Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Romney’s Plutocrats: Waiting for 51 Million-plus Idiots to Give Them Policy Control

ABOVE: How the Plutocrats will partially celebrate - after food stamps are eradicated-  if 51 million “99 percenters” help elect Mitt Romney next Tuesday.

The plutocrats who’ve backed Mitt Romney have to be chuckling to themselves non-stop. With just a week to go before the election, many polls have tightened to the point that 51 million pea brains now see ‘Morphing Mitt’ as the answer to their souped-up prayers, personal problems and the nation’s financial-economic morass (created by the last Reep Prez pandering to the plutocs). Brains befogged by the Mittster’s “moderation” in the debates, many of these fools now are convinced they can “get back their nation” and maybe get employment, if only they cast ballots for Willard Mitt and Ryan. They are totally batshit crazy.

Not to mention mentally challenged, if they've already forgotten Mitt's infamous "47% victims" remark at a Boca Raton fund raiser-dinner at the home of one of Mitt's Sun Capital benefactors.

What these fools will get, compliments of Romney’s plutocrats, is not decreased deficits or more jobs but rather more wars, more military spending – and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest as deficits explode and domestic needs go unmet while the country is sucked inexorably into a massive economic and international shit storm.

Do these plutocrats care? Hell no! They only care that their tax rates never go down and also that the social ballast holding this country’s social fabric together is unraveled. They’ve made no bones about the fact they want all “entitlements” dismantled, and regulations that protect food, water safety as well. In addition, as a Romney spokesman  (Ryan Williams) pointed out yesterday, they want the STATES to assume control of storm and disaster cleanups – hence gutting FEMA. (Of course, lying Mitt denied he'd abolish FEMA - but if anyone sincerely believes he'd retain any more than a 'Potemkin' version of the agency I have a half acre of beach front property on the west coast of Barbados to sell you, for a song!)  See also:

Now, ask yourself if you’re from New Jersey right now, if you believe Chris Christie prefers to reject the emergency federal funds he received compliments of Obama – or if he’d rather pony up state money or ask private companies to do the clean up. Think about that one, but not too hard. Evidently, tens of millions of potential Romney Zombies are too ignorant or stupid to do that.

WHO are these plutocrats hoping that Romney’s push continues and 51 million or more idiots buy the codswallop they’re only voting for Whitebread Mitt and not the plutocrats’ policies?  Fortunately, Public Citizen has assembled a dossier on them, at least the major ones, which I share below with readers:

- Charles and David Koch

Estimated Net worth: Combined $50 billion with most significant corporate holdings in Koch Industries.

Most notable campaign contributions:

 $100 million to Americans for Prosperity - a Tea Party front group. They also plan to donate $400 million in the current election to ensure - or try to - that Obama is a one-termer.

- Joseph Craft

Estimated Net Worth: $1. 9 billion. Significant corporate holdings in Alliance Resource Partners (fourth largest coal producer in the U.S.). Most notable contributions include $2.1 million to American Crossroads, a Republican front and half a million to 'Restore Our Future', and Mitt Romney.

- Sheldon Adelson

Estimated Net Worth:: $21.5 billion. Signficant corporate holdings in Las Vegas Sands casinos (90% of his earnings come from Asia including properties in Singapore and Macau).  Most notable contributions this campaign cycle include $70 million in "dark money" and $10 milllion to 'Restore Our Future' for Mitt Romney.

Most famous Adelson quote:

"I'm against very wealthy people attempting to influence elections, but as long as it's doable I'm going to do it."

- Harold Simmons

Estimated Net Worth: $6.5 billion. Significant corporate holdings in Contran Corporation. Notable contributions this election cycle include $18.7 million to pro- Republican super PACs, and $6 million to 'American Crossroads.

Earlier 'claim to fame': He funded the 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' attacks on John Kerry in 2004. He also spent $2.8 million in 2008 to attempt to link then Sen. Barack Obama to Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground.

- Foster Friess

Estimated Net Worth: $530 million. Significant corporate holdings in Friess Asssociates, LLC. Most notable campaign contributions include $2.3 million to Super PACS to oust Obama.

Most famous remark: "If women need birth control they can do it the old fashioned way: put an aspirin between their knees and squeeze!"

What do all of these assholes have in common? What do they seek to accomplish with their millions in contributions? Simple! Their aim is to lower taxes on corporations (which already have one of the lowest effective rates in the world, at about 9% though it's supposed to be 35%-  on paper), privatize Medicare and Social Security, and roll back all health, safety, environmental and financial regulations. Not to mention abolish FEMA and replace it by state responsibility for managing disasters.

Translation: Don't piss, whine and moan if after you vote Romney and he's elected, your Medicare costs soar, even as your Social Security is privatized - leaving you with a $440/month  'base allowance' in the event of massive investment losses, and your 401k craps out and you need to work to 75 because the financial regs that would have prevented that are all repealed. Oh, and don't bellyache after the next superstorm in the Mitt-wad era when no money for rebuilding is forthcoming, or whine when you come down with salmonella after getting ill from every other jar of peanut butter,  block of cheese, or whatever....not to mention amoebas in your drinking water!

Lastly, let's be clear the plutocrats aren't pouring all this dough into Romney's campaign or the anti-Obama attacks out of charity or love of country. They're doing it because they stand to make BILLIONS on their political investments. In fact, if they get what they want (millions of dolts putting Romney-Ryan into office while blind to their backers) their return on investment will vastly exceed anything they could hope to obtain by simple investing or even hedge fund investing in speculative financial markets.

The biggest joke circulating now among the brighter people? That so many Americans actually are convinced their personal stock and welfare will improve after putting the plutocrats into power....via a lame ass vote for Romney and Ryan!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Introverts of the World, UNITE! Time for the 'Quiet Revolution'!

One of the annoying aspects of life growing up as an introvert is the incessant meddling of well-meaning teachers, do-gooders, parents etc. who try with every fiber of their being to get you to change your basic personality. Realizing the US of A is the hotbed of hothouse acting out personas (most of them bogus) these well-meaning people believe if you don't transmute to an "outie" type personality you will end up a loser, unsuccessful, unmarried, whatever.

All of which is horse manure. But that doesn't mean they don't stop trying!

In my case, through most of elementary and high school I had to tolerate endless check marks for 'Needs attention' under the report card banner of 'class participation'. Never mind that my grades were almost invariably Bs or higher (except in music), it was the class participation that got my folks' attention. Trying to help me out, while in 3rd grade at St. Sebastian School in Milwaukee, my Aunt Lil decided one fine day to get me enrolled in the Cub Scouts.

I kicked up a right good storm about it since I much preferred constructing imaginary cities (using assorted blocks, etc.) as well as drawing imaginary geographical maps for imaginary planets. But my parents had the final say and within weeks I was a member of some 'den', kowtowing to a "den mother" and mouthing words of homage to "Akeela". Not satisified with that success, Aunt Lil followed it up by getting me involved in a class play on "King Arthur" - where I had to play the role of a page in his court.

All of this I despised, and to this day regard it as mostly wasted time. But then, this is - was coming from an introvert.

Now fast forward to modern day corporate Amerikka, and one beholds the ever, ongoing pressure to conform to extrovert "belongings" and ways of doing things, including at work. Thus, we find now employees expected to function in open office plans for maximum interaction- and office layouts (including the obscene 'cubes' ) are designed for this. But....what if most of those you are expected to work with are morons, or at least dunderheads? What if THEY keep progress back?

Same with corporate 'teams' - the bane of most sane employees, and the nascent belief of HR Depts. in "team building" bullshit. (Alas, I escaped the corporate world before being subjected to those aspects, and before that I taught college which confers at least a high degree of autonomy. So long as you got good results, you didn't get questioned.)

Despite the evidence most corporate "teams" are bullshit, and that real creativity doesn't work that way, it remains the standard template for the corporate honchos, their HR underlings and too many brainwashed employees. The very idea that one would produce better, more substantial work on his own, in his own office, is regarded as heresy.

Given this world biased in favor of extroverts, it's no wonder too many introverts pay a steep psychic price. (I also have a theory, well maybe just a conjecture, that when you see or read of the 'quiet guy' that was 'always so nice'  at work and suddenly loses it and pulls a "Dexter" - that he was an introvert who reached the limit of his psychic stress.)

All of this is why Susan Cain's new book, QUIET, is must reading for any introverts, and also ought to be for the extro brigade. Cain, since its publication, has become the de facto spokesperson for introverts everywhere by her keen insights such as her observations that:

- Even successful introverts feel there's something wrong with them and that their preference for quiet alone time over socializing marks them as flawed

- Status in the US of A 'extro' society generally hinges on speaking up, speaking out and socializing frequently. This leads even tough introverts to ape extroverts.

- Schools remain notorious for high social expectations of students and demanding extro behavior, ability to work in groups etc.

The effect of this personality bias is to render one personality type acceptable and another abnormal. This despite the fact that at least 1 in 3 humans are born with the DNA of intros (see 'Nature's Thumbprint') and hence it's as much an abomination to expect introverts to become extroverts as it would be to expect short men or women to always wear 6" heeled shoes to fit in with "tallies". It also leaves enormous human potential unused if those introverts are unable to fit in, and hence must pay a steep status and economic price.

Sadly then, in a sociophile culture like the U.S. (which disproportionately rewards gregarious behavior in schmoozing, networking etc.) the extrovert personality is generally adopted as the "normal" standard while the intovert is often regarded as "abnormal" and introverts themselves are often dismissed as "loners". Or even "anti-social".  The end result, regrettably, is to corrupt language and skew perceptions, judgments against anyone with an introvert personality.

A final word of clarification is also in order: introversion is not the same as shyness!

The introvert is perfectly capable of socializing when he wants to.  The shy person is always fearful of doing so on account of excessive self-consciousness. Then why doesn't the introvert socialize more? The reason is because he's energized more by being alone, apart from others. His thought processes work better (he detests small talk at parties as well) and he feels more alive. When in the middle of a social milieu he hasn't consciously chosen, however, his energy rapidly dissipates.

Extroverts, on the other hand, are inevitably energized by social connections and lose energy when they're by themselves.

Which personality type does the world need most? It needs BOTH. The introvert in this case will always provide the conscientious check on the potential actions (i.e. launching a new war in the Middle East) on the died -in -the- wool extro president who is cheered on by his extro generals to have at it. The introvert with his introspection, has already tallied the costs mentally, and knows they'd be too costly.

To see more of Cain and her TED talk on introverts, go to:

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Rove, Romney & Co. Can Steal the Election By Electronically Stealing Ohio

In cyberspace, no one can hear you vote. It’s incredible that this is barely on anyone’s radar, especially the Justice Dept. and the Obama Campaign. But if it isn’t then evidently George Santayana’s warning that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, may once more be validated.

First, some preliminaries. From a recent TIME article (‘How the Voters Won’, p. 27, Oct. 29), we learned that court interventions in a number of key states, including: Texas (Justice Dept blocking a strict voter ID law), Ohio (Appeals court ruled in Dems’ favor to extend early voting to Nov. 6), Pennsylvania (state judge blocked most stringent aspect of Voter ID law), and Florida (federal judge suspended filing restrictions implemented in May) have resulted in making voting easier.

With these impediments removed, especially in key states like Florida and Ohio, there’s much less risk of voter suppression and higher probability of a favorable electoral outcome for Obama. This is critical since Ohio with its 18 electoral votes likely stands as the last ‘firewall’ against Mitt Romney’s unfathomable surge (according to pollsters - though all I believe that means is he might win the popular vote but still lose the electoral). See also: ‘Why Ohio Will Decide the Presidential Election’ (TIME, Nov. 5, p. 23)

The problem is this: the Republicans with their own voter frauds having failed (see e .g. 'GOP is hit by Vote Fraud', Wall Street Journal, Sept. 29-30, p. A5) also see Ohio as the last firewall in preventing the re-election of Obama. Hence, they have assembled, through the work of both Karl Rove and Romney operatives, a clever ruse to possibly steal its electoral votes for Romney via electronic voting machines.(In their REAL voter fraud, the Reeps' had Nathan Sproul - former head of the AZ Repub Party and the state's Xtian Coalition - use a company called 'Strategic Allied Consulting' to actually register dead people in key battleground states like FL and COLO. - exactly what these degenerates accused ACORN of doing!)

Let me here reiterate something that ought to be axiomatic: voting itself is as useless as teeth on a hen unless the votes are faithfully counted! As one wit once said: "Democracy inheres NOT in voting, but rather in counting every last vote."

My point is that the use of black-box machines for which NO auditable paper trails are available (or for which fake ones can be generated) have the potential of totally hijacking the basis of a voter's will, and anyone who'd believe the outcome from such un-audited machines is valid, is probably a fool, damned fool and-or liar. That's as clear as I can put it.

What we do know, based on the 2004 presidential election, is this:

i) Some thirty million people cast votes via "black box" (e.g. NO auditable trail) computer touch screen machines in this election - many in the states Bush "won" .

ii) Numerous problems were reported with these machines - all the way back to the 2002 congressional elections (with one precinct in Miami-Dade unable to account for any votes cast there, all lost!)

iii) The Diebold CEO himself went on record as saying he would "deliver Ohio to Bush" (American Prospect, June 2003).

iv) A former Diebold Software engineer in a call to Link-TV on Sunday night before the Nov. 2, 2004 election, noted that he “ knew votes could be internally transferred" from one candidate to the other. He was barely in control of his voice and emotions, and warned that anyone watching ought to be aware of this - and the potential for theft. The moderators of the call-in program then repeated the warnings and referred viewers to a LINK web page.

Effectively, a pre-placed program card allowed and enabled voters for John Kerry to be machine-flipped to Bush. Since no paper records were available, the would be Kerry voters didn’t know any better.

v) There are no paper trails, obviously to ensure no evidence of "absence". (But recall Carl Sagan's words: "Evidence of absence is not absence of evidence." )

vi) Johns Hopkins University software and computer experts have shown how easily the machines' tabulations can be manipulated. This was part of a segment in the excellent documentary ‘So Goes the Nation’ on how the Ohio electoral votes were stolen in ’04.

Did the media pick up on any of this? No way!

As per a Mother Jones piece ('Recounting Ohio', November, 2005) regarding Ohio in 2004:

"This was not a fair election and deserves the scrutiny skeptics have brought to it. They shouldered a task the mainstream media and government should have assumed"

The final result? Even though the exit polls had Democrat John Kerry winning Ohio by 4.2 points, in the end George W. Bush emerged victorious. This is at odds with the quality assurance of all other democratic nations. Exit polling in fact has proven accurate to within 1% of the vote – the gold standard for detecting vote tampering in other countries such as Germany, which uses exclusively paper ballots. However, in the irrational U.S., when exit polls don’t match the vote count, there’s no investigation into tampering. Instead, exit polls are “adjusted” to conform to the ultimate “official” vote count, even though shifts in Ohio 2004 and elsewhere were virtually statistically impossible.

Can it occur again? Can Ohio 2004 morph into the stolen Ohio of 2012? You better believe it! This is despite many – including sites like ‘Alternet’ claiming the fear is unwarranted, and hey, why don’t we just relax and grab a cold one? All the problems since Ohio in 2004 have been fixed. (Yeppers, they’ve been ‘fixed’ all right, but not in the manner assumed!)

Recall at the time, eight years ago, the unusual computerized-machine techniques could be attributed to Kenneth Blackwell. As Ohio’s Secretary of State, he was putatively charged with overseeing the election in a fair and impartial manner. However, he also happened to be co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, and, as such, was one of Rove’s chief lieutenants. As a result, many people believe Karl Rove stole Ohio to win the 2004 election.

This is also another reason the U.S. needs to cease its Banana Republic mode of election controls and operations! Under no circumstances should state elections be under the partisan control of any hacks, or puppets! They must be conducted, as they are in Barbados and other advanced democracies, by independent election boards.

But I digress.

While it’s true Rove has not exactly been keen on Mitt Romney this election cycle (as he was with George W. Bush in 2004) he still has an overriding desire to see the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. Plus, he’s still a party kingpin of sorts — a kingpin of the super PACs which are funding the political ads that that are flooding the airwaves in Ohio. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State of Ohio is now Jon A. Husted, a Republican who was a veteran of Rove’s 2004 campaign in that state. Hmmmmm…..echoes of the past, anyone?

Recall as I noted above, Husted’s efforts to curtail early voting in Dem districts was chucked by an Appeals court, and when he sought a Supreme Court reversal the court declined to hear it. That means he will be ready to use the ultimate trump card, electronic machine theft, as was deployed in 2004. Make no mistake, this game is on. Anyone who refuses to accept it is in denial or deluded.

Also, the apparatus and interests are there, understanding this could be a high stakes poker game (as percent differences between Romney & Obama possibly narrow over the next week) and Rove’s always made no bones about the fact that a narrow 1-2% election is easier to “manage” than one of 4-5 pts. differential.

Who are the operatives, what are the companies, and how will it play out?

Despite an almost total blackout from the corporate media, the Romney family has a personal ownership (through the investment firms Solamere and H.I.G. Capital) in Hart Intercivic, which owns, maintains, programs and will tabulate alleged votes on machines in the critical swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado.

Despite various official disclaimers, the election could be decided on Hart machines producing "vote counts" with little connection to how 18 million people actually voted. Alternet has made a big deal out of the claim that this is impossible, e.g.

“Any real deviation would not just be noticed; it would be quarantined and examined. If you’re planning to steal an election, leaving a paper trail is not how to do it.”

But as the software engineer pointed out (on LINK-TV) in 2004, even then prototype systems were available to produce a paper record non-conforming to the registered vote in the machine. The key is the program card inserted, and retrieved. If internally the machine ‘flips’ votes but generates a paper record that emerges as legit (to the voter) then how will that be “noticed”? It won’t be. (The paper bogus record would be generated at the end of the voter’s intended ballot, then flipped to the other candidate, in this case Romney, after. Most state ballots have multiple other aspects, issues, amendments etc., but it is the presidential candidate segment alone which is controlled by the program card, i.e. to ‘flip’ the choice if a voter if the program card displays a binary ‘no go’. So if ‘1’ is seen for Obama and ‘0’ for Romney and the machine program card detects a ‘1’ it does an instant flip to ‘0’ for the internal memory card. THAT is the ‘vote’ that is counted)

It’s inconceivable that the Romney chain ownership in Hart Intercivic will not influence how that machine counting goes, given the pressure of Romney’s billionaire backers to see Obama removed. Indeed, they would be passing stupid not to use any resources at their disposal, including not counting provisional ballots (or getting them ‘lost’ as occurred in ’04) and playing machine tricks to gain advantage to win the key state to make the path to 270 easiest.

Incredibly, though this story has gotten widespread circulation on the internet, it’s been ignored or dismissed by most of the corporate media and attacked by the Democratic Party. Given the negligence of the wussie Dems and Kerry in ’04 and how they refused to pursue the evidence staring them in the face – this is mind boggling. Especially since the presidency may be the final firewall against a GOP controlled government otherwise.

The absence of concern by the Dems also worries me, as it signals a possibly Vichy D-party as we beheld from 2005-06 prepared to cede any and everything to the Reeps – if they d0 gain control of the Senate, or even if they don’t. Thus, a 41 or 42 member Senate Dem presence to me, is obliged to obstruct every damned thing or policy Romney wants, the same way as the Reeps did to Obama. If these wusses aren’t prepared to go that route they aren’t worth an ounce of doggie lickspittle. To act in consort with Romney - to fulfill HIS agenda - when the Reeps refused any effort to cooperate with Obama to ensure his, is to be classified as a "Vichy Dem", not dissimilar to the French Vichy gov't that cooperated willingly with the Third Reich and Hitler.

Meanwhile, petitions at and elsewhere call for a Department of Justice investigation. Tens of thousands of citizens have signed on. But there is no legally binding way by which a professionally rigged electronic vote count can be overturned or even definitively discovered except through the use of unabridged but legally inconsequential exit polling.

Alternet’s supposedly rational stance also claimed:

“This is a guilt-by-association theory. Too many eyes are on every step of the voting process this year. It’s not 2004.”

But ‘too many eyes’ were also supposedly on the 2oo4 election and what good did that do?

To call this a “guilt by association theory” is to be too dumb, or too clever – by half. Take your pick. I say the consequences of not pursuing this now could well cost Obama the election and put us all in harm’s way in a nightmare Romney presidency that within one year sees: the launching of a war on Iran, the gutting of Social Security and Medicare (owing to the ‘costs’ of war) and the repeal of key regulations that will make life a hell for most Americans with salmonella and E. coli. infections commonplace as opposed to rare, and even the water supply laden with carcinogens.

The sensible response then is not the high and mighty dismissal Alternet prescribes but a hard-nosed and skeptical monitoring of everything that unfolds in the Buckeye state.

Lastly, how will you know we’ve been had, say ex post facto? Look at the exit polls! If they show an Obama victory by 4-5 pts but the “actual” votes give the state to Romney, BEWARE! We’ve been fucked again! Other sites readers may wish to consult on the aftermath of the Ohio 2004 debacle:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

‘The Flynn Effect’: Are We All Becoming Über-Geniuses?

University College London; Nature

The phenomenon of incrementally increasing IQ first circulated in 1984, following a study in that year by James R. Flynn, purporting to show that citizens in advanced nations like the U.S. have experienced massive IQ gains over  time. (The term itself was coined by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, authors of The Bell Curve ).

Specifically and quantitatively, Americans – for example – have gained 3 IQ points per decade from the early 1900s to today, as reflected in both the Stanford –Binet and Wechsler Intelligence scales. By another test’s standards (the Raven’s Progressive Matrices) – for which scores go back to people born in 1872- the gains disclosed amount to 5 IQ points per decade.

Using the Raven’s and scored against today’s norms (a key point to which I will return) our ancestors in 1910 would have an average IQ of 70, or about moron level. By comparison, our mean IQ today – that is, disclosed within the ‘hump’ portion of a Gaussian distribution – would range from 130 to 150 depending on the test. Now, for reference, 130 basically gets you into Mensa (accepting the top 2% of IQs) and 150 marks you as a “genius”. Are we all geniuses on our way to becoming Über-Geniuses?
I don’t think so, for a number of reasons.

First and most importantly, the ranks of neither Mensa or Intertel have increased markedly. Select a random sample of the populace, say 10,000 – and dispatch them to sit the Mensa and Intertel IQ tests and only 2% and 1%, respectively, will get through, as has been the case for decades. Ditto for the ever receding proportions in the Über IQ societies such as 'The Poetic Genius Society’. (If you believe seriously that you measure up to the standards of the latter, google 'Mega Test' and try to take it to qualify!)

This means, again, that under current norms of IQ testing, geniuses will still be geniuses, Mensa high IQ types will remain in the upper 2%, morons will remain morons, and average (IQ = 100) types will remain stuck in the middle of the Gaussian ‘hump’. Hence, under the ‘Flynn Effect’, one can only regard oneself as some kind of daunting high IQ type relative to the (IQ-testing) norms of one’s ancestors, say your Great Grandpa or Great Grandma – alive in 1910.

Second, we know IQ changes or can change over time. Indeed, a teen’s IQ can rise or fall as much as 20 points in just a few years. This can be traced to environmental conditions, internal brain changes or both. If true, it means IQ is not a stable quantity or entity but can fluctuate. If it can do so (and some studies disclose it can in adults as well!) it means ‘Flynn Effect’ type conclusions come with lots of provisos and qualifications. These variations also imply the standard deviations (and standard errors) will be significant, so the question then is whether these will be large enough to wipe out any abiding significance.

There is some truth also in the claim (‘Are We Getting Smarter?’, WSJ, Sept. 23-24, p. C3)that the Flynn Effect shows that education in the modern world “has changed the human mind itself”. The very act of Googling, for example, enables a rapid assimilation of information, knowledge unthinkable ca. 1910 or even 1960. The use of computer number crunching, solving software – like my Mathcad 14 program – would have appeared like ‘magic’ to my 1962-63 high school self, still working with a Mannheim slide rule. Indeed, the first time symbolically solving an integral using Mathcad – say in front of a math prof from Loyola in 1964, might have enticed him to speculate about “demonic influence”!

Then there is the wide array of You tube physics experiments, chemistry experiments etc. that can be instantly downloaded, not to mention the raft of high level abstract courses (see examples highlighted in my previous blog, from MIT and Yale).  These comprehensive visual learning vehicles would confer an immediate advantage over any guy from 1910 stuck with ordinary text books and hardly any dynamic interplay or control over learning rate.  This advantage would also be reflected in abstract tests, say like the Raven's or Stanford-Binet.

Add to that the spate of video –computer simulated games. For example, older adults have actually managed to enhance their fluid intelligence (how well a person tackles new problems or tasks, as opposed to factual knowledge).after playing the video game ‘Rise of Nations’ (cf. Scientific American Mind, ‘Building Better Brains’, p. 61).

Back in the early 20th century, however, my great grandpa wasn’t worried about such things nor did they matter. Life then pivoted not so much on 'book learnin' but on the practical issues of how to make enough profit for a given crop acreage – and given enough livestock – to last through the winter and into the next year.

Somehow, I doubt the average genius today or computer game wunderkind – if suddenly transported back to 1910 and a fifty acre farm in rural Arkansas with 1,000 hogs and 500 cows, along with assorted crops, would know how to translate those assets into livable profit to last a year or more. It would be one time-travel experiment I'd really be curious to perform.

But imagining ourselves as rapidly becoming Über-Geniuses is the sort of mistake we make, in assessing something as subtle as intelligence, especially when we try to compare chalk and cheese.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Are Online Colleges the Solution? Arguably, NO!

Left: First year Philosophy students at Loyola Universtiy, ca. 1965. There is no way they could have received the quality education they did from any "online" or secondary educational outlet

In a recent TIME article, 'Reinventing College', online colleges-universities, including in the form of offering 'MOOCs' (massive open online courses) or as scaled-down for-profits offering outright credits (such as Udacity) have been bandied about as a solution to two major problems inherent in U.S. tertiary education:

1) The massive college debt accrued by graduates, now estimated at over $900 billion and which undermines their economic viability in a nation with few high paying decent jobs, and

2) The fact the U.S. now lags behind major competitors in terms of numbers of people in the workforce with college degrees. (The U.S. has currently 54 million compared to 127 million in India and 161 million in the OECD nations.)

Another sobering fact takeaway from the TIME piece: despite all the massive college debt "three semesters of college have produced a barely noticeable impact on critical thinking, complex reasoning  and writing skills" - according to a 2011 book, 'Academically Adrift'.

This is very serious indeed, because in today's multi-faceted economic and scientific world - where many complex issues bear on the electorate, from Keynesian stimulus advantage, to the supply side nonsense of Arthur Laffer, to the concept of 'aggregate demand', not to mention global warming-climate change and the consumption of fossil fuels beyond the practical EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) fuel source limit, we absolutely must have intelligent and well educated people to be able to process the information and make informed decisions. This often requires not only critical thinking and complex reasoning abilities but the knowledge by which to parse and sort out the competing claims. One therefore must be practiced in the application of critical thinking and complex reasoning to actual scientific and economic questions, especially if he is to comprehend the political-social implications inherent in differing decisions.

I maintain, despite all the hoopla about college "options" (i.e. replacing the formal college degree with one from an online venue) that there is no substitute for partaking in the actual, physical college environment.   Now, this is not to say some benefit can't arrive via MOOCs, e.g. such as at MIT:

and Yale University:

However,  intensive education toward a degree must be necessarily bound up with brick and mortar institutions. Why? Let me priovide several reasons:

1) Accreditation:

This is the sine qua non indicator for quality assurance. Given thousands of schools, universities, colleges, there must be some way - some standard - by which they can be judged, at least at the minimal level. Accreditation provides this. Hence, any degree-offering online substitute must at least be accredited by an outside entity of value itself. Else, its degree means nothing and won't to any prospective employer either.

What official body has accredited the institution of higher learning? There are six major accrediting bodies in the United States. In the case of the Southern U.S. (and for Loyola) the accrediting body is the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

2) Advantage of learning one-to-one (tutorials):

This is critical and maybe one of the most crucial components but may not be present (for obvious reasons) in distant learning. For example, this means when a student encounters a difficult impasse, as he or she surely will, he can meet one-to-one with a professor and hash out the difficulty. At Loyola, for example, professors were always available and also conducted tutorials (weekly meetings with only a few students for problem solving or question resolution purposes. )

When I taught  Space Physics (including labs) at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, I always set aside office hours to meet one- on- one with students having difficulties. I did the same when I taught at Harrison College (physics, math) in Barbados. Students often told me after the semester that these sessions meant more than the regular classroom contacts because they were more directly challenged to show their ability at more fundamental, as well as critical thinking levels.

Those office hours often meant the difference between a student doing well on a class project, or not. Or more critically, passing the course, or failing it. A student- I don't care how diligent he is, simply can't obtain the same measure of mastery without that intense contact which is directed to the sole purpose of resolving the difficulty. It simply isn't the same as staring at a passive computer monitor - or even an online tutorial or physics class when you can't get answers to questions or immediate feedback at that instant. (From the TIME author's piece, you can at Udacity, but it is kind of a 'cut and paste' homogeneous operation. For example, one of Udacity's general physics instructors - an Andy Brown - while he can toss out assorted questions every few minutes (the average college student's attention span is said to be 9-12 mins. before drifting), he cannot give you assorted lab materials and have you design your own experiment to measure the acceleration of gravity, g, on the spot!)

3) Development of Writing Skills:

Back in the 'day' - before the arrival of the egregious 'teacher evaluation forms' and hence the blackmail of profs to get unearned high grades, in-depth writing was part of nearly all courses, from physics to philosophy. Today, because of time constraints or whatever...that's almost entirely vanished. Very few college students are asked to write comprehensive (e.g. for homework)  essays such as we were at Loyola (in philosophy, English and theology) or engage in displaying the sort of complex reasoning, say in physics, as I've regularly demanded of my students in physics, or space physics. 'Writing' then, is regarded as mostly a marginal or side issue today, when in fact it is the core demonstration of thought, including advanced thought. If a student can't write, one can make the claim he can't think - or at least cogently and clearly express his thoughts, which amounts to the same thing.

Most college students today, according to assorted surveys, claim an average of 15 minutes of writing per nightly homework, compared to nearly 2 ½ hours back in the 1960s. However, and this is important, not even that 15 minute threshold is met by the online for profit outfits like Udacity - which seem to prefer short form answer, on-the-spot questions, responses. (The TIME writer never mentioned any advanced writing exercises, say in Andy Brown's Udacity physics class, along the lines of comparing Newtonian gravitational theory with Einsteinian general relativity, or how Newton's law of gravitation helped to refine Kepler's laws of planetary motion).

4) Socialization aspect and learning interactively as a group:

In the Loyola first year philosophy class (see image shown) we actually learned from each other. Using the "Socratic Method" (made famous by the character known as "Professor Kingsfield" in the series Paper Chase) our prof, Fr.Hecker , would press and probe students one by one to elicit the optimum answers and insights in exploring whatever aspect came up. Thus, as one student answered the question (and thereby introduced a new question for another) we referenced our own resolution by way of his or her answer. As the process continued, each new question pursued more deeply by Fr. Hecker , we assimilated it for further study, reference. This dynamic interplay is not possible when a single student tries to master a difficult subject via long distance access only. One way I could describe it is the class experience is three dimensional but the distance learner's is at most two dimensional.

Sure there are many advantages to distance learning, such as saving gas and time, as well as not having to expose oneself to thousands of people with different ideas (that you may not like) but the total college experience is to me, what makes it unique - and which one can't just obtain from online learning.

Lastly, there is the key issue of what is college for? As I've intimated many times before, I do not believe one can adopt a strictly utilitarian stance and absolutely expect you will land a high profile job, no matter how many tens of thousands you've shelled out. I am not alone in this!  In his own perceptive take ('The Myth of Higher Education') Dr. Stephen Mason in an issue of Integra the journal of Intertel, argued cogently that a huge error of American education is orientating it explicitly for the utilitarian purpose of making money or getting a job.

 As he points out, this is terribly short-sighted, and what if after enormous expense no remunerative job is forthcoming? (A serious possibility in today's world where even high tech computer and engineering jobs are being dispatched to India thanks to GE and Cisco). It therefore is extremely parlous and presumptive for a person to expend an enormous amount on either a standard 'brick and mortar' university education or an online -distant learning one, if the sole objective is to earn a living based on one's degree. In Mason's take(op. cit.):

 "the bottom line regarding a well -rounded education is that it has nothing to do with any kind of bottom line. Its value (non-monetary) is to be found in the quality it adds to one's life. It allows one to better appreciate music, art, history and literature. It contributes to a better understanding of language and culture, nature and philosophy. It expands rather than limits horizons and replaces faith and belief with reason and logic."

Mason adds that it "teaches a person to live - not to earn a living" and that living encompasses an impetus for further learning just for its own sake. If a fantastic, well-paying job also comes with it, that's icing on the cake. Fortunately, when I attended Loyola University (1964-67), the whole thrust was about two things: 1) critical thinking (now tested regularly on the Graduate Record Exam which must normally be taken before one undertakes post-graduate education) and 2) open inquiry that motivates further learning.

I have found both of these immensely crucial and useful in parsing today's complex political environment, which is why I also blog so often about poltical issues with complex subtexts - in the interests of sharing. I only wish more of our citizens would or could possess these same advantages in the interests of making fewer parlous electoral errors - which in the long run exact a terrible cost on our nation.

As for the online courses offered, such as those at Yale and MIT, I believe most would agree with me that they are best used for 'continuing education' of already degreed citizens. Learning in this sense ought not cease with a piece of paper or parchment but be continuous until one ceases to breathe .....or loses cognitive functions. If more Americans also agreed with this, we might see a much more intelligent, informed electorate opposed to voters (according to a UCLA political sci. prof on Chris Hayes' 'UP' this morning) who identify with Mitt Romney and his "values" whether he acts as the savage Rightist Plutocrat, or the phoney baloney "moderate".

Friday, October 26, 2012

I REFUSE to Believe American Women are THIS DUMB!

Trixie with her only option after a Romney Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

“Idiot America is a collaborative effort, the results of millions of decisions made and not made, to reduce everything to salesmanship. Debate becomes corrupted argument, in which every point of view is just another product- no better or worse than all the others- and informed citizenship is abandoned to the marketplace. Idiot America is the development of the collective Gut at the expense of the collective mind.
It’s what results when we abandon our duty to treat the ridiculous with ridicule. It’s what results when politicians make ridiculous statements and we not only surrender our right to punish them at the polls, but become too timid to punish their ideas with daily scorn – because the ‘polls’ say those ideas are popular…and therefore must hold some sort of truth."- Charles P. Pierce in 'Idiot America', p. 250.

Charles P. Pierce basically 'tells it like it is' in his polemic against the American brand of political idiocy. But even he might be surprised at what new stratospheric heights it's reached in this election cycle. From Romney passing himself off as an economic and military moderate in two debates (hence, too many fail to heap scorn on him and refuse to punish him at the polls) to other outbursts of memetic insanity and pundit foolishness. Such as Michael Barone, in a recent Washington Examiner column, insisting women are more leaning toward Romney (some recent polls, e.g. ABC, show Obama's earlier 16 pt. lead has evaporated- while his lead among women in Colo. and VA has been halved) because they want "a safer choice" and also demand "a reliable grown up".

Meanwhile, a supposed "scientific" study released by the UCLA Psychology Dept. has contributed to the 'judge a book by its cover' meme by making the claim - from its findings- that "GOP female politicians are prettier" than liberal or Democrat politicians. The latter possessing supposedly more "mannish" faces and features.  Some have theorized women are buying into this bollocks and this is helping to tilt more women toward Romney-Ryan.

But I refuse to believe American women are THIS stupid.

Nor do I believe that most American women are so stupid as to buy into the jabber of a female professor highlighted yesterday on the Andrea Mitchell Report. This prof,  after being asked about the Richard Mourdock "God intended it" rape soundbite- argued that truly "things are more complex than just the abortion issue. My students understand that!"

Well, DOH! SO does everyone else with two firing neurons! But that's not the point! The point that seems to have escaped the prof (and many other female voters, especially undecided)  is that the abortion issue as enunciated so radically 2 days ago by Mourdock is the linchpin to grasping the extreme radicalism of the WHOLE GOP ticket and party! In other words, the Mourdock remark (and Romney's support in his ads backing Mourdock, never mind he attempts to divorce himself from it!) translates into a snapshot of how the GOP and Romneyites will govern: to the EXTREME RIGHT!  This will necessarily influence economic policies as well as social, and military!

The trick, for the intelligent woman, is to link all of those together into one whole cloth radical fabric as opposed to piece meal separating them in her mind - and wrongly believing she can ignore the abortion issue but all else will be A-Ok. Sorry, doesn't work that way! The abortion debacle and knuckledragger memes concerning women's bodies are all of a piece with Romney-Ryan's equally radicalized economic issues and how they intend to treat women in that sphere! (Just look at Mitt Romney's avoidance of the Lily Ledbetter equal pay for equal work act.)

Let's even move beyond equal pay for equal work and assume that perhaps many of the married women (who for some reason seem to be most enchanted with  Willard Mitt) don't have a problem. Then, what will they do when their kid comes down with fungal meningitis because Romney cuts even more drug regulations, as his GOP-ers already did with respect to the FDA, eliciting the sort of outbreak from improperly mixed back pain relief drugs we're seeing now?

What will they do after Mitt peels back more food regs - so his "business plan" can prosper, and their kid comes down with E. coli from that next fast food burger, or severe salmonella from consuming peanut butter or whatever? Will they get hysterical if - after Mitt and his GOP congressional stooges lower the clean water regulations- their kid or kids or the whole family, comes down with campylobacter infection? Or perhaps amoebic dysentery?

Oh, and what will they do after Mitt dispatches "Obamacare" and these women won't be able to afford medical care for their kids, especially if getting them into an ER translates into on the spot payments first to a corporate bill collector? Will they be so happy with their "safe choice" then? Will they be enamored of the "reliable grown up"? Or will it finally sink in that an entitled rich boy brat who never grew up can't be a "reliable grown up", period?

And when Mitt, along with his Neocon generals, advisors like John Bolton, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney et al, launch two wars in his first year - one against Syria and the other against Iran - will they happy and content they went with the "reliable grownup"? Will they be happy if and when Mitt imposes a draft (as his military Neocon planners will doubtless insist, because rotating tours won't be adequate for two more wars)   and their ofspring are called up? Will they still love Mitt then, or repent at their leisure?

See, as Charles Pierce points out, these are the pointed questions that must be asked now! If American women aren't prepared to punish this huckster -ass salesman for his bollocks, then someone must, others must! Someone - even a lone blogger- has to be prepared to heap scorn on him and ridicule the ridiculous! Obama did call his ass out, but so far it appears too many are too dumb or too shocked, to take that call out seriously!

If Romney wins, also consider that at least two justices will be replaced by two more conservatives who will ensure that not only Roe v. Wade is overturned but cases like Citizens United continue to be decided wrongly. A vote for Romney is also a vote in favor of a Supreme Court akin to the one that ordered the state of Florida not to determine who really won the  2000 election. It will also plausibly legitimize voter suppression for which we saw outbreaks in over a dozen states this year. (By demanding photo IDs for everyone.) Is THIS what you want?

Lastly, when Mitt blows up the deficit and adds $7 trillion to it - $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion from additional Pentagon spending - how happy will you be then? Will you finally see that the "abortion issue" you took to be one simplistic, isolated  "singleton" was in fact the Skeleton key  to the whole Neo-Neocon Mittster War-Profit agenda? Or maybe the expected 15% unemployment from his folly won't be enough and you will lay blame on Obama (or as some of Romney's Zombies call him "Obummer")

Think hard, very hard! Those sound bites of Mourdock dourly pronouncing on your ability to obtain abortions - whether for self or daughters - is also a heads up on the broad scope of radical Right policies if you are stupid enough to put this miscreant and his vampire Veep candidate in office.

Believe it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Silent Spring" - As Relevant Now as 50 years Ago

Silent Spring Book-of-the-Month-Club edition.JPGRachel Carson's ecology classic 'Silent Spring' celebrates its 50th birthday this year.To say it was probably one of the most influential books of the 20th century is plausibly an understatement. Especially given that the Toxic pushers and industrialists-corporatists on the Right are still attacking it, i.e at a website called ""  But we know, at least any of us who've  read the anti-PR masterpiece 'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You' , that Rachel's attackers lack any backing that qualifies them as credible.

In fact, we know they merely have reprised the same useless, exposed template over and over again - whether to defend their hundreds of poisons seeping into our bodies and causing cancers, see, e.g.


Or sneaking them into our industrial food supply (as in the case of "pink slime") without us knowing.

At the time, the Toxic Industrial Complex used every nasty trick to try to destroy Carson's character.  They distributed millions of pamphlets, published articles, and vilified her in media interviews. They also described has as "fanatical" and "hysterical" - despite the fact all sane international scientists agreed with Carson. Also, A Science Advisory Committee assembled by JFK issued its own supportive report in May, 1963. Despite the shrill attacks of the critics, Carson stuck to the facts. She didn't even directly blame the toxic industrialists when 2 years later she was dying of breast cancer - yet it's likely one or more of their disgusting poisons- whether chlordane, heptachlor, or aldrin (not to mention DDT) was the prime culprit for the disease's genesis - as it is for most of our cancers today.

Meanwhile, the attack template remains the same, whether the issue is GMO-foods, asbestos, pesticides or coal-based, mercury generated air pollution: question the science and the credibility of the critics (e.g. Arpad Pusztai in the case of GMO foods, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton in the case of toxic fertilizer sludge, and Rachel Carson in the case of DDT) and warn of unbearable costs. The latter strategy is now playing out in CA as voters there finally have the chance to force GMO foods to be labeled - as all other foods are- but are warned that if this is done it will impose an additional monetary cost of $300-400 / yr. on their grocery bill.


Most of the corporate Right, including the Conservative Enterprise Institute, insists Rachel Carson did "irreparable damage" by using "extreme rhetoric which generated a culture of fear - resulting in policies that have deprived many people access to life-saving chemicals."

In fact, total codswallop! Including the claim (by Brit Tory Dick Taverne)  that "the anti-DDT campaign she inspired was responsible for almost as many deaths as some of the worst dictators in the last century." Not quite, Dickster. In fact the much greater slayers have been from the West's negiligence (and RC Church's prohibition of condom use) in places like equatorial Africa leading to a monstrous AIDS outbreaks as well as the pollution of water sources. Even a tiny bit of Western capital injected in to find decent water sources might have spared millions water-borne diseases, while making AIDS - anti-HIV vaccines more widely available spared tens of millions who died in agony from AIDS.

Another aspect is the way the corporo-Rightists paint Carson as totally against ALL pesticides, when she simply sought a balance to the then extravagant chemical overuse -  at a time when ecology was barely considered a science. More to the point, that world of 50 years ago was one in which massive nuclear tests of 70-100 megatons each  (conducted by the USSR and the US) were already poisoning our atmosphere as we beheld Strontium-90 ending up in cow's milk, breast milk and other organics. (Thanks to JFK this insanity finally halted in August, 1963 with the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty- but Rachel did reference the effects of "radiation" in her book).

As for DDT, most experts today agree the chemical pesticide would have been far less effective against malaria -carrying mosquitoes in the scattered and remote villages of sub-Saharan Africa than it was in more densely populated North America.  Indeed, we're well rid of it given that even 40 years after the government-imposed DDT ban, most Americans still carry traces of the chemical in their bodies. Imagine if that ban hadn't gone into effect. We'd be walking-talking DDT factories, or at least repositories!

Rachel Carson's lesson which we need to remind ourselves of today is that cost-benefit assessment of chemicals must always remain in the forefront when considering use. Thus, the benefits of chemicals (e.g. to slow down or halt the incursion of pests, weeds) must always be weighed against their risks and especially the human costs. As Carson wrote in 'Silent Spring' - words with which I leave readers:

"The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most irrecoverable: the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but also in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world - the very nature of its life."

So true!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another GOOPr Fruitcake's Comments Ought to Send Chills Down Women's Spines

Even as we learned this morning that the largest proportion of undecided voters are female, a new direct card has played right into Democrats' hands compliments of a religious fruitcake, and certified Indiana Moron - Rep. Richard Mourdock. Evidently, in the course of a debate with Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in their final Senate race showdown, a questioner asked them and Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning to explain their views on abortion.

All three said they were anti-abortion. But Mourdock went further, putting himself in the same general territory as the infamous Missouri GOP Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, who infamously asserted that women don't get pregnant from "legitimate rape." Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed (wouldn't you know?)state treasurer remarked:

"The only exception I have with abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Something that "God intended to happen"? Are you kidding me?  You are going to claim to me and others with intellect, that your favorite imaginary being up in the skies some place, has conferred his "intent" that the spawn of a rapist -arriving with conception - was an event that this imaginary being "intended"? Are you fuckin' nuts, or just plain stupid?

Let's get our parameters straight here, for once, so that reason can replace this irrational bunkum. The ACT of rape is an act of violence perpetrated against women in which they are overpowered and forced to submit to the will of some miscreant, pervert or mentally- fubarred Neandertal. What this moron Mourdock doesn't grasp - and likely neither do his Moonbat followers - is that rape doesn't end with the penetration and deposit of the rapist's seed. No, it can persist for up to nine months thereafter unless halted!  Thus, a conception from a rape is PART of the act, as is the germination of the seed! Thus, the pregnancy resulting is PART of RAPE unless forcibly halted!

It is the woman's RIGHT, and indeed duty, to halt by any reasonable and medically appropriate method the act of violence (which again - the pregnancy continues) perpetrated upon her body. This is as simple and clear as it gets, without obfuscating the issue with the interventionist "intent" of imaginary beings that aren't even imaginary natural beings but 'supernatural'.

In other words, medically induced ABORTION is the correct method to halt the extended ACT of RAPE. Incredibly this moron twit tried to "clarify" by babbling:

"God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick."

God does this, God creates that.... babble ....babble...How the hell do you know what this imaginary being wants or doesn't?  The pertinent point here is that if you claim, as you have, that rape is something  "God intended to happen",  then ipso facto you are also claiming (in parallel) that this alleged "omniscient" being also intended the rapist to be "created" before all time, and hence knew in advance the rapist would attack that woman!

Now, follow me on this, Moron - I know it's difficult, if this imaginary confection knew before all time he'd create the rapist, and knew before all time he'd rape the woman and that she'd be impregnated, and by your claim "intended the rape to happen" - then clearly "God" wanted the rape! So, contrary to your bullshit that we are "absurd or sick" for "twisting words", it is YOU that is fucking sick for suggesting that "God intended it to happen" from the beginning!

But see, these morons - like Mourdock - bloviate and call down "God" too readily to parse him or infer his intents when they really don't have a clue what the hell they're babbling about.

Lastly, Mitt Romney tried to distance himself from the remarks - like he did for Todd Aiken's (though in this case a lot faster - probably because he knows any sane woman would take issue and he'd likely lose a vote because a sane woman will also make the connection to the Repukes' platform).  But don't buy it for a second! Romney's  Veep pick, Paul Ryan,  is on the record for voting for a federal version of a personhood amendment which would, in effect, have a consequence even worse that what Richard Mourdock tolerates and prevent ALL abortions, even in the case of  a mom's life being threatened.

Women, especially any Undecideds, beware! THIS is what you're going to get in spades if Ryan -Romney are elected next month. And all they need is one Supreme Court pick to deliver a 6-3 majority in order to overturn Roe. Think of the future, think of future Surpreme Court picks, and think of this most recent 'cat out of the bag' exposing the GOP's plans to control your bodies and lives!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Romney Shows Himself Unfit to Lead

“Hmmmmm…now folksies, if the right thumb comes up today I lead Neocon -style and we start a war in the Persian Gulf. But if the left thumb comes up then I do just what Obama’s been doin’!”

Well, it's come down to this: the final debate last night on foreign policy issues as the nation waited with bated breath to see if Mitt Romney could present himself as an alternative leader of this nation for the next four years. The verdict - from at least the sane people who watched- Romney failed the test miserably! As one commentator so aptly put it: "Just because you sit next to the Commander--in -Chief doesn't mean you pass the Commander-in-Chief test."

Indeed, but the issues are even more fundamental than that as Beau Biden pointed out this a.m. on 'Morning Joe'. They entail a man's character and adherence to principles and vision, which Romney showed last night that he lacked.

On every issue, from Libya, to Syria, to use of drones, to leaving Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Egypt and deposing Mubarak, Romney sided with Obama. It was more like being in an 'echo chamber' than watching a debate! We had to wonder, my guests and I last night, which Mitt Pod person (recall 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers')  had suddenly managed to take over the old Mitt. You know, the one at the Repuke convention and on the campaign trail. The one who vowed to an APAC confab that oh yes, he'd send battle ships into the Persian Gulf and fire missiles on Tehran if need be. And no, you can't just leave Afghanistan so, there has to be a slower pullout. And by the way, as for Syria, prompted by his Neocon policy makers (like Condi Rice and John Bolton) we have to leave open the possibility of ground troops.

Then the biggest howler of the night: When this guy, who fancies himself a future president (and even said more than once 'When I am President') actually declared that Syria is "Iran's path to the sea". HUH??!! And WTF!?

If Romney had even checked a World Atlas prior to his appearance, he'd have seen that Iran doesn't need Syria to gain access to any sea. Nope. The Persian Gulf stretches across its southern border and opens into the Arabian Sea.

My point? If this pretender doesn't even know the geographical layout of one of the most critical regions, how can he plan any credible geopolitical strategy?  He can't! To me, he failed the most basic test you can give a would-be candidate in not knowing the basic geography of the nations he will seek to force his form of "peace" on - obviously by Pax Americana. ("Pax Americana" was described by JFK in a June 4, 1963 speech at American University in Washington, D.C., as a peace "enforced by American weapons of war". We also note Mitt used the word 'peace' no fewer than 39 times last night, and I believe he means Pax Americana!)

Now, two groups of viewers can come away from last night with two distinct perceptions and I will deal with each briefly. There are those like me who often heard Romney's bellicose bombast both at the Repub convention and on the campaign trail the past 14 months, and know the Romney that showed up at the debate is not the Romney that forcefully articulated a decided militarist-interventionist slant earlier. In other words, he's a fake, an empty suit. What the Chinese and Zen students refer to as "a hollow man". Some,  like our guest last night,  put it even more bluntly: "He's a FRAUD!"

We also are quite aware that Romney's actual advisors - including John Bolton, Condi Rice, are former Bushie Neocons who got us into the budget busting Iraq war. So when viewing last night, we pay no attention to this salesman trying to pass himself off as another JFK, NO - we look at what he declared previously and also those he hired into his advisor ranks - including Gen. Tommy Franks - the bombastic warmonger who vowed once to reduce Iraq to burnt out cinders if need be even as as he warned Muslims "My GOD can BEAT your GOD!".  THESE are the people Mitt has actually put on his payroll, so WHO you gonna believe? Mitt or your lyin' eyes? Come now! The new Mitt, who sounds more like JFK in his June, 1963 Pax Americana speech, or the Mitt who hired actual Neocons to guide his foreign policy?

The stupid people or maybe ignorant if we wish to be generous - though with all the sources available this is hard to accept - will think Romney presented himself as a legitimate and credible alternative to Barack Obama. These people are dreaming, and I only hope to god that if they bring that supreme dumbness into the voting booths that their votes are cancelled out by a surfeit of smarter voters. Otherwise, friends, we are in what the Bajans call "duck's guts".

At issue then is character. A man who flees from his own sternly taken previous positions regarding war and peace, is a man that can't be trusted. A man who has hired warmongers for his future cabinet then casually rejects them in a debate to 'sway' voters, is a chameleon-  not a worthy candidate and certainly not a leader who can be trusted to implement foreign policy. .He lacks convictions, character and abiding principles. We absolutely cannot have such a man sitting in the White House within arm's reach of the nuclear 'football' with its nuclear attack codes.

People now have to make their minds up on which person they want running the country for the next 4 years: A proven Commander-in -Chief who has re-established respect for the U.S. in the world (never mind the other Romney bollocks about Obama's 'Apology tour' - a bastard meme dreamed up in the psycho ward blogs of Rightists) and has taken out dozens of al-Qaeda enemies - including Osama bin Laden - while guiding U.S. interests in a democracy movement across the Middle East.

Or, a hack, glorified  used car salesman, lacking character, principles, conviction and vision who will say anything to try to get in proximity to the Oval Office where he can wreak havoc on us all - whether via starting two new wars (using the $2 trillion he wants to award the Pentagon) or driving the deficit up another $7 trillion - then blaming it on Obama and the Dems.

The choice is now before us. We've seen both men in three key confrontations.

The decision is clear as day for me, and I hope most other people in this country. Of course, here in Colo. as in many other states, most of us have already voted early - as wifey and I did last week! You can guess our votes if you wish!

Monday, October 22, 2012

‘ARGO’, Iran –Contra and What Bob Schieffer Needs To Ask Romney Tonight

Seeing the excellent movie ‘ARGO’ (produced by George Clooney & Ben Affleck) brought back the tense period (over 1979-80) of the 52 American hostages, held 444 days by Shi’ite zealots at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. It also brought back memories of what led to that dire standoff, and what nasty deals followed in its wake.

Rather than delve into the movie, which I won’t do because I think many more people need to see this superb film, let me offer some perspectives on the Iran –Contra conspiracy which was implemented by Reagan cronies such as Oliver North, John Poindexter, Albert Hakim and Caspar Weinberger. All the charges against these characters and others are listed on page xiv of the Introduction to the Iran –Contra Report (1994) published by Random House at the behest of Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh. (Note: Weinberger – “charged with four counts of false statements and perjury was pardoned by George Bush” That would be George Senior).

The basic facts to take away concerning the conspiracy were these

- Shipping Israeli Hawk and TOW missiles to Iran from 1985-86 to obtain the release of American hostages held in the Middle East. This was despite an embargo on such sales.

- The money from the sales of these arms was to be funneled into Nicaragua to support the Rightist “Contras’, a violation of the then Boland Amendment, and basically exposing the Reagan administration’s covert support for paramilitary activities conducted against the Sandinista government.

As noted in Walsh’s Introduction (p. xv):

“The Iran and Contra operations were merged when funds generated from the sale of weapons to Iran were diverted to support the Contra mission in Nicaragua.  Although this diversion may be the most dramatic aspect of Iran-contra, it is important to emphasize that both the Iran and contra operations, separately, violated United States policy and the law.”

Violation of policy was via the Boland Amendment. Named for Rep. Edward Boland (D-MA) The amendment restricted U.S. aid to the contras and “prohibited the use of U.S. funds for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua.”

But even Rep. Boland likely couldn’t conceive of the dastardly lengths to which the Reaganites would go even before his amendment was in the public domain. I am referring, of course, to the “October Surprise” whereby Reaganites (known at the time also to be strongly supported by the Republican Heritage Council with Nazi links- see, e.g. Russ Bellant’s book: ‘Old Nazis, The New Right and the Republican Party’, 1991, pp. 41-44)) used back channels to make a secret deal with Iran to postpone release of the 52 American hostages in return for arms sales after the election.

Corroborating this, on July 18, 1981 the then USSR's TASS news agency reported the emergency landing near the USSR-Turkish border of an Argentine-registered transport aircraft leased and flown by Israelis, carrying a full load of US weaponry and military spare parts. The US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, Nicholas Veliotes, subsequently investigated this occurrence and concluded that the downed aircraft was on its third such flight in a series of shipments of US weapons to Iran which had been authorized by high officials in the Reagan Administration

The claims to the effect of a Reagan “October Surprise” were also made by former Iranian President Abulhassan Banisadr, former Naval intelligence officer and National Security Council member Gary Sick; and former Reagan/Bush campaign and White House staffer Barbara Honegger—and all have stood by the allegation despite efforts to naysay their credibility or the facts.

There have been connected allegations that the plane crash that killed the Portuguese Prime Minister, Francisco de Sá Carneiro, in 1980 was in fact an assassination of the Defence Minister, Adelino Amaro da Costa, who had said that he had documents concerning the October surprise conspiracy theory and was planning on taking them to the United Nations General Assembly.

Before people start talking “tinfoil hats” let’s examine what was at stake and in particular the federal conspiracy law as it would relate to the later arms-for-hostages dealings of Iran-Contra. As noted on p. 56 of The Iran –Contra Report:

“The federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 371, states that ‘it is a crime to conspire to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose’”

This would have been violated under three criminal actions by the perpetators (ibid.):

1) “Using government resources, the conspirators conducted an unauthorized covert program in support of the contras.”

2) “North and Poindexter used their Government positions to create a hidden slush fund under the exclusive control of the conspirators”

3) “By secretly pursuing their own ends, the conspirators outraged the Iranians they were attempting to persuade and thus jeopardized the success of the Iran initiative.”

In terms of the scale and scope of the deal, on p. 338 of the Iran-Contra Report we see “3300 TOWs for hostages”, then on p. 339, we note: “In fact, 1,000 TOW missiles had been delivered to Iran between February 15 and 17, 1986.”

These facts are germane and important because they disclose that if such back doors channels were available over 1985-86 they also likely were available 5 years earlier to secure the October Surprise deal and Reagan’s election. Imagine then, before you scowl in disbelief, what likely would have unfolded before the 1980 election had those hostages been released then- as opposed to exactly TWENTY minutes after Reagan was inaugurated!

Past is Prologue, dear readers, and in terms of the Repuke betrayal of our nation and violation of its security and international dealings, they have shown themselves to be willing to do so again and again. Thus, Reagan’s October Surprise to secure for himself the election – which turned this nation into a debtor – and then five years later using arms sold to the Iranians to jeopardize security again even as he destabilized Nicaragua via the use of the contras. Then again on Sept. 12, 13 as Romney tried to use the Benghazi incident for political gain. (And which I believe he likely will try to do tonight, unless Schieffer puts the hammer down.)

And then today, we beheld Chief House Whore Darryl Issa releasing a document “dump” to try to embarrass Obama at tonight’s debate - but which has had the unintended effect of compromising our relations with Libya, as well as Turkey and other nations in the Middle East.

Anyway, the question (actually 2) Bob Schieffer needs to ask Romney tonight is:

“Where are you going to get $2 TRILLION to add to the Pentagon budget without massively adding to the deficit? And how do you intend to use it?”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chrystia Freeland's 'Plutocrats' - A Must Read

On MSNBC's  'Up With Chris Hayes' yesterday morning, financial columnist Chrystia Freeland (formerly an Editor with The Financial Times) nailed the situation of global wealth disparity with apolmb and clarity - citing her recent book:  Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
 As Ms. Freeland noted yesterday morning, we now have a situation of wealth disparity within the wealthy 1% as the merely wealthy are left behind by the rapidly expanding fortunes of the new global super-rich. Forget the 1 percent; Plutocrats proves that it is the wealthiest 0.1 percent who are outpacing the rest of us at break-neck speed.

While it's true that fragmentation of wealthy from the über wealthy is a novel development, we've known about the risks of globalization and what it means to average citizens for at least 15-20 years. Commentator Ian McDonald, writing in The Barbados NATION (Aug.14 1998, p. 8) may have articulated the threat most compellingly:

"We should cease making speech after speech accepting that our fate and the fate of the world, will inevitably be decided by impersonal,market controlled forces and the sooner we accept this the better off we will be. Instead we should be denying most strongly, in every forum available to us, that such a fate is inevitable.... That instead the world deserves a better future than the one on offer from the the ruthless money men and sleaze-ridden free trade marketeers, who are making this terrible bid to dominate the world.

Do we really believe for one moment that those who preach free trade and the inevitable triumph of market forces have anything other than their own increased wealth and aggrandisement in mind? Do we honestly believe they think the system they espouse is fundamentally a good one for all concerned? Are we so naïve as to think if, by any chance, the system were to operate against their interests, that they would not make sure it was changed or abridged to suit them?

Are we so innocent and trusting that we cannot recognize bullying and crude self-interest when our noses are being rubbed in it constantly?"

McDonald wrote this some 4-5 years after the primary globalization machinery was put into place, including the World Trade Organization, G.A.T.T. and NAFTA. All of these ensured what most citizens never foresaw at the time: a massive race to the bottom. Author Willaim Greider's take is equally pungent ('Who Will Tell The People-The Betrayal of American Democracy', Touchstone, 1991), p. 401:

"It does not require great political imagination to see that the world system is heading toward a further dispersion of governing power so the closet dictator of the marketplace can command things more efficiently, from everywhere and nowhere. The historic paradox is breathtaking: At the very moment when Western democracies and capitalism have triumphed over the communist alternative, their own systems of self-government are being gradually unraveled by the market system."

And further (ibid.)

"..what is emerging now is a power system that more nearly resembles a kind of global feudalism- a system in which the private economic enterprises function like rival dukes and barons, warring for territories across the world and oblivious to local interests.......In that event, vast throngs of citizens are reduced to a political position resembling that of  the serfs....who followed church or nobility in the feudal system."

 Again, what neither Greider or McDonald could foresee was: 1) the fact that multi-national corporations would become more powerful than nation states and hence be able to leverage almost total power to their benefit, and 2) that a coterie of plutocrats associated with these multinationals, or using them to speculate (as in hedge funds) would amass such vast fortunes as to compete with the legendary Croesus.

All Freeland is doing in her book, as she noted on Chris Hayes' 'Up' , is pointing out how absolutely ridiculous wealth has enabled and promoted a detachment from the social bond.  In other words, the Über Plutocrats  no longer feel any civic allegiance or social obligation to the average citizen. While in decades past, the massively wealthy acknowledged on some level the need to contribute to the welfare of the whole society via just taxation, they no longer believe so. They now (as Mitt Romney does) employ complex tax avoidance schemes to park their money in places like the Caymans and in Swiss Banks where it can metastasize unseen and basically unreported.

The primary aim of these plutocrats is now merely to compound their own wealth - and whereas before,  in earlier decades -  they used that wealth (at least part of it) to create jobs for their fellow citizens, they now have abdicated the role of Job creators and prefer instead to increase their capital by hedge fund investing, buying art or blood diamonds, or spending tens of millions to purchase influence in political campaigns (as Sheldon Adelson is now doing, along with the Koch brothers).  In other words, the plutocrats have left their fellow citizens to suck salt or pound sand. In some cases these scum have even opted to divorce themselves from their fellow citizens by giving up their U.S. citizenship - explicitly to avoid further payment of taxes for the commonweal!

What is the economic basis for this malignancy? Author John Gray (False Dawn, The New Press, 1998) put it in the context of misapplied Ricardian comparative advantage. Thus, deliberately applying Ricardian comparative advantage EXTERNALLY (where it was never intended to be applied) as opposed to internally. As Gray notes:

"Ricardian comparative advantage applies internally in trading nations, not externally between them. It implies that in a regime of unrestricted free trade the allocation of resources will be maximally productive within each trading nation and thereby, by inference, throughout the world. Insofar as the world then becomes a single market, efficiency and productivity in every country will be maximized."

In other words, David Ricardo would never have remotely conceived of allowing American furniture, clothing, toys, and other (e.g. software) products to be manufactured in China or India. He'd have regarded that as an economic abomination, and further he'd have warned that the country so foolish to do such a thing risked the health and integrity of its own markets, as well as its citizens welfare. He'd have added that those moving such manufacture outside and thereby lowering wages and benefits inside risked demolishing capitalism in said nation - by virtue of the fact that citizens-workers would no longer be able to spend as much on the consumer goods distributed- hence it would slow GDP. We'd have a crisis in aggregate demand which is precisely what we behold now. Yet, under G.A.T.T., NAFTA etc. that's exactlly what we've done.

Indeed, in one treatise ('On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation') Ricardo observed:

"the fancied or real insecurity of capital, when not under the immediate control of its owner, together with the natural disinclination every man has to quit the country of his birth and connections, and intrust himself with all his habits fixed, to a strange government and new laws, checks the emigration of capital".

 Thus, Ricardo perceived the innate preference of nations (that are sane) for their own laws, culture, customs and economic benefit - which perception would naturally limit the flow of capital outward for other extraneous nations' benefit. The problem is that the global Plutocrats felt no such allegiance, becoming instead the equivalent of economic traitors and terrorists. Thus, in order to earn more profit and do it globally, they shifted jobs, markets to the cheapest place with the cheapest labor costs and least regulations. It was win-win for them.

As this process accelerated, and more and more nations were ground under in the global  'race to the bottom', the plutocrats' wealth increased.

Of course, nonchalant citizens have played into this as well, and aided and abetted the plutocrats' goals. They have done this by over-reproducing, and thereby creating a global over supply in labor.

On account of procreating a vast surplus labor pool, people - ordinary citizens - have also procreated themselves out of jobs, including decent paying jobs with decent benefits. Now, with so many competing with the same skill sets across the globe, the plutocrats can basically pick and choose winners and losers, as well as 'winner nations' and 'loser nations'. As we approach a global populace of some 8 billion the situation will only get worse - with only Peak Oil or a runaway greenhouse effect to slow it down. In each case, up to two thirds of humanity is likely to be extirpated (see also ) which means in any new "rebuilding" world - assuming such is even feasible, the plutocrats - if any remain- will not be able to leverage labor against itself.

Recall that it was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin ( 'Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism', 1916) who first sounded the warning that mobile finance capital was designed to continually leverage labor to the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps, the best thing people across the globe can begin to do to assist themselves is to cease having kids beyond maybe one per family. To do otherwise is to continue to procreate a surplus labor pool that ensures poverty and destitution for many decades to come .....and which no politico, no matter how clever ....will be able to repair.