Monday, December 24, 2012

School Prayer

School Prayer
Prayer is currently permitted in U.S. public schools, so long as it is not officially sponsored by the school and does not interfere with others doing their work.

The current state of the law is the result of numerous court cases dealing with the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" If you insist on public school sponsored prayer then your beef is with the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court, not with 'godless' liberal politicians. Indeed, conservative Christian politicians are the ones proposing legislation regarding school prayer. They have repeatedly attempted to require school sponsored prayer.

According to the Establishment Clause, officially sponsored school prayer is tantamount to religious coercion. It forces on students and teachers a particular religious dogma that may well be at odds with their own religious views and social values. Panderbear seriously doubts that many advocates of school prayer have in mind Muslim teachers and students bringing in their prayer rugs and disrupting classes by kneeling and praying at the times required by Islam. That being the case and peer pressure among children being what it is, open school prayer clearly favors Christianity over less followed religions and thus constitutes an obvious violation of the Establishment Clause.

Christians who want their children to practice religious observance in school have several options: they can encourage their children to pray silently in a public school; they can send their children to a parochial or private school with an overtly religious curriculum; or they can homeschool their children. Panderbear suspects that, for those in the Religious Right who reject all of these options, the real agenda is to proselytize Christianity in publicly supported institutions. That's contrary to the Founding Fathers' intentions as expressed in the First Amendment.

Panderbear thinks Christian parents have ample opportunity to religiously indoctrinate their children at home and in church without attempting to circumvent the constitution. Never in her 84 years did Panderbear's mother advocate prayer in school. She was a devout fundamentalist Christian, but understood well the dangers to both religion and public institutions of entangling the two in a religiously diverse democracy. She supported strict separation of church and state. Panderbear does too.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bloody Hell! A Review of the Holy Bible

Panderbear recently reread the King James version of the Holy Bible with an eye toward its possible relevance to the formulation of effective value-based public policy. Below, in the form of a book review, are Panderbear's first impressions and conclusions.

Bible as Literature: Its religious significance aside, the Bible utterly fails as a work of literature. Precious few passages rise to the level of John 3:16 or the 23rd Psalm. It turns out that Panderbear was already familiar with the good bits. Much of the rest was a tough slog and a trial of perseverance.

Old Testament: An alternative history replete with depictions of incidents of appalling carnage separated by vast wastelands of repetitive, nearly content free verbosity. Panderbear is not really criticizing the OT on the grounds of excessive violence, but perhaps it should be rated PG-13. With all the smoting going on, the OT is at least as violent as any first-person shooter video game and equally inappropriate as a basis for domestic public policy or foreign affairs.

New Testament: Much the same as the OT with the carnage reduced to a more human scale. The protagonist in the OT was an erratic and terrible God the Creator, while the NT features Jesus Christ, a far more sympathetic, if irasable, figure. One lesson here is that change is not always a thing to be feared. It can be a good thing.

Personal Reflection: The dismal prospect of suffering through all eternity in a Hell of fire and brimstone pales in comparison with Panderbear's abject terror of being condemned to a Heaven of infinite, unremitting bliss and the everlasting tyranny of a jealous, capricious, and insufferably vainglorious God. (Are bliss and tyranny compatible?) Perhaps the relative merits of heaven versus oblivion should have been played up a bit more. In any event Panderbear thinks good public policy must take into account a diversity of views regarding desirable policy goals.

Jesus the Man and His Politics: The New Testament Jesus was neither politically nor socially conservative. He was a Jew, a revolutionary, and a heretic. That's what got him crucified. Jesus loved and ministered to the wretched poor while holding the rich and powerful under suspicion and often in contempt. He dispensed free medical care in the form of miracle cures. He fed the hungry and clothed the naked - more miracles. Jesus neither blamed nor despised the less fortunate for their diminished circumstances.

Christians vs Christ: Jesus was in many respects the polar opposite of those who today self-identify as conservative Christians. No doubt today's Religious Right can cite chapter and verse to support their conservative views. After all there is plenty of fodder in the New Testament to bolster almost any argument. But those who search out particular passages in the Holy Bible as confirmation of their personal conservative biases are missing the forest for the trees. The big picture of the man Jesus of Nazareth is that he was, in context, a liberal activist who loved and uplifted the downtrodden. Far too many modern Christians are anything but Christ-like. Mahatma Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Amen to that.

Recommendation: A must read for lovers of antiquarian history and Christians who aspire to leave hypocrisy behind. You can get it free online.

Panderbear thinks that Christ's liberal activism and uplift of the downtrodden can positively inform the formulation of humane and rational public policy, even though the intolerance and magical-thinking inspired political agenda of today's Religious Right cannot.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Demographics are Destiny

America's bipolar two-party political system is a zero-sum game. One party's gain is the other's loss. As moderates have been systematically eliminated from the ranks of Republican Party officeholders for lack of ideological purity, the GOP has moved dramatically to the political right.

Republicans have lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential contests. In 2012 they failed to take the presidency or the U.S. Senate. They even lost the total popular vote for the House of Representatives, only retaining their majority in that body due to gerrymandering of Congressional districts following the 2010 census. Apparently they have veered too far right to remain competitive in most races for national offices.

Ever since the advent of President Nixon's cynical and divisive Southern Strategy, Republican victories have depended on winning an overwhelming majority of white male votes. They pursued this demographic by systematically targeting and demonizing one out-group after another. Their policies have been consistently anti-minority, anti-women, anti-gay, and anti-poor.

Unfortunately for Republicans that strategy has run headlong into the wall of changing demographics. The gender gap favoring Democrats combined with overwhelming majorities among black, latino, and LGBT voters, groups that are growing as a percentage of the electorate, have doomed the Republican divide-and-conquer strategy. By 2050 white Americans will be just another minority.

Republican policies must embrace the concerns of these groups or the GOP is doomed. Panderbear prays that the GOP hews to its current policies and goes the way of the Whigs. The conservative movement has been an anchor preventing America from sailing forward to address the challenges of the future for far too long.

To the extent that they have succeeded Republicans have depended on fear and xenophobia in a white male demographic that is shrinking. The GOP's options are to return to the more moderate, more inclusive, more progressive policies they supported 50 years ago or to die. Like it or not, that's the choice conservatives face.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Obama vs Romney Truth-Telling - Part II

Now that the Presidential political campaigns are well underway, indeed only weeks remain until its conclusion, Panderbear decided it was time to review where the candidates, President Obama and Governor Romney, stand with regard to their respective Truth Quotients (TQ). Panderbear speculated in previous posts that as the contest proceeded the candidates would find it increasingly difficult to adhere to the truth.

Well, it turns out that Panderbear was only half correct. The pressures of the campaign have indeed taken quite a toll on Mitt Romney's TQ. While a year ago Romney's veracity was a slight favorite over the toss of a coin (TQ a tad greater than 1), sadly he has steadily declined to a TQ of just 0.58. His disgracefully mendacious performance in the first presidential debate was no help at all. This is the pattern Panderbear expected. However, President Obama's current sterling TQ of 1.49 is almost exactly the same as it was in September of 2011.

If you care which candidate is more truthful, the choice is clear. If you don't care who is telling the truth Panderbear respectfully requests that you refrain from voting. You're not helping.

Note that the chart, as in previous posts, uses a logarithmic scale rather than linear. On a plot using a linear scale Romney's final TQ (0.58) would be much closer to the chain email data point (0.05) than to President Obama's (1.49). So Romney's performance has been even worse than it appears in the chart.

As always the TQ for chain emails is truly dismal. If you bother to read chain emails, or worse yet forward them, for the love of God please stop. You are embarrassing yourself and misinforming other people. Just stop.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Silence Encourages the Tormentor

Elie Wiesel
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Panderbear is inspired by the truth and conviction of this statement by Elie Wiesel. When we remain silent in the face of wrong, we are culpable for the consequences. We cannot say we don't want to get involved, because saying so is tantamount to taking the side of the oppressor against the victim.

Wiesel's sentiment rises far above petty issues of U.S. politics with which Panderbear concerns himself, but his essential point is nevertheless relevant to domestic politics. If out of apathy or stubborn disregard of the facts surrounding issues of public policy, we drop out of politics or simply follow the dictates of our prior biases, then we are aiding and abetting the oppressors, the close-minded, the backward-looking, and the pandering politicians whose allegiance is for sale to the highest bidder.

We must hold our officeholders accountable for their actions regardless of their pious claims regarding values. If they consistently support policies and legislation that favors the rich over all others, we must speak out and turn them out of office. These panderers are oppressors of the majority of Americans and benefactors to the 1%. Our silence helps these oppressors, never the tormented 99%.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Small Government

Rachel Maddow
"Small government is a great political brand. It looks great on a bumper sticker. People who don’t want the government to help unemployed people, or the elderly, or people without health insurance, who don’t want the government to create jobs, they say it’s because government must be small. They also want the government to be monitoring every pregnancy in the country to make sure the governments chosen outcome is the result of the pregnancy under the penalty of jail.

So make your case that you don’t want the government to help the economy, but DON’T give me that small government stuff…" - Rachel Maddow

Social conservatives claim they want a small government that stays out of their business, but insist that government tell pregnant women what they can and cannot do to their bodies, blur or erase the line between church and state, and deny same-sex couples their full complement of civil rights. They want government that only intrudes in other people's lives.

What the less affluent social conservatives don't seem to realize is that wealthy conservatives are far less dedicated to social issues. They want small government, not because it will be less intrusive, but because they don't want to give up any of their riches in taxes. Wealthy conservatives buy members of Congress who pander to the rubes about social issues, but when it comes to actual legislation they have readily and repeatedly sacrificed those issues on the altar of lower taxes for the rich.

Panderbear thinks the small government meme is a red herring. The people must decide which services they require from their government and then pony up the necessary taxes. The issue isn't big or small government. Government should be just big enough to do what we ask of it.

Instead of displaying bumper stickers espousing small government, conservatives should tell us which services they don't want government to provide. How about, "Down with Social Security" or "Kill Medicare." Those would fit on bumper stickers and are a lot more honest than "Small Government."

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Presidential Warnings About Corporations

Abraham Lincoln on Corporations
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” This quote is generally attributed to Abraham Lincoln, though some have questioned its provenance. Nevertheless, its author expressed an insight regarding the dangers of corporations that is lost on today's electorate and the Republican Party.

Far earlier Thomas Jefferson said, “I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” According to another Founding Father, John Adams, “Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.” How many times in our history have the people had to bail out banks from crises due to their own excesses of greed and malfeasance? For a more in depth discussion of the Founding Fathers' views on corporations Panderbear recommends this article on Addicting Info.

In more modern times Dwight Eisenhower warned, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." And so it has.

The power of monied interests and corporations is currently at a zenith last seen in the Gilded Age. It was not a good time for the average American. Disparity in income growth and wealth between the rich and everyone else created widespread hardship and social instability. Panderbear expects the current ascendancy of corporate America and our new Gilded Age to have similarly dire consequences for the middle class and the American Dream.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Obama vs Romney Truth-Telling

(See more recent data here: Obama vs Romney Truth-Telling - Part II)

Now that it is clear President Obama will be running for reelection against Mitt Romney, Panderbear decided it was time to directly compare the details of their statement truth ratings. Panderbear created the chart from statement ratings by

Those who have been reading Liar! Liar! regularly know that while President Obama's Truth Quotient (TQ) is solidly in truth-telling territory, Mitt Romney's is comparable to those of pandering Congressional leaders, which is to say not so good.

But what about the actual percentages of statement ratings in each of's categories: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire? These are revealed in Panderbear's chart.

It is clear that President Obama easily bests Romney in the percentage of true and mostly true statements. It is even more clear that Romney has a special talent for making pants on fire statements. His rate of outrageously over the top false statements is 7 to 8 times that of the president. In the other categories the differences may not be statistically significant except possibly Romney's higher percentage of mostly false statements.

Most voters don't seem to care much whether politicians are telling the truth as long as they are saying what they want to hear. Truth-telling does matter to Panderbear and hopes that it does to you as well.

Obama vs Romney Truth Telling

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Government by and for the Rich

Among the rich there will always be some, like the Koch brothers, willing to expend a portion of their fortune to influence public opinion in ways calculated to advance their own selfish interests at the expense of the public good. Few would deny that money has substantial influence in elections of members of state legislatures, governorships, members of Congress, the presidency, and therefore legislation.

The dual notions of money-speech equivalence and of corporate personhood which ultimately led to the notorious U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case has untethered the Koch brothers and their ilk from previous constraints and multiplied their ability to subvert our government to their own narrow interests.

So do we point our fingers at corporations, the Koch brothers, and other deep-pocketed interests and call them out for subverting our democracy and turning it into an oligarchy of the rich? Panderbear's question is why anyone would expect them to behave in any other way? Does anyone really expect corporation's and the rich not to act in ways they believe are in their own best interest? Their actions, while calculated to empower and enrich themselves at the expense of all others and which has ultimately led to the loss of truly representative democracy, are nevertheless for the most part perfectly legal, coldly rational, and facilitated by a conservative Supreme Court.

Part of the solution to the effective disenfranchisement of the average American is to push back against corporations and other bad actors. We are fortunate that the rise of Occupy Wall Street has brought this and related issues to the attention of the American people. Panderbear thinks that attempts to limit or eliminate the notions of money-speech equivalence and corporate personhood are all to the good, but are at best delaying actions and in the end will likely fail.

Panderbear ultimately blames the loss of government for and by the people on an electorate that stubbornly refuses to vote in accord with its own rational self-interest. The electorate is generally ill-informed or misinformed regarding good public policy due to apathy, dependence on torrents of televised and printed partisan propaganda, or slavish adherence to unexamined political, social, or religious doctrine. Until the average voter educates themselves to the important issues of public policy through the application of fact-based logical reasoning and best science rather than simply seeking confirmation of the personal biases by pandering politicians, government for and by the people will be an illusion, a chimera always out of reach.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Republicans Culpable for Political Gridlock

If you are a chart whore like Panderbear, do yourself a favor and visit Following up on studies of political polarization, Panderbear discovered the two following charts, among many others, on that website under the heading "Political Polarization."

Both charts give information regarding the polarization of members of Congress. The first chart illustrates that you have to go back well over a hundred years to find a period of sustained ideological polarization of the two parties in both Senate and House that matches what we have observed in past several years. Unlike most of the 20th century the current percentage of overlapping members is zero.

Congressional Polarizatiion

Most people, including Panderbear, have become frustrated with the lack of compromise and productivity of recent Congresses. Many people have thrown up their hands in an anti-incumbent rage and said we should throw out all the bums. But are the two parties equally culpable for the current era of Congressional gridlock?

The second chart makes it clear who the real culprits for this political polarization are. While Democrats currently exhibit approximately the same degree of liberal orientation that they did at the end of the 19th century, Republicans, in a trend that started around 1980 have become increasingly extreme in their conservative orientation. Indeed, Republicans are breaking entirely new ground with regard to partisan conservative policies. It is Republican radicalization that has paralyzed our government and is harming our country.

Republican Radicalization

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Truth Quotient History - Candidates

Panderbear has shown mercy and deleted the sorry Truth Quotient (TQ) histories of the candidates for the Republican nomination that have officially dropped out. Ron Paul is still included because it's not clear that he has officially dropped out, even though Mitt Romney has clinched the nomination. Paul could yet be a disruptive force before or during the Republican Convention.

As usual the DNC, RNC, and chain-email TQ's are included as points of reference. Note that TQ is plotted on a log scale; otherwise, the chain emails would be coincident with the x-axis. To put it as gently as he can, Panderbear thinks that anyone who reads or forwards chain emails is a blithering idiot.

The DNC TQ history brackets the candidates on the top side and the RNC provides the floor. Panderbear speculates that this is a reflection how logically supporting Republican dogma requires more dubious arguments and tortured "facts" than Democratic policies.

Among the candidates only President Obama remains in truth-telling territory, TQ>1.0. Indeed, the president's TQ really hasn't changed in the entire 9+ months included in the chart. Both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney began above water, but through the course of the Republican nomination campaign have slipped slowly, but inevitably, into panderer status. Indeed, Romney's TQ has descended into the ignominious ranks of Congressional leaders.

It will be interesting to see if President Obama's and Governor Romney's TQ's suffer once the general campaign begins in earnest. Panderbear is thinking that the president's TQ will hold up pretty well while Romney's is likely to continue its downward trend as he begins to defend his indefensible record as governor and gets creative with his anti-Obama attacks. But we'll see.

We'll also see whether the electorate gives a damn who tells the truth and who doesn't. Panderbear finds no reason to be optimistic on that score. The majority of voters seek bias confirmation, not truth.

About the Truth Quotient
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rich Recover, 99% Not So Much

Great Recession vs Great Depression Recovery
There have been many comparisons of the Great Recession of this century with the Great Depression of the last. Indeed, some have referred to the Great Recession as the Lesser Depression. These two economic disasters have many characteristics in common. They do, however, differ radically in one important respect.

During the recovery from the Great Depression the vast majority of the public experienced increased income and the richest folks not so much. In contrast, so far only the richest Americans have benefited from the recovery from the Great Recession.

The data used in the chart may have been subject to a little cherry-picking, especially with regard to the years chosen for comparison. Nevertheless, it is obvious that things have changed between 1933 and 2009 that grossly favor the super rich at the expense of the bottom 90%.

It's not much of a stretch to conclude one of the main culprits, as discussed in Legacy of Ronald Reagan, is the advent of supply-side, trickle-down, Reaganomics. The chart there shows that income growth was independent of income group in the decades prior to the introduction of the aberrant theory of trickle-down economics. Since that time, essentially all income growth has gone to the wealthiest Americans and nothing to the middle class. 

U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United that advanced legitimacy of the notion of corporate personhood and opened the floodgates of unlimited political spending by monied interests to the detriment of the 99% are also partly to blame. Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Reaganomics and the Supreme Court have given absolute power to those with deep pockets. Our democratic republic has become an oligarchy of the rich. Taking back that power is going to be a bitch.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Socrates and the Republican Party

According to Plato, ancient Greek philosopher Socrates claimed only the "examined" life is worth living. By an examined life Socrates means a life of seeking truth through reflection, and fact-based reasoning, honed by logical, fallacy-free argumentation. Saying that the unexamined life is not worth living requires considerable hubris. Nevertheless, Panderbear has some limited sympathy for that point of view.

Panderbear has no interest in telling others their lives are not worth living. However, by genetic and experiential happenstance Panderbear has come to acccept fact-based logical reasoning, the scientific method, and devotion to the truth as the best tools humans have for making sense of their life experience and effectively exercising their will.

Panderbear has no particular quarrel with those who disagree with his philosophy, so long as they do not act in ways that prevent others, including Panderbear, from freely pursuing their own life goals. Of course the pursuit of those goals must be constrained by laws and mores lest anarchy and chaos ensue. However, if our elected officials are living unexamined lives with philosophies bereft of reverence for truth, logical reasoning, and science and are attempting to impose policies that derive from belief in political and religious dogma, the supernatural, anti-science philsophies and are intent on subjecting all of us to the inevitable failures of their ill-informed policies, then Panderbear takes issue.

In pandering to those of the electorate who eschew the examined life and instead take their political philosophy from bumper stickers and personal bias and their religious philosophy from off-the-shelf religious dogma of one sect or another, Republicans have inevitably stumbled into policies that are anti-science, illogical, and fact-free. To paraphrase Socrates, the life of a political party whose policies are based on unexamined philosophy is not worth living.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Employment Panders Left and Right

As far as Panderbear knows the chart of Bureau of Labor Statistics data regarding cumulative change in employment appeared first on Think Progress and then subsequently on's take is that the data refute, "The main gist of Romney’s campaign ... that there have been no jobs created during the Obama administration, except for the public sector (government)." The Think Progress headline is slightly less overtly partisan, "Economy has recovered all private sector jobs lost since Obama took office." I guess's primary intention is to make Mitt Romney out to be a liar (Panderbear doesn't dispute that), while Think Progress is satisfied to give President Obama a boost.

The data show a slow but persistent decline in public sector jobs with a temporary blip that consisted of federal census takers. Private sector jobs initially continued the precipitous drop that began during the Bush administration, but reversed course and began an uninterrupted increase since March, 2010.

You can see why Democrats always talk about private sector employment over the past 20+ months and why Republicans focus exclusively on precisely two data points, total public and private employment now versus when President Obama was inaugurated. The latter is the greater pander as it obscures the larger context and trends and also does not allow time for the president's policies to be implemented and take effect. Academic studies normally include a time-shift of ~12 months. Applying that criterion in this case would show a large net gain in employment for Obama, not the slight loss indicated by two fortuitously chosen data points.

Due to Bush's Great Recession state tax revenues declined and teachers, policemen, firemen and other state employees were laid off. Panderbear thinks that outcome could have been averted if Congressional Republicans hadn't dug in their heels against either a larger stimulus package or a second stimulus consisting largely of transfers to the states. Republican intransigence has led to harmful disruption of essential state services and needlessly high levels of unemployment. Their slavish adherence to failed economic principles is exasperating. Their willingness to hurt the U.S. economy in order to defeat President Obama is reprehensible.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Ignorance, Knowledge, Democracy

Isaac Asimov
Panderbear grew up reading a lot of science and science fiction, much of it written by the prolific author Isaac Asimov. His work, as much as any other single factor, was responsible for Panderbear's early interest in science and ultimately his career in physics and computer science.

Asimov said, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” Panderbear only recently became aware of this quote, but its lesson had long ago penetrated his psyche through reading Asimov's many novels.

Asimov reminds us that along with the democratic right to vote comes the responsibility to be a sufficiently informed member of the electorate to make wise choices regarding candidates and public policy. As Panderbear quoted in Ignorant and Free Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Jefferson also said, ". . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right."

Whether we listen to Isaac Asimov or Thomas Jefferson the lesson is clear. Voting based on uninformed or emotion-based bias is an abdication of our responsibility as U.S. citizens. It also makes us easy targets for pandering politicians. If you are going to vote, take the time to learn the facts. If you do not take the the time to get informed, please don't vote. You'll just make things worse.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jon Stewart Pwns Fox News

Jon Stewart Pwns Fox News
In Fox News Worse Than No News Panderbear referenced two university studies regarding Fox News. "A study from the University of Maryland found that on a range political issues Fox News viewers were more likely to believe false information than others. Furthermore, the more they watched Fox News the more misinformed they were." "A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that Fox News viewers are less informed than people who do not watch any news."

The original Fairleigh Dickinson study was limited to residents of New Jersey. They have now released an updated report that is nationwide. "In the study, 1,185 respondents nationwide were asked about what news sources they consumed in the past week and then were asked a variety of questions about current political and economic events in the U.S. and abroad." The new study confirms their earlier conclusions. Those who reported that they only watched Fox News got the lowest scores. Again the polls show that those who watched no news scored higher than Fox News watchers.

What was the Fox News Network official response? A pathetic ad hominem attack on Fairleigh University. This logically fallacious response was the moral equivalent of, "Oh yeah? You stink." Panderbear doesn't know whether Fairleigh University stinks or not, but he knows a logical fallacy when he sees one. And how to explain the confirming studies from other sources? Do they all stink too?

Who scored highest in the new study? Those who listened only to NPR. In a truly embarrassing result for Fox News (if Fox News were capable of being embarrassed), respondents who reported only watching "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" scored much better than Fox News watchers and almost as well as NPR listeners.

Panderbear is both gratified and amused, but not surprised, that a comedy show does a better job of educating its audience to current foreign and domestic news than Fox News. The studies reinforce what Panderbear knew all along. Fox News Network is not in the business of educating its audience to what is really happening in the world. It has constructed an Alternative Knowledge System  and is dispensing propaganda that panders to and confirms the biases of its conservative audience. Sadly, this turns out to be a very profitable business model.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gay Marriage and President Obama

President Obama Supports Gay Marriage
Panderbear voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in both the primary and the general election. He could have just as happily supported Hillary Clinton in the general had she won the Democratic nomination. The decision between the two was a close thing.

Though the two candidates for the nomination appeared to have similar policies, Panderbear considered Clinton the more liberal of the two, a plus. She also had a reputation for being disagreeable at times, which Panderbear feared might negatively affect her electability. In retrospect, with the perverse intransigence of Republicans in Congress, Hillary's confrontational tendencies might have come in handy.

Beyond policies and electability Panderbear judged other factors important for our country in the long run. The election of either a woman or a biracial man would set a positive precedent for open-mindedness of the electorate. Panderbear hoped the fact that a female or black was President of the United States and the sky didn't fall, would change many minds and hearts and lift the aspirations of generations of women and minorities to come.

Panderbear was gratified when President Obama finally expressed his personal support for gay marriage. It was a particularly helpful announcement as virtually overnight support for same-sex marriage among blacks jumped dramatically, an effect one might not have expected but for the president's race. Had the president made his statement prior to the Proposition 8 vote in California barring same-sex marriage, it seems likely the measure would have failed despite considerable interference by Mormons.

Panderbear finds it ironic that the 2012 election pits gay-marriage supporting President Obama against Mitt Romney, an anti-gay marriage Mormon. It would be amusing were it not so frightfully consequential.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Segregation Privatized

In the South appearances can be deceiving. Exaggerated, superficial politeness, especially toward strangers and those of differing race, often masks xenophobic intolerance or outright contempt and hatred. It's a subtle thing. So subtle that only an outsider like Panderbear who lived in California most of his life would likely take notice. Southerners, at least those in Arkansas where Panderbear resides, seem unaware of this near universal affectation.

Elizabeth Eckford
The subtlety of social affectation notwithstanding the underlying intolerance in some Southerners has real and harmful effects, particularly with regard to education. One might have thought that when President Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce desegregation at Little Rock High School and later with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the issue of segregation would have long been settled. Panderbear sees it differently.

Two trends thwarted effective integration in Arkansas' schools. By fleeing from Little Rock to outlying communities that were essentially all white, parents ensured their children would continue attending all white schools. Of course white flight was a national phenomenon and primarily economic rather than racially motivated. But the effect was especially marked in Arkansas. Panderbear has relatives who fled to the suburbs to avoid having their children attend integrated schools.

The other phenomenon, apparently far more common in the South than elsewhere, was the rise of the Christian Academy. Arkansas is now awash in Christian Academies. Whether there is outright discrimination in the application process Panderbear cannot say, but the additional expense of sending children to private academies ensures attendees are among the more affluent and in Arkansas that means white.

The end result is that segregation never really ended, it was privatized. Never mind that separate is inherently unequal. Never mind that parents are harming their own children by preventing them from learning lessons that come by exposure to diversity of race, culture, and religion. Never mind that parents sending their children to private schools vote against spending more on public schools, while decrying the low quality of public education. Arkansans seem oblivious to these wrongs. Don't expect Arkansas' politicians, whether Republican or conservative Democrat, to ever address the harmful effects of de facto segregation. Unfortunately, it is the children, not their intolerant parents or the pandering politicians, who continue to pay the price.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

GOP Favors Confederation Over Union

Articles of Confederation
Republicans seem to have confused the U.S. Constitution with the Articles of Confederation that preceded it. Republicans in Congress persist in interfering with the President's prerogative to conduct foreign policy, support states' rights over the central government, and attempt to reduce the federal government's ability to collect taxes sufficient to complete its responsibilities as enumerated in the Constitution.

These were among the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation of 1777 that the Founding Fathers set out to correct at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The inability to conduct a unified foreign policy, maintain national security, adjudicate differences between the various states, and properly fund activities required of the central government were widely recognized as weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation requiring urgent remediation after a single decade.

Even as conservative's claim they want this nation to return to the values of the Founding Fathers and strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, in their ignorance they are actually calling for the country to return to a system, as embodied in the Articles of Confederation, that demonstrably failed. The Founding Fathers observed its failures and recognized the urgent necessity of a stronger central government and presidency and greater ability for the federal government to collect taxes sufficient to meet its responsibilities. Hence the Constitutional Convention.

Panderbear is perpetually bemused by the ignorance of history, Founding Fathers' intent, and U.S. Constitution of those who refer to these icons ad nauseum to support their anachronistic political views. They have constructed a grossly inaccurate mythology of constitution and Founding Fathers and now worship them to the detriment of our nation.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jimmy Carter on Religious Misogyny

President Jimmy Carter
"The truth is that male religious leaders have had -- and still have -- an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world."

Jimmy Carter, arguably the greatest ex-president the United States has ever had, made this statement when he severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. He made it clear that religion and misogyny need not go hand in hand. Carter is an intelligent man of character who backs up his rhetoric and strongly held convictions with action.

His humanitarian work with Habitat for Humanity and his involvement in assuring free and fair elections around the world has accomplished great good. President Carter is a man of faith who's convictions lead him not just to speak of faith and proselytize, but to do good deeds.

Panderbear thinks Jimmy Carter makes many religious and political leaders appear to be pandering hypocrites by comparison. Panderbear does not share President Carter's religious faith, but appreciates the good works that faith has lead him to do. Thank you Mr. President.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Truth Quotient Ratings - Politicos

Panderbear hasn't posted the "Truth Quotient (TQ) Ratings - Politicos" table in quite awhile. In part that's because the relative ratings haven't changed much. Truth-tellers and panderers alike have been pretty consistent. Also, with the Republican primary getting all the headlines, the Congressional leadership hasn't been getting much attention from the fact-check websites.

A few trends have continued. For example TQ's of both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have steadily declined over the months. Both began above TQ = 1.0 in truth-telling territory. TQ's for both have since declined well into panderer territory where Congressional leaders have consistently resided. Panderbear has been particularly disappointed in Ron Paul's decline as he had a reputation for being a straight-shooter, even though his targets were often suspect.

The good news for some of the politicians in the table is that Panderbear will be dropping them off the list. Panderbear doesn't believe in beating a dead panderer, so the folks who have dropped out of the primary race will be mercifully removed from the next edition of the list. Of course whoever Mitt Romney picks for his VP will be added if he/she has a sufficient number of statement ratings to be statistically meaningful.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Equal Opportunity is a Myth

One of the great conservative panders is that liberals want equal outcomes while conservatives want equal opportunity. The problem with this statement is not just that it is false, but that equal opportunity is both a myth and a practical impossibility.

One need only contemplate the disparity in income between men and women, the higher unemployment rates among minorities, Republican opposition to Pell grants, and the decline in social mobility in the U.S. to realize that equal opportunity not only does not exist, but is unlikely to be achieved anytime soon.

Through prudent regulations, more progressive tax rates, pro-labor policies, and improvements in our educational system, we may be able to decrease historically high disparities in outcome. After all, from the Franklin Roosevelt through the Jimmy Carter administrations when both the middle class and the American Dream thrived, percentage increase in income was independent of income bracket. Only since the advent of trickle-down economics by President Reagan have the wealthiest Americans benefited disproportionately, indeed almost exclusively, in income growth.

We may be able to restore more nearly equal sharing of economic growth across income levels, but equal opportunity will remain an impossible dream. Seeking greater equality of opportunity is a worthy goal, but if we continue to focus our efforts exclusively on the chimera of perfect equality of opportunity at the expense of the historically demonstrated possibility of more nearly equal outcomes, we will surely fail. Concentration of wealth will continue to the point where social instability results. The patience and apathy of the 99% is great, but not infinite.

Equal Opportunity

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Is Winning

Nate Silver in his FiveThirtyEight blog recently posted a chart showing a steady trend in national polling toward greater support for same-sex marriage. Panderbear recommends you read the original report which provides a wealth of information on this topic including the data for Nate's chart.

Panderbear was born in an era when essentially 100% of homosexuals were still in the closet and homosexual stereotypes the subject of near universal and cruel condemnation. As the chart shows things have changed. Americans are evenly divided with regard to same-sex marriage. That fact came as something of a revelation to Panderbear even though he lived through this entire era of change.

National Support for Same-Sex Marriage

How is it that the right of marriage for same-sex couples has gained so much support and is legally recognized in several states? The second of Panderbear's posts on the Tea Party vs OWS noted that 'being right is not enough. It never is. As escaped slave and leader of the abolitionist movement Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did. It never will."'

Panderbear thinks Frederick Douglass was exactly right. Why are gays gaining the same civil rights regarding marriage as heterosexuals? Because they made a demand to power. They came out of the closet and poured into the streets for Gay Pride marches. Family members came out of the closet, at least within their families, by the millions. Congressmen openly admitted being gay. The LGBT community as a whole not only came out of the closet, they expressed pride in being who and what they are. All but the most backward people have learned that gay is a state of being, not a lifestyle choice nor something to be cured.

It's one thing to condemn an anonymous group for being different and many a politician still panders to these social Neanderthals. It's quite another thing when it turns out that your son or daughter or brother or sister is a member of that group. LGBT's have rejected humiliating anonymity and earned equality of civil rights by making their demand to power. However, the job won't be complete until same-sex marriages are recognized in all states and homophobia is considered something to be cured.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Corporate America Controls Supreme Court

In Supreme Court Hypocrisy Panderbear presented evidence that 4 of the 5 most conservative justices since 1937 are currently on the Supreme Court, part of the devastating legacy of Presidents Bush I and II. A study by the Constitutional Accountability Center shows that Corporate America controls the U.S. Supreme Court through its five conservative justice majority. Panderbear recommends reading the complete CAC study. The study included a total of 53 cases from early 2006 through May 2010. Justice Sotomayor's votes have been included in Justice Souter's whom she replaced. The 5 conservative justices are Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Kennedy.

The most startling result to Panderbear is illustrated in the chart plotting the percentage of cases in which each justice supported the U.S. Chamber of Commerce position in 5-4 or 5-3 decisions. The conservative justices voted for the Chamber of Commerce position 84% of the time, while the other justices did just 16% of the time.

Panderbear's conclusion from the data is that this activist conservative U.S. Supreme Court, the Roberts court, is ruled by and for and panders to corporate America. For Panderbear the evidence presented in this CAC study is redundant since the damning 5‐4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, holding that corporations have the same constitutional right as individuals to spend money to influence elections. We are currently reaping the poisonous harvest of that politically motivated decision and corporate windfall.

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