Tom Talks

Tom McClintock visits the county!


Talkin’ Tom was in the county again, and though we’ve seen his show before, he’s a good steady performer, and it was worth it to make the drive. He’s made the effort to visit the county, we figured we’d brave the weather and go see him. There was also chicken on a stick which was wonderful, too.

This visit was lacking some of the rabid dog conservatives that have been at other meetings, but it was still a good show.

Lion Al Pratti leads in a pledge to the flag

There were a lot of folks; a disproportionate number of gray heads, but that’s typical of the county and such events. There were still a fair number of voters of every age, and even two kids. It was a pretty congenial meeting.

Still a nice guy: Tom McClintock and Peter Huebner

Tom is practiced at what he does, and he’s gotten much better at reframing audience questions so they don’t sound so uninformed or insane. He does a great job of quoting dead guys, and is often bi-partisan, approving, for example, of martyred president John F. Kennedy.

What did Tom say? The usual stuff. The guy in the White House, we don’t remember his name, real dark guy, anyway, he’s bad. No mention of the Nobel Prize for what’shisname. Tom took a few things out of context, ignored historical trends to make a point, and misrepresented Obama’s policies. Still, it’s the kind of thing we all do when we’re trying to make a compelling argument. Truth is very complicated, it’s easier to deal with isolated factoids.

Tom talked about the deficit. He had a chart. It showed we’re deeply in the hole. It makes it seem like the deficit is that dark fella’s fault. That’s not only oversimplifying, it’s duplicitous, that is, lying. No one has a very good idea of how to get us out of the global depression. There is a pretty good case to be made that the U.S. started this global downswing when George W. Bush pushed us into a war of empire in the Middle East, spending trillions we didn’t have, and creating a new American colony in Iraq. Henry Kissenger boasted that he took down the Soviet Union by forcing them into Afghanistan, and George W. Bush took us into the same trap.

Look way down heeeeere.  The result of giving billions to the rich.

The downswing was also encouraged by America’s addiction to credit, and a housing market which was badly over extended. Tom is right in that it is not at all clear that spending trillions will get us out of the depression, but he doesn’t seem to have much of an idea, either, except to rape the environment and end taxes.

Tom did take some vicious kicks at George W. Bush, thanks to Mountain Messenger editor Don Russell, who asked why the U.S. shouldn’t pay for our war of aggression. Tom correctly identified that congress failed its duty when it allowed the Executive to make war. He correctly identified that Bush took us on a war of aggression. Those aren’t really news, though, and kicking Bush at this point is hardly bold. Besides, Tom missed the other really horrendous things Bush did, which Obama is slow to rectify.

Tom also said "if we go to war, it should be with the full might of the nation" and "with full support of the people". That is pretty great, Tom. We applaud you for understanding those basic things which so many in congress and the White House have forgotten.

But Tom said it was OK to go to war in Afghanistan, because we had been attacked from there. That’s a little short of the truth, Tom. In fact, you over look these simple facts:

  1. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan because the U.S. put him there; he’s a Saudi.
  2. Most of the "terrorists" on 911 were either Saudis or Egyptians.
  3. A war with "the full might of the nation" would complete the transition of Afghanistan to rock and desert, killing Afghanis for no reason.

Oh, well, minor points, we suppose.

Tom complained about undocumented workers, which encouraged audience members to weigh in. Xenophobia is not a fear of big-breasted woman warriors, it’s the fear of strangers. Rather than examine the complex relationship between the U.S. and the Americans to the south (they live in the Americas, too, remember) which would include U.S. drug and immigration policies, as well as complex cross border family relations and a host of economic, social and political factors, Tom decided to play on our fear of strangers.

Tom told us that 40% of the prisoners in the L.A. county jail are illegal aliens. This means, he tells us, that illegal aliens commit 40% of crimes. The Prospect attempted to verify the number but weren’t able to, because L.A. County has made only sporadic attempts to identify undocumented people in the jail. Indeed, as recently as May 14 of this year Los Angeles became one of three counties to check citizenship on all prisoners. The nearest figures we were able to find came from 2007, and at that time it was estimated that as many as 22% might be undocumented.

While we weren’t able to completely identify Tom’s 40% as B.S., we’re very dubious that number is accurate.

Furthermore, his leap in logic that 40% of the crime must also be committed by undocumented immigrants is simplistic in the extreme and lacks any basis in evidence. First of all, being undocumented is a crime, and one that is choking Federal courts. In 2008 it was estimated that half of all Federal court cases involved immigration issues. Further, if you are undocumented you are not likely to have those things which can get you released from jail: a legitimate job, people to help you make bail, competent use of the English language, to name a few. For these reasons alone we would expect to find a higher rate of undocumented people in jail and prison populations.

We know that some people do cross the border to commit crime. Why? There is more money here than in Mexico. You can make a living robbing the poor, but an entrepreneurial thief would surely prefer to rob the wealthy.

The remark came from the audience that "illegal immigrants" can go right to the hospital and use it, and us real Americans (they’re Americans, too, remember) can’t. To Tom’s credit, he made a slight correction to say that pretty much everyone can go to the hospital ER, including non citizen Americans. Still, he railed against the use of medical facilities by undocumented people.

It begs the question, will we be better off if all our busboys and maids are carrying disease? Does a humane society let people die because their paperwork isn’t in order?

Tom stated that there was recently a bust of 1000 undocumented workers and that overnight 1000 real Americans have taken those 1000 jobs. We were not able to find such a news story, but logic dictates this is probably B.S. There was a large bust recently, during which workers who had been with the factory as long as 10 years were nabbed, but so far it hasn’t been determined how many were undocumented and how many fall into a "gray zone" of immigration status.

There is plenty in the news about restaurants, care homes, chicken packing plants and so on closing after immigration raids. There were no stories about 1000 real Americans rushing to stand at a conveyer belt and cut chicken eight hours a day for eight bucks an hour. If you have hard data, Tom, send it on.

Tom also touted "E-verify" which astonishes anyone who thought Tom wanted smaller government. This mutation is created by Homeland Security and links databases to all our detriment. It supposedly uses biometrics to determine if someone should be allowed to work, and contains information on all of us. Someone who worried about Big Brother government wouldn’t support E-verify. Further, there are many problems with the system, see HERE.

Yikes!  (link)

Tom gets an "F" for his work on immigration, which encouraged unreasonable fear among the audience.

It is on the subject of the environment that Tom is most ignorant. He dragged out the worn ghosts of "radical environmentalists." There’s so much to say on this I scarcely know where to start. The term "radical" has numerous meanings including "fantastic." We guess here Tom means "radical" to mean "far from the customary." Tom is trying to say the environmentalists are far from customary, far from you and I.  Tom has to use the term "radical" because a huge number of people consider themselves to be quiet environmentalists, who want clean water and clean air and tigers and wombats and polar bears.

There are indeed radical environmentalists, Marxist Feminist Environmentalists who see patriarchy abusing the forest as they use women’s bodies for their reproductive potential; deep ecologists who immerse themselves in nature as a religious experience and so on. These groups are far, far from the kind of power Tom wields every day, and far from the source of our problems.

Indeed, Tom, the regulations you whine about stem not from environmentalists but from legislators and bureaucrats like yourself. They arise because past exploitation of the environment has left our ground water depleted and literally poison, because over population and over development have destroyed watersheds and dried rivers. Because, if the government hadn’t done something, by now all rivers would burn, and all cities would have blackout days from air pollution.

We’ve had a good time with Tom before on the issue of "abundance of water and abundance of power" which is simply dreaming.

Sacramento River Delta  Source:

Tom cursed the Sacramento delta smelt as the source of our water problems, but that’s a gross misunderstanding of the situation, and not only the smelt is harmed by the current use of delta water. Yes, we’re all angry that the feds are taking our water to save the delta, but it isn’t the smelt’s fault, Tom. Go down there sometime, people have built cities on the delta as though it were solid ground (read old article HERE), and agribusiness and cities suck water. The Prospect resents the stealing of local water by the state to meet federal mandates on the delta, but we don’t blame a little tiny fish, we blame those who exploit resources beyond their capacity, like you want to do, Tom.

Don't blame me, Tom, I don't want to die: Delta Smelt  Cal Gov photo



As our water resources dwindle due to drought or climate change, increased population and increasing pollution of ground water sources, it is not even lying to say we can have an abundance of water, it’s just stupid.

Tom also took a whack at carbon sequestering. Based on the highly contentious belief that humans are heating the planet by releasing carbon dioxide and other gases that reflect heat back to earth, carbon cap and trade would allow governments to limit the allowable emissions, creating a market for "carbon credits". Popularized by science historian James Burke in After the Warming (1989), carbon cap and trade is expected to create a market for carbon sequestering systems, like growing plants and trees.

While the Prospect has no position on carbon trading (likely most carbon contracts will go not to forest owners, but to growers of hemp, which pulls many times more carbon per year than the same acreage in trees), cap and trade is going to be one way carbon release is controlled.

Tom objects because carbon dioxide is the byproduct or resulting pollutant in many common processes, including as Tom pointed out, wineries and cement plants. Wineries and cement plants? What do those two things have in common? Nothing! Yes, fermentation of wine produces CO2 as a gas, but most of the industry’s carbon footprint comes from transporting the wine (almost a third by itself) as well as the process of making glass bottles, and so on. Very little of the footprints is from fermentation.



This is a vineyard  Source: sorry, didn't catch it

Cement plants on the other hand, are factories. Tom was correct, a ton of carbon is produced for every ton of cement; that’s not an imaginary ton, it’s a real ton of carbon, it weighs the same as the ton of cement, but it’s in our air. In fact it is estimated that 5% of all human based carbon release comes from cement plants alone. Cement is important stuff; Rome built an empire with it, as China is now.

This is a cement plant.

Even Tom knows cement plants are a problem. What can we do? Tom had no idea, so the best idea must be cap and trade. There is another idea, a green cement that absorbs CO2 as it hardens, HERE

Tom made some comments about California’s problems. Most economists who talk about California’s problems usually talk about the artificially high housing market, dependence on fossil fuels, frustrated budget process and the effects of being a major seaport state during a collapse of the global economy. Tom’s explanation isn’t cluttered by those elements, he blames taxing consumers and California’s attempts to reduce greenhouse gas. It causes one to wonder if Tom shouldn’t be monitored for gas emission.

On the subject of health care, Tom trotted out some very tired old cliches. The $400 dollar toilets and $600 hammers. Unfortunately for Tom, Cindy Elsmore was at the meeting. In her quiet, precise way, she outlined her view that not all U.S. residents could actually get healthcare. She stated that she felt that we could trust government with healthcare more than we could trust insurance companies who, after all, are primarily interested in profit.

Tom complained that insurance companies simply aren’t being allowed to compete, which would bring the cost down. He did another "vineyard/cement plant" comparison with the pre-existing conditions of bursitis and cancer. Ms. Elsmore called B.S. on him, in an unnecessarily polite way. She also scolded him for interrupting her. Tom asked Ms. Elsmore, "don’t you want people to have a choice?"

"Yes," she said, "I want them to have the choice of a public option." Snap!

In general, Tom’s remarks on health care are only half true. He claimed Britain and Canada are having trouble with their health care. They are, because of the economy. The majority of Canadians are happy with their health care, and don’t like being used as a bad example. The U.S. is one of the few technological societies not to have some kind of public option or single payer plan. Once again in claiming healthcare was having problems in Canada, Tom was using a fact, but he was using it to prove something it doesn’t prove.

Most audience remarks were about the usual things: brown people want to take our jobs and clog our hospitals; Arabs still want to kill us; damn those environmentalists. Sociologists and anthropologists know this kind of talk as "community building". It isn’t meant to transmit facts or data, it’s meant to set up "us versus them" scenarios to build group cohesion. It is typical of such speech to demonize the "other" and clearly indicate how much better the speaker is than the "enemy".

Particularly unsettling about the group speech is the attack on "illegal aliens". The people most afraid of "illegals" are the people who have the most in common with them. Undocumented people are generally the poorest, most powerless people among us, why are they the target of our fear and mistrust and not our capitalist masters, who actually do have power and actually do make our lives a living hell? Come on, Tom, warn us about the super rich.

That isn’t likely. Illegal aliens can do nothing to harm Tom; capitalists can send him back to civilian life. Tom is a career politician, at 53 he’s too old to learn an honest trade, he’ll have to become a lobbyist. It isn’t likely he’s going to warn us about the wealthy sucking up all our health care, even though they do.

That completes our review of Tom’s visit to Sierra County. While it may look a little harsh, let’s not forget that at least Tom came to see us. He stood up and said what he strongly believes we want to hear. That’s worth something.

This reporter didn’t see him eat any chicken on a stick, though.

Thanks to Tim Beals and everyone who made Tom’s visit so nice!








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