Friday, December 21, 2012

Group Think Mega-Fail

Stupid, stupider, stupidest. The House GOP was clearly not content to lose the Presidential election as well as seats in both chambers. They are determined to miss the next huge gimme election, the 2014 mid-terms.

Last evening, the majority scuttled their Speaker's already absurd, extreme budget proposal. Yes, that would be the one that only raised taxes on those with taxable income over $1 million a year...and with huge additional write-offs so even these affluent effluents would not feel any pain. Instead the Tea Partiers held to absolutist anti-tax positions and spurned their own GOP's efforts.

By all polls, Americans get it where the TPs don't. They know giving huge piles of money to the richest crushes the economy, decidedly does not lead to more jobs, and harms nearly all of us.

The worst of the party extremists are now set up to lose elections and primaries in two years. Normally the mid-term is when the party without the Presidency pick up many Congressional seats. Regardless of how the fiscal cliff thingummy resolves, we are not likely to forget the callous arrogance and deep stupidity of Republicans.

That's Republicans, not Congress, not the President, not even the vagaries of economics. If the Tea Party Reps need a slogan, let's go with Smug and Stupid.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No more gun lies

We as a nation are unlikely to tune out this time. Even after the likely announcement Friday by the NRA that 1) a loony with a knife could be a mass murderer and 2) violent flicks and games are the real cause, not assault weapons and ammo magazines.

The Newtown murders keep us focused and are likely to continue to do so. It is the number and ages of the 20 first graders and their teachers and principal that strip the shield of lies from gun absolutists.

Despite the hourly gun murders of kids and young (almost entirely) men, Sandy Hook makes PR lies and NRA-bought legislators' justifications moot.

Pic note: This is an image from Boston's Forest Hills Cemetery. It is from the days when many parents buried their infants and small children...but after measles and other untreatable diseases, not military assault weapons. It is Creative Commons. You are welcome to it so long as you credit Mike Ball once.

Yesterday, Ryan and I offered our own take on the short-term partial prevention of assault-rife and mega-magazine bans, shutting off secondary markets, requiring all gun sales even at show to perform background checks, and doing what Australia has with such laws that has literally stopped its mass murders by guns.

Pub note: Both of the Globe and FT likely require subscriptions to view. Boo.

From elsewhere today we can two seminal examples of commentary. At the Boston Globe, its ever illogical and disingenuous token winger columnist Jeff Jacoby laid out nothing but stupid clichés. No one law or even set of them will do away with evil. He lies in claiming "Nightmares like the one in Newtown are rare," when we have we average a mass slaying by gun ever two weeks, including 161 kids since 2006. That of course does not count the shooting deaths of one or two at a time that happen daily.

Jacoby's solution is "cultivation of human goodness." While we agree that we need a cultural change long term, immediately we need gun-law revisions. Then we must examine our systems of mental health evaluation and availability of treatment. We can't click our heels as Jacoby would have the magic occur.

The other set of arguments is in contrast sensible and far more realistic. At the Financial Times, Jacob Weisberg, head of the Slate Group, does not expect huge changes in gun laws from the President and Congress. Instead he points to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's action on smoking.

There, Bloomberg used the city's regulatory and enforcement powers. He led to a ban on smoking and restaurants and bars. That in turn is becoming normal in the nation. In NYC, in a decade the smoking rate has gone from 19% to 7% for teens and overall from 22% to 14%.

Likewise, Weisberg says give Treasury's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms department the same power to enforce gun laws as the Traffic Safety Administration has over cars. Moreover, he wants tort reform so gun makers and sellers are no longer exempt from murders committed with their weapons.

None of his suggestions address the longer-term need to change our gun-and-violence culture here. Australia, Scotland and Finland among others had similar big issues. They started with gun laws that took military weapons away from all but cops and soldiers. We can do that.

Link update: I see that Slate is running the Weisberg commentary, in a form that won't require registration or subscription.

Yes, we do have several centuries of far too many of us ending conflicts with guns. Yes, far too many of us also hold the fantasy we are powerful and worthy in relationship to our firepower. Changing these attitudes is the long-terms answer. Meanwhile, we have crucial changes short-term.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Something Little, Something Big About Violence

As individuals, as elected officials, and as a nation, we can start with the most obvious — no sympathy or allowance for any self-absorbed whiner saying having to press a gun's trigger once for each bullet it fires takes away liberty. The right to life and safety far trumps any such lunacy.

Ryan and I shall talk (almost certainly rant) about massacres here, guns and violence tomorrow, Tuesday, December 18th at 2:30 PM on Left Ahead. You can catch that live at this URL or later back there, on Left Ahead, or our iTunes page.

Fast enactment of better gun registration, licensing and of course re-instituting bans on assault weaponry is an essential component, but nothing like a panacea.

Cultural Change

We have done this before, or rather we are still in the process of completing the transformation in such cultural areas as racism.

I'm old enough to have grown up in times and places of legal racism here.

Up here in Boston, we could and did pretend. Because public schools were nominally integrated, because in theory anyone of any race or nationality could legally buy any house or rent any apartment, we liked to say we were not like Alabama or other Deep South states. That was crap.

I heard locals in the 1960s say that Negroes (as the term was then) chose to live with their own kind. That was the reason the city was so obviously segregated in all aspects. Before the infamous busing ruling to compel school integration, neighborhood schools (bad in black ones/good or better in white) were assigned by geography, which was in reality race and for most, destiny.

We are over half way to changing that in and throughout the South.

Sure, it took laws, Presidential action, and other compulsions. What eventually changed though was American attitudes. When two factors squeezed the complacent racism, we started getting better. First, we saw that Congress, the Executive Branch, and even states would not allow overt racism. Second, folk of various races got to know each other, as schools, jobs, housing and all aspects of life opened.

I remember in the late 1970s sitting down in what had been a typical bar in Beaufort, South Carolina...definitely not a fern bar for the emerging Yuppie class. Three rural sorts, all middle-aged white men, were drinking beer. One used the N word in passing to disparage a black man he knew. Both of the other guys scolded him for it. Now that's change that lasts and goes deep.

Climbing UP the slippery slope

This is the simple road map for violence here. It is at once simple and extremely difficult.

An effective ploy of the NRA and other gun absolutists is that any restriction at all of guns or ammo is the end of our Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment. More crap, that.

They have led and pushed the nation down that very slippery slope of inaction and the of reaction to even the most sensible regulation of mass-murder weaponry. We need to crawl up that slope and back to the safe and sensible life we want. We won't come back into the sunlight of reason and compassion quickly but we have to do it.

We can grunt and ignore the mass-murder-gun types when they say this or that law would not have prevented the Sandy Hook murders. They are oblivious to both the necessary tweaks of law and the deeper cultural shift necessary. Let them stick with their literal specifics. Sadly, they are limited to such thinking and Americans must leave them behind as we're doing with racists.

The toughest part won't be the laws and regulations. It will be transcending centuries of pioneer-era, wild west times, and even more modern Rambo mentality. Yes, we have definitely been a gun-centric, violent country. Many of us are self-indulgent fantasizers about weapons. We want to have the power and tools to kill many fellow Americans and in a very short time. We state with apparent sincerity that this is for self-defense, that it is our inherited freedom, and that we are the exceptions to the reckless monsters who kill tens of thousands of Americans with guns every year.

The pretense is that we understand gun safety, we keep our weapons locked and unloaded, we never use or even touch our guns unless we are hunting, target shooting, or protecting our lives from criminals. While stats show a totally different story, these fantasies are widespread in a nation with one gun in circulation for every adult and child.

No you absolutely do not need and should not own an automatic or semiautomatic rifle or handgun. No you absolutely do not need clips or magazines that hold 30 or 100 bullets. The only reason to sell or possess those outside the military and constabulary is to enable mass murder.

Say it, members of Congress. Do you favor mass murder or oppose it?

Pass reasonable laws forbidding assault weapons and magazines. That's a start.

You likely will slink away after that. That's probably the best we can hope from a gormless, gutless group of legislators.

Yet, it's a start, one that worked superbly so far for Australia from 1996 after its most recent gun massacre. Among the industrialized nations, Australia had a similar guns-equal-liberty mentality until those restrictions on the most extreme mass-murder tools. They got better. Yet no one confiscated their hunting, target, and protection rifles, shotguns and pistols. That same would happen here, if only the Prez and Congress do the minimum.

Longer term, we need to aim for a world where macho gun behavior and mentality is not popular or even accepted. When Americans ridicule those who talk cowboy or Rambo about guns, we'll be getting there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reverse Engineering Dem Machinery

Those who enjoy the good fight in politics dismayed at GOP Chair Reince Priebus' recovery-by-committee announcement this week. Rather than taking the route of personal responsibility, he and what passes for party leaders kept up their delusions.

Forget the many tea-party types who claim that Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been more brutally right wing, a.k.a. more like what actually cost them the election, including Senate and House seats. The alleged brains of the GOP are the back end of the elephant.

Priebus inexplicably to those who live in the real world looks to retain his job after his abject failures. Now he claims that all the party has to do under his pathfinding leadership is copy what the Dems did right this time. All will be well.

I snort in his direction.

His newly acronym-ed GOP (Growth and Opportunity Project) applies RNC members plus Jeb Bush and Ari Fleischer. Let's call them the usual suspects, á la Casablanca. Their eight mission-impossibles are campaign finance issues, demographic changes, fund-raising, geting out the vote, messaging, outside groups, and presidential primaries — buzz words each and all. 

Together this abrogation of duty must also cause considerable amusement among Dems. The task before the GOP's alleged leadership is not to pretend they can emulate and maybe improve on lefty tactics and strategies. In fact, instead of thinking that adding more high-tech aids and PR ploys will reverse their fortunes, they should look beyond messaging and into message. 

(Click below to hear Dem campaign god Howard Dean on MSNBC giving real advice to the dumb.)

For the GOP to get its act together, it has to admit its essential platform and policy blew the election. They simultaneously managed to offend and turn off large portions of the middle class, women, Latinos, African Americans and far more. 

Priebus hinted at that to the WaPo, while making it plain he would not push for policy revisions. He told Jennifer Rubin, "I can’t tell you what policy recommendations, if any, will be made, but when you are doing a deep dive like this it is hard not to look at the message. Policy bleeds into a lot of things." Yet reading all of his recent statements, I figure it's plain he will get this little traveling circus to study everything and then try to nudge it to recommend (never demand) comprehensive immigration reform and similar planks that will bring in the millions disgusted with the GOP now.

In other words, as I and many could tell him right now, Dems won in a terrible economy because their message was superior, rational, compassionate, and little d democratic, a.k.a. American. Republicans don't need new tricks and toys. They need new hearts and minds.

Here in MA, we can recall when the Dems lost the U.S. Senate seat in the special election following Ted Kennedy's a do-nothing state senator, Scott Brown. The extremely capable state party chair, John Walsh, did not play Let's Form a Committee. He first admitted the obvious failings of both their candidate and the campaign. He considered it a personal failure, the worst of his life. He dug right into the issues, after first setting them out for all in and beyond the party to see.

That's what having personal responsibility, courage and insight can do.

Friday, December 07, 2012

SCOTUS Grabs the Monsters

Buckle my knees and pass the smelling salts. I was prepared for the SCOTUS to pass on the 10 marriage-equality cases petitioned. Instead, it picked two for arguments, two that cover nearly all key aspects of same-sex marriage and benefits.

The just-the-facts-ma'am version is in the WaPo. Detail is in the initial report from the NYT. Analysis of the menu of cases before the court was in the Advocate in September.

The short of it is first is the CA Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, argued by Olson and Boies. This surprised me because it deals with the state-level override ballot that overturned the legislature's legalization of same-sex marriage. The SCOTUS could have chickened out on this, saying it was a state issue. Instead, they'll likely consider whether marriage is a fundamental right subject to equal treatment under law — big stuff.

The other could overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, Bill Clinton's biggest mistake as Prez, worse than cigar fantasies and the blue dress. In the United States v. Windsor, the survivor of a pair of women married in Canada sued when DOMA, Section 3 prevented her from inheriting her wife's estate.

This is pure discrimination by gender and orientation. Justice Kagan worked on a related case as solicitor general and likely would recuse herself.

These cases are likely to warm up a lot of people's winters in anticipation.

Arguments in the spring should bring decisions in June.

A Few U.S. Risk Takers Exist

In a very sparsely populated mini-parade, Apple wants to create jobs here in America, maybe 600,000 soon. This may inspire a few more big and little companies to get with the program...the program of national recovery.

Of course the giant fruit is the same and different. It has much more cash than many, but most U.S. corporations are sitting on piles of cash they've been afraid to invest. We can be sure Apple wouldn't repatriate jobs unless it figured it would do so at a good profit, perhaps equal to Asian factories and without the headaches, logistics issues and terrible PR. It is also certain to use new, highly efficient production to maximize margins and productivity.

There are the lessons all manufacturing companies can learn by observing. Sure, Apple has a cash buffer, but it is also showing moderate amounts of courage, love of country, and business savvy. For the latter, each company doing its part to provide consumers, particularly middle-class ones, enough income to buy their products is the long-term counterbalance to maximizing margins regardless of effects on America.

Meanwhile, the smartest, most America-loving rich types, think Warren Buffet and George Takei as just a few, call for minimum and increased taxes on highly profitable companies and the wealthiest individuals. It's not that they take Matthew 19:21 literally (sell everything and give the money to the poor). While the Montgomery Burns types may see them as traitors to their class, they blend good economic sense and patriotism.

Alas, for all the irrationality about job creators, large and small U.S. corporations in the main do not expand or add jobs, have not for years, and would rather sit on capital than risk it. Even for those who idealize capitalism and idolize capitalists, most bosses are too cowardly and unpatriotic to create jobs.

When called on it, the most common response they provide is that 1) after the great recession, banks and venture capitalists are harder to convince for loans and investments, 2) government regulation and paperwork is just too, too hard, and 3) it's more dangerous financially to make jobs than profit off invested money.

The stench of the gutless is overpowering. The parody of the bold capitalist is risible.

Hell, sure lenders are wary. That just means you have to think your proposal more fully and make the pitch. Do the work. For regulation, it's as light and in many cases lighter than it has been in decades. No excuse here. For risk, that is how business owners define themselves. Take smart risks or retire!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Let's Get Serious About Cycling

Time to get serious, boys and girls, rather far past time.

Today's catalyst was the latest death of a cyclist on Boston streets. This one was Chris Weigl, a 23-year-old photographer (website up at least for now). The wreck (never call these "accidents" as though they were unavoidable fatalities) had familiar basics, as limned by the Globe report.

A tractor-trailer took a four-lane right turn on a major avenue, aiming for a tiny side street by a local university. The cyclist in a bike lane was instantly mushed to death.

As long as they are up, the comments at the Boston Herald let cycle haters drink their fill. The this-but-that versions will stay up at Universal Hub. This is no place to broach the craziness of all-cyclists-always-break-all-traffic-laws or cyclists-don't-have-licenses-or-pay-taxes or ban-all-bikes folk. They are beyond reason as well as compassion.

Instead, Boston has started its bicycling evolution. What must be do next for safety and civility?

Simple legal stuff

Stop signs and traffic lights. We have to stop being puerile here and look to what has been successful in Idaho since the 1980s — rolling stops for bicycles.

Stops as yields. Somewhat different but a corollary is treating red lights and stop signs as yield signs.
Both of these do many of the same things. Most important is increasing safety for all concerned by taking into account the huge differences between bikes and motor vehicles.

Two emotional responses to overcome are ingrained but not immutable. Most drivers here love the dumb cliché promulgated by the likes of Mass Bike, the barely logical same-road/same-rules chant. The anti-biking types like it as a weapon to pull out and slug cyclists with for any real or perceived infraction of a traffic law or regulation.

There are two underlying pretenses here. First, all cyclists are total scofflaws and all drivers are absolutely law obedient. For the latter, I have yet to follow a driver for more than 10 miles without observing violations, such as changing lanes without signaling, failure to yield to pedestrian in crosswalks, not coming to a complete stop for a light for stop sign and before the marked line, stopping on a crosswalk, exceeding speed limits, passing through an intersection after the light changed red and on and on. If all traffic laws were evenly enforced, a tiny percentage of drivers would retain their licenses. Yet that does not prevent most of living in a fantasy world of reckless cyclists and virtuous car drivers.

The second is more childish and visceral. The sense that even if a change in law is for the safety of all, anything that gives a right to a two-wheeler that a four-wheeler does not have is morally wrong, damn it! It's the three-year-old's wail of "She got an ice cream and I didn't!"

To the same-rules bozos, I have little but disdain. We can easily observe and surmise myriad differences. Cars can drive on interstates and other limited access highways. Bikes can travel bike paths and lanes. Drivers must signal before every turn or lane change, cyclists when it is safe to do so taking a hand off the bars. Cyclists can dismount and use a crosswalk. It goes on and on.

More significant are physical differences. A cyclist is hard pressed to hurt or kill anyone, but doing so is built into the one to three ton motorized vehicle. A bike can stop at speed in only a few to 25 feet, long before a driver can move a foot from gas to brake. Even then, a car  or truck total stopping distance is in hundreds of feet. Likewise, a bike has the same tiny inertia leaving a red light, so it can be into or across the intersection before a driver can give it gas.

These and many other differences beg for reasoned nuance in laws and regulations.

Yet both driver gut responses of these are so real, and both so enabled by the lunacy of same-road/same-rules that any improvement has to deal with them. Unfortunately for humankind, about half of us seem very literal minded, like rules-are-rules bureaucrats. They need extra care and attention on any topic.

I can remember when I first introduced the stop-as-yield law and testified before the MA Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing and sensing that is-this-fair attitude from the senators and reps. My proposed law, dutifully introduced by my then Rep. Willie May Allen, would indeed have granted cyclists an option motor-vehicle operators would not have. I explained how as a multimode guy — car, T, ped, bike — I was aware how nervous and thus dangerous drivers were when they were beside a cyclist at a light or red octagon, when it was time to proceed. On the other hand, when the cyclist leaves first, the driver overtakes the two-wheeler and feels in control. The driver doesn't worry about the car's width or where the bike is.

I could feel the progress but also those present would need to hear this more than once. I didn't think there was a cyclist there other than I. This must be what folk used to this process have told me, that you need to introduce a bill three to five times and make your arguments each time to get it through.

Hard legal stuff

Meanwhile, the pros here, bike czars in major cities here and in Europe, concur that presence equals awareness. As we get more cyclists on the roads, drivers gradually accept that they are sharing the road not only with pedestrians, trucks, buses and trolley, but also with cyclists. Wish as they might that all the others would disappear, they come to accept that they're all there forever, like mosquitoes. They learn to deal. When they do that, they are less likely to do thoughtless maneuvers that can bring death and dismemberment.

This process has one great accelerator, enforcement.

If you read the Herald anti-bike comments, you'll see one-sided calls for that, as of course, drivers are always blameless in any wreck. Cyclists need bike licenses, need to pay cycling insurance, and most of all need a cop on every block to ticket them for their incessant law breaking.

Those multimodal types among us, including me, snort in their general direction. If virtually any driver were ticketed for every infraction large or small, none would take a trip to the grocery or flick without multiple tickets and perhaps a trip to jail.

Instead, I have to agree with  the rules-are-rules types here, but for everyone. Ticket and even tow the bad guys!

Pause here for the self-pitying and self-righteous keens of cops. Oh, Lawdy, no. "If we have to enforce traffic laws for drivers, that's all we'll do. Murderers, thieves, and dealers will rule the streets!"
That's the most flammable of strawmen, of course.

In the real world, when cops or umpires or any enforcer does the job, it's short term. If local police enforce the laws, words gets around quickly and drivers even cyclists would show some restraint and sense. Then cops can go back to pretending they are serious crime fighters.

Boston is infamous as a city where the police live by the no-blood/no-ticket model. They hate paperwork and are insulted by the $1 jaywalking tickets, the $20 cycling ones, and other pissant enforcement. They can go decades or whole careers without a felony arrest, foot chase or detective-level investigation, but they love to live the fantasy. Any moment, their duties will call them to major crime busts.

That melodrama can't continue to interfere here. The local commissioners, supers and unions have to know that public safety is more than a bromide. Enforce the damn laws for a couple of months. The citizens will get the idea and straighten up.

Let both drivers and cyclists (hell, peds too) be afraid they'll get hauled away and maybe financially ruined if they cause injury or death. Make it certain. Let them sweat for a few months. They'll adapt and we'll all be safer and saner.

 By the bye: I'm overdue for reintroducing my cycling bills and testifying.

Cross-post note: This appears in Harrumph

Monday, December 03, 2012

American Quasi-Exceptionalism

"They'll never meet U.S. requirements," said the old, experienced, savvy guys in construction. The they were Asian heavy-equipment makers and the reqs were onerous and seemingly highly technological safety specs.

The pretense was that particularly Japanese companies could sell their junk excavators, track-mounted tractors (bulldozers in the vernacular), and graders outside this country and Europe. They'd never meet our much higher standards.

My boss, John Rehfield, editor-in-chief of Construction Equipment, would smile benignly when he heard this common wisdom. He told me as the junior on the staff in my first full-time job in New York after J-school that it would be a matter of a few years, certainly under 15 before the Asian companies mastered the manufacturing, design and regulatory steps.

A fine writer, legendary punster, and insightful business sort, John was right as usual. He had to update me on such silliness. The only experience I had in the field was on a carpentry crew building townhouses in Pittsburgh in the summers. John had been smart enough to hire me because I was a good writer and not for being steeped in construction. What I didn't learn writing articles, he told me.

What was telling about the 1970s attitudes is how pervasive it was in other areas. The they-won't-ever fantasy comes right back to American exceptionalism. That jive trips us up again and again.

Whether it's warring or tech or fashion, we do it better than anyone, many of us hold. Despite myriad proofs that we are not necessarily unique, we keep at it. Exceptionalism is the beat of the bobble head. The corollary that others in those different nations will never come up to our level is where we blunder worst.

Let us not touch on stupid, needless wars that have cost us many thousands of American lives and billions, no trillions, of dollars that should have bettered our lot. Instead, think of the business angles.

Reaching back personally again, as an infant into my kindergarten years, I was an accessory to the Occupation Army in Japan. We returned to the United States with some treasures purchased or given. My sister and I still have some kimonos, ceramics and paintings, truly fine art.

At the same time, despite thousands of years of such craftsmanship, the Japanese were ridiculed by many Americans. We had destroyed their cities and factories during the war. We then laughed at what we called pitiful attempts to restart their economy, only we pretended that was the best they could ever do. MADE IN JAPAN quickly became synonymous with cheap crap, like glow-in-the-dark crosses, woven reed finger traps and wee toys suited for Cracker Jack box prizes.

That war was not fought in U.S. cities and our industrial base emerged stronger than ever after the martial manufacturing years. I don't recall anyone who disdained Japanese goods noting that their factories were gone, that these plastic tchotchkes were small stepping stones for an economic recovery.

In our house, we could see, touch and admire the artistry and craftsmanship of Japan. That though was an artifact of our accidental contact. The Army sent; we went.

No you can't. Yes, I can.

Americans though played out the Annie Get Your Gun lyrics, anything you can do, I can do better, with other nations too. One exceptionalism fantasy was that if the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese or anyone competed with U.S. companies it was only because they mimicked our products. Whether it was consumer electronics, computers or cars, they were too ignorant and stupid to be in the game at all were it not for reverse engineering.

We should have learned our lesson. There was Sony revolutionizing portable music, numerous Korean firms skunking us on semiconductor technology as well as pricing, and on and on.

One might think at some point that Americans might pay attention to the obvious.

The savvy observers here and in Europe eventually admitted companies in Asia were far beyond mimics. A few spread the panic that Japanese (and now Chinese) industry would dominate the world economy and crush us old-school sorts. Instead, we did rouse ourselves on a corporate and governmental level to keep ahead of or at least with the pack.

I'm not at all sure the hearts and heads of most Americans made any of these switches. We love this exceptionalism mirage.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Overly Delayed Doom of DOMA?

Finally, the dreadfully cruel and irrational Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — sure then President Bill Clinton's biggest mistake, worse than lying about his cigar shenanigans — appears on the way finally to dying under paper and gavel at the Supreme Court.

The AP carries a terse and clear recap of the cases the SCOTUS is considering this week. It would only take one to decide it. For a little poignancy and perhaps a misty eye, add the tale of the dying career soldier who wants her wife to get survivor benefits set up before she goes.

The ruse is well past it's expiration date. The anti-gay types who use Limbaugh and NOM approved code phrases like special rights need to let it go. Legally married people should have the same nights, as in regular normal rights, as any other. Hampering, harming and hindering homosexual marrieds is unconstitutional, uncivil and simply wrong.

Let the SCOTUS get this over with. It was a mistake for it to become the compromise that kept Congress from a bigger blunder of trying to debate a national marriage law back nearly two decades ago. It is all the more obvious that it was stupid then and still is.

Oh, and even the most conservative on the Court have noticed that the nation has moved beyond this particularly irrational fear. Same sex marriage has shown us all that it only brings joy and equality to those directly involved as well as those who know and love them. The only harm has been to them in the hassle and unequal rights by DOMA and states who won't recognize legal marriages.

Make it so, SCOTUS.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Will Will Wow?

I'm all over this Will Dorcena candidacy for Boston Mayor. If Tom Menino goes for a sixth term next year, this could make for a grand political theater.

Locals who have spoken to me directly say even with a year head start, he is doomed, doomed and doomed. He though radiates optimism and confidence, figuring he can be yet another grassroots miracle fable.

Dorcena had a re-kick-off event last evening in Dorchester at Phillips Old Colony. This was a relaunch because while he announced at the beginning of 2012 — regardless of whether Da Mare is running, he has been sidelined with his wife and new son. He had to square all that and make sure everyone was hale before simultaneously working for a mortgage bank and running for Mayor.

So last night, his 40th birthday, he wished the ailing Mayor well. At least, as he concluded, "I hope the Mayor gets better we can go out there and do the battles."

Disclaimers:  I as well as the present and would-be Mayor live in Hyde Park. Dorcena's house and home office is only 1.6 miles from Menino's home. I know Da Mare and consider him charming. I've gotten to know Dorcena and both like and respect him as well.

He seems to think he can tap more deeply into aspirations than anger. Running solo, Dorcena started in January and again yesterday saying he's not running against Menino. It's just Boston can do a whole lot better and be a lot smarter. Think Deval Patrick for Governor and Barack Obama for President; he wants to plug into hopes and dreams, not revenge.

His platform is beefy and based on the one he used in his come-in-late/lose-big-as-unknown run for City Council. Then he described and offered solutions in five areas. Unfortunately, his new campaign site does not yet have positions or even a bio. It went live a few days ago. You can go to the old site to read his bio and proposals.

His four planks in the slightly edited platform are revamping the school system, reducing crime, hiring local, and engaging and informing the public at every stage of decision making. Those are standard challenger areas. The difference is as Patrick did with his initial campaign, Dorcena puts his neck out with detailed proposals. He risks all by giving other candidates targets.

From A to B

We Bostonians love to play experts on our sports and politics. We had to drop the the Sox-always-break-our-hearts, but we keep the suicide-to-run-against-Menino shtick.

In January, I asked Dorcena how a not so high profile newcomer planned to beat the big guy. Last night I tweaked that with a question about how badly taking off most of the year for family blunted or changed that strategy.

He beaming candidate wants to stay on track and keep the same plan, including:
  • ringing every doorbell in town, talking one-on-one, two or however many
  • holding town-hall meetings in all 22 neighborhoods to introduce himself, put out his platform, and fire up those who want those massive improvements and changes
  • broaden his team to create a sizable field organization
He admits he's unlikely to win a money and ad battle with Menino. Last evening, his minions got the 40 or so to sign in with phone and email, but did not ask for money. He still plans front-stoop visits and his every-neighborhood stump speeches with question sessions.

It was unlike other such campaign events in several ways. First, there were no bribes. The hall got lined with dozens of his posters and yard signs. Otherwise, there were 2x3-inch stickers for him on the tables and ice-water pitchers and cups on a sideboard. No noshes, no beer, no swag. He was about his message.

Second, that message along with his name and face will dominate. His signs have a clean, modern font in our flag colors. In the posters, which his crew put at every city polling place last week, his smiling face is there. That makes it stand out from typical campaign signs. They tend to go with what they think will be a winning, memorable slogan instead.

What Media?

He seems in this for real. As the campaign gets going, he may flag, but he shows great confidence and optimism. He rented the biggest hall at Phillips Old Colony in Dorchester to accommodate the 120-some folk who responded to his FB invite. About one third of those showed and the room looked like it had been cleared for the wedding-reception dancing.

Dorcena was nonplussed. He also kept with his theme of disclosure and candor, saying how many he expected.

While it's nearly a year before the voting, local media could have roused themselves from their fall naps. None of the we-run-anything local TV stations showed. The event was within shouting distance of the Globe. While the Herald ran a short saying the announcement would happen (apparently unaware that he had kicked off in January already), there was nothing today.

The closest the Globe got was Brian McGrory's column on various possible candidates for Boston offices and higher. Near the bottom, he dumped out some dark horses for mayor, apparently to show insider cred. He's never good at that.

The Herald's Peter Gelzinis ran a juicy gossip piece that didn't mention Dorcena either. Instead he speculated on the pending fight to become President of the City Council in case Menino has to step down due to his multiple body troubles. The column delights in predicting blood on the fifth floor, figuratively at least. None of the Councilors loses sight that the prez becomes Mayor in such cases, as Menino did when Ray Flynn went off to the Vatican.

I suspect that Dorchester News' Gintautas Dumcius and the Phoenix' David Bernstein will do their usual jobs  — solid news and cute/speculative respectively. The lumbering dailies and broadcast are likely to wait until late spring or summer, or if Menino decides to swat at Dorcena, before noticing.

Even with diminished staff, the bigs could do better by us with political coverage.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Whiners and Winners

The counterpoint to winger excuses for massive GOP loses this election has been a surprising, to me at least, self-control by Dems. I have read on winger blogs and heard on Fox carefully picked and over-expanded examples proving, absolutely, unequivocally, so-there proof, poof, proof, that Democrat are vindictive and vicious winners.

I honestly don't see and hear that. For every smirking Dem, there must be a dozen or more relieved ones. Most of us accepted that the slow economic recovery make seem swell in contrast to the larger world's, but still sucks for us. Plus state-level Republican gerrymandered districts gave terrific advantage to them. This was certainly the GOP's year to pluck the Presidency without even reaching.

Moreover, as recently as 2010 when Scott Brown took the special election for U.S. Senator from MA and again later in the year when Republicans took control of the U.S. House, the crowing and cackling were deafening. Spiking the football was far too mild a metaphor. I suspect with the Bush years in mind and emotion, they were like Bostonians used to championships and feeling entitled.

My own delusion was that a substantial number of Romney/Ryan supporters would play nice, mildly praise the winning side and say they'll make sure it doesn't happen next time. Very little of that has been evident.

A lucid example was over at the often doctrinaire, there featured writer Erick Erickson was fair and smart. He admitted defeat without whining and delusional or paranoid self-lies. He specified what the GOP had to fix.

On a personal level, I thought perhaps Brown and Romney supporters might show a bit of grace and even good humor. Not yet. Even among school classmates on Facebook, those with the most extreme slurs against Barrack Obama and Elizabeth Warren have simply ignored the election. Their feeds have regressed to light news and noise, none of it political.

Sure it would be satisfying if wingers showed some social skills and even went the personal responsibility route. Their party likes to claim they are for personal responsibility and accountability after all — but apparently only if those inconvenience or embarrass Dems.

I've given up looking for hints of conciliation. That may only come when GOP Congressional leaders show it is acceptable to do some things for the good of the nation. That's bound to happen, but why do they make it so hard and so temporally distant?

Instead, unlike the Gingrich/Koch/Rove types that want and foresaw a regime of Republican dominance crushing all opponents, Dems in the main would like a working two-party system. They say as much and do more than their part to act on it. When Republicans claim that bipartisanship can mean only do exactly what they want, they make a zero-sum game.

For that two-party thingummy to work, Republicans have to have a big rethink again. Everyone's numbers show they have alienated women, that majority of voters, in large numbers. Quite justifiably, Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and other groups don't trust Republicans. They still hold sway among older, white men, the party's dwindling party.

What could be plainer than:

  • Admitting Dems' policies and positions worked better even in what should have been a gimme election for the GOP
  • Considering all the groups where Romney, Brown, Akins and so many other lost, and mapping those races to Republican policies and positions
  • Rethinking what they really want — self-righteousness or political power

There is still a big GOP subset, led by the House Tea Party folk, who say and seem to believe that they can sway a majority of Americans by being more extreme, more xenophobic, more government intrusive into personal decisions, more restrictive in voting rights and on and on. Those folk don't have any extra brain cells to rub together to keep their skulls warm in the winter.

Here's hoping Mitch McConnell and John Boehner do enough deal cutting and cooperation in the lame-duck Congress and early into 2013. Beyond being better immediately for us all, that would provide license for GOP voters to come to terms with the election results and for the GOP itself to accept that they have to alter strategy and platform to ascend to power again.

I can guarantee that Obama would be happy to share credit or let GOP leaders take credit. When they try at all, he has. He prefers to think of his role as enabling reasonable people to act together. There's another lesson Republican leaders get for free.

I can't say that I'm eager for the next Republican President, but like most lefties, I like a vibrant political discussion leading to laws we can all live with and benefit from. And like most lefties, I like a good election battle that brings lots of voters to the polls to have their say. Smearing the ovals and other voter tricks gives us ownership of the results.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Give Mule Rove Free Rein

Let us be pleased by Karl Rove. He is so arrogant that he intends to lead the huge winger donors astray at least in 2014 and perhaps two years later. We should be delighted that he intends to be so willfully foolish. He can play pied piper to the nasty rats while we children do not follow him.

In the WaPo article linked above, he learned that he can be even stupider than the allegedly savvy Mitt Romney. Rove doubles down again and again on his failed scheme to take over the nation. He expects to fine-tune his Crossroads superPACs strategy.

Let him vacuum a billion from the rich bozos!

When he successfully engineered George the Lesser's election and then there came the mid-term takeover of the House, he was adamant that a GOP dynasty, a Reich (without the Nazis, I assume), would drive progressives, liberals and the humane from power in America forever and ever, amen.

Now following the billion or so (at least $400 million by Rove) piddled away in what should have been an unlosable election, he is so delusional that he cannot accept that his promises and plans failed. He points to tiny, shiny details — Crossroads' small staff, they pay a third or less of the going rate for those who construct their ads...

His widely covered (and forever on Youtube) crazy talk about Dems suppressing the vote by pointing out the truth about Bain Capital's record and worse the total mental moments on Fox denying the actual Ohio vote tabulation are clear. Those donors who likewise deny reality have had their lesson.

Dems should stand back and let him do his asinine things.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Graceless and Spiteful

We should not be surprised that cynical liars, like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, reacted abominably to the election. Likewise, we can expect delusional and manipulative entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to feign all manner of cover stories.

Whether the inane, illogical and in some cases vicious response was a defense mechanism is irrelevant. We, and I hope our re-elected POTUS, have to keep in mind two points:

  • Republicans lost this election at the top of the ticket and in Congress
  • the winners must dictate the terms going forward

On a personal note, I was kind of hoping that FB chums, some of whom I've known for decades from high school and family, would have the civility to look for pro-America solutions that will require reason from GOP Congress members. Likewise, small statements, even muttered, of congratulations, maybe a little contrition, and acknowledgement that the majority of the voters want Obama's policies are in order.

Particularly on Facebook, the emotion and vitriol were startling before the voting. The nasties have been mute since.

I managed not to respond to even the worst of the lies in the new memes, those "photo" messages, mini-posters. They presented and restated disproven, desperate slanders on the President and other Democrats.

In fairness (the Dem and progressive weakness of showing kindness to the malicious), I admit that my side did engage in insulting Romney, Ryan, Rove and in particular the absurd GOP party platform. Honesty and reason were generally on our side in contrast.

Yet, as we heard in the post-election statements of Speaker of the House Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell, they have no intention of working for the good of the nation. They would let Americans founder to prove their repudiated points and viewpoints. Both have made it plain that Obama needs to bring out the big brass ones to cow them into doing so.

He did that with equal pay for women, DADT and most notably healthcare reform. Doing so seems to be all that the current GOP leaders understand and respect. Compromise, to them, means doing only what they want.

One would think, if one thought, that they would recognize after the election that they would lose their Congressional power and likely the 2016 election if they do not help America to economic recovery. This time in attempted voter suppression and in the previous redistricting in Republican-led states after the 2010 elections to overcome demographics. That was an even bigger failure than the inability to put Romney in during a gimme year of terrible economic times.

Come 2014 when Obamacare kicks in and when the recovery continues over GOP unwillingness to help, Republicans are certain to lose control of the House. Likely too if filibuster reform does not beat them to it, Dems are almost certain to get a supermajority in the Senate.

So there we have the elephants honking away in the wild as though their side hadn't gotten skunked. Boehner and McConnell both blustered that Obama had to forget the policies that brought re-election and support theirs that voters rejected. Get real!

For their supporters, the pretense is that each party is equally as obstructionist and uncompromising. I'll join the chorus of Dems, nonpartisans, and ordinary smart people in calling BS on that. The POTUS' mistake in his first two years was to give in too much to clowns who had no intention of doing anything they were not forced to.

I'm looking forward to the too-often-timid Obama staring down the bad guys.

Spurn or Hug Romney?

Media, paid/bloggy/cable/network/online/print, flog their meme — they ask whether Obama should bring in Romney to the cabinet or as an adviser...or even editorialize that it would be smart.

On the plus side, having advisers who don't agree with you can produce sharper and more clearly vetted policies and decisions. Also a plus, mollifying the also-ran side makes political and emotional sense.

Romney, however, comes with huge and obvious negatives. The worst certainly is his lack of credibility. Frequently over the past 6 years of running for President and shockingly common in this year, he went from vacillating wildly on positions to baldfaced lies.

After hundreds of very public lies, Romney would not come into the EOB or WH with trust. I try to imagine him one-on-one with the POTUS or at a table of big shots. Who could hear anything he said or read any paper he presented without questioning? Everyone should have every reason to doubt every word Romney says or prints.

Moreover, from his days in the MA state house, the former governor has displayed the most colossal ego possible on anyone not running a dictatorship or in a mental institution. That so skews his judgment with iffy motivations that he is further tainted.

Perhaps a smart and gracious Obama could accommodate those major flaws. Perhaps he could accurately weigh Romney's offerings. Perhaps he could filter the thoughts and words to get useful and actionable output.

Why would he and why should he have to?

There are plenty of savvy and honest conservatives. Pick ones you can trust, I say.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Matthews Finds Best, Yet Again

Scratching my old bald head, I have to wonder how an often astute Chris Matthews came to call Mitt Romney's belated concession speech as perfect and the best he's ever heard. The MSNBC Harball host does suffer from touches of drama-queen superlative disease, wherein this or that is the worst, best, most this or that. However, I struggled through election night after nearly 16 hours running my Boston polling place, and then heard that same speech-ette.

Call Your Own: The speech is available on several sites, including as a transcript at the NYT. His smarmy, not-quite-human delivery is also on video, but his mannerisms detract from the words.

I confess that while our politics are quite similar, I have problems with Matthews' mannerisms and manners.  His mommy didn't teach him right; he and Fox' Bill O'Reilley share the awful habit of constantly talking over and interrupting guests. They rob us of analysis and insight from sometimes smarter folk. Boo.

However, this thing about Romney's speech was a slow, solo delivery. He had problems with President Obama not building up his party and staff enough in his victory speech, but the plaudits for Romney were even more peculiar.

The concession was at best OK. In fact, its substance was almost entirely in two sentences up top:
I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters. This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.
He went on and on self-centeredly and sanctimoniously, before tucking in near the end:
The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.
He qualified even that, suggesting that an equal parallel was teachers leading kids to understand the process. Eh?

The speech though was almost entirely about how hard his staff and family had worked. It overlaid piety about his strong religious perspective (odd for someone who repeatedly viciously attacked his opponent and was incapable of telling the truth).

Playing through some more, older Matthews clips, I finally got it. He has a strong emotional need to be part of historic moments. It's good to research old speeches, even before he was born, but it's great for him to be the first to call and describe the new that are certain to become classics.

He is deeply involved in Kennedy lore, all the previous generation's Kennedy's. He seems to think and feel he gets greatness by osmosis by citing deeds, legislation or speeches by Jack or Bobby or Ted.

So there it is. He really liked John McCain's concession four years ago. He absolutely loved Romney's two days ago.

You can easily make an argument that McCain's was brilliant, well-delivered, and of content bound to become classic. Romney's was so-so. Matthews is driven to ID and name superlatives. He could use some objectivity here.

Don't Tell the Republicans!

Let me have a puerile moment here thinking the Republicans might re-moniker-ize themselves from GOP into CRAP — Confederacy, Rockies, Ancients Party. That was their voter base this time and why they lost the POTUS and numerous Congressional seats.

In a cynical war, stated early and often, they had a united stand despite their conflicting subgroups. Their unity came from negativity, when they admitted they were about to lose the demographic edge that has kept them powerful. They counted on whites, on men, on the elderly, and reactionary swathes in the Deep South and the Mountain West.

The shameless, anti-democracy, anti-rights efforts this election cycle was as bad as any during the 50s and 60s. Then Southerners were terrified that who were then called Negroes would take over their world....if they were actually allowed to vote.

And this election as in the bad old times allowed was the key word. Law and respect for other be damned (very anti-Christian, I'll add)! If only voter suppression schemes could hold down turnout in Democratic and democracy favoring groups, notably African Americans and Latinos, CRAP could prevail. Then, they'd sew up a couple more SCOTUS slots in the next four years and stage a production of delusional regression.

Well, they not only pissed off the traditional low-voting-rate minorities, they infuriated many high-voting-rate women.

Party officials and pols in Congress and on the state levels made ham-fisted efforts to keep the POTUS from a fast economic recovery. As if that weren't cynical and destructive enough, they spoke up for and introduced legislation to severely limit or even withdraw rights and freedoms Americans, particularly women, already have.

At the same time, the winger media joined Romney, Ryan, Brown and other candidates in opening lying and using scare tactics in their campaigns. No ruse was too dirty or too low...if only it got them their wins and the power to institutional their aims. After all, given demographic trends and suddenly attentive women voters, this likely was the last grab.

You'd think that Obama was hopeless when he tried to get us out of the Great Recession, only to have the CRAP controlled House and filibustered Senate severely throttle his efforts. Yeah we're well ahead of Europe in recovery, we're headed in the right way in all indicators, and Romney/Ryan would only made vague, trust-us promises with no road map or details. As hungry as Americans were for faster results, the majority wasn't buying crap from CRAP.

A month ago up in my Boston neighborhood, the always astute U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano told us,  "A year ago, I didn't think Barack Obama could win reelection. Now I don't think he can lose."

In the loose fraternity of people names Michael, he's long been one of my favorites. He has an amazing prognostication ability.

Now the question that talking heads and typing fingers across the country and beyond want to rant about — will Republicans rethink their failed extremism. Corollaries are;
  • Do the stupid mega-rich donors who pissed away maybe billions to buy this election hold back in mid-term and the next POTUS election?
  • Will CRAP take hard looks at post-Citizens United/buy-elections strategies?
  • Do FOX and other mendacious, hyper-partisan media tone it down so they either deliver accurate news or keep it as a decent level of twist as the likes of MSNBC do?

So far the nearly 90 Tea Party U.S. Reps are not being logical or smart. Word from those speaking is that Romney/Ryan lost the un-losable election not because they were abject liars who had an extreme agenda out of touch with most Americans. Instead they hold that if only the smarmy duo was more right-wing, more extreme, nastier, CRAP would be on top of the pile.

Here's betting for the Reps that dozens will lose their seats in the mid-terms in two years.They are the politically walking dead, as voters continue to recall failed pledges, promises and palaver.

Fox though seems too invested in their irrational lunacy. Like the Boston Herald, they have an identity and a position and distinguishes them. They have so long pretended that even the most objective news outlets are untrustworthy and the enemy. Even though their advertising and other revenues are at risk, until they take huge hits there, they are unlikely even to think of telling their listeners and readers facts and supportable opinion.

There's little hope for the House until the worst of the crazies are driven out. There's little hope for winger media even mid-term.

We might though see some individual donor and SuperPAC changes. You don't have to be smart to be rich. Sometimes those traits go together. For others, fortunate timing, opportunities presented directly, inherited wealth, and connections from school and family can seed money gardens enough that very ordinary people can grow them big.

Many of the very wealthy are not total fools. The Karl Rove sorts made huge promises this time,guaranteeing  the defeat of Obama and a Senate majority. Millionaires and billionaires were suckered by an investment opportunity. They could get favorable tax changes and for some the lure was of harming, hampering and hindering women, gays, Latinos and others. Greed and hate bundled together with donations!

Rove certainly was unmasked. The billing was that he was brilliant based on successes he had selling George the Lesser Bush to the country. Here with a vastly easier pitch, a gimme election, he likely lost all credibility with winger tycoons.

I'm calling no major rethink at least until after the 2014 elections.

The RNC Chair Reince Priebus is right there with the delusional liars on the ticket. He seems equally amoral. One would have to have a sense of shame and of honor to correct course.

Fortunately, Obamacare actually kicks in during 2014 and all predictions are that our economic recovery would pick up speed regardless of who won this week. Demographics also favor more pragmatic, self-interested folk...those young, Latino, female and African American voters the CRAP wanted to crush this time.

Unless the Republicans do rethink their failed positions, they'll lose a lot in 2014 and fail again in 2016. Don't tell 'em.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Big Fat Gay Ballot

Four wins for marriage equality yesterday are more than sweet. This surely is proof of the tipping point that has hung tantalizing close for so long.

The anti-gay, anti-equality forces did their nastiest with money and scare tactics. They crowed about 32 votes in 32 states to ban SSM, saying it would always be thus.

Meanwhile, WWII and early boomer generations are dying off and/or mellowing in the face of reality. SSM hurts no one and nothing, and helps millions of couples and kids. Get with the program oldsters!

Overshadowed by Barack Obama's reelection and our MA win for Elizabeth Warren, marriage news was perfect yesterday. Americans are showing the savvy and compassion we all knew was coming. We impatient sorts are feeling much, much better.

Would-be Mayor's Election-Day Splash

Literally and figuratively, Will Dorcena put a new face on the Boston mayoral race. Rather, after 10 months in the shadows, he has reemerged to take the fight to the incumbent Thomas Menino.

 Of course, the Mayor has not announced one way or the other for next year's election. Boston's longest serving and wildly popular chief has the reputation for keeping potential opponents sitting like subs on the bench until the last possible day. He'll be 70 next year, has had problems with his legs, knees, infections and so forth, but still terrifies the politically ambitious.

As shown in his initial announcement early this year, Dorcena is not intimidated. He is sure to be called foolhardy or brave or quixotic or...

Yesterday his suddenly ubiquitous campaign signs made it plain he's spoiling for the fight, whether or not Da Mare is in the race. He told me he intended to have signs at every one of Boston's polling locations. In fairness, many precincts share a spot, so it's not as intimidating as the math would have it, but it's still serious work for him and his minions.

In our local world, this is a poke in Menino's eye, an I'm-not-afraid-of-you taunt. He said he was sure to stand out with large signs with his picture. He hides nothing.

Pix note: These snaps are Creative Commons. Use 'em if you want, just credit Mike Ball once first.

That seems like bluster for someone who lost his only other run — in the last City Council race. Then as opposed to this way-early announcement, he got in very late. No one can say that this time.

Media, pundit and pol speculation is rife about who'd contest next year's race, depending on Menino's decision about candidacy. Numerous Councilors have muttered their interest and many observers rattle off at least four names should the Mayor decide to retire.

Dorcena is a relentless optimist. He figures his doorbell ringing will combine with his recruiting volunteers and influential supporters alike will give him the office. He has a deep, wide and specific set of problems and solutions he thinks will sway the voters.

TBD. Meanwhile, he has a shell of a site up, ready to take money, but with no content yet. He promises to lead with his problem/solution set soon.

Until yesterday, he seemed to have disappeared from early in the year when he first announced. He was running his business and making sure his new baby and his wife were in good shape. He says they are.

This has all the makings of a fun political year.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Obama, Warren, and No-Vote, Yes, Yes

Gosh, the never-ending campaign in ending. Praise to all gods!

My big endorsements can't be any surprise:

Barrack Obama for President.
Sure our economic recovery is slower than anyone, including the POTUS wants. Yet with all the GOP Congressional rejection of his jobs plans, we are ahead of the rest of the industrialized world and on the right path in jobs, securities markets, and housing. Taking a flyer on Romney/Ryan with no specifics and endless deceit would be self-destructive beyond all reason. Obama's nowhere near progressive enough to suit me, but there is no comparison here. Obama next week.

Elizabeth Warren for US Senate.
Sen. Scott Brown now has the record he lacked as a do-nothing state rep and senator. It reeks to high heavens. He has voted with the Dark Side on all important bills, stymieing recovery, and trying to do the same with equality, women's rights, and hard-won liberties. In his campaign, he refuses to discuss his record, makes incredible personal attacks, and lies without shame or cease. Warren has already shown her heart and (much, much brighter) head are in line with MA values. She has accomplished more with her advocacy in Washington without even the power of elected office than Brown has or can promise. For God sake, let her get to work and help us and the nation. This one is even easier than the POTUS. Warren.

MA ballot question 1 — Do not vote.
This is the trick on the ballot. On its face, a yes vote makes sense, to allow anyone including service stations not affiliated with a particular car company access to all the computer repair codes and related information. If at least 70% of voters ignore this, it will not have any effect even if nearly 30% approve it. That's the way of ballot questions. The legislature recently passed a law which the governor signed that does all this, on a slightly different schedule than the ballot question. If it passes, the legislature will waste time undoing its law and aligning its efforts on a new version. Ignoring this choice would be good for all concerned.

MA ballot question 2 — Yes.
The death-with-dignity question, dubbed assisted suicide by its opponents is a sensible and well constructed version of the law in effect in Oregon for the past 15 years. There it has been proven effective in helping terminally ill patients stop suffering and having their lives prolonged against their will...and dignity. It has numerous safeguards, as in multiple physician consultations, evaluations and delays. This is humane.

MA ballot question 3 — Yes.
The medical marijuana proposal is simple enough. Several states have already approved and implemented it. The rationale is to provide palliative options for those with conditions not easily or well treated with stronger, harsher, more expensive chemicals. In states where this has been the law for years, some people game the system to get pot. They can and do get it illegally now. As well as helping those who need it, I see this as a solid step toward aligning marijuana sales with those of alcohol, taxed, regulated and controlled. We should drop the early to mid-20th Century reefer-madness mindset.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Too-Clever-by-Half Brown

Sen. Scott Brown is finally willing to gamble. He's betting that running from a debate with Granny Warren will let him hold his seat.

By any objective measure, this is pure cowardice, flavored only with his regular voter manipulation.

From the moment he won the special election for the seat nearly three years ago, Brown has played dishonest and dishonorable games with constituents. First, he announced with every vote that he was the extra vote Republican Senators would need to block health reform or this or that major bill. In  other words, "Look at me kids. I'm king of the mountain!"

When he realized after a little over year that he would have to win a full term, he got more clever. He choreographed a Congressional dance, in barn jacket or suit instead of pink tutu. The conceit would be and has remained that he would put his hand over the (R) next to his name. He'd pretend to be independent, voting on each bill's substance and effect instead of political party support.

Not surprisingly, wingers have joined in the fantasy with him. They like his bipartisan ballet. You have to be pretty craven or alas dull witted to buy into this. Search on the net to see thousands of links debunking this pretense. ProgressMass offers a succinct PDF file of the difference in his rhetoric v. reality as well.

The undeniable (except by Brown) facts are that he figures he's gamed the system. By picking bills where his vote makes no difference, he has felt safe in the past year plus in voting against the obstructionist Republicans in the Senate. Thus, his party overlords still get what they want and he tallies up more proof of what he alleges is bipartisanship and independence.

He even goes over the line many times with this ploy. In debates with Elizabeth Warren, he said repeatedly that his or that bill was a bipartisan rejection or passage. He never noted that it would be only a few of the most conservative Dems who'd join his side. Bipartisan? Like hell!

No Stinkin' Debate

So to the debate that should have happened this week, he's flat out chicken. His website has a tricksy statement in which he claims:

  • he couldn't find any time from "a long-planned bus tour" instate to prepare for and participate in a debate
  • he's "pleased to have participated" in three debates, and
  • super-cheap shot, Warren didn't agree to two early-campaign events, neglecting to mention that they were winger-talk-radio ambushes and nothing like debates

So he's counting on low-info and easily deluded voters. He seems to have, to allude to cliché, tiny 'nads.

He's advanced his deceptive, dishonorable and dishonest positions. Confronted by the slight, 60-something grandmother and legal expert with real accomplishments, he has fared poorly. He never addressed his multiple awful votes and has stuck in ads and at the podium to personal attacks.

Brown doesn't seem all that bright, particularly in contrast to Warren. His lack of courage and other standard virtues also should put him way down anyone's voting list.

Yet it comes down to whether his sleazy attempts at being clever are enough. The polls have been surprisingly close. I'm  betting Brown coasted through a lot of school and personal interactions with cleverness instead of reasoning and knowledge.

This election will test the limits of that kind of shallowness on a larger stage. Brown is dancing as best he can for one more week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Is Sandy Like Great Recession

President Obama may or may not have been aware of the strong parallel in his reaction to Sandy with the economic recovery..

For the moment, set aside Mitt Romney's stupid comments about privatizing disaster response — as in "We can't afford to do those things." Sure, he should have known better in light of George Bush the Lesser's inhumane and incompetent preparation for and response to Katrina. He doesn't and likely is incapable of it.

There has been Barack Obama doing everything right. While campaigning may have effectively stopped for a week until ballot day, what voters need to know if they wonder who should lead us through 2016 is before them.

As with the Great Recession, the POTUS confronted the effects of the Great Storm well and correctly, righteously and rightly. A good sample is yesterday's statement. (This comes with video and you can click to read the transcript.)

Fundamentally, he:
  • quickly but carefully assessed the problems
  • lined up the resources available for prevention and recovery
  • contacted those in need or with the power to help (notably affected states' governors)
  • plugged in his administration to ensure the safety and well-being of those in peril
With Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, his statement included:
I’m confident that we’re ready.  But I think the public needs to prepare for the fact that this is going to take a long time for us to clean up.  The good news is we will clean up and we will get through this... 
 I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election.  I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders.  I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. 
The election will take care of itself next week...

In fact, this is a crucial if smaller version of his response to the Great Recession. There is no junk about a quick fix, no political fantasy that government is the problem. In fact, this is a savvy and candid assessment of how big government has a role in huge disaster.

This is the guy we need.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Compounded Job Creator Myths

From silly to now sad, the fantasy of a class of job creators dominates winger campaigning and discourse. Be blunt. Rich individuals and corporations have almost entire chickened out and failed us.

They have not maintained employment levels, much less expanded or started new companies or divisions. The GOP candidates' big lie on this, per Romney and Ryan in particular, is that government regulations and even the idea that there might be tax increases terrifies these otherwise stalwart JCes, as we can term them.

Note first though that the previous excuse was that if they only had more easy-to-access cash they'd sure be JC'ing the devil out of the economy, leading the recovery. Chicken lips, I say to that too.

Search for job creator and get thousands of hits. Even narrowed with an additional term like statistics, research or even the more loaded myth, the term is well covered. Try this one, or this one, or this one, as just a few examples. The fact is that considering facts, academicians, statisticians and even the occasional billionaire capitalist ridicule the JC fantasy.

Best I can come up with here is that those who choice to accept that rich companies and people do create jobs willingly is either:

  • an aspiration for public office and the subsequent financial support from business owners and PACs, or
  • a paternalistic need to believe that some rich father figure will look out for you because you can't survive without that

Many commentators, economists and scholars are quick to point out that creating jobs is coincidental to capitalism. The fewer employees you have, the lower your expenses and if your business is properly managed and selling the right stuff, the higher for margins and absolute dollar returns.

Job Stiflers

You have to be somewhat patriotic and some visionary to make jobs in this country and to pay decent wages. What those same observers also note is that America grew into a great economic power after the Great Depression and WWII because of the patriotic and visionary shared ideals related to a vibrant middle class. More consumers with more money works. Finding a billion poor customers half-way round the globe does nothing for Americans, just for the business owners.

Oddly enough, back at the start of the 20th Century, a few hard-nosed magnates got it. Henry Ford, for one, declared he wanted to pay his workers enough that they could afford the cars they built. In this same era up until recently that attitude was widespread in Europe too, with many companies defining their level of success by how many workers they employed.

Lackaday, in this Great Recession and stumbling recovery, the JCes have failed us, badly failed us.

If they were in fact out there expanding, starting up companies and even retaining their employees, we'd be well on the way to extremely low unemployment and high consumer demand. Instead, when they got lots of cash, they sat on it for interest or invested it overseas. They pretended that onerous regulations and taxes (there weren't any added in this red herring) kept them from hiring.

They, as a group, are unpatriotic and cowardly. They are unwilling to share in the effort of recovery. They are too gutless to do what they claim to live for — take risks and create jobs.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Election? Get THE key right here!

The not-so-hidden competition in this huge election is in full fury. The compulsion to be the trend picker and meme definer fills the net, broadcast and print.

Few may remember how soccer moms came into the political vocabulary 17 years ago, Yet the relentless struggle to be the next to nail it all, THE key to the election, continues.

What we've been seeing and hearing are diverse, absurd and contradictory. One blowhard after another picks such as:

  • undecided women
  • Latinos
  • one or more swing states
  • Black women
  • early voters

It goes on and on and on. It has even affected high-brow media. In today's FT for example (may require free reg to view), the construct is How Hispanics could swing it.

This need-to-define-and-forecast has been going on for a long time. Nearly all are wrong nearly every time. Yet, they neither behave themselves nor apologize afterward.

The pronouncement of this, that or the other absolutely crucial demographic ends up being silly. For that to work, the group would have simultaneously to be almost entirely for one candidate and go to the polls at far higher percentages than other groups, say 85%.

So there is the key to the keys — GOTV. These many meme makers were far behind the shimmering crystal ball in 2008. Then, Barack Obama's candidacy and messages awoke the traditionally non-involved first-time and college-age voters. Those seeing the new soccer mom demographic were surprised and came behind claiming they knew about the youth vote all along. They didn't.

This go, there are far too many pivotal voting blocs. Pivots don't work en masse.

Forget a single pivot for this election. The blowhards will keep puffing but to no great discovery.

As noted here frequently, nearly half the voters are likely to go Romney/Ryan. I figure they are the fantasy believers in guns and butter, trickle-down economics, job creators (even though they have hidden in the boardrooms and refused to risk creating jobs since the big bust), and other daydreams. The Obama/Biden (and Warren) camp simply has to get out the vote. If enough rational sorts are enthusiastic enough to wait in line to control the nation's future, the good guys win.