Political And Other Miscellany From A Stout Democrat In Dallas Texas.
"Politics is the only game for adults." --from Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Steve Rocco didn't file a candidate statement or mount a campaign for the school board. He's unknown to teachers and the district and only barely known to his neighbors. Nonetheless, the man being called a "mystery candidate" easily beat an opponent who is active, and relatively well known, in the Orange Unified School District. Now all that's left is to find him.

"Absolutely nobody, but nobody has seen this guy," said Paul Pruss, a middle school teacher and the president of the union. "The whole thing is just bizarre." ...

No one came to the door Friday at Rocco's home southeast of Los Angeles, where he lives with his bedridden parents. The front gate of the house is adorned with a fading Johnny Cash record album cover and 10 small American flags hang in the yard. Neighbors said they see him occasionally, usually on a bicycle. ...

If he shows up to the monthly meetings of the district, Rocco will receive $750 per month. But officials are wondering what they will do if he is as scarce in office as he was during the campaign. ...

Hanna, who has followed local politics for 30 years, dismissed one scenario that has been suggested, that voters chose the non-Hispanic name over Martinez.

"This is just one of the rough edges in our electoral system, where the voters can elect someone they know nothing about," he said.
Hey, if it works for the White House (and it does, as surveys showed most Bush voters were not aware of stands he has taken they disagree with, such as joining the ICC), then why not the school board? After some vicious campaigns, lots of us might have preferred voting for a total stranger we'd never heard from.
A Bulgarian farmer has gone to court to demand substantial damages after claiming the prize-winning pedigree pig he bought from a breeder was a homosexual.

Farmer Galen Dobrev, 43, from Shumen in Bulgaria told the court: "It's a disgrace, all he was interested in was other male pigs."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

THE TASTE OF NOSTALGIA: This was found by Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener.
As many fast-food chains are catering to the health-conscious, Hardee's is introducing the biggest and thickest of its Thickburgers -- one with enough calories to make Ronald McDonald blush.

The St. Louis-based chain on Monday rolled out its Monster Thickburger -- two 1/3-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun. The sandwich alone sells for $5.49, $7.09 with fries and a soda.

Even a news release touted the Monster -- at 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat-- as "a monument to decadence."
I used to love their hamburgers, but that was back in college and after. Now this selfish chain has no stores at all in Texas. Isn't this a violation of some anti-trust law, to deny burger lovers here a chance to try this mouth-watering new concoction? If only there was a Democrat in the White House to sic the Justice Department on them....
TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK: From Democratic Veteran.
Colin Powell could renounce all his worldy possessions, take a vow of poverty and live the life of Mother Theresa, and he'd never atone for his performance over the last four years and his culpability for the Iraq War.

And then there's Michael.
MISSING IN ACTION: No, I haven't given up blogging out of depression at the electoral sanction of the victims. (I've heard that is really anger turned inward, and I've got plenty of places outside to direct it.) I've managed to totally kill my computer, and now I've finally gotten a new one up and working, and at least a big chunk of the working tools redone for it. So it's into the thick of things again....

Monday, November 08, 2004


If less than one hundred thousand votes had been different in Ohio, Kerry would have won the electoral vote. Leaving aside the legal fight that would be raging (because Karl Rove is NOT a "concession Republican"), we would NOT be discussing how "moral values" was the key to Bush's victory.

The survey showing that as the most-cited "issue" by voters has been dissected at length. The term itself was an undefined blank check, improperly confusing a general philosophical attitude with specific topics such as "Iraq" or "terrorism". Those with a theocratic agenda quickly filled in the blank, claiming that this category meant support for their positions, like oppostion to "gay marriage" and to "partial-birth abortion". None of those would have individually had as many poll supporters as "Iraq" or "terrorism", had they been listed separately. The vague conglomeration resulted in a plurality "win" for that "issue", and let the rightists make a false claim for a political agenda.

Most of the ones who chose that response may have supported rightist stands on one or more of those issues. Claiming that they all did ignored a large number of people for whom "moral values" would include opposition to the death penalty, or to preemptive war, or to lying to the public, or to cutting government aid to the poor. Many voters would consider "Iraq" or "terrorism" themselves to also be questions of moral values. It would be as absurd to claim that three-quarters of the public did not care about moral values, as it is to say that since over twenty per cent did cite that, therefore it was the deciding factor in the election. It is not only absurd, but dishonest, to claim that means opposition to gay marriage and abortion decided the election. That is not how voting works.

Elections for political office are not referendums on issues. Over and over again surveys of the public have shown support for various positions which have never been enacted by any party. For decades the polls have indicated most of the people want more government health care, and more controls over handguns. Those who like those unused ideas condemn corrupt politicians for selling out to lobbyists. The truth is that very few people vote for a candidate because of a precise comparison of their stands on specific issues. They vote for the one that on balance overall gives them the most comfortable (or least uncomfortable) feeling about the kind of person they would like in office for the next term.

Sure, there were dogmatic reactionaries who voted for Bush because he was closest to their agenda. There were also dogmatic socialists who voted for Kerry because he was closest to theirs. Such groups are never more than a tiny fraction of the huge American electorate. Surveys show that even most Republicans actually support various things Bush opposes, like the International Criminal Court, or the Kyoto Treaty. Some didn't know of his opposition, but many more did and voted for him anyway. The vast bulk of the public votes on their perceptions of character, not the results of ideological questionnaires. We may disagree with their judgment, but as with food or music "there is no arguing about matters of taste". I love Beethoven, but if someone prefers Stravinsky they are not "wrong".

I think that on balance Kerry would be better at making Presidential decisions than Bush, regardless of the specific issues which come up. (Of course, I think there are a lot of other people who would be even better than Kerry, but they were not on my ballot.) If someone feels that on balance Bush would be better at that, he is not "wrong", he just judges the two men differently than I do.

I happen to think my long experience in politics, my study and thought about history, economics, and philosophy, and my attention to the news from many sources, puts me in a better position to make an informed decision about Presidential candidates than most voters. So what? Unless we insist on a test for voters to see how aware they are of facts (and who would get to decide what is a fact?), each voter must make up their mind as best they can.

Sometimes we can look back from history and say winning candidates lied (for instance, about World War I in 1916, World War II in 1940, Vietnam in 1964 and 1968 and 1972, and Iraq in 2004). What we cannot know is whether if more people had recognized the lie, they would have voted for the other candidate. They didn't vote on that issue, they voted for one of two (or sometimes more) individual human beings.

Why did Bush apparently get the most votes? (Even if his electoral victory was stolen by voting machines in Ohio and Florida, he prevailed in the popular vote total.) I don't know, because I didn't vote for him. Leaving aside the unswerving party loyalists, the dedicated ideologues, and the single issue voters, who probably all cancel each other out, the bulk of the swingable voters narrowly picked him because of something they preferred in his apparent character to Kerry's.

I think it was along the lines of quick simple certainty as opposed to cautiously weighed rationalization. Kerry might give you a better answer, but with the perceived threat to the country people didn't trust him to respond quickly enough or surely enough. I disagree with that personal judgment of him, and see Bush as a stubborn ignorant dogmatist, but it is my subjective evaluation. More folks went with him. That doesn't mean they are stupid, ignorant, or malicious (though no doubt some were, just as some of Kerry's voters were). We'll never know for sure, because Bush won.

Voters didn't get to do a detailed psychological evaluation of the two men; they just formed an impression as best they could and voted accordingly, crossing their fingers in hope they were right. Ultimately that's all any of us can do, even the much better informed ones.

I believe Bush is the worst President in American history. His first term was a disaster, and his second will be worse. I am looking forward to the investigations and impeachments I expect after Democrats regain control of at least one house of congress in two years, following Bush's blundering fall into unpopularity when he pushes his unrestrained agenda further. I don't blame the public for what I see as a bad judgment call, not even the bare majority of a bare majority of those who were eligible to vote. If I'm right about him, they will suffer along with me.

We nearly beat the reactionary theocrats and corporate criminals this time. They are about to make their viciousness even more obvious, to help us next time. "Don't mourn -- organize."

Sunday, November 07, 2004

REPORT FROM THE FRONT: Ellen Goodman writes:
Well, speaking for the designated Immoral Minority, there are a whole lot of folks who believe that starting a preemptive war on false premises is a moral issue. ...if this is a cultural war, the Democrats came to it verbally unarmed. There was no larger moral framework for the war; just the promise to fight it better and smarter. The environment never made it onto the screen as central to the progressive "culture of life." Kerry voted for abortion rights but framed his support weakly. He sided with opponents of gay marriage, who opposed him anyway. ...

The blue candidates will never convert people who believe that homosexuality is a sin, that the fertilized egg is a human being, or that evolution is a scam taught by secular humanists. But among the not-so-red voters are those who believe in legal protection for gay couples, who value a child with diabetes over a frozen embryo in a fertility clinic. They regard poverty as a moral issue and tolerance as an American value. They don't want their country racked by the fundamentalist religious wars we see across the world. And they need to hear the moral framework for these views.

It's another sunny afternoon in this Eskimo village of 340 on Alaska's west coast, and there isn't the slightest hint that life is approaching a cataclysmic change. In as few as 10 years, the entire village will be swallowed up by a torrent of water from the Ninglick River, and an ancient way of life will be erased. ...

For thousands of years, ice shelves and permafrost along Alaska's coast acted as shields against storms and tidal forces, but rising temperatures have melted much of these natural barriers, leaving Newtok's shoreline vulnerable to a relentless barrage of waves. The Ninglick River, which has eaten away 3,320 feet of beach in the past 50 years, is accelerating toward Newtok at a rate of 110 feet a year. ...

Villages all across Alaska have been affected by the warming trend. Temperatures in polar regions have risen about 2 degrees per decade over the past 30 years. This has exacerbated the naturally occurring erosion that plagues more than 180 of Alaska's coastal and riverine villages.
And here's the reason why, if you live in the "reality-based" world:
President Bush is holding fast to his rejection of mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming, despite a new report from 300 scientists in the United States and seven other nations that indicates Arctic temperatures are rising.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

DEJA VU: Finally emerged from exhaustion after holding the election in our old precinct. We had the biggest turnout ever. We're delighted to see that Dallas County elected a Democratic Sheriff, who is also an Hispanic woman and openly lesbian. We added three new Democratic Judges (for a total of four), and three other statewide or multi-county candidates carried this one even though they lost overall. That is delightful progress.

On the other hand, the worst President in American history claims he was reelected, and despite serious problems with the voting, the Democratic nominee has rolled over and played dead for him. He should have fought to get all those provisional ballot s counted, to protect not just their rights but those of all of us in the future. Kerry was nowhere near my first choice, and this is one of the reasons: he is always too accomodating to the establishment, ever since he lost his first race for Congress in 1972. He voted for the Patriot Act, for the War, for Bush fiscal policies -- and only made grudging arguments that all these things could be done more effectively by him. No wonder there wasn't more enthusiasm.

His real problem has been identified indirectly by several surveys of voters which showed the concern most often cited was with moral values. Of course that has always been my chief political concern, but here the examples given by those voters were opposition to partial birth abortion, gay marriage, etc. Kerry should have made this a referendum on moral values himself, by attacking Bush for not having any. To paraphrase the anti-Clinton people, say "It's not the war, it's the lying." Remind people how our ancestors fought and died to preserve our right to honest open government that protects our rights but lets us live our own lives, how they scraped and saved to flee from countries where they were persecuted for their beliefs, and how the Bush and Ashcroft crowd are trying to take us back to the religious wars and make us a giant Belfast or Beirut.

It might have worked, and it couldn't have done much worse.

However, the truth is that Kerry probably DID win anyway, and his votes were stolen away by Republican-manufactured election software. In two key states, Ohio and Florida, the exit polls mysteriously showed Kerry winning or close, and then Bush won big. Strangely, the only places the exit polls were so wrong were the places where touch-screen voting machines did not leave a paper trail so that they could be audited. Lots of sites are peering at this (Daily KOS is a good clearing house, or check out Black Box Voting), but don't expect Ashcroft's inquisitors to investigate.

I'm not advocating emigrating, but you might think about making sure you have a valid passport in case it all falls apart -- or some means of self-defense if you plan to stay no matter what. The government is no longer in our hands, and it threatens not only those who disagree with it, but the rest of the world. Go check out the link on the sidebar to "It Becomes Necessary". It already is starting to happen here.