Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Sandy, God and The Election

Based on ample factual evidence, it's safe to say an Obama win is expected today. So come tomorrow morning (if not sooner!), expect Republicans to begin the excuse-fest about why they lost.

And the excuses will be many. Of course, none being about themselves, their stand on issues, or in my mind their biggest problem: forcing presidential candidates to win over the far-right base by adopting extreme positions only to then have to try and tack to the middle to appeal to the more-moderate general electorate, in so doing appearing fractured, duplicitous and lacking consistency and convictions. As long as Republicans force their candidates to do this pretzel-twisting, they will never win the White House.

Anyway, no doubt Sandy will come up as a convenient excuse. They'll say Romney's momentum was cut short by the storm.

Problem is this so-called Romney momentum never existed, a complete myth. Instead for the last several weeks, it's Obama who has enjoyed the rising momentum as he has steadily recovered a large portion of the ground he lost post-first debate.

In fact, I would bet that if they had the choice Republicans would've weeks ago invited and prayed for a storm like Sandy to appear, hoping it did something, anything to halt Obama's steady rise. They'd get down on their knees praying it would become Obama's Katrina.

Well, Sandy came and wrecked, but no Katrina for Obama. Unlike the imbecilic GW, Obama has handled the post-Sandy response very well and if anything he's received a boost in approval ratings for his competent performance during this trying time. And Republicans are pissed.

But I ask: where are the usual folks who say God sent Sandy to punish the sinner blue states in the Northeast? Hmm, to me it looks like God sent Sandy to help insure Obama gets re-elected.

Monday, November 05, 2012

I'm Nervous (But Shouldn't Be)

I am nervous about this Tuesday. I know, I know, I fully realize the great Nate Silver has Obama's chances of winning at 80+% (86% to be exact). In fact, I tabulated projections from more than a few electoral map projection web sites. See below (click to enlarge).

Remind me again why I'm nervous? The average of the nine projections that exclude toss-ups gives Obama a solid 303-235 edge (270 needed to win). When you consider just those projections that include toss-ups, Obama's edge dwindles to 256-196 with an average 86 votes up in the air, but still a +60 net lead.

Which way will those 86 toss-up votes likely break? Well, given the fact there are nine projections that force the marginal votes to take a side, resulting in the 303-235 average, it gives you a very good sense which way those votes will break on average. Clearly the marginal (toss up) states tend to on average lean in Obama's favor, and thus the 256-196-86 becomes 303-235, again on average.

What does this mean, other than I shouldn't be so nervous? It means if come Tuesday night Obama wins by a very close call, the Republicans will have a weak case if they chose to become irate and demand recounts. The data above makes the convincing point that polls are swinging in Obama's direction. If anything, it argues that if Romney were to win -- whether by a hair or by blowout -- investigations would then be more justified versus if Obama were to win.

So again, why am I nervous? One reason is I think it's the natural inclination for liberals, to never take anything for granted and always have a healthy amount of skepticism about everything. But let's face it, it's also because we're dealing with an opposition party that has proven time and time again that they will stop at nothing when it comes to winning.

Oddly enough, the one person who has recently helped to allay my fears is NJ Governor Chris Christie. With the devastation of storm Sandy in his home state, Christie spent a fair amount of time touring NJ with Obama. I realize most governors would've likely done the same. However, given we're just days away from an important election and the governor in this case was the keynote speaker at the GOP convention and the president in this case is a Democrat running for re-election, one would've thought that the governor would have limited the time spent with the president and also limited or couched any praise given to said president. But that was not what happened at all. Christie spent an extended period of time with Obama and when it came to publicly expressing his opinions about how the president has been handling the post-Sandy fallout, Christie was extremely effusive in his praise for Obama, lauding him with one gushing compliment after another. It was striking.

I have to believe that if Christie felt Romney had even a remote chance of winning this Tuesday, he would've done things differently, curtailing the time spent with Obama and greatly tempering any kinds words said about him. Yes, New Jersey is a blue state and this obviously isn't lost on Christie, especially since he's up for re-election next November. But the governor is quite popular in his home state, meaning he didn't have to cozy up to Obama to shore up a weak approval rating. Instead, my bet is he did it because he could, he's a strong figure within his party and he has much leeway to do what he wants. That said Christie likely made the decision that it was in his interest -- for both 2013 and 2016 -- to be seen siding with Tuesday's eventual winner as opposed to the near-inevitable loser.

Christie is no dummy and while I don't agree with him on many issues, in this instance we're definitely on the same page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Final Debate: No Contest

That was easy. Almost too easy.

Obama won last night's debate without breaking a sweat, it wasn't close. And speaking of sweat, Romney looked as if he had run a marathon through Death Valley just prior to the debate. We haven't seen flop sweat like that in a debate since Nixon faced Kennedy in 1960. Yikes. However, it's understandable when you consider the extent to which Romney was in over his head, with every answer either empty rhetoric hoping to at least sound meaningful or positions that more or less aligned with Obama's existing policy. It was painful to watch.

I can't decide on my favorite moment. It's as if Obama was restraining himself, holding back from being even more snarky or sardonic than he was at times, realizing the hapless challenger was up against the ropes and it was all but over in the first round. The "fewer horses and bayonets" line was priceless, making Romney look as naive and infantile as Ryan often did versus Biden. I also applauded when Obama explained to Romney how a trip to Israel should go (no donors, etc.), another decimating moment.

But perhaps my favorite zing is when Obama recited point for point how Romney has waffled, how he has been a flip-flopper when it comes to foreign policy. Romney is now for diplomatic pressure (sanctions) on Iran whereas before he was against it, he was against a timetable for an Afghanistan exit but is now for it, he wanted to end the war in Iraq but now wants to leave 20K troops, he felt going after Gaddafi was "mission creep" and with regards to Osama Bin Laden, Romney believed "it was not worth moving Heaven and Earth" to get him and if anything we should ask Pakistan for permission (!). It was a breath-taking moment and clearly crystallized just how ill-prepared Romney was for this debate, and is for President.

Which gets back to my opening comment about Obama's win last night being too easy. Indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Tighten the already-effective Iran sanctions -- really?? Romney said things that made no sense, none whatsoever. The fact that this presidential race still appears to be tight and the challenger is saying such idiotic, clueless statements about world affairs -- it's quite concerning, to say the least.

Another area of grave concern that was a blown opportunity, one that Obama should've pounded and reiterated numerous times: how Romney = GW/Cheney. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is basically a family reunion of ex-Bush/Cheney personnel, with 15 of 22 members being former policy advisers under the Bush administration. We're talking a neocon PNAC photo album.

It's all the more reason Romney's overly dove-ish, peacenik posture last night was a complete farce. We're to believe Romney has gone all soft on us, wishing peace on Earth and for all mankind...? Right. More like a calculated gambit to win over women, once again insulting their intelligence with a transparent grab for their vote.

Despite Obama's snap-back in winning the final two debates, the question is: will it be enough? Did he squander a growing lead, one that put his Intrade odds close to 80% before plunging after his abysmal first-debate performance, settling at the current 59% probability of winning?

We'll see. It's been reported that the last two debates did not garner nearly the TV audience of the first one and if Obama were to (gulp) lose the election, it would forever change the importance of that first debate. Never again would an incumbent show up and just mail it in or play it too safe, as if the election was his or her's to lose. It will be, and should always have been, knives out from the get go and take no prisoners.

Here's hoping if Obama wins, it will be knives out for four years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama's Rebound

Yes, a basketball analogy is appropriate. After seemingly sleep-walking through the first debate, Obama delivered as promised with this second debate, showing up in full force and knocking Romney back on his heels more than a few times during the evening. It was revenge comeuppance at its best.

To this blogger, it especially warmed the heart to see Obama perform as we knew he could against a classic school-yard bully. I wrote once before how Romney resembled some of the best-known bullies in cinema, with Neidermeyer of Animal House coming to mind. During this second debate, as he did in the first one, Romney interrupted often and attempted to intimidate moderator Crowley and Obama, shifting around the stage as if ice skating and indignantly talking down to Obama as if he was a busboy at a restaurant and not our 44th president. Yet throughout the debate Obama stood firm, smiled and gracefully confronted the bully on numerous occasions, this time around pointing out each time Romney lied. In the end, Romney's thug-ish tactics paid off for Obama as such behavior made Romney look small and petty, in effect magnifying Obama's presence and further confirming which guy on stage was suitable to be President.

As for the lies, it's incredible but Romney actually told more than he did in the first debate. Don't believe me? Click here, here, here, here, here, here and here, for starters. You can also just Google key words: Romney, second debate, lies. To say Romney is a serial, pathological liar at this point is like saying Limburger cheese stinks.

My favorite moment was when Romney attempted to ensnare Obama in a gotcha moment concerning Benghazi, as he slowly tried to draw Obama in, only to see that Obama was two steps ahead of the slow-witted bully, with Obama urging him to proceed and then blammo -- it blew up in Romney's face. It was great, the equivalent of George McFly landing a punch to Biff's face in Back To The Future. KO, lights out.

Ah yes, what a night. It did wonders to return one's faith in the world, that those who were bullies and told lies incessantly would always get what was coming to them. Well, not always since in this case the lying bully was worth over $250 million, but at least there's a very good chance the dolt won't be rewarded with four years in the White House.

The topic for the next and last debate will be foreign policy and based on what we've seen so far, it should be no contest. Romney is utterly clueless when it comes to anything beyond our borders and as for policy he either agrees with Obama or GW Bush -- neither of which will help him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rachel Maddow's Take Down of Romney's Foreign Policy

Must-see viewing. Important stuff (and only 9 minutes long).

Romney's Rise in Polls vs. Electoral College Map

So I guess it pays to lie after all. In the debate, Romney spewed forth one whopper after another and ended up winning the thing going away.

When Bill Clinton was busted for his Monica indiscretion, Republicans at the time couldn't stop repeating, "What will the children think?" Oh, how awful for our kids to observe this behavior in a president. But apparently Republicans have no problem with the example set by a presidential candidate telling a lie every 90 seconds. No, that's a fine virtue, something I suppose Jesus did in a version of the Bible I have yet to read.

As a result of Romney's near-psychopathic performance, more than a few polls have risen in his favor, with some even showing him taking the lead over Obama. What confuses me is when it comes to web sites which track what the Electoral College map looks like, they continue to show Obama with a comfortable lead. For example, Electoral-vote.com currently shows Obama leading Romney by a fairly huge 332-206 margin, and Nate Silver has Obama up by 297-241.

I like to think the more valid and accurate reflection of what will happen come Election Day are these depictions of electoral vote totals, as opposed to more generic national polls. Most of the web sites that tally the electoral votes tend to have a more comprehensive methodology, one that typically starts at the state level, calculating a consensus poll per state based on many polls taken within each state. State results are then aggregated up to the national level to finally derive electoral vote totals.

Assuming as I am that the electoral vote web sites are more reflective of the election's eventual outcome, why is it that the national polls get much more attention by the media? Is it simply because it's easier for the public to understand 49% vs. 47%, as opposed to 300-238?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Huge Disappointment

My thoughts on tonight's debate:

  • Wow. What happened? Romney clearly won. Obama appeared to be the Invisible President, all but disappearing at times right before our eyes. His demeanor was one as if he was at a garden party, casually mingling with guests. Meanwhile, Romney came out guns a blazing and never let up.

  • Obama came off as if he was above being there, seemingly just looking to run out the clock. He actually came off too presidential. He never took the gloves off. Look, I understand as president he can't appear overly scrappy, especially since he was the clear front-runner in the race, but Romney was throwing out low-hanging lies, one after another, and Obama should have sternly knocked them down with specifics. Instead Obama too often addressed them with lofty rhetoric and a smile.

  • Obama did have a few good lines, like when he said we tried this once before and then equated Romney to GW and himself to Clinton. And also when reminding us that Romney stood on a stage and voted against a deficit deal that would have $1 in revenue raising for every $10 in cuts.

  • Regarding the topic of deficits, Obama should've said now is just not the time to focus on cutting the deficit. It's obviously a very important and concerning topic, but it's Economics 101, you do not cut spending when the economy is hurting. He should've reminded viewers that Romney agrees, and he should've cited Europe and what austerity is doing to that region of the world, with riots breaking out in many countries there. Our economy is still not fully recovered with millions of people still unemployed and the focus should be on job creation and boosting the economy. Cutting the deficit comes later (like Bill Clinton did).

  • In just cursory fashion, Obama mentioned Romney has not specifically identified tax deductions and loopholes to be eliminated. Obama should have said it more forcefully and he should have repeated it more than once. Many viewers are hearing this stuff for the first time. They all don't read Ezra Klein or watch Rachel Maddow.

  • Finally, I'm sad to write that this debate was clearly Jim Lehrer's last. He appeared in way over is head, coming off as very frail and weak. Romney in particular basically bullied him, running rough-shod over time limits and the debate format. Lehrer looked as aimless as Clint Eastwood (sans the empty chair) and he lost control of the debate from the get-go and it was the Wild West from then on.

    Not that this made much of a difference in the night's outcome as Obama obviously made the decision before the debate started to take the night off.
  • Tuesday, October 02, 2012

    Several Items

  • An extensive investigation finds that voter-ID election fraud is "virtually non-existent". What a shocker. But this won't stop Republicans from trying to win via suppression. It's what they do.

  • "Since 1991, pharmaceutical companies have paid out $30 billion in settlements to the federal government and states....The seemingly undeterred pharmaceutical industry remains the biggest defrauder of the federal government."

  • Using Rasmussen-free polls, Obama leads in the Electoral College map by 332-206 margin, and Dems lead in the Senate by 51-46-3 margin.

  • I've been hearing people complain about the coming added expense of Obamacare. I explain it indeed will have a cost, but no one ever said it would be free. However, I contrast it with the Medicare prescription bill passed by GW & his Republican congress, a gift to the big pharma companies that cost over $1 TRILLION and was NOT paid for, meaning it went right to the deficit. The impartial CBO reported Obamacare was not only paid for but that it would decrease the deficit by $110 billion in 10 years. The bottom line is Republicans can't complain about both the deficit AND Obamacare. The fact is when they're in power they spend like crazy and explode the deficit, but they also never want to pay for anything (i.e. raise taxes). By definition, they are the problem.

  • I ask: what has gotten into Chris Matthews? I know most of you have seen him call bullsh*t on Reince Priebus. But did you see him recently on Bill Maher's HBO show? I think he was even better, still rip-snorting the truth and taking no prisoners. Did something happen to him, did he have some sort of epiphany? I wrote him off long ago as an aging establishment pundit, well on his way to becoming completely irrelevant. Wow, it appears the Romney campaign in all its repugnant glory has woken Chris up from his slumber. Let's hope he stays this way!
  • Warren/Brown Debate: Who Won?

    Who won the second debate? To me it's an easy call: Warren won. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm rooting for her. It's really more about simple math and campaign reality.

    When it comes to debates, if you are the front-runner then it's in your favor when the debate is a snore, when it comes off without a hitch and is just your typical Q&A with no fireworks or memorable moments. The candidate(s) trailing in the polls has to stir things up and hope for a game-changer occurrence, otherwise the debate becomes a wasted opportunity as the polls will likely remain unchanged.

    That said I didn't detect any memorable zinger last night, no "There you go again" or "I knew Jack Kennedy" lines. Instead it was more desperado retread of Native American crap along with lots of eruptions of laughter. Assuming Brown continues to trail in polls (he's plummeted from 65% to 30% at Intrade), expect things to get much uglier in the next debate.

    However, I will posit that Brown knows he's up against a woman and that a big positive for him is his good-natured personality. For those reasons, he can't overly risk going all-out after Warren and jeopardize coming off badly, resulting in even worse poll numbers. Quite a pickle.

    Needless to say, the same holds true for Romney tomorrow night. He's trailing by a sizable margin so look for him to go for broke with several attempts at zinger lines that he hopes will land and stick. The risk is it all appears nakedly transparent and therefore could backfire as a desperate act from a floundering and soon-to-be loser.

    But back to the Warren/Brown race, in the next debate I still think she needs to do more of two things, which I wrote about after the first debate.
    It was frustrating to see her miss some golden opportunities. For example, she never mentioned that Brown was one of the top receivers of hedge fund and financial services money -- this despite the fact he was elected during the Tea Party furor with many Republican voters expecting him to change the way things are done in DC. Instead he's been accepting big bucks from the Wall Street honchos just like every other politician that's come before him. Just another hack attempting to convince voters he's different.

    Also, Warren repeated many of her points several times, but one point she should've made earlier in the debate: tying Brown with the letter "R". And she should've then pounded that point home repeatedly for the rest of the hour.

    The fact is Brown is fairly moderate for a modern-day Republican -- which granted is not saying much given how far to the right the GOP has drifted over the last twenty years. But because his record is not right-wing to the extreme, it's more difficult for Warren to lay out black-and-white differences between the two for voters to appreciate.

    However, by starkly aligning Brown with the many kooks in his party, and doing so many times, Warren would've inflicted serious and lasting damage, especially when you consider a state like Massachusetts, where even Republican voters tend to favor non-crazy, more moderate candidates. When Warren made the statement, that by voting for Brown could very well tilt the balance of power in the Senate and thus put the likes of Senator Inhofe in charge of key committees, you could almost see Scott Brown wince in pain. He quickly retorted that she was running against him and not Inhofe, but you could tell then that she drew blood and he was running scared. I think she may have repeated this line of attack one more time, but they then moved on and it was already fairly late in the debate. Too bad and lucky for Brown.

    In the next debate, she'll do better. "The Professor" will be more at ease, the Native American stuff is played out, and my hope is she'll do more of what I wrote about above. She should repeat the line that Brown = "R" = possible 51+ Republican Senators, and she should repeat it many times and even expand on it. Everything is at stake with this potential power shift in the Senate. If the Republicans gain control, the list is endless as to what will be affected: the environment, future Supreme Court nominees, etc., and this fact will resonate with all voters in Massachusetts.

    Yes, Scott Brown is nowhere near as unhinged as the rest in his party, however that's not the point when the balance of power in the Senate is hanging so precariously. Brown wants this election to be about him alone, but it's not. What truly matters is "R" vs. "D" and unfortunately for Brown he is an "R", nuff said.

    I do not mean to say that Warren isn't a superior candidate and that we should vote for her strictly by default against her Republican opponent. But again, no matter what you feel about Brown personally or his record, one can't vote for him due to guilt by association. To vote for him is to increase the likelihood of the lunatics running the asylum come the new year.

    Thursday, September 27, 2012

    Pawlenty Quits On Romney and What It Means for The GOP in 2016

    Ever since Tim Pawlenty threw in the towel on his presidential bid, he's been one of Mitt's most outspoken supporters. Whereas other Republican contenders like Perry and Santorum have never really said anything gushingly nice about Romney, offering just tepid endorsements, Pawlenty always went that extra mile and praised as if he really meant it.

    So to see T-Paw quit on Mitt to head up a large financial services lobby group says quite a bit about the rapid descent of Mitt's chances in November. One has to think this job opening would've still been available for Pawlenty in about five weeks, making his abrupt resignation all that more befuddling. But Tim likely knew what Nate Silver recently wrote about, that a candidate in Romney's position at this point in the race rarely pulls out a victory come Election Day.

    But what I find even more interesting is the fact that Pawlenty took this job at all. Of course, I'm sure it's a cushy gig that pays very well. However, at the start of the primary season, Pawlenty quickly became a favorite pick to be the Republican nominee. He was the presumed reasonable one who would be able to appeal to the widest audience. Eventually he washed out and yet many a pundit doubled-down and put him atop the list for 2016.

    Question: when was the last time you saw a presidential front-runner coming from the ranks of a lobbyist organization, much less one that fronts for Wall Street firms? I would have to say never. So what gives?

    It's obvious Pawlenty believes Romney has no shot to win. But I also have to think Pawlenty has concluded that his party will remain crazy for the next several years -- or at least for the next four. If he wanted to run again in 2016, it's unlikely he would've accepted such a perception-challenged position, one that would significantly compromise his candidacy. Yet as mentioned, Pawlenty is sensible and not psycho and that's a huge negative in a party that celebrates the likes of Bachmann, Cain and Santorum. We're starting to hear more calls for the Republican Party to change its ways, to quit catering to the lunatic fringe and become more moderate. And yet Pawlenty for one thinks such a transformation is a pipe dream, so he's taking the big $$$$.

    What a shame. With Romney fast sinking in the polls, I'm hearing and reading how it's not so much his fault but rather his party is to blame. The modern-day GOP makes it near impossible for any candidate to appeal to the wider electorate, forcing someone like Romney or John McCain to disavow their record and recite the party talking points -- points that drift ever-more to the right with each passing election season. I've been writing about this Republican problem for years, how it forces electable (read: not crazy) candidates to twist and turn and tie themselves up in knots like a pretzel, siding with the positions that are too extreme and often make no sense or even conflict with one another.

    It's been clear for some time that as long the GOP continues on this course to seemingly outdo itself in a race to ultimate insanity, it will have less and less of chance to win the White House again (at least fairly, without voter suppression or help from the SCOTUS). While this may be a good thing for Democrats, it's a tragedy for the country, which in the end is all that matters.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Oh The Irony: Non-Union Refs Screw Gov. Scott Walker's Team

    Anyone watch the NFL game last night? In case you missed it, the Green Bay Packers were screwed by the replacement refs, losing a close game to the Seattle Seahawks due to a blown call with no time left on the clock.

    Although I feel for the Green Bay players and fans, I thought it was poetic irony that non-union NFL officials ended up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's team. I wonder what he'll say today about the painful and unfortunate loss.

    The fact is the last two weeks of NFL football have been a nightmare when it comes to officiating. It has become clear to all those involved -- players, coaches, fans, broadcasters, etc. -- that the replacement personnel are not up to the job. They have either blown one call after another, like last night, or they're not calling penalties when they should, like in the Patriots/Ravens game when it was obviously getting overly amped-up with skirmishes and fights. There's even data indicating these refs are favoring home teams by calling more penalties on the visitors, perhaps due to intimidation by the crowd or even even getting caught up in the home environment euphoria. Oh, and now there's talk the NFL hired some refs who were fired from the Lingerie Football League due to incompetence!

    If anything, the start of this year's NFL season is turning into an Exhibit A for what can happen when management decides to go with less experienced, less trained, less professional employees during a labor dispute. Admittedly, I'm not aware of where things stand with current negotiations, but all you have to do is listen to sports radio to realize how out of control things are getting. Calls are mounting to boycott games, to not attend stadiums or refuse to watch the games on TV. It's not only that NFL's "product" has become a laughing-stock and its brand is fast eroding, but more importantly players are increasingly exposed to serious harm and injury. Something horrific is likely to happen, it's just a matter of time.

    But again I ask, what will Scott Walker say today? Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat, already tweeted his feelings. What say you Gov. Walker??

    UPDATE: By now you know, Walker responded with a plea for union refs to return. Since hypocrisy is the GOP's middle name, this shouldn't shock you.

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    Warren vs. Brown Debate

    As usual, I apologize for weighing in so late. With that out of the way, I felt the debate was more or less a tie. Brown did better than expected, GW style (he got big points for stringing together complete sentences) and Warren was OK. You could tell she was a bit nervous, that this was new terrain for her, but she did a good job at handling Brown's attack lines (Native American crap, she wants to raise taxes canard, etc.).

    However, it was frustrating to see her miss some golden opportunities. For example, she never mentioned that Brown was one of the top receivers of hedge fund and financial services money -- this despite the fact he was elected during the Tea Party furor with many Republican voters expecting him to change the way things are done in DC. Instead he's been accepting big bucks from the Wall Street honchos just like every other politician that's come before him. Just another hack attempting to convince voters he's different.

    Also, Warren repeated many of her points several times, but one point she should've made earlier in the debate: tying Brown with the letter "R". And she should've then pounded that point home repeatedly for the rest of the hour.

    The fact is Brown is fairly moderate for a modern-day Republican -- which granted is not saying much given how far to the right the GOP has drifted over the last twenty years. But because his record is not right-wing to the extreme, it's more difficult for Warren to lay out black-and-white differences between the two for voters to appreciate.

    However, by starkly aligning Brown with the many kooks in his party, and doing so many times, Warren would've inflicted serious and lasting damage, especially when you consider a state like Massachusetts, where even Republican voters tend to favor non-crazy, more moderate candidates. When Warren made the statement, that by voting for Brown could very well tilt the balance of power in the Senate and thus put the likes of Senator Inhofe in charge of key committees, you could almost see Scott Brown wince in pain. He quickly retorted that she was running against him and not Inhofe, but you could tell then that she drew blood and he was running scared. I think she may have repeated this line of attack one more time, but they then moved on and it was already fairly late in the debate. Too bad and lucky for Brown.

    In the next debate, she'll do better. "The Professor" will be more at ease, the Native American stuff is played out, and my hope is she'll do more of what I wrote about above. She should repeat the line that Brown = "R" = possible 51+ Republican Senators, and she should repeat it many times and even expand on it. Everything is at stake with this potential power shift in the Senate. If the Republicans gain control, the list is endless as to what will be affected: the environment, future Supreme Court nominees, etc., and this fact will resonate with all voters in Massachusetts.

    Yes, Scott Brown is nowhere near as unhinged as the rest in his party, however that's not the point when the balance of power in the Senate is hanging so precariously. Brown wants this election to be about him alone, but it's not. What truly matters is "R" vs. "D" and unfortunately for Brown he is an "R", nuff said.

    I do not mean to say that Warren isn't a superior candidate and that we should vote for her strictly by default against her Republican opponent. But again, no matter what you feel about Brown personally or his record, one can't vote for him due to guilt by association. To vote for him is to increase the likelihood of the lunatics running the asylum come the new year.

    Like Warren said at one point in the debate, Brown may not like the answer, but it is what it is. Sorry Scott, but it's your bat-sh*t crazy party, embrace it or leave it.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    Serial Bad Judgement

    Here we go again. I've written many times about Romney's judgement, questioning whether he had what it took to be president. Time and time again, he's provoked the subject. He likes to fire people, corporations = people, the Olympics/foreign tour debacle, the recent Libyan embassy fiasco -- the list is seemingly endless.

    And now we have this 47%-of-Americans-are-slacker-grifters video to further beg the serious question. I mean really, is this guy a complete idiot? Forget his pedigree because we all know a person or two in our lives who are from wealth, graduated from an Ivy League college and yet are not the sharpest tool in the shed. Recall GW went to Yale and Harvard.

    But in this day and age, when everyone has cell phones with record capability, any shrewd, sensible, smart candidate knows not to say such things, even if they truly believe it. It's just too risky and dumb.

    So again, what does this say about Romney's judgement, his ability to make good decisions? Imagine him in the White House. Many bad outcomes can result from rash, poor decisions and "inelegant wording." It's shocking but Mitt's clueless arrogance is making GW look like Churchill in comparison.

    All of this said, I don't think it's a Dean-Scream moment. Romney's not going to completely tank in the polls. Unfortunately, there remains a sizable block of voters who will vote GOP no matter what Romney says or does, not to mention many of those voters likely agree with what he said in the video.

    However, it will hurt at the margin and in this election that's all that matters. Romney himself admitted this fact, saying he needed just 50.1% (or more) of the vote. Translation: he only needs to win over the fence-sitters, the undecided, the few votes up for grabs. And yet the dolt stupidly makes these comments, in the process likely losing enough votes at the margin to significantly turn the race. I say with this latest screw-up, the polls will go from about 51-45 favoring Obama to 52-44, which in this election is a huge move.

    Lastly, needless to say the 47% mentioned by Romney all have good reasons for not paying income taxes, whether it be they're elderly/retired, poor, a student, etc. But I ask Mitt, what about the profitable corporations not paying their fair share? According to a recent study of 280 Fortune 500 companies, all profitable, 40% of them paid a corporate tax rate below 17.5% (compare to the actual corporate tax rate of 35%), and 30 or 11% paid zero taxes, zilch, none.

    These are huge, strong corporations, not the elderly or low-income workers. And remember, according to Mitt, corporations are people too. Well then Mitt, what about those 30 companies (people) that paid zero taxes? I suppose they're grifters and free-loaders, right?

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    The Fed Is Not The Enemy

    With its latest announcement, the Fed has finally shifted focus to its long-neglected other mandate, employment. Riddled throughout the official statement are mentions of labor and employment concerns, such as "Growth in employment has been slow, and the unemployment rate remains elevated." That's the second sentence of the statement, proof that Bernanke wanted to emphasize up-front that he's had enough of the waiting for things to get better.

    Further evidence of this new focus is the Fed moderately bumped up its economic forecast for next year, meaning Bernanke could've made the case that conditions were expected to improve and thus no additional QE was needed. However, the Fed did announce more QE is on the way, and lots of it (open-ended).

    In my opinion, to some extent Bernanke may have used the continuing unemployment problem as political cover, enabling him to put inflation worries aside and go ahead and act fairly aggressively despite pressure from Republicans to stand down. He also needed to skirt criticism for the Fed doing anything at all with an election just two months away.

    I commend Bernanke for not giving in to intimidation by Republicans. You had the likes of Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee say that Bernanke “is beginning to do serious damage to the Fed as an institution.” If anything, the fact that more than a few Republicans are so upset about the Fed's actions has me believing they simply fear it will help to improve things -- heaven forbid! We can't have that!

    The Fed's announcement is being characterized as if it's throwing the kitchen sink at the economy, and in many ways that's true. But whereas in the past the Fed has received harsh criticism from the left for not doing enough, I've always felt at least some sympathy for Bernanke's predicament (and wrote about it).

    The fact remains the Fed alone cannot solve all the problems of this economy. It needs help from Congress in the form of fiscal stimulus and other spending measures in order to spur hiring and increase demand. This time around is no different from other times in the past as the Fed could never do it alone, with Volcker and Greenspan likewise depending on a more cooperative Congress, both parties working together to get the economy moving again. Also, in the past the Fed could just cut interest rates to boost the economy, but with rates currently at near zero this tool has been rendered useless. All the more reason the Fed needs help!

    Republicans have refused to do anything that could improve the economy and Bernanke knows this sad truth all to well. On several occasions, whether it be Q&A or in statements, Bernanke has commented on the impotent Congress, stressing or inferring that the Fed cannot fix what's wrong all by itself, that the help of Congress is needed. To that end if Republicans choose to scold Bernanke, they're being disingenuous (surprise!).

    What's ironic is the more the Fed is forced to do on its own, without congressional assistance, the higher the likelihood that some time down the road we may see inflation truly creep higher. Needless to say, Republicans greatly fear inflation given more than a few wealthy donors would be quite annoyed to think that their precious capital may erode in real dollar value. My read is there remains a great deal of slack in the economy which translates into low velocity of money and thus continued low inflation. If wages and prices do begin to finally rise in earnest, the Fed will certainly pick this up well ahead of time and take measures to slow the increase. That said, if not and inflation does shoot up exponentially, in large part the Republicans will be to blame.

    Again I remind, the Fed has a dual-mandate, price stability and full employment, and with inflation remaining very low Bernanke realized he could no longer ignore the other much larger problem. To do so would've been willful negligence. But he wasn't alone in understanding the need for action as 11 of the 12 FOMC members voted in favor of the policy measures, further making evident the degree to which the entire Fed brain trust believes our unemployment situation is, as Ben put it, of "grave concern."

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Romney's Biggest Gaffe Yet

    It's been commented on to death but I thought I'd give my three cents. Romney's harsh criticism of Obama concerning the Libyan embassy attack was extremely ill-advised and inexcusable. Though at this point, given his track record, it wasn't surprising. I can't recall a presidential campaign making this many mistakes and worse is the fact that nearly all of them are so amateurish. It's amazing since Mitt has been running for president like forever and yet it appears he's actually getting worse at it, not better.

    It's an obvious next-step to wonder what all of this could mean if Romney were to (gulp) win this November. With his sheer number of screw-ups at the most base and fundamental level, one has to be very concerned about the decisions that will be made over the next four years.

    While so many of these gaffes have been craven attempts at winning lowest-common-denominator points, this latest embassy fiasco being a typical example, what is more worrisome to me is the rashness involved. Instead of pausing and giving the matter some sober thinking, it appears the emphasis for Romney is hastiness and delivering a speedy blow. It's odd because you would think at Bain the preferred course would have been the opposite, to act purposefully and wisely given the many millions of dollars involved and the risk of a bad decision backfiring. As president, it's not just dollars at stake and choosing expediency over thorough contemplation makes for a very dangerous leader.

    I also think this latest debacle comes off as beyond desperate for Romney/Ryan. With just about two months to go, they seem to be in full-panic mode, pulling out all the stops no matter how unsavory or low. All because Mitt feels he needs that extra 0.1% over 50%, those few marginal votes. He's willing to do whatever it takes to pick up a few needed crumbs.

    However, what he neglects to realize is those marginal voters are more likely than not greatly turned off by his unseemly tactics. The up-for-grabs folks usually desire civility and signs of maturity and they sure as heck aren't seeing that in Romney's shenanigans.

    At this point, I have to think Romney just can't help himself. Taking the low road is all he knows.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Romney = Wizard of Oz

    Obama has enjoyed a huge post-convention bounce in the polls, which contrasts with Romney's negative-bounce from his convention. Kevin Drum writes, "there's no way enough people were watching in the first place to account for a change of this size."

    Maybe so, but I'm not so sure about that.

    I think Romney's anti-bounce in the polls can be attributed to something we've come to learn about the public's perception of him: the more people get to know Romney as a person and what he stands for, the less they like him. And apparently with Ryan at his side, this tendency hasn't changed.

    In fact, the case can be made that Ryan agreeing to be VP may be the worst decision he's ever made. Whereas Ryan was once considered to be likeable and a serious thinker, it appears with him basking in the national limelight and allowing voters to get to know him better, it has worked against him -- much like it has for his sidekick. Ryan's mystique has been shredded and he no longer has that cult-of-personality that was working to his advantage. Now he's just another political hack with funny looking ears.

    Of course, Romney must know that too many of his positions would be wildly unpopular if the general electorate actually had a clearer sense of what these positions were, and more so a better understanding of the details behind them ("devil is in the details"). But this explains why Romney is keeping so many things secret and under wraps. Whether it be his tax filings, specific loopholes to be closed under his tax plan, what happens when vouchers don't cover health care expenses for seniors and a host of other question marks, Romney has decided to go the smoke-and-mirrors route and hope that he can just wing-it into the White House, banking on his (and Ryan's) ability to duck hard questions and say gibberish that sounds meaningful.

    Romney is like the Wizard of Oz: a mysterious man enamored by people who know very little about him, but as they gain understanding it's as bad for Romney as it was for the Wizard. However contrary to Oz, where the Wizard was feared and ended up being a harmless fuddy-duddy, Romney is perceived as a good-looking successful American to be admired, and yet the more the curtain is pulled back, the more people realize he more closely resembles the wicked witch. He comes across as cold, detached and even heartless. And I suppose Ryan at his side makes for the perfect flying monkey.

    Obama would do well to constantly mention what Romney/Ryan stand for as it's clear they are their own worst enemy. Recall the pollster who recounted that after presenting the Ryan plan to respondents, they simply refused to believe that any politician could seriously support such a plan!

    The choice really is pretty stark: the side continuing to try and make a bad situation better, or the side instead offering up baloney wrapped in hogwash and sprinkled with false niceties. Yet if Romney wins, it wouldn't be the first time the public was hoodwinked. I seem to recall a "compassionate conservative" guy who was installed not long ago.....

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Niall Ferguson's Newsweek cover story

    I know, I know, this is so yesterday. For most bloggers, a big part of what they do is to strive to be one of the first to comment on any buzzing news story, doing so fast and furiously. God bless them. But given I don't blog professionally, I frequently don't have time to comment on-the-spot regarding developing Big Story A or B. Instead I usually read what others have written, then read the actual source item(s), jotting down my own thoughts on the subject and finally look to post something up here when I get the chance, usually during the weekend.

    And here I am. I did read Ferguson's piece and needless to say, I've also read through the many criticisms (and trust me, there were many more than just Krugman's). I felt all of the criticisms were more than fair, but I'm a liberal and thus biased, right?

    On to Ferguson's piece, "Why Obama Must Go." My comments:

  • He mentions the stock market is up 74% since Inauguration Day 2009. If this kind of market gain was achieved by a Republican president -- during a tumultuous time when we were in the throes of what looked like a global financial meltdown, we'd never hear the end of it. Republicans would be doing non-stop victory laps and Fox News would be reminding us of this impressive advance 24/7. I mean after all, if there's one thing in this country which reflects the free market system in all its unfettered glory it's the stock market, and a 70+% rise is not too shabby for a Kenyan socialist. Especially when you compare it against GW/Cheney's eight year stock market return of near minus 40% (1/31/01 - 1/31/09). But this shouldn't be too surprising since it's documented fact that the stock market fares much better under Democrat presidents than Republican.

  • Ferguson cites that the total number of private sector jobs is still below the January 2008 peak. Yes, as a baseline to judge Obama, Ferguson picks the month in the year before everything goes to hell. With this lame bit of chicanery, it's clear right from the get go that you're not going to get an objective, fair critique.

  • Ferguson cites economic growth estimates from Obama's 2010 budget, faulting him for falling short of these figures. This is one of many examples where Ferguson uses promises made by Obama in his early days as proof of abject failure a mere 2-3 years later. Give me a break. For one, every new president lays out fairly optimistic goals and targets for the future, more or less hopes and dreams to shoot for. In this case, Obama was naively guilty of assuming the GOP would play ball as the Dems did with Reagan to help him and the country get out of a recession. Obama belatedly learned that this demented version of the GOP was unwilling to compromise and more than willing to sacrifice the welfare of the nation to achieve partisan gains. Of course, no mention of that by the Harvard scholar.

  • Ferguson writes, "Under this president's policies, the debt is on course to approach 200 percent of GDP in 2037." Another case of taking a period of time within the worst possible worlds and stretching it out for decades to purposefully portray a near-hysterically horrible picture. Even if the math were technically true, how can anyone take this form of journalism seriously? Ferguson takes figures from the worst recession since the Great Depression, all during a time of fierce opposition and stonewalling from the GOP, and he simply extrapolates out for the next 25 years, assuming the last three years will continue to be the case for the next 2+ decades. Really? This is deemed plausible? This is what passes for Harvard-caliber scholarship?? It's just embarrassing.

  • Ferguson shows a chart of China's GDP expected to surpass that of the U.S. by 2017. This is proof positive Ferguson is intent on providing a disingenuous critique on Obama. I think I've seen this exact chart reproduced repeatedly over the GW/Cheney years and frankly what it reflects has less to do with anything any president can control or influence, whether it be GW or Obama. Instead it lays out the reality of putting a very mature economy with issues up against a fast-growing economy with 1 billion people and minimal regulations (allowing rampant pollution, labor abuses, etc.). It's an unfair comparison and is certainly not something you can hang on one president, but that doesn't stop Ferguson from using the chart to level a cheap shot, further undermining any hope of his views to be taken seriously.

  • He writes, "Polls consistently showed that only a minority of the public liked the ACA, and it was the main reason why Republicans regained control of the House in 2010." Is this true? What polls showed this? The ones I referenced in my post explaining how these polls were deceptive and misleading? And Ferguson knows for a fact that the ACA is why the GOP regained control of the House in 2010? As opposed to the well-known trend that after a new president is voted in, the opposing party does well come election time two years later?? We're talking Poly Sci 101.

  • Then of course comes his whopper when he writes, "the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion," with Ferguson not bothering to mention the CBO scores the ACA as lowering the deficit by over $100 billion in the next ten years. What Ferguson is doing here is text-book deception, parsing words and carefully excluding certain inconvenient truths to fit his narrative. And based on Ferguson's rebuttals to his many attacks, he knew what he was doing. Shame on Tina Brown.

  • "The fiscal train wreck has already initiated a process of steep cuts in the defense budget." Never mind that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had already recommended steep cuts to the military! But what does Republican Gates know, let's blame Obama.

  • I think this part of the piece is my favorite. Ferguson writes, "I know, like, and admire Paul Ryan.... He is one of only a handful of politicians in Washington who is truly sincere about addressing this country's fiscal crisis." Just priceless. Leave aside that Ryan is anything but a deficit hawk. But truly sincere? Does Niall still believe this after hearing Ryan's speech at the RNC convention, a speech that was universally panned for its record-breaking number of lies and gross distortions? We already knew Ryan was as willing as Romney to say anything to get elected, but was anyone prepared for Ryan's convention spectacle, an exercise of unabashed, shameless lying that may never be surpassed. It was breathtaking. And yet Ryan is Ferguson's idea of "truly sincere" -- still have faith in what Ferguson has to say about anything??
  • Wednesday, September 05, 2012

    "Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?"

    I wonder when Reagan uttered this line if he knew it would be repeated from then on during nearly every presidential run. It's the type of line that works only if the answer is quite obvious, and in this case it's certainly not.

    I find it incredible but do people really have to be reminded about how bad things were just a few years ago? I know the public has a notoriously short memory, but I for one clearly remember 2008 and it was bleeping scary! It's no exaggeration that it seemed like the end of the world, that this was it, the big one, that this country was finally going to be brought to its knees like no other time since the Great Depression. Many, and I mean many, were very scared that their bank would go under and FDIC insurance -- something no one ever cared about -- suddenly became a must-have that really meant something. The stock market plunged in 2008, but then plunged again in early 2009, a sort of elongated double-crash. People went from scared sh*tless to near freak out. It was an awful time, like no other I can recall in my 30+ years as an adult.

    But here we are, a bit more than three years later, and it's like it never happened. If anything, that so many have forgotten what was a national nightmare, an almost complete meltdown of this great USA, that fact alone speaks volumes to what Obama has been able to achieve -- despite determined opposition from Republicans. Although yes, we still must resolve more than a few problems, the dire situation we were in was successfully averted and very much remedied by this current president. What we now take for granted is testament to a job well done.

    So wake up people, we're all much better off now than we were four years ago. No question, it's not even close.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2012


  • We know Romney likes to fire people, he said as much. With the Clint Eastwood debacle, given its magnitude as a screw-up, I was awaiting the imminent announcement of a firing from his campaign staff. Surely someone must pay the price for such a grievous miscalculation. Yet nothing, no firings. Now I know why: Mitt himself had a role in it.

  • Many are making a big deal about Romney's supposed clever line when he invoked Reagan at the convention by asking, "If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" Look, like more than a few Obama supporters, I have some regrets when it comes to what Obama has achieved in his first term, namely that he didn't go far enough and progressive enough. He was too timid and too right-of-center. Granted, he faced constant stonewalling by intransigent Republicans who refused to compromise and support anything Obama proposed. But I feel he still could've fought harder and realized sooner that his wild notion of the GOP working with him was naive and foolish. BUT, in no way does that mean I'm going to vote for Romney/Ryan as the alternative! That choice is laughable.

  • Dana Milbank recently wrote about how many of the big-name speakers at the GOP convention hardly mentioned Romney's name in their speeches, with Milbank believing "the implied assumption is that he’s going to lose." In other words, many of these speakers were using the high-profile convention limelight to promote themselves for 2016. Nice. Milbank also stated, "Romney has a particular problem commanding loyalty" and I have felt this particular weakness is a massive one. In my opinion, if Romney were to win in November, he'd have the most corrupt administration since Harding. I say this not to aimlessly speculate or wish misfortune on a future president. Rather I believe Romney's inability to garner loyalty combined with his lack of conviction for just about anything, with his excessive "flexibility" to go with whatever suits his needs at the time, sets him up as a president to be taken advantage of and abused by opportunistic underlings. And I'm not talking high-level or overly sophisticated corruption, I'm talking sleazy, low-ball, petty stuff, very Spiro Agnew-like.

  • "Mitt Romney Would Pay 0.82 Percent in Taxes Under Paul Ryan's Plan." If you think things have become grossly unequal since 1980 (and of course they have), you ain't see nothing yet were Romney/Ryan to win. The disparity gap would explode.
  • Friday, August 31, 2012

    Empty Suit Gives Empty Speech

    Romney's speech tonight was policy-free and substance-free. All platitudes, attacks and misfires -- along with the outright lies we've come to expect from this man (although the number fell well short of Ryan's many fabricated whoppers).

    His mouth moved, words were spoken, but nothing memorable was said. It certainly sounded important, but after a few seconds you realized it was nothing. Just lots of what America and Americans deserve.

    Whatever he said quickly disappeared like vapor. Unlike Clint Eastwood's embarrassing performance, which will most assuredly be remembered. Yikes.

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    "New Era of Truth Telling"

    Funniest line of the night, Chris Christie saying he welcomes a "new era of truth telling." Really? Doesn't he know that Romney has orchestrated one of the most blatantly dishonest presidential campaigns in history? One that has not just unabashedly distorted Obama's record and quotes, but on too many occasions Romney has simply said things that are completely untrue, uttering statements masquerading as fact. So to hear Christie make this claim is a complete joke.

    But then it fit perfectly with the evening. You had Ann Romney spend time appealing to women, trying her hardest to come across as "regular folk" and make the case that men don't know nothing, that women do the hard work when it comes to raising a family. Fathers are seemingly just useless idiots, standing idly by while mothers do it all. Of course, it helps if you're a father who eventually makes that mother worth almost $300 million, but I digress.

    And if I heard one more time how Mitt made her laugh I was going to puke. Enough, we get it, he's not a cipher, he's a warm-blooded human. By gosh, little did we know he's a crack-up. Gads.

    Ann also had to tell us how great he was as governor of MA. But of course no mention of Romneycare, like it never happened. Never stops being weird.

    You even had Christie make attempts at winning over the ladies, talking about how mom was "the enforcer" and drove the car, while dad was just a passenger. One thing is clear coming from this evening: men were slammed.

    Christie talked about the need for compromise, how the Dems use fear to get what they want and he urged that we should work together to get things done -- all three items being things the GOP has been guilty of since Obama took office. Republicans refuse to compromise, they use fear-mongering to frighten their base and they do not work with Dems to get things done. It was as if these people were in some kind of Bizzarro universe, where up was down and black was white.

    All in all, no surprises in the evening.

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Try as they might, the Tea Party remains the GOP

    Those behind the Tea Party movement -- namely big-name, right-wing figures like Dick Armey and the Koch brothers -- have always tried their best to distinguish Tea Partiers from your typical, everyday Republican. The goal was to fabricate the rise of an organic, grass-roots "revolution" led by people who were fed-up with the status quo and desired real change with regards to our growing deficit.

    Of course, it didn't take long for us to learn it was all a scam, a faux movement heavily backed by Republican big wigs. Established Republicans simply tried to repackage a large portion of their party as something new and different, and yet in the end it was just the same old stuff: intolerance and ignorance fueled by anger and fear -- the bedrock of the modern-day GOP.

    Chris Hayes said as much last Thursday on Lawrence O'Donnell's show:
    What's also remarkable about the Todd Akin moment is something I think has been a theme throughout this campaign. There was this story that was written, I think partially by conservatives around the Tea Party, that the Party was not the party of evangelicals and social conservatives, it was the party of fiscal discipline, it was the party that was fed up about taxes and spending and deficits -- [but] it's always just been the same party! You can call it whatever you want, it's the same people who are writing the platform, it's the same activists and delegates who are going to be in Tampa this week.
    Yes, it was a nice try to add a fresh wrinkle to what we understood to be a Republican, to manufacture outrage towards Obama concerning spending and deficits (never mind that GW/Cheney were responsible for the bulk of the deficits). But it's no surprise to realize that the ugliness and hypocrisy within the GOP could not be disguised for long. Eventually we'd all learn that this movement based on birther beliefs, Kenyan suspicions and misspelled protest signs would amount to nothing more than a well-financed attempt to massively deceive the voting public.

    And the ultimate loser? The average citizen comprising the Tea Party, who were taken advantage of to advance the wants and desires of those who truly matter to the Republican Party: the top 1% earners in this country (actually the top 0.1%).

    It's not the first time Republican voters have been used by their own party and it certainly won't be the last time. To the likes of Karl Rove and Mitt Romney, gullible stupidity is the gift that just keeps on giving.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    More thoughts

  • Picking up on my comments in my prior post regarding Romney's 13.9% income tax tab in 2010, it's important to keep in mind that when many decry just how high tax rates are today (which is not true, but I digress), what percentage of the rich & wealthy actually pay anything close to the top tax bracket of 35%? In other words, after expensive, hired-gun CPAs take advantage of the many deductions and loopholes, what is the effective tax rate for the typical wealthy person? Warren Buffett made his secretary famous by stating publicly that she paid an effective tax rate twice as high as the one applying to him. Republicans love to whine about how the top 1% pay such high income tax rates and yet I suspect the reality is the effective tax rate -- which is all that matters since "effective" equates to what is actually paid -- is far, far below anything close to 35%. Remember this the next time you hear that incessant whining.

  • As I cited yesterday, regarding Romney's VP selection, Bruce Bartlett recently said, "It simply makes no sense for Romney to put Ryan on the ticket if only because he doesn't attract a single new vote to Romney that he didn't already have." And yet as I've been saying, I wouldn't be so sure about that Bruce. It's my view that the Romney campaign is not stupid (naive, tone-deaf, prone to unwise moves, yes, but not outright dumb) and given that, I believe they have internal data and polling showing even at this stage in the campaign that Romney has not yet "locked up" the GOP base, i.e. the die-hards, ultra-partisans and Tea Party types. I don't believe Romney made this selection out of redundancy (inferring stupidity) but rather that he was forced to make this move tactically because he had to, that he had no other choice. To a lesser extent, McCain was forced to do the same thanks to the degree to which the core of his party had drifted to the extreme right. In effect, the GOP base ended up making McCain unelectable by dictating a choice like Palin and also by pressuring him to remain extreme in all views and not tacking to the center to attract more moderate swing voters. We're seeing it happen again with Romney choosing Ryan, only this time around Romney is having even more trouble than McCain in winning over and nailing down the party base voters. Net net, a huge advantage to Obama.

  • For the record, I am a Newsweek subscriber and yet I've always felt Niall Ferguson was a wormy, untrustworthy flim-flam artist, one who perfectly fit with his GOP and right-wing bias. With that it's gratifying to see him get just-desert criticism for the crap he tried to pull in the magazine's recent cover story (click here, here, here and here, for starters). It's predictable that the mag would look to even the score with this anti-Obama cover feature after Mike Tomasky's prior cover story labeling Romney a wimp. But c'mon, does anyone fact check anymore?

  • I had to laugh when I learned that Paul Ryan comes from wealthy parents and his family business (road paving) has been and is very much reliant on government $$$.

  • Informative summary article in Sunday's Boston Globe, an excerpt:
    Obama derided Ryan’s proposal to transform Medicare into a voucher system that would pay seniors a fixed amount of money to buy medical insurance, which he said would cost them an additional $6,400 a year.

    "That doesn’t strengthen Medicare. That undoes the very guarantee of Medicare,” the president said Saturday. “That’s the core of the plan written by Congressman Ryan and endorsed by Governor Romney. . . . Their plan is for you to pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.”

    During his administration, Obama said, the only changes to Medicare benefits have been the addition of preventive services such as cancer screenings and wellness visits — “for free.”

    The Medicare savings contained in his health care act, a total of $716 billion over a decade, will be carved from waste, fraud, and insurance-company subsidies, he said.

    “Their plan would put Medicare on track to be ended as we know it,” Obama said. “It would be an entirely different plan, a plan in which you could not count on health care because it would have to be coming out of your pocket.”
  • Nuggets from last week's Lawrence O'Donnell show

  • "What you need to know about the Ryan plan is when you hear all these deficit numbers about how low it goes over time, they went to the Congressional Budget Office, the people who score this stuff, and they said assume our tax plan doesn't lose any revenue, assume our frankly insane level of cuts to long-term discretionary spending, they bring everything the government does that is not an entitlement program down to under 4% of GDP by 2050 -- it's just ridiculous...." -- Ezra Klein, 8/13/12

  • "My argument was essentially political, that it simply makes no sense for Romney to put Ryan on the ticket if only because he doesn't attract a single new vote to Romney that he didn't already have.... And he brings along a lot of baggage, the Ayn Rand stuff, the abolish Medicare stuff." -- Bruce Bartlett, 8/13/12

  • Robert Reich was on the show on Tuesday August 14th and I will paraphrase what he said. Commenting on Obamacare versus the Romney/Ryan plan with regards to Medicare, Reich pointed out both plans will slow the growth of Medicare costs by about $715 billion over the next 10 years, but they each get there in starkly different ways. Obama's ACA does it by cutting over-payments to providers (hospitals, drug companies, etc.) and thus holding down costs. In contrast, the Romney/Ryan plan shifts the burden onto seniors, giving them vouchers and allowing costs to rise. The vouchers do not increase at the pace of rising costs, so who will make up the difference? Presumably it will come out of the pockets of seniors.

  • "You've got to win this in your own right as the top of the ticket and this doesn't answer the questions about Mitt Romney. What is his budget? Where are his tax returns? There still is a giant question mark that hangs over all these questions.... You just cannot figure it out. That's just not good enough" -- Richard Wolffe, 8/15/12

  • "I strongly suspect there is a tax felony in his tax returns. He did not disclose, the one thing he didn't disclose with the return he did disclose was the document about reporting foreign accounts. He specifically withheld that. That is the area in which he is at this point, I think it's fair to not completely assume but very strongly suspect that he is susceptible to a Federal felony charge on not having reported his foreign accounts and then he sought and obtained an amnesty which these returns would show." -- Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/16/12

    Lawrence has said such a felony, if indeed it exists and regardless of the eventual granted amnesty, would immediately force Romney to withdraw as the GOP candidate. Thus, it explains the adamant refusal to release the returns.

    Meanwhile, it is curious why there's been no outrage over Romney paying just 13.9% in income taxes as disclosed in the only return he has released. Wouldn't we all want to pay that ridiculously low rate?

  • Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Romney names Rep. Paul Ryan as his VP

    It's official: Romney clearly feels that even after all his pandering and flip-flopping in hopes of winning over his party's base, he needed to go one step further. Yes, the Republican base remains ever-elusive to him.

    As with the often-repeated malarkey about Ryan being a "brave" politician offering up "courageous" ideas (all nonsense, of course), this VP selection will likewise be characterized by the media as daring and bold. Poppycock. On the contrary, it's a forced move and one of desperation, because as I've been saying it's quite obvious that the Romney campaign continues to see polling data indicating the extreme core of the GOP, i.e. the base, is not yet a sure-thing come November.

    Folks, we're fast-approaching September and the fact that there remains a good chance many die-hard GOP voters may choose to stay home on Election Day rather than vote is a very bad sign for Romney. Again, as I've written, at this point Romney should have been tacking to the center to appeal to the more moderate swing voters and the general electorate, but that hasn't happened, not even close.

    The Obama camp should've been all smiles upon hearing this news, realizing it for the sign of weakness that it is. Over the years, the stronger Republican presidential candidates always selected a Veep who was perfectly suited for the side-car, with no perceived possibility of upstaging the top dog and who were almost by definition second-fiddles for the role at that point in time.

    We certainly didn't see that occur with McCain, choosing no-nothing yet bigger-than-life "Going Rogue" Palin, and we've now seen Romney do the same thing, selecting a person who will presumably define and takeover his campaign. But given how things have been going in Romney land (read: not good), there's a good possibility Romney advisers figured it was time to blow everything up and take a chance on starting anew, a reboot of sorts (yes, the Etch-A-Sketch metaphor). Scrap the idea of a safe, mild-mannered VP like Portman and instead go with a fresh "game changer" like Ryan.

    Again I repeat, it will likely be lost on most of the media that this choice reflects poorly on Romney's current chances of winning, that instead of being correctly presented as a last-ditch effort to win over votes he should've already had locked up, it will be portrayed as gutsy call. Groan.

    Oh well, who knows. Maybe with Ryan on the ticket, Romney et al calculated they could gain X number of additional GOP core voters and then with some sly voter suppression efforts initiated in PA, OH and FLA, heck they might be able to pull out a slim victory. And unfortunately, they may be right.

    Wednesday, August 08, 2012

    The Brown Bag

    Romney not releasing his tax returns reminds me a bit of a guy holding a brown bag. He's conversing with you, but refuses to acknowledge or say anything about this brown bag he's holding at his side. The bag is fairly large and has some shiny grease stains. And every so often the bag appears to move on its own, as if something alive is trapped inside. Yet the guy holding the bag acts as if nothing is askew, and when asked "What's in the bag?" he looks puzzled and says "Bag, what bag?"

    Democrats and the media should keep asking "what's in bag?" right up to November. "What are you hiding in there?"

    Refusing to answer such a simple question comes off as being untrustworthy, aloof and even sleazy. It also can appear as if you feel entitled to not answer the question, that you're above it all. These are all key attributes when it comes to presidential material.

    Ultimately, Americans want no-BS straight talk and Romney is the complete 180 opposite. We stand to face four years of this, evasive gobblygook & hood-winking, with Romney and his administration all treating us like we're idiots.

    It reminds me of the Nixon era, the cynicism towards the public and the willingness to do anything to obtain and hold power. In fact, if memory serves, I believe Nixon was not very well-liked by many, and it appears the same holds true for Romney.

    Yes, the more I think about it, the more I believe Nixon would be the closest parallel to a Romney presidency. OMG.

    Arrogance and Apathy

    Romney has been in campaign mode for many years now, so how is it possible for him to be blind-sided by expectations that he release several years of his tax returns? Why should it appear as if he was caught off guard and not ready with a clever retort, quickly putting it to rest?

    I think it comes down to AAA, arrogance and assumed apathy. The former being Romney's sheer arrogance when it comes to most things in life. He's accustomed to not being told what to do or forced into doing that which he chooses not to go along with. In his mind, he's borderline-royalty so when it comes to running for president, he (and his team) apparently believed he could just take a pass when it came to releasing prior tax returns -- a norm applying only to lesser candidates (including his father).

    It truly is astonishing that he, and even more so his advisers, felt he could skate through a presidential campaign refusing to release years of tax returns. The very fact he assumed this wouldn't be a problem speaks volumes about the extent to which he is utterly removed from everyday reality. Is this what we want in a president, a Walter Mitty-ish sense of clueless detachment? Yikes. He makes GW Sr. at the grocery scanner look like a hipster dude.

    As for the assumed apathy, I also believe Romney coldly calculated that after the inevitable initial dust-up by the media, calls for releasing the tax returns would drop-off fairly rapidly. Reporters in the MSM would move on and the public would soon follow. Team Romney likely felt it would be a small bump on the road to the White House, thanks to the short attention span of the media and the unfortunate apathy assumed in most voters.

    Insulting? Of course. Off base? Perhaps. But all too often, we do see the MSM gloss over important issues, looking to keep things light and "fair minded," and unfortunately the voting public obliges. Sadly, I can see where they cynically concluded this tax return thing would be a brief problem, there is basis for their conclusion. All the more reason the Dems should keep pressing this issue, to keep it on the front burner and side-step the urge of reporters and the public to simply move on.

    On a related note, I would also add that when it comes to voter suppression, if it works in states like Florida and Pennsylvania, giving Romney the close win come November, what will be the blowback, if any? Will the voting public sternly demand recounts or better yet call for a referendum on voting laws in general?

    Based on the aftermath of Gore/GW in 2000, I would submit that we're likely to see a few weeks of outrage, maybe even a few months, but eventually it will die down and life will go on -- with a Mr. President Romney in the White House. Again, sadly, Romney and the Republicans have made a calculated assessment that naked voter suppression, while on the surface unseemly, will in the end work and more importantly will not galvanize people into mass outrage. In other words, based on past precedent, they've arrived at a fairly logical and safe conclusion. In effect, we have only ourselves to blame.

    George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I would say that those who do not react strongly enough to right wrongs when they occur are doomed to have such wrongs repeated on them, only worse the next time around.

    Sunday, August 05, 2012

    "Wise" Men Getting Wiser

    "I can see clearly now the rain is gone...."

    Climate Skeptic, Koch-Funded Scientist Richard Muller Admits Global Warming Real & Humans The Cause

    Dick Cheney: Picking Sarah Palin for VP Was ‘A Mistake’

    Sandy Weill stages an epic conversion

    Hmm, I sense a trend. Let's hope it continues.

    In a much larger and more general sense, this conversion of right-wingers to more progressively-enlightened thinking has been an ongoing trend for some time now. For every Dennis Miller (once funny comedian who decided to cash in on wingnut ignorance, Bill O'Reilly style), there are many more David Brocks, John Coles, Bruce Bartletts, Arianna Huffingtons and David Frums, i.e. notable figures who realized the err of their beliefs and switched sides, right to left, or at least greatly moderated their once-strident conservative underpinnings.

    For those of us who have long been on the right correct side of issues, it's been encouraging yet frustrating to see this trend unfold at such a sluggish pace. Hopefully we're now seeing the beginnings of an acceleration in this regard, likely expedited by the rightward drift of the GOP to an absurd extreme, forcing many die-hard believers to have a WTF moment and finally get a good whiff of smelling salts.

    Friday, August 03, 2012

    The coming Romney implosion, and the power of leverage in campaigns

    Not long ago, Rachel Maddow had Harvey Weinstein on her show. Rachel asked him why wealthy Hollywood types were not giving more to Obama's campaign, as compared to the Koch brothers on the right. Weinstein stated he and others of his ilk didn't believe panic was warranted, that as long as Obama was ahead in the polls there was nothing to worry about. If Obama were to fall behind, Harvey said they would contribute more to his coffers. Simple as that.

    At the time when I first heard this, it all sounded a bit too disturbingly cavalier and dangerous. However, I do get it. What Harvey was conveying was not just confidence in Obama, but more so confidence in the belief that Romney is a greatly flawed and inferior candidate. Weinstein said to Rachel, "you can spend all the money in the world, if you’ve got a bad product, it doesn’t matter.” And here we are weeks later and Romney is proving Harvey right as Mitt was incapable of successfully pulling off a simple overseas trip, instead making gaffe after gaffe and appearing to be in way over his head.

    By no means is Harvey a naive man. I have a feeling he's on to something, that he knows and has known some things about Romney that up till now has escaped most of us. I'm sure Harvey is a quick-read when it comes to judging a person, being able to do so effectively based on how a person acts while knowing very little about the person. It's something he has needed to do in Hollywood for many years, to rapidly assess and evaluate actors. He knows "it" when he sees it or hears it, and when it comes to Romney he has seen and heard not much to fear. And again, I believe in the last few weeks we've started to see what Harvey was likely referring to when speaking with Rachel. The gradual and eventual Romney implosion has begun.

    I would also like to expand on Harvey's comment about all the money in the world is not going to help when you have a "bad product." This is a key point when you consider that Romney will likely have a significant edge over Obama when it comes to campaign funds. Such a large edge would be of major concern if both candidates were of equal caliber but as Harvey states, Romney's faults are so numerous and gaping that it helps to level the playing field, and then some.

    We can look at it as a hedge fund would use leverage. Just for illustrative purposes, let's suppose Romney has $2 billion to spend versus Obama's more meager $1 billion. When it comes to leverage, the advantage goes to Obama as he clearly has fewer faults to be exploited than does Romney (he can't cite his years as MA governor given Romneycare, can't cite his years at Bain given outsourcing and destroyed jobs, can't cite his time at Olympics given recent debacle in UK, he refuses to release many years of tax filings, he has repeatedly lied, he has flip-flopped on too many issues to count -- you get the point). So let's assume that Obama has three times (3x) the leverage over Romney when it comes to being able to effectively exploit more flaws, thereby landing more blows that actually have impact and deliver when it comes to changing voter opinions. When you do the math, Obama's $1 billion ends up doing damage equivalent to $3 billion thanks to Romney's flaws, ultimately surpassing Mitt's $2 billion figure.

    I think that is what Harvey was driving at.... It's all about the leverage.

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    More tid-bits for your right-wing brother-in-law

  • This is another example of Romney feeling the urgent need to reach extremes in order to appease the far-right contingent of the GOP base, in this case the neocon segment. By continually courting the fringe at this point in the campaign is a prolonged act of desperation, one that is soaked with flop-sweat. He should already have the base locked-up and put to bed, more than confident in their intent to vote for him. However, his actions continue to hint otherwise and make one seriously question whether internal polling is flashing panic signals. I mean what he's doing and continues to do, pandering to the kooks, is party primary stuff. By now Romney should be looking to tack to the middle, given the general electorate is much more moderate than the core of the GOP. Needless to say, the longer his campaign remains in this base-seeking mode, the better it is for Obama.

  • "A survey of forty economists from across the ideological and partisan spectrum has concluded that on some of its most cherished issues, the Republican Party has simply taken leave of economic reality. For instance, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers noted that one of the results from the survey — run by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which is hardly known for a left-wing slant — is an overwhelming agreement that the 2009 Recovery Act (i.e. the stimulus) brought down unemployment. But GOP leaders have spent years roundly denouncing the stimulus as a failure."

  • Rasmussen polls can't be trusted: "After the 2010 elections, the New York Times statistics wizard, Nate Silver, analyzed the polls produced by various polling organizations, including Rasmussen Reports, which is the house pollster for Fox News. Silver's analysis covered only polls taken during the final three weeks of the campaign and compared them to the actual election results....Silver analyzed 105 polls released by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, for Senate and gubernatorial races in numerous states across the country. The bottom line is that on average, Rasmussen's polls were off by 5.8% with a bias of 3.9% in favor of the Republican candidates."

  • "During the 1950s and ’60s, financial institutions were tightly regulated. Bankers did not make money by trading for their own account but instead earned fees for providing advice to their customers and serving as a go-between for companies raising capital. Their goal was to get to know their clients well, understand their problems, and act in their best interests—somewhat like family doctors. They were not compensated absurd amounts. Wall Street was viewed as a place not for high flyers but for sober, cautious people who were perhaps a little boring. Meanwhile, the economy boomed and we had very few financial crises."

  • Financial Scandal Scorecard.
  • Sunday, July 22, 2012

    Who's being duped?

    National Review's Rich Lowry recently wrote that young Americans were being "duped" by Obama. What Lowry apparently doesn't understand is these "youthful idealists" of which he labels "saps, patsies and suckers" are actually anything but naive idiots. Quite the contrary.

    The fact is most young folks today are smart enough to realize that Obama inherited a cluster-f*cked economy, namely the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Given the extent to which the situation was grave, with economic activity lacking a pulse, most intelligent voters appreciated that to fully recover from this mess in a mere three years was highly unlikely. After all, it took the New Deal and arguably WWII to successfully get the nation back on course over fifty years ago, and we have yet to see anything close to that degree of stimulus in relative terms. As it is, even after three bouts of quantitative easing (QE), you can still hear Bernanke strongly infer in his most recent comments that he and the Fed cannot do it alone, that help is needed in the form of additional fiscal stimulus. Yet such pleas for assistance are of course in vain.

    To state that Obama is fully to blame for this continued economic malaise is simply disingenuous and frankly makes Lowry appear to be willfully duped by Republicans. Let's first remind him that this economy was inherited, with GW/Cheney overseeing eight years of reckless spending to the tune of about $2 trillion in unfunded wars and tax breaks for the top 1%. And it wasn't Obama who sat in the White House for years while the financial and housing sectors ballooned and popped, in large part due to inadequate regulation and oversight. But never mind all of that, past history, right? (Yet imagine what Lowry et al would say if things were reversed, if it was a Democrat as president during those eight years and a Republican running things since 2009 -- to this day, it would be 24/7 blame for the 2001-2008 years, make no mistake).

    Then when Obama finally enters the scene in early 2009, eventually offering more than few proposals and solutions to help reverse our down-slide, who is there every time to obstruct and insure the economy remains woefully moribund? Yes, the Republicans, who are suddenly obsessed with the deficit and spending cuts. This is the party claiming to be about "Country First" and yet really is all about making sure a supposed Kenyan imposter is booted out of office after one term. When Reagan looked to address his recession, the Democrats at that time most often worked with him to get things done for the betterment of the country. We see nothing of the sort today from these Republicans, choosing instead to be craven, partisan hacks for their corporate and wealthy masters.

    So again, these "young dupes" as Lowry calls them are well-aware of the reality of what has occurred -- or better yet, what hasn't occurred. Fortunately, most of them don't watch Fox News, with that channel possessing one of the most elderly audiences on TV (average viewer age is 65 years old), meaning young Americans are likely more fact-based and fabrication-free.

    But while Lowry's on the subject of being duped, maybe he can comment on the long-standing puzzle regarding red-state voters and Republicans. You talk about individuals getting duped! It's a fact many if not most red states receive more money from the big-bad federal government than they contribute in tax dollars, i.e. they're "welfare queens" dependent on the federal government for needed funds. And yet voters in these states regularly vote for the political party that rails against federal assistance and welfare programs. Call it denial, call it ignorance (likely a mix of both), the odd truth remains that voters in red states too often side with representatives who are against those things that most benefit people in those states. It's flimflam at its best, using propaganda, lies and fear-mongering to convince people to vote against their own interests -- something I believe is best described as dupery.

    But I'm sure Mr. Lowry would disagree. Only Obama possesses the skill and power to hypnotize an entire generation, fooling them into supporting him one more time. This kind of mass deception and manipulation has never and would never occur on the other side, it would be unheard of and frankly impossible to do.


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Some interesting tid-bits

  • Republicans still complain about tax rates being too high -- despite the fact the top tax rate has not been this low since the 1920s. In fact, in 2009, Americans on average paid the lowest tax rate in 30 years due "in part because of tax cuts President Obama sought to combat the Great Recession....The average tax rate paid by all households fell to 17.4 percent, down from 19.9 percent in 2007, according to the CBO. The 2009 rate was significantly lower than the previous low of 19.4 percent in 2003 and well below the 30-year average of 21 percent."

  • Still think the climate isn't changing, or it's cyclical, or it's just Mother Nature (whatever that means)? "[L]ook at the ratio of record high and low temperatures in the U.S. over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, we had about the same number of record high temperatures as record lows. That is, the probability of an extraordinarily cold January day was about as likely as an excessively hot July day. By the 2000s, however, we were twice as likely to see a record high in our weather reports as we were a record low. So far in 2012, that ratio is about 10 to one." How can this be a surprise when the fact remains we now have 35% more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than a century ago?? The first six-months of this year were the hottest ever recorded, by a huge margin. Heck, it was so hot recently that the tarmac at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC actually melted, trapping a plane.

  • And not that I endorse it, but the next time you hear a Republican say Obama is stifling oil production and drilling in this country, give them the following facts. U.S. oil production has increased from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to 6.3 million barrels per day in 2012. Also, the number of oil rigs has more than quadrupled since 2009.