Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013: The Year In PREview

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At this time of year, newspapers, magazines, and TV shows are filled with retrospectives of the past year: "Top 10 News stories"; "Top 10 Sports Stories"; "Top 10 Drunken Celebrity Mishaps," etc.
Not this column, by golly. We believe in looking forward, not back. So, as always, we bring you 2013: the year in PRE-view:
JANUARY: House Republicans vote to replace John Boehner as speaker of the House with actor/director Clint Eastwood.
"We read an article by this guy from the American Enterprise Institute that pointed out that there's nothing in the Constitution requiring the speaker to actually be a member," says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, "and everyone here really loves Clint. He's the guy that won the election for Romney."
When a reporter points out that Mitt Romney did not actually win the election and that the majority of Americans who saw Eastwood's argument with an empty chair at the RNC regarded the performance as an embarrassment, Cantor and other Republicans in the vicinity put their hands over their ears and chant, "We're not listening, we're not listening, na na na..."
FEBRUARY: Fox News commentators join forces with right-wing religious organizations to demand the resignation of President Obama after he refers to the Feb. 14 holiday as "Valentine's Day."
"It's SAINT Valentine's Day!" thunders Catholic League President William A. Donohue. Bill O'Reilly chimes in, saying, "The fact that this so-called 'president' refuses to honor an obscure saint who no one really knows anything about just illustrates his implacable hatred and hostility toward religion."
MARCH: House Republicans refuse to authorize an increase in the country's debt ceiling unless the administration agrees to cut three months out of the calendar year.
"We're in a lot of debt in these debt-filled times of great debt," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says. "We can't afford all these months where we just have more and more debt, because we're very concerned about debt. Debt. Debt. Debt. Also, Greece."
APRIL: Following the success of the first installment of Peter Jackson's film version of "The Hobbit" (which stretches the shortest of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth novels into three movies, each nearly three hours long), Jackson announces his new project: a four-part, 16-hour filmed version of the children's book "Pat the Bunny."
MAY: House Republicans defend Speaker Clint Eastwood's "interview" with "60 Minutes," which is actually just Eastwood screaming at a picture of reporter Lara Logan propped up on a sofa.
"He really schooled that socialist [bad word]," North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry chortles to what he thinks is an interviewer from Fox News, but is actually a hatrack in the House cloakroom.
JUNE: After five people are shot by an assault-rifle-wielding gunman in a Piggly Wiggly store in Birmingham, Ala., NRA President Wayne LaPierre holds a press conference demanding that grocery clerks, stock people and bag boys be armed with handguns.
JULY: Unfazed by national criticism of its "Stand Your Ground" law, Florida enacts the "What Are YOU Lookin' At?" law, which allows gun owners to shoot anyone they "reasonably believe is eyeballing them in a suspicious or threatening manner."
AUGUST: Social network Facebook announces more changes to its so-called "privacy policy."
Founder Mark Zuckerberg explains: "If you join Facebook, you agree to let our employees come to your house and look through your stuff. But don't worry. We won't misuse the information. We promise."
SEPTEMBER: A deranged man shoots four garbage collectors with an assault rifle, then kills himself. NRA President Wayne LaPierre holds a press conference demanding that all garbage trucks be armored and equipped with gun turrets.
OCTOBER: A Justice Department investigation of the three largest American banks determines that the banks engaged in money-laundering for drug cartels and terrorist organizations and defrauded investors out of billions. It also turns up evidence that bank executives were personally involved in major narcotics trafficking, gun-running, prostitution, murder for hire, convenience store robberies, and shoplifting.
The Justice Department, however, follows the pattern it has established in previous investigations and refuses to pursue criminal indictments.
"You know how it is," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer announces with a shrug. "They're bankers. Mess with them and they might get mad and collapse the economy again." Breuer, however, promises that the civil settlements with the banksters will include a "very stern talking to."
NOVEMBER: Retailers Walmart and Best Buy create an uproar when they announce that their "Black Friday" pre-Christmas sales will now begin on Veterans Day. Consumers complain bitterly as they line up to get $199 50-inch flat-screen TVs.
DECEMBER: Not to be outdone by its competitors, Target announces that its Black Friday sales for 2014 will begin on Dec. 26, 2013.
Like it or not, here comes another year....

Monday, December 24, 2012

Someone Needs Some Xanax For Christmas

Comment about my last column on The Pilot Newspaper's website


One of the mental health tests I'd propose for gun ownership is: if you've ever typed a post in a thread about guns AND DONE THE ENTIRE THING IN CAPITAL LETTERS, you probably shouldn't be allowed near a firearm. Or any sharp objects for that matter.

If anyone knows the identity of the poster in the area of Southern Pines, NC who goes by the handle of justpassingby2, would you please make sure they get some help?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just Bring On the Apocalypse?

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In the days after the horrific massacre in Newtown, Conn., where a young man named Adam Lanza shot out a window in an elementary school and proceeded to kill 20 first-graders, along with six adults who tried to protect them, I thought I was holding together pretty well.
But then I saw a story online about the plethora of companies that have sprung up in recent years selling body armor for children.
Let me repeat that. Body armor. For children.
For instance, there's a company out of Salt Lake City called (of course) Amendment II that sells a line of backpacks lined with "carbon nanotube" armor.
"Basically, there's three models," Mother Jones magazine quotes company president Derek Williams as saying. "A SwissGear that's made for teens, and we've got an Avengers and a Disney Princess backpack for little kids."

Another company making similar gear provides a handy diagram showing the kids how to properly cower behind their armored backpacks while the maniac slaughters their less-prepared classmates.

Friends, this sort of stuff would normally be just catnip to me. It would provide me endless fodder for mockery. But it's just so sad, I can't even make fun of it. It truly made me wonder if I wanted to live anymore in a country where some people consider that a reasonable response to the murder of children is sending them off to school armored like grunts in Afghanistan. Or, as I've heard some people suggest, arming schoolteachers.
It's a sign of just how insane we've gone that people can even say this with a straight face and not immediately be committed for psychological observation.
Let's leave aside for a moment the question of how school systems that are already being strangled by budget cuts are going to buy weapons for teachers. I've met a lot of teachers in my life, folks. Very few of them impress me as potential Dirty Harrys and Harriets, nor, I wager, do they want to be. And I wouldn't trust the ones that do with a butter knife, much less a Glock.
No, a country where all the teachers are packing heat and all the kids have to be ready at a moment's notice to throw their backpacks up in front of them to stop a bullet is not one where I want to live. But frankly, I don't really want to move. All my stuff and everyone I love is here.
So let's talk about solving the underlying problem, which is this: How do we keep weapons of mass killing out of the hands of crazy people? The answer would seem obvious: fewer weapons of mass killing, or fewer crazy people, or both.
Let's take the second one first. We need to stop treating government support for mental health evaluation and treatment as if it's a luxury. I see so many people, every day, of all ages, who need some sort of mental health intervention, and who are being "served" by fewer and fewer providers, because whenever we have a budget crisis, mental health care is the second thing on the chopping block, behind education. It's as much a security issue as law enforcement or prisons, and it needs to be treated as such.
As for regulation of weapons, let us consider the words of that screaming leftist, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
So what regulations might help limit, if not entirely eradicate, future Newtowns (or Auroras or Oak Creek, Wisconsins)? One very practical proposal I've heard from two senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia (both of whom have received an "A" rating from the NRA), is limiting the size of magazines.
"I don't know anybody that needs 30 rounds in the clip to go hunting," Manchin told an interviewer, noting that he and his family had just returned from a hunting trip. And as for home defense: Pal, if you need more than six rounds to put down an intruder, you're probably fighting a werewolf or something similar, so you're screwed anyway. Run and hope he stops to eat the other guy. If there is no other guy, see "you're screwed," above.
There are other gun control measures that will no doubt be discussed in these pages and elsewhere in the coming weeks. But it's clear we have to do something to keep weapons of war out of the hands of the deranged and the enraged. Otherwise, all of us - men, women, children, pets and livestock - just need to armor up and bring on the apocalypse.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BATNA, BATNA, Who's Got the BATNA?

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Let's get one thing straight from the start. There is no such thing as a "fiscal cliff." If Congress fails to reach a budget deal by Jan. 1, Jan. 2 will not see the U.S. economy in a state of total meltdown by the 15th, leaving us fighting street battles in "Road Warrior" fashion for food, gasoline and toilet paper.
The phrase "fiscal cliff" is purely a creation of a sensationalist media desperate for some kind of major drama now that the election is over.
And their narrative on the current budget negotiations is as overwrought and ridiculous as the one they stuck to right up until Election Day, the narrative that insisted that it was a "horse race" and that the candidates were "neck and neck," even though President Obama held a solid lead in the Electoral College and had done so for months.
When the media and the politicians talk about the fiscal cliff, what they're describing is a series of tax hikes (actually long-delayed expirations of Bush-era tax cuts) and across-the-board spending cuts that Congress put in place as part of a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling and keep the country from going into default.
The "logic" apparently ran like this: "Since we're too immature, especially with an election looming, to deal honestly on the budget without grandstanding and preening for the cameras like WWE wrestlers to show primary voters how tough we are, we'll set a bomb to go off after the election if we can't act like grownups."
The tax "hikes" would supposedly be more than the Republicans could bear, and the spending cuts, to both military and domestic spending, would be more than either side could stomach. At least that was the idea.
But it seems that nothing, not even military spending or economic stability, is as precious to the Republican Right as tax breaks for the wealthy. The president, on the other hand, explicitly ran on a platform that called for those tax breaks to end, while tax breaks for the middle class would stay in place.
As you may remember, he won.
People who have studied the art of negotiation talk about analyzing your BATNA, an acronym that stands for "Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement." In plain English, analyzing your BATNA means honestly facing the question "What happens if we don't settle this?"
So what happens if we "go over the [mythical] cliff"?
Well, for one thing, taxes on everyone go up - to the same rates they were under President Clinton. There would be, according to the financial newspaper Barron's, "deep, automatic cuts in the defense budget and more than 1,000 other government programs, including Medicare."
The economy might very well slide back into recession, at least temporarily. But here's the thing: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the budget deficit would be reduced by $560 billion.
Wait a minute, I can hear you saying. Isn't reducing the deficit the Most Important Thing in the Whole Wide World? Certainly that's the position the Republicans took during the election.
"If we don't reduce the deficit," they bleat over and over, "we'll end up like Greece! You don't want us to end up like Greece, do you? Greece! Greece! Greece is the word!" (Actually, if it meant I could get a decent souvlaki around here, being a little more like Greece might not be so bad. But I digress.)
So why isn't the Republican BATNA - $560 billion in deficit reduction - acceptable to them? Because, as noted above, this has never really been about deficit reduction above all. This has always been about keeping rich people's taxes low. It's also about saying "no" to the president their shrinking base loves to hate.
In contrast, what's the BATNA for the Democrats? Jan. 1, taxes go up on everyone, including the wealthy.
At which point the House Democrats introduce a revival of just the tax cuts that help the middle class and dare the Republicans to vote against it. If they agree to the cuts, they lose the fight; if they refuse to vote for them because they don't protect the wealthy, they lose the House, possibly forever.
As for those spending cuts, we'll see how much people continue to love the Republicans when they start seeing cuts to programs like college loans and Medicare. I suspect that popular programs will quickly find their way back into the budget, and guess who'll get the credit for that?
In any negotiation, the player that gets hurt least by walking away, the player with the best BATNA, is the one with the power. In this case, that's President Obama and the Democrats.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Question For My Loyal Blog Readers

From the blog comments today: "you are either delusional or watching too much of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow."

Here's my question: Why do these idiots assume that everyone who doesn't buy into their "everyone's trying to mooch off me" worldview watches Rachel Maddow all the time? I get this already-worn-out cliche from one wingnut or another at least once a week. It really is a weird obsession they have with her.

For the record, I don't watch her show,  because I don't watch a whole lot of TV, period.

WTF does this even mean "You watch too much Rachel Maddow (or, for the truly hateful and misognyistic wingnuts, "Rachel Madd-cow")? Do they just assume that everything she says is wrong? And if so, based on what? Have you even seen the damn show?

 It's just another one of those meaningless shibboleths right wingers post when they can't think of anything intelligent to say. Here's a hint: If all you've got to offer is some off-topic crack about watching Rachel Maddow, I will immediately assume you're a blithering idiot with nothing to contribute to the discussion except dumb-ass cliches.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Letters From Santa's Mailbag

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Once again, we bring you another beloved holiday tradition: selections from Santa's mailbag.
Dear Santa: OK, so I went on Fox News predicting a 325-electoral-vote Romney landslide. And yeah, I did it over and over, with complete confidence. As you probably heard, that didn't exactly pan out. But is it fair that the TV network that's more of a home to me than my own living room says that they're going to stop having me on? I mean, Bill Kristol's wrong all the time too, and he gets his phone calls returned.
I  need work, Santa, and fast. The hookers say they're going to start charging me double if I'm not on TV.
- Dick Morris, somewhere in hiding
(Note to staff: Send Dick a copy of "Polling For Dummies.")
Dear Santa: I have to say, I've had a pretty good year. I won the election by a comfortable margin. We kept the Senate and made gains in the House. The Republicans are in disarray and starting to turn on each other.
I've got the upper hand in these budget negotiations, since all I have to do is wait for all the tax cuts to expire, then ask the House to introduce a cut that only includes the middle class and dare the Republicans to vote against it. The economy continues to get better. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm good for this year, and I don't really need anything for myself. Well, maybe some socks.
- Barack Obama, Washington, D.C.
(Note to staff: Get the guy some socks. It's the least we can do.)
Dear Santa, you socialist piece of [censored]: The soulless fools who voted for economic and spiritual suicide this past November may want stuff from you, like support for their obesity booze cellphones birth control abortions. But let me tell you something, you commie pinko [censored]!
I'm a free American, and I don't want any [censored] handouts from anyone, especially some [censored] who dresses up in red and sneaks into people's houses at night. So stay the [censored] away from my house, you got that, fatso? I mean it. I've got guns. Lots of them.
- Ted Nugent, Michigan
(Note to staff: Goodness. This is one angry fellow. Can we maybe bring him some nice warm milk or some meds or something to calm him down?)
(Note to Santa: No can do, boss. The reindeer refuse to go near his place after Dasher nearly took a crossbow bolt in the haunch.)
Dearest Father Christmas: Warm regards from her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge. I trust you have been made aware of the recent good news regarding Her Royal Highness' delicate condition.
Her only wishes for this Christmas season are that the people of the British Isles enjoy greater peace and prosperity, and that, if possible, you could provide something to ensure she is not, as I believe the Americans put it, blowing chunks every 10 minutes. With best wishes for the holidays and for the New Year, I am, very truly yours,
- Percy Uppington-Smythe, Personal Assistant.
(Note to staff: Poor kid. Hard enough being pregnant and sick, but I can't imagine having to deal with those ghastly in-laws of hers. Send her a keg of ginger ale to settle her stomach.)
Dear Santa: Who is this guy in the White House? We'd gotten used to a president who started his negotiating from the center-right and just kept giving us what we wanted so we could demand more.
This guy, this so-called "second-term" Obama, acts like he's actually got a backbone. He's demanding that we agree to the things he ran on and that people voted for! You'd think he'd won the election or something! We want the old, pliable, easily bullied Barack Obama back! If we don't get it, I might start crying again. I'm warning you.
-John Boehner, Washington, D.C.
(Note to staff: Sorry, looks like that model's been discontinued.)
Dear Santa: Please bring me a new iPad. And an Xbox360. And a Play Station3. And a Wii. And a bunch of movies, books and games, all rated "G" or "PG". And hurry. Mitt Romney, La Jolla, Calif.
(Note to staff: Looks like someone suddenly has a lot of time on his hands.)
(Note from staff: Good thing he doesn't drink, huh?)
(Note to staff: I don't even want to think about it.)
Hope you all get what you want under your tree.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

This Year's Holiday Gift Guide

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Black Friday is now past. Cyber Monday, when we’re supposed to rush online for the great bargains, is behind us as well. But you’ve still got a few gifts to get for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list.
Well, never fear, gentle readers: As always, your Humble Columnist is here with your Holiday Gift Guide:
— For that right-winger who still can’t seem to face the fact that President Obama actually won the election fair and square, there’s the Wingnut Virtual Reality Helmet.
Slide this bucket-shaped gizmo over your head, and the built-in, form-fitting goggles will broadcast an endless feed of Fox News directly into your eyeballs, while the patented ear buds keep you from hearing any actual facts by filling your ears with a 24/7 feed of right-wing talk radio.
Why go through the painful and messy process of self-examination? Why risk the hard work of changing your attitude and your message when you can bathe in the warm reassurance of people telling you that you were right all along, there’s nothing wrong with your thinking, and it’s Those People who have stolen the country from you?
(Warning: Some users have reported experiencing fear, paranoia and uncontrollable fits of rage from overexposure to Fox News.)
— Depressed and apprehensive about the threatened collapse of the Hostess Company and its fine collection of chemically ageless snack cakes? Sad that your children may never experience the special spongy taste of the Twinkie and its creme-filled goodness? Get them the new Hasbro Easy-Bake Home Twinkie Oven.
Make your very own Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Mini-Muffins, and of course, classic Twinkies, right there in your own home! Comes with detailed recipes and a special bonus supplement teaching the little ones to blame unions if things don’t come out right because of their incompetence.
(Warning: Handling of some of the preservatives, colorings and artificial flavorings necessary to make these confections may require EPA certification. HazMat suit not included.)
— An important life skill in today’s world is that of being able to make yourself feel better about your life by watching other people who are way more dysfunctional than you.
Which is why the folks at TLC Network have created the perfect learning tool for your little ones: The Honey Boo Boo Action Play Set.
The set contains uproariously lifelike figures of TV’s beloved Shannon/ Thompson clan: Mama, Daddy, Jessica, Anna, Lauryn and, of course, the heavily caffeinated, adorably demented redneck pre-teen beauty queen herself, Alana “Honey Boo Boo Child” Thompson.
Squeeze Alana’s belly fat and hear her say one of the show’s delightful catch phrases, like “a dolla makes me holla!” and “you better redneck-ognize!” Manufacturer is not responsible for the eventual withering of your soul.
— Apps, applications that run on smartphones and some laptop computers, are likely to be huge sellers this year. For those friends or relatives whose casual and unrecognized racism makes you cringe, there’s the Racism Recognition App for iPhone and Android smartphones.
This handy program is voice-activated and delivers a small but noticeable electric shock to people saying certain racist catch-phrases and code words like, “I know it isn’t politically correct to say this, but…”; “Why haven’t we seen Obama’s college transcripts?”; and “Obama doesn’t represent the real America.”
— If you or someone you love is a Christmas Warrior, someone for whom the holiday is not complete unless they can feel persecuted and oppressed by people saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas,” there’s now an entire line of Christmas Warrior cards and decorations.
The cards include such heart-warming messages as “Merry Christmas. Yeah, I Said It. Merry Christmas! So What Are You Going to Do About It, Punk?” For only $99.99, you can get the full-sized nativity scene with all of the characters defiantly flipping off anyone who has a problem with it.
Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays — however you say it — try not to be a jerk about it, OK? And God Bless Us, Every One.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Benghazi: No Magic Bullet

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You know, there are a lot of legitimate concerns that could be raised about what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, when our popular ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed by a group that attacked and sacked the U.S. consulate there.
Was it a mistake to have so much of the consulate's security provided by local forces and a nearby group of CIA employees, rather than, say, the U.S. Marines? Should we have had a military response force located close enough to get there more quickly?
Republicans, however, seem to be determined to ignore these very real questions. This may be because "since gaining the majority in 2011, House Republicans have voted to reduce embassy security funding by approximately half a billion dollars below the amounts requested by the Obama administration."
That language comes from a report issued by the very committee investigating the attacks and the U.S. response to them. "You have to prioritize things," shrugged Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, one of the lawmakers who voted to cut funds for embassy security - and who's now helping to lead the committee.
Well, that's true, and it's become crystal clear what the Republican priorities are: not getting at the truth, but desperately trying to find their "magic bullet," the scandal that will bring down the man they love to hate.
All of their previous attempts - Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the DOJ's settlement of a Bush-era civil action against the New Black Panther Party - none of these have managed to gain any traction. But this! This, they thought, was going to be the one.
Mitt Romney got the ball rolling. Before the bodies were cold, he was releasing critical statements in the mendacious and fact-free style that characterized the entire campaign. He accused Obama of expressing "sympathy" for the attackers and for responding to the attacks by "apologizing for our values." The fact that the president had done no such thing didn't matter to Lord Romney, whose disdain for the President was only exceeded by his disdain for the truth.
In the days leading up to the election, Benghazi became the right-wing obsession. Mention anything, anything at all, and they'd start yelling at the top of their lungs that "Obama lied about Benghazi."
"Obama is leading in the swing states ..."
"The heads of the car companies say Romney's lying about moving auto jobs to China ..."
"Would you like another piece of toast?"
And so on.
But as hearings ramped up and people who actually knew things began to speak, it became more and more obvious that there really was no scandal there. No one, as the conspiracy theorists claimed at first, had told U.S. forces to "stand down" rather than help the beleaguered ambassador. President Obama had immediately referred to the attacks as an act of terror, despite Romney's brazen attempt to lie about it at the second debate.
Then things just got silly. Sen. John McCain skipped a closed-door briefing about Benghazi to hold a press conference demanding more information about Benghazi. He threatened to hold up a hypothetical nomination for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, because, he said, Rice "lied" about the motives behind the attack.
As it turns out, however, the "lies" Ambassador Rice were supposedly telling were actually information given to her by the CIA and vetted by "seven, eight, nine different agencies" before being approved in final form, again by the CIA. At least that's what Rep. Peter King described as the testimony from scandal-plagued former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus.
This led to some rumblings that Petraeus' recent sex scandal arose out of some attempt by the administration to blackmail him. That line of attack went nowhere, probably because it made no sense. Then there was a claim that the White House had changed the ambassador's "talking points" to take out references to al-Qaida and make themselves look better.
This was immediately shot down by the office of the director of national intelligence in an interview with CNN, leaving poor Honorable John nothing left to gripe about but the fact that he had to see his hoped-for scandal shot to pieces on CNN.
As this scandal-that-isn't fades away, to become just another one of the Zombie Lies the right trots out again and again no matter how many times it's debunked, what's next?
Will President Obama be blamed for the death of the Twinkie? Will some small detail of the White House Christmas tree lead to outraged calls for his impeachment?
Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Our Republicans Learning?

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It's nearly two weeks after the presidential election and the "shocking" victory of Barack Obama over Lord Mitt, the Earl of Etch-a-Sketchington (shocking, that is, unless you were actually paying attention to the arithmetic).
Reading and watching the seemingly endless parade of analysis, recrimination and tantrums filling the media, one is compelled to ask, in the words of The Former President Who Must Not Be Named: Is our Republicans learning?
Well, I said last week that we live in hope. And there's been some reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, the GOP has taken some lessons from losing both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
For instance, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, the new head of the Republican Governors Association, gave an interview to Politico in which he candidly said that Republicans need to stop being "the stupid party."
Noting that some Republican candidates had damaged the GOP brand with "offensive, bizarre comments," Jindal insisted that "we've ... had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people, and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters." He urged the party to reach out to all Americans, "including the 47 percent and the 53 percent."
Erick Erickson, who built one of the most virulent nests of angry wingnuttery with his website before becoming a regular contributor on the supposedly liberal CNN, pushed back against the crazies calling for states to secede. Barack Obama, he wrote, "did not win by stealing the election. ... He won by turning out the most people in a well-run campaign. In other words, he won fair and square."
Sadly, however, Jindal and Erickson may be lonely voices crying in the wilderness. Many prominent Republicans seemed determined to keep pushing the message that lost them the election: that Those People are coming to take your stuff.
Mitt Romney blamed his loss on the "gifts" that the president gave young, African-American, and Hispanic voters. Paul Ryan blamed the loss on an unexpectedly large turnout of voters in "urban areas," and we all know what that means, don't we?
The conservative media figures who did so much to insulate their right-wing audiences from reality were even more blunt. Bill O'Reilly went full-out racist, saying that the election was decided by African-American and Hispanic voters who "wanted someone to give them stuff."
Ann Coulter was practically in tears as she told talk show host Laura Ingraham: "We have more takers than makers, and it's over. There is no hope." Rush Limbaugh sarcastically suggested that the way to bring back women voters was for conservatives to "start their own abortion industry."

Here's a news flash, GOP: You're not going to win the votes of African-Americans, the majority of whom are working people, by acting like all anyone darker than you wants to do is lie around the projects collecting welfare and committing voter fraud. You're not going to win the votes of Latinos by backing laws that assume that every one of them is illegal until they prove otherwise.
You're not going to win the votes of young people by acting as if the desire for educational opportunity makes them parasites, and by the way, that their openly gay and lesbian friends are abominations before God. You're not going to win the votes of women if you insist that their desire that the insurance they work or pay for covers contraception makes them lazy sluts who want free birth control pills so they can have sex all day.
This should not be hard to figure out. You don't win elections by insulting the people you need to vote for you. If you offend a sufficient number of minority groups, pretty soon you've offended a majority.
Republicans may try to take comfort in the fact that they held on to control of the House of Representatives.
But that doesn't mean that the "white makers vs. the grasping dark hordes" message is going to suddenly turn into a winner in 2016.
You may be able to hang on to a House seat in a district gerrymandered to put people who look, talk and think just like you in one place. But it won't win you the Senate or the White House. That requires outreach to all Americans. Just ask Paul Ryan, who held his "safe" House seat while losing his home state.
In a changing America, conservatives will win few victories by professing their love of country while openly loathing more than half of the people who live in it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Life Of Illusion (The Director's Cut)

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[Note: this is the unedited version. The one in the paper eliminates the first paragraphs because the editor was afraid the Party of Love might firebomb the newspaper office.] 

So now, at long last, the election is over, and President Barack Obama will have his second term. Before we get to our discussion of what happened and why, let me just take the time to say: HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!

Ahem. On to the post-election analysis.

I’ve said before that Mitt Romney was destined to be the John Kerry of the Republican Party. Each man was a rich, entitled Massachusetts moderate trying to convince his party's skeptical base he was one of them, despite having once supported the thing that that base purported to despise most (the Iraq War in Kerry's case, the individual mandate in Romney's). Both Kerry and Romney ran against controversial incumbents, with a central message that amounted to “I’m not him.” And both fell short. But Mitt Romney fell much shorter than Kerry. Why? Perhaps because the “him” Romney was running against didn’t exist.

The imaginary Barack Obama that the Republicans were running against bore little or no resemblance to the actual man in the White House. Imaginary Obama was a scowling, far-left radical, a socialist, a fascist or a communist, depending on who was yelling into the mike at the time. Imaginary Obama was simultaneously an evil schemer who was plotting 24/7 to destroy America and a guy who was too dumb to get into college without affirmative action or to speak without a teleprompter. Imaginary Obama was a divisive, harshly partisan figure, hated by all, even his former supporters. Worst of all, he was an incompetent, a miserable failure at absolutely everything he touched.

The problem with this strategy is that the actual Barack Obama that non-delusional people could see was a smart, calm, moderate with good likability ratings who’d brought the unemployment numbers down at a steady if sometimes maddeningly slow pace, saved the auto industry, and brought Osama bin Laden to justice. People heard the Right dismissing every bit of good news, crying doom and gloom, and insisting “everything’s getting worse,” looked around, and went, “hmmm, it really isn’t.”

Then along came Sandy. The quick Presidential response to the hurricane and the grateful reaction of Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who only a few weeks before had been savaging Obama at the GOP convention, blew away any lingering doubts non-delusional voters may have had about both the President’s competence and his ability to work with Republicans.

As the polls showed the President pulling further and further ahead in crucial swing states, Republicans began pulling the blanket of delusion over their heads. Pundits like Dick Morris, Karl Rove, Michael Barone and even the usually sane George W. Will predicted a Romney landslide, with Will predicting 321 EVs for Romney.

 One expects this sort of thing from hacks like Morris, Barone and Rove, but Will really should have known better. The polls were “skewed,” they insisted, because they assumed that Democratic voter turnout would be the same in 2012 as it was in 2008. That wasn’t going to happen this year, they asserted with the all the misguided and uninformed bravado of a latter-day George Armstrong Custer.

Actually, had you asked earlier in the year, I might have said you had a point. There were a lot of disaffected Democrats, particularly on the Left. (Anyone who says liberals all think the same has clearly never been around any). But that was before the GOP, some of its prominent supporters, and its candidates began taking extreme radical positions on things like abortion, contraception, gay rights, and immigration, and saying things that frightened, offended or ticked off Latinos, LGBT people, African-Americans, and especially women. That fired up the very constituencies the GOP had told themselves would stay home.

So thanks, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, John Koster, Richard Mourdock, etc.! You fired liberals up and damaged the GOP brand with moderates, probably for years. And right wingers, dwelling as they do in their tightly woven cocoons where only Fox News and talk radio can penetrate, never even saw it. They still don’t. But numbers really don’t lie.

Now that the Republican leadership has failed in their stated number one goal of making Barack Obama a “one term president,” what will they do? Will they actually start pushing bills other than futile grandstanding attempts to “repeal Obamacare”? Will they actually deal in good faith on the budget?

Well, we live in hope. But first they’re going to have to do is stop deluding themselves that everyone hates the President and the Democrats as much as they think they do and that they’ll be rewarded for obstructionism. Reality, it’s said, has a well-known liberal bias, but it’s still reality. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

What a Guy

The last days of Romneyland - First Read

"Ann Romney's remarks brought several staffers to tears as she told the assembled group that they would always be part of the fabric of the Romney family."


"Aides taking cabs home late that night got rude awakenings when they found the credit cards linked to the campaign no longer worked."

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Why November? Why Tuesday?

Latest Newspaper Column:

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Northeast, more than a few people raised the question: What happens if the affected states are still wrecked by Election Day?
Would the election still go on? Could it? Would it be necessary to postpone it? Can you even do that? What plans are in place for the situation where a major disaster occurs on or about Election Day?
Taking the last question first, the answer is: None. And it doesn't look as if there are going to be any such contingency plan put in place in the foreseeable future. The U.S. Congress sets the day for the national election, and let's face it, they're not the most nimble or quick-moving of bodies on their best day.
Which raises another question: Why that day of all days? Why November, and why Tuesday?
The answers lie in the early days of the formation of our republic, when we were largely a nation of farmers. Congress established the "Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November" by a law passed in 1845.
Before that, the individual states could hold their presidential elections any time they wanted, so long as it was within the 34 days before the Electoral College met on the first Wednesday in December. Imagine what that would do to TV election coverage if they did it that way now. The reporters and pundits, poor dears, would be dead of exhaustion before it was all over. There'd probably be some disadvantages as well.
In any case, Congress decided to standardize the election system so that Election Day was the same all over. Remember that back then a lot of the population lived in rural areas, but did their voting in towns they could only reach by horse, mule, wagon or buggy. That took time.
The records of the congressional debate show that the legislators were aware of the challenges that created. November was not only within that 34-day window before the electors met, but it was also after the last of the harvest had been taken in, so a lot of people were going to be coming to town anyway. A day in November, therefore, still made sense.
To have Election Day on Monday, however, you'd have to make people travel on the Sabbath, so that was out. In most places, Wednesday was market day, when farmers were busy making their money selling the crop, then buying whatever they were going to need for the winter. Thursday was the day for traveling home, and everyone would want to be cleared out by Friday. So Tuesday it was.
In those days, Election Day was a festive event. There were speeches, bands and parades. People would get dressed up, socialize with their neighbors and, in a lot of cases, party like maniacs.
Today, several states mandate closing the bars and banning liquor sales on Election Day, but in the olden days, as far back as Colonial times, whiskey was as much a part of the day as brass bands and bunting.
For example, when George Washington ran for his first political office in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he neglected to wet the whistles of voters and was soundly trounced by his opponent, who supplied them with beer, wine, whiskey and rum punch. The next time he ran, Ol' George (a fast learner) rolled out the barrel, got everyone good and hammered, and won handily.
So now that we've transformed from a largely agrarian nation to one where a 40-plus-hour, five-weekday work week is more the standard, does it really make sense to only have voting on one day, a workday, when it can be a real hassle to go stand in a line and wait to vote - and it may be downright impossible, given the demands of many jobs, not to mention child care?
Well, no. It really doesn't. Many states, like our own North Carolina, have expanded absentee and early voting to extend the period in which voters may cast their ballot. Some states, like New Jersey and California, allow voting by mail. Oregon's gone even further: It conducts all its elections by mail.
We're moving the voting process from the 19th century into the 21st. The first thing to go, sadly enough, was the free booze. But now states are working on expanding access to the polls, which means that people have fewer and fewer excuses.
So, whoever you are, if you haven't done so already, get out there and vote. It's important.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Party of Love Is At It Again

Officials investigating complaints of Obama effigy outside NC voting site - Politics -

State election officials are looking into reports that a truck pulled into the parking lot outside an early voting site this morning in Goldsboro towing a trailer displaying effigies of President Barack Obama, Gov. Bev Perdue and other officials, all hanging from nooses.

The contraption, which also showed effigies of a judge and law enforcement officials, was reportedly displayed outside the Wayne County Public Library on Ash Street, a one-stop early voting site. Election workers have little jurisdiction beyond the buffer zone around voting sites.

Read more here:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Taking A Break From All the Politics So We Can Relax and Watch Stuff Blow Up

We haven't had a "stuff blows up" post in quite a while, so here's some footage of a fire in a rocket fuel plant.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Border Was Just Asking For It

I have seen some crazy and offensive shit posted at  my local paper's website, but this post, by a drooling idiot hiding behind the moniker 101jackson, takes the cake, as he responds to my latest column by equating illegal immigration with rape:

Rape in this country is not as widespread as the Democrats make it out to be, unless you want to consider the illegals penetrating our borders, now that is rape, or the fact that they also have been getting tax refunds through fraud, again that is rape being carried out by the same illegals who raped us the first time by sneaking in, well come to think of it we are getting raped repeatably and it seems the Democrats are loving it since they just lay down spread our border patrols out so thin making forceable entry seem like it is conscensual. And again Obama will hold us down and for a few more votes pull down our pants. Why do you refrain from the immigration topic when making your weekly speech?

The Party of Love: you can always depend on them.  No wonder they're losing among women. 

(Post title courtesy of  Nic Rhoades)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thanks For the Reminder, Mr, Mourdock!

Latest Newspaper Column

I think we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. No, really. I mean it. At a time when it was looking like people might start actually believing flimflam artist Mitt Romney's transparently false attempt to shake his Etch A Sketch and "tack to the center," someone like Mourdock comes along to remind us of what the Republican Party really stands for.
I've got to tell you, if I were Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, I'd have sent out a memo months ago telling every GOP candidate for every elected office, from president to prom king: "For God's sake, if anyone brings up rape, change the subject!" Because it seems that anytime the subject comes up, some far-right ideologue manages to say something (a) stupid; or (b) downright horrifying.
Problem is, the difficult topic of rape keeps coming up. It forces the right to face one of the thornier problems of its stance against a woman's right to choose: Would you force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest?
Different candidates have dealt with this question in different ways. A few weeks ago, you had Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who dealt with the question by denying scientific reality and essentially making up his own. He claimed that he'd heard from doctors that pregnancies from rape are "really rare" - that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
This led to a firestorm of indignation and well-deserved derision. While some on the right, particularly Mike Huckabee and the Family Research Council, defended Akin, the bulk of the party decided to back away from defending the idea that you could separate sexual assault into "legitimate" and "illegitimate" categories, not to mention the completely bogus notion that a woman's body provides a magic shield against becoming pregnant by rape if it's "legitimate."
At least they did at first. Now, it seems, some conservative Super PACs, such as Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund, are deciding to try to raise money for the guy who believes in "legitimate rape."
Just as the Akin furor was dying down and Mitt was playing at being a moderate once again by claiming, "There's no legislation with regard to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda" (after claiming he'd be a "proudly pro-life president" and promising to defund Planned Parenthood), along comes Mourdock.
Asked if there'd be any exception to his anti-choice stance, Mourdock allowed as how he'd graciously let a mother choose to live if her pregnancy might kill her. As for rape or incest, he said, "I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Really? A woman gets raped, her rapist makes her pregnant, and that's all part of God's perfect plan?
In addition to "legitimate rape," we're now supposed to believe in "rape with pregnancy intended by God"? I'm glad that, while I do believe in God, he's not a God that thinks women being made pregnant against their will is just what he intended. Such a God would be some kind of sadistic cosmic psychopath.
Mourdock, however, isn't getting the Akin treatment. The party is still sending him cash. No doubt the leadership reasoned, "Hey, if we start throwing every nutball under the bus after he says something stupid or offensive to women, pretty soon we won't have any candidates left."
Honorable John McCain said Mourdock should apologize, but then walked the demand back the very next day. As for Romney, even though spokeswoman Andrea Sauls asserted that "Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Lord Romney, the High Sheriff of Flip-Flopshire, has endorsed Mourdock.
He's even cut a campaign ad on his behalf that's running in Indiana right now. This is called "trying to have it both ways." It's also called "transparently cynical and unworthy of a man who claims he's a leader." Among other things.
So thank you, Mr. Mourdock. Thanks for reminding us, once again, of what the GOP really is: the home of right-wing religious crazies who try to parse and partition various "kinds" of rape, and the alleged moderates who have to grit their teeth and embrace them for political gain.
Meanwhile, I just voted for the president who says unequivocally, "Rape is rape," and that we don't want "politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women's health care decisions."