Contributors

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Take a look at this video that was sent to me a while back.



So, let's see if I have this right...Detroit sucks because it's run by leftists and entitlements. And Mr. Crowder would like to know how that is working out?

Apparently, better than he wants to say in this video.

Jobs are growing. Factory workers are anticipating their first healthy profit-sharing checks in years. Sales are rebounding, with the Commerce Department reporting Friday that automobiles were a bright spot in July’s mostly disappointing retail sales.

What? Really?

The improving mood here reflects real changes in how Detroit is doing business — and a growing sense that the changes are turning the Big Three around, according to industry executives and analysts tracking the recovery.

Certainly they have a long way to go. But here are the facts.

Ford made more money in the first six months of this year than in the previous five years combined. G.M. is profitable and preparing for one of the biggest public stock offerings in American history Even Chrysler, the automaker thought least likely to survive the recession, is hiring new workers.

GM? Don't you mean "Government Motors?" It was my understanding from my colleagues on the right that this was destined to fail. And yet we have this news.

GM said Thursday that it made $1.3 billion from April through June, its second straight quarter in the black and a complete reversal from last year, when it was forced into bankruptcy and the U.S. government took a majority stake.

The federal government got a 61 percent stake in GM in exchange for $43 billion in aid to keep it alive. It could sell some or all of that when GM makes its public stock offering perhaps as early as November.

The proof is emerging in dealer showrooms, where customers are buying more of Detroit’s cars and paying higher prices. In July, G.M., Ford and Chrysler sold their vehicles at an average price of $30,400 — $1,350 more than a year ago and higher than an overall industry gain of $1,100, according to the auto research Web site Edmunds.com.

But why is all this happening?

Many of the excesses of the past — overproduction, bloated vehicle lineups, expensive rebates — are gone. All three carmakers have shed workers, plants and brands. And a new breed of top management — the three chief executives are outsiders to Detroit, as is the newly named G.M. chief executive — says it is determined to keep the Big Three lean, agile and focused on building better cars that earn a profit.

And this was all done at the behest of the government...a supposedly socialist one who is now poised to sell back their shares and let the big three continue on their merry capitalist way.

Of course, the image isn't completely rosy and they do have a long way to go but it certainly is working out much better than Crowder's heavily biased and over generalized piece makes it out to be. Just as FDR told GM to turn out a plane an hour, President Obama told them to restructure their companies to be more profitable.

It's like I've been saying all along. He's not a socialist...he's trying to save capitalism.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whither Alinksy

Usually around once or twice a week, I'll get an email or comment that ties the teachings of Saul Alinsky to Barack Obama. Certainly, Alinsky was an influence on President Obama in terms of his philosophy on community organizing. The intimation, though, was that it was much more than that. By tying Obama to the "known radical" Alinsky this proves how "radical" our current president is in his viewpoints.

So, imagine my surprise when I read this article on the Tea Party in the New York Times and saw this line.

New employees receive a required-reading list that includes “Rules for Radicals,” by Saul Alinsky, the father of modern community organizing,

Huh. That's interesting. The entire article is very illuminating regarding this "grass roots" movement.

Even more interesting is that Alinksy, in one of his final interviews before his death in 1972, worried that the middle class (Nixon and Agnew's "Silent Majority) would be driven to the right "making them ripe for the plucking by some guy on horseback promising a return to the vanished verities of yesterday" whose stated motive would be "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back."

Eight years later his prophecy proved all too true. And if you listen to the Koch Foundation sponsored FreedomWorks, they are saying the same thing.

So are Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Again...so what?

There's a lot of liberal outrage out there after the big rally in DC yesterday. I still don't get it. Don't people on the left understand that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin choose their words to provoke anger? And this anger leads to a strengthening of their fan base and positions which ultimately means more power?

Take, for example, this quote.

You have the same spine and moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

Why are people outraged by this? It's a compliment. and should be lauded. And if Ms. Palin and her followers want to embrace the philosophy espoused by Dr. King, that's fantastic! They can start with an economic bill of rights and social justice.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So What?

I think I may be the only person left of center that isn't outraged or upset about Glenn Beck speaking today in DC. First of all, he hadn't even said anything yet and people already hated it. All this does is fuel his supporters more. In fact, one could argue that the reason why he is so popular is that at least a third or more his audience hates him. As long as people (especially the one that hate him) keep paying attention to Glenn Beck, he's going to be around for quite some time.

Second, and more important, if he is genuinely trying to bring civil rights issues to larger crowds, isn't that a victory? His speech talked about God coming back into people's lives much in the same way that MLK talked about it all those many years ago. Certainly the two would be polar opposites when it comes to the role of government in our lives and social justice but this event was largely non-political.

I'm no fan of Glenn Beck and think he sounds more and more like the Reverends Baker and Swaggert every day but holding a "counter rally" is just silly, Al Sharpton. The question the left needs to ask themselves is this:

If Glenn Beck and others like him have no enemies, how will they be relevant?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back To School (Part Four)

Mastiff's concluding comment.

Finally for now, and I think I have mentioned this before, but students are never given truly long-term projects to work on. Because of the disjointed structure of the school-year curriculum, students often leave college having never in their lives worked on any single project for longer than two months—or, more realistically, three weeks (given last-minute cramming). This serves them poorly in the real world.

It has been said that American education is a mile wide and an inch deep. This is true. In fact, I would put it as a chief reason why students are not doing as well as they should be doing. The simple fact is that they have no in depth knowledge of key concepts. A long term project...such as power point presentation that is worked on over a period of three months....would give them this depth. Sadly, the standards of many states are written in such a way that a massive amount of information needs to be covered.

The problem here is that administrators and standards writers are focused on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (Knowledge and Comprehension) when they should be focused on the higher levels (Synthesis and Evaluation). If a student had a three month project to work on, they could start with the basic facts of a concept and develop a truly enduring understanding that would serve them in the real world.

Of course, a long term project is always best if done in a subject in which a student has interest. If a student could choose the subject matter, I wonder if the LTP (long term project) could be introduced as a mandatory assessment method. Perhaps it could be tailored to be similar to a Master's thesis or dissertation...appropriate, of course for age group. I could see students in 11th grade and 12th grade being required to do this. What a fantastic idea!

Thanks, Mastiff, for your comments. They certainly sparked a great deal of reflection and I really enjoyed writing this series!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back To School (Part Three)

Continuing with Mastiff's points.

Schools group by age, when they should be grouping by ability and maturity. This is especially so given the Lord-of-the-Flies aspect of school, in which those students who excel are persecuted for it. More generally, for all that schools see their task as teaching character, they forget that children in school learn most of all from each other. Usually, the tone of a class is set by the worst among them.

Grouping can be tricky. I once observed a class that grouped by ability. The higher level readers were called "The Speader Readers" and the lower level group were called "The Wild Things." Clearly, this was poor pedagogy. Yet this same school (as does my children's school) engages in constant pull outs and shifts according to ability and maturity which allows the students that excel to be in the same group as others who do as well.

This comment also touches on the subject of bullying which has gotten worse over the years. Picking on kids that are smarter happens all the time. This usually has an element of anti-gay bias to it which makes bad situations far worse. Somewhere along the line we decided that children should be allowed more leeway regarding discipline. I run a pretty tight ship with my kids and my students. If they want to fuck around, they are going to have a 400 pound gorilla on their head in less than a second. While I am believer in student centered learning, when it comes to being respectful of others, I run a dictatorship not a democracy.

This also leads to wasted resources and talent. Teachers are forced to aim for around the second-lowest quintile among their students. This leaves the most desperate cases to struggle anyway, and the exceptional students to languish. If you don't think this has a measurable cost, just go to Slashdot and read the comments the next time an article dealing with education shows up.

This comment relates to one of the biggest challenges in education today. We pay a lot of attention to the challenged learners but not enough to the gifted ones. As a result, the gifted kids get bored and do just as poorly as the challenged ones more often than not. My answer for this is varying instructional strategies and more parent volunteers to help with the challenged kids. This is sorely needed at the grade school level. Of course, when parents are working two jobs, it's hard to find volunteers.

And this would be why I have no problem with home school. Resources of the human and financial variety are stretched thin. The more the parents want to be involved, the better. In the final analysis, the real solutions all come from more human involvement. And that means more time (not money) invested.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back To School (Part Two)

Moving on to Mastiff's next comment.

Most schools tend to beat the love of learning out of students. For full arguments, refer to John Taylor Gatto, who makes the point at length. Suffice to say that students seem to break into four classes: those who would be voracious learners no matter what obstacles are placed in their path; those who would not care regardless; those who would otherwise love learning, except for the deadening, soul-crushing format of the Prussian-style school system (of whom there are far too many); and the rare, blessed few who would have spent their lives in darkness, were it not for the intervention of a single, providential teacher who somehow kindled a spark.

Absolutely true. Of all the comments that Mastiff made, this one resonated with me the most. The fact of the matter is that many schools are terribly oppressive places and crush the souls of many young people. Combine this with several teachers who refuse to adjust their pedagogy to include multiple instructional strategies and you have several sparks that are left without that spark.

My mother and I were talking about this "single, providential teacher" of which Mastiff speaks right around the time he put this in comments so it really hit home. All it takes is one adult and a small amount of attention to complexity and you can have a roaring fire in a student. It's important to note that there are so many students whose parents are just fucking checked out. They don't give a shit about their kids and are extraordinarily self centered.

This results in many students that are searching for that one adult who will engage them and possibly change their life forever. This should be the central goal of every educator. Sadly (and because I am a functionalist), the system's impersonality and drive for uniformity, at times, inhibits this interaction.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back To School (Part One)

As the news school year approaches, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at American Education today. As a framework for this, I'm going to be using comments from a poster over at TSM that goes by the handle of Mastiff. He made a list of what perceives as the problems with public education today.

Mastiff's points hit home with me in a number of ways. They really weren't deserving of a simple few comments over there so they will be included in a series of posts that I plan to do throughout the week. Let's get started with the first one!

* Many students are in college who should not be in college. A large fraction of these are simply unprepared, a sizable chunk of whom would have been ill-suited for college in any event; of the rest, those who are able to handle college, their particular aptitude would be better served elsewhere. As it is, we seem to have made it a rite of passage to sacrifice four years of your life, and tens of thousands of dollars, for the sake of a piece of paper.

My views on this have become more radical since I entered graduate school, and truly understood that my college career was little more than an extension of high-school. My understanding of political science (my major) was not much more developed after undergrad as it was when I started. Worse, my experiences as a TA have been horrifying. Very, very few students at my mid-tier state university know how to write well. Many don't know how to spell, even when using word processors! And the classes we offer them are the worst sort of watered-down treacle. It amounts to academic fraud, in some points.


The typical rebuttal to this argument is that college is not a vocational school, and is meant to broaden the mind. My response to this is that first, this judgment is made without concern for the cost of such broadening, versus its actual effectiveness; and second, the students' minds would already be plenty broad except that—


We'll just have to wait until tomorrow to see where this goes but for now, let's comment on his overall point.

It is true that some students simply aren't cut out for college. Not everyone should be given a green light to go. Certainly, there are a variety of different types of colleges to choose from so when one says "college" there are a whole host of definitions. Defining which one to go to, if any, should be done more effectively at the high school level and it is not.

Instructors need to figure out what intrinsically motivates students.
As Mastiff astutely points out, their particular aptitude would be better suited elsewhere. If they can find out what they enjoying doing simply for the sake of doing it and not a paycheck, this is usually the start of a better higher education path. Someone who enjoys cars, for example, should go to a vocational school and not be forced into going to college to learn business. Too often in our culture the focus is on what's "better" (which usually means more money) and not doing what you love.

Of course, that's tough to find in a culture that defines success as material gains and that includes Mastiff's thousands of dollars valued piece of paper. College is meant to broaden the mind but the amount of time and money wasted on students who would be better served at other types of schools, if it all, is too great to ignore.

It all comes back to teachers engaging students at higher levels and putting in more effort to direct them down more appropriate career paths. Sadly, we are not seeing this now and, instead, are seeing half hearted thinking (and effort) at best.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wooderson, R.I.P.

Every summer I dig out the film Dazed and Confused, a wonderful story set on the last day of school in 1976 in Austin, Texas and let its warm rays cascade over me. The music, the images, the theme and the style all mix up in a beautiful melange...so much so that at various points throughout the 103 minutes of this absolute gem, I well up and by the end, I'm usually crying.

It's not from laughter nor is it from bong smoke getting in my eyes. It's from a deep sadness so compelling that more often than not it is overwhelming. I find myself getting up from in front of the television and going outside to breathe the clean, crisp summer air...sucking it deeply into my lungs...hoping that my mind, body, and soul will be soothed. And I will remember that time clearly...and feel like I am there again.

Most of the time it is not soothed and I find myself left with a deep yearning that goes unfulfilled nearly every day of my life.The simple reason for all of this is the titanic melancholy I feel at peaking back into a world that is long gone and has been dead for way too many years...just like all those endless, youthful summers that were eternally magical...always...

The film was released in 1993 and did bring about a brief waved of 70s nostalgia but that was soon lost to new trends, ideas and really fucking awful lifestyle choices. And that nostalgia was mostly filled with pretense although some bands like Oasis and Paul Weller sought to make a point of injecting Bowie, Zeppelin, and T Rex dripped style into their music and largely succeeded. Every year that goes by puts more and more distance between us and that wonderful world that Richard Linklater, the film's director and writer, showed us. What is this world like?

It's a simple place filled with people and laughter. The women are gorgeous in their hip hugging jeans and long beautiful hair. The men are extremely cool in their muscle cars, t shirts, jeans and chucks. There is no Facebook, no texting on cell phones, no iPods, nor DVD players. There's hanging out and actually having a live conversation while driving in a car and listening to an 8 track player as opposed to sitting in front of a computer. There are drive in movies and drive in burger joints. There's pot smoking in the bedroom and quick sprays of air freshener as the parents unexpectedly knock on the door.

Most of all, there is a lot of fun.

This fun reveals itself in a myriad of ways...a primary focus of which is to party with beer and pot. Looking at that the partying that goes in the film through the lens of 2010, the melancholy bubbles up and overwhelms me. In today's culture, this sort of behavior is either insanely surpassed by a whole host of unhealthy drugs like Chrystal Meth or is massively derided by narrow minded people who view any sort of drug taking as being The End. In some ways, the latter group is right. People smoke pot and drink these days for all the wrong fucking reasons. This is likely due to the fact that people are so much more stupid now than they were 35 years ago....Mike Judge's Idiocracy nearly complete and 500 years early:)

The dichotomy between today and 1976 is presented quite eloquently in the character of Wooderson (below, left), the first major role for Matthew McConaughey. It is my view that he is Linklater's answer to Joseph Campbell's mono mythical hero. Wooderson conveys universal truths about his place in history and transcends his own role in his culture while building new meaning regarding the relationship between the two. He is a Campbell archetype and he fits this role perfectly.

Stylistically, this is eloquently conveyed when he walks into the Rec Center with Randy and Mitch. The Tarrentino slo-mo backed with the choice track, "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan drives the meaning of this world home. The Rec Center was THE place to be back then.....even up to the summer before my senior year (1984). Every town had one filled with pool tables, Foosball and later Tron and Missile Command. Sadly, these are all gone now as people just stay home in their little cyberpunk pods of entertainment. There is no face to face conversation or checking out girls or boys in person. Instead, we have match.com and instant messaging via Twitter. Oh boy...

Every time I watch this film...every single time...my mind drifts back to my friends older brothers and sisters who lived through this age. As a 9 year old in 1976, they were the coolest people (next to my dad and John Lennon) I had ever seen. But it wasn't just them. Even my mom, age 30 at that time, would not stop playing Dreamboat Annie by Heart and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Those records are also mixed up in my 70s dreamwarp Monet haze. When I listen to them, I think of Dazed and Confused and when I watch the film, I think of those records even though there were songs from either album in the film. They are inexorably tied together.

All of the characters in the film exemplify this haze but none more so than Wooderson. He's in his 20s but he still hangs out with teenagers. This would never be allowed to happen today (in our hyper fearful and giant leap of paranoia culture) as he would immediately be considered "weird" and possibly a pedophile. He parties quite a bit...getting his "third wind" for another round of drinking and pot smoking at 4am on the 50 yard line of the high school football field. Again, if this happened today he would essentially be considered a gun running drug dealer who wants to destroy us all. In short, Wooderson would be labeled a loser by the narrow minded ass hats who sadly define our socio-cultural context today...his actions...deplorable.

But he does all these things, though, throughout the course of the film while working for the city and contemplating a return to college....just like most of the people I knew back in the day. As he speaks of himself earlier in the film, one gets the sense that he generally has a handle on his life...he parties hard but works hard as well. Unlike the youth of today, he doesn't feel like he is entitled to anything.

Sadly, the youth of today imagine themselves as Vinnie Chase (Entourage) or a cast member of The Jersey Shore and their idea of partying and fun is done within the framework of these images. It's empty...hollow...monumentally selfish...devoid of any real passion...completely lacking in the important elements of deep soul...music..and love. In short, it is nothing like the world of Dazed and Confused where people got ripped but it meant something. Ironic that the youth of today are far more "dazed and confused," than the youth of 1976 who honestly weren't either at all.

We see wisps of the World of Wooderson here and there. A great example of this would be the voice of Kelly Jones and his music with Stereophonics. The Subways and the Stone Temple Pilots are two other bands that seem to have shining hints of this forgotten world. For the most part, however, it's gone. Our society has moved on and that wonderful culture that truly meant so much to me and many others is effectively dead and buried.

For the most part people just don't live, love and party like they did in the film Dazed and Confused...like they did in the 70s. Either they are too square, too uptight, too boring or the exact opposite...too wild, too crazy, and far too out of control. Far too infrequently, I see a ray of hope.

On this rare occasion here and there, I'll sit with some friends...a few of the them women in hip hugging jeans...have a conversation that's actually in person...listen to some great music (playing actual vinyl!)...and remember...if only for a few, fleeting moments....that wonderful world. If I'm lucky, I might actually feel like I'm back there. Most times, though, someone will pull out a cell phone and look at their texts.

Rest in Peace, Wooderson. At least I will always remember you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Heroes

I was just about to put up a post about the Muslim Center and some recent thoughts when Peter King, Jerold Nadler, and Ali Mohammed (a street vendor) beat me to it. I will let their words express what I was thinking and feeling.

"Newt Gingrich is talking about Nazis and whatever, I mean, that means nothing," said Rep. Peter King, a Republican who has led the local opposition to Park51, a 13-story Islamic center that would include a prayer space with an imam, a 500-seat auditorium, a pool, senior center and meeting rooms. King, a plainspoken Long Islander, argues that the center would be insensitive to the families of Sept. 11 survivors, but noted that some of the most prominent national opponents to the project had taken their rhetoric too far, and until very recently, didn't seem interested in New York at all.

"First of all, this is real America," said King, sarcastically using Palin's phrase for the homeland. "The people who detached themselves from New York are all of a sudden embracing New York."

No shit. Well said, dude. And I don't even support your view on the center but boy oh boy did you perfectly convey their hypocritical bullshit.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the city's most outspoken supporter of the Muslim congregation's right to build the center, couldn't agree more. "It's disgusting," he said of the remarks by Gingrich and other Republicans who rarely expressed support for the city. "It is an attempt to exploit for purely political motives a sensitive issue. And to exploit people they obviously don't really care about."

Sometimes there is bipartisanship...cool!

Mohammed, like many other New Yorkers, has reached his saturation point. "They got nothing to do with New York and they don't care about New York," said the 56-year-old from Brooklyn, igniting a Marlboro Light. "They are trying to create propaganda."

Yes, they are. Perhaps it's possible...just possible...that New Yorkers, in their disagreement over whether or not this should be built, may have found some common ground. I applaud it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Yet Another Reason

So, here is the other reason why I have changed the theme of my posts: 18 percent of this country think that Barack Obama is a Muslim. That number is up 7 percent from a year and a half ago.

No amount of snark, name calling, or bating will ever change these people's minds. Their frustration with their lives (more than likely due to their economic situation) have clearly overcome them. This would be a reason why we see such an outrage over the Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero. Historically, this makes sense. When times are tough, a certain group or demographic gets the blame for problems. Native Americans, the Irish, the Chinese, African Americans etc have all experienced this phenomenon. Now it's the Muslim's turn.

Over 60 percent of this 18 percent got this information from the media which I think is pretty sad. Wouldn't I be just like this "media" if I resort to telling jokes like this?

Teaching Math in 1950:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.
His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1960:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.
His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970:
A logger exchanges a set "L" of lumber for a set "M" of money.
The cardinality of set "M" is 100. Each element is worth one dollar.
Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set "M."
The set "C", the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set "M."
Represent the set "C" as a subset of set "M" and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set "P" of profits?

Teaching Math in 1980:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.
His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment:
Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math in 1990:
By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20.
What do you think of this way of making a living?
Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees?
(There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math in 2000:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120.
How does Arthur Andersen determine that his profit margin is $60?
How many documents were shredded to achieve this number?

Teaching Math in 2010:
Un hachero vende una carretada de madera por $100.
El costo de la producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero ha hecho?

Teaching Math in 2040:
ومسجل تبيع حمولة شاحنة من الخشب من أجل 100 دولا

تكلفة الإنتاج هو صاحب 5/4 من الثمن. ما هو الربح له ؟


Answer: Yes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Early Look at The Senate Races 2010

The Senate races this year are certainly going to be interesting. While it's fairly certain the Democrats are going to lose a few seats, it's highly unlikely that the GOP will take back the Senate. The New York Times has a great overview of the Senate Race along with some seriously cool features. Here's my take.

Right now the Dems have 59 seats in the Senate. They can say goodbye to North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, and Missouri. That puts them at 54. The GOP will hold on to New Hampshire and Louisiana despite the latter being held by David "Ladies of the Evening" Vitter. Sex scandals and seeing prostitutes just don't have the bite that they used to...no pun intended. So, at 54-46, what about the rest?

The GOP really blew it in Florida and my money's on Charlie Crist. The state went 60 percent Dem in the 2006 election and Crist has the name recognition and experience. Add in the fact that he is now and independent and will likely caucus with the Dems which means Kendrick Meek is SOL. So is Rubio for that matter. This is one of four examples of how the GOP moved farther to the right and why it will, in all likelihood, cost them.

The other three are Kentucky, Colorado, and Nevada. Nominating Rand Paul was a huge mistake. Kidnapping a woman and forcing her to smoke pot? That will not go over well. And look at the numbers in Kentucky. That's a large turnout for the Dems in the primary. In addition, look at the votes from the last three cycles. 47 percent in the blue column? That's much more than I would've expected in a solid red state. If Conway plays his cards right and plays to centrist issues, he could pull it off.

In Colorado, the GOP have a Rand like problem with Ken Buck. Mr. High Heels and Birthers are Crazy is going to be a real turnoff for large swaths of voters. I think Bennett hangs on here.

Then we have Harry Reid. The best thing that could've happened to him was Sharon Engle. Reid was, for all intents and purposes, done this year. Now he is in a dead heat with Engle who has ruminated on second amendment solutions for our country as well as dismantling entitlements like Social Security. Reid and the Dems must be salivating at the prospect of debates which will surely favor Reid and his calm (see: glass of warm milk at a reading of the Dewey Decimal System) manner. Add in the fact that Reid and Wayne LaPierre are good friends and I say Reid holds on.

I can't see Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, California or Washington going red. I know there are a lot of wishful thinkers out there but if you look closely at how the Dems are organized in these states, it just won't happen. Add in the fact the Feingold in Wisconsin, for example, wins in districts that have never voted for a blue presidential candidate in their history. Anomalies certainly abound.

So, I'm sticking with my prediction of 5 losses in the Senate. If Crist and Conway win, that's only 3 net losses but I am only human. I'll allow myself two mistakes in my other predictions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Early Look at The House Races 2010

There has been quite a bit of talk in comments regarding the Dems getting their ass kicked on November 2nd. In looking at two separate analyses of the electoral map, I'm wondering how that is possible.

First up, we have the Cook Political Report which puts 214 House seats are Solid, Likely or Lean Democratic, while 181 seats are Solid, Likely or Lean Republican, and 40 seats are in the Toss Up column. No doubt, things are going to shift between now and the fall but I don't really see how the GOP is going to win 39 of 40 seats if we are operating in Cook's framework. This is especially true considering the fact that the Democrats have more money right now than the GOP.

The New York Times has a more realistic (and extremely cool!) map which I think illustrates the fluidity of the situation more accurately. They have 168-Solid Dem, 55-Leaning Dem, 31-Tossup, 18-Leaning GOP, and 163-Solid GOP. That basically puts 104 seats into play. The question is, if you are the GOP, where do you put your money? You would need to get all 18 of the leaning GOP (likely) which will put you at 181. Then you would need all 31 of the Tossups (doable) which would put you at 212. Now you need 6 of the leaning Dem (somewhat tough). Are these final 6 where you really spend your money? Again, I don't see an ass kicking here...just a possible eeking out of a victory or falling short. Of course, this could change but after looking at these numbers, I am revising my prediction for the House to 25 flips...which would put us at 230-Dem and 202-GOP.

As John Boehner said at a recent Monitor lunch, it will be an uphill climb. For once, I agree with him. When you look at the numbers this way, I guess I don't see the ass kicking.

Tomorrow: An early look at the Senate Races 2010.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rhetorical Overreach

Joe Gandleman has a niece piece on the upcoming fall elections. The quote that stood out for me was this one.

I’ve long predicted that much will depend on GOP rhetorical overreach: if it gets to the point where Democrats rush to the polls due to polemics and the results are far less than the GOP expected on election day than Michael Steel and other party establishment bigwigs will be on the defensive.

If the GOP wants to see major gains and possibly take back the House in the fall, they will need to stop saying things like this.

“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington,” Mr. Gingrich said on the Fox News program “Fox and Friends.” “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

While this certainly fires up the base of the GOP, this kind of language (in addition to being filled with flaws), alienates independent voters. It also fires up the soft vote that Michael Moore talked about in the clip I put up last week. Certainly, it demonstrates an intolerance that could turn off a wide variety of demographics.

Let's take a look at some key facts:

1. The Planned Site is NOT on Ground Zero but is two blocks away. Two blocks away is not sacred or hallowed ground. Again, not the attack site but an ordinary block in lower Manhattan. I guess my question would be...how many blocks away is respectful?

2. It is not simply a Mosque. It is a community center with meeting rooms and a pool that offers more privacy to conform to religious restrictions. There is also going to be an auditorium for lectures.

3. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and private property. If you vociferously defend the Constitution, as many in the GOP do every day, than you must defend the right for them to build their center there. To be against this Mosque would be incongruous if one claimed to be a defender of the Constitution.

As most of you know, I have a horrible prejudice against Muslim men. But the outrage over this is ridiculous. If anything, we need to show the world how tolerant we are and embrace them. This would demonstrate a clear separation between those who believe in the basic principles of freedom and tolerance (us) and those who do not (Hirabis).

And it is a stark example of Gandelman's rhetorical overreach. If I were a GOP strategist, I would tell them to get back to talking about the economy and jobs. That's where their greatest hope for victory lies.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Loss For Words

"It's right on the inside of his skin"
"What is?"
"The number."
"What number? The number of Satan? Is that what you said?" I asked, trying desperately to understand.
"Yep. It's inside the skin flap on his arm...the number 666...imprinted on Barack Obama's arm."

I was at a complete loss for words. Making matters worse, he said all of this in front of my ten year old daughter who, sadly, is best friends with his ten year old daughter. We were at National Night out and all of our neighbors were gathered in the street around our house which is in the middle of the block. Jeff was my neighbor who informed me of the return of the anti-Christ.

Luckily, I didn't have to stay long as I had to coach tennis that evening. When I got home, my daughter was very upset as was my son. Jeff's daughter had been telling them all night that the government was going to take over everyone and send them to a re-education camp. My son told me that he liked his school and didn't want to leave at which my wife chuckled.

After a few minutes of explanation, I sat and reflected about Jeff and how much he reminded me of others in my life. In this reflection and the period of time since then, I have reached a conclusion: I will no longer be referring to the GOP as the "Cult" any longer. In addition, I'm going to make every effort to analyze what they say without being derisive. This, of course, does not mean I won't be critical or wonder where their reasons and facts are for a particular argument. It does mean that I am done personally attacking or labeling people that are on the right. I will also be relying more heavily on what they say as opposed to my interpretation of it. If they wish to continue to do that with me, it will be ignored and I will respond with impersonal comments. This will also hold true for any comments I have on TSM as well, although I think the transition will be more difficult over there.

Why the change?

As I listened to Paul, I realized that he was really just an unhappy soul. His outrage, much like we see across the country, is based on anomie....or a feeling of normlessness of not being able to function within our culture. Paul works as a mechanic on the rides at Valley Fair, a local amusement park, as well as several odd jobs during the winter. He feels that he deserves more and blames not himself but President Obama and Nancy Pelosi for his problems. Like many people, Paul has not achieved the material success in his life expected of someone his age (40s). This goal of monetary achievement is one of the cornerstones of our culture and, in the eyes of our society, Paul has fallen short and so it's really no surprise that he feels the way he does.

I said earlier that he reminded me of others in my life. My uncle Bill and my friend Pete from back in Wisconsin have the same views that he does. Neither are employed and both are staunchly right wing. They, too, blame Democrats for their lot in life and are angry...frustrated...that things have not worked out the way they want them too. Rather than examine their own faults, they blame the policies of the last 18 months as reason number one for their failure to be upwardly mobile. Their proclamations (my uncle: "That bitch in the House" Pete: "Our country is like the Soviet Union now with President Obama") have always made me sad and frustrated over the last two years.

But it was really Paul's recent declaration that Barack Obama was the anti-Christ that drained all of the snark, bitchiness, and downright obnoxious behavior right out of me. The enormity of it was too much to handle. It was a slow drain over the last two weeks and I have nothing left in me. I'm not perfect so I may slip from time to time but I just don't think my heart is in writing this blog the way I have been. These people need help not chastisement. They need an educator or, failing that, to simply be accepted...somehow....for what they believe.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wait...huh?

I've been assured by some of my readers here and all the commenters over at TSM that Europe has become a cesspool of economic decline and that our current President's policies, similar to the Eurozone's, are sure to send us into a boiling pit of sewage.

Yet, reality doesn't jibe with this belief. Take a look at this.

As a whole the EU saw growth of 1% in the second quarter, as did the 16 countries that make up the eurozone. Germany and France, the two engines of the European economy, have both beaten analysts expectations. France's economy grew at a respectable rate of 0.6% in the second quarter. But the real story here is Germany. Not since the Berlin wall divided the country has Europe's biggest country seen growth of 2.2% in a single three month period.

France? Crap, there goes another whipping boy of the Cult Tribe doing something better than us. Shit, that's really gotta suck.

Interestingly, the ruling party of Germany employs a social market economic strategy. The mere mention of the word "social" in here is sure to unleash a volley of wordy squirts below but the numbers don't lie. It's working.

Perhaps that means that the reason why our recovery has been sluggish is because the "liberal commie" Barack Obama has coddled our private sector. Could it really be as simple as this?

The main elements of the Social Market Economy in Germany are basically:
  • The Social Market Economy contains the central elements of the free market economy such as private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices.
  • Other elements shall diminish occurring problems of the free market economy. These elements, such as pension insurance, health care and unemployment insurance are part of the social security system. The payments to the social security system are mainly made by the labor force. In addition, there are provisions to restrain the free market (e.g. anti-trust code, laws against the abuse of market power etc.).
Yes.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Perfect Summation

I don't think there is a better video that sums up Sarah Palin.



Elect candidates that understand the Constitution. You mean like our president who is a Constitutional scholar? Silly me, only certain people understand what the Constitution means...

And check out her reaction when Kathleen says that she is a teacher. It's "Ah...shit...another commie pinko who refuses to accept the Creed."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Actual Cause For Concern

There certainly has been a lot of chest thumping these days when it comes to the fall election. The Cult Tribe will have people believe that they are going to "run Obama out of town."

Setting aside the fact that Mr. Obama isn't up for re-election until 2012, Democrats should have plenty of reasons to be concerned. Those reasons, however, do not include a sudden embrace of Cult ideology or an overwhelming transformation of part of the electorate. In their never ending quest to "win the argument," that is how the Tribe is painting the picture. People are now "seeing the light" and realizing the "failure" of liberal policies.

Odd, because there really haven't been any liberal policies at all. They might look that way when you shave the football field in half and call the 50 yard line liberal but the real progressives are the issue. The actual cause for concern was summed up quite nicely by Michael Moore last night on Countdown at 7:20 into this clip.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


So, it's the liberals and independents who lean liberal possibly staying home that will decide this election. The Right simply doesn't have the numbers to win regardless of how riled up they are or how energized their base is on November 2nd. Take a look at this list of polls regarding party identification. Consistently, more people identify themselves as Democrats. If there is low voter turnout, it favors the GOP. And that's why you see them going after groups like ACORN.

Thankfully, as Moore says, the hard core of the Dems will get out and vote. The alternative is a return to complete failure and a certain magnification of the problems we are trying to solve now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Unrealized Dream

I find myself feeling quite melancholy today and it's largely due to this editorial from the New York Times.

Once, in what seems like another eon of Republican politics, George W. Bush dreamed of building a multiethnic party that would achieve dominance in a nation where the words “majority” and “minority” were losing their meaning. Mr. Bush was adamant, in the days after the terrorist attacks of 2001, that American Muslims not become the targets of public resentment, and he later pushed a plan to offer illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship.

Republicans are now taking a decidedly different approach.

No shit.

I remember two distinct events from the presidency of George W. Bush that echo this piece. He gave a speech in which he stated quite directly that he would use "his FBI" to come down hard on anyone who harassed Muslims. He mentioned an example of a woman wearing a Burqa who was beaten. "If a woman is wearing cover," he said, "she is practicing religious freedom which is what this country is all about."

W was also the first (and only so far) sitting president to call for a state of Palestine.

Now, I am not a fan of Bush and think that most of his presidency was marred by incompetence and a pathological drive for financial dominance that at several moments bordered on criminality. But there is no doubt in my mind that George W. Bush was not a racist, prejudiced or any way discriminatory. Contrary to Kayne West's imbecilic comment, George Bush does not hate black people. Nor any non whites for that matter. And his track record proves this to be true. His in laws are Hispanic and his administration was the one of the most diverse in our country's history.

Given three issues that have come to the forefront recently, Bush's efforts have all gone to shit.

First, we have the "outrage" over building a mosque near (not on) Ground Zero. Second, we have several US Senators and Congressional reps calling for the repeal of the 14th Amendment. Third, we have the hard stance against illegal immigrants and much louder yelling for border enforcement. Put all of these together and it is plain to see that Bush's dream of a multiracial GOP is absolutely fucking gone. In its place is a terribly ugly ideology that serves only to alienate people who don't conform to a highly fictionalized ideal of what it means to be "American." Bai quite astutely compares the current GOP to the Know Nothing party of the 1850s. But let's get back to the subject at hand....W.

When Mr. Bush, a Texan fluent both in Spanish and in immigration policy, advanced a plan to reform the system in 2006, he was going directly into the teeth of that sentiment within his own party. His failure virtually guaranteed that his party — already beset by an unpopular war and mounting distrust from black Americans — would not become the broader coalition he had hoped to build.

I know it seems anathema for some of you but I honestly feel more sorry for the guy than I ever have. So what does that mean for the future?

This could be a problem for Republicans in the years ahead, as the American electorate rapidly grows more diverse. “You can win elections temporarily by accumulating large percentages of the white vote,” says Matthew Dowd, who was a top strategist in Mr. Bush’s two elections, “but over time, it’s unsustainable.”

I contend that everything we are seeing now from the Right...EVERY SINGLE WORD THAT COMES OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS....is the last gasp of a dying man. They know that this election and possibly 2012 are pretty much it for their type of politics. After that, our country's diversity is going to be increasing at an amazingly large rate.

So, how is it going to possible for them to build any sort of broader coalition or have a real future for their party?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Scaring White People For Fun and Profit.

Rachel was dead on right with this one. Pay attention to what John McCain says at 5:18.



"Violence the worst I have ever seen." Really? According to the FACTS presented here in this piece the EXACT OPPOSITE is actually true. I wish he and other Cult Tribe members would actually come out and say, "I want to scare you so you will come out and vote against the party who is actually doing something to solve our nation's problems which will result in my party being irrelevant." That's essentially their tactic. I wonder how long it will work.

Add in all the anti-mosque garbage lately and one has to wonder why people think that the Cult Tribe is prejudiced. Golly whiz, I just can't understand why Maher's opinion (not all Republicans are racist but if you are a racist then you are probably a Republican) is even remotely valid.

I guess it must be my lyin' ears again!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Ejected by the Cult Tribe

Remember this guy? He WAS South Carolina Congressional Rep Bob Inglis who made the unfortunate mistake of telling his constituents to turn off Glenn Beck during a town hall meeting. And now he is out of job completely...losing 71 to 29 percent in his primary last June. Why?

Because he wouldn't go along with the Cult.

Sanchez read from Inglis's recollection of a conversation with some voters: "'Bob, what don't you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.'"

Sounds like Cult Tribe 101. But who were these people?

"That was several 80-year-old couples that were expressing their views. And you know, what I should have said was, 'Over my dead body that's gonna happen. I can guarantee it's not gonna happen,'" said Inglis. "That would have been the better answer, wouldn't it? Rather than the one I gave, which is, 'Well it's not quite that bad, let's keep it within the realm of facts.'"

Facts? Bob...Bob...Bob...don't you know that whatever the Cult says are facts, are facts damnit!

Check out more of the interview.



Ingliss was an example of a Republican that I respected. Sadly (and as I have said a zillion times on here), they are a dying breed. If you ain't a hate spitting, fear mongering malcontent with wildly psychotic theories and made up facts, you are not welcome in the GOP this year.

I ask again, how can they win by moving further to the right? More importantly, how can they maintain party integrity in the future?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Walking at Wounded Knee

The man gripped my hand tight and wouldn't let go.

"Just some gas money...please," he whispered.

I knew he was playing on my guilt which was overpowering considering I was standing on the mass grave containing scores of Native American bodies massacred at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. But I couldn't help it. I gave him a few bucks and he went on his way with his daughter.

For my entire life, I have wanted to visit this area of South Dakota. When I was a very young child, my dad would read passages from the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown to me and tell me a version of history that I had never heard. No John Wayne. No red faced savages. Just lie after lie...murder after murder...slaughter after slaughter. When we decided to take a family vacation there, we planned a day trip down to the massacre site and then back through the Badlands.

Getting to the site itself is slightly difficult. The roads in that part of the state are not clearly marked so we had to sort of guess that we were going in the right direction. The few miles leading up to Wounded Knee were massively depressing.

The site is on the Pine Ridge Reservation and as we passed through the several Native American communities on our way there, the poverty was staggering. Burned out trailers and dozens of cannibalized automobiles littered the landscape. Honestly, it looked just like the poverty one would see in a Third World country. It was awful. All four of us were pretty shook up by it.

When we got to Wounded Knee, we saw a few make shift dream catcher stands set up along with a few tourists. We made our way up to the monument and the grave to check it out. Here is what it looks like today.

Right before we walked under the cross, the man above approached me. There were a few Native Americans sort of hanging around with dream catchers to sell. As some other tourists came up, they drifted to them and my daughter and I walked around.

As I was reading the names on the monument, I started to think about a long debate/argument I had with juris a while back on the incident at Waco with the Branch Davidians. In several key ways, what happened at Waco is very similar to what happened at Wounded Knee.

In both cases, the government had a complete lack of understanding of the religious aspects of each group. With Wounded Knee, it was the Ghost Dance. With Waco, it was the Seventh Day Adventist. In both cases, the government overreacted (due to this ignorance), made unforgivable mistakes, and innocent people died. In both cases there was institutionalized discrimination of religion and, in the case of Wounded Knee, race as well. L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, summed this up ugliness up quite nicely when he wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer:

The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untameable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.

This particular quote reminds me quite a bit of the illegal immigrant diatribes we hear from the Cult Tribe these days but that's a topic for another day.

The juxtaposition of Wounded Knee and Waco does reveal stark differences however. In addition to the racism we see above, Wounded Knee was also the culmination of an extermination of the indigenous people of the North American continent. Americans at the time believed it was their Manifest Destiny to take this land. Sadly, this is all too similar to other periods of time and leaders who have justified wholesale massacre of people.

And there certainly weren't any widespread allegations of child abuse as there were with Waco. The Native Americans at Wounded Knee were animists and didn't have a central figure like David Koresh at whom they heaped psychotic worship upon.

Yet, the similarities between Waco and Wounded Knee can't be ignored. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm going to go all Tea Bagger on all of you and hate the "Gubmint" but we do need to examine why this continues to happen. There is a decided leap to instant fear by people in this country to hate what they do not understand and act irrationally. This is true regardless of your political stripes. Because we are the government, they become the mechanism for this fear and the results are often tragic...as they were four days after Christmas one hundred and twenty years ago.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Back

For those of you who were wondering, I'm back after a vacation out to South Dakota. I saw many wonderful things with my baby blues and let me tell you all, I am a man transformed. The trip down to the Wounded Knee massacre site was quite humbling.

I will be talking about what I saw as well as many of the thoughts that I had rolling through my head as I had a massive download of Americana in the last four days. Stay tuned...