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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Offset the cost"!

This is rather accurate, though Romney is distancing himself from his earlier remarks on FEMA (along with pretty much everything he said during the primary)


Monday, October 29, 2012

Politics nation

It struck me recently that I'm usually sick of the whole business by now - the endless parsing of the candidates' words, the endless fact checking of the ubiquitous attack ads, the endless spin and commentary by the talking heads. But I've found this year to be very interesting - the analysis of polls and demographics has been pretty edifying, and the commentary seems a tiny bit more balanced and more intelligent than years past.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Be yourself"?

Someone who I consider the ultimate people pleaser posted this on her FB page. How I wish the world worked this way!!

No matter how loud their opinions are, others cannot choose who you are. The question should not be, 'Why don’t they like me when I’m being me?' It should be, 'Why am I wasting my time worrying what they think of me?' If you are not hurting anyone with your actions, keep moving forward with your life. Be happy. Be yourself. If others don’t like it, then let them be. Life isn’t about pleasing everybody.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gender gap

Of all the many discouraging aspects of the election this year (the blatant flip flops, the endless pandering), the one that is by far the most discouraging to me is the way that the very sizable gender gap began to narrow just as down ticket Republican candidates starting making news for their bizarre comments about rape and pregnancy.  The narrowing of the gender gap had to do with many things, not least of which was Romney's strong showing in the first debate, but the upshot is that many women voters just do not care about these "women's issues" to the degree that they influence their candidate choice.  And that's a terrible shame, IMO.

Let's review:

Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin said that when a women is the victim of "legitimate rape," she doesn't get pregnant because her body has a way of "shutting that whole thing down." This rather bizarre and entirely false claim has been perpetuated by an actual MD - Dr John C. Willke, former president of the National Right to Life Committee, though he did not invent the misinformation - it's been accepted medical doctrine for literally a couple hundred years.

Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Moudock said that a pregnancy that results from rape is still a baby that "God intended" to create (sort of implying that the rape was also God's intention).

A few months earlier, Idaho Senator Chuck Winder got into marital rape: "I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape."

Wisconsin State Rep Roger Rivard publicly tells a charming story about his dad's advice on premarital sex: "If you go down that road, some girls rape so easy." (Meaning some girls cry rape after consensual sex, which is only slightly better than his rather mangled original statement.)

Wasington Congressional candidate John Koster said that "the rape thing" is not a justification for abortion.


Friday, October 26, 2012

"If women ruled the world"



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Freedom to Read!

Love this image from the Library Associations' Banned Books Week campaign:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Brad Pitt - Chanel

New print ad campaign for Chanel No.5 features smoking hot photos of Brad Pitt. (Some of my friends said he looks like Charles Manson, but I think they're nuts). I took this shot in the mall (in front of Macy's), so it doesn't do justice to the photo:


Monday, October 22, 2012

Obama conspiracies

Love this - someone took the time to collect all the crazy accusations into one cute graphic:


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Immune super powers

I feel like my immune system must be super strong, because I've been stressing my body a lot lately, and cold season is upon us, but I still haven't gotten sick.  Among other things, I stayed up very late a couple of nights, then donated blood, and then watched the debate at my friend's house while she was fighting off a major nasty cold.  Still not sick.  Of course, just writing this down is probably tempting fate.


Friday, October 19, 2012

"Doing it wrong"

Love this!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Binders full of women"

This was THE catchphrase of the second presidential debate (and already inspired a tumblr page), but it actually encapsulates an important issue that Romney on fails miserably.  And his story, about how he REQUESTED women for his cabinet (using standard affirmative action techniques, though he would never call it that), isn't even true, as detailed in this article on Alternet.com:

Yes, there was a binder, but no, he didn't seek it out. It was offered to him by an independent group, according to David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix , and since the then-Governor didn't seem to know any "qualified" women himself, he was lucky to receive that binder:
". . . prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.  They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected."
. . . the real issue, though . . . [is] what does it reveal to us about Mitt Romney that he even needed such a binder and didn't have his own Rolodex full of smart, accomplished professional women colleagues and acquaintances? This is the man who continued to bumble his way through the debate question by referring to his magnanimity in allowing a female employee to get home in time to cook dinner for her family . . .

image from @thatwrengirl


Monday, October 15, 2012

Undecided voters

This is a fascinating assessment of undecided voters written by Chris Hayes during the Bush-Kerry election in 2004.  He makes several interesting points, but the following struck me the most, partly due to the blog entry I posted last week (Oct 11):

Undecided voters don't think in terms of issues 
Perhaps the greatest myth about undecided voters is that they are undecided because of the "issues." That is, while they might favor Kerry on the economy, they favor Bush on terrorism; or while they are anti-gay marriage, they also support social welfare programs. Occasionally I did encounter undecided voters who were genuinely cross-pressured--a couple who was fiercely pro-life, antiwar, and pro-environment for example--but such cases were exceedingly rare. More often than not, when I asked undecided voters what issues they would pay attention to as they made up their minds I was met with a blank stare, as if I'd just asked them to name their favorite prime number.
The majority of undecided voters I spoke to couldn't name a single issue that was important to them. This was shocking to me. Think about it: The "issue" is the basic unit of political analysis for campaigns, candidates, journalists, and other members of the chattering classes. It's what makes up the subheadings on a candidate's website, it's what sober, serious people wish election outcomes hinged on, it's what every candidate pledges to run his campaign on, and it's what we always complain we don't see enough coverage of.
But the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to. (This was also true of a number of committed voters in both camps--though I'll risk being partisan here and say that Kerry voters, in my experience, were more likely to name specific issues they cared about than Bush supporters.) At first I thought this was a problem of simple semantics--maybe, I thought, "issue" is a term of art that sounds wonky and intimidating, causing voters to react as if they're being quizzed on a topic they haven't studied. So I tried other ways of asking the same question: "Anything of particular concern to you? Are you anxious or worried about anything? Are you excited about what's been happening in the country in the last four years?"
These questions, too, more often than not yielded bewilderment. As far as I could tell, the problem wasn't the word "issue"; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the "political." The undecideds I spoke to didn't seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief--not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.


Friday, October 12, 2012

"Important question"

Love this!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Real party differences

I thought it was fascinating in the first presidential debate the way that the moderator, Jim Lehrer, kept phrasing the questions "Explain how your approach is different from your opponent's," but the candidates rarely addressed the differences, because they have to make sure they get all their catchphrases in.

In the VP debate, their answers often included the ways that the two sides agree, because they do! But the two sides differ in important ways, and I don't think the Dems do a good job of selling their positions, which the vast majority of Americans agree with. The vast majority of Americans want a safety net. The vast majority of Americans want women to have access to abortion, at least in the first trimester. The vast majority of Americans want the government to ensure that consumer products are safe, water is drinkable, food won't poison you, air is clean.  The vast majority of Americans want more money spent on education than on military hardware. The vast majority of Americans want to avoid wars with foreign countries.

I don't understand why the Democratic candidates don't make the case - it's a winning case! Why do they let the Republicans get away with empty rhetoric about "liberty" and "personal freedom" - completely meaningless phrases when it comes to explaining actual policy.

Yes, we know you all want to support "middle class families" and "grow the economy," but what does that really mean in terms of policy? Because policies are the only way the government has to accomplish anything.  So what are you going to DO? Cuz I sure as hell already know what you're going to SAY.

The only way that Romney and Ryan can make the case for their ticket is by soft pedaling and misrepresenting their positions - like Romney suddenly deciding that pre-existing conditions should be covered, or just flat out lying about what the Ryan tax plans does (e.g., it gets rid of tax deductions popular with the middle class, like mortgage interest and child care expenses). It's just not democracy when they can only get people to vote for them through obfuscation!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Empire and its consequences"

Hard hitting essay on our stupid foreign policy, from the Common Dreams website:

Empire and Its Consequences
Ever notice the way certain basic human values quietly transform into their opposite on their way to becoming national policy?

At the human level, the immorality of murder is fundamental, and most people understand the insanity of armed hatred. Keeping these dark forces under wraps is essential to the existence of human society. So why is it, then, that at the abstract level of nationalism, those forces are honored, worshiped, saluted, extolled as glorious, and given command of an enormous budget?
Why is it that their perpetuation via increasingly sophisticated technology is equated with national security and no one talks about the completely predictable negative consequences of basing security on murder and hatred?
And why does it feel so naïve to be asking such questions?
It’s as though the arrangement was settled four or five millennia ago. Killing is wrong, but we have to kill one another, you know, in self-defense, in order to survive. And hating people is wrong — mocking them, dehumanizing them — but some people ask for it. They do it to us, so we have no choice but to do it back. Hate, dehumanize, eliminate our enemies and . . . voila, we’re safe, at least for the time being. What don’t you get about that?
Criticism of such policy is generally couched in terms that remove the alleged naïveté of the criticism, but I’m wondering if it isn’t time to stare directly at the fundamental wrongness of war. Let me put it as nakedly as I can: A policy of murder and hatred is, in itself, morally wrong as well as strategically untenable. Anything that flows from such a policy, even if it seems to be beneficial — such as regional dominance, access to oil, suppression of an enemy’s power or plain old revenge — is inherently unstable and doomed to disastrous failure. This may be the way empires act, but it’s bad policy. If it creates “collateral damage,” it’s bad policy.
I put it this way because I’m haunted by the statistic that U.S. military veterans are committing suicide at the rate of 18 per day and that the term for the condition of many, maybe most, veterans and soldiers after their deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq is moral injury, as I wrote about last week. Their lives have been seriously damaged not just by physical and psychological injury but by something else as well — by having transgressed a fundamental spiritual threshold and severed the connection that unites us. We can’t dehumanize others without doing the same to ourselves, and waking up to the reality of such a state is sometimes unbearable.
And it’s not just the deployment — the participation in an inhumane occupation and war — that dehumanizes. The military training that precedes deployment is where it starts. The training is not simply in the craft and technology of killing, but in the dehumanizing of self and other. The U.S. military, whatever else it is, is a cult of hatred with a virtually unlimited budget. This has been born out in the testimony of numerous vets over the years, testimony that could fill volumes, e.g.:
“I joined the Army on my 18th birthday. When I joined I was told racism was gone from the military,” Mike Prysner said during the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. “After 9/11, I (began hearing) towel head, camel jockey, sand nigger. These came from up the chain of command. The new word was hadji. A hadji is someone who takes a pilgrimage to Mecca. We took the best thing from Islam and made it the worst thing.” Prysner was part of a panel called “Racism and War: the Dehumanization of the Enemy.”
Military recruits march to cadences that celebrate killing children in the marketplace and cry “kill” before they can eat a meal. They’re told they’re animals, stripped of “sentimental” feelings, trained to kill on command with cold efficiency. In that condition they serve U.S. foreign policy.
The argument, of course, is that we have enemies out there who despise us and want what we have, and our only protection is a layer of ruthless, well-armed killers that patrol the perimeter and keep our communities and our children safe. The argument is that our foreign policy is ultimately humane, that it spreads democracy, that it targets only bad guys and protects decent people everywhere.
But this argument breaks down when you look at what we do, from Dresden and Hiroshima to My Lai and Fallujah. It breaks down when you read about the rationale of our massive bombing of Baghdad at the start of the Iraq war, as spelled out by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade in the 1996 Defense Department publication, “Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance”:
“The intent here is to impose a regime of Shock and Awe through delivery of instant, nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction directed at influencing society writ large, meaning its leadership and public, rather than targeting directly against military or strategic objectives. . . .
“The employment of this capability against society and its values, called ‘counter-value’ . . . (consists of) massively destructive strikes directly at the public will of the adversary to resist.”
This is the morality of empire, the morality of domination. We didn’t invent it; we just carry on the tradition, which goes back through colonialism and slavery to the Inquisition (“kill them all, let God sort them out”) to Rome (“they create a wasteland and call it peace”) and beyond, to the dawn of civilization.
I think the consequences have finally caught up with us.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

How the GOP destroyed its moderate wing

I don't regularly read The New Republic, but maybe I should, because this is the best essay I've read in a long time.  Side note: I made some of these exact same points in my post on Sept 12. Below is the first half of the essay, the final paragraph posted below makes the same point I was discussing on Sept 12. The second half of the essay, which is not included below, makes additional cogent points, and discusses Frum's novel, Patriots.

"How the GOP Destroyed its Moderates"

by Jonathan Chait 
The New Republic
October 5, 2012

Book review and commentary~

Rule And Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party  By Geoffrey Kabaservice  (Oxford University Press)
Patriots  By David Frum  (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
MITT ROMNEY HAS BEEN running for president as the Republican nominee, de facto or de jure, for eight months now, and the grand historical joke of it has not yet worn off. A party that has set itself to frantically, fanatically expunge its moderates, quasi-moderates, suspected moderates, and fellow travelers of moderates chose as its standard bearer the lineal heir, biographically and genealogically, to its moderate tradition. It entrusted its holy crusade to repeal Barack Obama’s hated health-care law to the man who had inspired it and run, four years before, promising to do the same for the rest of America. The man and his historical moment could not be more incongruous. It was as if the Mongol tribes of the thirteenth century, setting out to pillage their way across the Asian steppe, had somehow chosen Mahatma Gandhi as their supreme khan. 
Romney’s capture of the nomination required an incredible confluence of good fortune. Any one of several Republicans—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan—could have outflanked Romney in both grassroots enthusiasm and establishment support but chose not to run. The one candidate with the standing and financial reach to challenge him who did grasp for the prize, Rick Perry, performed his duties with such comic, stammering ineptitude that his final oops-de-grace by that point was not even startling. What remained to challenge Romney was a gaggle of third-raters lacking the money or the rudimentary organization even to get their name on the ballot everywhere. Still, running even against the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (which is to say, running essentially unopposed), Romney still trudged laboriously to victory after endless weeks.
But there is another way to make at least some sense of the Romney nomination. 
IT HAS TO DO WITH the strange and sad fate of Republican moderation. After all, moderates, or at least relative moderates, do continue to exist in the Republican Party. They merely do not exercise power in any meaningful, open way. They provide off-the-record quotations to reporters, expressing unease over whichever radical turn the party has taken at any given moment. They can be found in Washington and elsewhere rolling their eyes at their colleagues. The odd figure with nothing left to lose—say, a senator who has lost a primary challenge—may even deliver a forceful assault on the party’s uncompromising direction.
For the most part, though, Republican moderation is a kind of secret creed, a freemasonry of the right. It lacks institutions that might legitimize it, or even a language to express itself. And since conservatism is the only acceptable ideology, the party has no open arguments with itself. Thus the “debate” in the Republican Party is entirely between genuine ideological warriors and unwilling conscripts, with intraparty skirmishes generally taking the form of hunts for secret heresies.
In this sense, Romney’s capture of the nomination is perfectly emblematic of the state of the party. Conservative activists spent months resisting Romney, sometimes furiously, despite the fact that he was defending no positions that they disagreed with. Across the entire ideological spectrum—in social, economic, and foreign policy—Romney stood shoulder to shoulder with his party’s reactionary wing. When Romney took on his hapless opponents, he assailed them from the right, as soft on immigration or anti-capitalist. The sole point of hesitation centered on conservatives’ suspicion that Romney did not actually believe what he was saying. 
FIFTY YEARS AGO, the conservative movement, far from holding a monopoly on acceptable thought within the GOP, was merely one tribe vying for power within it, and not even the largest one. Geoffrey Kabaservice’s fine book tells the story of the slow extinction of the party’s moderate and liberal wings. The conservative movement, he shows in often gruesome detail, took control of the party in large part due to an imbalance of passion. The rightists had strong and clearly defined principles and a willingness to fight for them, while the moderates lacked both. Meeting by meeting, caucus by caucus, the conservative minority wrested control of the party apparatus. Sometimes this happened through physical force or the threat thereof. (Anybody who recalls the “Brooks Brothers riot” during the 2000 election imbroglio in Florida, when a Republican mob shut down a vote recount in Dade County, will find many of Kabaservice’s scenes familiar.) More often, the conservatives won out by packing meetings, staying until everybody else was exhausted, and other classic methods of organized fanatics. The moderates lacked the ideological self-confidence to wage these fights with equal gusto, and battle by battle they lost ground until finally there was nowhere left to stand within the party. 
Republican moderates in the early 1960s held a place of influence and comfort within their party that is hard to imagine today. The worldview of the party’s Rockefeller faction was formed and propagated with the help of organizations such as the Ripon Society, Republican Advance, and the Committee on Economic Development, and publications such as the New York Herald TribuneConfluence, and Advance. And when the great wave of the Goldwater movement arrived in the early 1960s, with the explicit goal of cleansing the party of moderates and re-making it in the image of monolithic conservatism, the moderates fought back, albeit using more gentlemanly methods than those often employed against them.
Moderates at the GOP convention in 1964 proposed a resolution condemning extremism of all varieties. Goldwater supporters voted it down, their position echoed by the candidate’s famous declaration that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” and that “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Many moderates stalked out of the convention, including Michigan Governor George Romney and his teenage son, Mitt. Romney subsequently penned a twelve-page letter to Goldwater explaining why he had not endorsed him. When conservatives defeated moderate California Senator Thomas Kuchel, he lashed out at what he called a “fanatical neo-fascist political cult” in the grips of a “strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear.”
Following the climactic showdown in 1964, the demise of the moderates is the story of a very long bout with a terminal disease. The moderates enjoyed a brief renaissance in the wake of Goldwater’s crushing defeat by Lyndon Johnson, and they counted disproportionately among the party’s new faces in its successful comeback in the midterm elections of 1966. Richard Nixon helped to heal the party’s internal breach by straddling its wings. But once in office, Kabaservice argues, Nixon eventually settled upon a populist strategy that set him irrevocably against his own party’s moderates, even plotting to deny funding and support to insufficiently conservative members of the party, including Lenore Romney (of whom Nixon bitterly noted in private that “she’s not one of us”).
The moderate Republican tradition had always leaned heavily on elitism, which abhorred demagoguery and the crude appeals to self-interest that they correctly identified with the machine hacks and Southern racists of the Democratic Party. Nixon’s strategy of counting upon white resentment began to identify the party as a less congenial place for thoughtful, educated people. One momentous episode centered around Nixon’s Supreme Court nomination of Harrold Carswell, who was not only a reactionary segregationist but an obvious lightweight. Moderate Republicans refused to support him, one of Nixon’s aides reported, because “they think he’s a boob, a dummy. And what counter is there to that? He is.” Senator Roman Hruska defended Carswell, in a comment that would grow infamous, by asserting that “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?”
Nixon’s re-branding of the party helped set in motion a long-term political swap, in which Republicans slowly lost support among white voters with a college education while gaining traction among the white working class. The transformation is now so complete that Rick Santorum can proudly announce “we will never have the elite, ‘smart’ people on our side”—“smart” referring not to native intelligence, but to those who aspire to a certain level of intellectual respectability. The party’s ideological and sociological evolutions have run in tandem, driving a progressively wider gulf between the Republicans and the technocracy.
Ronald Reagan supplied to conservative activists proof of the hypothesis that they had eagerly put forward through Goldwater: that a natural conservative majority existed among the public. For the last three decades, Reaganism has dominated the party’s self-conception to the degree that it is not possible within the party to dispute an idea identified with him. Intra-GOP arguments often divide over which side can more rightfully claim to be his heir, but, like a religious text, the merits of Reaganism itself lie beyond dispute. Alumni of the Ripon Society—the most influential of the moderate Republican organizations of the 1960s—took an informal poll of themselves in 2002 (a year when the GOP’s prestige had reached a recent apogee in the wake of the 9/11 attacks), and they discovered that three-quarters identified themselves by this point as independents or Democrats.
What remains of “moderation” within the party has taken on a definition very distinct from the meaning that it held originally. Unlike the moderate and liberal Republicans of yore, today’s “moderates” generally identify themselves as conservative. They are simply less so. The most recent wave of ideological re-making, undertaken since 2002, has seen a series of primary challenges largely replacing conservatives such as Bob Inglis, Richard Lugar, and Robert Bennett with even more implacably conservative Republicans.
What stands out in these contests is the lack of open ideological conflict. In debates within the party, both sides inevitably grasp for the conservative mantle. The virtues of the anti-government creed (except, of course, for the military and some aspects of social regulation) have no recognized limits. An incumbent challenged from the right can survive on other grounds—familiarity, likeability, the persuasive recantation of any past heresies; but the ideological ground on which he can stand has disappeared. Moderation can be successfully denied, but it cannot be defended. 
DESPITE THE MISERY of continuous political defeat, moderate Republicanism—moderate by contemporary standards, at any rate—is not intellectually dead. Quite the opposite, in fact. The movement in recent years has seen a flowering of bright, creative, deeply empirical thinkers, who grapple with liberal arguments rather than retreat into an ideological cocoon, and attempt to re-fashion a program for their party that responds to real-world conditions rather than treat anti-government dogma as an eternal and axiomatic truth. 
This collection of figures might seem like the promising core of a real reform movement, with the policy chops and prestige to slow down, if not reverse, the party’s deepening radicalism. Alas, any evidence of their influence at work is hard to detect. And a closer examination reveals why this is so.
In the waning years of the Bush administration, as the Republicans lost control of the Congress in 2006 and squandered its foreign policy credibility in Iraq, conservatives swiftly turned against the president they had once treated with something close to worship. The vast majority of them settled upon the same indictment that they had leveled against Bush’s father: he had failed because he had abandoned the anti-government faith. What had been tiny caveats in the right’s fulsome embrace of Bush in 2004—his passage of a prescription-drug benefit and education reform, his self-identification as a “compassionate conservative”—blossomed into evidence of a wholesale betrayal.
But the small handful of moderates developed a very different critique. They noticed that a wide chasm had opened up between the party’s increasingly working-class voting coalition and its policy agenda centered around regressive income tax cuts. The Republican economic agenda under Bush had not delivered income gains to its constituents, and it had ignored festering social problems like health care. Both political necessity and the weight of the evidence, they argued, required that the party alter its course.
As the Bush administration came to a close, and the party set out to decide its way forward, the moderates may have been hopelessly outnumbered and outshouted by the Rush Limbaughs and Wall Street Journal editorial pages and other voices of right-wing purity, but they had a relatively coherent analysis and at least a small place at the party table. In the wake of two consecutive election wipeouts, the last developing amidst the humiliating and almost surreal anti-intellectualism of Sarah Palin, it seemed possible to imagine, as the Obama administration dawned, that Republican elites might at least consider the proposition offered by their moderates.
[This is the point I made in my Sept 12 blog post:]
But instead of halting or reversing its long march to the right, the GOP accelerated it, on every item of the Obama domestic agenda. In 2008, John McCain advocated a cap-and-trade bill to control climate change, but McCain and all his GOP allies abandoned it, and even turned against the whole notion of attempting to limit carbon emissions. (Among the public, the percentage of Republicans saying they believed that there was “solid evidence” that the Earth’s temperature was increasing fell from 59 percent in 2006 to 35 percent in 2009.) The party had previously advocated monetary and fiscal stimulus in response to an economic slowdown, but under Obama it dusted off obscure theories previously associated only with Ron Paul and the party’s fringe. The health-care reform approach developed by Romney in Massachusetts, which Romney himself had advocated as a national model during his 2008 presidential campaign to barely any complaint from within his party, now became a socialist horror.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Romney's foreign policy fantasy

Great essay on Romney's speech given just after the debate ~

Romney’s Living in a Fantasy Land

When Mitt Romney gave his defining speech on foreign policy Monday, he showed he had a magnificent sense of history’s drama and almost no clue about its realities. But maybe that’s what passes for vision these days: using a simulacrum of the past to cobble together a fantasy about the present and the future.

The most striking and heartfelt theme, threaded all the way through the address in various guises, was a passionate longing for what are remembered as the glory days of the Cold War. Romney worked hard to turn the problems of the Middle East into a struggle against “darkness,” a matter of “democracy and despotism.” In this view, no politics are local, all is subsumed in a clash of civilizations. And for good measure Romney evidently longs to bring back the Russians as the Evil (if truncated and largely toothless) Empire. He’s going to build missile defenses no matter what old Vladimir Putin says about it. And, by the way, Romney says he’s going to build 15 new warships every year to keep such non-superpowers at bay.

Ah, for the days when the world was divided into good guys and bad guys, and we were not only good, we were great! And the bad guys lost and … well, never mind what happened after that.

Never mind that the enormous power, and the power to do enormous good, that the United States achieved under the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton administrations was pissed away under the presidency of George W. Bush. And never mind that the context for that, precisely, was that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to lead the United States in a new fight against a new Evil Empire. As Bush said, “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talked of  “a long twilight struggle,” when what he should have said was endless shadow boxing.

Never mind that to eliminate Osama bin Laden and a few hundred people around him, the Bush administration launched an open-ended occupation of Afghanistan, and still failed to get him. Never mind that to find nonexistent weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration occupied Iraq. Never mind that after a generation of combat, thousands of lives lost and more than a trillion dollars spent, mostly to protect ourselves as strangers in strange lands, Americans are no longer welcome in those countries. In Afghanistan even the soldiers and the police that the Americans trained are killing them. In Iraq, as we know, the biggest winner has been Iran.

But Romney suggests those problems are not the result of fatally ill-conceived wars begun in the Bush years, they are really the result of President Barack Obama’s efforts to end those self-inflicted bloodbaths. Romney’s answer: we should have stayed longer in Iraq, and should stay longer still in Afghanistan. If we just occupy them a little longer—or a lot longer—we can teach them to be good democrats. We can help our “friends” there (whether they are majorities or not). He does not call for these countries to become colonies or protectorates, but he might as well.  And now he wants to leave the door open to a similar educational exercise helping out our friends, if only we can be sure who they are, in Syria.

Romney did everything he could in his speech to exploit the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya as a sign of weakness by the Obama administration. What were clearly fatal miscalculations about the security needs of a consulate are translated into an overarching theme about Obama being soft on terrorists. Oh sure, Osama bin Laden is dead, but that was yesterday and his ghost is back, bigger and badder than ever. The long twilight struggle can begin again.

And then, of course, there is the matter of Israel. In Romney’s view, it’s clear, there is very little difference between Israel and its current prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, whom he’s known since they worked together at the Bain Consulting Group in the 1970s. If there’s no peace between Israel and Palestine, it must be because Obama let too much daylight come between him and Bibi. Never mind that Bibi, while eventually, reluctantly, bitterly accepting the rhetoric of a two-state solution, has somehow never been able to accept any Arab as a suitable negotiating partner.

But all that was predictable in Romney’s speech. He was speaking to the party faithful, many of whom still believe as a matter of faith that Saddam Hussein really did have WMD and, hey, was really behind 9/11.

Where Obama’s likely to get blindsided again, as he did the other night in the debate on the economy, is when Romney shamelessly steals his best lines. Apart from the Strangelovian nostalgia for the Cold War, the vast expansion of military spending (a black hole to be paid for by loopholes, it would seem), and the prolongation of American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, virtually all of Romney’s specific policy recommendations—the things he says he would do—are things Obama already has done:

“I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear-weapons capability.” Check. “I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.” Check. “I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft-carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.” Check.

“For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated,” says Romney. And that is just what the Obama administration has done in coordination with its allies.

“I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.” Again, Obama has reiterated that point countless times and security cooperation with Israel is more extensive than at any time in history.

Perhaps Romney really means what Bibi means when he talks about these issues: that Israel should lead and the United States should follow. But if that’s the case, then Romney probably was unwise to cite as his paradigm for a strong statesman that greatest of Cold Warriors, George Marshall, the chief of staff of the Army who became secretary of state and secretary of defense, and who went to Virginia Military Institute, which Romney chose as the venue for this speech. Marshall passionately opposed recognition of the state of Israel in 1948. He thought that move would draw the United States into a series of endless wars in the Arab world.  


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Upcoming Hitchcock movies

You know how sometimes there are multiple film projects on the same topic? Well, this year it's Alfred Hitchcock:

1. Toby Jones is the master and Sienna Miller plays Tippi Hedren in The Girl on HBO.

2. Anthony Hopkins is the master and Scarlett Johanssen plays Janet Leigh in a biopic due in theaters Nov 23.

Both movies look terrific and films about the great director are long overdue.


Saturday, October 06, 2012

Trip to Sacramento

Returning to Syracuse, I snapped this areal shot of the city, showing Onondaga Lake and the Destiny Mall at the top and downtown in the bottom of the frame:

The weather was cooler than I had expected, though I didn't get to spend much time outside.  Here's a shot of the sky above the convention center:

My hotel was right across the street from the California Capitol building:

Two of these cool sculptures frame the Sacramento airport baggage claim:


Friday, October 05, 2012

"You're Americans. Act like it."

Love this image, posted on The Coffee Party FB page:


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Paul Ryan gets the "Hey Girl" treatment

Hilarious Tumblr site that takes recently published photos of Paul Ryan working out, and adds all sorts of funny captions, examples of him "mansplaining" things to us poor helpless ladies. Here's a couple of my favorites ~

submitted by Lansie Sylvia

submitted by Kingo Da Bachmans


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

First presidential debate

I watched the debate and I was actually a bit bored. But I was surprised when the conventional wisdom solidly agreed that Romney won. I didn't think he was especially strong and I didn't think Obama was especially weak, but the consensus said otherwise. (Chris Matthews was almost apoplectic on TV right after the debate.)

The left, including me, has been hand wringing ever since. The polls following the debate showed Romney closing the gap with Obama nationwide, in several swing states, and, most troubling, with women.

Andrew Sullivan wrote a column that captured the despair among Obama supporters:

"I'm trying to rally some morale, but I've never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week - throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement? And after Romney's convincing Etch-A-Sketch, convincing because Obama was incapable of exposing it, Romney is now the centrist candidate, even as he is running to head up the most radical party in the modern era.

. . . I'm trying to see a silver lining. But when a president self-immolates on live TV, and his opponent shines with lies and smiles, and a record number of people watch, it's hard to see how a president and his party recover. I'm not giving up. If the lies and propaganda of the last four years work even after Obama had managed to fight back solidly against them to get a clear and solid lead in critical states, then reality-based government is over in this country again. We're back to Bush-Cheney, but more extreme. We have to find a way to avoid that."

But all is not lost, of course.  Here's some commentary from the always articulate Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic

"My point is this: I am sorry that the president finds debating before the public to be annoying. And I am very sorry that more Americans don't delve into the footnotes of position papers. And I am very sorry that Mitt Romney was mean to the moderator, and lied to the viewers. And I am especially sorry that Barack Obama was evidently shocked -- shocked! -- to find the party of poll-taxing, evolution-disputing, and climate-change denying engaging in such tactics. 

But this is the war we have. And this president has signed up to lead the fight. I think he understands that. Over the past four years Obama has proven to be very slow, but very deadly. I doubt that's changed."


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

"A love like that"

Love this:


Monday, October 01, 2012

Political differences

Had such a weird experience today driving home Caleb and his friend from football.

I pointed out a yard sign for Ann Marie Buerkle to Cal, because we hadn't seen any (I put a sign in our yard for Dan Maffei and he was curious about who was running against him).

His friend asked, "What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans?" And I gave a long explanation about state's rights vs. federal government involvement. When I was done, he said, "That's not what my mom said when I asked her."

So of course I asked what his mom said. And he didn't want to tell me, because he said "It's not very nice." But he did tell me, and this is what he said:

"She said that if a pregnant woman dies, the Democrats will kill her baby."

Er, I wasn't quite sure what to say to that!

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