Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Don't Like Mitt Romney Either, but Who's Bronco Bama?

Talk about campaign fatigue:

And I thought I had troubles with this election.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are We Facing a New Civil War?

I hate to think about how many people feel this way toward the president.

If Mitt Romney wins the popular vote because of an overwhelming advantage in the red states, and Barack Obama wins the presidency by his advantage in electoral votes, will the red states, especially the southern ones, reject the legitimacy of Obama's reelection? I'm venturing a guess that they will.

An effort was undertaken to delegitimize Barack Obama from the start of his presidency, and it's continued virtually unabated throughout. Rumors that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia, that he was really a Muslim and certainly not a Christian, implications that he was not really eligible for the presidency either by birth or disposition have been persistent to this day. From Sarah Palin to John Sununu to Glenn Beck, the accusations flew that Obama was not a real American.

This ain't love, folks.
It's all bunk, of course. But it's worth a look at the consequences of this misinformation campaign. One, already in the mix, is that Barack Obama may, in fact, not be reelected because of the strong undercurrent of racism that continues, regardless of where we as a country should be in the 21st century. We should be in that "post-racial" society we long for, but clearly we're not.

In fact, the result of a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press showed that racism has, in fact, risen since Barack Obama was elected, with anti-black sentiment rising from 51% in 2008 to 56% today. This is sad but not unpredictable. We Americans continue to take two steps forward and one step back.

Beyond the birtherism, racism, and anti-Obama rhetoric by tea-party types that has maintained a steady din since the inception of the Obama administration, in recent weeks, we've seen an uptick in crazy talk about how the Obama administration might be "cooking the books" with Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs reports. A nice rise in employment a couple of weeks back was greeted not with relief but ridiculous accusations of gaming the system for political advantage.

Check these crazy assertions:

If this is how Fox News reacts to a standard-issue jobs report, albeit favorable to Barack Obama, how do you think the southern, indeed, even the western and mid-western states will react to a split decision giving the presidency back to Obama?

I dread the thought, I really do. It will be 2000 times a zillion. I don't hope for it, I don't relish it, I hope I'm wrong.

Anyway, be prepared.

Surprise: Mitt Romney Favors Privatizing Disaster Response

When disaster strikes: clearly a role for the private sector?

Mitt Romney thinks so:

A man who can say that disaster relief and response should be in the hands of the private sector is a man who is either imbalanced or so cynical that blowing dog whistles is more important than real critical thinking and honest appraisal. Vote Mitt! Disaster response brought to you by Bain Capital! Sheesh.

But wait. If you really get down into the weeds of Romney's response, he indicates three things: disaster response should be moved to the states, or better yet, given over to the private sector, or quite possibly eliminated altogether.

Oh, yes, he's a leader! Vote Mitt! He'll get the government off my back, even in a hurricane!

Update. Matthew Yglesias points out that Romney wants to cut FEMA. Of course he did, but not today. Josh Marshall thinks Mitt is just pandering:
Many things that Romney said back during his severely conservative period I have little doubt are what he really believes. This one though is so nonsensical that I’d chalk it up more to his penchant for pandering and lack of character. But that’s a difficult excuse for Romney to use on his behalf and I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this pretty soon.
 I sure hope so.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This Is What Winners Look Like.

I am a fan of baseball, and I am a fan of my San Francisco Giants. Congrats, and thank you for a terrific season, my brothers of many colors.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How Mitt Romney Plans to Grow the Economy

Click to see the original on Tumblr, then zoom in. Note the "Romnmney" on the banner in back.

Hard to see in this image, but the Romney/Ryan team has Photoshopped the lower image numerous times to make it look like the Mongol hordes are attending their Nevada event. Can you count the ways?

Maybe, if they get elected, they can Photoshop the economy and make it an economonomnmey!

(h/t, Will.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Republican Party Is No Place for Women

Mitt Romney at the end of the third debate, which, by a broad consensus, he lost.

The text of the Republican Party concerning abortion:
THE SANCTITY AND DIGNITY OF HUMAN LIFE  Faithful to the "self-evident" truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial birth abortion, permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by exacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties to health care providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives and abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions - gender discrimination in its most lethal form - and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a revision of federal law 42 U.S.C. 289.92 to bar the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
We also salute the many states that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose live, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.
Please note that the platform on abortion does not call for any exceptions under any circumstances.

Now let's look at the positions of various Republicans (I've edited some of these videos to save you time; you can click to go to the YouTube version to see each in their entirety):

Mitt Romney:

More Mitt Romney:

Rachel Maddow adds more about Paul Ryan:

More on Paul Ryan concerning women:

More on Paul Ryan:

Elizabeth Warren on the Blunt Amendment, which failed in the Senate earlier this year:

Mental health break: I am a SF Giants fan. They won big tonight in game 1 against the Detroit Tigers, 8-3, with Panda Pablo Sandoval hitting three home runs. But I feature this amazing three-hits-in-one by Hunter Pence in the seventh game to help defeat the St. Louis Cardinals as a break from the dismal GOP:

That's special, right? BTW, it was a single to drive in a run. Go Hunter! (and go Giants, of course...)

Okay. Back at it with an Obama ad. Yes, it's an edited portrayal of Romney's statements, but do you doubt any of them? I don't:

Get rid of Planned Parenthood is coded language for "women should be barefoot and pregnant." Yes, Romney didn't say that, but do you doubt his intent? I don't. Here it is in context, with threats to get rid of Obamacare, Amtrak, and, yes, Planned Parenthood:

Great. Health care for the masses of uninsured, subsidies for a rail system that's highly popular and vastly increasing in ridership during this economic slump, and, yes, Planned Parenthood, needed by million of American women. Let's get rid of those, ASAP.

Just as an aside: When Mitt Romney talks about getting rid of Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, and Amtrak, can you find where the needs of women and men diverge? Not really. But when you think of what conservatives think of women, minorities, and the uninsured, can you find a divergence? Oh yeah. Mitt's target audience is the privileged class who don't need no stinking help. Got it. Did you ever see "The Philadelphia Story?" I did:

Yes, one of my favorite lines in all of moviedom: "The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges." Need I say more? Does this fit in with how Mitt Romney views the world?

It sure fits in with how Ann Romney views the world. It's such a shame that Mitt Romney, after enjoying the fine pretty world of the privileged class has to go back and "be circumspect" in the real world:

I didn't want to end with an Obama ad, but let's face it, Romney was speaking to the fine pretty world of the privileged class, and he sounded, well, like an asshole. Where am I wrong? Okay, I won't end on the privileged class:

Okay, maybe I did. Is this not the privileged class saying you're on your own?

Women: If Romney Wins, Say Goodbye to Your Bodies

The title of this post is not hyperbole.

Today's Republican Party, with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as its standard bearers:

Yes, that's Richard Mourdock, who unseated moderate Republican Richard Lugar in the primary, now running in red-state Indiana for senator. Mitt Romney, learning a few days back that Mourdock, like many Tea-Party candidates this fall, is at risk of losing a red-state Senate seat, decided to cut an ad in support of his candidacy.

Then, oops, Mourdock reveals his true feelings in a debate Tuesday night:
 I believe life begins at conception. The only exception I have for to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.
Republican Todd Akin, running against moderate Democrat Clair McCaskill in Missouri, had this to say a few months back:

 Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan quickly said they "disagreed" with Akin's comments. And yet, here's Paul Ryan in an early campaign interview:

A careful listen shows that Paul Ryan agrees with Todd Akin (and by extension Richard Mourdock), not his running mate Mitt Romney, but for the sake of the ticket, Mitt's the boss!

As for Mitt Romney's view, in spite of his usual Etch-A-Sketch approach to convictions, here's Mitt Romney on Mike Huckabee's Fox News show:

That's Mitt Romney, standard bearer and possible president of the United States, saying that he favored a "life begins at conception" (aka personhood) amendment to the constitution that would outlaw all abortions as well as many currently accepted birth-control methods including IUDs and morning-after pills. Other fundamentalist Christians believe such an amendment would ban hormone-based birth control, as well.

This is the face of today's Republican Party. This is what we all face if Mitt Romney wins. Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post warns this morning:
While Romney has become a general-election tabula rasa, he sits atop what may be the most radical major political party in American history. Regardless of Milquetoast Mitt’s positions, a government with a Republican president and Republicans in control of the House and Senate would use its budget-reconciliation powers (which enables a Senate majority to sidestep the 60-vote requirement so frequently used to stymie legislation) to defund or repeal not only the health-care guarantees and financial regulations that Obama signed into law but also much of the education funding and regulatory safeguards on which Americans have depended for decades.
The radicals who dominate the Republican Party have entertained Romney’s turn to the center as a necessary electoral expedient. The day after a Romney victory, their blitzkrieg will begin — leaving the moderate Mitt of the general election to historians specializing in short-lived phenomena.
A favorite take by many people on Mitt Romney's seemingly non-existent set of convictions is that he's a moderate who'll say anything to get elected in today's Tea-Party environment and that we can be assured that Mitt the Moderate will return and be a centrist leader to the nation. But what if there's no center remaining in his party?

Oh oh, there is no center remaining in his party.

Finally, what are the chances that a Supreme Court, now on the brink of becoming the most conservative in history could survive two or even three justices appointed by a Republican president driven by a far-right Republican Party?

Think of this:
  • I was 15 when blacks were guaranteed the right to vote.
  • I was 16 when birth control was made legal.
  • I was 23 when abortion was made legal.
  • I was 55 when sex between consenting adults in the privacy of their homes was made legal.
  • I was 62 when gays were allowed to serve in the military.
Imagine a Supreme Court with six justices with views roughly between Joe Alito and Clarence Thomas. Holy crap. Speaking of holy, Alito and Thomas, as well as Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts are Catholic. Under their church's doctrine, both birth control and abortion are forbidden.

This video is funny about an unfunny topic, but it is a little bit of comic relief:

Not so funny but a little freaky nonetheless. But no less freaky than this classic Rush Limbaugh rant, dissected ably by Huffington Post's Cara Santa Maria:

As a de facto leader of the Republican Party, what are the chances of Rush letting Moderate Mitt be moderate? Here's a good reminder of how moderate Mitt Romney is:

And here's a news report about Paul Ryan expressing -- behind closed doors -- outright support for Richard Murdock:

Now we've come full circle. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support Richard Mourdock, who believes if you get raped, it's God will that you have the rapist's baby. Women, what's so moderate about that?

Nothing. Women (and men), vote for Barack Obama.

Update. This is for men and women of all ages to ponder:

Got it. Richard Mourdock believes Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are unconstitutional, and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support him. This is today's Republican Party.

Update 2. Mitt Romney's campaign just announced that they aren't pulling the ad supporting Richard Mourdock. Okay...

Update 3. Mourdock apologizes but stands by his statement. Just weird. Note in the article that John Cornyn, longtime senator from Texas, supports Mourdock's views.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Civil War Isn't Over

The North didn't help the South bury its dead, and they've never forgiven us.

I watched an American Experience program on the Civil War dead the other night -- a repeat I think -- on PBS, and it really struck me how long our institutional memories are. When the institution is the Southern culture, it's easy for those in the north to miss. I've lived in both the North and the South before settling in California, and I've visited both since.

In front of the South Carolina state house, today.
First, my premise: the South never forgave the North for the crushing defeat it suffered in the Civil War, and a key reason is that the North -- the Union, in fact -- made a concerted effort to bury its Civil War dead, but refused to do so for the Confederate dead. The North felt contempt for the Southern soldier, at least at the time, and so the South was left with a few women's groups to make an heroic but ultimately failed effort to bury the Southern dead.

From living in Japan and studying its history and culture, I learned that the nine-year occupation after World War II led almost to a love affair between the former deadly enemies, one that persists to this day. We very nearly crushed Japan in the war and bombed it -- with conventional as well as nuclear weapons -- quite nearly into oblivion, and yet the occupation healed so many wounds, much as the Marshall Plan did in Europe.

Gettysburg National Cemetery: for the Union dead only.
The Union occupation of the defeated Confederacy took an opposite tack, to humiliate and punish the South, and we are suffering the consequences to this day. Not burying the Southern dead when the North had the chance must have rankled and cut deep, and I'm sure that fierce anger persists, at least that form of it that makes the Southern man feel low and humiliated, enough to still cherish the Confederate flag. I'm not expert enough to tie the Civil War and its aftermath to the Southern economies of today -- or to the inherent and persistent racism -- but it doesn't take a Nobel laureate to figure out that the Southern states lag far behind the North and the West Coast in economic growth.

Check out this article by Jonathan Cohn are the North-South divide (blue-state-red-state, if you will):
By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.
A big piece of this separation between Southern red states and Northern and Western blue states is the principle of states' rights, which is code, in my view, for the persistence of nostalgia for the Confederacy. States' rights mean we don't need no stinking affirmative action, we don't need the Negro voters, and we don't need Washington (the Union) coming down here and tell us how to run our bidness. Stay out.

The result is clear from, as an example, Texas. Cohn goes on:
Romney and Ryan like to say that giving states more autonomy would encourage innovative and efficient solutions to social problems. But what their agenda would really do is undermine modern standards of economic security, creating among the red states a region in which government doesn’t even try to guarantee that everybody can pay for basic necessities of life. It would do nothing less than change the postwar definition of what it means to be an American.

The quintessential blue state is, of course, Massachusetts. There, health care is available to almost everybody, regardless of income or preexisting medical conditions. Welfare benefits are among the most generous in the country, and the state spends hundreds of millions on public housing each year. These programs don’t always lift people out of poverty or protect them from financial catastrophe. Still, Massachusetts’s residents get a lot more help from their state government than people who live elsewhere in the United States. It is reliably at the forefront of efforts at the state level to do what the federal government will not.
...Today, Texas doesn’t even try to provide the kind of protection for its vulnerable residents that Massachusetts does. It has more uninsured residents than any other state in the country; its lawmakers have repeatedly refused money from the federal government to expand health insurance for kids. Its welfare program is among the nation’s stingiest: Eligible families get less than $300 a month, about 19 percent of the federal poverty line. The Texas state housing budget is a mere $5.5 million—a tiny fraction of what Massachusetts spends, even though Texas has almost four times as many people. “There’s no other state money allocated for housing,” says John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, “unless you want to count prisons.”
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia's definition of states' rights:
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. Since the 1940s, it has often been considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation. In law, states' prerogatives are protected by the Tenth Amendment.
It doesn't take a political science degree from Harvard -- or Duke, for that matter -- to figure out that politicians, like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who support states' rights do so to employ a coded term that means we hate unions and still wish we could keep Negroes in their place. They do it to send a message, one that is not lost on the Southern states that support states' rights.

As long as this divide, which might have been repaired in the 1800s, lives on -- and there's no reason to believe it will fade anytime soon -- then we can expect conservative politicians to exploit this age-old resentment harbored by white Southern men and women. It's a sad reminder of the wages of sin, and the wages of war.

The Confederate dead in Oakwood Cemetery: If only the Union had helped...

Update. A recent Gallup poll shows Mitt Romney up by seven points. That's way off the average of national polls that show a more even race. But a graph of how that lead came to be is very informative and bears on what I've said in this post:

The South really holds different political beliefs, doesn't it? Where did that come from? 150 years ago? Could be, could be.

Mitt Romney Looks into His Soul, Sees Himself, and Looks Away

Mitt Romney at the Tuesday debate, staring his own ineptitude right in the face.

I wish every voter could look into Mitt Romney's soul. Would they see a man who thinks lying for the purpose of winning a point in a negotiation or a debate is just the cost of doing business, that God forgives those who lie if they've got a couple million bucks and the ambition to match? Or would they see a man who thinks if he throws out enough three-point plans or five-point plans people will forget that none of the points are worth spit but at least he's a man with plans? Would they see a man who thinks he's just too grand to ever be referred to as a flim-flam man?

We'll never know because we'll never get a look inside Mitt Romney's soul. I suspect Mitt Romney never will either. I've never seen any evidence that Mitt references his soul on a regular basis. He left that behind in high school when he was bullying kids whose hair wasn't right.

All we'll get to see of Mitt Romney was what he presented on the debate stage this past Tuesday, and it didn't look good. Oh, it looked good to about 30 percent of voters, but those are the same folks that thought George W. Bush was a good president, people I like to call Bush dead-enders. And, sure, Mitt will get another 18 percent of the voters that watched Mitt and saw that he has a plan, for Pete's sake, and he isn't a black Muslim Kenyan.

Let's look at those plans:
  • Cut taxes across the board by 20 percent. This cut will be revenue-neutral (meaning it won't save anybody a dime) because he'll eliminate unspecified deductions -- deductions he vociferously refuses to specify. It begs the question: Why even do it? Government gets no extra money, so it doesn't solve the deficit, and people don't have their tax burden lowered, so...? Because he's a tax cutter! So there. And it's a plan.
  • Create 12 million jobs. How? Magic! Romney does say it's because things will get better just because he's elected because it'll make people more confident, and also fewer regulations (on what, banks?) and lower taxes, and magic! By the way, experts all say we're going to get about 12 million jobs just because the economy will heal itself as it often does. So... But it's a plan.
  • Repeal Obamacare, in spite of the fact that it was based on his health care plan in Massachusetts. Experts point out that if Romney cuts, as he said he would, federal support of Medicaid and allows health insurance to be sold across state lines, there's a great likelihood that it will destroy his signature health system in Massachusetts. Great. End Obamacare and Romneycare. That's a plan.
  • Get tough on China. What does that actually mean? It means Mitt Romney is tough and Obama is a weenie. Oh.
  • If Romney is elected, he'll get binders full of women. Oh, and he'll let his female cabinet officers off early every day so they can get home to cook dinner. A real feminist if I've ever seen one.
  • If anything goes wrong in the middle east, he call it an act of terror on Day One. That'll fix everything.
We didn't get a look into Mitt Romney's soul on that debate stage. What we didn't see was much of a reason to hope for his election. Maybe he'll actually look into his soul after his failed campaign. I'd hate to think of what he'll see.

I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody. You were, Mitt, you were.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Not My World, but It Is, Gunslinger Edition

Gil Collar
I've found it hard to write on issues lately, as I was thrown for a loop when a few days back a young man, about whom I know nothing, was gunned down on an Alabama campus by a campus policeman. The student named Gil Collar, an 18-year-old freshman and wrestler at the University of South Alabama, was shot dead while "acting erratically" in front of the campus police station. Among other things, he was unarmed and completely naked. It was also reported that the student was 5' 7" tall and 135 pounds.

From reports it appeared that the student charged the policeman aggressively several different times from which the policeman retreated. At some point, rather than retreat -- or go back inside the police station to regroup -- he shot the student once in the chest, killing him.

This is, on the face of it, a senseless killing, no less senseless than the killing in September of a 40-year-old double amputee in a wheelchair in a group home for the mentally ill in Texas. Reports said that the man, a schizophrenic, had "cornered" a police officer and threatened him with a pen before a fellow officer shot him once in the head, killing him.

These events, which follow a slew of officer-involved shootings in rather disturbing circumstances in recent days, are part of a pattern of reckless behavior by police that are, more often than not, dismissed as "clean shoots." In the end, the officers are only rarely disciplined or charged.

But what made me even more disturbed than simply hearing about the tragedy of the young wrestling student were the cavalier attitudes of demonstrated by commenters on the story at Slate, an ostensibly liberal online magazine. A significant number of them defended the action -- without knowing any more details than the thin explanation of the original report, saying things like the following:
  • "Sorry folks, when a naked man does not stop for a uniformed officer, the only place to shoot him is in the chest.. First rule of self defense, shoot at the center of mass to save your own life. Any one intruding on my house be advised."
  • "I love all these internet badasses who would have used their bruce lee skills and just taken the guy down without incident. Unarmed men kill people all the time. Drugged up naked ones probably more than others. Unless we can now read minds, we don't know if the cop actually felt threatened or not."
  • "There is no such thing as not shooting to kill. If you don't shoot to kill, you will probably miss. Shooting accurately is very very difficult, even at close range. People who have never fired a gun may not realize this."
Trevis Austin
 Of course, many were shocked and wished another way were possible to subdue a small, if buff, naked man.

Later reports revealed that the officer who shot Collar, Trevis Austin, was also armed with a baton and pepper spray at the time of the shooting. Collar, for his part, had taken LSD. The videotape of the incident apparently shows that Collar never got within 4-5 feet of the officer and that the officer approached Collar with gun drawn.

I don't claim to know enough to judge the actions of officer Trevis Austin. But in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, the incident in Texas with the double amputee in a wheelchair, and -- closer to home -- the killing of a 23-year-old in Vallejo, California by a police officer who jumped on the hood of the dead man's car before emptying his service revolver through the windshield, I'm once again reminded how violent our society is and how unnecessarily dangerous it is to live in the U.S.

Police can't get a clear shot? Jump on the hood, empty clip.
Having lived overseas in both the Netherlands and Japan, I know the vast difference in how it feels to live in a safe country and how it feels to live in the U.S.

What is most disturbing about this story is the reaction by Internet commenters. Slate comments revealed that even progressive sites harbor readers who favor gun solutions to life's problems, as readers of Daily Kos did earlier this year when I posted a diary that advocated a gun ban, and the majority of CNN comments I read on the story were similar to "Maybe kids need to think more these days and situations like this wouldn;t [sic] happen," or "This guy posed a threat.  Hand to hand combat is NOT an option with someone who is obviously jacked up."

Having read a number of comments to Yahoo! news stories, I realize from the shockingly unhinged views of the readers that the Internet might not be the best place to judge the rationality of American citizens, but with a little more sampling, I suspect I'd be hard pressed to come to any other conclusion that we Americans may be left of center on social issues but mostly right of center on self-defense issues. This demonstrates that our society is held hostage by our gun culture. This does, quite frankly, sadden me greatly.

It's another reason that we should vote for people that would restrict access to guns. This process of reducing violence in our society will take longer than I'll be around, but it's worth doing nonetheless.

Gil Collar and his mom

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I'm Not Flying American for a While

Not broke, just tired of paying decent wages. Yeah, I'm booking you like not soon.

Read this Yglesias in Slate. Hard to swallow graphs:
This horror story begins with the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing made by AMR Corp. (the holding company that owns American Airlines) last November. Bankruptcy, conventionally speaking, is about restructuring debts owed to banks and bondholders. But most of American’s debt was backed by hard assets like airplanes. What’s more, AMR actually had some cash on hand at the time of the filing. The debts American really wanted to restructure were the implicit debts to employees. As S&P analyst Philip Baggaley put it at the time, the goal was to “reorganize in Chapter 11 and emerge as a somewhat smaller airline with more competitive labor costs and a lighter debt load.” In other words, American went into bankruptcy primarily so it could pay people less.
...When American angered its pilots, they struck back by doing the reverse—deliberately calling in every little complaint, timed for the worst possible moment. The results were catastrophic, and it’s no surprise that the recent improvement in flight timeliness has coincided with a resumption of negotiations. But American doesn’t seem to have backed away from a philosophical commitment to hardball anti-union tactics. In June, it persuaded a federal judge to rule that a new, higher threshold for triggering a unionization vote among passenger-service agents should be applied retroactively, contrary to the interpretation of the National Mediation Board. On Oct. 3, an appeals court judge overruled that call, but the airline insists it’s going to keep fighting rather than allow an election to go forward. If nothing else, American may delay the process until next year in hopes that Mitt Romney wins the election and appoints a more management-friendly National Mediation Board.
 I'm not flying American until they knock it off. Too bad. I liked American. Read the whole Yglesias post.

Can't keep the seats filled if they keep falling apart.

A very good reason to be pro-union.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Romneyworld: 2013

Too priceless not to share (h/t TPM):

Go Luckovich.

In Today's Politics, It's True If It's Plausible.

I've been watching politics for a long time now, certainly more closely than is healthy for any stable mind, but so it goes. And the monkey on my back, my real jones, if you will, has always been, "But that's just not true!!"

How high was the bullshit piled up?
Every time John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and other Republicans said, "It's a job killer and we're just not voting for it," or "raising taxes on the wealthy is class warfare and a job killer," or "Obamacare is a granny killer and, what the fuck, a job killer," I just shake my head and wonder why they say it. I inevitably grumble and concede that they say it because somebody's already drunk the Kool-Aid and in fact are now predisposed to believe these nonsensical pronouncements.

The other night when a new, improved Mitt Romney -- you know, the one equipped with a brand-new set of talking points quite nearly 100% reverse-engineered from the baloney he'd been spouting for the past 18 months -- opened his forceful, smiling, affable, Glengary Glen Ross, always closing, closing, closing, glad-handing, beaming mouth, I was flabbergasted. For about 48 hours.

Fine. I admit it. I forgot to bring my bullshit the other night.
That's how long it took for me to regain my footing. Sure, all the pundits and currently unemployed political consultants on TV said that Mitt Romney had wiped the floor with Barack Obama, and Andrew Sullivan had said that he knew traditional debating (probably from his days at Oxford) and what was Barack Obama thinking!!?!, and so forth. Yes, I'd watched just about every debate since JFK and Nixon (true, believe it or not), and I get that debating is about closing, not truth-telling per se, and yes, Obama had a bad night.

But in the scheme of things, the truth still matters to me, always has, always will. I've never been to Oxford, so I can't say, "Well done, old chap, you certainly bested me, it's was complete nonsense of course, but I digress, well done, old sport!"

Is American politics relevant to Afghanis? It's plausible.
No, politics is life-and-death issues, it means something. Just ask the Afghanis, or Americans without health insurance. It is life and death.

So how does this thing work, this political propaganda machine? How do misinformation campaigns really work? If Orwellian language really works, what's the key to it?

It's been right there all along, but I finally saw it: It's all about plausibility. Plausibility doesn't need to be fat and wide; it doesn't need to contain the truth. It needs the barest, the wispiest, the thinnest amount of rationality. All it needs is to be plausible.

Obama is really a Kenyan Muslim who hates America? It's not out of the realm of maybe, slightly, kinda crazy but, what if it's actually, really true? A wisp of plausibility? Great! Limbaugh and the fiercely yapping crowd will run with it all day and all night.

Let's try this out. There's this God, see -- well actually, no, you can't see Him -- and He knows our every thought because he's watching everyone and created everything forever and ever and we'll live with Him until the End of Days, and then the Evil ones all die and we live forever and ever on the Big Rock Candy Mountain! With God! Yeah, it's plausible.

Sullivan is a rationalist who believes in the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

You know what's plausible? The undeniable fact that you can't become president unless you believe something almost exactly like that, and you must make it undeniably clear or you're toast in a presidential election. This is not only plausible, it's true, and what makes it all the more outrageous, of course, is that this is how we operate in a nation founded, among other things, on the First Amendment, you know, the one that says no religion shall be established.

King George III. ruled by divine right?
I somewhat digress, but not really. I'm just having my I-can't-believe-it's-not-really-butter moment about politics. It's probably been like this from the beginning of time. The Egyptians believed in the Pharaoh, and the British revered King George III (did they actually? Hardly matters), and wait, wait. They actually didn't, the people I mean. They didn't know what to think, didn't have the power to affect outcomes and ruling by divine right was, in fact, well, plausible.

And so here we are today. Mitt Romney is no Pharaoh, he's just the Republican candidate for president, and the stage has been set for him to run, perhaps successfully, on talking points that are plausible. Do his positions have to be true? No. Do they have to be what he espoused in 1994? No. Do they have to be what he espoused in 2002? No. Do they have to be what he said on the stump up until last Tuesday? No. Okay, what do they have to be?

Let's say it together: plausible.

And what's Mitt going to say at the next debate? Who knows? But it'll be plausible. True? Who cares?

Mitt's hoping the answer to that final question is less than half of the people. Which is why he doesn't care about the 47%. That's more than plausible.

Update. We all get jokes and cute pictures in emails from friends. Some of them are amusing, some are not. A friend forwarded this joke to me, and I noticed its relevance to the above:
Snow White, Superman and Pinocchio are walking along. They see a sign: "Contest for World's Most Beautiful Woman." Snow White goes in, later comes out smiling, wearing a crown.

They walk along and see another sign: "Contest for World's Strongest Man." Superman goes in, later comes out smiling, wearing the belt.

They walk along and see a sign: "Contest for World's Greatest Liar." Pinocchio goes in, later comes out with his head down crying.

"Who the hell is Mitt Romney?" Pinocchio sobs.
That's funny. And plausible.

My tax plan, my tax returns, my health care plan, my education plan, my jobs plan...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The (Almost) Age-Old Question: Who Is the Real Mitt Romney?

A kinder, gentler Romneybot?
The fact that the question is still up for debate points to the problem not of who Mitt Romney is -- it's possible to not even care -- but of what his election would mean to the nation, as an unnerving outcome as that is.

Romney's performance in the Wednesday-night debate kicked up a brand-new, take-two or -three discussion of his inner core -- if he has one -- akin to a 90-minute episode of "To Tell the Truth," for those boomers like myself who still remember the 50s quiz show. The original required two of the three contestants to defend false resumes in an attempt to stump the panel, provided all told the truth. In my new iteration, all three contestants are Mitt, and the truth is optional.

The denouement each week of "To Tell the Truth" was, "Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up." Indeed. Will he? has he? There is something riding on it besides egg on perennial panelist Bess Meyerson's face. There's maybe the future of the country.

So here we are a few days later, and John Dickerson of Slate comes out with a somewhat predictable "Who's Mitt, Anyway?" sort of article, based on the new Mitt of debate fame, the finally Etch-A-Sketched, more moderate, less scary, even, uh, warm and fuzzy guy you actually would like to have a beer with if Mormons only drank.

But finding the essential Romney isn’t so simple. The experiment itself is flawed. Voters are being asked to detect the truth from two different acts of artifice. One is a set-piece performance recorded by the television networks. The other was a set-piece performance captured by a member of the catering staff. Both are performances. Like all politicians, Romney was playing to the crowd in both cases. The question is not which one represents the true Romney, but which crowd will he play to when he’s in office.
Undecided voters caught undeciding.
As Atrios would say, holy crap. But Dickerson nails it, and the implications of this insight is, while not necessarily frightening, deeply aggravating. Can it really be that we could likely elect someone we barely know because, well, who knows? His true believers? The Obama-haters from day one? The undecideds? The independents? The press? The disenchanted??

Why, of course, should be the ultimate question, but that's understandably harder to get to. From my perspective, he and his running mate Paul Ryan are both heavily Etch-A-Sketched: one, Romney, by himself and his consultants and the other, Ryan, by a beltway press corps in search of someone resembling an intellectual, policy-wonk conservative. Unfortunately but predictably, what you see is most decidedly not what you get.

Here's more grist for the mill: This morning's New York Times headline read, "Romney Claims of Bipartisanship as Governor Face Challenge," which is impartial reporter gobbledegook for Romney lied his ass off. From the article by Michael Wines:
As a Republican governor whose legislature was 87 percent Democratic, Mr. Romney said in Wednesday’s debate, “I figured out from Day 1 I had to get along, and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done.” The result, he said, was that “we drove our schools to be No. 1 in the nation. We cut taxes 19 times.”
But on closer examination, the record as governor he alluded to looks considerably less burnished than Mr. Romney suggested. Bipartisanship was in short supply; Statehouse Democrats complained he variously ignored, insulted or opposed them, with intermittent charm offensives. He vetoed scores of legislative initiatives and excised budget line items a remarkable 844 times, according to the nonpartisan research group Lawmakers reciprocated by quickly overriding the vast bulk of them.
 How quickly reporters can debunk politicians' statements. But once the propaganda propagates, does it take on a life of its own? Political consultants know the answer: Fuck yeah.

Post-debate conventional wisdom? Dude's toast. No, French toast.

I got a chuckle but no solace from Andrew Sullivan's blog post, "Rebooting the Romneybot." That this title is not salacious tells a lot about both Romney and our political culture:
The reinvention effort includes softening the edges of Romney, both stylistically and philosophically. The more likable version of Romney was no accident — he worked hours on his smile, his posture and the delivery of his words. The more centrist version of Romney was no accident either — he carefully calibrated his message on taxes, spending and Medicare to broaden his appeal.
...The goal was to overwhelm the president with liveliness and information, to force him to confront the messy details of his economic and fiscal record.
Carefully calibrating his message on taxes, spending and Medicare, my ass. He lied, hoping people would lap it up. Over at the Daily Beast, historian Simon Schama let loose on Romney on the falsehoods and on Obama for his dismally dispiriting performance:
As the whoppers tumbled from his smiling lips, Pinocchio Romney’s nose grew so long that it was practically poking out the eye of his mournful opponent. But even had it struck raw cornea, the president would have politely removed the intruding proboscis to say, “Governor Romney, I probably agree that the nation could do with a good eye watering, though we disagree on the manner in which it would be administered,” or some such snappy retort.
Romney lies, truth dies is not a lame pronouncement: It's the observation du jour, today as it was yesterday, and so forth. Here's Michelle Goldberg, also of the Beast:
The way Obama kept looking down instead of directly into the camera was maddening. So were his seemingly unrehearsed, defensive answers. But the most painful part was watching Romney lie so brazenly, while over and over again Obama failed to effectively challenge him. Romney repeatedly insisted, for example, that he has no plans to reduce the tax burden on the richest Americans. This directly contradicts the analysis of every nonpartisan expert who has looked at Romney’s plan.
...Perhaps Obama, feeling comfortable in his lead, didn’t want to get down in the muck and call Romney a liar, or perhaps he was just unprepared for the level of deceit on display. Debating someone who is willing to simply make things up is incredibly discombobulating. Regardless, it means that most viewers will be left with a seriously distorted view of what the Republican candidate is proposing. Tomorrow, the fact-checkers will try to correct the record, but the Romney campaign has already decided that facts don’t matter.
And so it goes. For the record, I didn't go to see what William Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Jennifer Rubin, or Fred Barnes had to say about the factual basis of the new Romneybot because they're hardly invested in the truth. They're interested in the fight and its outcome. They're all in for their bot.

Okay, I did go read Charles Krauthammer's column on the debate. Ugh. Read it at your peril.

Kristol, pointing to his as yet unemployed Romney bullshit detector.

As Michelle Goldberg titled her Beast report above, Romney won, and the truth lost. There are few mourners for the truth on the right, not while they smell blood. On the left, there's anxiety aplenty about whether Obama can help truth make a comeback. We have a month and three more debates to find out.

Post-debate polls pile up. (h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Good Jobs News: Those Chicago Bastards!

Stock market is soaring: those Chicago bastards!

Yea! Jobs came in reasonably good if you add in the upward revisions of July and August. So, dropping to 7.8% isn't crazy. Unless, of course, your team wanted bad. Then it's all "those Chicago bastards, just how low can they crawl, down with the lizards, newts, and salamanders. Bastards!"

Jobs are still up: those Chicago bastards!

And you know, the Tax Policy Center says that Mitt Romney's tax plan doesn't add up. And everyone who looks at Paul Ryan's budget agrees that the numbers don't add up. And when you look at their Medicare plan, it means that eventually Medicare will end as we know it (you know, the part where you die when you run out of money from your voucher, which is sort of the whole idea now where you don't die because you run out of money. But hell, tough choices! It's the marketplace! Whoopee!)

Our numbers don't add up, of course they don't. Why? Those Chicago bastards!

Sorry, Republican Party, you get to campaign on the numbers you have, not the numbers you wished you had. This week, the numbers look good for America. So your job, Republicans, is to explain why everything is bad anyway. The party of Doom and Gloom! That's gonna work for sure.

Jobs report is good, July and August revised upward. Romney has a sad. Chicago bastards!

I could link to all the conspiracy theorists, BLStruthers as Josh calls them, but I'd rather link to Paul Krugman's Friday column. It doesn't give me a sad or make me cry out "those Boston bastards!" Well, maybe a little. Sorry. Enjoy the good jobs numbers and have a BBQ this weekend. I intend to.

Update. I couldn't help myself. Here's Jack Welch's tweet this morning:

Here's Fox on the warpath. Good news, not on Fox:

Monica Crowley on Fox Business takes good news and turns it into a shaky, political "you see what you want to see, it's really sort of bad" story:

Holy crap. CNBC goes jobs truther:

We've so civilized nowadays...

Can't really pretend to have visited Wingnutistan unless you check in with Rush:

Rush plays a little "trick" on us. He says the jobless rate went from 8.3% to 7.8%, making it sound implausible. That's because the rate went from 8.1% to 7.8%. C'mon Rush, you can be wacky without the tricks, okay?

Have a good weekend, and if you're a Republican, don't worry, some day you'll get the lousy jobs report you want. If you don't just retweet Jack Welch. Cheers.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Romney in Fantasyland at the Debate: Will It Work?

Romney, left, greets Obama at the first debate.

I watched and listened to every word at the debate last night. I came away with this immediate impression:
  • Romney "looked" better, more prepared. However, he did this at some expense. His alpha-male, hard-charging, salesman approach combined the con man with the bully.
  • Romney finally had his Etch-A-Sketch moment, which required him to play fast and loose with the truth. Yes, he seemed in command of the facts. Only problem was that most of them were false. The rest were, ah, what did he actually say? And who's buying it? His supporters? Yes. Obama's supporters? No. The undecideds? Maybe. Maybe, however, is the modus operandi of the undecideds.
  • Obama appeared not up to the task at hand in real time. He did successfully challenge a few points and did work to explain his stands on issues. By and large, though, he almost seemed to cede many points to Romney. Since many of Romney's points were false, it occurred to me that Obama was playing long ball here. I suspected that as the debate went along, his team was feverishly sifting through the vibrant, somewhat overcaffeinated Romney display of scattershot policy mongering, all the while looking for what misstatement would go into tomorrow's ad. (Later in the post I'll show what's already being produced. God, there's so much video!)
  • Was this really rope-a-dope or Obama having a bad night? Hard to tell. I saw a few comments in the Twitterverse and blogosphere that suggested Obama couldn't be the angry black man. Sounds plausible, but in 2012? Maybe for the undecideds. But that's their favorite word: maybe. (Maybe I hate angry black men? Maybe I'll vote for the white bully across the stage? I don't know.)
So that's what I thought about last night. It's easy to start out depressed this morning if you're a disappointed Obama fan -- I am both. But let's look at a few things:

Obama: “Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It is about time.”

How to win friends and influence voters?

Yep, Obama's team was ready. This was out this morning:

Okay, found this on Daily Kos from Bill in Portland Maine, who might be gay (duh). It's unrelated to last night's debate, but food for thought anyway:

Yes, not about the debate, but very appealing and I'm wondering, looking at this web ad: Did Mitt Romney win these people over during the debate? Which misrepresented factoid won over these people? A quicktake gay reaction from a HuffPost writer here. (Gays saw the bullying, BTW.)

I don't know which is more surprising, that "The Situation" is doing a "Jersey Shore" sober, or that Hollywood actually is in the tank for Obama, during and post-debate:

WonkBook on WaPo did a credible job of insta-factchecking An example:
9:09pm: Mitt Romney says he’s not going to cut taxes for the rich. According to the Tax Policy Center, even if he were to cut all tax breaks - save for those he’s promised to preserve - for high-income people, people making over $1 million a year would get an average tax break of $87,117.
This is the kind of fact-checking I like. Straight fact-checking and a very good read. Another good read to parse the debate is NPR's "Romney Goes On Offense, Pays For It In First Wave Of Fact Checks." This backs my theory that, beyond the trad media's "optics," the facts might not settle in Romney's favor over the final weeks -- and remaining two debates.

I don't know who put this up on YouTube, but Andrew Sullivan links to it as an Obama ad:

In undeserved fairness to loudmouth Mitt, Obama out-talked Romney by four minutes, but the above scene captured Romney's petulance.

I like to read Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Dish, to get a different perspective on issues (sift through his "reax" going back, to get a broad picture of debate opinion, Dish-style). Andrew is gay, Catholic, and conservative (in the traditional, not rabid, tea-party sense). He's evolved from supporting Bush and the Iraq War into a Kerry and Obama supporter in the last two elections and has since recanted (with mea culpas) his Iraq-War stance.

Last night he was quite hyper-ventilated at how badly Obama performed and how well Romney did, in spite of the fact that he saw through Romney's flim-flam. He links to an Urtak set of polls he conducted post-debate. Most interesting factoid: 82% of those polled thought Romney won the debate, while 93% of same still intend to vote for Obama. As a good control-group question, 93% of same voted for Obama last time. These are Andrew's readers, so I don't know if that implies that the debate barely moved the needle overall. But it didn't budge for readers of The Dish, apparently.

Obama the day after in Denver, calling Mitt out. Too late?

According to the Huffington Post, Barack went after Romney 13 hours too late. Sizzling quote from Obama's Denver speech:
President Barack Obama is challenging Republican Mitt Romney's candor the morning after their first debate, saying: "If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth."
Obama said at a rally in Denver on Thursday that at the debate he met "this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney." But he says it couldn't have been his Republican rival because he says Romney misrepresented his own position on taxes, education and the outsourcing of jobs.
In tough comments, the president says Romney, quote, "does not want to be held accountable ... because he knows full well that we don't want what he's selling."
This backs my idea that Obama was happy enough to sift through Romney's bunk-apalooza to attack him later. I wonder about such an approach. Rope-a-dope or Monday-morning quarterbacking? We'll see.

The Artful Dodger? fact-checks the debate. I was surprised that none of Obama's facts were disputed.

Salon's Joan Walsh wondered why Obama didn't dispute some of Romney's falsehoods:
Romney shook his Etch-a-Sketch and lied his way through the entire debate with no challenge from moderator Jim Lehrer. He simply denied he has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. He insisted he wouldn’t cut the education budget or Pell Grants, when he will. He claimed the Affordable Care Act raised taxes by a trillion dollars. He essentially revived the idea of death panels by saying Obamacare established “a board that will tell people what kind of treatment they’re going to get.”  Yet the president didn’t call him on any of it.
Yeah, I wondered, too. But, ah, rope-a-dope? My wishful thinking?

Here's Jonathan Chait's reaction:
Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.
I wish I could, but I can't argue with that. Will this be a lasting assessment? Who knows. My tentative assessment is that, in the first debate, Mitt Romney seriously detoured into Fantasyland. Will the voters follow?

I got your black ass, didn't I? You know I did.