Thursday, November 15, 2012

PHB: Equality Precedes Economy

In this Huffington Post link, The Big Lie: 'I Love My Gay Friends, but I'm Voting for Romney Anyway' by Christopher Hennessy on Oct 30, 2012, the bit that struck me most was his skit with a future son asking a Romney supporter, "is it worth building an economy on the foundation of inequality?" or something like that.

Or exactly like this:
But what good would that future be if it was based on inequality, if people like you voted for someone like him?

Basically, once we come to the realization that our rights are out of whack, we need to fix that along with the economy, but the foundation of equality must underpin the economy, never the other way around.

Without access to birth control, women are not equal citizens - flat out. Without access to the same laws that apply to straight people, gay people aren't equal citizens, flat out. As long as we continue to arrest 10% of the black men in this country, particularly for things that white people are given a pass on, black people aren't equal citizens - full stop. Any argument that has been used to deny rights to minorities in the past should immediately invalidate it in the present. We need to focus on what to do with our future, but one party is making what is hopefully its dying last attempt at putting women, gays, and blacks in "their proper place" as inferior to and at the pleasure of white men. This is not a fight we should be wasting time on, but it's well funded, very vocal, and extremely damaging. So fight it we must. That the equality gains circa 1912 need an all hands on deck defense in 2012 is appalling. No one should be proud that some Americans fight against equal rights for all citizens.

This year the choice is between people and parties who are either for (more) equal rights or who don't give a damn. And if they don't give a damn about some citizen's rights, it's only a matter of time before they don't care about your rights. Without basic legal rights, the economy does not matter because chances are it will screw you. Remember how much businessmen cared about people before unions? Yeah. You're 95% likely to get the short end of that economic stick, so make sure the short sticks aren't all that short. Vote your rights and your money will follow. Vote for money (because Republican neocons have NEVER driven the economy into the ground...), and your rights will vanish.

In theory, we should have two or more somewhat reasonable candidates representing, in mostly good faith, variations on what the country needs to be healthy and move strongly into the future.

In reality, this year we don't. We have one candidate, Obama, that tries to reason through things, make decisions based on evidence and facts, and keep the whole of the population, if not the world at large, in mind when he makes decisions for us, for our country. We have one candidate who based an entire campaign on saying the convenient thing to make himself sound good in the moment, very few of which were based on facts, evidence, reason, or empathy. Quite literally, they want to undo laws that made other citizens legally equal to white men. They want to legislate from the past to the past. I want a president looking to the future, not in the Pres Bush sense of "I don't have to acknowledge failure", but in the sense that we acknowledge gains in equality as victories, not as mishaps, and move forward.

Some times there *aren't* two legitimate sides to a position. One can argue about how to interpret facts and data. One cannot dismiss all facts and data one doesn't like and retain credibility. We should be fighting about the best way to address pollution and climate change, not whether we should address them. We should be talking about how to regulate the business practices that tanked the world's economy, not whether. We should be talking about how to explore our lands and oceans, skies and universe, not whether. We should be talking about the best way to provide income and security for the infirm, not if they "deserve" it. We should be talking about the best way to provide health care, not if we should ensure quality healthcare. we should be dreaming up the infrastructure of tomorrow and patching the infrastructure of today, not pulling the ladder up behind us and saying "that's enough".

Because these things are needs that our, and every country, grapples with. Working on them makes us all stronger. They make us all wealthier. They make us all more free - more free to do the things we love to do and love the families we build.

I'm trying to figure out how to say that the Republican platform is illegitimate yet avoid confounding it with the modern Republican assertion that a democratically elected President is illegitimate. The Clinton impeachment had almost nothing to do with sex and almost everything to do with Republicans forcibly asserting that Democrats were illegitimate. They mostly shut down Congress for two years to make the point.

Then we get, "Look, hey, government is broken! Give it back to us!". It's still not entirely clear to me why we couldn't have taken a month to do a recount. Real data in these cases is better than fast data. But the Republicans battered their way back into power. They inherited the dotcom bust - I don't lay that on Bush. But from then on, the recovery was anemic. (It took me 10 years to recover my 401K funds - not to where they should have been, but to what they'd been 10 years before.) I hated the response to 9/11 and hate it to this day - two unfunded wars - one nakedly unprovoked; the 4th amendment violations required to fly; requiring citizen documentation that would make the Soviets of old shudder; and unrelated to that, firing up the war on women and aggressively throwing money and lives away on the drug war. And war is not too strong a word. then the lead the world into a global economic catastrophe. Whole countries went bankrupt to allow a few thousand businessmen to run the game and take the game ball home with them. They preached then and preach now in favor of the very policies that put much of the world in a tailspin.

Then Obama was elected and the wingnuts flew off their mooring bolts. A black democrat? Extra super illegitimate! Women? Extra super icky? Gays? Bringing about the end of the world. Immigrants! It must be the Immigrants! (The only place I have any respect for Pres Bush II is keeping the nuts in check over immigration.)

Romney voters keep saying that they're not racist, they just don't think
  • Obama had an education (He has one of the best available in the country),
  • that he wasn't born here (he was. Besides, how many teen moms fly halfway around the world at 7 months to give birth at their in law's? In a third world country the '60s? They visited later; she was with her own parents for the birth),
  • he isn't a "leader" (he "leads from behind" to avoid the trap of supporting something before the Republicans go on record as supporting it as they deliberately oppose everything he does. If he "leads" the way they goad him to, he loses even more. So he sidesteps their game.),
  • that he's a foodstamp/ affirmative action hire. (Remember that Harvard Education? That DNC speech? Authoring books? Teaching Constitutional law at a top university? He did those in spite of being black.)
No, not every Romney voter is racist, but their primary ideology has racism at it core. And homophobia and mysogyny. It's no mistake that their candidates are clean cut "All American" lily white men, however many binders of women they employ. Romney voters keep saying that they're now "ok with gay people" meaning "as long as I don't have to think about them" and "I'll move from active obstruction of your rights to passive obstruction of your rights, primarily through surrogates so I have plausible deniability". But they're willing to buy your and my rights for a tax break of a few hundred dollars. Equality's one of those notions that is path dependent. But like a hysteresis, once the gaps are seen, it's impossible to not see them. We can fight them, but we do it knowing it's wrong. Losing a superior status is not remotely equivalent to loosing rights. Losing privilege, yes. But in a meritocratic society, privilege should be earned, not given, not assumed. Or the reverse. Assume everyone is grand until proven otherwise by bad behavior. Romney and the majority of Republicans are behaving badly, throwing tantrums when they don't get their way. Guess what? You don't always get your way. Grow up and vote for Obama. Help him cement the gains we've made. Then scramble like crazy to figure out a nominee for 2016. And how to improve the Democrat's platform, messaging, and plans. Team Obama for the win, but he's only one guy. As he recently said, our work is not done.

[Sorry for any weird typos or awkward structure; it's hard to edit on the iPhone and this is probably 5 or 6 posts worth of content that came out all at once. Also, the links entered via the blogger app aren't working Thanks for your support. ]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What a President Understands

Anyone who knows me knows that I will be voting for Obama. No reluctantly as the least bad option, but as the only politician I've ever gladly helped elect.

I was thinking about what makes him so appealing to me after hearing for the 40 billionth time that Romney thinks a President should primarily "know about business". It occurred to me that this seems to be accepted wisdom, and honestly? I want a president that primarily understands people. Because a government of the people should have a primary representative who understands people and cares about people. What people want, what people need, why people do things. When they don't know, they make an effort to find out. And by a vast margin, President Obama understands people from all walks of life in a way Romney has demonstrated that he doesn't, and doesn't care to, and can't even fake. Romney also demonstrates the kind of behaviors used by bullies - he would make himself better comparatively by holding others down. Obama would rather lift everyone up. And so would I (on my better days, at least).

Even more, for all that business relies on people, businesses don't need to care about people - if they did, we wouldn't have developed unions or regulations. Sometimes we need government to step in and protect the majority of people from the tyranny of the few - and from the businesses. One careless business or one bad neighbor can really spoil things for a disproportionate number of people. There's also a lot of talk about how markets will sort out answers to problems. The two main problems with markets are that there's uncorrectable asymmetry in all aspects of markets, and markets aren't moral. Free markets are needed to achieve those mythic optimal solutions and we expect some solutions to be moral, so unregulated markets aren't the best way to solve those problems as, ironically, they aren't really free.

Even without invoking religion, government can help promote moral solutions (and I can't believe I wrote that either, but "can" =/= "does") and promote market symmetry with regulation and enforcement of business. And historically, solutions that limit business in order to help improve the lives of people in society are better for everyone, including the massively wealthy. The massively wealthy in a land of serfs are comparatively more well off than the serfs, but like bullies, they're less well off than they'd be if the majority of people were productive citizens working on the most advanced thing they can rather than scratching every day to survive.

One example of this is Saddam's palace. It was the "best" estate in Iraq, and from the reports I read, it was kind of a shithole. Ornate, but clunky and prone to breaking and inefficiency. He didn't even have the best available in the world, and the best available in Iraq wasn't all that great. Surely on some things he did have the best in the world, but in the main? Not for the household goods. If the average goods in Iraq were, on average, excellent, the best in the country would truly have been impressive. But he cared more about keeping others down so he could stay on top.

Instead of thinking about ways to make the country better, dictators and bullies spent time keeping others down and consolidating their personal power. It's an enormous waste for temporary gain and makes the average standard of living worse. The better off the average person is, the further they can plan into the future and the less likely they are to stage a revolt. When everyone's hungry, 10 years from now doesn't matter. Ten days from now may not matter. When you can't think past 10 hours, you really have nothing left to lose. I don't want to live in a country with nothing left to lose. I want to live in a country that provides opportunities that allow everyone to do something beyond just survive, and right now, we don't meet that threshold for an alarming percentage of our populace - it's well into the double digits. The richest country in the world should be able to care for its poorest. And our poorest shouldn't actually be poor.

I will to vote for the humanist over the businessman. If the humanist hires good advisors, the businesses can be accommodated.

I like that Obama can multitask. I like his choice of priorities. I like that he has shown concern for all people, even after I may have written them off as not worth the time. I like that Obama considers what he does and says. I know he does this because from the day he was elected, his public speech contains many pauses that didn't happen beforehand - in particular there was a "keep up the good work" speech to his Chicago campaign staff in 2008 that he delivered off the cuff, fluidly, for 15 minutes.

There are some things I'm not as thrilled with (drug war comes to mind), but there isn't a single thing he's doing that a Republican would do more to my liking.

To cap it off, Obama has kept his cool in a way I could never do. Probably because he's had to and I haven't. He knows that he can never be seen as "angry black man", not even once, and so far so good. See the comedy show Key and Peele for good "Obama interpreted by Angry Obama" for a handy reference of how I would react to traitorous intransigence that puts the party over the country. Obama has kept people calm in crisis after crisis. He's managed to NOT get us into war with Syria or Iran, something some Republicans are actively advocating. I think it's hard to judge a person on what doesn't happen on their watch, but after living through the Bush II years, I now know what happens when those things aren't prevented and preventing avoidable issues are some of the most important things a president does. We just had a massive storm wipe out part of our biggest city and several states, and the vibe coming from the White House is "Keep Calm and Carry On" not "Let's Panic and go to War!" I want a president who believes we are strong. I want a president who promotes our strength by allowing us to be strong, not by making others weak. And in this election, that choice is Barack Obama.

I really hope that the storm damage doesn't prevent people from voting next tuesday. Carry on.