Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More info on poll linking knowledge with news source

I sent "Circular search for poll results on what you know and what you watch" to Fairleigh Dickinson University's Public Mind and received a nice reply from Prof. Peter J. Wooley, founding Executive Director of Public Mind.

I am not sure why I only saw one page of the eleven page report last week.  Maybe I had fiddled with my preferences in Firefox so that a web page now is automatically opening an associated PDF file.

I have now read the full report.  I also read the article that Prof. Wooley wrote with his colleague Dan Cassini, see "Fox News Does Not Make You Dumb: Researchers Respond to Critics", Huffington Post, 2012-05-15.  Interestingly, when I read the article for my first post in this series I saw no reference to this rebuttal, and that article was posted a week after Wooley and Cassini's article.

The numbers that Public Mind published were weighted numbers that considered the correct answer and some demographics about the respondents.  Thus, the results were all under 2.0, leading rushed readers like me to assume that most people only got at most two answers correctly.  You can see all the questions at

I am a bit confused that they mention eight questions in the tables but list nine questions in the text.  I answered seven correctly, not remembering who "won" the Presidential Primary in New Hampshire and what the deal was to pass the payroll tax deduction extension.

However, the overall results were dismal.  Regardless of political leanings, 62 percent of the respondents answered four or less questions correctly, with 57 percent and 63 percent for Democrats and Republicans, respectively.  I wouldn't draw any conclusions from that last difference.  But, if the overall sample is representative of our voters, over half the eligible voters not being able to answer half or less of some standard questions about the news does not bear well for our democracy.

We can't attribute these results to TV news.  Seventy-two percent of the respondents claim to get some of their news from a local newspaper, and the spread according to political leaning is only four percent to either side.  Maybe it is that too many of us filter the news to our own biases.

Oh, well!  There's nothing new about biased interpretation of events.  It's been going on in this country for over 250 years!  We have survived this long, maybe we'll get some leaders now and then who can stand above partisanship and see farther than some narrow interests.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Freedom of anonymous speech?

I was inspired to write the following by "How I Became Stephen Colbert's Lawyer -- And Joined the Fight to Rescue Our Democracy from Citizens United", Trevor Potter, 2012-05-23, speech at the Annual Meeting of th American Law Institute.

I wonder what the writers of Bill of Rights would think of the Supreme Court interpreting the first amendment as "freedom of anonymous speech".  Speech is meant to be heard.  If it is heard, those hearing it know who said it.

Second, if someone started a whisper campaign that disparaged you or your business and you found out who and were able to afford the right lawyer, wouldn't you probably win a defamation case?

If you started a campaign making false (or even damagingly true) accusations against a large corporation, wouldn't its lawyers be doing their best to get you into court?

So, why do large corporations or wealthy donors get to make scurrilous, misleading statements without identifying themselves or being held accountable for libel?

Oh, I forgot.  Although corporations are people, they are super-people who are above the law.

The majority favors our view, whatever it is

Don't we all fall into this trap.  We believe such and such and think "everybody" else agrees with us.

We have politicians who get elected by a majority or even a plurality of the votes cast and claim that they have a "mandate from the people".  Does that mean that people who didn't vote for them or didn't even bother to show up are not people?

We have demonstrators who claim that they represent the wishes of the people.  Maybe the wishes of "their people", but the rest of us are opposed to them, agree with them but are lukewarm about the issue, or could care less about their issue.

There are writers all over the political map who think they are making statements that "the people" care about an issue as much as the writer does.  Maybe the only "people" that care are the editors who can fill some space with material that shows the editors "cover both sides".

In the side bar of a Huffington Post page, the following caught my eye: How Many Anti-Pot Politicians Will be Ousted Before They Realize the Will of the Majority?

Excuse me, but I could care less about the use of marijuana.  Well, not quite.  I care very much if you smoke it around me.  Just like tobacco, one should not force others to participate in one's indulgences.  I do care that a lot of tax money is used to enforce use of a substance.  Prohibition showed the futility of that.  Punish the public use or damage to others caused by use of certain substances.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Heroes or victims

Nation after nation makes heroes of those who fight in the wars these nations engage in.  But it is rare that those who do the actual fighting made the decision to go to war.  The decision makers are far behind the lines, exhorting even more to join as fighters.

Often a war is cloaked in patriotic terms as defending the country against foreign enemies, but the war is often not fought on the land of foreign enemy or even the land of the country claiming defense.  The war is fought on lands either loosely allied with one side or the other or even on lands that would rather be neutral.

Those who are opposed to these wars are often called unpatriotic, but they may really be the patriotic ones who see the folly in expending lives and treasure.  These "unpatriotic" may be executed or imprisoned in some countries or may be sidelined or ostracized in more "gentle" countries.

Some wars are instigated for conquest and masked as being for the greater glory of the nation.  Anatole France, commenting about past French wars in "L'Île des Pingouins" could just as well have been predicting Adolph Hitler.  A visitor stood in front of a statue of Trinco.  Trinco has conquered and lost half the known world in thirty years of war.  The guide finishes a description of Trinco's victories and defeats with, "Mais il nous a donné la gloire."  The visitor responded "Il vous l'a fair payer cher!"  And the guide responds "La gloire ne se paye jamais trop cher."
"But he gave us glory."
"He made you pay dearly."
"One never pays too dearly for glory."
Some wars are fought for a "national interest" but cloaked as a defense of freedom.  The national interest could be protecting shipping, access to resources, or some other interest for which the greatest beneficiaries are nowhere near the front lines.  Ironically, to protect freedom the freedom to protest the war is the first freedom to go.

The true test of the value a nation places on its heroes is how the veterans of war are treated when they return.  Is the country willing to raise sufficient funds to fully treat all physical and psychological injuries?  Think of Ira Hayes, fêted as a hero until he lost his usefulness as a war bond promoter.  Think of the dismal state that Walter Reed Hospital was in a few years ago.  Think of all the homeless vets who just can't make it on their own.  Until a government fully addresses these issues, many of its heroes are victims of the folly of war.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Senate blames the cops, not the criminals

I left the following comment on Facebook on the Coffee Party's link to "Senators put federal regulators, not JPMorgan, on the hot seat", Dana Milbank, Washington Post, 2012-05-22.

What are all the complaints about?  We have the best government money can buy.

The 1 percent may have the money, but the 99 percent have the vote.  The problem is that too many of the 99 percent blame the money but never bother to show up.  Election after election has gone to Republicans because too many "Democrats" didn't even bother to show up - Florida, 2000; Wisconsin, 2010; New York Ninth District, 2011.  This last has 3-1 Democratic registration!

And money doesn't always win elections.  Meg Whitman outspent Jerry Brown by a wide margin, but Brown won the Governorship of California.

Whatever else you do, show up to vote, each and every time.  Vote Republican, Vote Democrat, Vote Third Party, Write somebody in, but vote.  The only votes that don't count are the votes not cast.

Quote of the day: Education - shooting ourselves in both feet

"When we shrink investments in higher education and research, 'we shoot ourselves in both feet,' remarked K.R. Sridhar, founder of Bloom Energy, the Silicon Valley fuel-cell company. 'Our people become less skilled, so you are shooting yourself in one foot. And the smartest people from around the world have less reason to come here for the quality education, so you are shooting yourself in the other foot.'”

"As I've said, nations that don’t invest in the future tend not to do well there."

Both from "Do You Want the Good News First?", Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 2012-05-19.

Friedman didn't write it explicitly, but I find it ironic that some businesses complain they can't find enough qualified employees and complain about taxes.  Duh, do they think that hundreds of thousands are going to be able to afford to pay for all their training, especially when so many companies want narrowly defined "skills"?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Circular search for poll results on what you know and what you watch

I followed up on my suspicions of the poll results in "Quote of the day - Fox 'news'" by clicking the link from "No News Is Better Than Fox News, Finds Mean Old Science", Don Hamel, Addicting Info, 2012-05-23, to "updated study from Fairleigh Dickinson University".  That page gave only two of the questions: “Which party has the greatest number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives?” and a question about the deal linking the payroll tax cut and the Keystone XL pipeline.

At the bottom of the page is a box containing "Methodology, questions, and tables always on the web at"  That takes me to the home page of Public Mind.  The links for each reference to the "What you know depends on what you watch" study take me back to the same PDF file.  My suspicions are still unsatisfied.

I'll send links to this blog to  If I get in additional information, I'll post it as soon as I can.  Then we may see how well we fare on this poll.

Update: I received a reply from Public Mind.  See "More info on poll linking knowledge with news source".

Quote of the day - Fox "news"

"Fox News is to information what Big Macs are to weight loss."
- "No News Is Better Than Fox News, Finds Mean Old Science", Don Hamel, Addicting Info, 2012-05-23

As cute as this quote is and as intriguing as the poll may be, I'm suspicious of reading too much into the results.  The average correct answers were under two, out of nine questions, whether the respondents got their news from Fox News, NPR, or Jon Stewart's Daily Show.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why facebook's stock price went down after the IPO

Simply put, facebook's software is too buggy!

Yesterday, I used my iPod and Safari to access facebook.  I could not log off!  There was no button to do so, and no button gave a drop down menu with log off in the list.  When I tried using my MacBook Pro to access facebook, I could log on, but then my news feed was blank.  Sometimes I would get a blank area and sometimes I would get a blank area with a spinning ball next to an arrow.

Then today I had three symbols at the top of the iPod window in addition to the three bars, which had done nothing before.  One of the symbols had a red number one.  It was that I had a message or a like.  The three bars now had a drop down menu.  Way, way at the bottom of the more than screen-length list was log out (or log off).  Dumbly, I didn't click on log out but clicked on the button with the number.  I found out that two people liked an entry.  Now the three bar menu had no drop down menu!!!

I used my wife's computer to like an item on my facebook page.  After several attempts of turning my iPod off and on and other screen changing actions, the three additional buttons were shown on my iPod.  I didn't click on them but went straight to the three bar button, scrolled down to log off, and clicked it.

Poof! I was now back to the facebook log on page.  Close that window and be rid of it!

I went back to my laptop and logged in to facebook.  I now had news feeds, but only a handful from today or last night.  I could find no button to look at older items.  That means I can't go back to an item that I only glanced at yesterday or that I want to check for additional comments.  Up to yesterday, I could look at a week or more of news items.

This is corporate efficiency?

Of course, buggy software does not really correlate to stock price.  Look at the way Apple stock has risen since the release of its latest operating system, OS X Lion.  Apple announced Lion with great fanfare and the claim that it had 250 exciting new features.  What they didn't say there were 300 features that no longer worked or didn't work as well as before.  OK, 300 features is poetic license, but I run into annoyances every day.  Clicks that don't work on the first try, watching the beach ball spin more than I have in previous versions, resets that later revert to an older setting, and on and on.

Whatever happened to "the computer for the rest of us"?  Gosh, and I was once a programmer, have been using Macs since 1984, and I have a hard time!

The next time somebody gives a favorable comparison of private enterprise to government; ask them if their computer does everything they want as easily as they want as fast as they want.

See also "Why Apple's stock price went down".

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Has "Rachel of cardholder services" been pestering you?

Three times today I've received a robo-call: "Hello, this is Rachel from cardholder services.  There is no problem with your account…"  By then I've generally hung up.  We get these calls about once a week or more.  The three times in one day was a bit much.

I Googled "Rachel" and "cardholder services" and got a long list of complaints of this scam and violation of the "Do Not Call" law.  One example is  "Hard to stop telemarketing calls from 'Rachel'", David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times, 2011-11-29.

Lazurus writes that Rachel is calling from cardmember services, but she actually says "cardholder services".

Cardmember services is the name of a legitimate company that services credit cards.  The use of "cardholder" is a deception that many don't recognize.

You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quote of the day: Even a dead fish can…

"Swim against the current: Even a dead fish can go with the flow"

Title of a book by Jim Hightower:

"…serious words of wisdom to share here, namely: question authority, trust your values, seek alternatives, break away, stand up for your beliefs, and swim against the current!

"Their book introduces readers to people across the country who have actually done this-people in business, politics, health care, farming, religion, and other areas who are taking charge, living their values, doing good, and doing well."

From the ad at

Why do the "media" call losers "winners"?

Letter to the Editor, Reader Weekly, 2012-05-17 (not published online)

Jim Hightower's comment about Newt Gingrich's "repeated humiliation at the polls" ("A sham for Wal-Mart's Scam: Newt's denouement", Reader Weekly, May 10), reminded me that even his one "victory" was a humiliation.  Unfortunately, in the horse race mentality of election reporting, few noted that Gingrich came in far behind a de facto "none of the above".

Several news sources pointed out that turnout was low in the 2012 Presidential Primary in Georgia, but few if any reported a context of Gingrich's "win".

According to The United States Elections Project of George Mason University, Georgia's turnout was 15.8% (see  According to the US Election Atlas, Gingrich received 47.19% of the votes cast in the Republican primary (see  That means he received the support of about 7.5% of the eligible voters.  I would not consider that a "win"; Gingrich came in a really distant second to a de facto "none of the above".  In horse racing terms, he didn't even make the first turn!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

War of words better than war of swords

Iran threatens to sue Google over dropping the name of the Persian Gulf from Google Maps.  See

Probably Google was caught between a rock and a hard place because Arabs want to call it the Arabian Gulf. 

Maybe the best way of dealing with Iran's supposed development of nuclear weapons is to sue them over violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  Sure, it was signed during the Shah's regime, but the current government has not withdrawn from the treaty as has North Korea according to Wikipedia's List of Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Immigration "reform" – follow the money

I've never understood why ALEC and its legislative lackeys are so big on immigration "reform".  I thought that the employers of low-skilled workers would want to keep wages as low as they could.  A large supply of immigrants guarantees lower wages, and a large supply of illegal immigrants guarantees even lower wages.

An op-ed in today's Star Tribune gave a hint of how one industry really benefits from immigration "reform".  Carol Gronfor and three fellow students at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs wrote "Immigration case: Winners and Losers".

"The private prison industry has made billions of dollars by detaining people suspected of illegal immigration under the authority of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The majority of these people have no criminal record."

Ironically, ICE is fighting the recent Arizona law because it has its own record of abuse of suspected immigrants.  ICE is ultimately accountable to the people of the United States.  Private prisons are only accountable to their shareholders.

Oh, that's somebody else's worry!  Think again.  One percent of those detained by ICE are U.S. citizens.  See "U.S. citizenship no defense against deportation threat", Paul McEnroe, Star Tribune, 2011-11-27.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Polling the self-selected

The political world is filled with polls that are targeted toward audiences that agree with the questions.  These polls are generally sent only to those who are predisposed to "positive" answers to the questions.  The Democratic National Committee does it.  The Republican National Committee does it.  News media with a particular slant do it.  Political offshoots of all kinds do it.

I generally avoid polls of all kinds, no matter what the source.  I don't even like the follow-up calls from businesses with whom I plan to buy again and again.

My Congressional Representative, Chip Cravaack, is one of the worst offenders in the biased presentation of polls.  His latest is about "What Would You Cut", a list of three items he would like to cut from the budget - replacing TSA employees with private contractors, dispose of excess baggage scanners, and "Terminate a National Science Foundation program aimed at shaping public opinion on climate change".  On the last he writes, "A review of prior grants made by the program shows a repeated pattern of funding activities intended to sway public opinion on a controversial topic about which the facts remain in heated dispute."  The controversy is coming from those who ignore the facts and have a lot of money to lose if there is to be a serious mitigation of climate change.

This particular poll is at as of 2012-05-15.  Cravaack's staff will probably reuse this URL for a subsequent poll.

Rather than submit my answers, I sent the following webmail to Rep. Cravaack:

"With regard to your "What would you cut" email and many others, please have a chat with Bill Frenzel on how to communicate with constituents.

Rep. Frenzel wrote facts about what Congress was doing, not what he wanted constituents to agree with.

Each one of your "What would you cut" items makes it very clear what you want constituents to answer.

There are many much larger costs for things that are not really needed but have large constituencies supporting them.

I hope I don't have to tell you what these are; that would tell you what my biases are."

Bill Frenzel was the Representative from the suburbs of Minneapolis.  He would be considered a RINO by today's Republicans.  He wrote quite interesting newsletters about Congress that hardly ever touted what he was doing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Shame on Wisconsinites!

Scott Walker won the governorship of Wisconsin in 2010 with about a quarter of the eligible voters in a light turnout.  Then in February 2011 there were big demonstrations against some of Walker's anti-union legislation.  See "The "people" are speaking, but a bit late".

Then this year many started a petition to recall Gov. Walker.  They collected 900,939 signatures.  That is about 40 percent of the 3,285,704 registered voters (July 2010).  These figures are from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

So what happened on primary day on May 8, 2012?  Did 900,939 voters vote for any of the Democrats?  Right, and we will have 100% turnout in the Presidential elections this fall!  The five Democratic candidates received 665,928 votes together.  Where were the other 25 percent of the petition signers?  And it is probably worse than that because many who showed up to vote didn't sign a recall petition. (Election results from the Green Bay Press Gazette.)

Demonstrations take a lot more effort than voting.  But it seems many people would rather demonstrate than vote.  See "Which is better, civil disobedience or voting?"

Remember, "The 1% may have the money, but the 99% have the votes", but your vote doesn't count if you don't show up!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

For the benefit of schools or for the benefit of large corporations?

"This land ultimately belongs to Minnesota’s children – our public schools have been waiting decades for this funding.  I am a big supporter of the Boundary Waters and this bill has been crafted in a way to make it even better.  The lands of Superior National Forest were set aside for the benefit of all Minnesotans.  Undoubtedly, the BWCAW [Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness] serves as a reminder of our nation’s legacy; but the BWCAW is more than just a legacy—it’s a springboard for Minnesota’s future."

- Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-MN 8, email to constituents

Rep. Cravaack has sponsored legislation to remove Minnesota School Trust Lands from the BCWAW.  But is this to provide access to resource extraction or to swap for Federal Land elsewhere?  If Minnesota School Trust Lands can be sold, why doesn't the Federal Government pay Minnesota for the lands and let the trust buy land elsewhere?  I read his wording as the first, resource extraction.  In fact, in his email he states "These lands within the BWCAW cannot be logged, leased, or mined."

Would you want to canoe past a clear-cut island or fish in waters with mining tailings?

Where are the great white pines of northern Minnesota?

This is a question to ask mining proponents.  If the large corporations that took out almost all of the large white pines out of Minnesota never bothered to replant the trees, will the large mining corporations bother to restore the areas that they mine?

Government agencies and individual land owners are planting white pines now.  Will government agencies and individual land owners have to clean up after the mines?

Quote of the day - Compromise

"Compromise, if you must, on the policy—but never on the truth."

- Paul Krugman, "How to End This Depression", The New York Review of Books,

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A quick lesson in singing Latin

Many singers disagree on how to pronounce o's in Latin.  Should it be oh, aw, or ah?  Our choir has opted for aw.  Taking a bit of liberty with the ah and aw, I've changed the words of "Dona nobis pacem" to "Donna knobby knees punch 'em."  I know, my version has one too many syllables, but it sure helps keep in mind not to sing "Donut nobles patch 'em."

The coming battle of the no-shows

The 2012 elections may be determined, not by who votes, but who does not vote.

If President Obama doesn't actively support gay marriage, many gay rights supporters might stay away.

If President Obama actively supports gay marriage, many who don't care for the issue might stay away.

Because Mitt Romney is a Mormon, many "conservatives" might stay away.

If Mitt Romney wavers on any of the "conservative" issues, "conservatives" might stay away.

If Mitt Romney strictly follows the "conservative" script, many RINOs might stay away.

Wherever you stand on the issues, don't give the election to the candidate with whom you disagree the most.  Show up and vote on November 6, 2012!

Remember: the 1% may have the money but the 99% have the votes!

Quote of the day - Political optimism

"If the political rulers were men of merit and talent and governed only in the public interest, they would naturally command the affection and respect of the people, and the crises of authority bedeviling American society would end."

Don't you share this wish for today when private interests are corrupting government?

However, this is a summary of the ideas of many of the American politicians of the 18th Century, as written by Gordon S. Woods in "The Radicalism of the American Revolution", copyright 1991.

Unfortunately, the politicians of the 18th Century often did not follow through on ruling only in the public interest. Remember the term Gerrymander. It was a convoluted redistricting plan devised by Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Perfect tomatoes, not so perfect pictures

My wife had these tomatoes still shrink-wrapped sitting on the kitchen counter.  The red and green just cried out to be photographed.

But that was no simple thing. No picture in the camera looked like what I saw on the table - faded, dark, bluish...  Even when I set my camera for fluorescent light, the colors were better, but still not quite right.

Into the digital darkroom.  When I set 100% saturation then I got 99% satisfaction.

Perfect tomatoes

The tomatoes?  A day or two later they started developing cracks.  Instead of nice slices, we had chunks.

Who's to blame for "failing schools"?

Several weeks ago, Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth News Tribune, emailed me that he was helping on the Duluth Budgeteer and that they needed some letters.  He wrote that it should be about something in the Budgeteer.

I looked at the Budgeteer again and didn't see anything that I could write about.  I thanked Robin and wrote that I didn't have anything in mind.  Of course, later I did.  Bill Gronseth, Superintendent of the Duluth Public Schools had written a column, and I came up with the letter below.

However, somebody else did write a letter that was published.  This week I emailed Robin that if my letter had not been published this weekend, I would post it here, which precludes it being published in the Budgeteer according to its rules about prior publication.

My submission was:

A Duluth school superintendent and board decide that a major investment should be made in school buildings.  The decision is contentious with much opposition to its scope and funding.  A private company makes a nice profit from the project.

Some of the money for the project has to come from the classroom costs.

The Minnesota Legislature decides that it can't pay all the local school aid that has been scheduled.  Now there is even less money for classroom costs.

Many of those who show up to vote on a school funding referendum turn down any increase.  The additional property taxes would have made up some of the costs.

Now the Duluth Public Schools have to figure out how to provide some instruction with the funds they do have for operation.  To do so, they are increasing class sizes, lengthening class periods, and cutting out music and art which have a proven record in helping boosting learning skills.

The net result will be that fewer students will do as well in school.

Who's to blame?  The teachers, of course!

Friday, May 04, 2012

The 1% may have the money but the 99% have the votes!

I thought of the above phrase last night after a "debate" between a Tea Party supporter and an Occupy Movement participant.  See "Respectful discussion covers Occupy, Tea Party movements", Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune, 2012-05-04.

After the main discussion, audience members were allowed two minutes each to speak.  I reminded people that all recent presidents and many other elected official received the votes of only a minority of eligible voters.

After I spoke, I pondered the common complaint that elections are bought.  Come on!  Are we a bunch of zombies who follow some evil master?  If we consider ourselves free agents, then we should go to the polls and vote for the candidates we prefer, write in somebody, or leave it blank.  If more of us voted, the expensive campaigns may become meaningless.  In fact, there have been cases where the candidate who spent the least won the election.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Abuse of power; abuse of freedom

Many complain about an overreaching government, but most of these complaints are really about regulation of overreaching corporations who take actions against "the common welfare".  But these critics are generally silent when an overreaching government acts against an innocent citizen.

See "Free After 25 Years: A Tale of Murder and Injustice", Wade Goodwyn, NPR Weekend Edition, 2012-04-28.  This is a case of a sheriff in Texas deciding that a husband was guilty of murdering his wife and ignoring or hiding all evidence that proved the contrary.  Luckily the husband was not executed.  But because the real killer was not sought out, the real killer murdered a second man's wife.

Many novelists, like John Lescroart, make a career of writing about false accusations and rushes to judgment on circumstantial evidence.  We can't draw conclusions from novels about frequency of false accusations in real life, but it does make one wonder.  The above case proves that false accusations exist.  The Innocence Project is winning many exonerations.  Since 1992 they have exonerated 200 people based on DNA and other evidence that was not presented at a trial.  The Innocence Project believes this is just the tip of the iceberg. \

Another abuse is the overreaction to many demonstrations, including pepper-spraying, clubbing, and dragging away.  This leads to another kind of abuse, abuse of freedom.

"Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble…".  Does peaceably assembling include filling a public space so that others cannot move through that space?  Does peaceably assembling include camping out?  Some respond that they need these demonstrations to have their voices heard.  I wonder if these people were in the less than 50 percent who showed up to vote in 2010 or were in the more than 50 percent who didn't show up to vote in 2010.

The First Amendment also includes freedom of speech.  Does freedom of speech include buying up large portions of the broadcast spectrum and broadcasting half-truths, innuendo, and lies?  Does freedom of speech include using a bullhorn at a demonstration turned up so loud that others cannot even be heard by the person next to them.  Or by the whole group shouting so loud that others cannot be heard?

In summary, power is given for authorities to govern, not rule; freedoms are given to put a check on authorities, not to govern by mob rule.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Republicans are not republicans

The current Republican party is in no way republican.  The word "republican" comes from the Latin "res publica" meaning public thing.  In the Eighteenth Century Anglo-American world, it meant considering the public good over private gain.  In the Twenty-First Century United States too many Republicans consider the private good of large corporations over the public good of a well-governed nation.

So many Republicans do the bidding of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and take big bags of campaign donations from the member companies to promote these companies' private gain, I wonder if the Republicans shouldn't be called ALEC's Bag-Time Band.

Fortunately, we do still have a republic with a democratic foundation.  Some of the people are getting fed up with a narrow-minded party that many movements have begun to get us back to some semblance of civility and interest in the public good.

There is the Coffee Party that calls for "civility and reason".  Although many of its stances might be considered on the left, it is more for people rather than corporations.

It has a "community" called Coffee Party Conservatives: The Conservative Side of the Coffee Party USA, but it is a aggregator of news that generally finds fault with the current Republican Party, though Obama and the Democratic Party do get a bit of criticism.

One of the interesting articles referenced is "A Phoenix Rising: Common-Good Conservatism" by Michael Stafford and D.R. Tucker, Truthout, 2012-04-27.  Stafford and Tucker are or were Republicans.

Even a member of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, Norman Ornstein, along with Thomas E. Mann has written a critique of the current Republicans: "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How The American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics Of Extremism"
by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.  You can listen to an interview of them on NPR and read a summary of the interview at "Extremism In Congress: 'Even Worse Than It Looks'?", 2012-04-30.