Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Romney: Sending Those Jobs to China

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle

GM spokesman,  Greg Martin, said,  "We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days and no amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country," 
--Huffington Post

Ah, it's Karl Rove time.  The tactic is to attack the opposition at its strength. So President Obama saved General Motors and Vice President Biden pricked Mr. Romney with the quip, "General Motors is alive and Osma Bin Laden is dead."  So Rove and his Republicans simply say, well, "GM being alive is not such a good thing for America--they are sending work to China."

Of course, it doesn't have to be true, you just say it, and you've got autoworkers calling up their union to ask whether or not it's true.

You can say President Obama was born in Bagdad, and his father was Sadam Hussein, and all that stands between America and prosperity is government regulations and women who are legitimately raped will not get pregnant and anything you want and Rush Limbaugh will believe it and broadcast it to 15 million willing believers.  

I prefer the Republican, Lincoln, who shares only the name with the current bunch of reprobates going by that name:  You can fool all the people some of the time; and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Amen, Mr. President.

The Calm: No Drama Obama

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle 

Ryan Lizza, writing in The New Yorker explains why the strategy of the Obama team was high risk from the outset, and why Romney's "surge" is in a way, predictable.

What they did was to "front load" the campaign, with a ton of $ spent on attack ads in September to discredit Mitt Romney (not difficult), knowing there would be fewer dollars left at the end.  The same thing was done by Karl Rove to John Kerry, effectively.  The risk is that when Romney appears to be capable of rubbing two neurons together in the first debate, and when the Koch brothers start spending massively in October, the advantage will erode, and this may be the reason the advantage Obama had in the polls existed in the first place, and predictably would erode as Nov 6 approached.

So, it may not be the turning point was one poor performance in the first debate, but the tide was due to come in eventually.

That's grand strategy. 
The ground game is the worm's eye view and I'll be out there again, stepping around downed branches, this weekend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Republican Response to Sandy: Give to Charity

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle 

When George W. Bush was asked what Americans could do to help, after Katrina swept through, he said, "Contribute to the Red Cross."  

This is, of course, the Republican response. Government is BAD. Don't even think about using the government. Use the private sector.  This notion was articulated by Ronald Reagan's famous quip, "The nine scariest words in the English language: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." 

So what we rely on are the churches and charity. That way we owe nothing to our fellow citizens. What is required of us is nothing. What we give is only what we want to give. Painless charity.

Mr. Romney today is organizing a charity relief for victims of Sandy. This shows how big hearted he is.  Heaven forbid he should mention the Federal Emergency Management Agency is on the job, helping, restoring, responding.  We Republicans don't believe in government. We believe in charity.

At least, that's what today's Mitt is saying.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wind swept New Hampshire

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle 10.24.12

Yeah, I know, two posts in one day. This man must have too much time on his hands, or he is really gone around the bend.

A little of both.
They sent us home from work. The governor of New Hampshire told everyone to get off  the roads by 3 PM. Apparently not even health workers were exempt--word came down from the hospital, get out.

There's a big storm blowing up the East Coast and into the heartland Midwest. It's howling and it's threatening.  My father called that kind of thing, "Pathetic fallacy" which is what the storm in King Lear is,  when it reflects the storm in the king's mind. 

And now we have the end of this election approaching and there is a big storm blowing.  It's shaking the windows and rattling the walls,  as the new bard (Dylan) would say. 

And it all seems pretty appropriate somehow. Obama came in to office and just before he could be sworn in the storm hit.  He took office as 2 1/2 million jobs were lost in a year, the stock market collapsed, and along with it the prospects for retirement for many; a tsunami of  foreclosures swept over the land ; evictions exploded; General Motors and Chrysler careened toward the financial brink; banks went up in flames, even the venerable  Lehman Brothers; a Great Depression loomed like a brick wall toward which the entire country was hurtling and Obama had to steer this boat which could not be turned on dime. And that was just the home front: In Iraq things were going from bad to worse, and we still hadn't found Osma Bin Laden, and Afghanistan, which had once been conquered, was now fighting us like the Viet Cong, from behind rocks and crevices. Pakistan was no help, and in fact, turned out to be hiding Bin Laden.

As the editors of the New Yorker (from which the above paragraph is drawn) noted, the Onion 's headline was "Black Man Given Nation's Worse Job."

Or, as Maud would remind us, the best description was that Mr. Obama had been handed a "shit sandwich."

And it all raged and raged and the captain lashed himself to the mast and did not abandon ship.  He guided us through that storm. And today's storm somehow reminds me, not of Katrina, with the What Me Worry boy himself saying "Great Job, Brownie," but of the storm which swept the nation at the beginning of Mr. Obama's term, and now as we come full cycle, another storm. 

Let us hope, in Lincoln's words, "This, too, shall pass." 
And let us hope the captain will be  given his due.

Worm's Eye View

This weekend, I approached a house with my computer generated list in hand to ask whether or not the woman living there was planning on voting and how she was leaning.  There was an American flag flying from the front porch and a big van with the name of a painting company on it in the driveway.  The husband answered the door and when I asked about the list of voters I had, it had his wife's name and a name I thought was his, but it turned out to be his son's name. His wife was on the phone and his son, he told me, is in the Special Forces and he could only guess the son was in Afghanistan.  I asked which way he thought his wife was leaning. He laughed. "We're all voting for Obama," he said. I was more than a little surprised. He didn't fit my Obama profile. 
"But you own a small business," I said, pointing to his van in the driveway.  "I'd have thought you'd like the businessman, with the business experience."  
He laughed, "I don't believe that bullshit," he said. "He's not been in a business like me. I got five employees. We're doing fine now. It's not easy, but it's getting better."

Down the road from him, I walked up the driveway to another man who did not look promising. He was working on an engine in his driveway. Country music was blasting from a stereo. I don't know why, but the F150 pick up, the work clothes, my Malcolm Gladwell blink told me this was a guy who had grievances. 
He did. 
But not with Obama.
"You tell me who the man is who could have dug his way out of the mess he got handed in four years and I'd like to see him."
Then he added, "They gave him a shit sandwich, when he got in. I'd give him another four years to get past that."

We can only hope there are enough of these people out there, who are not swayed by the advertisements, the catchy slogans, the bandwagons and who can remember where we started, and we can hope they are annoyed enough to vote. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The "Undecideds": Science vs Intuition Poli Sci 101

There are many ways to acquire knowledge.  

One of them is "polling."  When I was in college, I took a course in surveying public opinion and learned the statistics, limitations and difficulties of using standard questions to assess the opinions of other people.

I had another experience, outside of school, which revealed my own limitations in misreading people.  As an 18 year old, I started an age group swimming team, with a friend of mine, at a newly built community pool. We recruited kids from age 8 to 17 to swim the different strokes and relays required by the county swimming league with an eye toward, eventually, creating a team good enough to enter the least competitive division of the county league. 

We told the assembled kids, before each practice, stories about kids we had swum with, how they failed at first, persevered and ultimately triumphed. The kids looked at us blankly, and I could not see past their eyes. Their expressions were not blank, but, to me at least, they were unreadable. Were they thinking, "Oh, spare me the pep talk, coach.  This guy is just all about himself.  This guy is coaching this team because he needs an audience" or what?
We arranged a meet with another team which had been formed a few years earlier and was now in the county league.   This other team had been pretty well crushed in it's first two summers in the county league, not having won a single meet. We brought over our kids' times from the time trials we had run, and the other coach looked them over and smiled and agreed to swim us. Finally, he had a team his kids could beat.

The morning of the meet, our kids assembled on the far deck, and I stood near the starter's gun at the near deck. When the gun went off, starting the first race, something happened which astonished me: Our entire team, about seventy kids, leaped to their feet and roared.  I looked down the deck to my friend,  and he was as stunned as I, but he just shrugged. 

We crushed them.  Our kids swam times which were ten seconds better than they had done in time trials. Ten seconds in the water is a lot of distance. Eight year olds swam an entire 25 meters breathing only once.  Our kids were, in a word, psyched. 

I had misread the crowd. The other team's coach was not pleased. He thought we had lied to him. He thought we had brought him numbers which were phony, doctored to make our kids look slow and easy to beat. But we had collected and recorded the numbers honestly. What we had not been able to measure was what was in those kids' hearts.

Yesterday, I went door to door with my clipboard and pencil and computer sheets.  At one home  there was an Obama sign on the lawn but I had only one name in the house to ask for: the husband. I'd ask if he was going to vote. Yes. Was he leaning in any particular direction?  No, he said, looking me in the eye, smiling. "Oh, I saw the sign on your lawn."  He looked me in the eye, "That's my wife's sign. You asking about how she's going to vote or about how I'm going to vote?"  That went down on my sheet and into the computer as Mr. Deadeye, "Undecided."

Back at the office, I was told some people simply take the secret ballot seriously. You cannot be sure how he is going to vote. I may have misread the man.   But there I am, standing there in my Obama hat, and the guy says he hasn't decided, a week before the election. 

Now, maybe, he is like Maud's friend, a man who will go into the booth thinking he's going to vote for Romney and then he'll vote for Obama. Maybe, after all this, he really is undecided, as if he doesn't yet know enough about Romney and Obama. Anything's possible. He may be the long lost King of France.  But I don't think so.

That response, "undecided," seemed like a pretty clear statement to me. The guy is in his own house on a Saturday, and I've pulled him away from whatever he's doing. He doesn't want to engage in a political argument. He just wants to get rid of me. So, fine. But why can I not enter him as a Romney vote? It's clear he is not voting Obama, or he'd tell the guy in the Obama hat that. In fact, he might say he was voting Obama, just to get rid of me. 

People who came to the door, when I was not wearing my Obama hat, who were voting for Obama, would often say they intended to vote, but they left it there, no mention of who they would vote for. Then I'd slide my hand down from the back of my clipboard and the Obama sticker would show through, and they'd smile conspiratorially, almost as if they were admitting they smoked marijuana when they were kids, and maybe now and then, even now. "Oh, yes. I'm for Obama. My husband, too."

So, my intuition about the "undecided" voter  told me I was talking to a Romney voter, or at least not an Obama voter, but science demands more evidence than gut instinct. The question is, does my taking in unmeasured data, a look, a set of circumstances mislead me, or inform me beyond what one measure--what the person actually says--can tell us?

In Malcolm Gladwell's world, did I know in a Blink?

And if this is a problem at the street level, what do we make of our polls?

The professor will tell you, it's all in the numbers. If you sample enough voters, the voters you get misleading responses from will wash out among all those who are straightforward.

We can always hope.  During the election of 1864, General George McClellan, who had been the beloved commander of the union Army of the Potomac (before Lincoln fired him) was a handsome, charismatic man, who would ride down the ranks of his soldiers, waving his hat to the cheers of his troops. He ran against Abraham Lincoln on a peace now platform. The troops loved McClellan,  and they were weary in the extreme. They were bitter, more often defeated than victorious, and one had to ask, why would they vote for the cerebral Lincoln, with his stentorian,  high pitched voice and his top hat?  

But they did. Like that crowd of young swimmers, they had something inside they weren't showing. They voted overwhelmingly for Lincoln; they voted to push ahead with the war, despite all the hard times, to push ahead with the war, which was unfinished and in doubt, and they decided the election and the outcome of the war with  the ballot. 

Those men, who could march twenty miles through the day, then charge across a field with musket and bayonet, who could find strength beyond exhaustion,  were Americans of another time.  They were different from supersized Americans today, who do their fighting on computer games. They were tougher not just physically, but, I suspect, mentally and possibly, morally tougher. 

The Union army had suffered defeat after defeat, had incompetent generals, not just for one debate but for battle after battle. It took over three years to find Grant, Sherman and Sheridan, to get them into position to push the war to victory.  The troops tolerated a lot of disappointment, defeat, government ineptitude and misery, but they could see that Lincoln was pointing them in the right direction, away from a slave nation, away from a divided nation where aristocracy lived on plantations and the 99% lived around them in meager circumstances, away from a world where those who were winners felt no obligation to help those below them, away from a world of meanness and heedless greed.

Every soldier fought for his own reasons. Each voted for the same reason: To go forward.

The nation, as a whole, fought for only two reasons: Ending slavery and preserving the only democracy on earth, the last best hope of man, a government of the people, by the people, for the people. That idea had not been put into any government anywhere else on earth, at the time. The civil war tested whether or not the idea of democracy could endure.

At a White House reception, Lincoln walked up to the diminutive Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. He stooped forward to shake her hand and said, "So this is the little lady, who wrote the book, that started the great big war."

Lincoln knew, as he said in his 2nd inaugural address,  the war was fought for moral reasons, because of ideas.  One hundred and fifty years ago, our people were able to see through the gibberish with moral clarity. I'm hoping today's Americans still can.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Charles Blow: White Men and Obama

Mississippi Sheriff Laughs at His Trial for Lynching

A Black Man Who is Smarter and Better Than The Imbecile  Sheriff

Charles Blow, writing in the New York  Times,  cites some truly horrific statistic about the percentage of white men who will vote for President Obama--somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%. 
Having spent today canvasing the town of Hampton, I was both cheered and depressed by the folks I spoke with.  I was also struck by the number of households where the white wife was voting for Obama and had an Obama sign on the lawn, while the white husband is a Romney man. So Charles Blow's statistic rings true, from the worm's eye view.
In the South, white men always got points for simply being white and male, no matter how uneducated or stupid they were. They could get jobs as police, firemen, dishwashers, gas station attendants, construction workers, factory workers and they got them ahead of any Black man or Black woman who might apply. But that advantage eroded in the 1960's with the Civil Rights movement, with federal legislation and with a relentless campaign against white supremacy and advantage launched by federal government agencies. 
The essence of the resentment of the white male, who sees his wife now earning more than he can, who sees educated Blacks now getting better jobs than he can,  is contained in the story told by the son of a white farmer who is driving past the fields of  their black neighbor with his father.  The son remarks about how beautifully the Black farmer has plowed his fields with his new mule. With the old mule, who was getting on in years, the fields looked a little shabby, but with the new mule--well, big difference. The next day,  the son learns his father has shot the Black farmer's new mule. The son is stunned. Why would you kill that mule?  "If I ain't better than some nigger with a new mule, then who am I better than?" His father replies.

If I can see anything, as I do battle in the trenches, that is what I think I see.
Read the New Yorker's simple essay supporting Mr. Obama's re election: The Choice.

 There is no more simple, succinct, compelling argument than what the editors of The New Yorker assemble. The man rescued the economy, General Motors, the banks, the housing market and even Wall Street,  but 70% of white men refuse to see it that way.
They'd rather shoot his mule.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why We Fight: The Haters on the Right

Mad Dog took a brief trip up Route 16 to clear his head,  hiking about the White Mountains.  Life is old there, and the air is clear. 

But  just north of the village of Chocorua, almost in Albany, New Hampshire,   Mad Dog spotted this.

You just know the guy who owns this Kawasaki motorcycle dealership probably has a VA pension for the hernia he got when he was in the Army and his parents are living on Social Security and using their Medicare. And the road by his dealership is maintained by government taxes on his fellow citizens.  

I did see signs for Carol Shea Porter as far north as North Conway, though more for Guinta. 

Robert Frost would have loved the mountain streams. I'm not sure he'd have been as happy about the Kawasaki dealer.
This is why we have to get out and knock on doors this weekend and next. 
Illigetimum non carberundum:  Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Romney Brings Us Fantasyland

When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are,
You can give everyone what they desire,
You can set reason on fire,
Oh, cut taxes for the billionaire,
And the middle class doesn't care,
Because we'll cut the deficit, too
Doesn't matter if it's true.

And government regulations make you blue,
Until you need to change your image,
Until you do not need T Party baggage,
And you can dis the Brits and make them mad,
That will not make Joe Sixpack sad,
All he really wants to know,
Is that you are white and you can grow,
The economy with voodoo stuff,
For America, oh, that's enough.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

All Is Forgiven: America's Love Affair with Romnesia

"We've Got To Destroy That Village To Save It"

Oh, it was so long ago. Maybe 18 months. Romney said we've got the best medical care in the world--all those uninsured could just go to the Emergency Rooms. Plenty of care there. GM could go belly up. Bankruptcy can be good for a company--bad for the workers, but good for the stockholders.  Medicare can be turned into Couponcare, but never mind if you're over 60; won't affect you, just your kids. Government regulation is BAD, well, mostly, until the first debate, then we were all for it.  We cannot telegraph to the Taliban when we are leaving Afghanistan, sends the wrong signal, well until the third debate. Obamacare is the devil's work. Romneycare came from the angels. They are twins, the good twin and the evil twin. Cut taxes for billionaires. You can believe me: If billionaires pay less, we can build the middle class. Government cannot create jobs, except in Congressman Ryan's district. Obama did the apology tour; I did the stand tall tour--they loved it in London.  And any President would have, could have done what Obama did in taking out Bin Laden. I coulda hit that home run.

Oh, America, what have you wrought?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Remember last month?

Flipper is Drowning! We have to save Flipper!

Romney and Ryan want to kill Medicare. Have made plans to kill Medicare. They Deny it, of course, but that's what they will do.

But in one debate, Mr. Romney has erased that memory from the American voter, as easily as...Etchy Sketch. 


What I heard a pundit say tonight is that the Democrats had managed to paint Mr. Romney as a really unacceptable buffoon and all that was undone during the first debate. If one debate is all it took, what does that say about the American mind?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Horses and Bayonets

There was a Monday night football game and a baseball play off tonight, so I'm not sure anyone beyond the crew at PBS was watching, but from my view out here in New Hampshire, Mr. Obama made Mr. Romney look like an inept amateur tonight.

Mr. Romney, as I'm sure most people will hear tomorrow morning, tried to attack Mr. Obama as a wrecker of the national defense, as a man who had weakened America by cutting back on our armed forces. Why, we have fewer ships today than we did in 1910, Mr. Romney said, scandalized.

Mr. Obama smiled slyly and replied, "That's because you have no idea of what real strength is. Yes, we have fewer ships, and we also have fewer horses and bayonets in our armed forces, but that's because we have these things called aircraft carriers and these ships that go underwater, called submarines. You have to know how military forces need to be constructed in the 21st century. "

And another exchange, Mr. Obama remarked, "You want to return to  the wars of the 1980's, the social policies of the 1950's and the economic policies of the 1920's." 

At least, that's the way I remember it.

One thing I do remember is Mr. Romney and his running mate Mr. Ryan both said, quite clearly, during prior debates we do not want to draw a line in the sand and say we will leave Afghanistan at 2014, because then we tell the Taliban all they have to do is wait until that date. But now, with the ever changing kaleidoscope which is Mr. Romney, we are all for a clear date, Taliban planning no longer mentioned.

Romney did what Romney does:  He spun his tale about how everything has collapsed around the world and it's all because Mr. Obama has been a failure as a President.  Those who want to believe that will believe that. 

For whatever reasons, some people want to believe Mr. Romney wouldn't be so bad, and he'd be better than Mr. Obama.

To paraphrase The Wire, Mr. Obama has to be saying to himself, "I can be right about Afghanistan; I can be right about the economy; I can be right about Social Security and I can be right about Medicare, but tomorrow morning, I still wake up Black in a country which isn't."

We'll find out what this country is made of on November 6.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Republican Pie: Romnesia Rhubarb

Once upon a time, there was a lovely Princess named Prosperity, and there was a handsome prince, called Romnesia.   Prosperity wanted to visit every house in the shire, and shower them with goods and services and bank accounts bursting at the seams and F-150 pick up trucks (made in the USA) and Sig Sauer hand guns and Winchester rifles and bottles of beer and long, long vacations. 

But there was an evil spirit in the shire:  Government Regulation and his evil twin, Government Interference, and they stood between the Princess and all her people. Together they worked their nefarious will through something caused "taxes" which made all the good, rich people in the shire afraid to come out and do all the good things rich people like to do, like hire poor people and send over Thanksgiving turkeys and allow everyone to visit their country clubs, right after the proper respect had been paid by mowing the lawns and power washing the decks of the rich people.

But I digress. We were talking about the bad twins, Government Regulation and Government Interference, who tried every day to bring bad things like socialism and  Medicare and Social Security to the people of the shire, who, if those things were allowed to grow would have found themselves turning into worthless, dependent slackers who felt government owed them a living.

Fortunately, Prince Romnesia came along and fought many battles against many nasty foes, like the troll Newt and the wizard RonPaul and the horney toad Pizzaman and the sorcerer Santorum and the winter queen Bachmann. One after another, Prince Romesia slew each with his nifty rightward dodge: Every time one of his foes swung a  blade at the Prince, the Prince jumped to the right, and got behind his foe and kicked him to the ground.

But then, Prince Romnesia had to face the ultimate Radical, who had been born in No Place, and had no birth certificate and who had wandered through youth from parts of the globe where bad thoughts come from: Indonesia, CALIFORNIA, and Hawaii (which isn't so bad, but it's not really America, as Alaska is.)

There was a great tournament and Prince Romnesia stalked the Radical, and the Prince swung his sword many times, and hard and he was very brave. But he was also very clever, because this time, he jumped, not to the right, as he had before, but to the left. And he made friends with Government Regulation, and he said we all should love Government Regulation, because it is necessary for free markets. And the Prince split the alliance between Government Regulation and Government Interference, and he was smart to do this, because you can divide and conquer.

So, the Prince became the great champion of Government Regulation and he even said he would make sure the rich people did not pay any less in taxes. But what he really meant was the total percentage of all taxes paid by the rich would not be any less. This did not make the rich people afraid because Prince Romnesia said he would make everyone pay less in taxes and the proportions would all stay the same. 

And while he was cutting taxes, he would swing his magic sword and cut the deficit into little, little pieces. 

And everyone lived happily after.

"I'll Be Happy To Guard Your Henhouse"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Romney and The Contemptible Poor

When Mitt Romney told his rich donors there are 47% of the American people who are slackers and free loaders, whose votes he will never get and doesn't really care about because these because  those 47% are the slackers and free loaders who don't pay the income taxes, he was, of course, embracing the basic Republican ethos: We deserve what we've got. The poor people who are not paying income taxes,because they are making only $20,000 a year, and soldiers serving in Afghanistan, those people are parasites, and beneath contempt. Doesn't matter if they pay payroll taxes, they are parasites. Not like us. Not like me. Why, I paid 13%!

Mitt is slick about his con--saying the rich will pay the same 60% of total income tax collected in this country they now pay. but that still leaves individual millionaires paying only about 35% of their incomes.  Of course,  60% is not nearly enough. We're not talking about the overall slice of the pie, we are talking about what an individual billionaire pays. And 60% may sound like a big share, but not when you look at the wealth pie--80% of all wealth and income in America go to just 20% of the people. So if the share of the billionaires rises to 70% or even 80% of the total, is that unfair? 

Nobody wants to go back to Eisenhower Republican days, when the top earners paid over 60% of their individual incomes in income tax. We are talking about Clinton, going up to, say, 38%. Or something. Let's not get lost in the numbers. Keep the ideas out front: They can pay more and still have way more than they deserve.

Of course, it's not freeloading for the rich to have off shore bank accounts, to have their Congressmen in their pocket so that's legal, to arrange their income so none of it is "ordinary income" but comes from "capital gains" or some other category that doesn't get taxed. That is not government teat feeding, that's just the game.

But here's the ad I'd like to see: 
Picture of Romney:
"Vote for Mitt:  
1. End legal abortion
2. Lock in a Supreme Court owned by Republicans
3. Kill Medicare
4. Apply for your membership in Mitt's country club.
5. Hold your breath."

Something simple, like that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Pitchman vs The President: Con Artist vs The Captain

"Oh, we got trouble. We got trouble right here in River City."
"It's offensive. It's offensive that you would use the death of any American as a political football. I had to greet those flag draped coffins when they came home."


Okay, so the man can throw a punch, not just a single punch but a flurry.
Admittedly, I may not be the most objective viewer, but I thought Mr. Romney looked for all the world like the cheap hustler he is, with his breathless pitch, trying to sell you the home you cannot afford, and Mr. Obama said, "Oh, suddenly you are the champion of the middle class: the man who scorns the 47%."

It's what we wanted to hear out here in the Shire.

Romney did shout out that line "Government cannot create jobs! Government cannot create jobs!"  which I wish someone would finally say,  "But it sure does every day."

But in the end, Mr. Obama stuck it to Romney for voucher care, for refusing to tax the wealthy and for shipping jobs overseas.

Once again,  the moderator allowed Romney to bully his way into the time space, and you could see it on the clock behind him, but Candy was not nearly as inept as Jim Lehrer and the President got enough time to land his punches.

Mr. Obama does have a halting, thoughtful delivery which in some ways works to his advantage, when juxtaposed to that rapid fire, breathy motormouth, try to get-in-that whole-sale pitch style of Mr. Romney. "Oh, we got trouble, we got trouble in River City." I half expect to see him with the boater hat soft shoeing across the stage.

I'm still not sanguine we'll see a reversal of that nugget: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." The people I talk to in my office every day are just as thick and slow and prepared to vote Republican as you can imagine.  I do not for one second believe "voters are not fools." Voters elected George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan twice.  So you have to have a very delusional notion of what the American electorate is like to hold out much hope for Mr. Obama's chances.

But we can always dream,  and for the weekends before the election, Mad Dog will be knocking on doors and doing whatever he can, for all the good it does. 

But tonight, at least, Mad Dog will sleep happily, as if lulled by a glass of port after a bracing swim through the waves.

Provided we are done with the earthquakes--Hampton, New Hampshire had a dilly tonight. 4.6. I did not consider it a good omen.  At least, we are told it was just an earthquake. Mad Dog thought the Seabrook Nuclear plant had blown. Could have been worse. Say the same for the debate.
But maybe that earthquake was portentous: Maybe that's what hit Mr. Romney tonight.  Tonight he was unmasked. What looked like confidence and aggressiveness last week turned out to be hucksterism, a phony sales pitch that hung all over Romney like a cheap suit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Debating the Chameleon: Obama vs Romney

Mitt Romney, in his first debate derailed the President by embracing the idea that government regulations are necessary to the operation of a free market and he also said he would not resist taxing the billionaires.  "I never said I wouldn't be open to that."

So how do you argue with the man who suddenly agrees with you on the two most important points you have been hammering him on?  

You might point out this is a jail house, a death row, conversion, and no more convincing. 

Suddenly Mr. Romney is only against bad government regulations, and he will not specify exactly which regulations those might be--although you can expect him to have a list this Tuesday.  Until now, Mr. Obama might point out, Republicans have been saying all the only thing standing between prosperity and the American people are government regulations and interference, but now, regulations are a good thing.

And suddenly, after adamantly refusing to tax the billionaire, who Mr. Romney has insisted is the "job creator," after saying you don't want to burden these rich people who might react by simply not hiring any body, suddenly, he is open to this idea.

Well, Mr. Obama might say, since you agree we need some government regulations and we need to tax the billionaires so they pay their fair share, you really can concede right now. 

I'd love to hear Mr. Obama heap scorn on this man, who is and always has been and always will be in the pockets of the big money men who have bought and paid for the Republican party, senators and congressmen and presidents, suddenly, he is willing to tax these big spenders.

The big question is: Does Mr. Obama have it in him to trade punches with a slippery and dishonest opponent? 

U.S. Elections Global Perspective

Mad Dog is stunned to see how many viewers follow Hampton, New Hampshire from Australia, France, India, Korea and places most people in New Hampshire could not reliably be counted on to be able to find on a map. 

(Mad Dog has found the little function key which shows where people viewing his blog are located. Viewing does not mean following or even liking, but at least Mad Dog can see, there were some people out there watching.)

Here in the Shire, the rest of the world is just some blurry smudge over the horizon, and on the Seacoast, the farthest we can see is, on a clear day, the Isles of Shoals, which are 15 miles off the coast, but on a clear New Hampshire day, they look as if you could reach out and touch them, if you just waded out a little way into the surf.

Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Silvio Berlusconi are names which mean nothing to most of the folks here in Hampton. They may have heard of Dominique Strauss Kahn, but they could not tell you he was a likely next head of state of France, until his behavior in a New York hotel made headlines.

So why would a reader in Korea care about what a Mad Dog Democrat in New Hampshire thinks?  Why should someone in Australia log on to Mad Dog's blog?

It cannot be our politics are more interesting than those in Europe, Asia or Australia.

Maybe we are  simply bizarre enough to be entertaining.  After all, we elect a half Black man, whose middle name is Hussein, following a half witted Texan/New England dunce.  This new President, is, like the rest of us, from nowhere, or from everywhere, from Indonesia, Hawaii, California, New York City, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chicago, and he emerges, this chimera, who is one of the finest writers of his time, who is thoughtful, elegant and incapable of bombast, and he gets elected in a country of Joe Sixpacks, guys who love guns, women who watch American Idol and the Karkashians, and as soon as he starts, before he can even start, he has to grab of wheel of an economy which is careening toward the cliff, headed straight for the next Great Depression. Somehow, at the last moment,  in a scene worthy of American Graffiti, he swerves us clear of the abyss, rejecting the "Austerity" solution of Europe and driving us down the middle road to a slow but steady recovery.

But then, a chameleon of a Republican, who says the only thing standing between America and a booming economy is government intervention and regulation, until his first debate when he denies all that, and the chameleon accuses the President of not being a good dance partner, not wanting to be bipartisan when for almost 4 years his the Republican party has been cleaving to the Tea Party of no compromise, no cooperation, government is bad and gridlock is good, which makes it the President's fault for not cooperating.

I guess, I can see it now. This American soap opera beats even the hijinks of  Berlusconi and DSK, the stupidity of Cameron and Merkel, the resentment of the Northern Europeans over the indolence of the Southern Europeans. 

We are simply the best show in town. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chrystia Freeland and the One Percent

Karl Marx said capitalism grows with a poison pill embedded in its roots: Eventually the winners will take all, leaving the rest, the 99% frustrated and ready for revolt.

At the Democratic national convention they showed a very effective cartoon of people climbing up rope ladders and reaching the cliff at the top and some pulled up those ladders and tossed them back into the abyss while others leaned down and offered hands to pull up those behind them. The Democrats did not have to say who the people who were offering the helping hands were, or who the people who did not were.

Chrystia Freedland in todays New York Times (10/15/12) notes that there is historical precedence for states which fail when the winners are allowed to throw away those ladders so others cannot join them atop the mountain: She cites 14th century Venice.
But history is one long argument and who really knows what happened in Italy in the 1300's?  What she does provide is information about what is happening in the USA in the 21st century, where of the 400 richest Americans in 2009,27 paid 10 percent or less, none paid more than 35% (the top bracket) and  6 paid no federal income tax at all. 

Most people here in New Hampshire stop listening when numbers are trotted out, but they can understand this:  The truth is when Mitt Romney talks about the 47% of Americans who are caught in a habit of dependence on the federal government, he means those people who do not pay income tax because they are either not making enough to reach even the lower brackets, or soldiers who are on active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.  He does not mean the upper 1% who have Republican candidates and Congressmen in their pockets, who are dependent on the sweet deals and the laws their bought an paid for Congressmen and Senators have sent their way, ensuring they continue to live off the fat of the land while the middle class folks labors under the weight of having to carry those fat cats on their backs.

Inexplicably, the Democrats have never shown that cartoon from the convention again, as far as I know.  It's another example of the Democrats simply failing at mass communication--snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Hopefully, President Obama will have the presence of mind to mind America of all this, Tuesday night, and hopefully he'll find a way to say it forcefully enough to get the message down to the least educated Joe Sixpack.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Memo to The President #24

Why do we watch spectator sports? Why do we agonize over the Red Sox, or thrill to Rocky punching Apollo Creed?  Because we identify, and we live vicariously through those on stage.  As kids in the back yard we announced our own heroics: "It's the bottom of 9th, two outs, and Mad Dog is coming to bat."

And when we tune in, we hope not to be disappointed.
So here is Mad Dog's back yard announcer, looking forward to Tuesday:

On Waffling:
Mitt Romney, and his entire Republican party of lemmings, have been telling us for years the only thing which stood between economy boom times and the American people is government regulation. "Government is the problem, not the solution." Then last week, Mr. Romney comes out and looks the camera in the eye and tells us he's all for government regulation. We need government regulation for free markets to function, he says. Suddenly Mr. Romney, a Republican, is the great champion of government regulation. And what regulation? Well, whatever is not the regulation of the Obama administration.  Specifically what regulations have been so damaging, he cannot, he will not say. Just anything we've got now. His proposals are secret. Like Nixon's secret plan to win the war in Vietnam, and after he was elected that Republican President, who as a candidate said, "Just trust me," invaded Cambodia and the war dragged on for years. If you want to trust in that Republican pixie dust, I got the man for you right here on this stage. You deserve him.

On Bipartisanship:
Mr. Romney attacks me for not reaching out across the aisle to Republicans. He passed Romneycare in a legislature that was 87% Democratic. Well, that says something about the Democrats in that legislature, not about Mr. Romney. Look at the Republicans I've got to deal with in Washington. Tea party fanatics who don't believe in government. Men who say they want to shrink government down to the size they can drown it in their own bathtub at home. Well, think about that. Do you think Medicare and Social Security will fit in that bathtub? The leader of the Republicans in the Senate refuses to vote for a bill which would help the economy because by doing so he says, he might help re elect President Obama, so why would he do that?  Ever heard of doing what's right for your country? These super patriots, who wear American flags on their lapels are working for government failure because they want to blame that failure on the Democrats. There is no possible bipartisanship with these Tea Party Republican anarchists. I've learned that much. So if you vote for me alone, you've wasted your vote. You've got to vote in some Democrats who believe in Social Security and Medicare and the possibility government can help. Government, by itself cannot be the only solution, but it can be part of a solution.

On Kvetching:
Mr. Romney says he disapproves of what I did in Libya and what I'm doing in Syria and Afghanistan. Oh, he has lots of criticisms. But ask him what he would do now, not what he disapproves of past things, and he is mute. He simply has no ideas. A man who cannot point clearly in one direction is not a leader. He says he would not let Al Queda know we have a departure date in Afghanistan. Does he mean he would simply stay there? What would happen, if in 2014 the country erupts? Would he send in a new surge? He won't say what would make him stay in country, because he doesn't know. It's a secret. When he doesn't give you details, he doesn't know. When we trapped and killed Osama Bin Laden, what did Mr. Romney say?  Did he say, well, job well done? No, he said anybody could have done that. He could have done that. This is not the reaction of a real leader. When the other guy hits a home run, sinks a nice shot, you say, "Good shot. Now I'm coming back at you." But Mr. Romney is not a big enough man for that. He's not a big enough man to President.
[Note: Look him right in the eye when you say that, and smile.]

On anarchy:
Mr. Romney, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Boehner and Mr. Ryan, Republicans, T Party to their souls, all the same. They really do not like government. They want to drown government in their bathtub. They will kill Medicare as they tell you they are just saving it. Well, Medicare does not need them to save it. Same for Social Security. Those programs have done and will continue to do, just fine, unless you elect a Republican President and Congress. And if you do that, you can kiss legal abortion good-bye. They will vote in Supreme Court justices as conservative or more conservative than the four horsemen of the Thirteenth Century we've got in there now. This is the Republican court which has given us billionaire sponsored political shadow groups which are pumping billions into TV ads to keep their Republican henchmen  in office. Mr. Romney and the entire Republican party is in the pocket of the billionaire lobby. Mr. Romney is all lathered up about that horrible pestilence, the deficit, but would he even take a first step toward killing that deficit by taxing billionaires? Oh, no! These men are the job creators! Well, how many jobs have they actually created? Mr. Romney parks his millions off shore and he'll tell you that's good for you because he'll use his money to create jobs. Is that what he's done? Ask the workers who lost their jobs, saw them sent over seas when Mr. Romney's companies took over.  You want to believe this rich guy is a member of a club you can join? Just vote for him. Live your fantasy out. 
A woman asked Benjamin Franklin, what sort of government the Constitutional Convention had given them. "A Republic,"  Franklin replied. " can keep it."
It is now up to you to decide if you want to keep it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Joe Biden and Political Debates: Wishful Thinking

Here's the line I'd like to see Joe Biden sling tonight:

"You know, you Republicans ought to just pick one lie and just stick with it. It would make it easier to talk with you. Like, 'Turning Medicare into Coupon Care is saving Medicare, not destroying it.' At least then we could have a conversation."

Churchill Not Gandhi: Barack Obama and His Fan Base

"This is a cause I am willing to die for. But there is no cause I am willing to kill for."

"We will fight them on the beaches. We will fight them in the fields...But we will never surrender."
                                 --Winston Churchill

"Why should I vote for this? It might improve the economy and get Obama re elected. Why should I vote for anything which might get him re elected?"
                                 --Mitch McConnell

"Why is the economy not recovering? What got us into this mess? Government regulation. I am for regulation of the markets. You need regulations for a free market."
                                  --Mitt Romney

One thing about the long process of running for President in this country, it does eventually allow a picture to emerge.  The picture of a docile Obama, a sort of American Gandhi emerged in the debate, and it really was no surprise.

For all his enormous virtues, the capacity to confront his adversaries and do battle, the capacity to use his bully pulpit, is not one of them. He should have been putting Republicans to shame over this Medicare Coupon Care and so many other issues and he has simply failed to do battle. 

He needs to learn how to use imagery and analogy to his benefit. Medicare into Coupon Care is destroying the village to save it, the rotten fish made into the catch of the day, whatever you like, but something which will make the morning news clips.

The next few weeks will show if he can lead troops or simply exchange quips at the Law Review debate.