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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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Direct Democracy Sucks

Stephen Colbert
"So congratulations, North Carolina. Last night, you struck a decisive blow for loneliness. And tonight, as you go to sleep beside your heterosexual life mate, you can rest assured that all across your great state, a gay man or lesbian woman is crying themselves to sleep in solitude and making your relationship stronger with each tear." - Stephen Colbert

There are reasons the Founding Fathers chose a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy when it came time to write the U.S. Constitution. First and foremost they simply did not trust the average citizen to have the informed opinions necessary to make the most important decisions. Their hope and intention was that free and fair elections would lead to the selection of representatives with superior intellect and knowledge (like themselves) than the largely ignorant masses. They even adopted a bicameral Congress with a House of Representatives limited to two-year terms more subject to the whims of the public balanced by a more deliberative body, the Senate, whose members would serve longer six-year terms.

It has become common of late for states to hold referenda where issues with enough public support to get on the ballot can be voted on directly by the people. Sadly these experiments in direct democracy have confirmed the fears of the Founding Fathers. In referenda across the country ballot measures have been adopted that violate state and U.S. Constitutions and represent the opinions of extreme activist minorities. The North Carolina measure which violates the civil rights of homosexuals and heterosexuals alike is simply the latest example of the folly of direct democracy. In state after state referenda have passed that are nonsensical, ill-advised, discriminatory, and often unconstitutional. Think Proposition 13 which ultimately destroyed the California educational system, previously the finest in the nation, and Proposition 8 in which the efforts of out of state Mormons were instrumental in the unconstitutional restriction of civil liberties of specific minorities.

Making it more difficult for measures to qualify for a referendum could cut down on the current electoral nonsense. If Congress and the legislative bodies in the various states did their jobs we wouldn't need so many referenda. There may come a day when the average citizen is sufficiently informed and logic-driven for direct democracy to work, but that day is a long way off. Indeed, it seems farther in the future now than it did when Panderbear was a cub.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

U.S. Military Rivals Klingon Empire

Panderbear is no military expert, but it seems reasonable that in determining the amount of defense expenditures an important factor should be the military threats we face. How much are our enemies or potential enemies spending on defense? The chart published in the Business Spectator based on 2009 global military spending data from the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation sheds some light on that issue.

A mere glance at the table shows the United States is spending a disproportionate amount on defense compared to any other country, nearly as much as the rest of the world put together. That seems a bit excessive to Panderbear. U.S. military spending is 6 times that of China, 10 times that of Russia, and 100 times that of big bad enemy du jour, Iran. Given our NATO allies, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea are highly unlikely adversaries, combined defense spending by the U.S. and its hardcore allies constitutes better than 3/4 of global military spending.

Panderbear finds these numbers disturbingly disproportionate. Even as Republicans claim the U.S. is going broke and we need to cut Social Security and Medicare spending, they are proposing huge increases in the defense budget. WTF? We are already spending enough on defense to take on the rest of the world with one hand-grenade tied behind our backs. What possible justification is there for spending more?

Historically, disproportionately large militaries have led to instability, conflict, and war. This pattern has already proven true for the U.S. which has been in one or more military conflicts continuously for the entire 21st century. Cutting our military budget by 2/3 would still leave us a military twice the size of the world's next contender, one far less likely to be used in foreign adventures, and would make a huge dent in the budget deficit without raiding programs for needy children, the elderly, and the disabled.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

America Exceptional in Executions

In both Death Penalty in Error and Free Will and Capital Punishment Panderbear considered various aspects of capital punishment. In particular Panderbear argued the lack of moral justification for the death penalty and noted that when applied in error is an irremediable tragedy.

But how does the United States compare to other nations regarding the use of capital punishment? According to Amnesty International the United States was the only Western democracy and the only member of the G-8 group of developed nations that executed any prisoners last year, 43 to be exact. 43 to 0 - pretty astounding. In fact America's total executions in 2011 ranked as 5th highest in the world. With regard to executing our own citizens we are in the company of China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. Nice crowd.

Capital Punishment

Of course American Exceptionalism, rampant national hubris, among our pandering politicians and most conservatives prevents us from taking into account how unusual our capital punishment policy is compared to other nations, including our allies. We are the nouveau riche barbarians at the table and yet are willfully blind to our vulgarity.

The irony is that while the U.S. represents itself as the civil rights conscience of the world, proselytizing country after country for inhumane treatment of their citizens, we are one of the few to still invoke the cruelest possible punishment - oblivion. Other nations label our conflicting words and deeds hypocrisy, as indeed it is, even as American Exceptionalism blinds us to that fact and inures us to our own cruelty.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Freedom Isn't Free

Bill Maher
"Freedom isn't free. It shouldn't be a bragging point that 'Oh, I don't get involved in politics,' as if that makes you somehow cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn't insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable."

Panderbear has no problem with those who choose not to spend their time determining the facts of issues of public policy and the positions of the various candidates. Not everyone needs to be a politics wonk. However, those who insist on voting have a civic duty to use informed, fact-based logical reasoning to determine how they vote.

Those who choose to be independents, because they can't be bothered to learn the facts involved in the issues of the day and take reasoned positions are not laudable non-ideologue centrists. They are just intellectually lazy and should have the good grace to refrain from casting uninformed votes.

Scientists, the segment of the population most likely to apply fact-based logical reasoning to their decision making, are far more liberal than the average American voter. As noted in Scientists Have a Liberal Bias in a 2009 Pew Research survey only 6% of scientists identified themselves as Republicans and 9% as conservative. If a higher percentage of the uninformed refrained from voting and more of the informed, reason-based voters actually turned out, this nation would move significantly to the political left.

Sadly, Panderbear thinks low-information voters will continue to dominate elections, their ignorance of the issues not withstanding, and many informed citizens will not bother to cast votes out of apathy or for lack of hope that reason will prevail.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Atheists in Foxholes

George Carlin on Atheists
Is there any truth to the old saying, "There are no atheists in foxholes?" Panderbear is unaware of any statistics on the religious views of military personnel confined to those at the pointy end of the stick - those in direct conflict. However, an atheist-themed event "Rock Beyond Belief" held recently at Fort Bragg, North Dakota drew hundreds of attendees.

Organizers of the the event stated their purpose was to draw attention to unequal treatment of the approximately 295,000 non-believers in military service. Official Department of Defense policy declares service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. However, many at the event claimed harassment in the military community for being non-believers. Some feared being passed over for promotions if their religious views were common knowledge, much as homosexuals were discriminated against in the military, at least until the recent end of DADT.

The Fort Bragg garrison commander who approved the event stated, "We don't treat soldiers who are atheists as atheists," said Col. Stephen Sicinski. "We treat them as soldiers." Official DOD policy and garrison commander orders notwithstanding it is likely those prejudiced against non-believers proffer the same harassment as homophobes dealt to their homosexual comrades in arms. Atheist men and women serving their country deserve respect, not discrimination.

Noted atheist and author of "The God Delusion," Richard Dawkins who spoke at the event received an enthusiastic response to his declaration that you do not have to be religious to be moral. Panderbear would add that you do no have to be religious or heterosexual to be patriotic and willing to give your life for your country.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Money vs Democracy

The American political system has been hijacked by propaganda machines or "flak machines" as Noam Chomsky called them in his 1988 book "Manufacturing Consent." Chomsky and Herman called it in 1988, but it's only gotten worse since. Much worse. The amount of influence that corporations now have on our political system is immeasurable. Particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

President Obama alone cannot fix this problem, because Republicans control the House of Representatives and an unbreakable filibuster plurality of Republicans in the Senate won't agree to anything he shows support for. Congress won't do it because it benefits their wallets too much. The U.S. Supreme Court won't do it because it may mean limiting their power or worse, admitting they were wrong with the Citizens United case. There have been attempts at financial regulatory reform but they have had little to no impact despite Russ Feingold's and John McCain's best attempts.

James Madison
It's important not to forget the words of one of the wisest Americans ever, James Madison, "The day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. When that day comes, we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation."

Madison declared that concentrated wealth would destroy our nation, unless the laws change. I'm afraid those in power have no incentive to fix what has become a despicable system of dirty, secretive money being funneled into American politics by corporations and super rich individuals who have only their selfish financial interests in mind.

The only element left in our country able to affect some measure of change are its citizens. I just hope they realize their country is being stolen from them by the 1% before it's too late.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

JFK Liberal

The eternal mystery to Panderbear is that any thinking and compassionate human being opposes the characteristics and policies that make a person liberal: looking ahead, not behind; welcoming new ideas, caring about the welfare, health, housing, schooling, jobs, and Constitutional civil rights for all. How can a true patriot and supporter of the U.S. Constitution and the fundamental ideals, rights, and liberties upon which this nation was founded oppose these tenets of liberalism? How can craven right-wing politicians continue to pander to low-information voters deluded regarding true American values.

In Profiles in Courage John F. Kennedy wrote, “If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”

Amen, Mr. President. Panderbear is also proud to claim the sobriquet "liberal."

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Obama and Courage

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States the number of threats against the president requiring investigation by the Secret Service increased by a factor of four. Was the dramatic increase a political or racial statement by angry, out of the mainstream, citizens or was there some other explanation? Panderbear suspects a perfect storm of naked racism, radical and potentially violent conservative intransigence, and militia groups paranoid about President Obama taking their toys away. Gun sales soared. Republicans gladly pandered to these deluded, misguided fringe-dwellers for political gain.

The president has proffered no gun control legislation. The truly unhinged consider this lack of action on gun control a ploy that will lead to a second term move to disarm the nation's citizens. Whatever the reasons, the bald fact that President Obama is subject to four times as many threats of violence as his white Republican predecessor must give him and the nation pause and a care for his family if not for the president himself. And yet he endures these threats of violence without complaint.

President Obama Observing Progress of bin Laden Mission
When the 1980 raid to rescue embassy hostages held in Iran failed, whatever chance President Carter had for reelection died with the soldiers who perished in the Iranian desert. When President Obama ordered the operation against Osama bin Laden to proceed, he knew Carter's political fate awaited him if the mission failed. Take one look at the grim visages in the accompanying photo to learn just how serious this business was.

The president wagered everything. That is what a Commander-in-Chief is supposed to do. Some have. Some haven't. Obama summoned the courage to order an operation whose failure would have sealed his fate as a one-term president.

To those who disagree with the president's policies I say, "Fine." But to those, including more than a few pandering politicians, who accuse him of craven political motives and lack of courage I say, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Money for Nothing

Private equity mogul Mitt Romney claims he made his money the old-fashioned way, he earned it. Really? The traditional way for entrepreneurs to earn money is to put their own capital on the line, but Romney didn't do that. His personal risk was minimal, because he was putting other people's money to work instead of his own. Essentially he made money for nothing. He enjoyed nearly infinite leverage, but without the attendant risk.

If an investment went south it was other people who lost their money, not Romney or his private equity firm Bain Capitol. He collected his management fees and walked. If an investment went well Romney and Bain Capitol did very well indeed, though the workers at the business taken over usually did not. They often lost their jobs, or had their wages reduced, or their retirement plans wiped out.

Robert Reich explains all this and how it affects the rest of us in the following video clip.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Fools, Fanatics, and Bertrand Russell

British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century. Panderbear finds his views as social critic particularly inspiring.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Could there be a more apt and damning description of Tea Party and Religious Right fanatics who would sacrifice representative democracy on the alter of absolute surety of their philosophical righteousness and intolerance of diversity of opinion? The wise live in a more complicated reality prompting greater doubts and the necessity for deeper thought.

“Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.”

Panderbear shares Russell's sentiment regarding the primacy of fact-based logical reasoning as a basis for public policy, but is far less sanguine that the future lacking religiosity he envisioned is either imminent or inevitable.

“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.”

If the Liar! Liar! blog is about anything, it is about individuals taking responsibility for questioning received wisdom, checking the facts, and forming their own opinions through fallacy-free logical reasoning. Those who are content to accept public opinion, religious dogma, or any other off-the-shelf philosophy have abdicated much of what it means to be a fully-realized human being.

Bertrand Russell

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

High GDP Correlates with High Tax Rates

In Taxing the Rich is Good for the Economy Panderbear made the case that historically high marginal income tax rates do not lead to economic downturns, but lowering them sometimes do.

The following chart from the Center for American Progress based on Bureau of Economic Analysis and Tax Policy Center data reinforces Panderbear's earlier thesis. It shows quite clearly that since 1950 high marginal income tax rates have been correlated with high annual growth in real gross domestic product.

Panderbear concludes from this data that while increasing the top marginal income tax rates may not cause higher GDP growth, it certainly does not hurt it. Republicans arguing that taxing the so-called 'job creators' at higher rates will hurt the economy do not have a historical leg to stand on.

GDP Greater when Top Marginal Tax Rates Higher

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Truth Quotient History - Candidates

Given the current decisive state of the Republican nomination race it will soon be of only historical interest for political junkies what the Truth Quotient histories of the other candidates are.

The tripartite distribution of the Truth Quotient (TQ) ratings continue with President Obama well in the lead in positive TQ territory, the two perennial TQ cellar dwellers, Rich Santorum and Newt Gingrich at the bottom, and Ron Paul and Mitt Romney somewhere in congressional-like mid-panderer TQ level.

Panderbear notes two persistent trends in the TQ history plot. President Obama's TQ has barely budged remaining in solid truth-telling territory and Mitt Romney has continued a long glide path from greater to less than unity, the break even point. Panderbear doesn't expect those trends to be broken anytime soon.

Presidential Candidate Truth Quotient History
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Politics Defined by Groucho

Groucho Marx may be Panderbear's all time favorite comedian. You may have noticed some of his quotes gracing the right column of Liar! Liar! blog pages. His humor was concise, to the point, and at once painful and truthful. His definition of politics is no exception.

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx

For your amusement here are a few more of Groucho's apolitical quotes:

"Well, these are my principles; if you don't like them I have others."

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read."

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know."

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

"I intend to live forever, or die trying."

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