Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Point of Pride

What a show at the Opening Ceremonies for the Adult XXX Summer Olympic Games in London this week!  (Every time I see that “XXX Summer Games” on the channel guide I brace myself for some full contact beach volleyball in glorious hi-def, and inevitably I end up disappointed).  It was going to be impossible to outdo the 100,000 Chinese who performed in the Rite of Global Intimidation opening of the Beijing Games 4 years ago, but those plucky Brits gave it a try as only a former world superpower could. 
It was a celebration of everything the British love and cherish about their nation.  They pulled out all the stops.  National treasure and serial groom Paul McCartney performed some of his most famous hits from his blue period before he formed Wings.  J.K. Rowlings read from a book that was probably Harry Potter but I’m not really sure.  Mary Poppins and the Queen fell from the sky voluntarily.  They devoted a significant portion of the program to two parts of English culture that they know and love, Mr. Bean and the National Health Service.

WHAT?!!??  Mr. Bean is beloved.  That we understand.  But the NHS?

Americans with a world view that reaches from the ends of the living couch to the shores of the email chain letter in their inbox from crazy Uncle Glenn must have been shocked.  Why would the host nation take time to highlight to the world a health care system that from everything we’ve been fed is an abject failure?  Where were the Dancing Death Panel Judges?  There is only one logical answer to why the Opening Ceremonies showcased Great Britain’s national health care system.  The participants in that system disagree with the American characterization of that system.

The Olympics opens our eyes to different cultures, different sporting events, and different ways to politicize what should be a non-political celebration of the human spirit.  In this case, the Brits were not rubbing their health care system in Antonin Scalia’s face in order to score cheap points.  The host nation obviously believes that one of the defining characteristics that makes it a great place to live is its commitment to national health care.  The program was founded in the aftermath of World War II, right after that country fought back against the fascists.  Sometimes in the face of unimaginable losses you can see clearly what is important.  The Brits believed that providing health care to everyone was important, and they are proud of that.

The point is not to advocate for a copycat of the British system, or to suggest that the British system is without flaws.  Have you seen the dental work over there?  The English have one system.  There are others, and all work in slightly different ways, leveraging the free market in slightly different ways.    The German system is employer based.  The Japanese system has fierce competition between private providers.  The point is that perhaps the British system isn’t as evil, isn’t as hated, isn’t as much of a failure, as we have been led to believe.  Maybe instead of demonizing their system we could learn from it and improve upon it.

The richest nation is history can insure all of its citizens.  Maybe someday, our health care delivery system will earn a 5 minute dance routine during the Opening Ceremonies of some future Olympic Games.  Can you imagine being that proud?     

Monday, July 30, 2012

Too Soon

Last week Senate Democrats thought that they had put their Republican counterparts into a box from which they could not escape.    They passed a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone’s first $250,000 in income, but no more, in effect voting to raise the rates on income over $250,000 back to the draconian rates that crushed innovation and growth during the Clinton years.  Not only did Senate Democrats see this move as good policy, they saw it as forcing the GOP to defend the higher rates for the wealthy in an election year.

Not so fast, Democrats.  The Republican Party was prepared this time and fired off a few rhetorical rounds in response to the vote.  The GOP deftly accused the opportunistic Democrats of using the tragedy of taxes for political gain.

“Taking the tragedy of tax payments and using it to advance a partisan agenda is unseemly, and frankly, Americans should be sickened by it,” pronounced Romney spokesperson Hattie Ceegar. 

“Now is not the time to debate this issue and propose even more laws.  Now is the time to grieve for the wealthy victims who will not have their tax rate extended.   Have they no compassion particularly at this sensitive time when these innocent job creators might be preparing their quarterly estimated tax payments?”

Mitt Romney was even more direct in his rebuttal to the Bush tax cut partial extension. 

“Once again, the Obama administration and the Democrats will do anything to divert attention away from their failed policies.  Middle class tax rates are nothing but a distraction, and the goal is simple.  The plan is to divide Americans into two competing groups – those who work hard to earn their living, and liberals.  It didn’t work for Jimmy Carter and it won’t work for Barack Obama.”

The campaign insisted that this election is a referendum on the President’s performance over his first term, and any attempts to distract the voters with cheap political tricks like passing tax legislation disguised as “helpful” to the majority of the public will be rejected by the American public.

It’s too soon to talk about this issue.  The proper grieving period after filing a quarterly return, according to leaders in the GOP, won’t end until November 6th.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For Sale: One Classic Suzuki

For Sale: West Coast Suzuki, one of a kind, gently used; still has great wheels; plenty of mileage left in this model; will consider trade or assumption of $17 million payment.  Serious inquiries only.  1-800-MARINER.

I was surprised to hear that Ichiro Suzuki had been traded across the country from Seattle to New York.  He now joins the long line of aging superstars that ended up in the Bronx for a late season push towards the playoffs.  First ballot Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez was there; Gaylord Perry passed that way; so did David Justice, Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry.  Now Ichiro Suzuki is on the list with his 3,600 plus hits as a professional.  Some on this list had success in the Big Apple.  Obnoxious Yankee fans everywhere are hoping Ichiro has a few good swings left and can do the same.

The rumors were that Ichiro was becoming bored playing for a losing franchise, and that this contributed to his anemic 2012 production.  Mariners ownership was no doubt hoping that Ichiro’s annual salary of $17 million would provide sufficient motivation, but that does not seem to be enough.  He needs $17 million and protection in the lineup…and better pitching…and full stadiums.

Before the Yankees would accept Ichiro as a new member of the Pinstripes, it has been reported that he had to accede to several conditions first:

·         He had to switch positions, from right filed to left field;

·         He had to move down in the batting order to 8th;

·         He had to accept sitting out against left handed pitchers.

Since Ichiro is now a member of the Evil Empire, he clearly signed off on these demands.  He was OK with the conditions since he wants to play with a winning team in the twilight of his career, and that means Seattle is out of the question.  They couldn’t beat the Seahawks in a doubleheader.  The Yankees made the move because they believe that a motivated Ichiro will be like finding a diamond on the diamond, as the saying goes.

Truth be told, Ichiro was more desperate to get out of Seattle than previously reported.  Besides the publicly released demands, Ichiro also had to agree to a few more conditions before the trade was completed:

·         For home games, Ichiro will have to use auxiliary parking; he can’t park his car with the rest of the team.

·         He has to promise to teach conversational Japanese to the Yankee pitching coach, Mick Kelleher.

·         On days when Manager Joe Girardi does not put Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup, Ichiro has to be the one to tell him.

·         He has to practicing forging Derek Jeter’s signature on baseballs.

·         Ichiro must wait the mandatory 90 days before being eligible to enroll in the NY Yankees’ group health plan.

·         He has to fill in for suspended Yankee superstar Reggie Jackson at public appearances, including this weekend’s grand opening of the Crazy Eddie’s Superstore Outlet in Massapequa.

·         He has agreed not to make eye contact with Hank Steinbrenner while on Yankee property.

·         He has been banned from reheating leftover Japanese food in the clubhouse microwave.

·         He must sign a loyalty oath.

If Ichiro gets a few big hits down the stretch and participates in a game winning rally in the playoffs this year, the personal degradation will be worth it.  Ichiro will finally receive the recognition and the accolades he deserves after toiling in virtual anonymity on the West Coast.  Good for him.

Congratulations, Ichiro.  Hopefully the Yankees’ shuttle bus for auxiliary parking comes by every few minutes so you don’t have to wait too long to get into the lineup.  You might have patience, but I can assure you, the Yankees do not.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What is the Meaning of That?

Last Friday at a campaign event in Virginia, President Obama admitted that his plan for America includes public ownership of all private business.  He laid the foundation for his impending takeover of property from working class job creators by claiming federal credit for all business success.

“If you own a business -- you didn’t build that.” 
The message was explicit.  If Americans didn’t build their own business, then they have no claim to ownership rights for that business.  Left unsaid by Obama was that after confiscating all private means of production, he would turn his attention to taking away your guns.

While this is not quite correct, it is the story being painted by the Romney campaign and their uncoordinated surrogates.  Never mind that the “that” that business owners didn’t build refers to the preceding sentence’s reference to “roads and bridges”, conveniently omitted in Romney’s retelling.  If you are a business owner who personally paid for and constructed your own roads and bridges, I apologize and stand corrected; otherwise, “you didn’t build that” is entirely accurate and un-newsworthy, except in 2012. 
The irony is that the opposing candidate from Michigan, or Utah, or Massachusetts, appears to agree with the President on his essential point.  The next day, Romney said at an event:

“I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police (emphasis added). A lot of people help.”

So the Romney campaign has been attacking the President for a position that it shares.  Only in American politics can you attack your opponent for having the same position without shame or the slightest embarrassment.

This is the stuff that gets me worked up.  But my writing about this is not changing any votes (yet).  Only well-crafted attack advertising changes votes.  Willie Horton changes votes.  Swiftboat Veterans for Truth change votes.  John Roberts changes votes.  Obama needs an ad that equally distorts his opponent’s words in order to have an impact and move votes in his direction. 
Obama is beginning to fight back against the rampant out-of-context-osity of the current GOP campaign.   Obama accused Romney of “knowingly twisting my words around to suggest that I don’t value small business,” adding: “When folks just like, omit entire sentences of what you said, they start kind of slicing and dicing… he may have gone a little over the edge there.”

That’s a bit more of an academic counterattack than I had in mind.  Only the academic elite will hear that line, and they are already in the tank for Obama, with their fancy “facts” and “reason”.  You can’t bring a teleprompter to a knife fight.  Unfortunately, calling out a lie at a public event is no longer effective.  Not enough voters hear the speeches, and the lie and the truth are guaranteed equal time on cable regardless of merit.  So there has to be another way.

Thankfully for Obama, Romney is the gift that keeps on giving.  Here are his words from 2002 before the Olympic Games:

"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.  For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].”

This seemingly benign quote (except that "you Olympians" sounds oddly close to "you people") provides the fodder for my proposed Obama attack ad.  Here’s the script:

Scary Voice:  Mitt Romney.  Now he’s taking credit for our Olympians:

 Grainy video clip of Romney giving his speech"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.”

Quick cut to images of Carl Lewis running, Mary Lou Retton smiling, Michael Phelps waving a flag, the Dream Team walking into the stadium for Opening Ceremonies, while voice over continues: 

“Obama is proud of our athletes and recognizes that their individual courage, commitment and fortitude made them great – not Mitt Romney.”

Back to Grainy video clip"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.”

Happy optimistic voice:  “Obama knows that you succeed in America because of hard work.  Mitt Romney believes our Olympians take short cuts because they couldn’t do it alone.  But there are no short cuts in life, unless you are a billionaire with Swiss bank account who plays by a different set of rules.”  

Back to Grainy video clip"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.”

Scary Voice:  “Mitt Romney, why do you insult the American spirit of rugged individualism?  Our athletes have earned and deserve your respect.  They play by the rules.  That’s the American way.  Do you?” 

Closing picture of Mitt Romney and his Bain partners surrounded by money, with the final words from his Olympic pep talk voiced over with grainy video clip:  “All right! [pumps fist].”  

3 months, 13 days left.

Obama full quote from a campaign event in Virginia on Friday, not quite so evil in its entirety and more indicative of a uniter and not a divider:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. 

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Conventional Wisdom

What happens if you throw a party and nobody comes?

The two major parties should begin contemplating that eventuality.  In late August and early September, the national conventions for the Democrats and the Republicans will be staged, and the biggest news is the list of who is not coming.  The Democrats don’t want to go.  The Republicans don’t want people to come. 

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi says that Democratic members of Congress should say home in their districts and skip the convention.  Most Democratic members of Congress appreciated the political cover since they weren’t going to show up anyway.  Half don’t want to be tied to Obama’s shortened coattails; the other half has laundry that’s been piling up.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill will not be attending the convention, becoming the third Democratic senator, and eighth Democratic member of Congress, to opt out of the event.  Maybe they should change the date to make it more convenient, or perhaps arrange for a GoTo Meeting session instead.   

“I’m not encouraging anyone to go to the convention, having nothing to do with anything except I think they should stay home, campaign in their districts, use their financial and political resources to help them win their election,” Pelosi told Politico in an interview.

Should be a hell of a party.  It will be so exciting that you should stay home.  If Biden doesn’t cuss from the podium, there will be no news generated over 4 full days.

While Democrats don’t want to go to their convention, Republicans aren’t welcome at theirs.  Former President George W. Bush, rumored to have been a member of the party now seeking power, has decided to accept his dis-invitation, ostensibly to ‘spend more time with his family’.  Who thinks that had he not been the most unpopular president in modern polling at the end of his term that he might have space in his busy schedule to appear?

“He supports Gov. Romney and wants him to succeed,” George W. Bush spokesperson Freddy Ford said in a statement.  What was left unsaid was that Bush staying home gives Romney a better chance at success.  If you thought Obama’s coattails were short, Bush’s are less than threadbare.

Last cycle’s most prodigious fundraiser and everyone’s favorite hockey mom turned Fox paid political commentator, Sarah Palin, sits waiting by her Facebook account for her eVite.  She was the nominee of her party for Vice President 4 years ago, and today she can’t get an invitation to the big party.  Sounds like the plot for a new reality show, Palin Gets Punk’d.      

Ron Paul won’t be speaking.  Hard to imagine Romney allowing Michelle Bachmann within 100 yards of a microphone at this year’s gala given the intra-party shellacking she just received for her McCarthyism Redux.  Herman Cain certainly doesn’t project the image of steady leadership that Romney is looking to portray, and there should be a legitimate fear that Cain’s negatives with women wouldn’t help Romney in November.

Then there’s Gingrich.  Since he invented the attack on Romney’s vulture capitalism and pressed Romney to release his tax returns as hard as any Democrat ever has, I am certain that Romney would not be disappointed if Newt scheduled another Greek cruise with his 3rd campaign chair, Calista, during the convention week. 

The real problem is, of course, that if the American public gets a load of all of the crazies that pass for party leaders in Republicanville on one stage, it will be more difficult for Romney to pretend that he is actually running as an independent.  It doesn’t help that the Republicans selected Romney by default, which detracts from the festive nature of the coronation.

Beyond the specific 2012 considerations, the days of the national party conventions being a meaningful part of the political process are over, and both parties know it.  Leaders across the political spectrum are avoiding their own conventions, following the lead of TV viewers for the past 20 years.  As I wrote in the opening paragraph, the public knows that the conventions are ‘staged’.  In the Golden Age of Reality TV, we don’t need no stinkin’ staged. 

Let’s face the music.  The major political conventions are C-SPAN with balloons.  Why would anyone go or watch?  You’ve got to be a real loser to follow these non-events in the 21st century. 

I’ll let you know what happens. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Burning Sensation

There are some days when my biases seep through so transparently and so completely, that even I cannot deny their existence and their influence in my daily thinking.  Yes, it is a handicap that I can control with regular reading and liquid medication, but it is a disability I must endure, and if you are a regular visitor to MSRP, then you must endure it as well.  Fortunately for you and for me, this disability makes us both smarter, so there is an upside.  Good news for everyone!

This morning, my inherent bias reared its genius while I was reading the following article:

Report: 21 treated for burns in 'firewalk' during Robbins motivational seminar

By NBC News staff and wire services

Nearly two dozen people were treated for burns on their feet after walking on hot coals during a motivational seminar conducted by self-help expert Tony Robbins in San Jose, California, local media reported.

Firefighters treated at least 21 people for burns to the soles of their feet, several of them second- and third-degree, on Thursday night, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News. At least three people went to the hospital, although none of the injuries was life-threatening, the report added.

It was the first night of the motivational seminar called "Unleash the Power Within," a four-day Robbins event attended by some 6,000 people, the Mercury News reported.
Close to midnight after the main part of the event, participants walked to a park where 12 lanes of hot coals measuring 10 feet by two-and-a-half feet lay on the grass, the newspaper reported. 

"I heard wails of pain, screams of agony," one of the attendees, Jonathan Correll, 25, told the Mercury News. 
One woman seemed to be in so much pain "it was horrific," he added. 

"It was people seriously hurting, like they were being tortured," the newspaper quoted Correll as saying. "First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people walking on that fire. It was just bizarre, man."

Robbins could not be reached on Saturday through his media contacts.

In a written statement reported in the Mercury News, Robbins Research International defended the "firewalk," a regular part of the Unleash seminar.

"We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel ... We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible."'
Indeed, others who walked on hot coals said the experience was extraordinary.

"Overcoming something like that, it's a breakthrough," Henry Guasch, 19, told the Mercury News. Guasch added that he got a minor burn when he slowed his pace in the middle of the field.

Guasch and another participant, Andrew Brenner, told the newspaper that faith and concentration were the keys to not getting singed.

The firewalk is presented on Robbins' website as a way to conquer fears and "other fires in your life" by walking across a bed of coals heated up to 2,000 degrees. It is not a requirement of the seminar.

Nevertheless, the San Jose Fire Department did not recommend people engage in the activity, Capt. Reggie Williams told the Mercury News.

"We discourage people from walking over hot coals," Williams said.

It was unclear how many people participated in the firewalk.

Considered one of the world's most successful self-help experts for nearly three decades, Robbins oversees an empire of self-empowerment seminars, books and tapes, life coaching and motivational presentations.

Now while reading this seemingly benign retelling of a tragic event at a motivational seminar, this is what went through my mind:

Report: 21 treated after being burned by trusting GOP policies

By MSRP News staff and wired services

Nearly two dozen people were treated for being burned by believing that GOP policies would improve their lives.  The injuries occurred during the Republican National Motivational Convention conducted by help yourself expert Mitt Romney in Tampa, Florida, local media reported.

Liberals treated at least 21 people for GOP burns to their intellect, several of them second- and third-degree, on Thursday night, according to a report in the Mercury News. At least three people went to the hospital, although none of the injuries was life-threatening, the report added.  Another hundred burn victims were denied care at the hospital for failure to prove the ability to pay their bills.

It was the first night of the motivational seminar called "The Republican National Convention," a four-day Romney event attended by some 6,000 people, the media reported.

Close to midnight after the main part of the event, participants walked to a park where 12 specific GOP policy prescriptions were explained in greater detail, the newspaper reported. 

"I heard wails of pain, screams of agony," one of the attendees, Jonathan Correll, 25, told the Mercury News.

One woman seemed to be in so much pain "it was horrific," he added. 

"It was people seriously hurting, like they were being tortured," the newspaper quoted Correll as saying. "First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people beginning to grasp what the GOP was actually proposing. It was just bizarre, man."

Romney could not be reached on Saturday through his media contacts.

In a written statement reported in the Mercury News, the Republican National Committee defended the "truthwalk of reality," a regular part of the convention.

"We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel ... We continue to work with local liberals and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible."'

Indeed, others who understood the devastating impact of GOP policies before the event said the experience was extraordinary.

"Overcoming something like that, it's a breakthrough," Henry Guasch, 19, told the Mercury News. Guasch added that he got a minor burn when he found out that Romney planned to raise his taxes to pay for additional benefits for hedge fund managers and other so-called ‘job creators’.

Guasch and another participant, Andrew Brenner, told the newspaper that faith and concentration were the keys to not getting singed.  “If you ignore the truth, you can survive the presentations.”

The truthwalk is presented on Romney’s website as a way to conquer fears and "other fires in your life" by listening to a true accounting of how these same policies that Romney promises to reintroduce to America led to the attendees current economic misery. It is not a requirement of the convention, and many attendees skip the truth segment, preferring not to experience the searing pain of being burned.

Nevertheless, the Tampa Republican Party did not recommend people engage in the activity, Capt. Reggie Williams told the Mercury News.

"We discourage people from learning what the GOP is really trying to accomplish," Williams said.

It was unclear how many people participated in the truthwalk, but it is safe to say that not enough did.

Considered one of the world's most successful help yourself experts for nearly three decades, Romney oversees an empire of self-empowerment seminars, books and tapes, life coaching and motivational presentations designed to convince people that everything bad in their lives is all their own fault and that the past failed policies of the Republican Party will worked this time, if only you have faith and the ability to make a contribution to his campaign.

I may be biased, but that doesn't make me wrong.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dark Day Rising

The last Batman movie that I watched from the opening sequence to the closing credits was Batman starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.  It opened in theaters around the July 4th holiday, and we actually went that opening day.  Up to that point, my Batman experience was confined to the Ka-Pow! and Bam! flashes on the TV screen whenever Adam West put the hurt on Cesar Romero as the Joker or Burgess Meredith as the Penguin.  Violent?  Yes, but highly stylized.  I didn’t know what to expect from a Batman movie in 1989, but I wanted to be there.

I have seen the subsequent Batman movies in bits and pieces but never in a singular seating and never in the proper scene order.  If there was one word I could use to describe the Batman snippets that I have seen, it would be – brooding.  Today’s Batman is dark, mysterious and otherworldly.  The Batman of my youth was smart, silly, and philanthropic.  Hard to believe they are the same character.  Either Batman has changed or times have changed.  Probably both, and dramatically at that.

After I read about the horrific shooting in Colorado on this morning’s Internet, I remembered the silly Batman and the heart-thumping music that accompanied his every action.  I remembered the classic fight scenes, the cheap henchmen costumes, and the red Bat phone in Commissioner Gordon’s office, safely protected by a glass cake lid as if it were a Bundt cake waiting to be served after Sunday services.  It was all so innocent, even though Batman and Robin were occasionally lowered into tubs of acid or pools of man-eating crocodiles.  It was cool, not scary, and certainly not realistic.  In Colorado last night, the danger was real and the scenes scary.  Not cool.

Sadly, tragedies like this become not opportunities to learn lessons that may protect us in the future.  That may happen later.  The immediate aftermath of this or any other senseless tragedy becomes an opportunity to reinforce previously held political opinions.  Like the Batman from my TV youth, perhaps we should slow down and think this one through like it’s a riddle from the Omnipotent Riddler.  Let’s run it through the Bat Analyzer.

A friend posted the story soon afterwards and decried the lack of effective gun control in our nation.  I haven’t seen the counter-posting yet, but the rebuttal is sure to be that this tragedy can be equally used to make the case for more guns and more concealed weapons permits.  I can hear the argument, “how many lives could have been spared had a theater-goer been armed and taken the monster down with one bullet?”  We might let the blood dry before engaging in those gun law debates.

A reporter on ABC News linked the shooter to the Tea Party, without so much as a shred of evidence or confirmation.  That could be one of the shoddiest pieces of journalism I have seen in the past…day?  The 24 hour news cycle can shoulder some blame, but who hires and employs a reporter who reports information sourced only by reading Twitter posts and lonely basement bloggers?  That reporter gives fuel to those who trust no one except the ones they trust on the basis of shared political outlooks.  ABC, fire that guy for one reason – he’s a lousy reporter because he clearly doesn’t know or care what ‘news’ is.  

I do not want to take too much focus away from the tragedy; however, one part of the reports did shift my attention from the main event.  A three month old and a 6 year old were among the injured.  Please explain to me the benefit of bringing a 3 month old and a 6 year old to a midnight movie filled with loud explosions, seat-shaking music, and drunken fans.  A 6 year old shouldn’t see the TV edited version of this movie let alone the midnight showing in a dark crowded theater.  It is not the parent’s fault that the children were shot.  It is their fault that they deemed a midnight showing of Dark Knight Rising to be an appropriate choice for a small child.

That outrage will have to wait.  Today, we mourn the dead and the loss of one more layer of innocence in our culture.  Today, it is no one’s fault except the deranged shooter.  Let keep our anger squarely in his direction and our prayers with the victims and their loved ones.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Silent Treatment

Mitt Romney has been encouraged by conservatives to take bold steps to combat the Obama Disinformation Machine, and today he announced an unprecedented move in modern campaigning.  Despite the obvious risks, the GOP standard bearer for 2012 has decided to suspend all campaign communications.  Effective immediately, he will stop talking and his campaign will no longer release any statements until after Election Day 2012.  He has decided that this represents his best path to victory in November.

Romney has been moving towards this decision for some time, as he has complained to staffers and the press about his words being taken out of context or twisted.

“One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy,” said Romney earlier this year, “was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education. So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies.”

"I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go."

Romney’s problem with his words being taken out of context is relatively new, since his campaign championed the technique as recently as this spring when he ran a series of ads featuring audio of Obama saying: "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

This potential damning quote was lifted shamelessly out of context, since this was Obama quoting a McCain aide in 2008 and was a regular part of Obama’s stump speech that year.  Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser, said that “the use of the language in that ad was intentional”, and that its use, while deceptive and misleading in a material way, was “fair game” since the words actually came out of the President’s mouth, a rather broad interpretation of “fair game”.  Nevertheless, when the technique was turned on Romney, he bristled.

The change in strategy to remain absolutely silent until Election Day is seen as a dramatic reaction to voices within his own party that saw his attempts at being as vague as possible as not going far enough. 

The campaign’s vague responses, essentially saying nothing, to pressing national questions were only generating more questions.  During the GOP primary, Romney released his plan to cut all tax rates by 20% and establish a top individual rate of 28%, but could not explain the plan’s impact on the deficit.  He tried to argue that he would cut unspecified federal programs over time to maintain fiscal discipline, but that led to even more questions.

Romney kept at it with generalities, but within his inner circle, he was moving closer to his ‘silence is golden’ approach to campaigning.  His speech began to contain less and less substance.  His claim that closing loopholes, improving efficiency and rooting out fraud and abuse would counterbalance the cost of his tax proposals were quickly seen as meaningless political babble.  His approach to Afghanistan could be summed up by his plan to “listen to the generals on the ground.”  He had not taken a public position on the Fair Pay Act, the DREAM Act, or the DISCLOSE Act.  He has not taken a firm position on sequestration.  Some believed that his decision to go dark had already been made.

In the end, Romney had run out of safe topics, and he admitted as much during his final press conference of the campaign season today.

“I’m a former governor who can’t discuss my tenure.  I’m a former CEO of Bain who can’t discuss his role as the organization’s leader.  I’m a wealthy man who needs to downplay his own wealth.  I’m the godfather of Obamacare, and I can’t mention that.  I want to cut taxes for the rich but can’t reveal my own taxes.  I’m running out of things to say anyway.”

“Every time I say anything, I’m questioned.  If I release my tax returns, I’ll be attacked.  If I don’t I’ll be attacked.  If I take a position on any issue, the Obama machine will highlight how wrong my position is.  It’s outrageous and Un-American.”

Romney ended the last press conference with, “So from now on, no comment.”

He returned to the podium for one final thought:

“I am not Barack Obama.  I don’t see why that isn’t good enough.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baby I’m a Rocker

In 1999, Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker endeared himself to New York Mets fans everywhere with his warm embrace of the city’s rich diversity.  In a Sports Illustrated article, Rocker was asked about his interest in one day playing in the city that hated him:

“I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut, next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”

He wasn’t done spreading his love for the Big Apple:

“You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”

His rantings earned him a suspension by Major League Baseball, some complimentary sensitivity training, and secure place on NY’s Mount Rushmore of hated sports villains in between Reggie Miller, Tom Brady and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Rocker is now free of the shackles of gainful sports-entertainment employment (he retired in 2002) and can finally just be John Rocker, no longer holding his tongue.  He can now throw wild pitches without guilt.  He has been hired to deliver his 95 MPH invectives high and tight for the conservative online tabloid, World Net Daily (WND). 

He is certainly a well-read thought leader on conservative issues.  His steady diet of information comes from a variety of sources and points of view.  He was quoted in Politico as saying he watches both Fox News and Fox Business “all day and every day”.  That no doubt provides him the proper fair and balanced daily recommended ration of rant.  (I am reminded of the scene in The Blues Brothers when Jake asks the barkeep what kind of music the crowd enjoyed.  She responded, “We like both kinds – country and western.” Rocker enjoys both points of view – Fox News and Business.”)

Even 10 years after retirement, Rocker can still throw the occasional curve ball.  He supports a woman’s right to choose and is decidedly laissez-faire on the subject of gay marriage, two topics that Fox News must cover while he is sleeping or mowing the lawn.  His live-and-let-live philosophy regarding gays should be proof that sensitivity training does work.  In 2002, he made headlines for reportedly yelling homophobic slurs at a restaurant in a gay-friendly neighborhood in Dallas. Johnny, you’ve come a long way, baby.

By and large, however, he toes the rubber for his conservative brethren.  On the topic of Obama’s socialist dictatorship, he opines:

“The nation we live in has not come to the prestige it has based on socialist ideology, from people looking to the government, looking for some kind of help, whether it be health care or social programs like welfare. Those ideals are not what created America into the country we are today. It’s been an ideology of capitalism, of, ‘I wake up every morning and put my boots on and make something of myself and my life,’ and I just don’t think President Obama shares those ideals. I think he really wants to steer us more toward a socialist state where a lot of people depend on the government for everything under the sun.”

He was a closer in baseball, but on the talk circuit, he should be able to go the distance with nasty stuff like that.  Control is critical for a pitcher’s success.  Loss of control is Rocker’s strong suit, so working at WND and championing the War on Differences of Opinion should be a nice fit.

So Mets fans who are planning to vote for Romney, the choice is clear.  You’ll be on John Rocker’s team this fall, or you’ll be voting against his wishes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.    

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Mitt Won’t Release His Tax Returns

The heat is turning up quickly on Mitt Romney now that he has unequivocally ruled out a release of any additional tax returns from 2009 and prior.  Since we know Mitt Romney never changes his positions, I guess that’s the end of the story.

Except that it isn’t.  It certainly doesn’t help Mitt that his latest line of defense is that Teresa Heinz Kerry, whose name was not on a ballot, did not release her tax returns in 2004, therefore he doesn’t have to.  Since the actual candidate, John Kerry, released 20 years worth of returns, and the potential future First Lady filed separate returns from her husband, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.  He’ll have to do better than that if he wants this issue to drop below the fold.  I hear that Mamie Eisenhower and Nancy Reagan didn’t release their returns either.  So there. 

In the absence of official information, the media, the public and his campaign opponents will fill in the facts for him.  How kind.  The story will be told whether Mitt participates or not.  (Isn’t it shocking that a guy who has been running for 7 years now hadn’t anticipated and planned for this?)  The fact of the matter is that the lack of details and transparency on his tax returns is potentially more distracting and damaging than whatever could be found on the returns.  Unless whatever is on his returns disqualifies him from elected office and leads to a grand jury investigation and an Obama reelection uncontested. 

But I would never start such speculation.

It’s not like he doesn’t have his reasons for not releasing the returns.  After reviewing the top ten reasons why Mitt Romney won’t release his tax returns, he might be taking the correct path of obstruction and delay:

Top Ten Reasons Mitt Won’t Release His Tax Returns

10.          Not sure he has his receipt to support the deduction he claimed for dropping off a van Gogh at a Salvation Army drop off station in Worcester. 
9.            Estimated dimensions of his home office space that he lists on his taxes is larger than the average single family home in America.

8.            His signature includes a little smiley face in place of the dot above the ‘i’ in ‘Willard’.

7.            His 2006 deduction for installing energy efficient windows makes him look like a tree hugging environmental wacko to the GOP base.

6.            Not sure in retrospect if his haircare products really qualify as a medical expense.

5.            Claimed on his 2008 return that his generous contribution to the McCain-Palin ticket was a “gambling loss”.

4.            He would have to explain why he once checked the box that $3 of his refund could be used for public financing of Presidential campaigns.

3.            His last 7 years of returns list his occupation as “Presidential Candidate”.

2.            The Founding Fathers never had to release their returns.

And the Number One reason Mitt Romney won’t release his tax returns:

1.       Not enough time left before Election Day to correct them.

Bonus feature:

Thankfully Mitt has explained when defending his various off shore accounts that he was out of the loop.  Everything has been in a blind trust (which is a misnomer, since the trust can see what’s happening – he’s the one that should be blind).  This defense could be tough to maintain for 4 more months given his explanation of what a blind trust is:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Right Repeal

Thirty three times House Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so far at a cost of $50 million to taxpayers and counting.  This is one hidden tax that is sure to go up every time the GOP stomps its feet and holds its breath over the original passage of health care reform.  May I suggest a new approach for the Republicans?  If you want real reform in the direction of conservative values, you need to attack the heart of socialized medicine.  You keep missing the target:

Repeal the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1985

President Reagan provided the demon seed for Obamacare when he signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) into law along with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).  EMTALA requires doctors in hospital emergency rooms to treat every person who comes through the door without requesting whether the patient is insured, how, or by whom until after the patient is either stabilized for transfer or stabilized for discharge.  That, my friends, is inhumane because it is bankrupting our children.  It is the mandate that gave birth to the mandate that killed liberty. 

We should not be surprised that Reagan signed such a socialist-leaning law.  After all, he granted amnesty for illegal immigrants and once served as head of a major employee union, the Screen Actors Guild.  Plus, it is rumored that he was from California.  Given Reagan’s questionable background, we should have known that the EMTALA was a Trojan Horse being used to sneak socialized medicine onto our shores.

The EMTALA requires that a pregnant woman coming to a hospital in labor cannot be sent away for any reason until after she has given birth.  If she is later found to be uninsured, under-insured or just irresponsible, the rest of us might be stuck with higher premiums while her only penalty would be the embarrassment of personal bankruptcy and homelessness.  If hospitals demanded proof of insurance or cash up front before providing care, that woman would think twice before having sex in the first place.    Besides, the Constitution guarantees this woman and her unborn child the right to choose to be uninsured, and that shall not be infringed.  She also retains the right to childbirth at home, or in the public restroom of her choice.

Responsible citizens with money and insurance coverage that schedule health care services in advance are being bumped by emergency ‘victims’ under the EMTALA.  Waiting in line or rescheduling an appointment can not only be inconvenient.  It can crush American worker productivity, and waiting in line for your turn smells like European centralized medical control to me.  Smart conservatives should repeat this over and over and over again until it sinks in to the masses.  “First come, first served” is the American Way.  Putting the critically injured ahead of scheduled patients sounds like rationing, and rationing as we all know is bad.

Involuntary servitude is constitutionally prohibited by the 13th Amendment, but a strict reading of Reagan’s EMTALA makes it clear that doctors are not covered under this amendment.  Any American physician licensed to practice must provide treatment if a patient requests or requires care.  To defeat Obamacare, Republicans need to push this compelling, inflammatory and racially-tinged argument.  Surely everyone can agree that slavery is wrong, therefore the EMTALA is wrong.  If true, then Obamacare is slavery, and that’s wrong.  It’s logical. 

Failure to adhere to the EMTALA and all of its job-killing regulations results in a fine per infraction of $25,000 to $50,000, prosecution, decertification actions, and expulsions from Medicare and Medicaid. Liberals may argue that these should be called ‘life-saving’ regulations, but conservatives need to expose the EMTALA for what it is.  After all, how can you live without a job?

Republicans, change your focus.  Once doctors and hospitals are no longer conscripted to provide care to the sick and injured without means or the proper papers, the rationale behind the ACA disappears.  Nothing says “bipartisanship’ like advancing the case that “Reagan was wrong”.

Think about it, if you can. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Where is Mitt's Long Form?

For almost 4 years, we have heard that President Obama’s failure to produce his long form birth certificate was evidence of a massive cover up, an indication that he had something to hide about his past.  Never mind that he had produced the state approved (perfectly legal) version of his birth certificate immediately after the issue was first raised in the Democratic primaries.  Never mind that a birth announcement appeared in a Hawaii newspaper announcing his birth at a hospital within the borders of the United States.  Never mind reality.  The story had legs and fit the meme that Obama was ‘different’ and that he was the Manchurian President, waiting for the moment when he could seize complete power, take all the guns, and fulfill his Robin Hood crusade of stealing from the rich to give to the lazy poor.

Now it is Mitt’s turn to be victimized by claims of a massive cover up, an indication that he has something to hide about his past.  There are several stories circulating that fit the meme that Romney is ‘different’ and that he is the Manchurian Candidate, waiting for the moment when he can seize complete power, give everyone guns, and fulfill his Montgomery Burns crusade of stealing from the poor to give to the lazy rich.  “Smithers, release the hounds.”

The Obama campaign is keeping poor Mitt on the defensive this month about his professional past, some of which have no real bearing on his qualifications to be President.  Politics is so unfair.

The latest story involves the question of when Romney actually stepped down from his leadership of Bain Capital operations.  It is being floated that Romney was still in charge when politically toxic decisions were made regarding the dissolution of companies that Bain was “helping”, at the same time he was listed in SEC filings as in charge.  At its core, it’s a non-story and the details will bore you; however, the Obama camp is using the story as an opportunity to demand that Bain release Board of Director meeting minutes to prove a negative – that Romney wasn’t involved between 1999 and 2002.

This is no more than a diversion that most people outside the political intelligentsia (an oxymoron?) care about.  It does have the benefit of continuing a focus on the mean business of vulture capitalism (Newt’s word, not mine and he’s a Romney surrogate).  It also is no doubt the hope of Team Obama that the Board meeting minutes become an issue all by itself.  I can’t imagine that selectively clipped quotes from the meeting minutes of a venture capital firm would be politically helpful to the Romney campaign.

The carefully interwoven stories being told about Romney all lead to two questions:  What is he hiding and why?

·         What’s in his tax returns that he is so afraid to release them to public scrutiny like every other Presidential candidate?

·         What other secret overseas accounts does Mitt Romney control, and why won’t he tell the American public about the other secret accounts that we know exist but can’t prove?

·         Why did Romney as Massachusetts governor order the unprecedented destruction of official computer records after leaving statehouse, and what was in those records?

·         Who are Mitt’s campaign finance bundlers and why won’t he disclose their names?  Is this the transparency he has in mind for Washington?

·         And finally the elephant in the room – what is the Mormon religion, why is it so secretive, and why won’t he talk about it?

Some of these are more important than others; some are downright irrelevant and hypocritical to ask.  But the caricature is being drawn with a SuperPAC pen, and quite effectively so far.  Obama and his campaign will glad tie these stories together for us.  “Do we know the ‘real’ Mitt Romney?”  It is a short walk to questioning whether or not Romney was actually born in Norway and was indoctrinated in an anti-colonial Norwegian capitalism philosophy.

I’d rather focus on the GOP candidate’s lack of policy specifics, like GOP pundit William Kristol did.  We could focus on his unwavering support for the Ryan Plan and its fuzzy assumptions.  We could talk about his sad history of changing positions on everything from social issues to climate change to health care to taxes.  We could spend some time on his lack of leadership on a variety of public issues, like immigration or the Paycheck Fairness Act or Afghanistan.  But that’s not what drives things anymore.  Substance is not a winning strategy.  The GOP has proven that.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Obama spend the last 4 years being defined as “not like us”.  Now Obama is returning the favor and painting Romney as someone “not like you”.

Paybacks are a bitch.