Presidential politics: More lies on all sides
As the political fight for the Presidency of the United States heats up, the lies have continued to flow in. Our recent favorite said, in essence, that while families of the 911 homicide victims, for reasons that have never been made clear us, got on average $2 million each for having a relative be in the wrong place at the wrong time (the airlines got a grant of $5 billion and $10 billion in loans and the other roughly 6,500 Americans who died that day got nothing), the families of soldiers killed in action get 8 ducats and a wheel of cheese. OK, they actually had some dollar figures broken out, but it wasn’t much more than that. We love cheese as much as the next person, but the figures listed didn’t make much sense, so we went on line to check them, and they were wrong! In fact, it is a safe assumption that any startling revelation that supports or degrades a candidate is probably a lie.
In the world of politicking, the current situation is very difficult. In most elections it is one candidate against another, or one position against another. You would think the latter would be the case, as there are a number of critical long term planning issues that need to be discussed, but are not being discussed. For example, neither candidate has said, “We have 300 million people in the United States. What do we want them to be doing for employment this year? In five years? In ten years? In 25 years?”
Similarly, there is no discussion of long term energy policy (and no, “drill” or “don’t drill” is not long term policy). Nobody has said (we are not policy makers, so what we are writing here is merely a sample of the kind of debate that we should, but are not, hearing), “In 30 years we want to be using hydrogen fuel for cars. To get there we will invest $xxx. In the interim we want to move to electric cars and natural gas cars as a transition phase. Until that happens we will incentivize efficient current-technology and hybrid cars by giving a tax credit if your car gets over 50 miles a gallon highway, and a tax penalty if it gets under 20 miles per gallon highway. SUVs are not trucks, and will be penalized appropriately.”
“In addition, we need to decrease use of fuel by airplanes and trucks by finally implementing a maglev system. While trains are more efficient at carrying heavy loads than trucks, trucks are more efficient at carrying light loads. Since maglev is friction free, trucks will be able to carry light goods relatively short distances to a depot, with the maglev carrying the freight more efficiently for the long hauls. This will cut down on the overall use of trucks.”
“In addition, since maglev trains travel between 300 and 500 miles per hour, a lot of short haul airline travel will be eliminated. In theory you could stroll into Penn Station in New York at 8am and (if it were a direct train with no stops, which we admit is unlikely) get off the train at Union Station in Los Angeles at 3pm the same day. A well implemented maglev system could substantially cut down domestic air travel, and its associated fuel usage. If a closed-tube system were implemented the time to LA would be about three hours, which is rather astonishing. In the case of the Baltimore-Washington system, the time between the two cities will be roughly twenty minutes.”
“In addition, we want to cut down on oil-to-electricity conversion by moving to wind generated power where appropriate, hydroelectric power where appropriate, geothermal power where available, and solar power where reasonable, which should be enough to supply all of America’s power needs with no oil usage. Short term we want to encourage municipalities to build and own their own power generation facilities, because the cost of electricity to citizens of the municipality will be lower – typically by a third – than buying from the grid (and we have read that one big wind turbine will provide electricity for 1000 homes). We also want to encourage more efficiently insulated houses so less power is needed for heating and cooling.”
While this is only a sample of the kind of debate over long term planning that we should be hearing, neither candidate is actually discussing any long term planning issues in any area.
Instead, in this election what we have is not a discussion of issues, but John McCain running against the concept of change, with change being a rather amorphous quality. This leaves McCain with four obvious constituencies:
• Those who will not vote for a black man will vote for McCain.
• Those who believe that the primary function of the human race is to produce souls for God through Jesus, and that abortion, which deprives God of a soul, is a mortal sin will vote for McCain.
• Those who feel that the war in Iraq was appropriate and justified will vote for McCain.
• Those who believe the function of government is to ease the way for business and step back letting the economic benefits trickle down, and who believe either that our current economic malaise is cause by business-interfering big-spending Democratic social programs, or that the economy is thriving because of Republication policies, will vote for McCain.
Obama, on the other hand, has only one ill-defined constituency: Those who want change, which they likely are unable to define with any clarity. The interesting factor here is that one might expect that this desire for change might be enough to motivate the bottom forty percent of households – that is nearly half of all households – that share 0.2 percent (two tenths of one percent) of the country’s wealth to vote. As it turns out, this group is traditionally afraid of change because it almost always be for the worse, and they have no cushion from the bottom.
In addition, in an election such as this the winner is likely to be the one that is most skilled in controlling either votes or voters. In the past, Democrats were the masters of voter fraud, but with the introduction of Direct Recording Electronic voting machines (DREs), the advantage has shifted to the Republicans. From a Republican perspective, therefore, one way to control votes is to get more states to use DREs: If you could get New York to go for DREs, Manhattan would vote Republican!
Another way is to control voters is to use voter registration fraud to get rid of undesirable voters. According to Greg Palast, in swing-state Colorado the Republican Secretary of State conducted the biggest purge of voters in history, dumping twenty percent of all registrations, largely people of color. In swing-state Florida, the state is refusing to accept about 85,000 new overwhelming-black registrations from voter drives. In swing state New Mexico, half of the Democrats of Mora, a dirt-poor and overwhelmingly Hispanic county, found their registrations disappeared this year, courtesy of a Republican voting contractor. In swing states Ohio and Nevada, new federal law is knocking out tens of thousands of voters who lost their homes to foreclosure (no poll tax, no poll). This level of voter registration fraud – essentially uncontested by the Democrats – may already be enough to control the election.
While potentially controlling the outcome of the election is good, from a PR perspective you don’t want tampering with votes or with voter registration to become an issue. In this case, it is not unreasonable to make up some preposterous scenario that suits your view of the world: Barack Obama eats children. Then pepper it with some bits of truth (Obama has said he loves children, and he and Michelle apparently both enjoy cooking), and send it forth. No matter how outlandish the story is, you will find some someone who will believe it. If you are lucky, you will also find some idiot who was sitting on the fence and for whom this will be the last bit of evidence – Do you want a President who eats children? – needed to gain their vote.
How do these lies actually help the campaign? If voter or voter registration tampering is brought up, the appropriate response becomes, “You are getting caught up in paperwork issues and missing the real question: Do you want as President someone who eats children?”