Friday, September 07, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) So...let me hear from you: Did Barack Obama hit a grand slam or merely knock a three run homer into the upper deck?
2) In my own opinion, it was a masterful State of the Union address and really, that's all he had to do: lay out the case to the nation for why he needs to be re-elected. He already had Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and then last night, Joe Biden and John Kerry make the passionate pleas. President Obama was being presidential, matter-of-fact, and exhibited calm leadership when a lesser politician would have tried to raise the roof. The roof was already off, and now was the time to roll up sleeves and chat about the future.
4) The world of diplomacy is holding what amounts to a wrestling card in Vladivostok this weekend. About the only good news to come out of this so far is overtures made between China and Japan that might open formal talks. Eventually. One day. Keep in mind there's a long distance between the two ancient rivals.
5) This day in Idiots.
6) So, is Charlie Crist going to run for Florida governor in 2014 as a Democrat, a Republican, or both? He could primary Rick "Batboy" Scott, and still get listed on the Democratic line.
7) Based on Obama's muted speech, I think we can guess what this number will turn out to be: not so great.
8) I've hated Larry with all my Mets' fan heart, but I'm sad to see him go.
9) Homeland Security doubles down on the zombie apocalypse.
10) Finally, we've been through this, but Republicans want to reopen the debate: education is vital to the national security of the United States. No less than Dwight Eisenhower, one of the greatest generals this nation has ever produced, thought so. So fund public education and get the fuck out of the way.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Would You Please Go Galt, Already?

It seems that some libertarians are taking Ayn Rand a wee bit too seriously:

Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project.

An international group of investors and government representatives signed the memorandum Tuesday for the project that some say will bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country and that at least one detractor describes as "a catastrophe."

The project's aim is to strengthen Honduras' weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup.

The project "has the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth," said Carlos Pineda, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships. It can be "a development instrument typical of first world countries."

"Desperate." That certainly describes it. Rather than bringing prosperity to a nation bereft by poverty and corruption, it will likely create an "us vs. 'you people' " dynamic that we've seen played out in medieval Europe.

Serfdom. Peasantry. Landed gentry and nobility versus the "just up from the muck" indigenous people.

We can assume that this city-nation will keep its taxes as low as possible while plundering the surrounding villages and countryside for the resources it needs, just like the castled nobles of mid-second milennium England. And the advertisement to rich folk in the States will be simple: "Your money doesn't live there. Why should you?"

And it's true: in a day and age when money can fly around the world faster than a spaceship, nationality is meaningless. Transnational wealthy can live where they choose, and that they choose America is a dint more of opportunity to socialize than anything else. Now, they can avoid even that.

Which is fine, because my suspicion is Hondurans will be even less tolerant of them than we are.


Game Over

The Big Dog, the Greatest. President. Ever., has spoken:
We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think "we're all in this together" is a better philosophy than "you're on your own."

Who's right? Well, since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million.

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.
Clinton was too modest to admit that he was in office when 23 million of those jobs were created-- nearly matching the entire Republican army of Presidents-- and as such is overseer of the single biggest economic engine since World War II. And if you exclude jobs created due to World War II, he is by far the president who oversaw the creation of the most jobs in American history.
Period. Eight years of relative peace and undeniable prosperity for all. And he did it by raising taxes on the wealthy.
Ronald Reagan was called the Great Communicator, but never once did he ever have to seriously defend his abysmal economic record for the middle class. Indeed, very quietly in his second term, Reagan instituted the greatest tax hike on the American people since the income tax was instituted, and still barely created jobs. Unemployment under Reagan's tax schemes still averaged 7.5%, not much lower than Barack Obama's rate, and Reagan almost single-handedly created the homeless population of America. This, despite sending American troops overseas nearly continuously.
Epic. Fail.
Back to Clinton's speech: it had nearly everything you'd wish Barack Obama could say, and indeed may have been written with an eye towards the freedom an ex-President-- one who has established his bona fides as someone who has disagreements with the current Oval Office-- has to comment on the "loyal" opposition. This paragraph in particular stands out:
Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.
Coming from a man who was disgraced by the same party that now terrorizes the American people, forced to defend his personal life time and time again from the idiocracy inherent on the right wing, to say that even he can empathize and love his enemies is a powerful statement that will resonate with the American people.
After all, it was only 15 years ago. We ain't that dumb. It was a noble and gracious sentiment and yet still stabbed at the heart of the Teabaggers in ways no other Democrat could.
Clinton dismantled the economic "policy" that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both signed onto, and countered that cronies were more important to Romney and Republicans than jobs.
But this, this I think was Clinton's strongest argument of the night:
No president— not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the President's contract you will feel it.
President Obama inherited an economy teetering on the precipice of another Great Depression. We, as a people, won't credit him with saving it from disaster because the only way we could is if the disaster actually happened, the tape rewound, and the President steps in to save us in re-runs.
But Clinton laid out the case magnificently, using arithmetic and logic, and laid it out in language that the average person watching in his living room could understand.
It's a talent he has. It's a talent I can only aspire to as I write these pitiful little blogposts to you, my readers.
And now for a couple of side notes:
1) Tonight, President Obama will accept the party nomination for President. Last night, the last Democratic President was trotted out for a barnburner of a speech, but where was his wife?
She was in East Timor. Under the guise of "the Secretary of State should not attend political conventions," because, you know, politics stop at our shores. Right?
It would not surprise me, however, if Madam Secretary has an August surprise up her sleeve to bring home tonight, just ahead of the evening news cycle.

2) I would be remiss if I didn't not mention the speech given by Elizabeth Warren, Senate candidate from Massachussetts. Between her and the Big Dog, it was a wonky night, but a wonky night that was easily digestible by anyone who sat in front of a television and paid attention. She's a gifted explainer and I am sure that Massachussetts recognizes "smaht" when they see it.
3) Michelle Obama Tuesday night. Bill Clinton Wednesday night. They have stirred the convention, the national media and the electorate into a rhetorical frenzy. Either this convention has been one of the best choreographed conventions to re-introduce a President to his people, and Barack Obama has the greatest speech of his life in him (not an easy task, given how many great ones he has given), or the convention fizzles tonight. Either way, it will make for great television.
The people in the hall in Tampa stood and cheered. For the Dems, the people at home have stood and cheered right along with the delegates.
Game over.



Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Obama 2016

Dare I say it? Michelle/Hillary 2016?

(CNN) -- If Barack Obama is re-elected on November 6, he will owe more to his first lady than any president ever to win a second term.

On Tuesday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michelle Obama gave one of the finest speeches ever delivered at a national political convention. More important, it could have more impact on the immediate future of the country than her husband's celebrated 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Why?

Her speech tied the Obamas' personal stories directly to the lives of millions of voters struggling not to be the first generation of Americans unable to offer hope of greater opportunities to their children than they had, thus drawing a contrast with Mitt Romney as an unnamed but unmistakable caricature of privilege without shading her talk with negativity or animosity.

Rumour has it she wrote most of the speech herself and given how viscerally she responded to the words she was saying, it seems to be true. On the brink of tears herself, Michelle Obama pulled off the rhetorically difficult task of bringing her audience to both tear and their feet.

We fell in  love with Barack Obama all over again, thanks to Michelle. This is what a First Lady looks like!

The knock on Obama from the left is that he forgot where he came from, and who elected him. We liberals are fickle in that way, and while we grudgingly would have gone to the polls to re-elect him, now we can feel good about it.

And we have good reason to be frustrated with him. We've seen over the past four years a concerted effort to dismantle and destroy Hope and Change by the party out of power, and now out of favor, and a President determined, pig-headedly, to compromise and work with them.

This was the audacity we wanted? The change we wanted to be? Barack Obama tried to be Bill Clinton, when in point of fact, he needed to be Harry Truman. Clinton was a master at co-opting his opposition, and yes, Obama nearly pulled off that debt ceiling deal with Weaker Boener until it turned out Weaker Boener couldn't deliver a pizza, much less his party's votes.

Sure, Obama ran on the platform of trying to change the toxicity of government, but when it was revealed that the opponent was going to be openly hostile and a party of no to anything he proposed, he should have counterpunched: start closing military bases, start withholding highway funds, find executive orders that punished those who got out of line, and rewarded those who were willing to put in an effort.

For instance, take Michele Bachmann. The instant she won re-election in 2010, Obama could have yanked all Federal funds out of her district, discretely asking for all agencies to "review" the projects and programs. This is how you bring people to the table who want to be petulant children.

Perhaps Sasha and Malia are that well-behaved that Obama doesn't have to resort to tactics like this, but I'm betting Joe Biden could tell him all about it.

Last night, Michelle Obama reminded us that the President and First Family are like you and me: they struggled, they had hard times, and they couldn't ask Daddy for a loan to open a business (great line, by the way, from Julian Castro: "Gee! Why didn't I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams.")

Ann Romney was tasked with humanizing a figure who has been rightly characterized as automatonic, robotic, and pre-programmed...with last decade's software.

Michelle Obama merely had to add grace notes to the figure of a man who was sculpted in an image long forgotten by the nation. And she did a bang up job.


Monday, September 03, 2012