Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

29 August 2012

Mitt, King of Gaffes

[For reasons why I just topped up my contribution to Obama to the legal limit of $2,500, click here.]

One of the many signs of our national decline is our collective failure to recognize politics as a learned profession.

What do politicians do? Good ones do two things. First, out of all the noise of conflicting advice and popular angst they discern policies that will actually work—that will solve real problems and make people’s lives better. Second, despite all the virulent self-serving propaganda that our First Amendment allows, they get enough people behind those policies to put them into effect.

These two tasks require different skills. The first requires analytical intelligence, at least enough to choose the right experts to heed. The second requires emotional intelligence, plus extraordinary patience. In our noisy democracy, it can involve teaching the retarded.

As I’ve written, the two types of intelligence are different. Leaders can have one but not the other. A leader with poor analytical intelligence but great emotional intelligence can become someone like Hitler or Stalin. In the best case you get someone like Dubya, who provided absolute proof that good intentions are no proof against disaster.

When you get a leader with high analytical intelligence but weak emotional intelligence, you get a good but ineffective leader like Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter. Just as it takes both brains and good intentions to lead well, so it takes both kinds of intelligence.

Some people think Mitt Romney is smart because he got rich. But his actions and policies so far give us no hint of above-average intelligence of either kind. There is nothing original in his plans for us: less regulation, more license for business, more fossil fuels, and lower taxes even for the very rich. The basics of his “plan” are straight out of the Little Red Book, which has been the GOP’s gospel since Reagan.

In thirty years those policies have brought us from top of the world to a rocky path of struggling to stay ahead. They have also brought us three wholly unnecessary and culturally draining wars, in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. So if Romney has analytical intelligence beyond the run of the mill, he’s certainly not showing it in his policies.

But what about emotional intelligence? Does Romney have anything out of the ordinary there? His long list of gaffes, which grows longer every day, suggests not. Let’s take them in rough chronological order:

1. Military service. During the 2008 campaign, a reporter asked Romney why not a single one of his five strapping, healthy sons had ever served our country in uniform. Romney answered that they were serving it in his campaign.

That remark revealed breathtaking egotism—a Romney trademark. But think of its impact on listeners. Suppose yourself to be one of the millions of men and women who served your country in uniform, at great personal hardship and often financial loss. Suppose you had lost a loved one or buddy in combat. How would that quip make you feel?

Can a man who failed to understand that simple emotional cause and effect ever be a good president?

2. Foreign policy. During the 2008 campaign, Romney accused the President (as candidate) of being like Jane Fonda one day and Doctor Strangelove the next.

You had to be a Baby Boomer just to understand the chop. Jane Fonda was a once-popular Hollywood actress who enraged the right by going to North Vietnam while the Vietnam War was raging. Right-wing blowhards accused her of treason. Dr. Strangelove was the demented character from the movie of the same name, who sought nuclear Armageddon with the Soviets.

The target of the chops was two policies that Barack Obama had announced during his campaign. One was a policy of talking with rivals and enemies without preconditions, including North Korea and Iran. The other was a policy of pursuing bin Laden and his Qaeda crew into Pakistan if necessary.

Romney’s chop disparaged these policies thoughtlessly, in the manner of someone running for president of a drunken college fraternity. But in fact those policies were among the most successful in our nation’s history. The policy of talking with enemies without preconditions was one that virtually all of our postwar presidents but Dubya had observed. Eventually, it brought disarmament and the Soviet Union’s virtually bloodless collapse. Pursuing bin Laden into Pakistan brought his execution last May.

So Romney‘s thoughtless jibe was not just a dumb frat-boy chop. It was dead wrong, on two of the most important national-security issues of the last century.

In one sense, Romney’s chop showed a sort of primitive emotional intelligence. Among people disposed to hate Obama for everything he does—largely because of his race and unusual background—it provided more fuel for the fire. But isn’t that what demagogues and tyrants do, not leaders of a democracy?

3. Unemployment. At the outset of his current campaign. Romney quipped that he was “unemployed” and looking for a new job as president. No doubt that gaffe got laughs in the nation’s private clubs where the elite gather. High-rollers often feel the same way when dismissed from boards or high executive positions and looking for something new.

But again, imagine how that jibe felt to the real unemployed: the twenty-plus million who have no jobs, have stopped looking, or are permanently under-employed or self-employed because no one will hire them.

Unlike Romney and the members of his social class, they don’t have tens of millions to tide them over. They don’t have friends in high places who will make sure they get something to do, even if it’s a well-paid sinecure like “consulting.” They and their families will struggle, suffer and, without reliable health insurance, maybe even die.

How did Romney’s “I’m also unemployed” quip sound to them? Do you have to ask?

4. The Brits. You would think that, if Mitt is as smart as he and his supporters think he is, he would learn. He has all the consultants and media training that money can buy. Yet the gaffes keep coming.

Maybe jet lag and the stress of unaccustomed surroundings brought out the worst in him. But at least three new gaffes popped out on his first trip abroad as presumptive GOP nominee, when presumably he was on his best behavior.

The first addressed the Brits’ troubles in arranging solid security for the London Olympic Games. Like the good American poodle that it is, David Cameron’s conservative government tried to privatize the task. The private company involved couldn’t come up with the number of trained officers needed, so the Brits had to call in their army.

Asked about this failure, on the very first day of his introductory visit to our staunchest ally, Romney put his foot in his mouth gain. The failure was “disconcerting,” he said. He “hoped” the Brits would get their act together. Even Poodle Cameron was miffed: he referred obliquely to Romney as a man “from the middle of nowhere.”

Now it doesn’t take much insight or knowledge to know what Romney should have said. Here was a man striving to lead what is still the world’s most powerful nation, visiting its Mother Country and staunchest ally for the first time. He should have said something like this:
“Britain is a great nation with a millennium of experience in effective social organization. It has solved much bigger problems than this one. It held off the Nazi onslaught in Western Europe with historic courage until we Yanks could understand the danger. I have absolute confidence that this great nation—under the leadership of a conservative party like mine—will solve this much smaller problem and make the London Games a smashing success.”

That’s what a diplomat and real leader would have said. To see how far Romney’s performance fell below that standard, just look at his actual words. They sound like a poor student thinking out loud, with mike open, on a difficult question in an oral exam.

5. The Israeli-Palestinian Dispute. The dispute between Israel and Palestinians has gone on now for 64 years. It’s part of the motivation for Arab and Islamic terrorists, and it’s part of the demagoguery that their own tyrants use to keep Arabs and Muslims down. It’s a global open sore that desperately needs healing.

So when Mitt the Frat Boy goes to Israel for the very first time, what does he do? He takes sides and inflames discord.

Not only does he take sides, but he does so in the very worst possible way. He insults the Palestinians’ culture, comparing it unfavorably to the Israelis’. He also proposes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, notwithstanding the fact that Jersusalem’s status is supposed to be part of the “final status negotiations” between the warring parties themselves.

That policy—negotiation over Jerusalem—has been our consistent, bipartisan policy for several decades. Yet in mere minutes, Mitt the Frat Boy gives the Palestinians the indelible impression that the US will be no “honest broker” if he wins. He thus ties our hands and renders future diplomacy useless unless and until he loses.

Not only that. His disparaging remarks implied that ineffective culture gives others a “right” of occupation, if not oppression, over the weaker party. Isn’t that just what the Nazis argued—that their German intelligence, efficiency and organization justified displacing and eventually slaughtering weaker “races”? And isn’t that notion what the entire world spent 50 million lives in the last century to disprove?

Of all people, Jews in Israel and elsewhere should know better. Six million of us perished from a “might makes right” ideology, and the homeless remnants of that Holocaust founded Israel to secure a safe place to live.

Now Romney, in a few moments of thoughtless rambling, resurrects that ideology in a different context and emasculates several decades of consistent US pursuit of an “evenhanded” policy. He does all this in a probably vain attempt to entice a few domestic Jewish votes, when 70% of Jews vote Democratic anyway.

It’s hard to see whether this move of Romney’s was dumber analytically or emotionally. Likely, it was a tie. On both counts, his performance in Israel echoed the catastrophic stupidity that we came to expect from Dubya.

* * *

Politics is indeed a learned profession. They don’t teach it in college; you have to learn it in real life. But it’s a learned profession nevertheless, with real skills that take decades to acquire.

Maybe that’s why Romney’s skills are so weak. His sum total of four years in elective office would make him the least experienced president in American history. (Here I count the military leadership experience of our few general-presidents, from Washington to Eisenhower.)

Politics is not entertainment. Its reduction to bumber-stickers, one-liners, and the sort of frat-boy chops that Dubya and Romney have made famous does no one any good. It we Yanks can’t learn that simple point, our own culture will continue to decline with increasing rapidity.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, how many gaffes does a man have to make before they call him unqualified?

Why I Topped Up My Contribution to the President Today (8/31/12)

Today, the last day of August, is the last business day before Labor Day, when the real presidential campaign begins. It’s also the day after Mitt Romney became the GOP nominee. On this day, I topped up my contribution to the President to the maximum amount allowed individuals, $2,500.

I’m comfortable in retirement, but I live on a fixed income. I don’t expect my very conservative investments to produce much gain until the global financial crisis—now entering its fifth year!—gets resolved. So why did I stretch my resources, when I fully expect voters to see the light and re-elect the President in November? I just can’t take the chance that they won’t. My confidence that Mitt will fix what ails us is the same percentage of African-Americans who support him: zero.

I don’t think Mitt is evil. Neither was Dubya. Yet Dubya brought us two unnecessary wars and converted Bill Clinton’s surpluses into a massive deficit. He also presided over the mortgage meltdown that caused the financial crisis. Then he approved Hank Paulson’s unprecedented bailout of errant bankers, rather than their innocent victims. So I think Dubya proved absolutely that good intentions are no proof against disastrous policy.

As I made my contribution, I thought of some big themes. For thirty years (ever since Reagan), Mitt’s party has declared government the problem, not the solution, to virtually everything. Let’s leave aside the fact that this canard belies reality and common experience for most consumers, including me. Let’s just ask a simple question: why are Mitt and his party working so hard to lead what they see as the problem? Might there be ulterior motives of a selfish variety? I wish more undecided voters would ask themselves that question.

Who benefits from lower taxes on the rich, less regulation, more pollution, an emphasis on fossil fuels, and more foreign military adventures? Is it all Americans or just the rich, business owners, the oil and coal barons, and owners of the military-industrial complex?

In 23 years of teaching law, I always strove to maintain absolute anonymity in grading written exams. I learned to evaluate students based on what they say and do, not who or what they are. So apart from some pride at our slow national progress in diversity, the President’s race doesn’t affect me. Nor does Mitt’s Mormonism. But their character may, and their policies surely will.

It’s hard not to discern a massive strain of hypocrisy in Mitt. Mormons tithe at least ten percent of their income to their church. That donation is an obligation, not a matter of largesse. A large part of it goes to support less fortunate members of the Mormon community. Yet Mitt and his party call recipients of similar government aid, including unemployment insurance, “freeloaders.”

Isn’t there a small inconsistency there? Does the same aid to the poor become illegitimate “income redistribution” when delivered by government rather than a church? Might tax deductions for Mitt’s tithes, which were probably massive during his peak earning years, be one reason why Mitt refuses to release all his tax returns?

Mitt’s most nagging bit of hypocrisy is his push to repeal so-called “Obamacare.” The health-insurance solution he put in place as governor of Massachusetts is virtually indistinguishable from “Obamacare,” down to a “mandate” for health-insurance refuseniks. Mitt fought for this plan as governor, and it appears to be working well. But now he disclaims it, just to bash the President and win an election. Honest? Honorable? Consistent? I think not.

Mitt’s primary trait as campaigner is his overweening ego. With a mere four years in elective office under his belt, he’s absolutely certain he can do a better job than the President, at everything. That frightens me. It also reminds me of Dubya, who took childish pleasure at being the “decider” but seemed to make every crucial decision wrong.

Mitt’s biggest push is for “job, jobs, jobs.” Yet when he looks at our weak employment, he sees everything but the elephant in the room.

He wants us to believe that taxes, regulation and an “anti-business” environment are keeping us from adding jobs. Has he forgotten the Crash of 2008 so soon?

We Yanks had nearly full employment before the financial crisis began in 2008. Europe had no problem with unemployment before the crisis hit home there, where it now cuts deeply.

All our current job troubles began in late 2008, with the mortgage meltdown, which bankers caused. So it seems to me that Mitt and his party are trying to distract attention from the real cause of our woes. Could that be because their cronies and social class are getting obscenely rich by keeping the global economy balanced on a precipice?

Mitt made his money by being an investment banker, of the private-equity subspecies. In theory, that experience might make him capable of seeing a solution to the banker-caused crisis. In theory, he might be like Nixon the Commie-basher visiting “Red” China to jump-start what is now the globe’s most important bilateral relationship.

But Mitt’s working so hard to distract our attention from the real cause of our troubles doesn’t support that theory. In practice, Mitt’s “solution” to the crisis is more of the same policies that the GOP has supported since 1981.

Has the GOP been that clairvoyant, to see the solution to a financial meltdown 27 years before it began? I think not. I think Mitt and his party are using the crisis as an excuse to sell us defective used goods.

Mitt wants to make this election a referendum on the President’s leadership, which his party fought more unreasonably and intransigently than I have ever seen in my 67 years. But it’s not and never will be a referendum. It’s an election.

One of two men—Mitt Romney or the President—will become President of the United States in January 2013. So it’s a choice, a choice between two men. No amount of demagoguery can change that simple fact.

I have absolutely no doubt who is the better man—far better. I have a firm conviction whose policies are more likely to restore the honest, intelligent, forward-looking nation that I was born into 67 years ago, and that I hardly recognize today. This election is a continuation of the election of 2008: a choice between a thirty-year-old failed vision and a clever, empathetic administration that responds to changed circumstances, facts and evidence.

If we make the right choice, we can arrest our national decline. If we make the wrong one, I expect our nation and my own personal circumstances to be much diminished before I pass away. I’ve tried to do my part, even though it hurt. Have you?

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12 August 2012

Paul Ryan as Sidekick: What it Means

Once in a while, a contender telegraphs both his tactics and his strategy to the whole world. Mitt Romney has done that in picking Paul Ryan as his running mate.

So far (you may have noticed) Mitt Romney’s campaign has had all the subtlety and nuance of a braying alpha ape. “Vote for me,” he has said in effect, “because I’m smarter than the President. In his 3.5 years in office, he hasn’t yet solved the problems that my party took two generations to cause. So he’s incompetent, and you need someone smarter, like me. Didn’t I say me!?”

As I’ve pointed out before, that self-love approach didn’t work so well for John Kerry, probably because Kerry was and is a much more modest man. Eventually, voters get tired of hearing a candidate talk about himself (or herself), just as they did with Hillary.

Self-love and self-promotion are not winning strategies. The rich folks who are bankrolling Mitt so they can continue raping our country and us are starting to get worried.

There’s also another reason for worry in the Mitt camp. Mitt got the nomination in part by pandering to the various extremist groups that now compose the GOP.

His pandering was hardly a smashing success. Most of the people who believe that outlawing abortion, crushing gays, and forcing everyone to go to church would solve all our problems are Mitt skeptics, to say the least.

And Mitt himself hasn’t helped. He has pointed out, again and again, that we don’t have enough jobs. (Under all that overweening ego, he actually is a fairly smart guy. His character is another matter.) So he couldn’t help also pointing out that jobs have something to do with elusive concepts of economics and business.

In banging the gong of jobs so relentlessly, Mitt has implanted in the dim minds of his likely supporters unfortunate notions of cause and effect. If economics and business create jobs, then stopping abortions, bashing gays, and going to church in ever-greater numbers probably won’t—unless you belong to the clergy. So Mitt’s current pitch to the general electorate, which is “jobs, jobs, jobs,” has made all his acrobatic flip-flopping on hot-button issues obsolete.

And that’s just the beginning of Mitt’s problems. Not only does he have no real issues besides jobs. He has no concrete plans to create them.

All he has is the GOP’s Little Red Book of obsolete dogma: less regulation, more pollution, and more freedom for bankers to make mistakes, which somehow always seem to enrich them and impoverish the rest of us. (And don’t forget that Mitt himself is an investment banker, of the private-equity subspecies.)

The closest thing Mitt has to a concrete “plan” for anything, besides provoking a trade war with China or a real war with Iran, is cutting subsidies for renewable energy and continuing them for fossil fuels.

Complaints but no plan, hot-button issues but no jobs. Ego, but no substance. As Texans like to say, Mitt is all hat and no cattle.

Enter Paul Ryan. Like most of the GOP, he’s not much good at solving problems or explaining anything complex. But he’s a brilliant demagogue. He has a single drum—the deficit—that he’s going to bang as hard as he can until November.

He’s going to do that consistently and obsessively for a simple reason: it’s the only real issue for which the GOP has even begun to think about real solutions. On all the other nine big issues that have festered for an average of 17.5 years, the GOP has come up dry.

Now banging the deficit drum has two substantive difficulties. The deficit is a long-term problem, and one that Dubya caused. (Remember Bill Clinton’s surpluses?)

Dubya gave us an economic collapse and two unnecessary wars. He funded the bankers’ rescue mostly off budget, through the Fed, and he funded both wars nearly entirely of off-budget.

When Dubya was in office, no GOP pol worried about deficits. Cheney famously said that Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.

From a political perspective, Cheney may have been right. Deficits don’t matter politically if you can demagogue them cleverly enough to blame them on your hapless opponents. And that, of course, is precisely what the GOP is trying to do.

Even more important, deficits can actually help you if you can use them as a political lever to achieve long-term ulterior goals. That is also exactly what the GOP is doing: using deficits as an excuse to cut back Social Security and Medicare—the GOP’s consistent goals since these programs were adopted.

Don’t get me wrong. Ryan is a clever, ruthless and monomaniacal demagogue. He has Ross Perot’s soul but a grizzled pol’s experience. For political PR, he’s one of the best. He even has a modicum of flexibility: when his “plan” to privatize Medicare utterly didn’t fly, he proposed a dual system in which Medicare would compete with subsidized private insurance.

The problem, as I’ve pointed out at length, is that competition and health insurance are contradictions in terms. For real competition, you need lots of small companies competing vigorously on an even playing field. For health insurance, you need firms big enough to have a huge pool of health risks that can lower premiums.

The smaller the number of competing health-insurance firms and the larger the risk pool in each, the better. But that’s not competition. This is what economists call an inherent and irreconcilable contradiction. (Other types of insurance, such as auto, fire and casualty, don’t have the same problem, because their range, number and size of insured risks is much smaller.)

The human body is prey to an almost infinite number of ills and injuries. So the more healthy people you have paying premiums, the easier it is for everyone to afford them. That, in essence, is the reason for “Obamacare” subsidizing 35 million new customers. That, in essence, is the reason for the “mandate” (or “tax,” if you prefer) that Chief Justice Roberts just upheld. And that, in essence, is the reason why every other developed nation has some sort of national health insurance, usually operating side-by-side with a private system for more affluent people.

What we have now is the worst of all worlds. We have our insurance pools balkanized by state, by employer, and by competing firm. So virtually all of our privatized pools are suboptimal in size, many wildly suboptimal. Yet at the same time, interstate barriers, state-by-state regulation and employer selection of policies thwart real competition.

With all of our expensive diagnostic and treatment options today, it probably takes a pool of ten million or more even to begin to provide reasonable premiums. But only seven of our fifty states (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas) have more than ten million population. So 43 likely have suboptimal pools, without even considering the further balkanization that employer-based private markets create.

This analysis solves the riddle of our exorbitant health-care system, which costs more than twice as much as any other in the developed world. The administrative expense of accounting for multiple, private firms with incompatible rules and computer systems (and their private profit) is probably not much more than 25%. The profit itself is probably not much more than 25%, due both to what competition we have and political pressure on state insurance regulators.

So both expenses together don’t get you to much more than 50%. Where does the other 50% come from? Suboptimal risk pools and more expensive technology. It’s hard to conceive of any other explanation.

Ryan wants to make all this worse. He wants to start with Medicaid, on the backs of the poor. There’s much more money in Medicare, but the poor are increasingly powerless in our society, and GOP vote-suppression efforts will soon deprive many of them of the right to vote. Good demagogue and practical pol that he is, Ryan wants to begin with low-hanging fruit.

But his real prize is Medicare. There’s real money there, and it has the biggest risk pool in the nation. Ryan wants to turn it into another privatized, balkanized, sub-optimal set of small pools. Then he wants to add private profit and increased administrative expense to boot.

He wants to do all this on the backs of seniors, who most need health care and whose strength to deal with economic reversals and “gotcha!” policy terms is waning. No doubt he hopes that, as seniors who remember Medicare die off, the electorate will forget about optimizing risk pools and see expensive private insurance, with all its “gotcha!” clauses, as inevitable, like death and taxes.

Ryan wants to do this, of course, while preserving the federal government’s power to finance rogue bankers with trillions of newly printed dollars and the military-industrial complex’s “right” to profit from trillions in obsolete Cold-War weaponry.

That’s the GOP’s “plan.” That’s what it’s been ever since Social Security and Medicare were adopted. The only significant change is a change in strategy. Instead of abolishing Social Security and Medicare outright, the GOP now wants to turn them into engines of private profit. The size of the risk pools and consequently the premiums be damned.

These folks are persistent, relentless and ruthless. And now, with Ryan, they have a much more skilled salesman. The only question remaining is whether Mr. Ego and he can pull the wool over enough voters’ eyes to pull off their master plan.

If they can, our middle class’ rolling decline will become a plummet. And none of this, please recall, will create a single industrial job. It will just advance the cause of making undeserving folk rich by shuffling paper.

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03 August 2012

A Dozen Reasons to Reject Mitt

[For my most recent post on Syria, click here. I advanced publishing the post below because it seems someone was hacking it.]

1. He’s an investment banker. He’s part of the tiny international cabal that recently destroyed the global economy and is threatening to do it again. In his first visit abroad after becoming the presumptive GOP nominee, and after insulting the British, he made a point of meeting with bankers, including those from Barclays, the first bank to be charged with manipulating the LIBOR interest rate.

2. However many jobs Romney’s Bain Capital did or did not create, being president is nothing like being a private-equity investment banker. You don’t have rich people falling all over themselves to give you money to invest. Instead, you have to raise taxes or cut programs that real people depend on. And the people you have to deal with—the Chinese, Russians and Democrats, for example—don’t think of themselves as failing companies, desperate for handouts.

3. Romney has just four years of experience in elective office, as governor of Massachusetts. That would make him the least experienced president in American history.

4. Romney has never served in our armed forces and has never had any job remotely related to foreign or military policy. Congress and the courts can block stupid ideas at home, but abroad presidents enjoy as close to one-man rule as our democracy allows. Take Dubya, for example. With all his experience of six years as governor of Texas, he started two unnecessary wars that lasted most of a decade. Do you want another Dubya ordering our troops around?

5. Although he’s made a lot of money, Romney has done absolutely nothing of lasting value in the public sphere in his entire life. He did make a dead-ringer for “Obamacare” a success in Massachusetts, but he now disclaims that achievement. His next biggest feat was helping to making the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City a success. Isn’t that a bit stale and small for a president?

6. Both at home and abroad, presidents have to deal with lots of different people with lots of different views. Doing that requires diplomatic skill.

Romney has none. He’s a jerk [search for “sort of person”], a frat boy [search for “crown”], and the King of Gaffes.

I’ll need a separate post to outline all of his gaffes (coming soon). But he’s made two in just the last week, and on his first foreign trip as presumptive GOP candidate. He insulted the British, our closest ally, and he gratuitously alienated the Palestinians just to entice a few Jewish votes. If he wins, you can bet he’ll piss off our friends, enrage our rivals, trash any chance for peace in the Middle East, and make our enemies hate us even more. His loose tongue might not start a war, but it will certainly make a new one more probable.

7. Romney can’t make up his mind about anything. He’s flip-flopped on abortion, on health care, on what to do about China, and lately on whether to call the “mandate” portion of “Obamacare” a “tax.” If you want a guy who’ll make a decision today and amend or rescind it tomorrow, Romney’s your man. Good luck if you’re in our armed forces.

8. Romney wants us to put all our energy eggs in the fossil-fuels basket. He disparages wind and solar power, which have no fuel and create no pollution, and in which Germany is investing massively. His approach seems simple: if he doesn’t have a rich crony who’s interested in twenty-first century industry, then he’s not interested either. So it you want a job in a coal mine or an open tar-sands pit, Romney’s your man. If you want a twenty-first century job, vote for Obama.

9. In one of his many gaffes, Romney referred to himself as “unemployed.” Yet he keeps millions in offshore banks and won’t release his tax returns. If you think he has empathy for the real unemployed, let alone the middle class, vote for him. But don’t be surprised if he continues the class warfare that bankers have been winning over our students and the rest of us.

10. From the Gospel of Grover Norquist to fundamentalist religion, the GOP looks to extremists for its “base.” Romney has done nothing to change that. On the contrary, he has pandered to every extremist group his campaign flunkies can discern. If you want to see the GOP reform itself, so that a well-qualified candidate like Jon Huntsman, Jr., can someday have a chance of securing its nomination, your best chance is to pass Romney by. Or you can vote for him and hope he loses badly, thereby jolting his party into reform.

11. Romney plays his game strictly by the book of the GOP’s stale dogma. For thirty years, that “Little Red Book” has laid us low. If you can find a single important and original idea that Romney has ever had in public policy, by all means vote for him. But don’t be surprised if what you get is more of the usual: less regulation, more taxes for you (but less for the rich) and more crumbs from bankers’ tables.

12. With the aid of the Supreme Court’s supremely misguided decision in Citizens United, Romney and his rich friends are trying to buy the election with TV ads. California rejected similar candidacies of rich political ingenues Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina. If you think it was wrong, by all means vote for Mitt. But before you do so, consider California’s small and easily curable deficit and status as the world’s eighth largest economy, all by itself.

Did someone hack this post?

The post above twice “disappeared” from this blog while in draft form. That has never happened before, and Google’s “issues page” gives no hint of any relevant problem there. So I believe this blog may have been hacked.

The most suspicious visiting IP address is this one: 10.144.128.#. One of my two IP-location services lists it as a “PRIVATE IP ADDRESS LAN.” That means the suspected hacker is hiding behind an anonymity service.

NOTE TO SUSPECTED HACKER: Technology won’t protect you. All it takes to force disclosure of your real identity is a subpoena, which can be served abroad under the Hague Convention. Two federal statutes—the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act—protect this blog (along with every other private, Internet-connected computer).

So jail, fines and liability await if you hack this blog again. You might want to read here [subsection (c)] and here how deep is the guano you’ll be in, not to mention the “embarrassment” if you work for Romney or another public figure.

This blog is civil, but it won’t be silenced. I will prosecute hackers to the fullest extent of the law.

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