Monday, November 30, 2020
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In Search of Empathy (and Where Not to Find It)


I offer the following tidbits, each story with a common thread: Where is the empathy?

• Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged tops books borrowed at the Virginia Tech Newman Library for a recent year.
• Hopes for extension of unemployment benefits died last week.
• Concern for needy declines as the poor and working poor are "nickeled and dimed."
• President Obama wanted his US Supreme Court nominee to possess empathy, though to date we do not know if or how Elena Kagan has demonstrated such, or whether she would be another corporatist on the high Court. Republicans criticized and mocked the empathy criterion.

And then, there is this: A recent University of Michigan study on empathy among young people found a sharp reduction in it.  College students today score much (40%) lower in empathy than college students did just 10 or 20 years ago. The biggest drop came after 2000, which is not surprising given the arrogant, resource-grabbing culture promoted by Bushism.  Every man (and woman) for himself and God help us all. It's the GOP/Club for Growth/(Milton Friedmanomics/"Tea Partiers"/Freedom Works/Americans for Prosperity," mantra.  

Ruthless opportunism marks everything George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and the newer reinvention of the far right seek.  There is nothing more sacred than their very own tax shelters, preferences or cuts, except, perhaps, their tendency to hijack patriotism and contort it into something it is not.  They use up resources way out of proportion to what they contribute and without regard for what they destroy in the process.  Think BP.  Think Halliburton.  Think Wall Street.  Think those who believe any American should be a second class citizen.

To quote cognitive scientist, George Lakoff, the radical-wrong's ideology is:

"empathy-free, self-interest maximizing, with disdain or even hatred for those seen as lesser beings."

Lakoff notes that this wrong-wing (my term) ideology is self-reinforcing: a system that essentially promotes that values-free system itself.  It mocks altruists, "do-gooders," and "bleeding hearts," as if those were actually bad things. If the trend with college students continues, eventually a majority could take such a jaded view of others.  For sixty years the fringe has orchestrated a movement to change the way we view our responsibility to one another.  From Nixon to today's GOP, they've nixed the common good.  Now the fringe has grown from less than 10% to roughly 25%.  And the 25% is holding our nation hostage to their Party of No "leadership."  Now we see the result of values-free, self-adulating, self-aggrandizing  destructiveness.  The radical wrong is destroying everything in its sight. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.  Democrats cannot have it both ways.  

GOP “far out of step,” “not being very intelligent” on DADT


Unfortunately, in addition to people like John BONEr and Eric Can'tor "not being very intelligent" on the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, I'd add that the GOP is also motivated by: 1) homophobia; and 2) the desire to defeat Obama and the Democrats on everything they want. Neither are good reasons to be against repealing this stupid, ineffective, obsolete, self-defeating, harmful, discriminatory, wildly unpopular policy.  Enough talk about this, we know the answer. Just ditch it. Now.

RPV’s Battle With the Truth Continues

And in the latest installment of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV)'s battle with the truth, we've got this gem:
"Voters in the 5th and 9th Districts need to know if Democrat Reps. Rick Boucher and Tom Perriello were among the hundreds of Democrats who leaped to their feet to applaud gun control while a leader from a foreign nation scolded the American people for upholding the rights secured to us by our Constitution," said party Chairman Pat Mullins in announcing the new commercials.

Sensing a blockbuster investigative opportunity, the Ticket did its due diligence and called both offices (as requested by the commercials and the party chair) to find out if they gave Calderon a standing O.  

The suspense lasted for about 30 seconds.  Nope.

Making it even less suspenseful and infinitely more boring, neither congressman were even there.  Yawn.

So, caught in an outright falsehood (aka, "lie"), did RPV Chairman Pat Mullins pull the ad and apologize, like any normal person would do?  No way! Instead, RPV communications director J. Garren Shipley doubled down, claiming that Boucher and Perriello should have "publicly condemned" this speech...which they didn't attend or hear. Using that "logic," apparently we can now start demanding that Virginia Republicans "publicly condemn" speeches they didn't hear as well. This could be fun.

My Two Cents: Stop Big Oil’s Assault on America

Watch the aerial maps.  See the terrible more-than-a-"slick" move closer and closer to the coast, spreading wider and deeper toward Alabama's coast.  The dreaded Loop Current's is poised to snare the oil and push it toward Florida and the Eastern Seaboard.  What's to become of us at the dirty hands of BP? They're fast getting away with the homicide of the American continent.  Is the Gulf Disaster eco-terroism-by-neglect? Do these companies really believe that if they destroy everything in their path, that there will be anything left for their version of commerce? Do they not get that they are destroying themselves along with the rest of us?

Corporatists and Republicans (which are mostly the same thing) have flagrantly abused the term eco-terrorist. They've wantonly misapplied the term to anyone who cares about the environment and works within the system to protect it. That there are some fringe fanatics who are, in fact, eco-terrorists does not justify the wrongful overlay of defamatory labels on a huge sector of Americans who believe resource protection is simply good stewardship of our country. But, like everything else they hypocritically decry, it is the radical so-called "right," and the corporations which love them, which increasingly morph into something approaching eco-terrorism.  This spill may not have been directly intentional, but it happened by intentional neglect. And the result is analogous to a homicide, a homicide of our nation's coastline, its fishing, its tourist industries, and even, potentially much more... but their "solution" is even less regulation.  

Will 10th CD Republicans Elect “Loudmouth Malcontent” Today?

The 10th CD Republican Committee convention just started. The question is, as "Loudoun Insider" at Too Conservative puts it, whether Republicans will "have a competent, well qualified statesman as Chairman in Dave Schmidt, or a loudmouth malcontent in Howie Lind."  

Among other things, Lind is reportedly (according to Dave Schmidt) a big fan of "Republican loyalty" tests, has "a record of causing party divisions and excluding coalitions that could forge majorities in November," has "one of the worst attendance records on the 10th District Committee," and was "asked by Congressman Wolf to withdraw from the Tenth District chairman race because he could divide the party." The "end result" of all this? "Victory for the Democrats," according to Schmidt.

Bottom line: I strongly endorse Howie Lind for 10th CD Republican Committee chair, as I sincerely believe he would best for the Republican Democratic Party in the 10th CD. Go "loudmouth malcontent!" Heh.

UPDATE 1:30 pm: Hahahahahah, it looks like good news, "Howie Lind wins." Exxxxcellent. :)

UPDATE 3:02 pm:  One big happy family, nice to see! :)

UPDATE 9:20 pm: Gotta love this!

Frank Wolf is lucky he has long term incumbency on his side because he is now majorly marginalized in northern Virginia GOP politics. The 10th District Committee (and its largest component, the LCRC) are firmly in Cuccinelli camp, and completely beholden to him, and that is absolutely at odds with someone like Frank Wolf (you know, thoughtful and non-confrontational). Wolf didn't want to get involved at all in this contest and he will now have to deal with these people. Good luck, Congressman.

Rand Paul Steps in It Again (Suggests Obama is “unAmerican”)

Rand Paul is the political gift that keeps on giving.  Rand may be an effete country club snob and a doctor, but he is also an idiot. He says Obama's remarks about BP sound "un-American."  Apparently, Rand Paul doesn't know the BP acronym is for British Petroleum.  

What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, you know, "I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP." I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I've met a lot of these miners and their families. They're very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it's always someone's fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

Instant Classic of Right-Wing Moral Hypocrisy

Courtesy of pro-"abstinence" Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), check out this interview with his mistress. An instant classic of right-wing moral hypocrisy.

By the way, I love how his resignation letter is WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS FOR NO APPARENT REASON, and also how he manages to blame "THE POISONOUS ENVIRONMENT OF WASHINGTON DC" for his own horrible judgment and moral failings.  If you haven't laughed hard enough yet, here's some more on Souder the right-wing moral hypocrite. He's also a big fan of so-called "intelligent design," which basically rejects the overwhelming scientific evidence for natural selection, aka "evolution."  Why am I not surprised?

P.S. Just to demonstrate how batshit crazy Ken Cuccinelli is, even a loon like Souder acknowledges that "Obviously there's global warming" and that "the government needs to do something about it."  That's right, Cooch is even crazier than Souder, and that's saying something!

New Poll: Does Robert Hurt Have the 5th CD Republican Nomination...

If you believe the results of this new poll of likely 5th CD Republican primary voters, it looks like State Senator Robert Hurt, aka Appalachian Power's best friend, pretty much has the nomination locked up.

*"Robert Hurt has increased his support on the ballot by fourteen points (from 21% to 35%)
and now has a twenty-five point lead on his nearest primary opposition"

*"Hurt's closest opposition, Ken Boyd, garners just 10% of the vote, the
same percentage he received in our February survey. Including Boyd, the other six
candidates' ballot support does not even equal Hurt's 35%."

Assuming that Hurt wins the Republican nomination on June 8, the question is whether any third-party (e.g, "Tea Party") candidates will throw their hat(s) in the ring as well.  Right now, though, it's looking like a one-on-one matchup between Rep. Tom Perriello (D) and Hurt.  Clearly, if there's any justice in the world, Perriello should be reelected easily.  But given how the world is these days, I'm sure this will be anything but easy. Having said that, I certainly believe that Tom Perriello can win reelection, as long as 5th CD voters focus on the superb job he's been doing and not on whatever "Swift Boat" tactics Hurt strategist Chris LaCivita comes up with this cycle.

Must Business Execs Make Better Leaders?

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

Republicans are betting heavily this election year on candidates from the business world - e.g., for Senate, Carly Fiorina in CA, Linda McMahon in CT, and Bill Binnie in NH; for governor, Meg Whitman in CA, Rick Snyder in MI, and Charlie Baker in MA; and this Tuesday, Tim Burns for John Murtha's House seat in PA.

Putting aside whether the recent shenanigans of corporations from Goldman Sachs to BP may tarnish this strategy, I'd like to ask an even more important question: what is the track record of businessmen who become political leaders?  Certainly there are businessmen who make admirable contributions to government, like Virginia's own Mark Warner.

But there's a very important lesson of history that most people don't know - namely, that SOME OF THE MOST DISASTROUS LEADERS OF THIS CENTURY HAVE BEEN FORMER BUSINESSMEN.  I'm not even going to get into our first MBA president, George W. Bush, both because his Reign of Error is so fresh in our minds and because, frankly, he was a lousy businessman too.  No, in this diary I'm going to focus on three successful businessmen-turned-leaders who left incredible trails of destruction behind them - Herbert Hoover, Neville Chamberlain and Robert McNamara.  And there is critical evidence that their business experience was a major contributing factor in their spectacular failures.

Polls Looking Up For the Democrats

I'm taking this cautiously and skeptically; still, I like the looks of these polls!

1. According to Political Wire, "A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows Democrats now leading the generic congressional ballot, 45% to 40%, a reversal from last month when Republicans led by three points."

2. Gallup now has President Obama's approval rating at the highest in three months, at 52%-41% (+11 points). We'll see if it can hold at that level of increase further in coming weeks and months. I'm hoping Obama can reach 60% or so by the fall. If he does, Democrats will be in much better shape come November than they appear to be now.

3. Research 2000 now has President Obama's favorable/unfavorable rating at 55%-40% (+15 points), with the "right track/wrong track" reading now at the highest level since July 9, 2009. Also, the voter intensity gap between Republicans and Democrats "narrowed noticeably this week," to just 7 points (71%-64%). Finally, 52% of Americans now say they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate "who supports and will work to improve the new health care reform law", while just 41% say they prefer "a candidate who will work to repeal it completely."

The bottom line is this: if the economy keeps improving, and specifically if it keeps adding jobs at the rate we saw last month, then people will feel better about the country's direction and more likely to keep incumbents in office. On the other hand, if the economy heads in the wrong direction between now and this fall, then I'd say we're looking at a bad November for Democrats.  Other than that, Democrats need to be out there telling voters what historians already know: "President Obama's legislative record during a crisis-ridden presidency already puts him in a league with such consequential presidents as Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt." That seems like the type of news you'd want to share with everybody! :)