Friday, December 14, 2012

"These Children Are Our Children"

I'm tired of the argument that anti-gun control factions use: "Guns don't kill people. People do." It's so fucking senseless!

It's never made sense to me to suggest that gun ownership, unregulated and completely free, is the price we must pay to be free and to honor the spirit of the Second Amendment. No sensible, law-abiding citizen who supports gun ownership, like I do, would have the gall to suggest that doing whatever it takes to prevent the wrong people from having guns (just like we now do whatever it takes to prevent crazy people with bombs and other weapons from boarding airplanes), or to prevent anyone from owning the wrong kind of guns and ammunition, is too much of an infringement on our freedom. How many more innocent people have to die before enough of us get too mad to be deterred by the powerful gun lobby and their friends in Congress? Now is the time to write to every Congressman, Republican or Democrat, to support any reasonable legislation that takes logical steps to regulate gun ownership in this country. An assault weapons ban would be a great place to start. A ban on the sale of hollow-point ammunition would be another. A thorough system of background checks, personality testing, and extensive training for those who want to own a gun. A mandatory waiting period while all this data is processed and training completed. Can't hack it during training? Sorry, no gun for you.  Come back when you can pass the test.

Does it sound like a new bureaucracy? Tough shit. Lives are at stake. And I'm not talking about these mass killings, which represent less than 1% of all gun-related murders in the U.S. I'm talking about the thousands of other killings that go uncovered by the media, but are no less tragic.

President Obama struck the perfect chord in his speech today: "Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children."

AMEN. They are our children, and their blood is on all our hands.

Time for action. No retreat.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Insanity, Day 1

Today was the first day of my 63-day odyssey to complete the Insanity workout.  Insanity is a 10-DVD set of workout videos that promises, without benefit of machines or weights, a transformation of one's body.  The website features before and after pictures of dozens of people who have completed the workouts, and the results are fairly astonishing.  Guys who started out much heavier around the middle than I am look significantly thinner, fitter, and more muscularly defined.  The beach body, right?  Six-pack abs, broader pectorals, and the loss of that spare tire around the middle.

The night before, Lisa and I donned our workout gear for the "before" pictures.  Lisa shot me, without my shirt on, from the front, side and back.  Because she is shorter than I am, her pictures captured me at about chest level, which was a great thing.  Why?  Because, oh my God, I looked terrible at that angle!  Especially from the back, where my spare tire is creeping around and the back and starting to look like a utility belt.  Anything not to look like that ever again, God, please!

The day before, we had previewed the first DVD, called "Dig Deeper: Fitness Test," to see what we'd need to be ready, as our workout time was 5:30 am.  Neither of us wanted to have to think about looking around for the stuff we'd need.  Last night, I laid out our towels, water bottles, workout clothes, and our fitness test worksheets and pencils.  The fitness test contains eight different exercises, which are to be measured by how many repetitions we can do in a minute.  We are directed to go as fast as we can, rest when needed, but not to give up trying harder.  We write down our results, and then compare them to the results we get every two weeks until the end of the series. 

After a brief warmup -- which got me a little winded (harbinger of things to come) -- it was time to begin:

1. Switch Kicks: from a standing position, elbows in, hands held at shoulder level either clasped or not, deliver alternating forward kicks to waist level, leading with the heel.  Form was essential to this and every exercise, but after about 20 seconds of this, I could barely lift my legs off the floor  Each two kicks is one rep, and I managed about 20 or so in a minute.  Just a minute to write down results, catch my breath, and try to get a sip of water, then...
2. Squat Jacks: Like jumping jacks, but starting with feet together and arms overhead, down to a squatting position.  This was a bit easier than the first exercise, but I quickly felt the burn in my quads and hamstrings!  Also, I got very winded very quickly.  I think I got 40 of these.  Another minute of rest, water and writing, then...
3. ...Power Knees: standing up straight in a wide stance, interlace my hands overhead then bring one knee up in a diagonal motion across my body while bringing hands down to meet my knees. This looked easier than it was. I found it difficult to maintain my balance, and I wondered why there was no attempt to switch to the other side for half the exercise. I think I got about 40 or so of these, then after a minute, it was...

4.  Power Jumps, or what I call "The Leap of Death."  This exercise starts in a squat, then I was to use arms and legs to lift me up as high as I could go.  The legs then form a squatting position in mid-air, then land and resume the squat.  This shit was very hard!  I was crapping out after 15 seconds or so, needing about the same amount of time to catch my breath.  I think I got about 12 of these in a minute.  Speaking of minutes, I only got one of them to recover (fuck you, Shaun T!), before...
5. Around the Globe Leap:  Squatting position, hands touching the floor, leap up as high as I could go (straight legs this time).  First to the left, then backward, then to the right, then forward.  A box of leaps!  One box was one rep.  I think I got eight of these done.  At this point, halfway through the test, I was so tired, I wasn't sure I could continue, but I wasn't giving up on the first day!  Next up...
6. ...Suicide Jumps, or what my wife calls "Burpees."  A four-position exercise, very much like a squat thrust, but with the final move being a leap up from the crouch.  I got six of these, with bad form after about two, but didn't give up.  Mercifully, we got TWO minutes of rest, presumably so Shaun could demonstrate the next exercise, which was...
7. Push up Jacks: Like a push combined with a jumping jack.  As I descended to a couple of inches from the floor, I kick my legs out so my body is now in a Y-shape, then feet back together as I push back up.  I think I did eight of these.  Another two minutes, which I needed all of just to catch my breath, before ...
8.  Low Plank Obliques: Assume a plank position with elbows on the floor, hands forward.  Bring alternative knees up from the side of the body as high as possible, then back again.  I can't even remember how many I did of these, but I definitely didn't do more than 10.

Final cool down of sorts, then it was over.

Yay, I finished!  I was so relieved, so winded, and so dead on my feet.  I knew there was only one way to go from here, and that was better. 

I then ate my first of five meals -- a bowl of cereal that tasted like twigs, with skim milk and a whole banana.  I was full, especially after downing 24 ounces of water beforehand.  Three hours later, I followed up with a protein bar, a slice of cheese, and another banana.  As of now it's 1 pm and I'm late with meal #3: a turkey pita sandwich with tomato slices, and small salad.  My lower back is a little sore on the left side (as is my left hip) from the last exercise, but I'll stretch those out later.  I down a Gatorade Renew drink on my way to work, and I hope it helps.

Can't wait to start day #2 -- Plyo-Cardio Circuit.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Give Thanks

As I'm going offline tomorrow, I thought I'd post a list of people, places, and things for which I'm very thankful:

A God, an infinitely intelligent, creative, harmonizing force, who unfolds the great wonders of the Universe every single day.
My beautiful, loving, adoring wife, Lisa, who has the kindest heart of anyone I know.
My two sons, Max and Elijah, for whom I have no sufficient words to describe my joy at bringing them into this world, at guiding them through this world, and at knowing them and loving them more every day.
My body, which surprises me at how resilient it truly is.
My mind, without which I'd be a Republican -- a joke of course, which leads me to...
My sense of humor, pretty much a must-have in this world.
My relatives, a constant source of inspiration, puzzlement, laughter, and joy.
My friends, whether I know them in person or only on Facebook, for challenging me all the time and for respecting me.
President Obama and Vice President Biden -- enough said
The United States of America -- home
Israel, for giving me the roots of my identity and for showing that being tough can often be misunderstood.
The Sterling Mens Weekend, which launched me on my journey to being the man I always wanted to be.
My current and past employers, for helping me feed and protect my family.
The beautiful weather of Los Angeles!
Temple Akiba, for creating a family for Jews of all kinds.
Shaun T, who is about to turn me from a flabby desk man to a trim, fit, and ripped beach-body dude.
Allan Holdsworth, Robert Fripp, Ian Anderson, Gentle Giant, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, David Byrne, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Peter Gabriel, Byron Fry, and all the others who provide the soundtrack for my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"One of the Great Mysteries"

Such is how Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) characterizes the origins of our universe and the age of the Earth.   Andrew Sullivan goes off on his back-handed denial of FACTS. 

Pivoting off of Andrew, I just started imagining a conversation I might have with someone who believes that God created all of creation 6,000 years ago in six Earth days (and then, presumably, "rested").  Since Archbishop Ussher of Armagh published his paper 362 years ago stating that based on biblical research (essentially adding up the begats since the time of Adam & Eve) about 6,000 years have passed, I would start by asking how he/she knows that the 6,000 number is true.  "The Bible says it is, so that's good enough for me," comes the reply.  OK, I sigh, what about all that science that suggests the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and that the Universe came into existence about 13 billion years ago?  Did you see the article about the Hubble Space Telescope spotting and identifying a galaxy that was 13 billion light years away?  "I don't need science to tell me what's true," he spits. "The only truth is The Word.  Science is just a bunch of guesses.  Educated guesses, maybe, but there's so much scientists still don't know and will never know."  You do realize, I press, that actual science involves a lot of mathematics, right?  That it involves observing the world and noting what happens under certain conditions -- like when you heat water to 212 degrees, it changes from a liquid to a gas.  It doesn't happen at 211 degrees, or even 211.9 degrees.  It happens precisely at 212 degrees.  "Right," he says, "what's your point?"  My point is that math is a constant.  It's not a guess that 2 + 2 = 4; that's a fact.  The same about the boiling temperature of water.  That's a fact too.  And science is pretty sophisticated, to the point where, using math and observation can yield pretty precise and reliable results.  Scientific processes like carbon dating use math to pinpoint the age of the Earth.  Tell me: is math a guess too?  "No, of course not," he scoffs.  Then how can you be so certain that the Earth is only 6,000 years old?  How can you be certain that all of the known universe came into being in six Earth days?  Back in the 17th century, Galileo realized that Earth was not the center of the universe.  Do you think it's possible that the people who wrote the Bible didn't know enough about the earth and the stars and the way people and creatures came about to explain it in any other way than by writing this creation story?  "The Bible is the word of God!  It can't be wrong."  It's not wrong! The Bible is inspired by God, but not directly written by God.  Were these writers, these human beings, so connected to God that they were able to write, word for word, what God wanted to say?  Were these writers connected to the mind of God, and has no one else since the time of Jesus been so inspired?  I'm no scholar of theology, but doesn't that seem like an awful waste of the human mind?  Are scientists, and those who are satisfied with the facts at which they arrive, simply deluding themselves? 

You see where I'm going.  Facts matter.  There is no "great mystery" to the creation of the universe.  You don't have to be a scientist to say, "I know the earth is 4.5 billion years old."  Science tells us how long ago earth came into existence, and how long ago various species of animals came to exist and die off on Earth.  Science tells us what is happening today, on earth, with our bodies and our planet's climate.  And science tells us what very well may happen to our planet's climate, land, seas, and people.  There is lots of theory out there, of course, and it's true that there are some things we might never know.  But what we already know based on science is pretty much beyond doubt and in extremely little danger of being disproven.  We can comfort ourselves all we want with religion.  There's a great deal of peace we can derive in believing that we are part of something much greater and unknowable, that there is a Creator or creative force that drives us, motivates us, energizes us.  But we should never confuse that with the idea that God has already answered everything for us.  There is a monumentally strong possibility that what we don't know is knowable, and an equally strong human imperative that we try to know it.  And finally, there is no possibility of peace in digging in and saying that you know all that you need to know because you have Jesus (or Allah, or Adonai) and your sacred text.  Ignorance, despite the old aphorism, is not bliss.  Rabbi Hillel said it best: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

Go.  And learn.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Stick to the Facts

I always find it amusing when I hear surrogates on either side of the aisle -- but more often on the Republican side -- try to spin something that has so obviously benefited the other side as evidence of the other side's failure.  To wit, former Romney adviser Alex Castellanos, on Obama's work on the Hurricane Sandy relief effort:
President Obama stepped in and he’s doing the job he should be doing, great, good for him. Wish he’d done the same on the economy.
Asshole.  When your party leaves behind a towering inferno of economic ruin, and then hands the new president and his team a couple of garden hoses to put it out (garden hoses that you then proceed to step on and kink up to slow down or even stop the water flow), you don't get to complain about how he's done on the economy.  It just shows how small Romney is when it comes to criticizing the president.  There just isn't much there to criticize, because when you stick to the facts, the president's done very well.

Obama as of this past Wednesday has a 78 percent approval rating on how he's responded to the hurricane.  And the last poll I saw showed that a growing number of Americans believe the country is on the right track. 

But let's forget about polls.  Let's deal with facts, because FACTS MATTER.  Today's economic news showed an uptick in the unemployment rate, to 7.9% after being 7.8% the previous month.  The economic data also showed that job creation for October was 171,000 new jobs, and for August and September the numbers were revised upward by another 84,000 jobs.  Economists agree that the uptick in unemployment numbers was that a larger number of Americans were rejoining the job force and looking for work because jobs are now out there to get. 

I know who will be elected president next Tuesday as much as the next guy, which is to say I don't really know.  I do believe the result will be close.  The focus in the next few days will be on the so-called swing states to see how they will tip.  I think that the president has a very good chance of being reelected, more than three times than Romney, if Nate Silver is accurate.  But that still means that Romney has a 1 in 4 or 5 chance of being elected.  If I'm a betting man and the stakes are that high, I like those odds.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mormonism as Pathology

A lot of us have pondered out loud and in the blogosphere about how Mitt Romney can be a "severe conservative" a year ago, but suddenly and inexplicably claim moderate leanings in the past three weeks.  We've all joked about the Etch-a-Sketch meme birthed by Romney's own campaign manager, and it seems plausible enough.  But one thing has bugged me: when you see Romney on the debate stage or on the stump or in interviews now sounding every bit the moderate Republican he claimed to be 10 years ago as Massachusetts governor, he seems utterly comfortable now inhabiting the skin that the GOP base routinely calls RINO.

"Etch-a-Sketch" offers a pretty solid analogy for this ideological shift, as well as for Mitt's seeming comfort with the new persona.  But it doesn't explain what makes him tick.  I wanted something deeper.

Today, along comes my favorite conservative, Andrew Sullivan, who yesterday posted a scathing piece about the LDS Church's racism based in scripture and the writings of the religion's founders.  His point in that piece was that the LDS Church until 1978 declared that African Americans were "cursed with the sin of blackness" and excluded then suddenly and inexplicably reverse course without apology or explanation.  Why, when asked if the previous policy was wrong, does Romney fail to answer the question?

In most people carrying that level of cognitive dissonance, the moment someone exposes it, it shows up on the face, in the voice, in the body language, or in the temperament.  I don't see it on his face or body, don't hear it in his voice, and don't feel it in his temperament.  In other words, he's either a liar of superhuman dimensions, or he simply doesn't experience the dissonance for some psychological reason.

In a post highlighting reader dissents, a reader takes Sullivan to task for not having "fully grasped just how the continuing revelation thing works for Mormons: what is said today by Church leadership takes precedent over what went before. And to claim that this is done 'casually' is to betray ... ignorance on the question."  Indeed, the church believes that once the church leadership has ruled on an issue, nothing anyone ever said in the past which contradicts that ruling "make[s] a particle of difference."  What this tells me is that, once Mitt Romney has changed course on an issue, nothing contradictory he said or did before announcing the new position matters.  A year ago he was a "severe conservative," but on October 3 at the first debate, he was a moderate.  It was like the severe conservative never existed, and nothing he said on the stump during the primary campaign had any bearing on what he's been saying today.  Therefore, the church offers a much more concrete pathology than Etch-a-Sketch, at least for me.

I don't hold any particular opinion on the LDS Church, but feel particularly uneasy about a person who can, with the precision of an automaton or, perhaps, the Inner Party of Orwell's 1984, suddenly say, "I'm a moderate, and I've always been a moderate."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why Women Can't Wait to Protect Themselves from Romney

This morning on NPR I heard a story about some women in Ohio who were voting for Romney even after his disastrous second debate performance, where he gaffed about "binders full of women" and suggested both that women should get flex time at work so that they can get home and cook dinner and that single parent homes (presumably led by women) are responsible for gun violence in our society because such households are inherently less stable than two-parent households.

One of the women interviewed said she thought it was a good thing that Romney talked about flex time.  Well, it certainly is a good thing that an employer provides workers of ANY gender flex time to deal with family matters, such as child care and other domestic duties.  But we are increasingly in a world where there are two income earners per household, and men are increasingly likely to be home and available to pick kids up from school and cook dinner (as I am today, how about that?). 

More importantly, another said that she didn't appreciate Romney's comments about gun violence, or his views on contraception or abortion, but that she was more concerned with the economy, like jobs and our debt, than her own choices about reproduction. "I think women can wait till later to deal with those issues."  I couldn't be sure, but she sounded older and past her child-bearing years.

Here's the thing, and I'll try really hard to avoid falling into the "you're a man, you couldn't possibly understand" trap.  While I agree that national economic issues such as unemployment, deficits, and national debt are of major concern, their importance doesn't detract from the seriousness of women's equality and health issues.  In fact, they shine a very bright spotlight on women's issues.  Women make up more than half the population, and occupy a similar share of the work force.  Their issues regarding equal pay, contraceptive availability, reproductive choice, and the like, are also national economic issues, as Obama said in the debate. 

Folks, neither men nor women can wait to deal with the issues women until after the economy is restored to what we consider "normal."  They go together, and if you delay women's issues, you hamper economic recovery.  Having access to contraception, and access which is covered in their employers' health insurance plans, helps women prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Unwanted pregnancies lead to more lost work time, especially if some women decide to terminate them.  Not to mention, the stress of dealing with a pregnancy one carries to term, which, let's admit, also costs employers time and money in lost productivity.  And if a woman lacks easy access to contraception AND has to deal with a workplace that considers her contribution to be less valuable than a man's even if doing the same work, the economy suffers a great deal.  A vote for Romney practically ensures that women will have to fight even harder to be recognized and valued as equal members of this society.  How a woman decides to vote against that is beyond me, but I'm of the mind that, as a polity, we're pretty fucked up. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maddow Goes Postal Because FACTS MATTER

Been posting a lot of my thoughts on Facebook lately, which is why this blog has seen so little time from me this year.  Sorry.  But this time I'm linking from FB to here because I need the space.  That being written...

Rachel Maddow hit the roof on her show Wednesday night.  Didn't catch it?  Neither did I, but a Kos poster named Exurban Mom did.  Read her transcript attempt.  The video for the rant is here.   The video leads off with Maddow talking about Romney's credentialing of Jerome Corsi, he of the World Net Daily (don't expect me to link there, are you fucking kidding me?) and calls for Obama's birth certificate (and, now, Obama's a "secret gay married murderer").  However, at about 8:40 of the 10:15 clip, Maddow says the following, which is a huge point worth discussing:
Part of the reason I think this country would be better if the website Politifact didn't exist is because Politifact has encouraged relativism, on the subject of whether or not stuff happened, as a mainstream thing.  So, like, when Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" and he went on CBS News and defended his call to let Detroit go bankrupt, including that headline, Politifact fact-checked whether or not Mitt Romney did say, "Let Detroit go bankrupt."  And they found that HALF TRUE!  Because basically they don't think that Mitt Romney likes to be quoted saying, "Let Detroit go bankrupt." Or something.  Even though he did.  So... "half true?"  Politifact last night looked into whether or not President Obama used the phrase "act of terror" the day after the Benghazi attack when he gave that speech in the Rose Garden.  [cuts to clip of President Obama saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."]  Politifact, in its assessment, said, "Oh, yes, he did say that, but it's really only HALF TRUE because people on the right say maybe he didn't mean it when he said it.  This infection is leaving the conservative media, through purportedly neutral arbiters of fact like Politifact. These baldly false, conservative, "feel-good" assertions about knowable facts that come from the right, end up becoming just "the other side of a political issue... we're taking an 'objective look.'"  And that is BULL.  Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.  The unemployment rate is below eight percent. The day after the Benghazi attack, the president called it an "act of terror."  Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better, but do not confuse your WorldNet-Daily-caliber-therapeutic-conservative-alternative-reality-fantasy-BABBLE for what actually happened.  Because stuff really does actually happen.  And eventually, you really do have to deal with it.
As I've been writing all week, FACT MATTER.  TRUTH MATTERS.  REALITY MATTERS.  Of course, spin happens on both sides of the aisle, and in all of life's wonderful situations: between parent and child, husband and wife, boss and employee, customer and business.  But at some point we all have to acknowledge that our spinning does not alter facts.  It does not alter reality.  Oh, for some like Karl Rove, who proclaims that he and his ilk create their own reality, and that the "reality-based community" can do nothing but sit back and watch, reality can actually be altered.  Just not how he thinks it can.  He may think the world is seeing reality through the lens he creates, but it's just a filter.  On film, a soft focus filter can make an aging, wrinkled actress look younger and more beautiful.  On stage, a colored gel turns a white light blue, or red, or green, or yellow.  And on Fox News, a decent, hard-working, mixed-race, Christian, capitalist President of the United States can be turned into a white-people hating, do-nothing, Chicago-ghetto-trash, terrorist-fist-bumping Muslim socialist Nazi who may or may not be constitutionally eligible to hold the office.  In real reality, the US was acting like a war-mongering, oil-grabbing imperialist, instead of Rove's version: a spreader of democracy. 

We'll tell ourselves all day long that up is down and black is white, but it won't change what IS.  The "reality-based community" actually owns the high ground in this election, while the Romney-ites desperately scramble for some semblance of relevance.  But, until they face reality, they're nothing but a sham. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debate #2 Reaction

President Obama, after a dreadful showing two weeks ago during debate #1 where he was listless, aloof, and unwilling to engage in debate, found his footing again Tuesday night in Hempstead, NY.  He came out swinging, and never let up.  It wasn't a perfect showing, as he missed a couple of key opportunities to attack Mitt Romney on the economy while touting his own record.  Having him show up with his game face on, with his usual cool demeanor, and with a solid command of facts and reality was a sorely-needed shot in the arm for his supporters.  In particular, Andrew Sullivan stepped back off his ledge after going a bit mad after the Denver debate.

Far better writers and commentators than I have written millions of words already about the specific moments in the debate where Obama gained the upper hand.  For example, right off the bat, when he said that Romney wanted the auto industry to fail without the means to stay open for business, you knew that Obama meant business.  And this was just the tip of his iceberg.  Romney's titanic tirade of tall tales (I like that!) continued throughout the debate.  Time and again, Obama called Romney's assertions "not true," or simply slammed him with the real Mitt Romney (he of the "one-point plan" and "sketchy" deals).  When Obama stood up to Romney over the suggestion that Obama and his team misled the country over what had happened in Libya, his indignation was justified, and he took exactly the right tone to put Romney in his place.  From that point forward, Romney acted like a petulant child, and made some really bad choices in what he said and/or suggested.  When Romney said that two-parent households helped reduce gun violence, suggesting that single-parent households were responsible for the increases in gun violence, my wife's ears pricked up and she got pissed.  Had I been Romney at that moment, I'd have gone back to my stool, pulled off my wing-tips and shoved both feet into my mouth. 

For Romney, it was a frustrating evening, and it showed all over his face and in his body language.  He scored pretty well when hitting Obama on the economy because, well, Obama's performance on the economy has not pleased many people and is a politically weak area for him.  Romney would do well to continue hammering on jobs, deficits, and debt.  But because he has been exposed for failing to spell out how, specifically, he would make changes to the Obama policy, he needs to start backing up his criticisms with real ideas.  I don't hear vision from him -- he's not a visionary person, he's a problem-solver -- and in the final debate, which deals with foreign policy issues, he'll need to lay it all out there for everyone to see if he wants to build on his considerable post-Denver momentum.  I'm sure his people are busily drafting and crafting away at his message, slowly moving him toward a moderate position.

For Obama's part, he definitely is missing some key elements to his second term agenda.  I don't particularly believe that he's got nothing but more of the same (that would be politically suicidal), but he needs to show from this point forward where he will change things up.  He knows he's got to deal with a Congress that will become even more intransigent and obstructionist.  If the GOP gains seats in the Senate, with or without gaining a majority, you'll see even more gridlock.  Obama, a former state and US Senator, was content during his first term to let the Legislative Branch do its job, but even with a filibuster-proof Senate majority and a giant House majority for six months, very little got done in a bipartisan fashion.  Now, a lot of this can be attributed to certain rules in the two legislative bodies that give individual members the power to hold up votes, block judge nominations, and filibuster without actually standing at the microphone.  But most of it is due to the FACT that the GOP set out from the beginning to deny Obama re-election, damn the torpedoes and screw the whole country!  Despite this massive blockade, Obama passed key legislation that empowers the middle class and guarantees Americans access to healthcare.  I think the public Obama who showed up in Hempstead Tuesday night needs to be the public Obama now and all through his second term, calling out Republicans for not telling the truth, for being inconsistent with past positions, and for putting their party before the well-being of the country.  No matter what the GOP says in response to that, they can't deny that they want power before they'll lift a finger to help Americans.

To counter Romney's tack to the center, Obama also needs to tell anyone who is listening that we simply do not know who Mitt Romney is.  Up until right after the GOP convention, all we've heard from Romney is about what a "severe conservative" he is, about the 47% of the country with whom he doesn't want to be bothered, and about his support for nearly every hard-right policy in the Republican platform.  Of course, we know from his days as governor of Massachusetts that he held a moderate position on a lot of issues, including reproductive choice, which is why so many in the Republican base were wary of his conservative bona fides.  So he tacked to the right for over a year, sewed up the nomination, and is now tacking back to the center.  Obama needs to fashion a theme similar to, "Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?" or "Who are you, sir, and what have you done with the real Mitt Romney?"  Mitt Romney truly has been whatever he's needed to be at any given moment to gain voters.  He's a populist and an opportunist of the worst kind, asserting "core" convictions so powerfully that people forget that he's a monumental panderer and flip-flopper. 

Did Obama stop the freefall in the polls?  Probably, but we won't really know yet until more polling is done.  There were plenty of people who thought Romney had either won or fought to a draw, which tells me and should tell the President that he still has a lot of work to do.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Post Veep Debate Reaction

I went into watching last night's Vice Presidential debate in Danville, KY not caring who would "win."  There wasn't one voter watching that debate who is/was going to change his mind on whom to vote for based on the words or ideas (or lack thereof), or exhanges between the two VP candidates.  Not one.  The debate had one primary purpose: to make sure that those already in the presidential candidates' respective corners continue to feel good about being in those corners.  On that basis, both Joe Biden and Paul Ryan did fine. 

Where the scales tipped was in the substance and the energy of the debate.  Joe Biden has a lifetime career in politics.  His experience as a Washington mover and shaker, his background in foreign policy, and his "I was there" cred were in ample supply.  Ryan was completely out of his league on foreign policy.  I was embarrassed for him when he talked about the different places in Afghanistan he'd visited.  When he would spout off the names of those places, as well as was authoritative about "fighting season," he came across as little more than a well-coached high school debater.  (It also didn't help that he looked frighteningly like Eddie Munster with that dark hair, widow's peak, and big ears.)  On domestic policy, Biden dominated as well because, well, he has actual reality on his side.  When Ryan talked about unemployment going up, I simply could not avoid shouting at the TV, "That's a lie!"  But Joe was there with the facts. 

And Joe's congeniality simply outshone Ryan's frankly scary tone.  Yeah, Joe smirked, he giggled, he rolled his eyes, he threw up his hands, he interrupted Ryan, and he raised his voice.  It was all a little much.  But that's classic Joe Biden.  He was never disrespectful of Ryan, calling him "my friend" numerous times (because that's what senators and representatives do even when they're arguing).  Ryan, on the other hand, got rattled near the end of the debate, and even though he tried to admonish him once, saying, "Mr. Vice President." later he twice called him "Joe."  I'm sure Joe didn't really care about that; he's Joe! 

The real winner in this debate, by far, however, was Martha Raddatz of ABC News.  Finally, a real reporter, with actual real journalism experience under her belt, moderating a debate where real pointed questions were asked.  I didn't like her final question about the tone of the campaign, but I'll give her a pass on that one since the rest were so fine.  Not only that, she engaged in strong follow-up questions, pressed each candidate for clarity, and did a far better job at holding to the time limits than sleepy ol' Jim Lehrer did with the first presidential debate last week.  Ryan seemed utterly flustered when Raddatz pressed him for specifics on both the Romney tax plan, and foreign intervention choices.  And Biden, good ol' Joe, grinned sheepishly when he got caught going on too long. 

In the end, I come away with this: Facts matter.  Truth matters.  Reality matters.  Four years ago, Obama and Biden were elected at a time when the entire world was reeling economically because of the crazy shit Bush, Cheney, and Paulson actively and tacitly encouraged in the financial sector.  That's a fact.  That's the truth.  That's reality.  Unemployment now is at the level it was when Obama took office, but it must be acknowledged that what happened to jobs in Obama's first year was fallout from what had happened in 2008, when Obama was a candidate.  That too, is reality.  I don't think they believe they did everything right every step of the way.  But I do believe they did what they thought was the right thing to do at the time.  And the results -- declining unemployment rates, steady (though sluggish) job growth for nearly three years, steady (though sluggish) GDP growth, a stabilizing housing market, more manufacturing jobs, a thriving auto industry, a vibrant stock market, record corporate profits, higher worker productivity -- bear that out.  These, too, are facts.  Obama has also had to deal with one undeniable fact: the Republican Party has been the single greatest obstacle to greater American prosperity since 2009.  They have, since January 21, 2009, had one vision: deny Obama a second term.  Everything they have done to obstruct the Obama legislative agenda has cost this country.  The right can spin this all they want, but it is a FACT that they have put their hunger for power before the success of the country.  And they must not be allowed to succeed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Romney the Robot Resets

It is unsurprising, but nonethess unconscionable, that R-money now walks back his secretly-recorded comments from last May where he says that 47% of Americans are government-dependent parasites with whom he can't be bothered. 

You might think that, after his debate win and while he's enjoying an uptick in the polls, it would be a good time to try to correct a past wrong.  But let's be crystal clear: After the news broke that R-money had made these comments, not only did he not immediately walk them back (let's call that what it actually would have been -- an apology), he hastily put together a painfully awkward presser and then doubled down on them.  On Sept. 17, he said, "This is something I talk about a good deal in rallies and speeches and so forth.  The president’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes.” 

Not only is the clarification completely different than what he'd said months ago, we clearly see that the 47% comment represents one of his core beliefs.  Perhaps we had been waiting to see what his core actually is.  It is this, certainly, but it is also that he has a reset button for practically everything he has ever said or will ever say. 

As conservative blogger Daniel Larison put it today, "Romney demonstrates on an almost daily basis that he can’t be trusted. Even when he is correcting obvious mistakes, he gives people reason to doubt him."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Three-Cent Reaction to Obama/Romney 1

Mitt Romney executed a masterful end-run around Barack Obama last night, grabbing the political center that Obama has so deftly occupied for the past four years.  And he did it by repeatedly lying about his policies.  Furthermore, he changed the narrative of the election from ideology to a referendum on Obama's effectiveness.  Basically, his argument last night, after flip-flopping on some major conservative points (see more below), was, "I'm really not that much different than President Obama, but with a Republican-led Congress, I'll be much more effective at executing.  The President's had time to get stuff done and he's failed, so it's time to give me a shot at it." 

Where did Romney flip-flop?  On the DREAM Act, he said he would keep the order alive (the far right hates this law).  On Obamacare, he said he'd keep all the good things he liked alive while getting rid of the law nonetheless (which would be impossible).  He will stop Obama's $716B Medicare stripping and let seniors choose to have traditional Medicare if they want (a lie and a bureaucratic clusterfuck to run two different programs at the same time).  And he would embrace Simpson-Bowles "with some tweaks here and there" to make it stronger (another lie). 

The worst part of Romney's argument is that it could work.  People can see the reasonableness of what he said, when in truth the extremist GOP has held the country hostage for four years by obstructionism and nihilism toward anything Obama wanted to do, and has then blamed Obama for it.  Romney sold us on his plan, and it involved the most adept example of pandering that he has ever shown us.  Those in the middle who haven't yet decided whom to elect might very well have been pulled to his side.

As for President Obama, I have never been more disappointed in him.  Going into this debate, he had to have known that Romney would come in acting like he had nothing to lose.  Say anything, who cares if it's true?  Obama himself, meekly harping on Romney's $5 trillion tax cut, referenced the idea that if you say something enough times... And then he caved when Romney said his plan did not involve a $5 trillion tax cut, but would cut taxes for the middle class.  Why didn't Obama say, eye to eye, face to face, "You and your running mate have talked about the vagaries of your plan for weeks.  Americans are getting tired of your games; they want specifics.  Give us all one specific example of how your plan is deficit-neutral."  Why?  Because that's not his character. 

So does Obama's long game, the deftness of which has frequently been underestimated, entail letting fact-checkers and surrogates do his dirty work?  Probably.  In our 24-hour news cycle world, the next day will involve a phalanx of Democratic strategists and administration officials relentlessly slamming Romney's tax plan, his lies at the podium, his 47% statement, and his inability to relate to ordinary Americans.  Could Romney have been more insincere than last night?  Between the smug, bemused smile he pasted on his face, coupled with the vaguely uncomfortable look in his eyes, I got the sickest feeling that he didn't mean a word he said. 

Worse, however, was Obama's refusal to look up while Romney was speaking directly to him.  A president, especially one who has firm confidence in the good he has done, can ill afford not to meet his opponent's gaze.  He came off as aloof, distracted, bored.  That's the ticket: he bored me, and I sure as hell think he bored a lot more people too.

Damage has been done.  Polls are showing a narrowing, and Nate Silver shows that Obama's reelection chances dropped from 74% to 64% overnight.  Round two will need to be a very strong showing for the President.  I truly don't think he can withstand another onslaught from Romney without an equally strong push-back.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Eighteen LGBT-friendly Companies

To help guide my marriage equality-hating friends to choose to patronize companies that comport with their "family values," here is a list of 18 companies that support LGBT rights and issues.  Go fight the good fight, wingers!

Kraft Foods -- a rainbow Oreo cookie was posted to its FB page on 6/12/12 in honor of Pride Week
General Mills -- the company opposed a gay marriage ban in Minnesota
Levi Strauss -- the company pulled its financial support of the Boy Scouts for the group's anti-gay stance
American Apparel -- put its "Legalize Gay" t-shirt in storefront windows and then sent them to any group fighting for LGBT rights after its stores were vandalized.
Disney World -- the theme park has "Gay Days"
Starbucks -- supports marriage equality
Procter & Gamble -- opposed an anti-gay rights statute in its hometown of Cincinnati.
Microsoft -- supported a bill that would outlaw discrimination against homosexuals at work.  Under pressure the company withdrew its support and the law was defeated by a single vote
Home Depot -- has an inclusive corporate culture that does not discriminate against gays.
PepsiCo -- gave $1 million to Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG
Safeway Grocers -- put large Pride posters in its stores across America
GAP Stores -- Old Navy sold "It Gets Better" anti-bullying t-shirts in its stores, and The Gap launched ads featuring two men pressed together in the same shirt.
Girls Scouts of America -- allowed a transgender youth to participate
Macy's -- fired an employee who prevented a transgender woman from using a female dressing room because of "her religious beliefs."
Target -- announced it would donate 100% of any Pride merchandise sold to pro-LGBT group.
JCPenney -- depicted a same-sex couple lovingly playing with their children in one of their catalogs.
Walgreen's -- Platinum level sponsor of Chicago's "Gay Games"
Ford -- donated money to LGBT groups, supported and sponsored Pride celebrations, and advertised in gay-oriented publications.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney Just Conceded Defeat

The Ryan pick represents a big gamble for the GOP.  R-money has pandered to the base, who want to debate economic issues, but the Ryan budget plan is a big target for Obama and the progressives.  Ryan's Medicare voucher program will alienate him among seniors, especially in Florida.

Ryan, the scion of a rich Wisconsin family who lives in a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion that is a historic national landmark, has little credibility among the middle class.  His pursuit to drastically reduce or end the federal economic safety net lands him squarely in the same rarefied air of the one percent.

Accordingly, the rest of us do not matter.  Ryan is a vocal proponent of the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand.  He cites Atlas Shrugged as one of the most influential books he's ever read.  Anyone who has read Rand knows that there is no greater purpose for man than the furthering of his own self-interest.  Rand was a staunch atheist, and believed that altruism and collective goodwill were anathema to the ultimate success of society.  The fact that the Ryan budget wants to radically alter and/or dismantle federal entitlement programs, while worthy of debate and compromise, should give the Obama campaign great big gobs of red meat to feed their supporters.

With the Ryan pick, R-money has not redirected the debate toward economic issues.  He has solidified this election as class warfare.  Obama needs to exploit that issue as mercilessly as he has exploited R-money's corporate vulture persona.  A great Obama campaign slogan: "Vulture/Voucher 2012: NOT change we can believe in."

A little side issue with the Ryan pick that pivots off his Randian leanings: the GOP has defined itself, despite any claims to the contrary, as the party of real Christians.  As rank-and-file Republicans apply religious litmus tests to all candidates national and local, as they continue to press on social issues like gay marriage and abortion as inherently anti-Christian (hence, anti-American in their twisted "Christian nation" delusion), they create a huge problem for R-money.  Embracing Ryan's Rand-inspired budget turns the GOP into a bipolar beast.  It is impossible to fully embrace individualistic economic policies that destroy federal safety net programs while proclaiming that they live by solid Christian values.  Rand would be clawing at her casket trying to get out to spit on both R-money and Ryan.  This is another potentially huge target for Obama, who should run at R-money with this like a freight train, asking him to reconcile Ryan's anti-Christian budget to the GOP's bedrock Christian identity.  Of course, Obama won't because Democrats are, by definition, squishy and fearful of backlash.  But it would, at least, make for an interesting debate this fall.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Paul Ryan Will Help Obama Win Reelection -- And Easily

Ryan Lizza has a must-read piece in The New Yorker about Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who has in the past 14 years gone from an idealistic back-bencher to an ascendant star in the new generation of House GOP leadership.  While I had initially read the piece primed to confirm my distrust and contempt for the guy who wants basically to dismantle the structure of the federal government as we know it (and I have not been disappointed there), I have also gained a measure of respect for a man who took his learning, his training, and his best intentions and has stuck to his guns. He believes in what he does, and he is informed and well-read enough to be taken seriously. 

The piece also makes him somewhat sympathetic as it describes a time when President Obama invited Ryan as a VIP to a speech he was giving to discuss Ryan's economic plan (presumably to showcase how he and Ryan, on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, can still find common ground), only to watch Obama eviscerate it before his eyes.  Talk about a defining moment.

Where Lizza succeeds in showing how Ryan will help Obama's reelection campaign is a bit oblique, but nevertheless needs to be heavily showcased.  These three paragraphs did it for me:

As [Ryan's hometown] Janesville increasingly becomes a base for the business of distribution logistics, its single most pressing economic concern is good roads. [John] Beckord [a Ryan supporter and the head of Forward Janesville, a pro-business economic-development group] pointed toward Interstate 90, which runs southeast a hundred miles to Chicago. “From an economic-vitality and economic-development perspective, transportation infrastructure is huge,” he said. Next year, I-90 around Janesville will begin expansion from four lanes to eight. The project, the top issue for the local business community since the G.M. plant closed, will be financed as part of a billion-dollar federal and state highway project. “Paul has been as helpful as he can be to encourage that development,” Beckord said. “But, as you know, he also has a philosophical disconnect with the idea of earmarks.”

We passed a warehouse-like building under construction where several men in hard hats were at work. Beckord explained that it would soon house the Janesville Innovation Center, providing entrepreneurs with commercial space in which to launch their ideas. The money came from a $1.2-million government grant through the Economic Development Administration, one of Obama’s major stimulus programs.

There was one more success story that Beckord wanted to share. A few years ago, he had a melanoma that was treated with a radioactive isotope; this isotope is administered to fifty-five thousand patients a day but has a half-life of sixty-six hours after manufacture, so it must be delivered quickly. The isotope, known as a medical tracer, is made outside the United States by a complicated process requiring highly enriched uranium from nuclear reactors. The government offered twenty-five-million-dollar matching grants to companies that could devise a way to produce the material domestically, without using enriched uranium. “Two of the four companies that won that competition, incredibly, are going to build plants in our county, and one of them is going to be in Janesville,” Beckord said. In May, the federal government announced that it would contribute more than ten million dollars to the new facility, which could employ some hundred and fifty people.

Ryan does acknowledge that Obama's much-maligned statement, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that," was referring to the infrastructure and education programs that were clearly government helping the individual achieve success rather than impeding it.  Also, Ryan clearly sees the federal government's hand in the resurrection of his town.  But this doesn't stop Ryan from maligning Obama anyway: "His comments seem to derive from a na├»ve vision, an idea that the nucleus of society and the economy is government, not the people."

A Republican ideologue of Ryan's stature and ascendancy cannot be quoted as giving any credence to anything Obama has said, done, or proposed.  To the modern GOP, it's enough to oppose, with great enthusiasm, the legitimacy of the Democrat occupying the White House.  And, while his intentions to show the country that the GOP has "a solution to get us out of the ditch we're in, and to be proud of it" is worthy of our attention, sane voters from the center to the left know better that Ryan proposes no solution, nothing conservative. It's scorched earth; it's ruthlessly pro-wealthy and anti-poor, anti-worker, and anti-middle class.  Gingrich was right.  It's a like a course of strong antibiotics, which not only kills the infection but every other good bacteria in the body.  And the more he pushes it, the stronger Obama will get. 

(Ryan caricature from The New Yorker story)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts On The Supremes and Obamacare

Despite CNN and Fox News getting it wrong so spectacularly, most of the media got it right: The US Supreme Court ruled today, in a typical 5-4 decision, that President Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, is fully constitutional. 

In a complicated decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court held that the individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase healthcare insurance or pay a penalty, did not violate the Constitution if viewed as a kind of tax.  Congress has broad taxation authority and this is where Roberts hung his robe.  He did not agree with the Obama administration's argument that the federal government had authority to regulate insterstate commerce in this way, but bought the "backup" argument.  As they say in sports parlance, "A Win is a Win."

What this means is that millions of Americans who were unable to purchase health insurance, due to pre-existing conditions or other exclusionary criteria, will now be able to purchase it.  And those who elect not to will be forced to pay this penalty (which is far, far less than the amount one would pay for an annual premium).  As the linchpin for the program, the mandate makes sure that those who opt out of insurance are still going to have to foot part of the bill for those who would have been priced out.  This is how the insurance industry works anyway; healthier individuals who have lower premiums and don't ordinarily use health services offset the cost of individuals who consume more healthcare and pay premiums that never equal what they get in benefits.  The payment of this penalty is handled through the IRS, so enforcement exists.  Those who refuse, for whatever reason, either to purchase insurance or pay the penalty run the risk of fines and/or arrest.

Also, the ACA had a provision for Medicaid expansion that, on its face, is a bigger deal than the mandate.  States would have faced a cut-off of all Medicaid funding if they opted out of the ACA's insurance exchange.  The justices, including Roberts, held that the federal government could not cut off all funding, but could withhold new funds if states declined to participate.  This will certainly happen, as Tea Party-supported governors and elected officials will cry foul at the draconian, socialistic, government-run death panels that decide who lives and who dies.

The interesting this here is that Roberts, for the second time this week, has sided with the court's liberals on huge legal issues.  First, on the Arizona immigration law, then today on ACA.  There are lots of commenters out there with opinions on this, and I invite you to do some searching to find them.  I won't link to them here, but there is a LOT out there to see. 

Andrew Sullivan did, however, post a reader's email that speculated on what might have happened behind the scenes during the court's deliberations.  Apparently, Justice Scalia's opinion might originally have been a majority opinion, as it cite's "Ginsburg's dissent."  The suggestion is that Roberts jumped ship from the majority for some reason and joined the liberals, effectively changing history.

What this means for Obama is anyone's guess.  Republicans will cry that the president is raising taxes on the middle class (true for those who do not purchase health insurance), but in truth, how many middle class Americans who do not have health insurance don't want it?  Perhaps some younger people, but those who are under age 26 can stay on their parents' policy under ACA.  Those who are older will more than likely need health insurance in the future if they decide to raise families.  So in the end, it's pretty much a paper tiger issue.  The GOP will try to repeal the law, and that's exactly what Boehner is vowing to do (so is Romney, but more on that in a minute).  But they need a filibuster-proof Senate to do that, which, regardless of the outcome in November, is unlikely.

As for Romney, this ruling eviscerates a major campaign issue for him.  Now he is going to have to run against his own healthcare law in Massachusetts, which he had earlier said was fine on the state level but was unconstitutional at the federal level.  Now that a conservative, Bush-appointed Chief Justice has written the majority opinion negating Romney's chief argument, he's put in yet another difficult bind, running against the Supreme Court as legislating from the bench.  But, as it turns out, Roberts has done very little legislating from the bench, and is on record during his confirmation hearings as being firmly against such behavior.  Perhaps this is why he sided with the liberals and took the lightest approach possible.  There is historical precedent for federally-derived individual health-care mandates.

Gonna be a great summer!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Winding Down

Hello, readers -- As you may have noticed, my posts here are getting fewer and farther between.  In truth, I've considered winding down the blog altogether.  With business picking up and the ever-present fathering duties, I've been using Facebook an awful lot to link to stories I find interesting.  Often I get to provoke a more immediate reponse than what I post here.  Sometimes I link to the blog on Facebook, but I haven't noticed a tremendous amount of traffic clicking over from there.

So, if you're not already a friend of mine on Facebook, go ahead and look me up there.

My guess is that I'll be done here in a few weeks unless sufficient demand exists for me to keep this an active site.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Breitbart RIP

Andrew Breitbart died earlier today at age 43, reportedly after collapsing while walking near his home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood.  The LAT has a profile here.  David Frum's piece is here.  Money quote:
[It's] difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous. When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career?

I tried to avoid listening the shit the man spewed a lot of the time.  Whenever I did hear him speak, or read what he had read, I was disgusted.  Frum is right: "The attack was everything; the details nothing."

In Twitter-land, there were just as many tributes as insulting ones.  My fave so far was by fellow Blogger writer The Rude Pundit which linked to his quirky obit.  Best bit from that:
At first, he thought he was on a drug trip, it happened so fast; his soul popped out of him like a cork on a shaken champagne bottle. He saw his corporeal form on the ground and thought it was a wacky out of body experience, perhaps some flashback from the time he licked LSD off Michelle Malkin's ass cheeks, perhaps some residual peyote dream from that Western walkabout he did with Sean Hannity, when they got naked and rubbed each other with red dirt until they howled out that they wanted to kill the Indians again.
There were plenty of other comments that actually celebrated his death.  I can't join them, although it is somewhat comforting to know that he won't be heard from ever again in real time.  And if there's a hell, he's surely roasting marshmallows with the Prince of Darkness just because of his body of work.  But I didn't know the man personally.  At 43, he was a young one simply to have dropped dead like he did.  He was a family man, the adopted son of "moderately conservative" Jewish parents, who had a Latina sister, also adopted.  That he was as unctious, as confrontational, as uncaring about being truthful, around them as he was in his public persona is simply something I don't know.   It's tragic when someone dies suddenly in medias res.  So I'm ambivalent about speaking ill of him.

I think the worst part of this is that his death, coming so suddenly and before he could, as Frum put it, "have aged into greater self-control and a higher concept of public service," might spawn imitators who want to take his particular brand of political thuggery to new lows.  Usually, when someone loathesome dies, there are at least some people who say, OK, he/she is gone now.  We all know what an asshole he/she was, so can we at least agree that we no longer have to have his/her kind of bullshit around anymore?  But I'm afraid that reasonable voices such as that will be drowned out, and are, in fact, being drowned out now.

Great legacy, Andrew, huh?  Glad you didn't suffer for too long before departing this life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romney Totally Tone-Deaf in Michigan

Think about it: Mitt Romney, whose father George was governor of Michigan, is trailing Rick Santorum by double digits in the state ahead of their primary, which will be held this month.  He will go all-in with attack ads against Santorum in the state, the way he did against Gingrich in Florida, with an eye toward winning the state by being the biggest propagandist in the field.

And yet, Mitt still carries on publicly insulting the residents of the state by suggesting that the Obama administration was callously reckless and stupid to prop up GM and Chrysler, when those business should have been allowed to fail.  Never mind that the stimulus has revived the American auto business, that the government will likely make money on the deal in the long term, and that millions of people still have the jobs that the GOPers in Congress and in the presidential candidate field think is so sorely lacking from Obama's domestic agenda.

Tone-deaf.  And he really might lose his daddy's state.  And the nomination if Santorum's momentum keeps up.

I relish a showdown between Senator Frothy Mix and The President.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

GOP is the Party of the South

Nate Silver and others show that GOP voter turnout in non-southern states so far has been down, but in South Carolina, as well as panhandle counties in Florida, see higher voter turnout.  Lends strong support to the idea that the GOP has largely become the party of the South.  While there are, of course, Republicans all over the country, even in the bluest of blue states, there are also Democrats in the reddest of red states.  The highest concentration of Republicans per square mile is definitely in the South.  And, Nixon notwithstanding, the South can no longer win an election for the GOP.

Game and set -- Obama. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Full, Unconcealed Panic

Erick Erickson at RedState practically begs for a new candidate to take on Obama:
[T]his election is more volatile than any we have seen in a very long time because the party leaders, after years of learning to corral its base activists have now lost control and lost the respect of the base.

The deadly consequence is a cage match between the base and the establishment both of whom are backing two deeply, deeply flawed candidates with the odds heavily against them in a general election.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is time for both sides to let the scales fall from their eyes and in a bit of sanity rethink this thing.  Time is short, but there is still time.  Surely there is someone out there that both the Romney supporters and Newt supporters can agree on who is not named either or Newt.

... So maybe we ought to to all find someone who we all kind of like instead of heading to Tampa in August all licking wounds and pretending to rally to the man the voters chose between the evils of two real lessers.

Italics mine.  The GOP is in full panic mode right now.  "Surely there is someone out there (!!!)"  Erickson is not stating fact; he's pleading to anyone who will listen to enroll another candidate to restore some respect to the party.  The question is, just whom might that candidate be?  Jeb Bush?  Uh, not another one of those.  Mitch Daniels?  His wife won't let him. John Thune?  Excuse me, who?    

Let's face it: in its zeal to move further to the right while under the delusion that the voting populace is mostly a collection of far-right wingnuts, the Republican Party has been decimated, reduced to a collection of (mostly) far-right wingnuts.  They have no one compelling to offer who isn't also radically out of step with the great majority of people in this nation.  That means any up-and-comer who was a darling of the Tea Party in 2010 (and remains so now and into the near future) will have to make a serious dash toward the center to appeal to independents in 2016.  After this election that Erickson rightly characterizes as volatile, and after otherwise intelligent people right of center realize that their President can and does govern with them in mind too, the urgency of finding a Great White (Christian) Hope to take back the country will begin to fade.  However, it could just as easily mean the creation of the "Wingnut" Party, as I've predicted for months.  Either way, I believe as many others do that the GOP needs to be soundly crushed this November for any progress to be made in improving partisan relations on every level.

Given Erickson's somewhat limited influence, it's pretty apparent that the GOP has ceded this election.  The best they can hope for is a candidate who will not hurt the party down-ticket.  As Erickson writes:
I am part of the base that will do everything I can to defeat Mitt Romney because I believe he will be a disastrous nominee who will cost us the House, the Senate, the White House, and consequently the Supreme Court.  There are Mitt supporters who feel the same about Newt, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

"You kind of get your panties in a wad and you may say things that you regret later. And I think that that’s what Chris Christie did." -- Sarah Palin, reacting to NJ Governor Chris Christie's comments about how Newt Gingrich has embarrased the Republican Party.  Pot, meet kettle.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down to Four

Rick Perry will announce his withdrawal from the race today, before he faces more embarrassment in the South Carolina primary.  The last couple of weeks have seen Perry get a little more vocal, a little less bumbling, but the damage was completely done well ahead of his dismal performance in Iowa.  One of the most spectacular crash-and-burn failures I can remember.

CNN reports that Perry will endorse Gingrich, not Romney.  Not surprising: a loser supporting another loser.  But, combined, their poll numbers in South Carolina don't equal Romney's.

Once Gingrich quits, he'll probably endorse Santorum, but that will backfire as it becomes clearer who will be the nominee of the party -- Romney.

Obama must be pissing himself with abject fear at having to debate Romney in the general.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The friggin' New York Post reports on some pretty damning stuff regarding the companies purchased by Romney's Bain Capital:
*Bain in 1988 put $5 million down to buy Stage Stores, and in the mid-'90s took it public, collecting $100 million from stock offerings. Stage filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
* Bain in 1992 bought American Pad & Paper (AMPAD), investing $5 million, and collected $100 million from dividends. The business filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
* Bain in 1993 invested $60 million when buying GS Industries, and received $65 million from dividends. GS filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
* Bain in 1997 invested $46 million when buying Details, and made $93 million from stock offerings. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.
Four companies, $116 million invested, $358 million returned (average annual return roughly 132%), four subsequent bankruptcies.  Yeah, that's a job creator!  This needs to be in every ad about the economy/jobs created by all of Romney's opponents.  He'll eventually get nominated, but with this stuff floating out there for the next six months, he'll have a lot of 'splainin' to do!

Romney to The 99%: You're Just Jealous

In an interview with The Today Show's Matt Lauer after the New Hampshire primary, Mitt Romney encapsulates the entire concerns of the Occupy movement and those who agree with or support it as "the politics of envy."  What a callous statement that is!  He goes on to say that the discussion over income and wealth/power inequality in this country is one we ought to have, but in "quiet rooms" rather than in public settings.  Basically, he's admitting that the top 1% are cowards.  Is this why he still won't release his tax returns?

I'm really interested to see how this argument plays out with the public during the general election. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Time for a Third Pary?

As I've written here countless times, I believe that the GOP presidential failure in 2008, which revealed a big divide in that party between small-c conservative "Buckleyite" moderates and the hard-core, far-right ideologues dominated by the Christianists, would result in a schism that would eventual create a third party.  Sullivan compiles a couple of thoughts on the subject here, indicating that Americans are largely ready for a third party.  But they have it wrong.  What pollsters see as "independents" is really a mish-mash of people who only call themselves independents because they don't want party affiliation for whatever reason.  There's nothing there to coalesce into a party, because there are far left elements and far right elements.  If anything comes from the large body of so-called independents, it will be multiple parties, at least two.  Once there is a third party, there will be more to follow.

You'll never get Libertarians to that level.  Their reputation as isolationist nutjobs is nearly cemented, thanks to the press coverage of Ron Paul.  Not to say that Paul has nothing of substance to say.  But there's a huge conflict within his message that doesn't offer leadership; merely, a fountain of ideas to be refined so that all Americans can get behind them.

My bet is that Christianists are first out of the gate with a third party, incorporating far-right social issues with the prosperity gospel and Dominionism to make a claim for national leadership.  All they need right now is a charismatic leader who sounds more reasonable than insane.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fantastic Point about Ron Paul

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan and Robert Wright.  Wright's main point:
If a lack of moral imagination is indeed the core problem with America's foreign policy, and Ron Paul is unique among presidential candidates in trying to fight it, I think you have to say he's doing something great.

Andrew's point:
When your foreign policy is based entirely on abstract arguments about America and ideology, and not also on figuring out how your foe might act rationally (and the Iranian regime has acted quite rationally in its own self-interest since it began), [it] can lead to fatal error.

Literally Praying for a Santorum Nomination

Tonight I will hit my knees to beg our omnipotent creator to give Rick Santorum the strength, through increased funding and organization, to see the primary process all the way to the convention, where the delegates finally admit that they so dislike Romney that they're willing to nominate Santorum to run against Obama.  Conor Friedersdorf likes the Democrats' chances if that happens:
[C]onsider Santorum, who has no executive experience, served two terms in the House and one term in the Senate, and then lost his bid for reelection by 18 points. His unpopularity was due partly to the fact that he manages to articulate his positions in the most alienating, unlikable terms imaginable. More than even Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry, a Santorum candidacy would rally Democrats and independents back around the president who has disappointed them. Santorum's position on contraception is so extreme that it'd likely cost him even if only Catholics showed up to vote for the general election. And his foreign-policy views would arguably do more to empower the neo-con wing of the Republican Party than did George W. Bush.

Should Santorum get the nomination and his true colors revealed for all to see, I predict a Johnson/Goldwater-like result in the 2012 election.  There simply aren't enough Americans who are willing to elect a radical theocon fascist like Senator Frothy Mix.

Thanks for comin', Shelly, buh-bye!

First time in history that Michele Bachmann has done something I agree with and support.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Moment of Truth in Iowa

More than three years ago, I predicted that the Republican Party, believing that it lost the election to Barack Obama and the Democrats because they weren't conservative enough, would splinter into at least two, perhaps three, distinct groups.

In Iowa tomorrow, voters in that very religiously conservative state will select their favorite among the seven remaining Republican candidates.  And here are the top three: Mitt Romney, the socially moderate (he ain't foolin' anyone) fiscal conservative who has the support of many in the establishment wing of the party; Ron Paul, the heavily libertarian constitutionalist with the crazy conspiracy theories and no love for the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and Rick Santorum, a radical theocon who wants to outlaw abortion in all cases and strip already married gay couples of their marital status by constitutional amendment.

I believe my prediction has come true.  Should Romney win tomorrow, as is largely expected, he will have a pretty easy go of it for the remainder of the season.  If Paul finishes a strong second or even wins, watch the establishment take a flame thrower to his campaign such that he launches a third-party run.  Should Santorum finish strong, watch the Christianists and Tea Partiers run with that all the way to Super Tuesday, believing in their chances to dominate, once and for all, the party they have tried to dominate since 1968.