seems that the "Southern Strategy" which is quoted so often is more the musings of one particular racist Republican and not a Republican Party policy. Nixon is supposed to be the epitome of the evil American politician, but he is still just one person.

What caused the South to shift from Solid Democrat to mixed?

In the 1970s the Moral Majority was actually a factor. Its leaders endorsed the Republican Party, and it morphed into the modern phenomenon of the Religious Right. The South, being the home of Southern Baptist fundamentalism (a whole different creature from Puritan fundamentalism), was wooed into the Republican Party that way.

Another factor is Air Conditioning. One of the reasons heavy development didn't occur in the South is the fact that it gets hotter there in the summer than it does in the Rust Belt. It's easy to heat a building; it's harder to cool it. Couple the widespread use of Air Conditioning with the fact of overly-strong pro-union legislation in Northern States, and the result is that many businesses become willing to relocate to the South, and people moving there along with the businesses. The South has experienced population growth above and beyond that of other areas in the country - and that is not due to a birth rate but immigration from other states.

Plus the Republican Party has done a better job of appealing to the "common man." The Democrats appeal to the lower classes is more to the "down and out". The "common man" works for a living, the Democrats campaign towards those who live off of government handouts. When Reagan played "Born in the USA" at the 1984 Republican Convention, it was a strategic coup, because it identified the GOP with those who work hard all day then kick back with a beer to relax while watching a game on television. The Democrats, when not identified with the lowest class, identify with New England wine drinking elitists.

New England is one more reason that the Solid South fractured. The elitism of New England has never gone away, and the disdain New England feels for the South is matched only by the resentment the South feels for New England. One side still resents the abuses of reconstruction. The other side still resents that an entire region of the country dared question the doctrine of central authority. When the Democrats embraced New England, they sundered themselves from the South. Even as late as 1996 Georgians were worried that during the Olympics that the liberal elitist journalists would come down from the North, look for the absolute worst and most backwards parts of Georgia, and send back images saying "This is Georgia today." It's like going to a mansion and only photographing the angst-ridden teenager's bedroom.

Puritan Fundamentalism no longer exists in the form it did back then. It still exists, but in a secularized way. Instead of trying to create God's Kingdom on Earth, ruled over by pious Elites, the modern Democrats try to create a Socialist Utopia on Earth, ruled over by Elites. One look at the Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign shows this tendency. There wasn't a single position that she took in her entire campaign that wasn't "I know best about everything in your life and if you give me absolute power I will create a secular God's Kingdom on Earth."

Religion, industry, air conditioning, elitism, the difference between the common man and the downtrodden masses, many things went into the fracturing of the Solid South. Blaming it all on the words of one racist Republican is terminally short sighted to a degree that it can only make sense if someone desperately wants it to be true, but not in any actual analysis. What that really proves is that the south is not solid in either direction. Any remarks about how the Civil Rights Act did this are little more than sour grapes, saying "how dare those ignorant racist southern rednecks not deliver the vote for us like they should."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Did Obama Play to Lose?

The election put Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives and weakened the Democratic majority in the Senate. Commentators, both right and left, are wondering if the influence of the Tea Party was more of a help or a hindrance, given that in the Nevada and Delaware Senate races, the people elected Democrats over Republicans supported by the Tea Party, but overall it was a gain for the Republicans.

But of greater influence was Obama himself. Even the influence of the Tea Party is a derivative of his own influence. And President Obama has been quite a different person from Candidate Obama. When he was a candidate, he played the "Hope and Change" mantra to the fullest, inspiring audiences with the possibilities of what he would accomplish. In many ways he was a blank slate on which people would draw whatever they wanted to see in a presidential candidate.

Upon assuming office, much of the glamor quickly faded. He got mired in the details, and failed to lead his own party in pushing issues favored by his party’s base. Those who are more observant knew that Obama wasn’t a peace candidate, that he only appeared that way because he was running against Hillary Clinton and later John McCain, and those two were so militaristic that anyone would appear peaceful compared to them. The genuine peace candidates in the Democratic Party primary washed out quickly, one of them transferring to the Libertarian Party.

Since he assumed office, he has alienated two of the traditional bases of the Democratic Party; feminists, and those who support gay rights.

On the issue of gay rights, it was a Republican appointed judge who overturned California Proposition 8, and it was a Republican plaintiff who launched the most successful attack on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Obama has refused to do anything about Don't Ask Don't Tell, allowing Harry Reid to stick it in a bill in such a way to guarantee its failure, and he has refused to move on marriage equality.

On the issue of feminism, it was reported that a woman who was an actual DNC delegate in 2008 reported that she could barely stomach voting for Democrats in the comment section of a New York Times opinion piece. Unable to link to the comment, this paraphrase will have to do to express her complaints:
*misogynistic tactics used against Clinton in the 2008 campaign (which apparently still lurks unhappily in some women's memories)
*freely slung accusations of racism to anyone who does not support Obama past or present
*democratic/liberal assertions that Islam is religion of peace, while, to any western woman's perspective, it is polluted by the subjugation and abuse of women
*reproductive rights no longer hold the sway over female voters that they once did, either because they believe them to be ironclad or they have developed pro-life leanings to whatever modest degree
*Democrats have done little more for women than have Republicans in the past 30+ years

Obama's proudest achievement is a version of Healthcare Reform so watered down and compromised that most progressives are unable to actually claim it as an achievement without holding their nose. As a candidate, he was in favor of Universal Health Care. As president, he was in favor of Single Payer. The bill he signed contained nothing but countless new regulations and a mandate to buy insurance or be fined.

While some analysts are suggesting that the Republican victory in 2010 will result in an Obama reelection in 2012, perhaps that is not Obama’s plan.

The winner of the 2012 election will be in a very bad situation. The economy will have made little improvement at best, and according to current projections the breakeven year for Social Security is 2016. That means whoever wins the 2012 election will have to deal with the fiscal mess of the collapse of Social Security, an unenviable position.

Had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary in 2008, it would have guaranteed a Republican victory in the general election. Continued economic woes as started under President Bush would continue, and the Republicans would have nobody to blame and the public would not blame anyone else, resulting in a Democratic victory in 2012 and leaving them with the "hot potato" as a result.

Instead Obama entered the race to beat Hillary, and then went on to use popular dissatisfaction with the status quo and Republican leadership to win the presidential race in 2008. By then failing to achieve anything, and giving the country laughable examples of attempts to fix the economy, by alienating his own base by failing to lead, he may be working to ensure a Republican victory in 2012 and thus leave them with the upcoming financial catastrophe.

One does not succeed in politics by only thinking in the short term. The leadership of both parties know this, and have to think beyond the next election even if those who are in office seldom think that far ahead.