Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney Fills Hall With Nothing

For a very wealthy person in expensive clothing, Mitt Romney presents sadly threadbare spirit and thinking.

The most apt analysis of his pathetic RNC speech came in the New York Times in two parts this morning. First, the lead editorial, Mr. Romney Reinvents History, details his biggest lie — that Congressional Republican obstructionism was not the proximate cause of our national struggles in recovery. It goes on with the truly damning truth that neither he nor Paul Ryan have any specific to back up promises of better times if they come to power.

Second, in an analysis piece, Facts Take A Beating in Acceptance Speeches, the most egregious of the fabrications and extreme lies in both acceptance speeches are debunked in one place. A voter would have to be very separated from history and reality to buy into either speech. Each demands "trust me" with no plans or specifics.

Back to a recurrent theme here. the election will come down to how many American voters are willing and foolish enough to go once more for a Republican fantasy, one that has failed again and again.

This time, it appears to demand more of an effort. Neither top-ticket guy has a plan at all. Sure, we can expect them to pretend that it's the fault of the POTUS and Dems that they blocked recovery and jobs growth. That's dirty, but predictable, politics. Here though, in Tampa they had and showed nothing. It was absolutely their obligation to present a path to prosperity. They abjectly failed.

Ryan repeatedly said it would be up to Congress to implement their vague yet overreaching plan and no details. Hence, neither can claim to be a leader in any way. Romney likewise said electing him would mean lots of plan and no details. Honestly, any voter would have to be a Pollyanna or simply delusional to buy into the no-plan/no-details fantasy.

By the bye, Ryan and I shall have the advantage of time to kick this around on Left Ahead next week. You can join us live Tuesday, September 4th, at 2:30 PM Eastern here. Afterward, the show will there, at Left Ahead, or on our iTunes page.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Twits Tampa Tweets

So-so social media have a formal and expanded place at the RNC do in Tampa. A fine piece in the Tampa Bay Times details accommodations and projects impacts.

Big talking heads like Wolf Blitzer speak of how tweets have already changed his operations. The convention will have roving FB and other media types posting text and video. There are green rooms for candidates and others to do interviews, Skyke meetings, and social media posts.

As a regular, relentless and maybe now passé blogger, I'm mixed on it all. I too swirl in the vortex including Twitter, G+, FB and more. There are plenty of blogs, which have progressed far from the days of ain't-my-kittens/kids/lover-cute days. Yet, undeniably local blogs, particularly political ones, are rarer and have less clout (not Klout).

It was six years ago, here in MA, that gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick showed net savvy, something his friend Barack Obama picked up and ran with two years after that. They treated bloggers like reporters, used campaign-related websites brilliantly, and along the way, got love, loyalty and votes from millions of first-time and other young voters.

That was particularly significant in that before those elections the GOP had been much more tech and net savvy. Fortunately for the Dems, those previous web uses were not grassroots organizing, rather the chants and drumbeats of heavy-handed and nasty messages. Patrick and Obama showed how to get voters not haters.

Now it's the huge, largely national blogs that have presence, and the spontaneity and diverse insight have nearly disappeared in the arrogance and puffery. Young voters are not nearly as engaged and candidates don't seem to be making any effort to duplicate the successes of 2006 and 2008.

Frankly even though I am on Twitter (@whirred), I acknowledge that insight and analysis aren't likely in 140 characters. You can point to larger posts, your own or others, but most tweet eaters aren't much for clicking away from their feeds.

It is funny to see such oldsters as Blitzer learning to use their thumbs and feigning social-media love and savvy. Of course, they had to do so. Yet their abbreviated and oversimplified and follow-the-scooper oral coverage was LITE enough already. Slashing content further for FB and Tweeter makes that even more trivial.

Social media will be very common at the RCN and almost certainly the DNC shows. Alas, they'll fall in the balloon and funny hat class — colorful, expected and inconsequential.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Warren Claims West Roxbury

At the opening of her campaign office in the heavily Irish-American West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Elizabeth Warren owned the crowd, as usual. This one included elementary-aged fans as well.

Before she arrived, breathless adults mumbled impatience. None was so direct as the kids from about four to nine years old. One little girl had chosen a flower from a vase to hand to her. That girl kept saying, "Elizabeth, where are you?"

Around the corner on the shoulders of his mother, an even younger boy managed to hold up a Warren-for-Senate placard. He called down, "I'm holding it where the whole world can see it!"

He was in the right spot, right on Spring Street. Dozens of Warren warriors were there with signs and buttons. In the middle though, on the asphalt with the supporters was one odd character in a party-shop Plains Indian headdress.

He wore a Tea Party Express tee-shirt and held up a hand-lettered sign asking how she could claim "Cherokee heritage when she has none?" A couple of folk asked what he was about and he went into a loud but non-threatening rant, speaking for Native Americans who surely would be angry because she was taking their benefits. As the line in Toy Story goes, "What a sad, strange little man."

Other than he though, this was a happy crowd. The theme of the office was women, in response to the many anti-women actions and speeches of Republicans running for office and already in office.

When Warren arrived, that little girl did get to hand over the flower. Warren, a grandmother, loved it. She makes it plain she enjoys her family role. She knelt down and chatted at length with the girl and her sister. Sometimes those who wait are rewarded.

Also waiting was WR's own Maura Hennigan (right). She was a long-time City Councilor and is Suffolk Clerk of Courts, Criminal Division. She's running for re-election but did not make a deal of that. She was there for Warren.

When she came up to me, she said, "We'll show them that West Roxbury is not Scott Brown Country." Later in introducing Warren for a stump speech, Hennigan noted that her neighborhood has a long history of electing women to public office. She gave a few examples including Marian Walsh as State Senator as well as herself in several offices.

When she was up, Warren spoke to the moment, including the women's issues. She did not return to the biographical pitch (Oklahoma, ragged edge of the middle class, and so forth).

She pointed to events of the past few weeks, like MO candidate for US Senate Todd Atkins' rape/pregnancy fiasco, Paul Ryan and Scott Brown votes harmful to women and families, and many similar news bits. On Brown, she noted that he "may sometimes say the right thing," adding, "Massachusetts voters want a Senator they can count on all the time."

Many of the folk in the room (disclaimer, including my wife) were about to canvass for her, most of them not for the first time. She ended with inspiration for them. She said she expected to win due to two factors. One was that the campaign and its supporters would continue speaking the truth about the GOP agenda and actions, and the other was that Warren supporters "don't believe things get down from the top down...but by all of us." She said, "I'm taking point...but it's not my race. It's our race."

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

More on GOP Fantasies

Readers here know I fret about how many American voters will choose the fantasy world on November 6th. I have written many times, like here, that this could well be the main determinant of this election. My Left Ahead listeners have heard that too.

The pending (9/10) issue of The Nation was disquieting and reassuring simultaneously to read similar thoughts. There, Peace and Disarmament Correspondent Jonothan Schell had his take on this. Subscribers to this essential maggy can read it online now here. [For heaven's sake and your mind's, subscribe if you don't.]

I come at this from the lamentable prophesy that at least 40% of us and maybe more than half will go with the fantasy. The often and easily disproved economic tripe of trickle-down, job-creator and similar lies is simply too enticing for too many. They want guns and butter, services with no taxes, unregulated pseudo-capitalism with that fairness only the greedy have always delivered to the masses.

Schell though goes through the problems but has an optimistic conclusion. He eviscerates the GOP/Ryan bag of dreams. He concurs that this is too powerful a call to fantasy, so many can't resist it.

Yet, this conclusion is:

The GOP base is fired up. But the cost could be high. Even today’s electoral politics may still have one foot remaining in the reality-based community. Ordinary voters may not be much like Diogenes, carrying a lamp through the world in search of an honest man, but they are much less likely to be passionately attached to a long list of fantasies than the GOP fanatics. That this is so could be a saving grace of American politics in our otherwise spin-stupefied era.
I remain to be convinced. I think the danger is far greater than that. I am not sanguine enough to trust the majority of Americans to be firmly grounded in reality. I still call for Obama and the DNC's crew to hammer the truth until it rings in everyone's ears.

Maybe Schell is correct. We should not depend on the kindness and rationality of millions of strangers. Therein lies the way of Blanche DuBois.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Looks and Yucks

It's a wee point and I apologize for my shallowness, but why the devil are the cable talking heads insisting that Paul Ryan is handsome or photogenic? He's certainly not.

Granted, I'm only a guy and a straight one at that. Maybe I should be disqualified from commenting. Yet, I have eyes. I've read much literature as well as such analysis as the Survival of the Prettiest (I recommend it and bought it long ago).

Rep. Ryan appears to be the love child of the infamous sexter Anthony Weiner and a cartoon character like Dumbo or Dopey the dwarf. For the later, it's the ears. Disney is predatory about protecting copyright, so no pix of them here.

However, consider the official, public portraits of Ryan and Weiner.

They are more than separated at birth. Ryan on the left has the absurd ears. Both have disproportionate features that preclude them from that pretty class.

In addition, both project (my sense) smarminess and lack of sincerity. I'd count my fingers after shaking hands with either.

Why should it make any difference if Ryan is another cartoonish, Dumbo eared, Dudley Do-Right jawed very plain guy? It's only because mass media are telling us again and again that he is attractive. We are programmed to believe that if a woman or man is a looker, she or he has other virtues.

Amusingly, our society simultaneously clings to the dumb-blonde and similar stereotypes that pretty folk can totally lack common sense. That's another matter.

In this campaign, a meme is that Romney and Ryan are the pretty pair. Their campaign does nothing to say, let's forget our rugged, swarthy good looks and talk about issues. They'll take it.

They're not about to advertise, "Vote for Dopey and his dopey economic failure."

We should note that Paul Ryan is hard to look at. Whoever started the meme that he's a beautiful person was wack and just plain wrong. If we get over that fantasy, perhaps we can get to his fantasy budget proposals.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

November Dangers

The first Tuesday of November is laden with political risks this year. Despite GOP Congressional types doing their utmost to stifle economic recovery for the sake of winning the Presidency, and looking to a pair of dishonest, dishonorable fantasy mongers for their top ticket, Obama's re-election is iffy.

November 6th this year is election day but doesn't have the pithy Shakespearean warning, "beware the Ides of March." Rather it would be a warning for ante diem VIII Idus November, eight days before the Ides.

I have a standard rant here and at Left Ahead on this election being about reality v. fantasy. Amazingly, it could go either way and I'm sure at least 40% of voters will go for fantasy despite history and mounds of evidence.

Consider the biggest perils to Obama/Dems:

  1. Passivity. Polls are plain. Obama/Biden would do great with those who do not intend to vote. If the Dems can motivate unlikely voters to get to the polls, that would translate into a landslide.
  2. Youth Apathy. Unlike four years ago, first-time and second-time young voters do not feel ownership and excitement this time. The viral joy in the Patrick and Obama campaigning with new media/social media is largely absent. That two-year window of magic closed. Social media are less political, more dispersed, and have more of an emphasis on social this go-round. Obama's crew has not made much of an effort to recruit and leverage the declining political-blogger world and doesn't have time now even if they wanted.
  3. The Disinterested Self-interested. Key constituents may still make the difference for Obama, but the campaign has to get its act together. Women, Latinos, middle and lower class voters are among the many groups the GOP in general and Romney/Ryan in particular have insulted and whom they would actively harm. The votes are there for the taking, but Dems seem to be relying on voters to pay a modicum of attention to the bad guys' messages — never a wise strategy.
  4. Fnord. In addition to Romney and Ryan, their surrogates and PACs openly, baldly, illogically lie, ascribing all manner of positions and acts to Obama. Those who want to find an excuse disguised as a reason to vote Republican cling to the misinformation and disinformation, no matter how often and in how many sources they are discredited. The Dems have to get real about ridiculing and puncturing the GOP balloons of deceit.
  5. Purchased Democracy. In the first major election after Citizens United, SuperPACs decidedly will be factors. Fortunately for Dems, few people get their news and opinion from TV and radio only; the dispersion of info flow will dilute some of the impact of lies and smears. Unfortunately for Dems, we don't know yet whether Americans who do vote will be angrier about floods of ads trying to buy the election or will be susceptible to their messages.
  6. Stolen Democracy. In numerous states, what can only be accurately described as a GOP conspiracy, the tactics of voter suppression will decidedly reduce turnout and eligible voters. This will hurt Dems the most by disenfranchising the poor, rural elderly and communities of color. Judges seem laissez-faire when asked to stop these shameless ploys. The U.S. DOJ has done little and only a whiplash of voters will counter the effects of this.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Obscenity of Bucks

We see that the Romney/Ryan ticket figures on an even bigger payday from the self-interested PAC stuffers. Today, Paul Ryan was headed to Las Vegas to make kissy face with billionaire Sheldon Adelson in that effort.

I hope you join me in wishing for failure in November. If under the ruinous ruling of Citizens United, efforts to buy the Presidential election crash, smash and trash, you and I and all Americans will be better off.

The puffy arrogance of the Adelson types is truly an affront to democracy. Let reality include a long, strong pin to deflate them.

As a kid, I listened to WABC and heard the Dennison's Clothiers, Route 22, Union, New Jersey, ads umpteen times. The refrain was "Money talks, nobody walks," for whatever meaning that had to any of us. However, I also heard in Leon's Hide-Away in North Plainfield, and in the Village, Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), where the lyrics included, "While money doesn't talk, it swears."

Monday, August 13, 2012

National Fantasy

Ladies and Gentlemen, come November Sixth, the bifurcation to end all forks in all roads confronts all voters. Surely at least 40% of them will head toward a fantasy land. Here's hoping with all my being that they don't take us with them.

I'm old enough, well read enough, and observant enough to draw some lessons an inferences from past elections. This looming one is huge, at least as big as the last Presidential. In 2008, Obama promised a clean break with the failed winger economic legacy of Reagan and the Bushes, as well as with their suicidal, economy-destroying wars. He only kind of delivered, hampered mostly by GOP total disregard for the nation and his own temerity.

Despite Republican efforts to keep millions jobless and our taxes going for military over-spending and benefits to the wealthiest only, we have slowly mirrored the rest of the world in recovering from the Great Recession caused by the parody of capitalism so beloved by wingers. Yet, this election may hinge in large part on the impatience and irrationality of the voters. Even with the GOP House and filibuster wielding Senate preventing big recovery efforts, the electorate tends to look to the President for magic.

Setting aside the reason, the Obama administration has been on duty while we only slowly recover. Many will look to the any replacement as the fantasy miracle he did not deliver.

You'd think that voters would go for the rational response — dump every Republican House member up for election and increase the Dem majority in the Senate. Let's pass the necessary legislation to get the nation moving!

Alas, that would require awareness of reality. Isn't the fantasy more seductive?

We'll be kicking this around tomorrow on Left Ahead. Our version of Ryan, as in Ryan Adams, my co-host, will discuss the election with the Paul Ryan pick. If you can catch us live at 2:30 PM Eastern Tuesday 8/14, do that here. Afterward, it will be available for a listen or download there, on Left Ahead or at our iTunes page.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Personal and Political in My Living Room

I solemnized my fifth marriage yesterday. Help me, Jesus (or pick your own), I love this. As I age, the tenderness, emotion and pleasure at such events only increases.

Yesterday's marriage was of a childhood friend, a sandbox buddy, and his long-time partner. In many ways, that's not at all remarkable, even as they are two men. After all, that's normal and legal in a marriage-equality state.

From another angle, the grooms live in Florida. They returned this afternoon and when they deplane their state won't recognize their marriage. They'll be dependent on the whims and largess of employers for the rights and privileges all we other married sorts simply expect and get.

Monday, I'll file their license with my solemnization certificate in Boston's City Hall. I'll get and mail them an official copy of their proof of marriage. I also have made copies of the marriage license and certificate, which disappear into the city file forever. They'll get a package of the trappings and tracings.

Neither Charles nor Karl is all that political. Of course, as educated adults as well as gay men and as baby boomers who grew up hearing about equal rights and fairness, they are aware of the irrational disparities. Their state is one of many along with our shared federal government that openly discriminates by sexual orientation in matters such as marriage with related benefits or lack thereof.

Yesterday's wedding and related party had little emphasis on politics. As the officiant, I even stifled myself. After all, Charles and I go back to the sandbox in a tiny town in West Virginia. This was his and Karl's day.

In corners of the living and dining rooms, John Hosty-Grinnell, the equality activist, and I did discuss the Dark Side (like Mass Family Institute), and likely advances assuming an Obama reelection. However, he and his husband Ray were gracious enough to join me in being celebrants and not polemicists.

Charles and Karl were here for the week. Among the museums, ferries, bars and T trips, we did muse on such as where they'd be legally married afterward. Well, there's Iowa, the other states and D.C. that have SSM, plus Rhode Island that has comity with our marriages. There are some European countries.

Grumble...grunt...lesbians and gay men are not forcing anything on any jurisdiction. However, it seems grossly unfair that a legal Massachusetts marriage has no standing in Florida or there or there or there.

I think of the five marriages I've officiated:

  • Straight couple, she a long-term friend
  • Gay couple, one back to college days
  • Eldest son and his fiancée
  • Friend's 20-something daughter and her beau
  • Charles and Karl

I found these very moving, each in its own way. I like to say that my marriages last. In fact, I told the young couple last December that I expected them to make their union a good one. I don't see why anyone would think much less act on the idea that a same-sex marriage is any less worthy.

I held in my politics yesterday. It was a splendid moment not made for rants or self-righteousness. Even knowing that as a moderately socially retarded nation, we are headed inexorably toward marriage equality, I remain impatient.

Why should a couple who has lived together in effect as married for decades be denied the recognition? Who do we tweak a nation where ordinary folk as well as celebrities act badly in relationships while such a devoted couple do not get equal rights? These men are faithful, loving spouses, We recognize that allow that in Massachusetts. Get with the program, America!

I'm quick to admit marriage is not right for many. Lord knows, many pols, but particularly right wingers, are sluts, ill suited for such essentials as fidelity. Yet, I think the five I've performed as well as my own are. I know the young couple the least well, but even they seems already quite devoted.

The guests in the living room yesterday, from the pair of 18 year olds through the boomers had a grand time in a very normal and happy ceremony. Here were two men who were deeply in love as they have been for decades. What could possibly be wrong with that?