Friday, May 04, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

I have a mild irritation today that sits about four feet outside my boss's office, so lets get to this, shall we?
1) Ring down the curtain on a long and storied career, Mariano. Sadly, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer in my mind but the thing is, the position he "plays" is practically unnecessary in major league baseball. The closer, the final reliever to come in with a lead, is a specialty that it's about time we acknowledge really does nothing to improve the team's chances of winning a game: the major league average for teams with a lead of three or fewer runs going into the final at-bats of the opposing team is a winning percentage just north of 95%. This is true of champions and basement dwellers. If you win 100 games a season, that means 95 of them were pretty much ordained from the get-go. Ninety five wins is usually good enough for the post-season and if you miss it, you could probably point to any number of games where you should have won but didn't because of an error or a poorly executed at-bat. I figure Mariano Rivera might have been worth 20 wins total over his career, including playoffs.
2) Angry Republicans with guns. Not a good thing.
3) The headline says it better than I can.
4) That was a pretty loud Scream.
5) It seems pretty clear to me that Osama bin Laden suffered from a disturbing level of paranoia and schizophrenia, but he was awfully savvy in the ways of politics and diplomacy.
6) If it gets below 8% by November, I think we can seal Obama's second term.
7) When history has its say on the 2012 election, this was Mitt's Eagleton moment
8) By the way, I think this reboot of Sherlock Holmes is some of the finest television this century.
10) The other white meat some people.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Probably Not Going To Work, Mittens

If you invoke the spectre of Jimmy Carter, Obama's obvious response to smack you down with He Who Will Not Be Named (at any event that the Republicans officially hold). Trust me, you don't want to be tarred with the label "Bush Lite."

"Long Shot"? How About "No Shot"?

I guess Newt's idea was to live fat off the hog of someone else's money for six months or so:

(CBS News) After bowing out from the Republican presidential race Wednesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is no worse off than he was before he ran for president, says CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, will likely have to deal with some of Gingrich's less-than-complimentary "sound bites" about him for the remainder of the campaign.

"Gingrich knew from the very beginning that this was a long shot, but he also knew what a lot of other Republicans know, that there are many, many Republicans on the right side of the party who simply don't like Mitt Romney, who don't believe that he is one of them, a true conservative," Schieffer told Charlie Rose Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

So basically, all Newt did was drink beer, take bus rides and give performances. Just living out the rock star dream, I suppose.

Oh. And throwing bombs. Never forget the bombs. The question becomes: what kind of damage has he inflicted on the Romney campaign?

I mean, it's not as though had Newt played nice all primary season long, Mitt would have jumped out to an imposing lead over Obama, and certainly there's plenty of time between now and the election for Obama to jump way ahead of Mitt and annoint his second term.

Newt, however, certainly put a damper on any reasonable attacks Romney might have attempted:

He (ed. note: Gingrich) [...] mercilessly condemned Romney as a man who “can’t be honest,” who “looted a company” and who “doesn’t seem capable of inspiring positive turnout.”

Calling the guy you're about to throw your considerable weight behind a boring, thieving liar is going to leave a lot of raw material for the Obama campaign to construct commercials around.

And you have to know that the Obama camp is dying to pick a fight with the right wing, particularly the uberconservatives, because of their dilletantist demeanor in his first term. He won't want to just beat them, he'll want to stomp a mudhole in them and then do a Mexican Hat Dance around the hole. Using Newt as their conduit will merely serve to make it that much sweeter, despite the fact that Newt all but agreed with the President on the Ryan tax plan.

Still, it was fun to have Gingrich to kick around: Callista's whore diamonds, bouncing checks, the revelation that any hotel room he stays in must have access to two bathrooms, no brown M&Ms in the candy dish...ok, I made that one up, still you get the point.

His withdrawal from the race and Schieffer's revelation that he was half-hearted to begin with, cast a whole new light on Gingrich's candidacy. It points out a positive and a negative.

The positive, of course, is that he was at least realistic that he was tilting at windmills and behaved accordingly. The negative is he disrespected the American (and particularly, Republican) electorate and mocked them with his very presence in the race and his lack of seriousness and discipline in committing to the office.

In a sense, he pre-ordained his failure by ordaining his levity.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How Democratic Is That?

If I have a million dollars to spend on a candidate, and you have a dollar, then clearly the spirit of democracy is perverted. We are each one citizen in the nation, and so should have about equal say in matters.
However, if I have a million dollars and you have a million people with one dollar, the democracy works, but only a little bit better. You still have to persuade all those people to part with their dollar towards your cause, and that's not easy. It can be done, and as Barack Obama's early 2008 campaigning proved, it can be done effectively.
It's still easier for me to get my consensus of one to agree to spend the money, to whom and how. You'll probably have a million different, "Oh, by the ways" to deal with.
And of course, if I have one dollar and you have a million people with one dollar, we're on roughly equal footing in terms of the democratic process, for I can go out and enlist a million people too.
Similarly, if I have one vote and you have a million people with one vote, things are fair. Again, I can persuade people to vote with me.
Conservatives love to point out how this is a free speech issue, and I suppose there's some truth to that: if I own a larger share of the pie, I should have a bigger voice in what shapes my community. Plus, everyone still only has the one vote, the true measure of democracy.
Or is it? Money doesn't just buy access to votes and persuasion of citizens, it buys access to lawmakers, and indeed, disproportionate access. Some would say that's the way things should be, since those who have a bigger stake in the nation's future ought to have a bigger say in it.
But then we have to discard the illusion that we're a democracy. We've become a plutocracy or more accurately, a corporatocracy. Because corporations can't vote, the only way they can register their opinions and thoughts is through lobbying officeholders and candidates.
If you ascribe to the notion that corporations are people, too, then you see no problem with this, but there's a hidden problem. 
There's no accountability. We just saw this in the late 2000s, and undoubtedly will see it again, as regulations get passed with enough loopholes to drive ExxonMobil through. We saw it in the BP Gulf oil spill, when BP paid lip service to local and international concerns while covering up the mess as best they could (and failing, I should add.) 
If, as liberals believe, government is the bulwark against corporatism, that government is the third leg of the stool that supports America-- the others being citizenry and business-- and there's no check or balance against corporatism, democracy's days are numbered.
The only way any progress can be made is in the rare instance of a second term progressive President (note I don't specify Republican or Democrat. I suspect that pendulum may have started swinging for reasons I'll get to in a minute,) and a majority progressive Congress.
And even then, if the progressivists have members in their caucus like Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson, there will still be outsize influence with respect to an agenda that values citizens above corporations, and freedom above profit. Meanwhile, in the other caucus lay a few time bombs for them-- moderate Republicans who see the damage that's been inflicted not on Democrats, who caught up in the money game, but to the people of the nation in toto.
And as Teabaggers begin to get frustrated with losing the agenda arguments, they'll either likely retire or more certainly be less vociferous in their opposition. One can only have so many "stroke-rages" before the body shuts you down. I think this, above anything else, will be what renders all that corporate money useless, and it is at that point we ought to start thinking about Constitutional amendments.
Democrats only hold the center because the Republican party has deliberately given the nation the appearance of being more conservative than it is. By trying to pull the apparent center even further right...I mean, really? Life begins 2 weeks before the first missed period now, according to one proposal?...Republicans are scaring people, particularly women and Latinos, to the center.
By my count, it took the Democrats three elections to realize they had tacked too far to the left in the face of a changed landscape (e.g. cable news, the Religious Right, and other exogenous factors to politics and administration.) By my count, this will only be election number two that Republicans will have suffered an ignominious defeat before they, too, tack back towards the center.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Y'know, I See A Problem With This

What happens if someone goes up to their rooftop to smoke?

Because Only The Free Market Can Solve Problems...

And Google does no evil!
These and other myths shattered here.

That Wooshing Sound

The sound you're hearing is the noise of a blast fax careering around the right wing echo chamber:

This is very clever--and very silly. The deficit last year was $1.3 trillion. With the Buffett rule in place, it would have been $1.295 trillion. Last year the tax credit for energy-efficient improvements to homes cost almost as much as the Buffett rule will raise annually ($4.7 billion on average). The President's proposal for keeping a low interest rate on some college loans, at $6 billion next year, costs more. The Buffett rule is government by catchphrase.

In the same vein, the President recently vowed to hunt down and stop energy "speculators," lest they "reap millions while millions of American families get the short end of the stick." Good luck with that. No one seriously believes--surely not even Obama--that speculation is responsible for this year's rise in oil prices, now beginning to recede. The President is sending the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on a make-believe mission after nonexistent villains because it sounds good. On the election's most central issue, the economy, Obama is stuck in a minor key. He offers no major reforms in taxes or entitlements, no new stimulus, no departures whatsoever. He is obsessed with the marginalia of green energy, which is less than 10% of the energy sector and is prone to a bust unless the subsidies keep on rolling. He is content to watch his party's majority in the Senate desperately maneuver to avoid the pain of even voting on a budget. Evasion is the order of the day.

What the Obama campaign lacks in substantive heft it will try to make up in relish for tearing apart Romney. He will be portrayed as out of touch, strange, secretive and--occasionally by Obama allies--Mormon. In this highly personal demolition, Romney has already been made out as hostile to women and cruel to dogs. Someday political scientists will marvel that a top adviser to the President of the United States once joined a drumbeat over an opponent's transporting his dog in a kennel on the roof of his car ... in the 1980s.

Compare and contrast:

“You know, we had the Buffett Rule,” he said. “You know, it went on for months. Even the president admitted it was a gimmick. And then we have the Rose Garden ceremony talking about manipulation in the oil markets, without one shred of evidence. And he has an entire administration to go after speculation or manipulation in the oil markets. And then they picked this student loan fight where there is no fight.”

It's almost like they have the same hands up their asses.
But back to Lowry's latest dump on the floor. Apart from the complete lack of coherent syntax (his grammar is almost human, however) and lack of illustrative metaphor, his logic falls apart when you consider those silly things: "facts."
Take oil price manipulation, for example.
Or the Buffett Rule, which isn't about the amount of money it raising in the face of $45 trillion in budget deficits over the next decade (presuming limited growth, etc.). It's about two things: an acknowledgement by those who have that they've been ungrateful bastards and an acknowledgement that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that the real debate starts later this year when the Bush tax cuts are set to expire.
But hey, GOP! You just keep plucking that bald chicken, a'ight?


Some Fun, Sort Of

If you haven't read or heard anything about the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner on Saturday night, well, you missed a doozy.
It wasn't particularly funny, but it did have an underlying nasty edge to it. Jimmy Kimmel was MC, with performances by President Barack Obama and former NBC correspondent David Shuster, who got off the cutting remark of the night when he pointed out the Gingriches were attending, and noted "I guess their check cleared."
To his credit, Kimmel didn't fawn over Obama and had a zinger or two in his arsenal: "There's a term for Presidents like you, just not two terms."
It was Obama himself who had some of the best and most cutting lines of the night, but even there, you could tell he was playing it safe.

“Last year at this time, this very weekend, we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals,” Obama said. Then a picture of real estate mogul Donald Trump appeared on the room’s television monitors. The president last year delivered a scathing roast of Trump, who flirted with running for the Republican nomination and claimed he had solved the “mystery” of Obama’s birth certificate.

Obama also took a shot at the Republican congressional leadership, whom he thanked “for taking time from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws” to attend the dinner.[...]

[Mitt Romney and I] both have degrees from Harvard. I have one, he has two. What a snob.”

The crack drew a thumbs up from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who was in the audience. Santorum dropped out of the presidential primary campaign earlier this month. He had called Obama a snob for encouraging young Americans to attend college.

And there was a luscious, scrumptious video joke ("voke"?) of a faux-campaign commercial put together by Romney, using Air Force One...

It's not even May yet. We have six months more of this crap...sorry, Seamus...still to come, but it's nice it kicks off with a few laughs.


Oh, This Is Not Going To Go Well!

Lemme rebuild the most famous disaster ship in history, sail it on exactly the same course it took on its ill-fated maiden voyage (Enland to New York City) and to top it all off, you enlist the Chinese navy to escort you?
I once coined the phrase "glittering disaster" when I wrote a poem about a failed relationship, but I believe this might be a more appropriate use. Expect four years of right-wing head explosions in 3...2...1...