Romney’s fib about the government role in creating prosperity

July 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In an interesting article about how conservatives have used and misused the insights of the economist Milton Friedman, Nicholas Wapshott ( quotes Willard Mitt Romney’s statement about the roles of government and the private sector in creating prosperity:

Milton Friedman understood what, frankly, our president, President Obama, I don’t think has learned even after three years and hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending. And that is: Government does not create prosperity. Free markets and free people create prosperity.”

Let’s think about that for a moment.  

The private sector can create wealth only when the infrastructure needed for its activities is in place.

Throughout American history the government has funded – either directly or by favorable taxation or by providing rights of way – roads, bridges, canals, railroads, security of property and of person, traffic laws, punishment of fraud, enforcement of contracts, stable currency, patents, educated (literate, numerate) job seekers, communications (including mail, email (invented by the Federal government, the Internet (likewise), GPS (likewise), food safety laws, and many other things that – from George Washington on – have been seen as ways of promoting commerce.  

The US would not be a developed, unified country without continent-spanning transport and communication.  
For each of the items above, government – Federal or state or local – has been the only way of establishing – or encouraging the private sector to establish – a sufficient amount of each type of infrastructure.

Right now, pause and consider what your life – including your ability to find work, go to work, and buy and sell – would be if even one of the items listed above were not available.

Anyone who thinks about it knows this.  Every high schooler knows this.  Willard Mitt Romney went to business school, so he knows this.  But his words ignore it.

If we credit his sincerity, we cannot credit his intelligence.  If we credit his intelligence, we cannot credit his sincerity.

Based on his education and his success in business finance, I think that we must credit his intelligence but not his sincerity.

Willard Mitt Romney speaks with a forked tongue.

Would Romney Become More Centrist If Elected?

July 30, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics, Fairness, Presidential election | Leave a comment
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As many have noted, to win the Republican Primary, Willard Mitt Romney has had to appease the most rabid wing of his party.  He even had to disown his own greatest accomplishment so far, the health care reform that he engineered in Massachusetts.  He has also had to reverse his previous public pro-choice position on abortion.

If elected, could he revert to his earlier, more balanced positions?

To be clear, the question here concerns only the views that he changed because he had to say what the right wing of his party insisted on hearing.  It does not concern his views on the merits of increasing the riches and the power of his own class, the economically privileged, and his resulting promise to return to the policies that caused the recent economic mess.  Those views he holds sincerely,

If elected, Romney would want a second term.  He could not risk alienating the ultra-conservative wing of his party.  Romney’s history shows that he takes a long term, multi-year approach to campaigning.  So from day one of his first term, he would avoid reverting to the positions that he had to disown to win the Primary.

It is worth noting why Romney had to disown several of his own views to win the Primary.  Most seats in the House and Senate are safe seats.  That is, voting in the affected Congressional District is dominated by a single party, and whoever wins that party’s nomination for the House, Senate or Presidency will automatically win that district”s election.  Candidates in such a district cannot win by crafting a position that will appeal across party lines.  They must instead appeal to their own party’s most ardent voters and activists, who are predominantly the most ideological and rigid.  They are uncompromising.  The increased number of safe seats is why US politics has become so dysfunctionally partisan and uncompromising.

Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr, and the Green Party

July 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Conceited, Enemies of Freedom, Enemies of Planet Earth, Presidential election | 1 Comment
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Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr are the Green Party’s candidates for President and Vice President.

Since they cannot win, they can serve only as spoilers.

As Ralph Nader showed in 2000 and 2004, in a close election the small number of votes siphoned off by the Green Party is quite sufficient to make the Republican Party victorious.

In election after election, the Green Party has caused the defeat of the party whose aims are closest to it, and has helped the party whose aims are most antithetical to it.

It did so because its candidates – and its voters – want to make a statement.  Making a statement is more important to the Greens than affecting policy.  In fact, to the Greens, making a statement outweighs the ultimately negative effect on policy of their vote-siphoning.

So what if the result is to delay action on climate change, making the eventual problem much more difficult.  So what if the result is greater economic inequality.  Making a statement is the Green way.

To the Green Party, self indulgence is more important than effectiveness.  Incremental progress be damned.  Having no progress is better than incremental progress.  After all, if as a result the situation becomes dire enough, the public will have no recourse but to turn to the Greens.  After all, that was what the Communists in Germany thought while they were competing with the Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  (Come to think of it, that didn’t turn out so well.)

The Green Party must be Karl Rove’s favorite non-Republican Party.  After all, look how it helped in 2000 and 2004.  To Rove, the Greens are “useful idiots”.

If the Green Party really wanted to advance the policies it espouses, it would put forward no candidates of its own in contests where it cannot win.  Instead it would do everything in its power to increase the vote for the Democrats.

Willard Mitt Romney’s Tax Return for 2010

July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Posted in Presidential election | Leave a comment

Romney’s return for 2010 has been released, but not those for the previous years.
As for 2011, well, that one hasn’t even been submitted to the IRS.  You and I had to submit ours in April, but people as wealthy as Romney can easily afford to pay for more time.

Even without seeing Romney’s returns for 2011, and from 2009 and earlier, from his squirming about them we already know that he is secretive, and he wants to tightly control what the public can learn about him.

Here is a link to his return for 2010:

An interesting fact emerges on the very first line.  He isn’t Mitt, he is Willard.   “Mitt” is just his middle name.

He says his name is Mitt,
But that is full of itt.
His name is really Willard,
And he has the emotions of a lizard.

Romney’s secretiveness about his tax returns

July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Posted in Presidential election | Leave a comment

People in both parties have been puzzled by Romney’s obvious reluctance to release his recent tax returns.

Illuminating discussions of why Romney may be hiding have recently come out.

One is by Eugene Robinson, who is one of the most perceptive and insightful observers of politics today.  The other is by the astute Matthew Yglesias.

Rather than summarize them, I’ll just give you the links:

How to stop suicide bombings

July 16, 2012 at 10:40 am | Posted in Terrorism | Leave a comment

Many are willing to serve as suicide bombers.  Few have the expertise to build the explosive devices.  One bomb builder may equip  many suicide bombers.  So eliminating the bomb builders would be an efficient way of reducing the number of suicide bombings.

Most suicide bombers are not walk-ins.  They must be wooed and recruited.  The recruiters are not as scarce as the bomb builders, so they are not as efficient as a choke point.  But the recruiters are indispensible to the process.  Also, one recruiter can recruit many suicide bombers.  Eliminating recruiters will help.

The family and friends of a now-dead bomber will often know the identity of the bomb builder.  They will also often know who recruited the suicide bomber.  The family and friends should be encouraged to identify the bomb-builder and the recruiter.  Each are at least as culpable as the suicide bomber.

Amazon and Facebook

July 12, 2012 at 9:30 am | Posted in Privacy | 1 Comment
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Recent unilateral changes by both Amazon and Facebook are dangerous for consumers.

Consider Facebook first.

Like a slaughterhouse, Facebook seeks to sell every piece of every cow and pig that enters its doors.  It even wants to sell the moo and the oink.  It does so by aggregating all the information about you on Facebook, and using it to enable advertisements to be targeted to you.

Recently Facebook unilaterally decided to post only your Facebook email address in your profile, instead of the email address that you prefer to post.  Emails that use the Facebook address necessarily have to be processed by Facebook.  That gives Facebook official access to what the email says.  Facebook can scrape sellable information about you from those emails.

(A counter measure, if you wish to use it, is to tell all your Facebook contacts to use only your non-Facebook email addresses.  Also, think about what personal information you want to post on Facebook, especially for information about your personal interests and activities.)

Now consider how Facebook’s trawling for your information, and its public display of almost everything on your Facebook pages, interacts with a recent unilateral action by Amazon.

Recently Amazon arranged with Facebook to post to your Facebook page, or to your Facebook friends, information about every item that you buy from Amazon.  When I first encountered this, there didn’t seem to be a way of opting out of this rather major invasion of privacy.

I immediately stopped buying from Amazon – electronics, books, everything.

This was a huge step for me.  For years I had bought many types of items from Amazon.  For non-food items it was often the first place I looked.  But Amazon’s no-user-choice linkage to Facebook now made me willing to accept the higher prices and slower delivery that might result from using other sellers.

Surprisingly, I haven’t noticed a cost penalty from the switch, and in many cases delivery is as quick as it had been from Amazon.  Competition with Amazon has caused other sellers to trim prices, and to often offer free shipping.  I’ve used Barnes & Noble, Alibris, and Abebooks, plus sellers of of other types of items who were found by using search engines.

The one thing to watch out for is that Alibris and Abebooks are based in Canada, so even for items that are priced in dollars, the card company imposes a small foreign transaction fee.  The foreign transaction fee is a fixed percentage of your purchase price.  It is twice as large for one of my cards as for the other.  So call each of your card issuers to find out their foreign transaction fees.

Grover Norquist’s Un-American Political Philosophy

July 11, 2012 at 9:30 am | Posted in Enemies of Freedom | 1 Comment
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Grover Norquist is chiefly known for what he calls the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

He bullies candidates and elected legislators to sign the pledge, by pointing out that the tea party will punish at the polls anyone who doesn’t sign.

When a legislator who has signed later encounters a real-world situation which can only be solved by raising taxes, Norquist has a “talk” with him or her, much like a mafia enforcer talking with a waverer.  That usually works.

Notice how coercive and inflexible all of this is.  It is authoritarian.  It is the opposite of support for a free and open society.

Contrast Norquist’s coercive “there is only one right way, my way, and it will never need to be changed” attitude to the attitude that James Madison and others embedded into the Constitution.  Madison had carefully studied what had caused earlier democracies to fail, and had engineered into the Constitution correctives for those weaknesses.  Chief among them was the diffusion of power, the checks and balances that provide a diversity of inputs, and adaptability.  These lead to a self-correcting power, the ability to change course without political upheaval – that is the greatest strength of a free and open society.

Norquist opposes adapting to changing circumstances.  He thinks that a meat-ax like rule should be made beforehand, and then should be adhered to, mindlessly.  He wants to make us brittle rather than flexible.  Norquist is the anti-Madison.

Grover Norquist is an Authoritarian – an enemy of freedom, not its defender.

He is an inadvertent – but real – enemy of the American experiment.

On July 4, Grover Norquist should have held his head in shame.

Is Donald Trump A Natural Born Citizen?

July 10, 2012 at 8:30 am | Posted in Conceited | Leave a comment

After toying with the idea of running for President in 2000 and 2004, Donald Trump (specifically, Donald J. Trump, Sr.) made a brief lunge in that direction in the run-up to the 2012 election.  He teased the Republican party from October 2010 to May 2011, and briefly even did fairly well in the polls.  (See

Article II of the Constitution  says, in part, that No Person except a natural born Citizen of the United States … shall be eligible to the Office of President.

We may have a problem here.  If Donald Trump seeks the Presidency, he must be a natural born citizen of the United States.

Now, we know he claims to have been born in the US.

But that is just his say so.  He might be lying, or misinformed.

Clearly, he should publish his birth certificate.

Until then we cannot be sure about his natural born citizenship as we are of Barak Obama’s.

If he travels in Arizona, I would urge the police there to stop him and require him to prove his citizenship, or else to show a visa.

Besides being the right thing to do (in Arizona, at least), requiring this of him would also provide some evidence that Arizona’s verifications of citizenship are not based on ethnic profiling.

Creepy Ken Cuccinelli

July 2, 2012 at 8:30 am | Posted in Enemies of Freedom, Enemies of Planet Earth | Leave a comment
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Ken Cuccinelli used his position as the Attorney General of Virginia to attempt to harass and intimidate climate scientist Michael E. Mann, and indirectly, other climate scientists.  (See  That is the interpretation of almost all scientists who have looked into the controversy.  Cuccinelli claims a legitimate motivation, namely the investigation of possible fraud, but this seems contrived, especially given his history of denying that the climate is changing because of human activities.

He also petitioned the United States Court of Appeals to try to force the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) to withdraw its assertion that that greenhouse gases pose a threat to human welfare.  The petition claimed that it merely wanted to place a hold on the EPA’s assertion until different evidence could be found.  But the EPA’s assertion had already been based on careful international scientific discussion that had resulted in consensus.  (See the same URL as above.)  So here again Cuccinelli’s justification seems contrived.  His petition smells like an attempt to intimidate the EPA.

Both actions seem to be designed to reduce the influence on policy of scientific conclusions that were based on detailed multi-expert scientific analysis and debate.  Both actions also seem to be attempts to capture the spotlight and pander to  the fact-averse right wing.

Both actions also seem to be disingenuous.  I say this because Cuccinelli is intelligent, and has looked at the studies on the changing climate.   Surely he understands that the climate is indeed changing as a result of human activities.  The mechanism is so simple and clear.  Increasing the atmospheric abundance of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gaseous absorbers of infrared radiation narrows the spectral windows through which heat radiation from the surface and lower atmosphere escapes to space.  It is like tightening the lid on a pressure cooker.  The surface becomes warmer.  (Because one effect is to change the wind pattern, some regions become cooler, but more regions become warmer)*.  The atmospheric heat engine revs up.  The pattern of rainfall changes.  Extreme  temperatures and storms become more frequent and more intense.  Ice melts, sea level rises.  Species become extinct – an irreplacable loss of medically and agriculturally valuable biological diversity.  Fungal diseases that are rampant in the tropics will spread over much of the globe.  These changes are already under way.

So why does Cuccinelli do everything he can to delay governmental response to the present and future changes in the climate?  Delay will make all of the problems more severe.  Delay means your children and grandchildren will suffer more in the future, and will have fewer options for dealing with the changes.

The answer is obvious.  Cuccinelli is driven by political ambition.  The same conclusion was reached by Robert McCartney, writing in the Washington Post (

Cuccinelli’s ostentatious, stagey legal gestures, while attention-getting, mostly concern issues that are strikingly different from those dealt with by the Attorney General of a state.  They are designed for his personal political aggrandizement, not for the welfare of those who he supposedly serves.  His skewed priorities would continue if he were successful in his attempt tp become the Governor of Virginia.  His Governorship would consist primarily of maneuvering to position himself for a run at the Presidency.

Searching back through American history for an analog, I am struck by the similarity of Cuccinelli’s personality and tactics to those of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.  (See

Ken Cuccinelli’s attempts to delay our response to the changes in the climate make him  an enemy of Planet Earth.

His attempts to suppress scientific analyses and intimidate climate researchers, and his mis-directing of the resources and authority of his elected office away from the interests of the citizens he serves, make him an enemy of Freedom.

Creepy Ken Cuccinelli is evil.

* Note: When the abundance of carbon dioxide increases in the lower atmosphere, it also increases in the upper atmosphere.  The effect of the increase is opposite in the two regions.  The increase in the lower atmosphere warms the lower atmosphere, because the lowest layers are under layers that efficiently absorb infrared radiation.  But the atmosphere becomes rapidly more and more dilute as you go up.  The upper layers don’t have significant infrared absorbing material above them, so the increased carbon dioxide causes the upper layers to radiate more efficiently to space.  Thus the increase causes the lower layers to become warmer, but causes the upper layers (the mid stratoshere and above) to become colder.  That pattern of changes has actually been observed.  It is some of the evidence that the change is being caused by the increased abundance of infrared-absorbing gases.

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