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%.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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."

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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
submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr

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.

submit to reddit Share on Tumblr