Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wrong Guys for the Job

Apparently Mitt Romney thinks that hurricane relief consists of sending canned goods to the victims. There's nothing wrong with canned goods, except that it takes a herculean effort to collect them, and repackage them, and put them on a truck or a plane, which then have to make their way across country over roads that have been inundated by heavy rains and storm surge, where they then need to be distributed. The amount of gas and effort required to move those canned goods dwarfs the actual value of the contributed items.

It turns out that relief organizations like the Red Cross would much rather we contribute blood and money, which can be used to pay for things like gas, vehicles, emergency equipment like generators and to resupply prepositioned relief depots around the country. Romney's campaign even bought $5,000 worth of stuff as props to prevent his relief truck from being empty. That's $5,000 the Red Cross could have used for real relief.

Romney's response to people dying, thousands losing their homes, and millions losing power was a cynical photo op at a repurposed campaign rally. It exemplifies why he's the wrong guy for the job.

Small-scale canned food drives are great for supplying food shelves for the homeless, but for a devastatingly huge catastrophe that spans almost the entire eastern seaboard, Romney's ideas are quaint, inadequate and quite wrong. Hurricane Sandy requires a nationwide response, coordinated by a federal agency that has expertise in dealing with such colossal emergencies. In other words, FEMA. An agency that Romney refuses to answer questions about these days, though he said he would cut its funding to it in 2011.

Romney isn't the only Republican to think small. Former FEMA director Michael "Heckuva job Brownie" Brown, had the gall to criticize President Obama for responding too quickly to the hurricane. This is the same guy who dragged his feet and totally botched the federal response to Katrina under Bush. The guy who wrote emails back to Washington pleading, "I'm trapped now, please rescue me." That anyone would ever hire this guy again boggles the mind, but that someone would actually give him a radio show is really incredible.

Republicans insist small government is better than big government. But the fact is, we need a government that is equal to the magnitude of the problems we have to deal with. New York is the financial capital of this country. If a hurricane wipes it out, we're dead in the water until it gets going again. A nationwide response is needed to restore the financial markets, and we need to get all the people that work in those markets back to work ASAP. That means helping New York and New Jersey (and Chris Christie) get the trains running again.

If massive hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts hit the Gulf Coast, Southeast, Midwest and Texas, threatening oil and gas and grain and livestock production, the rest of the country needs to help them get back on their feet as fast as possible. Because we need the food and energy they produce. If an earthquake hits California and disrupts Internet traffic—the central nervous system of this country—a nationwide response is necessary to get us back online as quickly as possible.

Every state in this country is dependent on other states for something. We're all in this together. The idea that everyone can be totally self-reliant and do everything by themselves is sentimental hankering for a time that never existed. The only truly self-sufficient humans were cavemen—the rest of us need other people to build our roads, grow our grain, bake our bread, butcher our meat, manufacture our tools and cars and computers, write our software. John Donne wrote "No man is an island" four hundred years ago.

Republicans express nothing but contempt for government. Does it make any sense to put people in charge of something they totally despise? For the same reason you don't make an Greenpeace activist CEO of Exxon, you don't put Grover Norquist and his Republican pawns in Congress in charge of the federal government.

Republicans make excellent mad dogs biting at the heals of government, calling attention to inefficiencies and problems that inevitably crop up. But putting Mitt Romney and the Republicans in charge of FEMA again would inevitably result in another Katrina-scale Brownie screwup.

Romney is running for president with the same policies and the same cast of characters from the Bush administration. With Katrina, Iraq, the financial meltdown, massive tax cuts during a massive wartime buildup that resulted in huge deficits, these folks have demonstrated that they are not competent to run this country.

Speaking Your Mind

You really have to hand it to Chris Christie. The guy says what's on his mind and doesn't care who he offends. Either way, he's a straight shooter.

The president's done a great job, you say? Well, that's because he is a good president and has shown these last few days what kind of a leader he is in a crisis.

Who was it again that said they wanted to shut down FEMA?


And it's not just him. Imagine what would happen if we had another crisis like this and emergency management was done by states and private corporations.  Part of me almost wishes we could try it out for just one disaster so the right wing blogsphere would be put down for rabies once and for all.

Joss Whedon "Endorses" Mitt Romney (Perfect For Halloween)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Insurance Company Takes Climate Change Seriously

As corporations go, insurance companies are some of the most conservative. So when a company like Munich Re, one of the world's biggest reinsurers, issues a press release that says climate change is real and is causing the droughts, massive hurricanes and snowstorms that have hit the United States in the last few years, it's not just some scientist scrounging for more grant money.

Munich Re's release, published two weeks ago, directly addresses the question of whether climate change is causing hurricanes like Sandy this year and Irene last year:
Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways. Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity. 
A big insurance company is saying specifically that all the droughts, massive snowstorms, downpours, tornadoes and hurricanes we've been having the last few years are caused by us burning too many hydrocarbons.

Sandy is almost a thousand miles wide, more than twice the size of Katrina and four hundred miles wider than Irene. The exact mechanism for why climate change is making Sandy so huge is well known: the jet stream is funneling air south as hot tropical air is coming north. The unprecedented melting of the arctic ice cap is the direct cause of  that shift in the jet stream. A high pressure area over Greenland is also contributing to the problem.

Because climate change is making storms bigger, millions more people are being flooded out of their homes and losing electricity than would have been otherwise. Areas along the coast are densely populated and filled with lots of expensive infrastructure (ports, military bases, etc.) and critical services (like the stock market in New York). Storms that would have been relatively minor inconveniences will now kill dozens or hundreds of people and inflict tens of billions of dollars of damage.

And that's why insurance companies are taking climate change seriously.

On Stiglitz, Part Four

Spend just a few minutes on the internet and you can see Joseph Stiglitz everywhere.

A recent article on how public sector belt tightening has made inequality worse.

These reductions, economists say, act as a drag on the economy. Former park employees, clerks, and firefighters such as Lykins are buying only the necessities. Cities are deferring road work, which means contractors aren't hiring people to pour concrete. By far, the largest impact is on school systems, which are laying off teachers, counselors, and janitors.

The latest BLS data on the working poor.

In 2010, there were 10.5 million individuals classified as "working poor" (persons who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force—that is, working or looking for work—but whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level); the number of working poor was little changed from 2009.

Yet another report on the widening income disparity.

The divergent fortunes of Reyes and Hemsley show that the U.S. has gone through two recoveries. The 1.2 million households whose incomes put them in the top 1 percent of the U.S. saw their earnings increase 5.5 percent last year, according to estimates released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. Earnings fell 1.7 percent for the 96 million households in the bottom 80 percent -- those that made less than $101,583.

So, Chapter 4 of The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz, aptly titled "Why It Matters" could never be more relevant.

Stiglitz begins by illustrating a very simple fact.

When the wealthiest use their political power to benefit excessively the corporations they control, much needed revenues are diverted into the pockets of a few instead of benefiting society at large. But the rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position and to produce income from their assets. The rich resist taxes, but taxes allow society to make investments that sustain the country's growth.

This echoes Nick Hanuer and his pointing out of the obvious: he (and other wealthy people) don't buy 5,000 pairs of pants. They buy 5 pairs. If people are buying less pairs of pants, the economy doesn't grow and that's why it matters. But it gets worse.

As Stiglitz notes, moving money from the bottom to the top lower consumption because the wealthy save more of their money rather than spend it. In fact, they save 15 to 25 percent of their income whereas those at the bottom spend all of theirs. Why does this matter?

The result: until and unless something else happens, such as increase in investment or exports, total demand in the economy will be less than what the economy is capable of supplying-and that means there will be unemployment. 

So, what can be done? Well, the wealthy are going to have to give up some of the money they are saving if they want to continue to have a society in which to enjoy their wealth. Stiglitz thinks that this should be done through taxes and government spending. Certainly, that's going to happen in some form or another but I question to what degree and, I have to admit, I question the mechanism. Relying completely on government is not the answer. As Stiglitz himself admits, they are running the government with their money and it's going to be enormously difficult to break out of that cycle, if not impossible. I think the president is trying to do this and having a tough time of it. Mitt Romney will make it worse.

That doesn't change the fact that the wealthy of this country are going to have to ALL do what Bill Gates does in Africa but do it here. It can't just be a few of them and the sooner they realize the necessity of this to their own livelihoods, the better. Stiglitz has a simple way to solve it.

The top 1 percent of this country earns 20 percent of the income. If they shifted just 5 percent of that income to the poor or middle class who do not save (through a combination of taxes, private charities, grants, and higher wages a la Henry Ford), this would increase aggregate demand by 1 percentage point and still leave them obviously quite wealthy with 15 percent of the nation's income. This is what we saw from post WWII to about 1980 and it wasn't socialism, folks, there was still inequality...just not enough to inhibit growth in our economy like there is right now.

This increase of one point would have a cascading effect. As the money recirculates, output would actually increase by 1.5 to 2 percentage points. Unemployment would go down considerably, likely around 6 percent. Stiglitz notes that a broader redistribution (from the top 20 percent, as opposed to the top 1 percent) would lower this unemployment even further.

Right around now is when the mouth foamers blow a bowel and starting screaming about socialism and/or communism. Paying higher taxes, as Stiglitz is suggesting, isn't socialism. Morever, I'd be more than happy if the wealthy of this country saw the need to do this voluntarily and simply did it for their own sake's. If we continue down this path of increased inequality and stagnation (likely worse, eventually), they will not have a choice. I think things are moving in the right direction, though, and we are already seeing some signs of this possibly happening and I am certainly optimistic.

Stiglitz goes on to discuss how the government's response to weak demand from inequality led to a bubble and even more inequality. He cites inadequate regulation and dishonest/incompetent banking as large contributors to this problem but this has been gone over many times.

He then lays out exactly how inequality makes for a less efficient and productive economy by looking at lowering public investment (as we see in the CSM link above), underinvestiment in the common good like education that directly leads to economic mobility, rent seeking and the financialization of our economy (the oil market is a great example of this...filled with people that don't actually buy oil but speculate on it), and the issue of consumerism.I'm going to turn this final point of consumerism into a stand alone post at some point as it is worthy of special attention. 

The rest of Chapter 4 is devoted to the alleged inequality efficiency trade off which, again, deserves its own post and honestly is separate from the issue of why inequality matters.  Suffice to say, Stiglitz has shown thus far that not only are we failing in equality of outcome but we are failing in equality of opportunity. People simply don't have the income mobility that leads to greater opportunity and our society is sorely lacking in closing this gap and increasing these types of opportunities.

Worse, as Stiglitz previews for the next chapter, this inequality is imperiling our democracy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

And this is the guy that is going to do a better job with our debt and deficit?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Picking Health Care Winners and Losers

When my wife and I quit our corporate jobs we had to go out and buy our health insurance directly. We called Blue Cross Blue Shield, but were told that you can't buy insurance directly, you have to go through an agent. They gave us a list of agents, we called one and signed up.

Now, what does that agent do for us? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He collects a percentage of the health insurance premium we pay each month, but when we see doctors or get statements or put money in the health savings account we have nothing at all to do with the agent. The agent is a worthless leech on the system.

If this were the end of the story, it would be just another typical instance of the bloated health care system where dozens of useless middlemen sucking on the health care teat. But there's more.

I live in Minnesota, and my state senator is David Hann. He serves on the Health and Human Services committee. In that position he has been working hard to prevent Democratic Governor Mark Dayton from implementing the health insurance exchanges required under the new health care law. The exchanges would allow health care to enter the 21st century and let you sign up for health insurance directly instead of having to deal with worthless middlemen, providing for easier comparison of benefits, more competition and elimination of overhead.

What's Hann's main concern about exchanges?
In recent discussion about the health insurance exchange, he said, "The people I hear mostly from are people who are selling insurance and insurance agents who are very concerned about this because they see it as a direct threat to their business."
What does David Hann do for a living? Until recently, his web site said he was a "business process consultant." According to that article on the Fox affiliate website, Hann now works for Boys and Tyler Financial Group, which sells health insurance. It turns out that Hann's Republican counterpart in the House committee also started working the same company just after the session ended this past year.

Now, there's nothing wrong with legislators serving on committees where they have expertise (Hann was an exec at Deli Express before joining the legislature). It only makes sense for doctors and nurses to serve on health care committees, teachers on education and farmers on agriculture. If everyone knows what you do and you don't stand to profit directly from legislation, there's no conflict of interest.

But Hann has been pushing legislation that would replace Minnesota's Medicaid system with a voucher program that would require recipients to buy health insurance through insurance agents like he is now.

This raises a lot of questions. Why is he more concerned about the jobs of few insurance salesman than cheaper and more efficient health care for all? Is his employment by this company a quid pro quo for his actions in the legislature? And why did Hann keep his new employer secret until the media revealed it?

And finally: why would a Republican who always rails against big government and excessive regulation sponsor legislation that would lock us into an archaic and bureaucratic system of health care that mandates guaranteed income to insurance agents who provide no useful function?

In short, why is David Hann using his position in government to pick winners (insurance salesmen like himself) and loser (health care customers like me)?

Can You Spot the Difference?

Since it's Sunday, it's only fitting that we turn to spiritual matters and this recent piece by Slate is..well...just what I have been saying all along.

A sample question.

Women cannot handle power. It is not within them to handle power. ... The real and true power comes from God and God is the one that gave man the power and the authority over the wife.

Was this an Islamic fundamentalist or a social conservative?

Click on the link above to find out!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

And That's The End of the Libya Malarky...

Uncertainty Preferred

For those of you out there who are voting for Mitt Romney, I have a simple question for you: what does he stand for?

We've seen him change his mind on every conceivable issue and it's obviously beyond my comprehension why anyone would vote for him. This rings ironic when you consider that many of these same folks that are voting for Mitt Romney aren't voting for Barack Obama because they are afraid of what he might do (and what he may do has no bearing on reality, considering how he has governed and actions he has taken in the last four years).

In the final stretch of the campaign, Mitt Romney has no planned interviews and refuses to answer reporters questions about things like Richard Murdock (the only Senate candidate he has endorsed) and abortion. He simply has his staged campaign appearances and reads from his pre-ordained talking about points which seem to revolved around three things: momentum, Obama sucks, and momentum. Am I the only one that see this as a losing strategy?

If I'm wrong (and there is about a one in four chance that I am wrong), politics in this country will have taken such an ugly turn that I'm not entirely certain things would ever be the same. We'd have, as president, Mr. Etch-A-Sketch...someone willing to do or say whatever it take to get elected, including saying things that are diametrically to something he said even a few days previously. Many of you may chuckle and say, "Ah, but Mark, this is what politicians always do."

Stop and think about this for a minute. This is different. This is worse.

Now, I'm not saying that you have to love and adore President Obama and think he's a savior but you do know what you are getting with him. He's been a moderate president...cutting taxes in many ways for the middle class (the payroll tax, the stimulus), robust national security (drone attacks, getting bin Laden), passing health care (the GOP idea for an exchange with mandate, modeled after Romney's plan for MA) and expanded local oil and gas drilling. That's going to continue if he is re-elected. Anyone thinking otherwise, isn't thinking rationally.

So, if there are still any fence sitters out there or people leaning Romney, I'd like an answer of what exactly he is going to do (based on what he has said) if he is elected and why this (ahem) uncertainty is preferred.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hence my frustration with the Right...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yep, That's Why

I love the last line...I'm not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting, either, General Powell.

The Perennial Question

The question always asked when an incumbent president is running for a second term is, "Are we better off than we were four years ago?" Though the economic numbers are up and down week to week, but they've been on a pretty steady upward trajectory for a long time now.

For example, Amazon is planning to hire 50,000 workers for the Christmas season, and will keep thousands of those workers permanently. Macy's, Walmart, Target, Kohl's and other big retailers are also expected to hire hundreds of thousands of workers. The Fox Business News report says that hiring during the 2012 season is expected to reach the highest level in at least five years. Which means that demand, consumer expectations, disposable income are all up, and that increased activity may well snowball.

Real estate closures have continued a steady downward pace; we're now at the lowest rate since Q4 2007. Housing starts are up and the real estate market is starting to come back. Housing values are starting to come back, with the Q3 2012 posting the largest increase since 2006.

The stock market has been hovering near record high territory for a while now, nearly double what it was at the start of Obama's first term.

Unemployment is coming down steadily. Romney claims he'll reduce unemployment to 6.1% by 2016, but that's the number that the CBO says will happen given Obama's policies.

Britain's GDP is up, as the UK exits a double-dip recession. This should help the US economy as well, because when our trading partners do well we American exports also improve.

The British double dip is especially instructive. It was caused by budgetary belt-tightening, the exact course Republicans recommended the United States follow. President Obama was able to stave off the worst, but if Republicans hadn't stymied his programs the economy would have improved even more.

Since Romney's and Ryan's economic plan is a rehash of Bush's failed policies of lower taxes on the rich, eliminating regulations on businesses that are already playing fast and loose with the rules, and more spending on defense, with a dash of heartless "let Detroit fail" and insane "let's bomb Iran and Syria," it's clear that another four years of Obama would mean steady growth, while Romney would simply dig another deep hole and bury us in it.

Geography 101

As a social studies teacher, I'm frustrated and perplexed that people haven't wondered if Mitt Romney is qualified to be president having such a poor understanding of Middle Eastern geography.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

They Just Can't Control Themselves

Just when Mitt Romney was putting the campaign on cruise control for the last two weeks, another crazy Tea Party guy lost control and opened his yap about rape again. Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana, has out-Akined Todd Akin by saying that God intends rape victims to become pregnant:
[...] Mourdock said Wednesday that he is standing by his statement that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that's something God intended." He says some people have twisted the meaning of his comment.
Here's Mourdock trying to "untwist" the meaning of his comment:
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," Mourdock said.
I'm not sure how anyone can interpret this in any way other than, "God wanted that woman pregnant so he sent a rapist after her."
"I think that God can see beauty in every life," Mourdock said. "Certainly, I did not intend to suggest that God wants rape, that God pushes people to rape, that God wants to support or condone evil in any way."
If Mourdock and other conservatives who oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest truly believe that God sees beauty in every life, then why do they support expanding the death penalty?  In particular, one wonders whether Mourdock favors the death penalty in cases of rape, which was the norm decades ago.  Several states, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma, had or were considering the death penalty in cases of child rape, but the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for child rape (absent murder) in 2008, over the objections of conservative justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas.

This kind of thinking is incoherent, considering that conservatives so commonly believe that predisposition to certain behavior is genetic and/or racial. Why do they want to force women to bear the spawn of men so evil they should be put to death? Can't they understand why some women wouldn't want to bear the child of  the monster that violated them? Would these conservatives want their daughters to raise such a child as their own? Would they trust the safety of their childen with the spawn of a rapist?

I don't believe for a moment that all children of rape are doomed to become monsters, but it's a fact that predisposition to mental illness can be inherited. Shouldn't a woman be allowed to protect herself and her other children against that possibility if she so chooses, in exactly the same way she should be able to choose to purchase a handgun to protect herself against future rapists?

Mourdock is the Tea Party guy who beat out Dick Lugar (Dick Lugar!) because Lugar wasn't conservative enough. Men like Akin and and Mourdock are becoming the rank and file of the Republican Party, and the ouster of conservative-but-not-crazy men like Lugar has put all other Republicans on notice that they had better toe the line or they'll be next.

These men and the other Republicans already in Congress are the best argument yet for voting for Barack Obama. There's no way in hell Romney would veto the kind of legislation that Akin and Mourdock will push through Congress. If Romney doesn't do as he's told, he'll suffer the same fate as Dick Lugar.

Conservatives have grudgingly acquiesced to voting for Romney, but only because they have Paul Ryan skulking around with a dagger in his hand, like Brutus shadowing Caesar on the Ides of March.

We Are Drilling, Baby, Drilling

From AP News yesterday...

US may soon become world's top oil producer.

Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951. 

Fourth straight year...wait a minute! I thought the president was blocking oil drilling. Well, there goes another lie. Speaking of BS...

The increase in production hasn't translated to cheaper gasoline at the pump, and prices are expected to stay high relatively high for the next few years because of growing demand for oil in developing nations and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa. Still, producing more oil domestically, and importing less, gives the economy a significant boost.

That's right. And how is it helping the economy again?

Businesses that serve the oil industry, such as steel companies that supply drilling pipe and railroads that transport oil, aren't the only ones benefiting. Homebuilders, auto dealers and retailers in energy-producing states are also getting a lift.

But I thought the president was destroying our economy. It's getting better?


And There Goes The Senate

If there was any whiff at all that the GOP had a chance for the Senate, it is now completely gone.

What's the deal these guys and rape? Sheesh...

And will this hurt Mitt Romney considering this?....

Religious Correctness

Conservatives moan and groan about political correctness all the time, but "religious correctness" is far more endemic in this country

It's often stated that the United States is the most religious nation in the developed world. That is, we have more religious people, and we attend church in droves: typically 45% of Americans say they attend church weekly. However, as a story by Shankar Vedantam on NPR reports, if we really were that religious, the pews would be packed. And that's just not so.

Philip Brenner, a University of Massachusetts Boston professor, published a study on this two years ago. Instead of asking people whether they went to church, Brenner got a detailed time diary from participants. Because they weren't being directly asked, they forgot to lie about going to church.

The study found that only 23% of Americans attend church regularly, which is defined as two or three times a month. That's completely in line with other advanced countries like Europe. But the studies found that Europeans don't lie about it: 10% of Swedes and 45% of Irish say they attend church, and 10% of Swedes and 45% of Irish indicate that time spent in their time diaries.

What does this say about Americans? Are we hypocrites and liars? Why would we lie about going to church if we really believed that God was watching our every move? Brenner says that Americans answer falsely not because they're lying, but because they perceive the question to be about what kind of person they are: they are essentially saying, "I'm a good person and good people go to church." Vendantam equates this to lying about whether you exercise or floss your teeth.

I'm not so charitable. There's something wrong with a country when people feel forced to lie about church attendance. Perhaps it's a holdover from the McCarthy era, when conservatives portrayed atheists as evil agents of the Soviet Union. It's ironic that people in bad, old Europe are freer than Americans to tell the truth.

Conservatives bitch about political correctness because they feel it restrains their freedom to perpetuate racist and sexist stereotypes, and in general say bad things about other people. But religious correctness is the other side of the same sword: many Americans feel forced to lie for fear of being attacked by the very same people who complain so loudly and bitterly about political correctness.

Campaign Speak

Jonathan Chait has another great take on the momentum bluff coming from the Romney campaign.

Obama’s lead is narrow — narrow enough that the polling might well be wrong and Romney could win. But he is leading, his lead is not declining, and the widespread perception that Romney is pulling ahead is Romney’s campaign suckering the press corps with a confidence game.

A confidence game...that's right. In fact, they now say they are going to win handily! Why?

This is a bluff. Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If there's one thing that the Right have in abundance, it's hubris...and it's often very unwarranted hubris. You can always see this if one looks more closely.

If you look closely at the boasts emanating from Romney’s allies, you can detect a lot of hedging and weasel-words. Rob Portman calls Ohio a “dead heat,” which is a way of calling a race close without saying it’s tied. A Romney source tells Mike Allen that Wisconsin leans their way owing to Governor Scott Walker’s “turnout operation.” That is campaign speak for “we’re not winning, but we hope to make it up through turnout.”

Over the last week, Romney’s campaign has orchestrated a series of high-profile gambits in order to feed its momentum narrative. Last week, for instance, Romney’s campaign blared out the news that it was pulling resources out of North Carolina. The battleground was shifting! Romney on the offensive! On closer inspection, it turned out that Romney was shifting exactly one staffer. It is true that Romney leads in North Carolina, and it is probably his most favorable battleground state. But the decision to have a staffer move out of state, with a marching band and sound trucks in tow to spread the news far and wide, signals a deliberate strategy to create a narrative.

If this is all his campaign is going to be for the next two weeks, I have to say that I'm relieved. Momentum? That's it?

One other thing to note...when a campaign starts talking about another campaign "resorting to blah blah blah" because they are in trouble, it's the opposite that is actually true.

An Opposite Reality

Things are always interesting behind the scenes here at Markadelphia. Take, for instance, a discussion Nikto and I had the other day about what he called my hand wringing and doubt about the election a couple of weeks back after the first debate. He reminded me that the Right laps up shit like this like a toothless old man slurping his soup. It didn't quite hit me right away what he was talking about. until I read this piece and then thought about the quote I put up here recently from Charles Bukowski

The problem with the world is the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

You'd think after all this time of me talking about "Managing Fantasies," I wouldn't fall for their line of BS in my attempts to be thoughtful and fair. But I did. The fact is, folks, the president is the favorite in this election and this whole idea that Mitt Romney has momentum going into the last two weeks is completely false. Tomasky explains.

And yet the conventional wisdom is congealing right now—it is hardening this morning, minute by minute—that Romney is going to win the election. From Playbook, which distills the c.w.: President Obama won last night’s foreign-policy debate on substance, in snap polls and with the pundits, but Mitt Romney did well enough that for the first time in six years, Romney folks emailed, “We’re going to win.” 

 In reality, Obama is the favorite. The state maps still make him so. Nate Silver, the only person who takes every single poll into account (plus loads of other indicators), still has him so. This emerging c.w. is built more on spin and smell, which the media are starting to buy.

Ah, yes. The "liberal media." These are the same ones that love high ratings so, of course, the race has to be close and the "Mittmentum" meme plays into this quite well. Amusing, considering this concept is all about feelings, things that my friends on the right assure me have no bearing in their thought process.

One piece that Mike Allen bought this morning in that Playbook item: A Romney aide told him New Hampshire leans their way. Ridiculous. Even RCP has Obama +3 in New Hampshire. A poll yesterday had him up nine. He’s never trailed there. It’s been a fight, true, but he is clearly on course to win it. But the Romney aide just threw it out there. Not blaming him or her—it’s the kind of thing you throw out when you want to start giving an impression of inevitability. But that is what the Romney team is trying now to do. (It’s up to journalism, of course, to say when something doesn’t seem true.)

Right. So they have to start saying that it isn't true if they want to be honest.

And so, after their side’s third consecutive debate loss, conservatives are the ones feeling confident. They are creating a reality. They’re talking up Romney’s supposedly unstoppable momentum now that he’s survived the debates without making one of those Gerry Ford-style goofs (that’s the bar now for the presidency?). They’re tweeting things about Silver, sharpening their knives, contemplating his November 7 takedown. They’re not quite measuring the drapes, but they’re getting their rulers out of storage.

Creating a reality...that's just what they do. They sense doubt or worry in liberals and then they pounce. The hand wringing begins and then "not reality" becomes reality. Of course, if they end up being wrong, so what? Remember, there is no "being wrong" in their world. That whole being wrong thing is for liberals. When they are wrong, the simply harumph, make up a load of bullshit, and pretend that they were actually right...sort of like Mitt Romney has been doing since Debate #1.

The undecided voter (and even the conservative one) has to ask this really the guy you want to vote for? At least you know what you would be getting with the president...more economic recovery, a plan to actually reduce the debt and manage the deficit, robust national security, and firm solutions to health care, education, energy, and immigration. Mitt Romney offers none of these things because he's changed his position so many times on all of them. Tomasky concurs.

Conservatives know all this. But they’re constructing an opposite reality. This is at the heart of everything going on right now, I think. It’s what they can do that liberals can’t really do. They've always done it. “Romney is going to win” in 2012 isn’t so different from “We’ll be hailed as liberators” in 2003. They say something and try to make it so, and the media go for it time and time again. 

This is what’s maddening to liberals about what Romney has done since the first debate. He’s constructed a new reality about himself and he’s gotten away with it, mostly. Specifically, it’s that he’s flip-flopped on all these things without the remotest hint of acknowledgement that the old positions even existed. 

So, for the next two weeks, people (and especially the media) have to stop falling for it. Democrats have to stop the needless worrying and get to work to get out the vote. The electoral math says the president is the favorite to win this election with feelings not entering into the equation at all. Let's make sure he does and then some. In addition...

What should Obama do? Well, Republicans want to make Democrats fearful and jittery and reactive—appear to be accepting the Republican premise. So basically, anything but that. These next two or three days will be crucial, and if the Democrats do seem fearful and reactive, they’ll help the new c.w. congeal and maybe help seal a fate that the facts don’t yet come close to foreordaining. 

Recognize their BS for what it is: the last gasp of a shrinking voting bloc.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Too Many Mitts

The Salt Lake City Tribune, the most widely read paper in that most Mormon of states, has endorsed Barack Obama. The problem, they say, is that you can't believe a word Mitt Romney says:
From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: "Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?"

The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.
Obama also picked up another endorsement recently: that of Nobel laureates, mostly physicists, chemist and medical researchers. These are the people who came up with the basic science that our tech-based economy is based on. And while not an endorsement, Scientific American also ranked Romney's and Obama's responses to a set of questions concerning science and technology, and gave Obama an overall higher grade. Most interestingly, they gave Romney a zero (0) on something near and dear to all our hearts: the Internet.

Do endorsements like these make a difference? Certainly not among partisans. And the Tribune's endorsement is unlikely to affect the outcome in Utah, where issues such as gay marriage trump all reason.

But such endorsements could influence undecided voters across the country. If the paper in Romney's spiritual homeland, where he is considered a saint for saving the winter Olympics, cannot stomach his cynical two-, three- and four-faced pandering, that really says something about the depths to which he's sunk.

The Final Pivot

Mitt Romney took his last chance to pivot to the center before a national audience and completely embraced it. No longer the saber rattler, Romney is now on board with the withdrawal from Afghanistan and diplomatic solutions with Iran. There were no attacks on the president's handling of Libya and a whole lot of head nodding in agreement with the president. In fact, dare I say it, Romney seemed quite dovish compared to the president. But that's all part of the plan.

Romney knows that in order to win he needs more women to vote for him. He's closed the gap somewhat but it's still not enough. He also knows that the neocons aren't popular at all in the country (even with many on the right) so it's buh-bye to the tough guy. It's truly amazing to me what this man will say to become president. What exactly does he stand for? Who is he? After last night, he's clearly someone who is a novice on the world stage.

Many pundits (including myself) thought that last night's debate wouldn't matter. I think I may be wrong. Romney played prevent defense because he wants to maintain his "within in striking distance" of getting Ohio. But as any football fan knows, prevent defense prevents you from winning the game. He looked weak last night and too conciliatory to the president. I suspect that deep down many folks on the right are not happy at all about voting for this guy. We may actually see some loss for Romney at the polls with this debate. People like their presidents to look strong.

So, now we head to the final two weeks of the campaign with the president still holding an electoral edge. Obviously, it's going to come down to turnout but at this point, I predict a 281-244 victory for the president (popular vote 50-48) with Virginia votes still being counted in January. Of course, this could change:) Regarding Congress, the Democrats will net 15 seats in the House and they will pick up one seat in the Senate making it 54-46. Essentially, we will basically be right where we are at now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Debate and the Current State of The Race

Tonight is the last presidential debate and the subject is foreign policy. My prediction is that not as many people will tune in as they did to the first two debates. The simple fact is that many Americans do not care that much about foreign policy (which I think is truly a drag) and are more focused on the economy and jobs. I'd look for each candidate to try to pivot back to domestic issues as much as they can.

In addition, I don't think there will be any surprises tonight and both candidates will likely come out even and that's just about where the race is at present. Take a look at the latest polls.

General Election: Romney vs. ObamaCBS NewsRomney 46, Obama 48Obama +2
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaPolitico/GWU/BattlegroundRomney 49, Obama 47Romney +2
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaABC News/Wash PostRomney 48, Obama 49Obama +1
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaMonmouth/SurveyUSA/BraunRomney 48, Obama 45Romney +3
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaGallupRomney 51, Obama 45Romney +6
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaRasmussen ReportsRomney 49, Obama 47Romney +2
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaIBD/TIPPRomney 43, Obama 47Obama +4
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaWashTimes/JZ Analytics*Romney 47, Obama 50Obama +3

What a giant pile of muddled mess. At least in the national polls, the race is tied. But what about the states?

RCP Average10/12 - 10/21----47.645.7Obama +1.9
Suffolk10/18 - 10/21600 LV4.04747Tie
PPP (D)10/18 - 10/20532 LV4.34948Obama +1
CBS News/Quinnipiac10/17 - 10/201548 LV3.05045Obama +5
Gravis Marketing10/18 - 10/191943 LV2.24747Tie
FOX News10/17 - 10/181131 LV3.04643Obama +3
Rasmussen Reports10/17 - 10/17750 LV4.04948Obama +1
SurveyUSA10/12 - 10/15613 LV4.04542Obama +3

With Ohio, the president maintains around a 2 point lead. On election night, if the president wins Ohio, it's over. Actually, if he wins Virginia before the Ohio results are in, it's also over. Here's Virginia.

RCP Average10/4 - 10/18----48.048.0Tie
Rasmussen Reports10/18 - 10/18750 LV4.05047Romney +3
ARG10/12 - 10/14600 LV4.04847Romney +1
NBC/WSJ/Marist10/7 - 10/9981 LV3.14847Romney +1
CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac10/4 - 10/91288 LV3.04651Obama +5

I'd like to see some more polls out of Virginia other than Rasmussen who doesn't call cell phones but this one is as much of a tie as anything can be with perhaps a slight edge to Romney. If Romney wins it, then the president pretty much has to win Ohio in order to get to 270.

Another odd state these days is New Hampshire which, with its mere 4 electoral votes, could be an early indicator of how either candidate is going to do on the night.

RCP Average10/9 - 10/21----48.447.4Obama +1.0
UNH10/17 - 10/21773 LV3.55142Obama +9
PPP (D)10/17 - 10/191036 LV3.04849Romney +1
Rasmussen Reports10/15 - 10/15500 LV4.55049Obama +1
Suffolk/7News10/12 - 10/14500 LV4.44747Tie
ARG10/9 - 10/11600 LV4.04650Romney +4

The latest poll from UNH is likely way off and I'm more inclined to think that it's pretty even with the president up slightly. I'd say this last debate really isn't going to make much of a difference with the polls. Nearly everyone has decided who they are going to vote for and some have already done so.
The one thing that I just keep shaking my head at is the "Do it again, only harder" mentality of the Right. We've seen what happens when we adopt conservative policies: our country was driven into a ditch. Now there are people that want to go back to that? Why? I think a lot of it has to do with Romney's campaign slogan versus the president''s "Believe" vs. "Forward."

This is perfectly exemplified by the guy that puzzles me the pal, last in line. Obviously, I'm hoping he responds here but I just don't get how won't accept the fact the president essentially saved his 401K. He did a better job than President Bush on a score of issues and Mitt Romney has made it very clear he wants to go back to that.

I just don't get it.

The Latest Polls

I haven't done a post with polls lately as I have been out of town and simply scheduled a bunch ahead of time. Here is where we are at.

General Election: Romney vs. ObamaNBC News/Wall St. JrnlObama 47, Romney 47Tie
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaGallup TrackingObama 45, Romney 52Romney +7
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaRasmussen TrackingObama 47, Romney 49Romney +2
General Election: Romney vs. ObamaIBD/TIPP TrackingObama 48, Romney 42Obama +6
Florida: Romney vs. ObamaPPP (D)Romney 48, Obama 47Romney +1

President Obama Job ApprovalNBC News/Wall St. JrnlApprove 49, Disapprove 48Approve +1
President Obama Job ApprovalGallupApprove 49, Disapprove 45Approve +4
President Obama Job ApprovalRasmussen ReportsApprove 49, Disapprove 51Disapprove +2
Direction of CountryNBC News/Wall St. JrnlRight Direction 41, Wrong Track 53Wrong Track +12

Ohio: Romney vs. ObamaPPP (D)Obama 49, Romney 48Obama +1
Ohio: Romney vs. ObamaGravis MarketingObama 47, Romney 47Tie
Florida: Romney vs. ObamaSurveyUSARomney 46, Obama 47Obama +1

Ohio: Romney vs. ObamaFOX NewsObama 46, Romney 43Obama +3
Virginia: Romney vs. ObamaRasmussen ReportsRomney 50, Obama 47Romney +3

It's hard to make sense of these polls with one showing Romney up 7 and the other showing Obama up six. The best thing to do is take the average of all the polls and that's probably where we are at. At least with the national polls, the race is a tie.

But the swing states are where this election are going to be won or lost and those states still favor the president. Andy over at has the count at 286-235 with 17 at tie (13 for Virginia and 4 for New Hampshire). I think New Hampshire will go for the president which makes it 290-235. Perhaps I'm being premature but it looks like Florida is going to go for Romney. Virginia? It's an exact tie at this point.

The other thing to take note of is how the approval ratings for the president haven't really changed. What does that mean?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Sunday Reflection

Today, I'm wondering how so many of the conservative Christians out there have no problem whatsoever with Mitt Romney being a Mormon. Personally, I could care less what or how he worships but my friends on the Right have assured me many times that Christian purity is of paramount importance in whichever candidate they choose.

After all, most believe that Barack Obama isn't really a Christian and is a secret Muslim. Or they think he is an agent of the Black Militia. Either way, his religion is questioned constantly yet Mitt Romey's faith is never questioned. Why is that?

Why do none of these folks have a problem with the fact that Mitt Romney thinks that God is a six foot tall man who lives on or near the planet Kolob?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Again?

Gene Lyons has a great piece on why exactly the Right hates Obama so much. It echoes some of the recent writings of Andrew Sullivan. First, of course, we have to define the problem.

To an awful lot of white Protestant evangelicals across the Deep South especially, President Obama has become no less than a secular stand-in for the Antichrist — a smooth-talking deceiver representing liberal cosmopolitanism in its most treacherous disguise. Dislike of Obama has grown to cult-like proportions across the region.

But it's not really racial because they'd vote for Allen West or Condi Rice in a minute. So what is it again?

Nor, however, are their fears entirely irrational. Because if the polls are right — and a disinterested observer would have to say that professional pollsters have grown increasingly accurate at predicting recent contests — the 2012 presidential election may not bring about “The Rapture,” but it could definitely mark the definitive end of a political era. go on, Gene.

Should he prevail in most of the nine “swing states” where everybody agrees that the contest will be decided, and where Obama currently appears to lead by strong majorities, the white, GOP-accented South will find itself politically marooned. Again.Richard M. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” will have been dismantled and a new, moderately center-left Democratic coalition built by President Obama. For the first time since 1972, the Rush Limbaugh/Mike Huckabee wing of the GOP will find itself with no clear path to power.

I think this will happen even if the president loses. A GOP presidential candidate hasn't gotten above 300 electoral votes since 1988 when George HW "RINO" Bush got elected. Should Romney win, he will get nowhere near 300 EVs. But this is what happens when your party is populated by extremists.

Moreover, should Obama be successful in rebuilding the U.S. economy during a second term, and once voters grasp that “Obamacare” has liberated them from the fear of being driven into bankruptcy by medical emergencies, the new Democratic coalition could prove to have a kind of staying power not seen since FDR and Truman. Indeed, it’s been Republican anxiety over that very possibility in the wake of George W. Bush’s spectacular failures that led to the GOP’s Washington version of massive resistance during Obama’s first-term. Or, to put it another way, if President Obama can win in this economy, how could any talented Democratic candidate lose?

The economy is going to add 12 million new jobs in the next four years even by conservative estimates. So when Mitt Romney says he is going to do this, he's basically taking credit for the recovery that Obama and the Democrats implemented.

Lyons ends with why their reality has become unhinged.

The temptation for Southern Republicans would be to double down on the crazy, because “conservatism,” so-called, can never fail, only be failed. Also because religious melodrama is really what an awful lot of them are really about. That, and Koch Brothers money. They’re not actually conservatives at all, in the classical sense, but sentimental fanatics seeking to purge the nation of sin; adepts of “limited government” with their noses buried in women’s panty drawers; apostles of a lost Utopia located in a non-existent past, most often in 60s sitcoms like “The Andy Griffith Show.”


Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lie Strong

Lance Armstrong's world is falling to pieces all around him. After the USADA report revealed that he was at the center of the USA cycling team's performance-enhancing drug use there seems to be no doubt that he is guilty as charged. He has been stripped of his Tour de France titles. He has already lost seven sponsors, including Nike, Anheuser-Busch and Trek cycling. He has resigned as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, but he remains on the board, though he's currently on leave. And the revelations revive old questions that Fox News had about whether his drug use was the cause of his cancer in the first place.

Questions on doping dogged Armstrong for almost two decades. But people saw how he beat cancer, persevered and went on to win the Tour de France seven times and were inspired. They wanted to believe that people can win without cheating. How many people have you seen wearing those yellow plastic bracelets?

Many people's support of Armstrong before this report was unwavering. In the wake of the report interviews with Armstrong supporters said they believed him because of how consistently and forcefully he denied the charges. He spoke with such conviction that they believed he couldn't possibly be lying.

And it was at that point I was reminded of people's reactions to Mitt Romney's debate performances. "He sounds so strong." "He was so forceful." "He speaks with such conviction."

Even though Romney won't specify all the "loopholes" he'll close to make up for the whopping tax cuts he wants to give everyone, especially the wealthy, he says it with such conviction that some people believe he must be right. Mitt's entire response to criticism of his budget amounts to a forceful, convincingly enunciated "The numbers add up because I say so!" But the latest study shows that Romney's numbers still don't add up.

As with Lance Armstrong, just because someone can Lie Strong doesn't mean they actually Live Strong. Mitt Romney's plan consists of recycled Bush policies of lowering taxes on the rich, eliminating regulation of the financial industries that caused our economic meltdown in the first place, and sending sick people into overcrowded emergency rooms of hospitals that are going broke because their patients can't pay them.

Under Obama we are definitely better off than we were four years ago: the stock market has almost doubled, returning to the near-record highs during the housing bubble, but without the lies and corruption the boom was built on. Millions of jobs have been regained. Housing starts are returning to the levels we saw before the recession. Fox Business News reports that is planning to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, many of whom will have full time positions, while Macy's, Kohl's, Target and Wal-Mart are hiring hundreds of thousands more.

Obviously they think that the economy is on the mend and that lots of customers will be coming in this Christmas. Is that a quiet vote of confidence for the president from business?


Tight race? Avoid tea party label on stump.

But two years later, Rehberg wants a Senate seat, and in the 2012 version of Montana politics, Rehberg is Mr. Bipartisan. He touts his vote against the Paul Ryan budget; talks up his work with a New England liberal, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.); and has embraced expansion of a children’s health program. 

He doesn’t mention his tea party membership.

What happened?

Eric Olsen, the co-founder of one of Montana’s leading tea party groups, Montana Shrugged, said they still know Rehberg is “on their side,” but they also realize Montana’s sole congressman has to appeal to independents and some Democrats to win a Senate seat that could determine control of the upper chamber.

Oh yeah. Reality happened.