Friday, September 21, 2012


What does Mitt Believe?

I'm still filled with wonder and astonishment at Mr. Romney's recent remarks about people who don't pay income taxes and how they are being led astray from a virtuous life through dependence on the federal government.  The statement is at best only half true.  Last year, according to an article I read in the Los Angeles Times, there were about 47 percent of the people who didn't pay any federal income tax.  That number varies from year to year.  Among non-taxpayers are retired people living on Social Security alone, students in universities and others with incomes too low to pay taxes, some millionaires with enough special millionaire deductions to pay no tax, and others.  Perhaps Mr. Romney himself was among the 47 percent of non-taxpayers.

It appears to me that behind the inane and politically damaging remark is a belief in "conservative values."  These are moral "values" spouted by some ideological conservatives.  Some of the past remarks of such conservatives include these gems:

There have been many writers and other notable persons who have advocated one or more of these conservative ideas.  Some of them have been very influential in the thinking of others.  Two that come to my mind are Ayn Rand and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz.

Ayn Rand, born in Russia in 1905 as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, wrote novels (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, others) and advocated a philosophy she called objectivism.  In her philosophy the only thing that mattered was your own individual interest, or greed.  I believe this belief was her reaction to Communism.

To me as a physicist, Leibnitz was important as one of the three historical inventors of calculus.  The other two were Archimedes and Isaac Newton.  Leibnitz created the notation we use today in calculus.  I respect him as a talented and original mathematician.  However, he didn't make a lot of money inventing calculus.  He made his money by comforting rich people by assuring them they needn't feel guilty about being rich.  He used an argument from the calculus of variations, one of his mathematical creations, that the world was the way it is because of natural causes.  Hence, it is the nature of some to be rich and others to be poor.  Voltaire, in his novel Candide, satirized Leibnitz in the character Dr. Pangloss, who went about assuring everyone that this is the best of all possible worlds.  Bernstein took Candide and made it into a musical comedy which many of you have seen and enjoyed.

I have to suppose that Mr. Romney subscribes to the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand as well as the "best of all possible worlds" of Leibnitz.  That's the only way I can make sense out of his gaffe about the 47 percent who don't pay any federal income tax.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


47 percent don't pay taxes?

I can't believe he said that.  I can't believe that any American politician would say such a thing.  I'm flabbergasted.  If I ever wondered what logical or defensible reason I might have for voting against Mr. Romney, he's given me a good one.  I still can't get my mind around the fact that he actually said those words.  I can't believe he's so blind as to believe that the 47 percent of voters who are going to vote for Mr. Obama do so because they don't pay taxes but depend on the taxes that the rest (53 percent) pay for their food, clothing, shelter, and entertainment.

Is this what main stream Republicans actually believe?  If so, all of us are in a terrible fix.  Belief in a thing can make it happen.  Belief in a thing can make a majority of the voters vote as though it were true.  Of course, nearly all of us pay taxes of one sort or another.  I would guess that perhaps 10 percent of the public doesn't pay any income tax.  They all pay various State taxes, particularly the sales tax.

Why do I waste time trying to prove that Mr. Romney is mistaken about the number of people who are too poor to pay any income tax?  I'm flabbergasted.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Running for office

The position I'm running for is at the very bottom of the pyramid of elected offices.  I aspire to be a member of a neighborhood council in Los Angeles.  Neighborhood councils were created about a decade ago in a major charter revision.  They are supposed to enable the voters to get closer to some elected city officials to register complaints about the potholes in the streets, the trees that lift up the sidewalk blocks and create tripping hazards, strange and unwelcome but legal developments in their midst, and a host of other problems.  In some cities the size of the districts represented by the councilmen, aldermen, commissioners, or whatever they're called are small enough that it is fairly easy to go to the representative directly.  Not here.  California believes in large electoral districts.  Our State Senate districts are larger than our Congressional Districts.  Our Assembly Districts are the largest of any State.  Los Angeles is served by just 15 members of the City Council.  By comparison, Chicago, a smaller city, has a board of fifty Aldermen.

Each neighborhood council has around 25 or so members.  Woodland Hills has 22.  Neighboring West Hills has, I believe, 25.  In some councils, all candidates run at large and the 25 or 22 or whatever who receive the most votes are elected.  Some of the losers can serve occasionally as alternates for members who happen to be absent.  Woodland Hills has a different structure.  The whole area is divided into seven parts.  Three members are elected by voters in each part.  One qualifies as a candidate in one of three ways: (a) you prove that you live in the part; (b) you do business or work in the part; or (c) you belong to a community based organization (CBO) in the part.  In my case, I qualified as a resident.  A member of a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or other recognized religious organization could qualify as a CBO representative.  In addition to the 21 members associated with the seven parts, there is one member elected at large for all of Woodland Hills.

You may wonder why a body with little influence and whose members are unpaid would have such a complex election structure.  I wonder also, but I think I know a reason.  Unlike many neighborhood councils, Woodland Hills has a very diverse land use structure.  While most of the land is used for single-family dwellings, Woodland Hills also has a large shopping center, several insurance companies, several banks, and many well-appointed apartment buildings.  The deliberate splintering of the membership of the neighborhood council guarantees that no single interest in Woodland Hills is able to dominate the neighborhood council.

At any rate, I am running and I have a specific opponent.  He is also running to be the Residential member for my part of Woodland Hills.  If I am to prevail, I must attract more voters than he does.  Therefore, I invite those of you who live in Area 4 of Woodland Hills, or who work there, or who belong to a community organization there to come to the American Legion Hall at 5320 Fallbrook Avenue on September 29 and vote for me.  Don't vote for the other guy, vote for me.  Voting starts at 11 AM and ends at 5 PM.  Come and vote.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Obama or Romney?

The conventions are over and now I must think carefully about how to vote in November.  Actually I've already decided for most of the candidates.  It's still worth while to explain why, if I can.

I will vote for Barack Obama for President.  He's not perfect, and he's done a less than perfect job in his first  four years as President.  I can understand some who is impatient with the slow progress we've made climbing out of this recession and who will vote for the "other guy" in the hope that the other guy will do something different that will make change happen faster.  We Americans are, above all, an impatient people. We want quick action and quick results.  I also understand many of my fellow liberal Democrats who are disillusioned with Mr. Obama.  We expected big things to happen right away.  We wanted a single-payer health care system.  We would like to see some members of the previous administration on trial for war crimes, torture, or deceiving us about the role of Iraq in 9/11.

None of these things happened.  We were angry at the Bush Administration.  We were angry for the war.  We were angry for the collapse of the housing market and the mortgage securities scandal.  We were angry for the deliberate lack of oversight of some of our very large private financial institutions.  We wanted a President like Harry Truman or Franklin Roosevelt who would challenge the other Party for getting us into the mess we're in.  We longed to hear such phrases as "economic royalists" or "snolley gosters" applied to the Republicans.  We didn't get that.  Instead we got a President who tried to find compromises with the Republicans.  Instead of pushing for a single-payer health care system, such as expanding Medicare to cover everyone, Mr. Obama chose a plan that he thought the Republicans would accept.  It was their plan.  It had been enacted in Massachusetts by a Democratic Legislature and a Republican Governor.  For some reason the Republicans would have none of it.  They denounced even their own plan.  Rather than make compromises and deals to create government programs to spur the economy and create new jobs the Republicans chose as their goal victory in the next Presidential Election.  They nearly let the country default on its loans rather than cooperate with "that man in the white house."

Of course I write as a partisan Democrat.  I can't help that.  My father was the town Democrat in the village in rural Republican Michigan where I was born and attended public school.  My Swedish grandfather was a Democrat and most of his descendants have followed his lead in politics.  I know that a mere government can't do much to combat a world-wide business cycle, which is what we're in.  Europe is experiencing a worse depression than we are.  It is very highly likely that the economy will eventually recover by itself even if the government does nothing.  The danger to the government is that if the recession persists and the people perceive the government as doing nothing about it, they may rebel and replace the government.  Several European countries did so in the 1920's.  In this country the new President, FDR, realized that government had to do something at least to relieve some of the misery of the depression.  He persuaded Congress to set up several agencies to provide temporary employment to people who were out of work: WPA, PWA, CCC, and others.  They provided jobs and reduced the misery.  They also provided customers with money to stimulate the economy.  The whole process was called "priming the pump" in those days.  Even though the depression didn't end until the outbreak of the War in 1939 the government programs succeeded in forestalling a revolution.

Some of old codgers like me experienced life in those days.  You younger bucks can and should read about the "New Deal" in history books.  It provides useful clues as to what government can and should do to help us survive and recover from a recession.

In spite of his imperfections I will vote for Mr. Obama this fall.  I know he understands what happened in the Great Depression of the 1930's even though he didn't live through it.  Mr. Romney, his opponent, didn't live through it either.  Even if Mr. Romney understands and appreciates what FDR did to deal with the Great Depression he is prevented by the conservative wing of his Party from adopting any of FDR's policies.  He has made public promises to this wing that he will find difficult to break.  I don't know his own thoughts about what government should do about a recession.  One of my conservative and libertarian friends believes that the economy will recover by itself if simply left alone and any government spending to deal with the problems of unemployment are simply a waste of money.

On the basis of what I believe Mr. Romney would and wouldn't do as President, I shall vote for Mr. Obama.

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