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.