Friday, August 31, 2012

Is the GOP for Simpson-Bowles?

One of the biggest surprises in the GOP campaign is the attack on Obama for not supporting the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan (capsule history and summary here). This is so surprising that Ryan's accusation against Obama caused mild-mannered political scientist Jonathan Bernstein to throw F-bombs, in capital letters no less.

So, being who I am, I wondered when this became a talking point for conservatives. They sure weren't embracing Simpson-Bowles in early 2011. So when did it stop being a corpse and start being a stick with which to club Obama?

Here's what I found.
  • First, May 26, 2012. Newsbusters. Art Laffer on Bill Maher talking about the economy. The commentary is that the left didn't like SB because of entitlement cuts, and Obama followed the left of his party. Maybe so, it was already dead, due to insufficient congressional support. Obama wasn't even the coup de grace.
  • The real spin starts on 8/15 with a piece for Fox News website. This is a balanced article about the political positions. Ryan lead opposition to SB, and Obama punted. The article said that Obama should have pushed the topic 2010-2011. Agreed.
  • had a story on 8/19. A cabal of political advisers encouraged Obama to let Paul Ryan go first, and then Obama would look sensible in comparison. The post says that Obama should have been the leader. Ha, ha. I think the political advisers were probably right. At that point, it was too late to lead on the issue for that year--the new GOP majority in the House had their pitchforks out and torches lit, so SB wasn't going to be considered. As Bill Maher says, Simpson Bowles would have gotten cooties if Obama endorsed it then.
I find it very hypocritical of Ryan, Breitbart, etc. to criticize Obama over his handling of SB since the GOP were even worse. The report came out as the new Tea Party Republicans were chomping at the bit to use their new power in the House. They tried a lot of brinksmanship on major funding bills and over the debt ceiling. Delicate negotiations or reasoned discussion of this bipartisan plan weren't on the agenda for the House GOP.

Funny - is Simpson-Bowles on the agenda now? (Ssh, it's just a prop.)

 Ryan honoring Simpson-Bowles in the breach - his partisan plan

Extra. The House reaffirmed its negative opinion of Simpson-Bowles in a 382-38 vote in March 2012.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reflections on spouting

This reflection was inspired by the Lubbock County judge and his concerns about Obama sending in the UN troops. While watching him, I wondered if he was for real. Some people in America actually believe talk like this, that Obama is a hair's breadth from being a dictator, and that civil war will erupt if he's reelected. These are true tin-hat paranoids. But many more (I'm guessing) say these kinds of things without really believing them. Unfortunately, it's hard to identify the true crazies from the more numerous people in America who are simply spouting.

The spouters do so because it's cathartic to express their hate of Obama and America's liberals. Expression is such a cathartic experience because we are usually constrained by manners, religion, social relationships, risk aversion, etc. from saying a hell of a lot of the thoughts that stream through our heads. Inside everyone of us is a person who would love to spout out everything if we could do it with impunity.

And we actually see people who get to do this: Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, and innumerable screaming heads on cable news. Who doesn't want to be able to do some of that?

There is a drawback to all this spouting. Well, many drawbacks, but I'll focus on two of them. There's a kind of one-upmanship that can occur that is most often seen in "Yo Mama" insults or southern insult contests-- "I'll beat you so bad you'll have to ..." So in all the red parts of the country, people have been talking about how awful it will be if Obama is reelected, and the predictions have been ramped up many times. It's no wonder that there's an elected official in Texas who says such things.

Another problem is that some people aren't in on the joke, so to speak, and don't realize the level of exaggeration. They take it as gospel. But we can't tell those who are serious from those who know it's a bunch of over-the-top claptrap.

When Obama wins (more likely when than if), we have to hope that there are a lot of people in these camps who know how to de-escalate. The example of 2009 doesn't give me much hope, but I'm a silly optimist anyway. I'm the last one you want to invite to your gloom-and-doom survivalist compound, which I guess accounts for the lack of invitations I've received. I guess they weren't lost in the mail.

 Does she or doesn't she?

(First appeared as part of another post.)

Update 9/1/12. Yikes. Three soldiers killed two people to prevent them from leaking their plot for killing Obama, allegedly. Extreme speech has consequences, folks.

Interview with Romney

Can we turn now to the tax reform details you promised...

Report from the GOP convention

[Warning: This post doesn't discuss the last day of the convention when Clint Eastwood rambled and yelled at a chair. For a serious discussion of that day, um, good luck. For funny twitter reactions, look here and here. If anyone wants to read about the other days, I've left this post up. But, really, why is anyone going to want to know about any other day?]

The first day of the GOP convention sounded pretty dismal. Ann Romney tried to make Mitt lovable, but left people still wondering if there anything lovable about him. Maybe you have to be a Mormon to understand. Christie talked about "hard truth" and left it at that, no actually hard truths, just the words. Well, no matter. The convention is a pep rally, not the strategy session where you assess your strengths and weaknesses. [Disclosure: That's my impression of Tuesday based on written reports. I didn't listen.]

Pawlenty, Huckabee
Tonight, I started listening during a drive. Pawlenty wasn't have bad except for not having a memorable moment. Huckabee insults Debbie Wasserman Schulz and then says "Bless her heart." He let the evangelicals know that it was OK to vote for Romney, but he stayed away from the current hot-button issue of abortion and let people know that contraception is OK too.

The "We don't hate" Women
Condi Rice had a good speech, and a great remembrance of growing up under Jim Crow, but her parents made her feel that she could grow up to be president. There was thunderous applause, making me wish she could have been the VP nominee. But she couldn't because she's pro-choice. I also remember that she was a yes-man to Bush and Cheney, and one good speech doesn't undo a hundredth of those years.

Paul Ryan
Susana Martinez had a good speech about boot straps. It sounded like her first use of Spanish was booed. I'll have to find out. [Can't confirm.] Paul Ryan started off slow and awkward, but finished strong. He said some phrases that are going to boomerang on him. He said that any measure of Obama has to take into account the condition of the economy. But how about taking into account the obstruction of the Republicans? A commentator pointed out that Ryan said Obama threw away the Simpson-Bowles plan. That omits Ryan's own role, which was voting against recommendations along with the rest of the House GOP commission members. Ryan played a huge role in torpedoing Simpson-Bowles before it even got to Obama. That's going to be an issue he can't duck in the next two months.

The GOP convention sounds middle-American. It hasn't been overly angry, or stern, and has avoided culture wars and blaming the poor. I wonder if the Dems can remain as positive as the Republicans were tonight. (Sure they can, sure.)

The Scary Future
Of course, the weak link, Romney himself, is coming up tomorrow. We'll see if he ruins the tone, weakens it, or actually enhances it. About Romney, I'm no longer an optimist.

Not the only blip in the pep rally?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Last outpost of crazy: Worst troll ever

I used to troll sometimes (not anymore... mostly*), and I definitely spend too much time fighting them in hopes that they'll whimper in defeat (hasn't happened yet). But this troll is 10x worse than others I've seen.

It starts with his screen name - Obotsarelonelyfools. He was a Clinton supporter and has the hugest grudge against Obama that I've ever encountered. There's no making common cause with an old adversary for him.

He's got about a 100 nasty comments on this thread. Don't read it too close to bedtime.


* I give myself a waiver to troll Shadrach Smith, AKA "muppet," a tea party troll on the Atlantic. 

Update 7/21/13. Here's another one (TadhgMor).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Turncoat parade

One of the most reliable and worst features of the political conventions is the speech by a disaffected member of the other party. This year the GOP has Artur Davis. He was defeated in the Democratic primary for Alabama governor. The Dems have Charlie Crist, who was defeated in the Republican primary for a Florida senate seat. I don't really care what either says, because sour grapes is probably the core reason for the defections. Why should I listen to whatever they've wrapped around those grapes?

After further consideration, I actually don't care for any convention speeches. They're usually pander-fests, with red meat rhetoric to juice up the stalwarts. Maybe the only fun would be trying to guess who'll be the turncoat in four years time.

I volunteer.

The way they talk: Lubbock, TX

So a judge in Lubbock, Tx, made waves last week because he was talking about, um, Obama sending UN troops into Texas and the great people of Texas resisting them. Maybe he said that, or maybe I'm remembering what someone else said. I'll have to track this down and return.

Back again.Yup, it was Obama sending UN troops into Lubbock. Now, I don't know how many people in the country agree that this is a possibility. I don't even know if the judge really believes it could happen, though he talks calmly and lengthily about it as a possibility, albeit a worst-case scenario... as he tries to walk it back (same link).

I think I'll try to make this post into a series. Todd Akin with his pregnancy rape comments would have fit nicely. I'll have to look for progressive craziness too. Wish me luck... maybe.

The UN doesn't deny Texas invasion plans. Really.

Extra: A retired teacher doesn't want to pay higher taxes to prepare Lubbock just in case. Read it to the very end.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Short: Latinos' message to the GOP

Latinos will have a large presence at the podium of the GOP convention. I doubt if that at all reflects the facts on the ground. It seems to me that the GOP base has been bashing Latinos for at least the last 4 years, blaming them for crime, crowded hospitals and schools, anchor babies, high social spending, and hordes of other ills. Now that the GOP needs more votes, it's time to forgive and forget.

I don't think that will work. People don't have such short memories. Jorge Ramos, news anchor for the Spanish channel Univision, wrote an interesting letter berating the GOP. (He promises a letter to the Dems next week. Stay tuned.)

If the GOP thinks it can be the party of innuendo, dog-whistles to nativists, and collapsing social services while protecting the rich with bailouts and tax preferences, and then expect any minority support, it should think again. Try starting your outreach by having your leaders stand up to the ugly, bigoted elements in your party. Then put the middle class before the rich. At that point, you have a chance to gain support from the family-oriented, job-oriented Latinos in this country. But first things first.


Extras: Romney needs 61% of the white vote. Ick. Has the electorate been so sliced and diced that campaign analysts can be this precise? Romney ran different campaign messages in English vs. Spanish.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Short: CYA by a pro-life group

While I was trawling the net for Todd Akin supporters, I found this mealy-mouthed document from the National Right to Life Committee. It chastises the media for ... (I'll just quote):
The mainstream news media is again busy ginning up stories exploring the outer parameters of the abortion-related policy positions of pro-life Republican candidates... -- while demonstrating a near-total disinterest in putting the spotlight on the outer parameters of the "abortion rights" positions embraced by President Obama, even on matters under current legislative consideration.
So, reporters, or voters, shouldn't be asking pro-life candidates about their positions because there isn't any legislation pending. I don't know if that's even true--that there's no pro-life legislation being considered in Congress right now. (Well, surprise, surprise. Their Legislation page lists a couple dozen bills.) I don't accept that limitation anyway because I want to hear what these candidates hope to do.

Instead, the press should focus on Obama, who might support sex-selective abortion or abortion up to the moment of birth. Yeah, this is a real concern. Somehow I don't think so. He certainly wasn't advocating these actions in the speeches he's been giving.

Extras. The abortion timeline at the NRLC website begins in 1959. That is part of the problem. Romney rules out any questions about abortion.

Keep those gaffes coming!

Oh my God have those news cycles been dominated by gaffes. We were talking about Medicare funding ... and successfully avoiding talking about the Medicare cuts "our side" voted for... then we were saved - SAVED - by Joe Biden and his "chains" remark. Then we had more fun and a great biology lesson from Todd Akin. Will we ever get back to some real issues? OF COURSE NOT.

The easiest way to derail a news meme that's not going your way is to find something egregious said by the other side. There are probably tens of thousands of politicians giving statements, holding fundraisers, and going into interviews without gags in place. Someone is going to say something. Then we have twitter and the internet and so many willing campaign operatives and media critters that no gaffe needs to go unnoticed. I predict that this is the way the rest of the campaign will go. Maybe there will be an undercurrent of real issues, but it most of the coverage will be of one gaffe after another.

Both Sides Now

Both sides will play this gaffe game, but so far the Dems have been the winners. I bet the GOP is working just as hard, but they have one or two major handicaps.

The first handicap, which I'm certain of, is that most of the mainstream media tilts a bit left. They're more disposed to report gaffes than embarrass Repubs and less disposed to report gaffes that embarrass Dems. The right can scream all they want about media bias, but we've heard that before, and screaming it louder isn't going to help them. Their own media is even more blatant in its bias, which can't help them when they try to get sympathy, nor if they try to counteract the leftist bias with their own gaffe reporting. The conservative media just hasn't built up any credibility, and that's going to hurt them now.

The other handicap I'm less certain of. Both sides have their whackos, but it's possible that the right has more of them. There's been more upheaval in the GOP, what with the Tea Party and Libertarian factions growing. Another contributor to the whacko count was the GOP having fewer incumbent senators and a lot of challengers not acclimated to greater media scrutiny. This may be too much of a generalization based on Akin, Angle, and O'Donnell.

These handicaps mean that the GOP will probably lose the gaffe race unless there are some stunners by Dem candidates. However, it's hard to figure out which gaffe will rise to the top. The same day Todd Akin uttered his gaffe, an election official in Ohio wrote "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine." He wanted to make sure the early voting in Ohio didn't include Sunday. No convenient weekend voting that might help those undesirables. That sounds pretty major to me.

Rating Scale for Gaffes

This demonstrates another odd thing about gaffes: individuals don't decide how bad a gaffe is--it seems to be an accumulation of responses more like a herd or a hive-mind. I have a hard time identifying the characteristics of a winning gaffe versus one that isn't going to make a dent. (Example - Cain's 9-9-9 plan and how the numbers didn't add up. Yawn - nobody but me cared.)

Perhaps people will tire of campaign coverage by gaffe. If so, what will replace them? I doubt if wonky position papers will attract general attention. I can hope that punchy, clear policy statements and critiques might work, but the hive-mind probably disagrees with me on that. I'll just have to wait and see. Sigh.


Just to clarify: This is not a joke. I really believe that issues will be largely undermined, and the flashiest, most memorable media coverage will be about gaffes. I would mourn the lost chance for a good campaign, but the the outlook hasn't been promising for a while. This isn't a death so much as another nail in the coffin.

More about gaffes.  Bernstein on gaffes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Last outpost of crazy: Akin supporters

Move aside Donald Trump. These people make you look like a sage.
Now, this would have been a wonderful time for the Right to engage is education, courage, and square, powerful refutation: exposing how stupid and devious liberal politicians are. Expose their lunacy and lies for all to see! ... Nope. Instead, they savaged the truth and bent, like quivering grass in the winds of assumed political fallout, before the left’s claims. -- Joel McDormon
Liberals want to keep abortion legal so they can continue their ways of rampant sex abuse, and have intercourse with no repercussions. The Lord our God states that intercourse is strictly confined to HETEROSEXUAL partners and is solely used for procreation; it’s not meant to be used by Susie Sorority-Slut to entice the starting Quarterback into “gangbanging” her with his teammates in order to be liked. If you have sex, you HAVE to get pregnant. ... Luckily, Todd Akin, in true Republican fashion, wants to limit the amount of abortions that occur in this country – something that Liberal Democrats wouldn’t know about, as they are too busy urging the Government to intervene in the personal affairs of citizens! ... Rep. Todd Akin recently had the courage to speak up about Christ’s ever-present power and his ability to terminate pregnancies...  A legitimate rape is when a Mexican or Negro gangbanger thug corners a young woman in an alleyway and ravages her body with sex.-- Mark E. Figs
And finally, the most gruesome supporter:
I'm pretty sure Akin would have to serve Rape Victim Smoothies (made with real rape victims) at a fundraising event to fall behind her in the polls!
... Smug turd though he may be, he's right. All Akin did was say what we all think. So let's stand behind him! ... We know that those other candidates, like Steelman and Brunner, could beat McCaskill easily... But Akin is still 1 point ahead, and he's the only honest Christian (NOT a Catholic) of the bunch. He deserves our support, and needs to stay in the race! -- Rev. M. Rodimer
Actually, I got punked. The first one is real, but the last two are from satirical sites that imitate and lampoon conservatives. It's really grotesque and filled with hate. I looked for the equivalent on the conservative side (conservatives pretending to be grotesque caricatures of liberals) but didn't find any. A little luck today, I guess.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not all gaffes are equal

It was a tough day for Republicans. On Sunday, the GOP candidate for Senate from Missouri made a big-ass mistake. He said that he doesn't believe that women can get pregnant from rape due to some bodily defense unknown to people who actually study human biology. Therefore, any woman claiming she got pregnant from a rape is probably a liar, and doesn't deserve to have a safe, legal abortion. Besides, even if she was telling the truth, her baby is innocent and deserves to live... never mind how traumatic the pregnancy might be... and even if the woman is a 12-year-old girl.

Some Republicans are pissed that this gaffe may cost them the Senate seat, and they're wailing about how unfair it is that gaffes stick to them but not to Dems.

Clearly, I'm not too sympathetic. To some people, this is just a little 'oopsy' like "57 states" or "put y'all back in chains" or "I like firing people."

This is different. It's not like saying the wrong word or using a questionable metaphor, or forgetting to fill a sentence with enough clauses so the words can't be taken out of context. This guy meant what he said. This has been his belief and reflects a policy objective that he would legislate if he could.

It would be scary if he could actually follow through, which he can't. What IS scary is that someone this dogmatic about abortion, reproduction, sex, and rape could be elected to the Senate. In 2010, the idiocies known as Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle were defeated, not by GOP primary voters, but by general election voters. We'll have to count on general election voters again. Let us pray, yet again, to be saved from the foolishness of some of our fellow citizens.

  Christians wooing women voters?

Also interesting. Bernstein on what the party can do.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Silly campaign tricks: You did it first

I'm not sure why, but just the headlines have been enough to make me laugh or pull out my hair. From my most recent visit to Google News:
Column: What bargain did Romney and Ryan strike?

Ryan on $700 Billion Medicare Cut: Obama did it first
I'll post this as is because I don't want to lose the timeliness of it. Commentary, if any, later.


Last outpost of crazy: Mixed messages

The man who tried to enter the Family Research Council's office in Washington, shot their security guard, and doesn't "like [their] politics," he had:
...a backpack containing 50 rounds of extra ammunition, and 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A.
Read more in The Onion Monitor. (That isn't the only unusual detail.)


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Healthcare cost analysis - resources

Regular readers know my abiding interest in healthcare cost containment. However, it's hard to write knowledgeably about the subject without delving into a lot of statistics. I've finally attempted to find sources for my research that a layman can use. This is what I've found. (Many thanks to commenters who directed me to some of these resources.)

McKinsey, a pdf download that is great, but it is pre-digested so let's hope they did a good job. 122 pages, but chunked into tight, readable sections with many charts. By pre-digested, I mean that they picked what to highlight, rather than letting you sort through all the data. That gives them the control over what you see, and especially over what you don't see.

The Commonwealth Fund report, a 14-page pdf that is also very readable with even better charts. Also from Commonwealth is this editorial that quantifies some of the benefits of recent reforms.

Usually when you want to save money, you look at your big expenses first because they have the most potential for cost savings. This report from MEPS (Medical Expediture Panel Survey - federal, I think) is an overview of the big expenses. Don't get your hopes up--there's little here to make me optimistic about cost containment.

For more nitty-gritty look at statistics, this 13-page breakdown of expenditure patterns from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - federal) may help. Unfortunately, it only covers to 2004. This one is less readable, but covers up to 2010.

Finally, this report from the California HealthCare Foundation is a very visual 32-page download overview of spending with gorgeous charts. It's part of a library of report, so I'll have to look sometime to find other gems in that library.


When I was reviewing sources, I found something interesting. We spend a lot on cancer treatment, but we do really well on survival rates for two of the most common cancers, breast cancer and colorectal cancer (this source, p. 10). Yeah!


Update 8/5/13. How did I leave out the Dartmouth Healthcare Atlas,which shows usage patterns all around the country?

Measuring the outrage

I'm impaired when it comes to finding this or that statement as "outrageous" or "desperate" or "despicable." I'm surprised anyone who has observed politics for the last 4 or 12 or 16 years can find anything that registers as surprisingly outrageous or desperate. The political discourse in this country has rarely been anything but nasty in those times.

So, how does Romney still have a sensitive enough antenna to pick up outrageous and desperate emanations from the Obama camp? I would think his antenna would be de-sensitized by his own ugly, nasty, low, and insulting campaign.

This has been a theme for my comments on other blogs for a few weeks now. Here are my best comments. From plain blog:
My outrage-o-meter stopped working long ago, but it's fascinating how outraged Repubs are considering that Glenn Beck was spinning conspiracy theories on the thinnest grounds, unsourced questions (ha) or allegations are de rigeur for Fox News, and Michelle Bachmann got to debate with all the other GOP candidates despite her history. The GOP may SAY they're outraged at the tactic, but they're really just outraged that a high-placed Democrat is using it against them.

How about this for a metaphor--no unilateral disarmament. I'm a former lib who stopped supporting that misguided proposal vs. the Soviets about 1981. I don't support it for the Dems now either, and for the same reasons. There's no reason for a good person to enter a conflict with a self-imposed handicap.

I can't find the other great comment, but it went something like this.
The Republicans forfeited their right to call a campaign outrageous, low, ugly, or divisive four years ago, when their VP candidate was calling Obama a terrorist, when Bachmann was calling for investigations of unAmerican members of the House, when countless Republicans said Obama was an illegitimate president because he wasn't born in the US. That kind of campaigning was outrageous, low, ugly, and divisive, and the GOP has not stopped doing it for 4 YEARS!!! So don't whine to me about how nasty anyone's campaign is. You Republicans have defined nasty for 4 years, so deal with it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Equivalence: Saul Alinsky vs. Ayn Rand

Thunderbolt! Saul Alinsky is supposed to be the political and philosophical inspiration for Obama. Ayn Rand is supposed to be the political and philosophical inspiration for Paul Ryan.

I'm not going to waste my time on all the charges and and countercharges. I don't see either of these modern day politicians being worshipful followers of these supposed gurus.

I call bullshit on both. The only use for either master/servant pair is to rip any idiot who's foaming at the mouth about a candidate's terrible political background. In that case, fire away.

Almost as sinister as ... Saul Alinsky

Watching a gaffe mushroom

Yesterday I was trying to find out whether the left was going crazy over the Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate. No they weren't, but I blundered into this story:
Boehner Spokesman: Obama Responsible for Drought
It seems that some hapless spokesman for John Boehner released a statement to the press including these words, attributed to the Speaker himself:
[Obama] "continues to blame anyone and everyone for the drought but himself."
Anything like that spreads over the liberal blogosphere fast. It was picked up the Democratic Underground, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo Livewire, etc. By 2:30pm in the afternoon, comments were coming back to Speaker Boehner's own site, and by 4:30pm, the site had a correction up:
UPDATED @ 4:30 PM ET: Clarifies that the president is blaming others for failing to respond to the drought when he has yet to urge Senate Democrats to adopt a bipartisan drought-relief measure passed by the House. 
So, did anyone in the infamous Lamestream Media jump on this story? No. CNN, NBC, CBS, NYTimes, WaPo, none of them seems to have run with it, at least according to my Google search. The most high profile liberal sap is MSNBC, to its shame.

I'm reminded of the slam on Al Sharpton in May, where someone in a conservative news factory cleverly edited Al Sharpton and made it seem that he was accusing the Republicans of being for genocide. That was picked up by Mark Levin (if it didn't start there) and spread around quickly too. Fox didn't fall on it, to their credit.

There is one major difference in this case. The conservative sites didn't have links to sources, but most of the liberal sites did. That's how I got to Boehner's site and saw the correction.

There is also a major similarity between the conservative blogophere and the liberal blogosphere. They will both run with meaningless gaffes that any adult would immediately discount. The immaturity is so predictable and tiresome. Grown up, all of you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Short: Reflection on 2008

Not my reflection. I'll let you judge it for yourselves.
October 10, 2008. The moment that Obama election was sealed.
PappyD61 on August 13, 2012 at 12:47PM (Link here)


Short: A gun isn't enough

I was following a news link about Eric Holder, "reefer madness," and Fast and Furious. Not surprisingly, it led to a conservative website, the Daily Caller. It was the usual tripe about Fast and Furious with a twist that Holder started major marijuana busts in California, which were connected in some unexplained way.  And it was also "highly cited" in the alternative universe where Fast and Furious is a major issue. So much for that.

However, what I saw then was interesting:
A 12 Gauge Won't Save You
Discover What Federal Agents & The Army Don't Want You To Know
Does the NRA know that having a gun isn't enough? It's not going to be an armed citizenry that saves us from the amazing number of whackos out there. Those armed citizens also need close combat training. I guess our goose is cooked.

What I'm wearing out now.

Short: Annoying, but right?

I read this piece by David Frum. Actually, I forced myself to continue reading it, even after the blather about how the election could be/should be about Obama's "dismal" record. But the column gets better:
"Romney has instead chosen to bolt himself to the House Republicans."
There's plenty solid analysis after that. Then came this bombshell insight:
"Conservatives ardently believe that big future deficits are the cause of today's unemployment. They feel it. They know it. And they don't want to hear different."
I'm thinking, wow, maybe that really is the summation of the Republican stance. And the statement also shows how ridiculous the view is. Wow. Other impressions, anyone?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan - A serious pick

PJ of Viable Opposition has asked for my opinion on the choice of Paul Ryan for the Republican VP nomination. I can't delve into the strategic and tactical considerations the way professional pundits do. This is just my gut reaction: it's a good, solid pick.

When the GOP didn't know what their fiscal program should look like, this guy provided the roadmap. When the GOP asked themselves WTF were they going to do about Medicare (without being too scary), this guy came through again. The only other Republicans to submit budget plans were Ron Paul and ...  Rand Paul?!? (And the RINOs on the Simpson-Bowles commission, but they don't count in this GOP.)

So there's a bit less pixie dust in the Romney campaign today. But there's still plenty because the Ryan's latest budget has plenty of handwaving.

I also notice that Ryan doesn't want to be the heavy who tells Grandma that she can't have spinal fusion or a kidney transplant or has run out of dialysis days, so he's passing the job on to insurance companies. Great way to handle that difficult issue, GOP. Now you don't even have to try to contain medical costs--that is being outsourced in the traditional GOP fashion.

Nonetheless, Ryan has given the GOP the method for containing Medicare costs. Under his plan, they would soon be deciding how large the pot of money is, and that's what Americans will get for their vouchers subsidized premiums. It's a better solution than the-sky's-the-limit. I can't say much more in its favor than that.

I look forward to a bit more substantial campaign, and a much closer look at the Ryan budget and its fudges. At least there will be some numbers--something for a nerd like me to crunch on.


Flashback: Romney was always going to pick someone solid. At least the campaign should be more substantial.

A Bloomberg summary of Ryan budget positions.

Crude joke that you may want to skip. You can misread the headline as: Paul Ryan - A serious prick. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Watching Romney sell his soul

I used to think Romney was a good man who cared about good government. I thought that was his reason for running for senator, then governor, then president. I thought that he considered himself a guy who could fix the problems in government like he fixed the problems at the Salt Lake Olympics.

I don't think those are Romney's motives anymore. Nor do I consider him a good man anymore. I've watched, with regret, as he pandered to the baser elements of the GOP. I realized today that I've been witnessing something I didn't expect to see. Mitt Romney, this devout Mormon and formerly good man, has sold his soul for the presidential nomination.

I didn't think this would happen with Mitt. Plenty of politicians don't seem to have a soul anymore. Others make compromises, but they keep enough of their soul to remain recognizable. Romney, who was my governor, isn't recognizable anymore. He used to be fair, polite, and reasonable to work with. Now he's a liar, still polite occasionally, but has totally forgotten what pragmatism is. It's sad that his ambition was so great that he gave up his best attributes for ambition's sake.

When I wrote this on the Atlantic website, Lars_the_pianist wrote this reply:
When I think back, Dubya was fairly popular governor in Texas. He went and polled the state for top priorities and found many Hispanics wanted better education for their kids with more push on learning English.  Dubya advocated for that.  
.... then he became President and the GOP neo-con machine pushed him to stop being the "compassionate conservative" and be the perpetual wartime president and the profligate tax cutter that grew government spending.
It seems to be very difficult to project what a GOP governor will become if they enter the Presidential fray. The internal pressures in today's national GOP must be really immense. Mitt is already being transformed from the Massachusetts pragmatist to "the man with no past."  
Sigh  -
That sums it up.

Mitt came, saw, and took the plunge.

Welfare change: Spin or real issue?

Just when Harry Reid's allegations about Mitt Romney's tax returns were the biggest campaign story, Romney unleashes a barrage against Obama's consideration of waivers for the welfare work requirement. The obvious partisan ways to view this news story are:
  • Dems: This is lazy mendacity on the part of Romney since the waivers were requested by Republican governors. They're trying to smear Obama as a dependency-promoting socialist.
  • Repubs: The welfare reform bill fixed the problem of dependency without accountability that was a huge drain on public finances. His proposed changes gut the law that was passed to combat the problem, and that is overreach. Changes should enacted, not declared unilaterally.
I think the GOP has some good points here. Obama has been stepping beyond his powers. However, when he can't get the Congress to grant him reasonable powers, he often still has to act. Decisions have to be made about where to put resources regarding immigration enforcement. The civil war in Libya was happening, and sitting on our thumbs has consequences.

Changing the rules on a major piece of legislation is a different situation. Obama wouldn't unilaterally mess with Social Security rules, and he shouldn't be doing it with welfare reform either.

But the GOP is going overboard when they say Obama is gutting welfare reform, and will go back to welfare the way it was--just collecting checks.The message isn't that this might happen, that you shouldn't trust Obama, but that it's happening. It's the 'death panels' approach again.

There are probably real issues here. What issues are driving the changes to work requirements? Are the work requirements too much in this economy? Do we want states to have more leeway for experimentation? Are there going to be public reports about the results of these changes?

This real second-tier issue is being treated in a superficial way. And really, what would Romney do differently? Maybe he wouldn't do waivers, or maybe he would but he'd be able to get congressional permission. Frankly, I have more questions than answers, and the media and political ads weren't clarifying the issue. Well, that's a big surprise.


Fox, gutting or tweaking?
Slate/Weigel  an analytical overview
Mickey Kaus is angry, but has the best arguments
Gingrich on CNN makes some strong GOP arguments
Huffington gives more nuance to GOP rep involved
Seattle Times is tough on Romney, some criticism for Obama

Rant: Sick of Trump

I check the news most days, but I've avoided following this story--Trump's role at the GOP convention. Oh, so he wasn't invited to speak? Well, that makes sense because the guy is a complete embarrassment.

Today the annoying headline is:
Trump will have 'memorable' role at GOP convention, aide says.
I can't stand that man's vanity anymore. I'm so fed up that I'm wishing he would die, or suffer a stroke, or anything to get him to stop. Obviously my disciplined, rational mind is gone on this issue, and my raging, frustrated, aggressive animal impulses have taken over.

Just thought I'd share that with you. That is all. (No picture. The search would make me hurl my laptop across the room.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Short: She shoulda had Romneycare

So there's this ad from the Obama superPAC about a family that lost its health insurance after Bain closed a steel plant. The wife got sick, but didn't see a doctor due to lack of insurance. When she finally was so disabled by pneumonia, she went into the hospital, they found the cancer, and it was too late. A slam against Bain, but a larger reminder of how our employer-based health insurance system collapses for many people (but hopefully not ME).

Romney's reply is ... weird. His campaign says this wouldn't have happened in Massachusetts under Romneycare. Well, yes, but you're not for making Romneycare national. You, Romney, are against that.

That's like Romney saying "my 2006-self as governor would help you" and ignoring that his 2012-self as GOP presidential candidate wouldn't. Which persona is more applicable right now? Oh yeah, the one who wouldn't help this woman.

This is just more fodder for counter-ads, and for the debates. In fact, many of these distortions of Romney's can be turned against him. I hope they are. A candidate should be truthful about his record and about his opponent's record. There's plenty there for a real campaign--his record vs. mine, his proposals vs. mine. If a candidate resorts to lies and distortion rather than laying out his best case, he deserves to be exposed.

Romney2006 approves this treatment

Update 8/9/12. Boy are some of the loudest conservatives pissed off at the Romney campaign, and Andrea Saul in particular. Oops, some truth slipped out. In the videos here, watch the Fox host spoon-feed Andrea Saul the information she's supposed to say. Incredible example of Fox News media bias fair and balanced reporting. I couldn't make myself listen to the Rush tape. Someone tell me if it's tolerable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hail to the sequester

I'm a fan of the sequester for a simple reason: it cuts spending. Spending has to be cut. We are running a huge deficit that isn't going to shrink any time soon with our projected economic growth being so low. So if we are to avoid mounting up even huger piles of debt, we need to cut spending, raise taxes, and probably both.

I prefer that most of the deficit reduction come from spending cuts. We spend so much on government functions mostly because we aren't taxed for the full expense. If we had to pay the full amount, we would quickly decide to do without some of those government functions.

That is what the sequester does--it trims government. We should applaud the sequester, not bash it. Specifically, Republicans should support it. They're the ones who most favor cutting spending. Well, this is what spending cuts LOOK LIKE. Did the GOP, or the rest of us, think it was something else?

Of course, the GOP might have had the delusion that we would only cut programs they don't like, but even then, the GOP wasn't being too specific. How deep would they make cuts to food stamps, children's health, EPA, veterans' health, college aid? I haven't seen a specific proposals from a mainstream Republican--Paul Ryan's proposal was mostly smoke and mirrors. Romney's proposal: a vague leave-it-to-the-next-Congress.

So this sequester panic, I don't understand it except as a political fearmongering. The sequester is a cut. Embrace it because it's what we need to do. This one is just the beginning.

Did they think this is what it would be?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Did Romney pay his taxes? Make a bet.

I was just reading this column in the New York Times where the author (someone I don't know) explains why it's crass to make an allegation for which you offer no proof. This is such a big topic now, not because some politician just crossed that line, but because a high Democratic politician finally did. (See below.)

It takes awhile, but he finally mentions that this is a common practice of the rabble-rousers of the "far right." No names mentioned, which is odd considering that this is an article about how it's good to provide some evidence. <Cough, Glenn Beck, Hannity, Michele Bachmann, almost all of Fox news, cough.>

A lot of us have been waiting for the Democrats to take the gloves off. I'd prefer them to massively ridicule the lies of the Republican. But many prefer them to get as down and dirty as the GOP does. I'm content with that too. As a parent, and maybe as a civilized adult, I'm tired of seeing bad behavior go unpunished and unrebuked. I'm glad they're doing something.

By the way, I wonder if Mitt would make a $10,000 bet that he's paid 'his taxes every year, and a lot of them.' If he makes such a wager, take it, run to your bank, get $10,000, and tell him to get out his tax returns and show you. The last time he made such a bet, his opponent backed down. But Mitt was lying. If you get a chance, make Mitt "put up" and don't give him the option of "shutting up."


Evidence that Republicans don't mind the tactic: Michele Bachmann saying, "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America." Yeah, they were so outraged that she was disinvited from the GOP debates. Um, maybe not.

Blunt words for the crappy tax plans

A Bloomberg editorial points out the mathematical impossibilities in both Romney's and Obama's tax plans.

Briefly, Romney promises to maintain the Bush tax cuts and reduce rates 20% more. However, to remain revenue-neutral, he has to claw back two-thirds of the deductions people take. If you're middle-class, you're probably taking a mortgage deduction and other itemized deductions that greatly lower your tax bill, much more than a 20% rate reduction would. So many middle-class earners would see their tax bills rise just as high-earners get another tax break.

The problem with Obama's tax plan is that the rich don't have enough money to pay for all deficit spending that's been occurring for the past 12 years or is anticipated in the future. Doubling their tax rate, even raising it to 100%, doesn't collect enough money.

As I've said before, the deficit spending, and especially the marshmallow-soft taxes of the Bush II era, had a terrible effect on our expectations of what government can do and how much it will cost. We have been spoiled by having our cake and eating it too, and we are still being spoiled. It is high time for a reality check, but it isn't happening because (eye-roll) ... It's Election Season, the season of impossible promises. I'm going to stop now before my head explodes from the frustration.

But first, a big thank you to Bloomberg for a short, readable summary of these tax plans and their fundamental dishonesty. Please, read it, forward it, get it out there.

You must see this

Image: Getty Images

I can't stop looking at this photo: the shadows and light, the colors, the rhythmic elements, the intersecting diagonals.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Short: Romney's shrinking economic plan

Romney's economic plan has shrunk from 87 pages to 1 page. It can now be thrown into a Cuisinart and turned into fine confetti.

Throughout this phase of the campaign, Romney has acted as though we don't need, want, or deserve specific information about his political and economic plans. What we really is need to do is to BELIEVE, with all our hearts, that Romney and the GOP can revive our economy and our country.

Sorry, no dice. I haven't ever believed fairy tales. Romney had better show he can fly if he wants me to believe in pixie dust. 


Extra: Now that Romney is saying "Put up or shut up" as part of his campaign (in response to Harry Reid), maybe that will be repeated back to him. It certainly applies to a lot of topics: his budget cuts, his economic plan to create 12 million new jobs, his tax returns. If the Dems are smart, Romney will be sorry he ever said those words. 

Do libertarians hate America as liberals do?

I was in my car listening to a segment of "Alternative Radio." Morris Berman, a leftist author, was chuckling about how stupid and/or corrupt Americans are. It seems that we have no redeeming features.

I grew up with a lot of America-bashing, but it was all idle talk. Not one of those who blamed the US for horrible situations across the globe ever emigrated to a more moral country. Instead, it was like a liberal parlor game--what outrage has America committed now?

I don't play this game. I'm aware and unafraid to point out the wrong that America has done, but also to point out what it's done right. I also realized that despite the incessant complaints I grew up with, I love this country and there isn't another place I'd rather be. This is my home, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. We have an incredibly rich history (good and bad all mixed up together) and many aspects that make me incredibly proud.

Morris Berman doesn't seem to feel the same way. He bashed just about everything after WWII. Also, the core of Americans is rotten. I didn't catch the details there, but I bet the evidence he presented was probably one-sided.

What's funny is that I hear echoes of this in what libertarians say about the growth and depredations of government. Ron Paul can talk on and on about how America invades other countries and that causes blowback and also the federal government is regulating all this dang stuff. However, when Ron Paul does this, he doesn't sound like a pompous, aging, radical blowhard hypocrite.

There is an important difference--the libertarians don't bash the American people. Dang pompous liberals, please take note.

Short: Not enough white men in Congress

Here's the actual headline:
White male Democrats fading in Congress
But don't worry. It's not as bad as all that. It turns out that white males will no longer be over 50% of the Democrats in Congress. That is, they will no longer be absolutely clearly holding power beyond their numbers in society at large.

Next I'm going to investigate whether there are enough men on the Supreme Court.

 What we need - ambisexual politicians (Guiliani, not Trump)

Just desserts for Harry Reid

I've gathered from various news stories over the years that Harry Reid is quite the political innovator. I think he's the one who maneuvered the revised ACA through the Senate using reconciliation, a procedure intended for budget bills.

His latest contribution is being one of the highest official to use the "unnamed source" to cast aspersions on a foe. In this case, the target is Mitt Romney, the weapon is an allegation of massive tax avoidance, and the unnamed source is either a Bain investor or a convenient fiction.

That's all in a day's work for a politician of that stripe. Sarah Palin had her statements about Obama "palling around with terrorists," which is too similar to other political smears for me to worry about subtle differences, such as some people believing "IT'S TRUE!"

What makes this so much fun is that the internet has turned this tactic against Harry Reid in just one day. If you google "Is Harry Reid a pederast," you'll see the buzz. Twitter is atwitter with the rumor, which isn't actually an accusation so much as it's payback or being hoisted on his own petard.

This is what I like to see. A politician does something stupid or questionable. Instead of fake outrage, which I don't think anyone believes, we have a torrent of ridicule, some of which is quite funny. Maybe ridicule fits my personality better. I can enjoy parody 100 times more than a talking head pretending that some outrage could cause the end of western civilization.

Another thing I like about this response: it skewers both the perpetrator AND the method. That's good shooting.

The next un-sourced rumor

Update 8/3/12: According to Romney, the White House is probably behind this. I guess it's now Obama's turn to speculate with or without sources on what Romney's trying to accomplish or avoid. More substance-free campaign fun!!!

Update 9/23/12: Romney dumped his 2011 tax returns on the media world on Friday afternoon, otherwise known as burial time. He has a summary report from an accountancy that claims he's averaged an effective rate of over 20%, but this article points out the very careful wording of the statements and the lack of year-by-year numbers. 

I doubt that Romney's returns would show him to be corrupt and in someone's pocket, as was the case for Nixon (when this disclosure got started). I also doubt that he'll release additional years. However, his loopholes and low tax rates would be emblematic of how the wealthy and corporations avoid tax, yet still complain about bitterly about their tax burden while advocating defense growth and greatly reduced social spending. I still want to see spending reined in until it starts to hurt. I'd also like to see a time when we have a stronger, larger middle class and less reliance on plutocrats for revenue.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Acting like a 1-year-old

This blog is having a birthday. It was born because of the turmoil of political ideas that swarmed my head last August. There has barely been a lull since then. Here are some stats:
  • Pageviews so far:               15,107 (but not every visit gets counted)
  • Posts:                                          233
  • Comments:                                568
  • Censored comments:                  5
  • Top five posts:   
  1. Cross of Gold--because many people search for images of gold
  2. My budget proposal 
  3. The truth about media bias 
  4. Ron Paul - Missing in the media 
  5. The Political Lie Machine: Dems caused the mortgage meltdown
    • Surprising places where my blog has been read: Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia, Jamaica (I wouldn't read this if I was in Jamaica), Burkina Faso.
    • Ambitions:                Who knows.
    Thanks to all the readers and especially to those who comment, thus making this blog a group project. Please keep coming.

    Happy Birthday with occasional profanity

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Food fight

    I rather not have to check the bona fides of every product I buy to make sure that they meet a laundry list of do's and don'ts. I've never had a Chick-fil-A sandwich, but I'd try it sometime. I think my son said it's pretty good. But I won't go on "Support Traditional Marriage" Day because I wouldn't want my commercial and gustatory decision to be interpreted as a political statement.

    When I buy something, it's because it's a good product, and that's all. When I give to charity, I want it to support their charitable work, not their strategic alliance with or against some other group. We have enough liberal-conservative divides in this country. It doesn't have to extend to all of commerce and charities too.

    The efforts of the Susan G. Komen trust to cleanse itself of all connection to Planned Parenthood was a debacle, but luckily it didn't spread to other charities (as far as I know). It should have been a lesson--support projects (or charities or products or companies) on their merits, not on their political pedigree. If it was my decision, I'd save boycotts for the organizations with egregious practices, not because a CEO has a political opinion. Maybe it's part of my live-and-let-live mindset, or maybe it's because I'm too lazy to make sure every item in my life is politically pure.

    Actually, I'm pretty sure it's not laziness. I definitely don't want everything in my life to be politically pure, because I want a huge chunk of life not to be political at all.