Monday, April 25, 2011

What I Hate About Libertarianism (If I Haven't Touched On This Already)

Yup.  That was my older brother commenting on my political blog a few entries back.

I need to mention this to you, bro: posting as Anonymous puts you down amongst the spammer heathens.  Put your name to your comments or not at all.

And so, in honor of my older brother finding my political blog, this one goes out to you.

What I Hate About Libertarianism.  (NOTE: This was edited the following day for some misspells and grammar, and for additional points to be made.  Carry on.).

Primarily: it's an -Ism.  With that, I'm on the side of Ferris Bueller:
Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off of people.

The point being, any -Ism is at face value a risky thing.  It's a creed or ideology that requires you to accept its tenets wholeheartedly as absolutes, and views any variation or deviation from those tenets as heresy.  And the problem with thinking in absolutes is that not everything fits those absolutes: there are always exceptions, anomalies, people or events that don't fit easily into the hypotheses, axioms and theories that make up an Ism.

There are a slew of Isms in the political ideology spectrum.  Liberalism and Conservatism, obviously.  Socialism and Communism and Capitalism covering the economic aspects.  Variations of religious theocracy.  Hell, there's a whole list of Isms in philosophy.

So why does libertarianism get special mention as an Ism I hate?

Because somehow in this nation, there's this whole fetish in the mainstream media of viewing libertarianism as a viable alternative to the existing dominant Isms of conservatism and liberalism.  Even though libertarianism hasn't really been fully tested and proven to work - and that the elements of libertarianism (applied by conservatives who simply love the anti-government tenets that underscore libertarianism... and ignore the rest) that have been tried haven't exactly impressed.

Other issues I have with libertarianism is that its obsession with personal liberty and reduction of government bureaucracy end up with the same equation of getting rid of government regulations and laws that were put in place to protect individuals and families in the first place.  David Frum, writing about why he figured out that maybe just maybe a welfare state had its reasons for existing, quoted G.K. Chesterton (some snippage for flow of reading):

G.K. Chesterton once wrote that we should never tear down a fence until we knew why it had been built. In the calamity after 2008, we rediscovered why the fences of the old social insurance state had been built... Speaking only personally, I cannot take seriously the idea that the worst thing that has happened in the past three years is that government got bigger. Or that money was borrowed. Or that the number of people on food stamps and unemployment insurance and Medicaid increased. The worst thing was that tens of millions of Americans – and not only Americans – were plunged into unemployment, foreclosure, poverty. If food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Medicaid mitigated those disasters, then two cheers for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid... Which does not mean that I have become suddenly indifferent to the growth of government. Not at all... Yet that same conservative sensibility is also properly distrustful of the fantasy that society can be remade according to a preconceived plan... 

Frum writes earlier in that essay about how he viewed his once-hardline stance on what he thought was his conservative-libertarianism: that there would be trade-offs between liberty and social safety, and that the people making the decisions would have some honor in what they did:

Some of the terms of that trade were honored. From 1983 through 2008, the US enjoyed a quarter-century of economic expansion, punctuated by only two relatively mild recessions. In the late 1980s, the country was hit by the savings & loan crisis, the worst financial crisis to that point since the 1930s – and although the S&L crisis did deliver a blow, the country rapidly recovered and came up smiling. New industries were born, new jobs created on an epic scale, incomes did improve, and the urban poor were drawn into the working economy... But of course, other terms of the trade were not honored... Especially after 2000, incomes did not much improve for middle-class Americans. The promise of macroeconomic stability proved a mirage: America and the world were hit in 2008 by the sharpest and widest financial crisis since the 1930s. Conservatives do not like to hear it, but the crisis originated in the malfunctioning of an under-regulated financial sector, not in government overspending or government over-generosity to less affluent homebuyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bad actors, yes, but they could not have capsized the world economy by themselves. It took Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and — maybe above all — Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s to do that.

Frum's article, and other articles he'd written over the past few years, highlight a person who's spent long hours thinking and writing his political beliefs into a coherent philosophy... only to find that the absolutes he counted on fell apart once the complexities and harshness of the real world intervened.

Earlier I wrote about how libertarianism's focus on gutting regulations and laws was a reason I'm not a fan of this Ism.  That's because as a student of history I can recall eras of human history where we didn't have many rules or regulations that protected workers and consumers and other individuals from harm. Has no one read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair?  Anyone ever read up the reasons why Teddy Roosevelt went after the trusts?  Can I just point out that this is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire?

Regulations exist for a reason: TO PROTECT PEOPLE.  To make sure that the innocent are not harmed or made sick or forced to work to death or driven into poverty because of other people's greed and mismanagement of our markets.  There's a reason these fences were built, and libertarians don't seem to notice or care.  Because their Ism insists that personal freedom supersedes the community's need for safety and common service.

Without government regulations we'd have airplanes crashing every other week instead of every other year.  Without government regulations we'd have salmonella in all the food, just not from a peanut corporation with a horrible health record.  Without OSHA we'd have more workplace accidents and deaths.

For all the hassles and complaints about the costs of regulations and the costs of fines and the costs of this and that, they pale in comparison to the costs of businesses destroying themselves by poisoning their customers or burning down their buildings and killing their workers.  People seem to forget that 100 years ago your can of meat had a 50/50 chance of killing you, either because the meat was toxic or the label wrapping the can was toxic.  Or that the can itself would probably explode.  We live in a safer world today... and people forget that it's due to those regulations put in place before we were born.  (EDIT: I'd like to add how the libertarian free-market crowd believes that Regulation can be replaced by "Enlightened Self-Interest".  I'd also like to highlight that Enlightened Self-Interest means nothing compared to Greed when most of our economic overlords had a choice between either).

I think my rant started at one point, and dove toward another, but both of them cover the same issue at hand: Why I Hate Libertarianism.  And I'd like to get back to my earlier argument about how the Ism aspect of libertarianism is that it's an ideology that deals in absolutes.  Because my final argument against libertarianism is how it insists that its vision of the world could create a better cleaner happier loving world.  In short, libertarians are what I call Utopians (Utopianists is apparently not a word).

I studied literary utopias in my freshman year at University of Florida back in 1988.  It was a bit of an eye-opener.  Not only covering More's Utopia (the Trope Namer as it were), the class also covered Butler's Erewhon, Bellamy's Looking Backward (a forgotten text today but a major bestseller in the 19th Century: it was so prevalent that its critics wrote "sequels" denouncing the original's themes), and one other that I can't recall (although Bacon's New Atlantis seems familiar).  And the one thing I took from the class was: Utopias don't work.

Each Utopia I read about highlighted the writer's already-established biases about human behavior and what could be changed or fixed to make humanity "improve".  But as the professor noted with all the "response" books that sprung up after each Utopian novel, each of those Utopian writers would either ignore a human trait - Greed, Arrogance, Ignorance, Ineptitude, Fear, Lust, Wrath, etc. - or underplay how damaging those traits could derail a society.  Usually on the hand-wave premise that "well, it will work because people will WANT it to work."  Even the "response" books to Looking Backward tried to create their own visions of utopia to counter Bellamy's vision... and those critics created flawed worlds as well.

And it wasn't just novels: the class also examined real-life attempts at creating Utopian communities here in the United States.  Places like New Harmony.  There was Oneida (yes, the silverware guys). You might have heard of Fruitlands: it's the one founded (and failed) under the leadership of Louisa May Alcott's father.  It's why Alcott wrote and published Little Women and its sequels, to regain the family's finances.  A lot of these Utopian communities failed because their founders believed they could overcome certain human traits... and couldn't.  The attempts at real-life Utopias either fell apart because of the fatal flaw their founders overlooked and wouldn't confront... or because they changed their rules - like the Mormons, for the most part - in order to continue existing.

And so every time I look at Libertarianism - and as much as I see in Communism and Socialism and Liberalism and Conservatism and a ton of other Isms - I see a Utopian ideology, one that's obsessed with its Absolute view of perfecting society that can't really ever be perfected, refusing to compromise on either the big issues or the little details... and expecting to receive adulation and acceptance all because of its' purity of vision.

Even Pragmatism has its flaws.  Yeah.  Dude.  I went there.  Deal with it.

I expect a retort from my brother whenever he finds the time.  And this time, bro, put your name to it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Thing Bothering Me About Job Hunting

Other than the fact that my librarian background simply doesn't fit in too well with about 78 percent of the job market...

What bothers me is that *I* have to go to the employers for their job openings.  Offering my resume, typing in application forms, begging for interviews.  The problem is, each employer has their own requirements/requests for resumes... and different means of typing in application forms.  It gets frustrating that I gotta waste an hour or two tweaking each resume submission, or typing in a brand new application form.

Why can't we reverse the process?  Have all job search engines work the other way?  Have the human resources department come looking for US, based on our one standardized resume, no applications to fill, just come to us and take a quick look and see if we pass the preliminary before calling us for an interview?

I mean, THEY know what they're looking for.  The HR people can spot and keyword search within reason, and narrow the searches down and get us on the phone pronto.  Why have 100,000 unqualified people overwhelm a Human Resources office with half-assed resumes for one job, when the HR people can search a resume database, whittle it down to 5-10 people they like, and go from there?

Better still, at job fairs, sit the unemployed people down at a table, have our resumes displayed in front of us, and have the HR people walk by us and window-shop, pointing out "How much for that librarian in the window?" before taking us home for work and feeding?

Sigh.  It's been two years plus doing this.  We need a change of employment methods.  This current method, it just ain't working for me and 17 million other people...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How Rick Scott Is Faring Among Other Floridians

I mean, you all have a pretty good idea where I stand considering the MEDICARE FRAUD...

But the media is picking up on other Floridians souring: especially Republicans!

"People are just disgusted with the way that Scott is only advocating for corporations and doing nothing for the people who live here and work hard," said Ricci. "And there are Republicans from all across the state who have decided to drop out of the party, because they can't stay in a party that is Rick Scott's party. From everything from the special deal for corporations to attacking unions, and there are corporations that pay no taxes -- all of this combined has just been too much for many of these lifelong Republicans to stomach."

The article opens with a Republican firefighter posting publicly on Facebook that he'd gone this past Wednesday to the local elections office to switch his party affiliation from Republican to Independent (welcome to the club).

This can actually get to be a big problem.  Parties use their voter registration polls to create their mailing lists, phone lists, donations lists, etc.  I can confirm as an Independent meself these last six years that I don't get the phone calls and mailbox stuffers that my parents (still registered Republicans) get every election cycle.  What this means is that smaller membership leaves fewer people the GOP can count on to 1) give donations (not so bad, considering the Republicans can rely on deep pocket CEOs), and 2) help with campaigns and Get The Vote Out efforts (which actually does hurt: as the crowds get smaller, even the conservative media talking heads are gonna notice).

Worse for the GOP, the people abandoning ship are NOT the so-called RINOs: the old-style Moderates that fled ages ago.  And here's the real problem.  The ones getting driven out now are guys and gals just like that Orlando firefighter: pro-gun, pro-life, and would otherwise be hating on Democrats like always.  But not now.  The ones fleeing the Republicans NOW used to be as solid a reliable vote for Republican throughout modern history. But because the current Republican leadership has gotten so batshit crazy, so anti-worker, so anti-Medicare and anti-Medicaid and anti-Social Security, and so pro-corporate tax cut... whatever is left of a sensible base for the party isn't going to be there now.

Voter registration for Republicans are already kind of low: Now the GOP is going to get stuck with just the uber-rich terrified of ZOMG SOCIALISM, and the ignorant dwindling masses obsessing over Obama's birth certificate.  I'm trying to find the latest statistics on voter registration nationwide: the last time I checked, there were already MORE registered Independents than Republicans (with Democrats still in the majority: this is why GET THE VOTE OUT EFFORTS ARE SO IMPORTANT, GUYS...).  So far I'm finding the 2004 numbers, which has 72 million Democrats, 55 million Republicans, and 42 million Independents.  The voter identification in 2009 had it by percentages, with 39 percent ID'ing as Democrats, 35 percent Independent, and 29 percent Republican...

What am I saying here?  My point is: the current game-plan of the Republican Party - killing unions at the state level, cutting social safety nets like Medicare and Medicaid at the federal level - is alienating far too many people too quickly.  Voter identification with Republicans will suffer, as more registered voters decide being in the party isn't worth the aggravation.  Fewer voters mean the only ones left are the obvious nut cases, reveling in the fact they have a fully-funded party (with a media network hard-wired to back them no matter what) of their own to run.

Primaries are clearly going to get worse because the Far Right can win those and then go on to lose the general elections: the relatively sane voters backing relatively sane candidates are disappearing, leaving wingnuts who will back wingnut candidates that will not appeal to the at-large voters (think Sharon Angle, or Christine O'Donnell).  And while some of those wingnut candidates won in 2010 (a down-cycle election), the chances of those wingnuts winning in a Presidential election cycle like 2012 - when voter turnout cycles upward - dimishes.  Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" Scott only won because 5,000 Democrats and/or Independent voters who would hate fraudsters didn't show up to vote.  In 2012, more voters = better odds of saner voter totals. 

Because of Rick Scott... because of the severity of Rick Scott's agenda, something even enough Republicans in the state legislature are starting to oppose... there's more and more Republican voters fleeing the party here in Florida.  And Florida is a battleground state: the numbers slightly favor the Democrats here even though - thanks to gerrymandering and the 2010 down-cycle election - they don't dominate the state government.  I don't see a slew of Democrats heading to the elections office to change party status because of Obama or Sen. Nelson or anything like that.  I'm only seeing Republicans leaving because of Rick Scott.

And Rick Scott is exactly who the wingnuts want.  While the rest of us don't.  Where will that leave the Republicans in 2012... or 2014, if Scott lasts that long...?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Personal Reaction to Obama's Speech

1) Obama did seem to go out of his way to shred Paul Ryan's tax-cut, social-service-cut budget proposal for 2012.  Which in my mind was the right thing to do.  Ryan's budget is not brave: it panders HARD to the Far Right's need to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, and it attempts to add even MORE tax breaks to corporations already swimming in massive profit margins (just how much a burden are the taxes on them anymore?).

2) Obama still played the game being played in the Beltway (and owned by the Far Right): the idea that cutting the deficit is paramount, and not the need to focus on job creation (which could add to the deficits in the short term, but should reduce said deficits in the long term).  So as a result, the possibility of more austerity measures (which ARE NOT WORKING in the European countries already playing this game) are there.

What the hell happened to discredit Keynesian economic policies at this time?  There's no way the Austrian or Chicago schools of thought should remain this dominant, and you'd think after the massive catastrophes of the 2000s that the libertarians would be even more discredited than Keynesians.

3) I was not at all surprised that the Republicans and their media enablers and brown-nosers dismissed Obama's speech, or accused him of making "personal attacks" (which in Ryan's case could be truth).  Outside of admitting he was born on Krypton and then resigning the Presidency to return to complete his Jedi training on Dagobah with Master Yoda, there is nothing Obama can do to convince the teabagger Far Right wingnuts (I know, redundancies) of anything.

4) The speech reads well, and Obama did a decent job presenting it.  Most important, Obama seems to be drawing a line in the sand here: that he will not accept any further extensions of the Bush tax cuts for the extremely wealthy (the top two percent, the ones earning millions of dollars), for example.  For the most part, this is Obama's opening salvo for his re-election campaign.  But it's also a promise he made on camera and one he's going to have to stick to for the far left base - and the Democratic Party in general - to hang their hat on.  It's kind of his Bush the Elder "Read My Lips" moment: if he fails to live up to the promise, if the Republican House gets him to back down again on what Obama promised this week, then Obama's support (which is decent but not overwhelming) fades.

And there's already two major battles just this year alone: the debt ceiling vote due in May/June and the Paul Ryan budget showdown.  The budget issue is the easier of the two: The Democratic-led Senate is in decent position to insist on stopping the more harsh elements of the Ryan plan from passing the whole Congress.  But the debt ceiling vote is different altogether: it can fail in the House if enough Republicans (and even some psycho Democrats) vote against raising the ceiling, and the whole system collapses.  There's more at stake with the debt ceiling, more possibility that the House GOP will hold it hostage to negotiate for everything they want (including pony rides at the circus!).  And even though Obama is calling on Democrats to insist on a "Clean" bill for the debt ceiling (meaning no deals with Republicans who will try to add their pet projects to it), this is too scary a situation to be playing chicken with the global economy.

The trick is making damn sure the Republicans swerve first.  It's doable, especially since the latest vote on the overdue 2011 budget still couldn't pass with enough Republican votes (meaning Boehner is facing a sizable faction revolt... the same faction that's eager to vote against that debt ceiling...)

Obama's given his speech.  He's made a good number of promises.  But now he's got to live up to them...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things I Want To Hear From Obama During This Afternoon's Speech

I originally posted this at Ta-Nehisi's house.  Hope he doesn't mind.

"If we want to be serious about reducing the deficits and reducing our debt, we NEED to look at how our government gets its revenues."

"We need to raise the taxes on those who can afford it: the millionaires and billionaires who still profited during these last three years of hardship while the middle class struggled to stay out of poverty. Not to raise such taxes as a putative measure, but to ensure that every American is paying their fair share into fixing our financial problems."

"We need to begin closing tax loopholes for corporations. Especially any tax loophole that benefits too few companies at the expense of the nation. And especially any loophole that does not hamper or prevent corporations from generating honest profit."

"Also, you all should really buy a copy of Paul Wartenberg's ebook. He needs the moneys. And some of the stories in that collection are pretty funny. Word."

"Also, I strongly suggest that every American hugs a puppy or kitten today. If you're allergic, perhaps a Pokemon action figure."

"One last thing. I wasn't born in Hawaii. I was born on the planet Krypton, sent here by my true father Marlon Brando to... wait, I already did this joke, didn't I?"

To dream the impossible dream...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As The Post Count Reaches 300, Planning Ahead

For starters, what to do with the 300th Post...?

Oooh, I know.  MORE AMENDMENT IDEAS.  :-)

That's one of the reasons I started this blog.

In the meanwhile, we get this.

It's been nearly two weeks since Gov. Rick Scott exploited his vague emergency power to force unconscionable cuts of up to 40 percent in reimbursement rates for those who serve the state's developmentally disabled. The governor claimed Tuesday he had no choice because the Agency for Persons with Disabilities was running a $174 million deficit. But Scott chose to appease his tea party base rather than work with lawmakers to stave off potentially life-altering and debilitating changes in services for up to 33,000 of Florida's most vulnerable citizens. Now Republican legislative leaders should follow through on promises to find a way to cover the deficit and not cut off thousands of Floridians who have nowhere else to turn for help.

I still blame 2.5 million Floridian voters who put Rick "CUT YOU UP" Scott in charge of the state.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Emily L. Hauser Was Impressed

She had posted an article awhile back about the "disappointed Democratic base" (snippage to provide context: also, go read her blog AND BOOKMARK IT):

The simple truth is that President Obama has advanced more progressive causes than any President since FDR (not least: health care reform). He ran for the job knowing it would be challenging, and then the job got exponentially harder before he even took office. He is genuinely loathed and feared by millions of Americans — whose fears and loathing are daily ginned up and fortified by people who make their living off of making the President’s job as difficult as humanly possible — and the opposition party has not, as far as I can tell, enjoyed a single day of responsible legislative behavior since he stepped into the Oval Office.
In short: Obama is attempting to do an extraordinarily difficult job under even more extraordinarily difficult circumstances...
...And after eight years of the Bush Administration’s scorched earth policies and contempt for both reason and the American people, I remain grateful that we have a President who acts like an adult, and treats the American people as adults. He’s not perfect — but Obama is pretty good...

Well, I had added a response to her comments, throwing out my opinion as a frustrated ex-Republican-turned-Independent voter about how the Democrats need to recognize that while Obama hasn't been perfect (on the issue of torture, he's been dreadful), he's still 50 times better than the Republican alternatives, and that the Democrats should focus less on sniping their own party leaders and focus more on Getting Out The Vote to win elections...

Well, Emily liked my comment.  She went and posted it as a blog entry on her main page.  And... there's been responses to it too... even on Twitter.  Ouch.

So, if there's anyone coming here to this blog to see what Emily sees in me... well, welcome to the Wartenberg madhouse.  Say hi to Tehya the Pretty Kitty and Page the Silly Kitty.  Cookies are over there, cokes in the fridge, I'll be over in the corner fuming about Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" for another two-three months before the arrest warrants on Scott are due...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Budget Brinkmanship

While the GOOD news of the government NOT getting shutdown this past Friday evening is that, well, the entire country is not collapsing, it's overshadowing the facts that there are still a lot of BAD news this nation has to deal with.  And it's not even about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are gonna get hurt by the fact there's $80 billion of social services and aid no longer out there...

For starters, this game of brinkmanship with the nation's economy is not over.  We still have two other key budget issues ahead: the annual (or possibly bi-monthly) need for Congress to vote itself the power to raise the debt ceiling; and the looming fight over Paul Ryan's psychotic budget proposal for 2012 AKA Death To The Social Safety Net And Everlasting Life To Perpetual National Debt.

The immediate crisis is over the debt ceiling.  It's ostensibly supposed to mark the amount that the government can't borrow money.  In practice it keeps getting raised because the government needs the flexibility of borrowing money in order to pay the bills.  A good reason for that is because the government is less eager to find other revenue sources (SUCH AS TAXES) to be able to, you know, PAY FOR SH-T.

The first part of the problem is that the debt ceiling keeps going up.  Government can't trust itself to rein in its own spending - even the massive slash of $80 billion from the spending budget won't dent it - and so they keep finding themselves pushing the cap higher.  This becomes an even bigger problem because the Small Government Libertarians and (and their Teabagger poseurs who ride on the reputation of "fiscal responsibility") view it as Big Government excess.  And they want to vote against raising the debt ceiling again... which has to be done before July of this year.

And here's the biggest problem of all: if the libertarian/Teabagger contingent in Congress has their way - and it's possible - and they vote to stop raising the debt ceiling by July... that next sound you hear will be THE ENTIRE GLOBAL ECONOMY CRASHING TO A HALT.

This is serious.  If the debt ceiling is capped, it forces the creditors that have been lending the U.S. any money to start calling in their loans... their ENTIRE loans, not just monthly payments or something.  This means multinational banks, foreign governments, and others I haven't thought of for this list can declare the U.S. in default.  If that happens, things like Treasury bonds would lose value I think...  The next thing that could happen is that the U.S., in order to raise funds to pay those bills, would call in OUR loans to other nations borrowing from us, and cause the same financial crisis in their governments.  It would be a cascade effect: every nation scrambling to get their financial houses in order... and a lot of them CAN'T because they've been massively borrowing money as well.  And this isn't even going into how this would affect the private sectors: commodities markets will freak out; trade could get affected by sudden tariff increases or with governments unable to purchase goods; and global stock markets would crash as the faith in governments to maintain fiscal stability disappears, as things like government bonds lose value, etc.  (NOTE: I am not an economist, I am not entirely sure what WILL happen if this occurs.  All I do know is, based on how the economists dread this, it's Explode-The-Planet-BAD).

Now, this is the worst-case-scenario.  The good news about this is, even the Republicans are not this batshit crazy to pull that stunt... mostly.  The party leadership surely isn't: Boehner openly opposes the cap effort; Republican Senators clearly oppose it, and the Far Right media have mostly spoken against any move to cap the debt ceiling.

The bad news to that is, there may be enough Republican House representatives who ARE batshit crazy enough to go against their own party leadership on this one.  Because they are true Teabaggers who are clearly upset with the whole idea of Big Government and who think this is a way to bring it all down.  Or worse...

We're now in an era of Budget Brinkmanship: the idea that one side (say, Republicans) has to force things to the edge of a cliff of impending doom in order to get what they want.  It works especially well when the opposing party (The Democrats) genuinely believe in compromise in order to get things done, and who also fear being on the wrong side of anything (say, being on the side for tax increases, because Democrats really believe Mondale got creamed in the 1984 elections because of the tax issue... instead of Mondale being a weak campaigner going against a populist President...).  You saw it here with the shutdown crisis: rather than risk the calamity of an economic disaster of a gov't shutdown, Obama and Reid were willing to give up tons of spending for social services while the Republicans "promised" not to go after particular hot-topic services like Planned Parenthood.

What could well happen with the debt ceiling debate that's impending is that the Far Right in the House will push for an extremist position in exchange for their vote on letting the debt ceiling go up.  The extremist stuff could be another attempt to push a pro-life agenda on a nation that's not even interested in the abortion debate anymore.  Or it could be something else that would be disastrous for a majority of Americans, something the Democrats could abide parting with if it meant saving the global economy.  The Democrats, after a show in public of being outraged, would well concede the matter in the belief that 1) it will save the world and 2) the voters will forgive the Dems on the matter and blame the Republicans for their bullshit agenda come the next election cycle.  And the Far Right could well win another serious conflict, much to the chagrin of the American public.

But there's only so many times you can push someone to the brink.  At some point, the Democrats are going to have to wake up to the fact that there's little left they can surrender to the Republicans.  The debt ceiling debate could be one bridge too far: Obama, Reid, and the other Democratic leaders may figure to themselves "Screw it.  The Republicans are threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless we give them EVERYTHING they want?  They wouldn't do it.  They wouldn't DARE push the shiny red button of global destruction like that.  If the vote came up, there's every chance they'll waver.  So let's not give them anything THIS TIME.  Let's see if the Republicans REALLY ARE crazy enough to kill the economy..."

On something as deadly serious as the debt ceiling (even considering how singularly small the vote looks on paper), the Democrats could grow a spine.  They could say, "Let's vote," and then have the Dems all vote quickly FOR the debt ceiling to go up, and let the Republicans stew as they start realizing that if enough of them vote AGAINST the debt ceiling going up it will be all on the Republicans' heads...

It's a tricky game, isn't it, of "Let's Blow Up The World."  At some point, the only winning move is not to play...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Five Things To Remember About the Impending Federal Shutdown

1) That no matter what Fox-Not-News and the Republican leadership claim, this shutdown is all the fault of Republicans.

Which of the two parties has a wingnut base insisting on a shutdown, just to prove their hatred of "Big Government?"  That would be the Republicans.  The last two times we had a shutdown, it was because of a Republican Congress at odds with a Democratic President (Bill Clinton) that they just happened to despise on a personal level.  Every other time - a Republican President with Republican Congress, and a Republican President with a Democratic Congress, and a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress - we've never had a shutdown.  It's only in this combination - Democratic President vs. Republican-controlled Congress (even with half of Congress with the House counts) - that we've had this conflict.

2) This impending shutdown was avoidable IF the Republicans were more willing to compromise, instead of their insisting on all the compromises be done by the Democrats.

The Democrats offered compromises each time this impending shutdown loomed over the last few months, and indeed have been offering compromises to the Republicans ever since the Obama era began.  Yet each time, the Republicans refused to budge on any key points that they are so eager to protect: for example, any rollback, even a modest one, on the hard Bush-era tax cuts of 2001-03.  One of the biggest causes of the current deficit crisis we've got is that Bush-era Tax Cut.  And yet every argument about how to fix the deficit doesn't even go anywhere near discussing a tax hike to, you know, ACTUALLY PAY FOR SH-T that needs to get paid now.

Even now, the Republicans are offering an extension for another week while they "debate" the issue further.  But that extension includes more budget cuts that Obama and the Democrats are not entirely willing to discuss yet.  Especially as those cuts hit social services like Planned Parenthood that would get a majority of Democratic voters in an uproar.  And the extension will certainly not resolve the main sticking point: that the Republicans really want ALL of their budget cuts and even MORE tax cuts, and that the Republicans are trying to demolish the Democrats cut by cut, extension by extension.  At some point, even the Democrats can't compromise anymore...

3) The shutdown will make a huge hit on the economy. 

Lack of spending money for public workers and for people receiving benefits will affect the private sector, especially places like retail, services and repair, etc.  And again, this is what Republicans want.  Because the Republicans are convinced they can enrage the public against DEMOCRATS who refused to roll over and beg for mercy to accept the Republicans' killing off half the social services that government provides.

4) Republicans are convinced this fight is Win-Win.

Either they get a government shutdown that cripples the economy and destroys peoples' lives... or they get their massive budget cuts to social services, Medicare and Medicaid, schools and education, which cripples the economy and destroys peoples' lives anyway. 

In the possibility that Obama and the Democrats grow a spine, and they decide to hold out on the shutdown to force the Republicans to concede, the Far Right that's pushing for this fight is convinced that will serve their purposes.  Because the Republicans are convinced at this moment that they will never concede anything, and that by 2012 if the shutdown lasts that long they can rile up enough anger against Obama (and not on themselves) to win the White House.  And then they get everything they want.  Like I said, in their minds it's Win-Win.

5) If there's a method of forcing the Republicans to the negotiating tables for good-faith efforts to compromise on a budget bill, I've yet to see it.

Lawsuits could be a means of pushing the matter to a solution... but can the Courts intervene in this matter?  What legal action can be taken to compel Congress to do what needs to be done?  And who would have standing to force the issue?

As it stands right now, we're screwed.  I don't see the Republicans giving an inch to resolve this matter, and they seem eager to fulfill their wingnut agenda of killing of New Deal-era social services once and for all.

The best thing I can hope for now is that enough Americans are aware enough that this is truly all the fault of the Republicans and that the vast majority of this nation rises up to protest what the GOP wingnuts are doing to us.

Monday, April 04, 2011

How To Identify Hate Speech

It looks a lot like this:

Yet Terry Jones, the pastor who organized a mock trial that ended with the burning of a Koran and led to violence in Afghanistan, remained unrepentant on Saturday. He said that he was “saddened” and “moved” by the deaths (note: as of 20 dead so far), but that given the chance he would do it all over again.

What Jones did was Hate Speech:

Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic. In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.

When Jones burned the Koran, he knew full well the Muslim community across the planet would be outraged.  He knew that violence would follow.  He may not have known who would get killed in the process, but he had to know there would be at least one death at the hands of an outraged mob.

Jones incited others to acts of violence.  And he revels in it now, glorying in the attention we're giving to his sad sorry ass.

What is sad is that there are so many in the media/journalism world - Sullivan, Benen, some of the others I read online - that are rushing to Jones' defense, claiming what he did was "wicked" but that "hey, it's protected by the First Amendment."

I call bullshit.

What Jones did: This is not protected speech under the First Amendment.  He intended for an act of violence to follow what he said and did.  This is in my mind no different that a Klu Klux Klansman burning a cross on a black family's yard.  This is no different than an anti-Semite smearing accusations of blood libel on the wall of a synagogue (using pig's blood, no less).  This is no different than some racist bastard saying and doing something that gets a riot going in a street.

And getting a riot going is EXACTLY what Jones did.

Jones may not have pulled a trigger of a gun or swung a machete or committed a direct act of murder on the streets of Afghanistan this weekend.  That blame falls directly on the hands of the murderers themselves and the mullahs who incited the mobs to march on the UN office in Mazar-I-Sharif.  But Jones gave them the outrage: Jones gave them the motivation.

Jones' action makes it harder for the United States to handle itself on the world stage, especially now as the U.S. is trying to steady the entire Middle East during the uprisings between Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Good Lord, Afghanistan.  From the 1800s onward, that place has never known a day of peace, has it?  And Jones, reaching out from his pathetic little church building in the woods of Florida, is making it worse:

In speaking with Afghans about the incident, it’s surprised me how many people support the spirit of the protests. No one I’ve talked to supports the killings of the UN workers. But even well-educated, informed Afghans tell me that it’s good that people are speaking out against the desecration of the Quran.
Much of the support stems from the inability of many people here to contextualize the March 20 Quran burning. A translator who works for a fellow journalist here in Kabul did not know that Florida pastor Terry Jones was the same person who threatened to burn the Quran last September.
This led to the perception that many Americans share his beliefs, even if he heads a small church of about 30 people who have so little support that they’ve had to sell their furniture on eBay to stay afloat. Mr. Jones is now trying to sell the church property.
In a place like Afghanistan, where the vast majority of the populace is illiterate and many lack regular access to reliable news outlets, perception and rumors often become more important than facts. Now that the story of the Quran burning has spread, it almost does not matter how strongly US officials – from President Barack Obama to Gen. David Petraeus – condemn Jones’s actions. The damage has been done.
After almost 10 years of foreign troops and international aid groups, the Taliban is still a serious threat and it’s difficult to see what tens of billions of dollars of foreign aid money has bought for the country. Patience is wearing thin among many Afghans, and incidents like the Quran burning provide a vehicle for their growing anger...

Jones and his ilk "accused" the Koran of inciting crimes such as murder and rape during that mock trial of his leading up to the book burning.  By his own legal argument, he's as guilty as that Koran he burned.

Jones is trying, through his acts of outrage, to condemn an entire religious belief, to condemn millions of Muslims who really aren't all violent rabble.  If they DO get violent, Muslims are no different than Christians and Jews who go rioting in the streets when THEY get offended as well.

If any condemnation of violence and murder should be applied, it should be based on their ACTIONS, not their belief.  Jones could have believed in what he thought about Islam and the Koran, and it would have remained an offensive but protected belief under the guideline of the First Amendment.  BUT HE ACTED ON THAT BELIEF, and in that action committed an atrocity that drove others to respond with murder.  That makes it Hate Speech: His actions a Hate Crime.  He's as guilty as the bastards who killed in Mazar.

Jones should go to trial for that Hate Crime.  A REAL TRIAL.  And found guilty in a court of law governed by Men, as Jones should be found.

The trial awaiting Jones for his sins in Heaven with the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Ishmael, is already a foregone conclusion: the deepest pit of Hell is not enough for Jones...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Caveat Emptor: Florida Has Crooks

One of the biggest reasons I snarl in the general direction of any self-anointed Libertarian is that Libertarians have this huge desire to deregulate everything in their path.

It's all part of their disdain for bureaucracy, you see.  Especially government bureaucracy.  Regulation of a business or service means rules.  Rules to remember, rules to follow, agencies to oversight you, agencies you answer to.  Taxes to pay for agencies and oversight.  Fines to pay when the oversight finds something fishy.

Libertarians hate that.  All of that.  So their big idea of Small Government is that you CAN deregulate.  Leave the controls and the decision-making to the masters of industry and the makers of things.  They believe that "enlightened-self-interest" will drive the deregulated businesses to behave, lest the free market turn their business to other more honest providers of services and supplies.  The "Invisible Hand" of the Free Market will be all the regulation we will need.

There's a huge gaping problem with that.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST.  If people think no one is watching and they think can get away with it, they (at least a solid majority of "They") will doing something we could consider criminal.  And the longer they act like that, the more brazen in their behavior they will get.  The phrase "everybody does it" will become common and more of those working in that environment will fall sway to that idea.  A perfect example is Bernie Madoff: he did what he did for so long and with so many other supposedly enlightened people because most of his victims believed Madoff was openly gaming the system... and they wanted in on his trickery as a means of making easy money.

There is a reason regulations exist in the first place: TO PROTECT PEOPLE.  Ever read The Jungle?  Anyone clue you in that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire?  What do you think happened in 1929 to 1933 that forced Congress to pass the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933?  And did anyone notice what happened when Glass-Steagall got shredded in 1999, considering the economic catastrophes that followed?

And yet, the Far Right has taken this Libertarian zeal for deregulation for all they can (because such deregulation helps make big businesses get even bigger and wealthier).  Especially here in Republican-controlled Florida (article link to Howard Troxler):
In 1995, the operator of a Pasco County dance studio was sentenced to prison after scamming more than $1 million from lonely, confused elderly customers.  When he got out... he simply went to a new dance studio...

Investigators found 30 customers who had been talked into signing 328 separate, deliberately confusing contracts worth $3.5 million... A studio operator defended all this by saying customers had voluntarily made "an adult decision."  As for any complaints, he said: "Maybe some of the students went on these trips and didn't get laid."  He got 30 years in prison.

Why am I dredging up this ancient history?  Because dance studios are one of 20 professions about to be deregulated entirely by the state Legislature.  Maybe they should be.  Maybe there will always be crooks, and victims to give them their money.  But the effects of House Bill 5005 will be felt by a lot of Floridians in daily life. Among other things, the bill repeals regulation of:
Auto mechanics.
In-state moving companies.
Charities, real or fake.
And a lot more...

...State law now makes it illegal for a charity to use "deception, false pretense, misrepresentation or false promise" to get a contribution. That will be repealed...

...This is, after all, about "creating jobs." If some of those new "jobs" in Florida involving bilking widows, running shady auto-repair shops or hijacking people's furniture — who cares?

Deregulation facing this state on an epic scale.

There is an aspect of human nature called GREED.  Every economic model - Mercantilism, Feudalism, Socialism, Communism and even Capitalism - has that problem of GREED.  The trick has been to clamp down on GREED as best as possible.

Florida is home to a truckload of elderly people.  Retirees, most of them flush (and not so flush) with retirement money and pensions.  One of our biggest problems in this state are the numbers of unlicensed businesses that try to scam or trick their way into getting people to pay for services they don't deliver or provide on the cheap and half-assed.

This effort of deregulation is going to make it a lot easier for these con artists to ply their "trade".  To trick residents into coughing up money for services never provided.  To trick them into signing up for things they don't need.  Even honest businesses may find it more tempting to squeeze more money out of services than usual.  Dishonest businesses are going to find it easier, and get worse.

This problem of GREED and its progeny SHODDINESS and RUIN, it's been going on for years, and it's been taking a lot of time and effort by the agencies we did have for consumer protection to keep up with the con artists and shady businesses.  But coming soon, without those regulations in place, those protection agencies might as well raise the white flag and go home.  The agencies won't have rules to enforce.  And the people won't have anyone protecting them or their homes.

Until the next hurricane blows in and all the homes get blown or washed out to sea.

Welcome to Florida.  Home of the Con Artist.  Keep both hands on your wallet and keys at all times.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Because It's April Fools Day, You Get This

Because it takes 2 years to really run a Presidential campaign, now is about the time you start seeing the candidates for the President of the United States lining up for the next election.  For 2012, it means the Republicans have a serious primary to find some poor sucker to run against Barack Obama (being the current incumbent, will only face meager Democratic opposition from grandstanding idiots who think they can either embarrass Obama or God Help Us actually unseat him).

The list is in alphabetic order, and lists their highest or best-known political position (or job title).  It is incomplete as there are some who might put their hat in the ring that haven't done so, and there are some who have been named by others (in a "Draftee" way like Chris Christie) but have publicly refused (so far).  This is the list that I know wants to run or could consider a run.

Please do not laugh, cry, or scream in terror until the ride is over.

Michelle Bachmann - Congresswoman, Minnesota
Positives: Has a long career in the House as an incumbent.  She speaks to the base of the party and energizes them like few other candidates can.  Is openly combative and telegenic.  Has an advantage over her immediate rival Sarah Palin as the woman candidate - Bachmann never quit halfway through her job the way Palin did.
Negatives: She's batshit crazy.  Even if she believes a tenth of the crap she spews out into the media.
Bachmann represents the Teabagger wing of the GOP as the standard bearer and go-to person for Fox-Not-News when they want a wingnut rebuttal to something that Obama (or worse, that Speaker Boehner) has done.  And while Bachmann energizes the base of the GOP, she'll scare off every moderate and sane (there are a few left) Republican over to the Democratic ticket.
Chances: To win the primaries?  In a prolonged campaign against other, more reasonable-sounding candidates, Bachmann could flake out early and scare off those who would otherwise worship at her crazy ass.  But if she wins big in the early wingnut states (which is possible), she becomes the candidate.  But the party backers have to know if she wins, the Republicans lose (because the independent and moderate voters would flee to the more reasonable Obama) and could well drag the whole ticket down.

John Bolton - ex-Ambassador to the U.N., Maryland
Positives: Seriously.  None.
Negatives: Is one of the better-known figures from the Bush The Lesser administration... known for his neoconservative extremism, back-stabbing interoffice politicking, and ability to offend everyone who's not a Fox-Not-News Talking Head.
Chances: Laughable.  If he thinks he can run on a War On Terror ticket, he's not going to get very far.

Jeb Bush - ex-Governor, Florida
Positives: Has his backers within the national party.  Is a major player at both the state and national level.  Comes from a large state that could swing to Obama in 2012 unless there's a draw on the ticket.  He's an experienced campaigner and fund-raiser.  He's considered the "smart one" within his circle of power.  He's an instantly recognizable figure with a well-known name.  He hasn't put that name out there, but still there's a lot of well-known conservative advocates trying to draft him to run in 2012.
Negatives: That well-known name?  HE'S A BUSH.  He's Dubya's younger brother.  And the last thing the Republicans want is a reminder of how the last Bush in the White House - massive deficits, unfunded payouts to pharm companies, two mismanaged wars, weak job creation, two economic scandals, massive government ineptitude handling major hurricane Katrina, and more - performed.  The other factor is that while Bush has his supporters in Florida, that support could well be dead and gone by 2012 thanks to a state government run by a Medicare Fraud and by a Republican-led state legislature shredding every ethics reform on the books.  The agenda they're pushing is the one Jeb tried to push as governor 5 years earlier.  The anti-teacher bills just signed into law, for example, have his fingerprints all over them.  It's doubtful by 2012 Jeb could win his own state...
Chances: Jeb is supposed to be the smart one, right?  If so, he has to look at the landscape and see that this nation will not stand to see another Bush within our lifetime serving in the White House.  The first attack ad from the Democrats will be morphing a photo of Jeb into a photo of Dubya.  That's all.  And his campaign is over at that point.

Haley Barbour - Governor, Mississippi
Positives: Is a well-known player within the Republican Party and among their financial backers.  Has a solid track record of conservativism.
Negatives: Let's not even consider the possibility of the Republicans putting up a white Southern conservative from a Deep South rebel-flag-waving state against an African-American President (well, maybe just that point alone...).  Barbour presides over a state (Mississippi) that's practically dead last in a lot of categories - education, health care, job growth, income equality - and so would have to defend a record where he really didn't improve much of anything.  There's also a poor record of handling the post-Katrina crisis in his state: a national campaign would flare that all back to the forefront.  And this isn't even touching on Barbour's biggest sin: He worked as a lobbyist.
Chances: Compared to other Southern elected officials like Huckabee, Barbour's got no shot past the primaries and people know it.  If he does get the nomination through his campaigning efforts, his record compared to Obama's will hurt.

Herman Cain - CEO, Georgia
Positives: Is a player within the Republican Party, especially against the hated Health Care Reform programs.
Negatives: Has no history of elected office.  He's best known running a second-tier pizza chain.  The current history of CEOs running for office or running government (Dubya, Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" Scott) is terrifying.  And while he's got the extremist political views to entice primary voters, in an open general election he's doomed.
Chances: There is honestly not a lot he brings to a national ticket.  He should have considered running at least for Congress to get a political resume going...

Mitch Daniels - Governor, Indiana
Positives: Known among the media elites as "sane" in an increasingly whackjob party.  As Governor, pushed for a balanced budget platform that did include some tax increases much to the chagrin of the more tax-cut obsessed crowd.  Has some modicum of popularity outside of the GOP.  During the current state-level war of GOP Governors against the labor unions, Daniels proposed dropping Indiana's union-killing efforts because "it wasn't what we campaigned on" (I.E., "it's gonna kill us in the polls"), meaning that this guy actually has his eyes open while he's driving (unlike the other Governors who are speeding into a brick wall of recall movements).  Daniels does not have his name out there (yet), but there's a Draft movement among the media elites fearful of a Bachmann, Palin, or Other Whackjob Candidate campaign.
Negatives: Worked as the budget guy under the Dubya administration, the stain of which will never wash away.  He still prefers cutting state budgets over raising tax revenues, meaning the poor and middle class families aren't going to be too fond of him come 2012.
Chances: He hasn't put his name out there.  A good reason is that Daniels, being genuinely sane, knows that the current GOP environment will either kill him in the primaries or else would force him to adopt stances that on a national level would kill him against Obama in 2012.  Word is he's smart enough to wait until 2016...

Newt Gingrich - ex-Speaker/Congressman, Georgia
Positives: National figure.  Long viewed by the Republican base as one of their big thinkers and policy creators.  Can get onto any talking head show for Sundays and get listened to seriously without any criticism.
Negatives: IS A GODDAMN HYPOCRITE.  This is a guy twice-divorced who goes up on a platform to preach "Family Values".  And the way he divorced - abandoning his first wife in a hospital bed!  having an adulterous affair WHILE PURSUING Bill Clinton for his adultery! - each time paints Newt as a disgusting human being.  His ambition is so blatant as to be crass: his recent flip-flops on Obama's handling of Libya has already made him a subject of ridicule among the media elites he hangs out with.  He's not that well-liked within his own party.  And people may remember that he lost his Speakership when his own party turned on him.
Chances: He could get some distance in a primary because he's got a national-level name.  But the mudslinging against him will be fierce.  If Newt even survives the primaries, Obama's clean-cut persona compared to Newt's will make it Obama's election to win (hell, Obama can recruit Bill Clinton to help campaign for him, and Bill will crush Newt before lunchtime).

Mike Huckabee - ex-Governor, Arkansas
Positives: was the Dark Horse candidate from 2008 whose campaigning will still have its followers.  Has a decent governing record (with a few glaring negatives...).  Has a charisma few other candidates have in this primary.  Can appeal to the social conservatism of the wingnut base without scaring off moderate and independent voters (that much).  Unlike Barbour, Huckabee is a Southern governor who could campaign against an African-American President and not make it look like a Civil Rights struggle from the Sixties all over again.  Plays well with the media elites he needs to kiss up to if he gets the nomination.  Of the candidates currently polling, Huckabee is consistently the only one to ever show that he could beat Obama.
Negatives: During his governorship, he played loose with the paroling process by freeing certain individuals who went on to commit further crimes of rape and murder (the criminals plead Christian conversion or that they were victims of Clinton conspiracies).  If Dukakis was ruined by Willie Horton, Huckabee is doomed if Maurice Clemmons becomes more of a household name.  Huckabee's other problem with his governorship is that he preached fiscal balance with tax hikes alongside spending cuts: something the Club For Greed and Grover Norquist have never forgiven him for.  Huckabee's current job - as Talking Head on Fox-Not-News - is a big negative for those who hate Fox with a passion (and that number is growing).
Chances: Once Huckabee puts his name out there (he's still working for Fox, which is a conflict of interest right now), he's a front-runner.  His past history of getting primary wins in the South and other conservative states will draw back his supporters and include new ones (most likely the ones in 2008 who backed McCain) and make him a reliable pick for the party leadership.

Gary Johnson - ex-Governor, New Mexico
Positives: He's one of those little-known elected officials who got things done and has a great resume.  Was a low-tax libertarian who walked the walk, slashing thousands of spending projects even from Republican legislators, and left office with a state surplus and a honest rep.
Negatives: He's one of those little-known elected officials who got things done and thus no one thinks he has a snowball's chance in hell.  Because getting those things done meant compromise or working against your party's self-serving interests.  There's always a guy like this in each primary.  It's sad but true.  Is also a major marijuana decriminalization advocate, something the anti-drug crowds in the conservative base doesn't agree with.  His libertarian positions may work at the state level, but his budget-slashing habits at the federal level might not work (esp. because the President does not have line-item veto powers to cut specific spending projects, and esp. because the U.S. Congress is NEVER serious even under Republican rule to rein in spending).  If Johnson is serious about budget deficits, he's going to have to address defense spending (our biggest source of spending... AND waste)... and THAT would put him in opposition to the pro-war crowd.  Johnson is also coming from a sparsely populated state with little political influence on the national stage.
Chances: Very low.  The Republican base - the Teabaggers - may talk about wanting to cut spending to cut deficits, but they are actually terrified of someone who could actually DO it.  Just remember, the Teabagger crowd over the last two years has been genuinely inconsistent about financial issues (they're more consistent on the Social issues like abortion, abortion, and abortion).  Someone who could actually do something about the budget is the LAST guy they really want...     

Roy Moore - ex-Judge, Alabama

Positives: Absolutely none.
Negatives: Was infamously impeached from the Alabama Supreme Court for his obsession over putting a 50-ton Ten Commandments paperweight in front of every government building ON THE PLANET.  Even when he ran for elected office in the state (Governor), he lost by ridiculous numbers.  He can't even win his own state!  Moore's political position is for a religious conservatism that can even rankle his fellow social conservatives within the GOP.  And the party has to know that a guy like that on the national stage is going to scare every moderate and indy voter to the Democrats in a heartbeat.
Chances: Absolutely none at all.  He's doing this for the ego, not the Commandments.

Sarah Palin - ex-Mayor, Alaska (I refuse to list her as ex-Governor because she DIDN'T FINISH THE JOB)
Positives: Is one of the biggest names on the national stage.  Has a devoted fanbase that will back her no matter what.
Negatives: Is one of the most polarizing political figures in American history.  Her unfavorable numbers keep going UP while her popularity goes down.  She is currently in no position to impress anybody: either you love her or you HATE her.  And in this political environment, you can only lose those who love you: no one who HATES you tends to change their minds...  And nearly everyone has an opinion on her now.  There are few Undecideds left.
Her track record as an elected official is poor at best.  Any reputation she had as a "reformer" went away once people took a good look and found she only ran against the Establishment because that Establishment didn't give her the jobs she wanted.  And because she QUIT her governorship before she was even halfway finished with the term, her most complete accomplishment is pretty much her term as Mayor of a small town in Alaska: it's like asking the nation to make the Mayor of Yeehaw Junction the next Leader of the Free World.  :shudder:
Palin does not impress as an intellectual at any level.  Each interview she gave as a Veep candidate - even with easy-toss questioners - made her look unprepared and ignorant.  She now revels in being pridefully ignorant, as though that's a way of sticking it to the Establishment she so desperately wants to lead.  And while American voters may recognize political leaders that aren't brainiacs, they at least know their President has to be eloquent and convincing on the global stage: that takes some level of smarts, and Palin doesn't demonstrate that.  Ever.
The polling numbers show Obama trouncing Palin by wide margins.
Chances: Maybe back in 2009 she looked like a winner to her fanbase - which included a ton of Talking Heads who were dazzled by her - but in the harsh light of the oncoming election year even her original fanboys are fleeing.  Compared to more sensible candidates like Huckabee, Palin has no chance.  Even compared to the candidates appealing to her wingnut base - Bachmann, Gingrich in particular - Palin is an unserious choice.

Ron Paul - Congressman, Texas
Positives: Has a huge fanbase among the libertarian wing of the Republicans, especially the Teabaggers who are serious about fiscal matters.  Can re-ignite the passions voters had for him back in 2008.  Is as anti-Establishment a candidate as you'll get among Republicans that can turn out a crowd and argue effectively for his cause.  Is one of the few candidates to argue consistently about out-of-control spending and government size.
Negatives: Dear God.  His economic policy (switching back to Gold standards when the rest of the world won't, for example) may look great on paper but could cause such a shock that the entire global economy could crash.
Chances: Still slim.  His base isn't big enough to swamp enough primaries to win.  The party leadership doesn't like him at all.  And not everyone is a libertarian goddammit, no matter how much the libertarians try to convince everyone otherwise.

Tim Pawlenty - ex-Governor, Minnesota
Positives: One of the few Republican governors of recent times to be relatively popular.  Has a solid if unspectacular resume.  Ran on a consistently conservative platform.  The media elites consider him a viable candidate.
Negatives: One thing trumps all: the collapse of the I-35 bridge.  The controversy over that tragedy highlighted the problems of a Republican-led state government that was failing to repair and maintain public roads and bridges.  All the Democrats have to do is flash that YouTube of it collapsing and Pawlenty's done.
Past that, Pawlenty is notoriously uncharismatic.  His record as Minnesota governor may have been consistent but not that impressive.
Chances: Pawlently is currently the front-runner but only because the other big names haven't officially started.  Once the actual campaign gets going, Pawlenty has a huge uphill climb.  It's doubtful he can impress enough base voters in other states to side with him.
Buddy Roemer - ex-Governor, Louisiana
Positives: Who?
Negatives: Who?
Chances: What?

Mitt Romney - ex-Governor, Massachusetts
Positives: Solid track record as a state Governor.  Has major backing within the party at the national level.  Can campaign well.  Has some charisma.
Negatives: He was the front-runner going into the 2008 election... and lost to McCain.  With all the positives he had in 2008, he still lost.
That was because Romney's ambition is so naked it's at Newt/Hilary levels.  He flip-flops at a heartbeat to whatever he thinks the base voters support.  His biggest success as governor - passage of a state health care program that you know actually works - is a success Romney refuses to acknowledge because Obama and the Democrats used that program to model their national HCR bill.  And anything Obama supports, the Teabaggers HATE.  And Romney needs those Teabagger votes.
The other thing hurting him is what hurt him most last time: his religion.  As a Mormon he may be as socially conservative and family-oriented as the social/religious conservatives, but they don't view his religion favorably (Far Right Christians view Mormonism as a cult).  Even his speech to pave over his religious views as equal to other Christians didn't help (it hurt that Obama had to speak about his religious positions as well during the Rev. Wright scandal and did a better job of it).  The odds are not good that Romney can win primaries in the Deep South or Appalachian regions.
Chances: If Romney couldn't win over voters in 2008 when it was his primary to lose, how the hell is he going to convince those same voters in 2012?  The only slim chance he has now is that more voters may consider him the safest choice among the whackjobs filling the primaries... but that's what Huckabee is going to do too, and in 2008 Huckabee still did better than Romney.

Donald Trump - Celebrity, New York
Positives: He's good for a laugh, innit he?
Negatives: He's clearly hogging for the spotlight.  His political positions are non-existent, and his going after Obama for his birth certificate quickly made Trump a national laughingstock.
Chances: He's angling for a reality TV show.  Again.

There's your list of madmen and madwomen for the GOP 2012.

Seriously?  It's Huckabee's to lose: he's gotten voters before, and he's had 4 more years to impress the base that he's acceptable.  Given that Huck has the polling numbers to show he has support among general voters, the savvier wingnuts will back him.  Romney is the fall-back option at this point.  Any of the others may be amusing at first, but the seriousness of how disastrous their campaigns could be ought to eliminate them from the primaries well before the circus rolls into South Carolina.

And if a Republican wins the Presidency in 2012?  At this point, the only way to win is a massive collapse of support for Obama, which creates the odds of a GOP House winning even more seats. And possibly the Senate switching to GOP as well.  That would mean the Republicans would regain tight control of all three branches of government againIf that thought doesn't scare enough moderates to vote Democrat, and if that thought doesn't get enough Democrats to get out the damn vote in 2012, then we ARE WELL AND TRULY SCREWED as a nation.

Don't vote Republican.  Republicans lie.  Republicans deceive.  Republicans hate.

Just.  Don't.  Vote.  Republican.  This is your 192nd Warning.