Monday, December 30, 2013

Presidential Character: Finals

So, as I've laid it out this year considering James David Barber's Presidential Character, how did it all play out?

Active-Negative (total count: 17)

John Adams
John Quincy Adams
Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
William Harrison
John Tyler
Zachary Taylor
James Buchanan
Andrew Johnson
Grover Cleveland (counts twice)
Woodrow Wilson
Herbert Hoover
Lyndon Johnson
Richard Nixon
Jimmy Carter
(Dick Cheney) (considering the damage he did, he counts)
Active-Positive (17)

Thomas Jefferson
James Monroe
James Polk
Millard Fillmore
Abraham Lincoln
Rutherford Hayes
James Garfield
Chester Arthur
William McKinley
Teddy Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt
Harry Truman
John Kennedy
Gerald Ford
George Bush I
Bill Clinton
Barack Obama

Passive-Negative (3)

George Washington
Calvin Coolidge
“Ike” Eisenhower
Passive-Positive (8)

James Madison
Franklin Pierce
US Grant
Benjamin Harrison
William Taft
Warren Harding
Ronald Reagan
George W. Bush

It's not too surprising there are more Actives than Passives elected (or promoted) to the office: politics is an ambitious game and few enter it out of a sense of Duty or Congeniality.

That noted, the main question usually becomes: which Character is better than the others?

Professor Barber himself tried to dissuade such thoughts:

The key correction is this: a person with a healthy personality can carry that strength into political harm... Even a politically defined personality, such as Presidential Character, may not be an adequate predicter (sp) for choosing the right candidate.  Beside character, style and world view are highly significant. Specific skills are needed for the presidency and they are not at all determined by character... (p. 397)

There have been times when having an Active-Positive - arguably the one Character that makes the most sense of having in office - had been harmful to the Presidency and/or the nation, usually because such men were overconfident (FDR), overly optimistic (Jefferson), or sometimes too obsessed with the gameplay to make effective decisions (Kennedy).  A-Ps tend to be nice to have, but it'd be nice to get one tempered with enough self-deprecation to avoid over-reach, but with enough confidence to get everything done that needs to be done.

One can argue against having a Passive-Positive in office due to the track records of such men having scandal-plagued administrations - Grant, Harding, Reagan, Bush the Lesser - but even in Harding and Reagan's cases there were effective programs enacted and agendas achieved, and other Pass-Positives like Taft and Benjamin Harrison were not as scandal-prone.

Passive-Negatives are few and far between (due to the sheer improbability of such a trait pursuing political careers they would habitually loathe), and while two of them presided over relative eras of improvement and sanity - Washington and Eisenhower - all three (including Coolidge) presided over administrations that were unresponsive to the problems percolating under each, allowing those problems to become more dire consequences further down the road.

Leaving Active-Negatives as the major concern if one should ever be offered a chance to win the White House in the future.  The damage left in the wake of the more modern A-Ns (Johnson, Nixon, and yes I include Cheney because his influence on his boss' tenure is practically a presidency unto itself) has been horrendous, made greater by the current level of power the current Executive branch wields.  Previous A-Ns - save for Jackson, I would think - rarely wielded the level of authority a modern, post-World War President currently maintains.  The level of abuse with such authority - Johnson's pursuit of superiority, Nixon's obsession with control, Cheney's lust for power -  ought to scare anyone making serious observations about candidates for 2016 and beyond seeing anyone with A-N traits.

That said, when 2016 rolls around... break out the psycho-analysts and tell me just how emotionally scarred the GOP front-runner is: I guarantee you the nature of the modern party is to try for another Passive-Positive hoping the smiling face will distract from their morally vacant platform to win them votes...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Unemployment Emergency Funding Set To Expire as 2013 Ends. Happy F-cking New Year To You Too, Congress

Pardon my Swedish for the blog title.  Still and all.

More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a halt this weekend, potentially impacting the recovering economy and setting up a battle when Congress reconvenes.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's "emergency unemployment compensation" will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the "emergency" program expire as part of a budget deal, it's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.
An estimated 1.3 million people will be cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments end Saturday. Across Florida, 73,000 recipients of federal emergency unemployment compensation stand to lose their benefits.
The average Florida benefit is about $230 per week, which is tied to the amount of wages earned over two weeks at a worker’s last job.
An additional 850,000 people nationwide will also lose state unemployment benefits over the next three months...

I'm a bit upset with not only the Republicans but also the Democrats in Congress, who both failed to recognize the serious issue we've got in this nation with the long-term unemployed.

While the overall unemployment rate has fallen to a nearly healthy (emphasis on the nearly) 7 percent (personal edit: a truly healthy unemployment rate is below 4 percent) – long-term unemployment has been more stubborn. The long-term unemployment rate, at 2.6 percent, remains as high as any previous recession since the end of World War II, reports the LA Times...

The long-term unemployed tend to be higher-educated and older, which are two strikes against them when the only jobs left open to them would be lower-wage service economy jobs that will not hire anyone with a college degree and an expectation of a pension plan.  Trust me: I've been in that boat for 4 years, where applying to places like Target and Wal-Mart led to either rejection or silence.  I swear, Target emailed back the fastest rejection notice I ever got (clocked in at 10 minutes, I sh-t you not).

My problem with the Republican leadership who think ending these benefits would force the long-term unemployed to "get off their asses and take any job they can," they're overlooking the fact that HR departments get their pick of the litter in this jobless recession and those HR departments are under no obligation to hire the better-educated, better-experienced.  HR departments will hire those who work the cheapest and will be the easiest to train (re-training older workers is harder than training fresh minds), and HR departments won't hire someone with education and background in other fields because those employees may bolt for an opening they do qualify for and pay better.

When I got into a shouting match with my twin brother two years ago, he thought much like the GOP did, that I was just loafing about and living off the unemployment benefits (and my parents' financial help).  He never sat with me during my daily job hunts, he never saw the rejection slips I'd occasionally get from some of these companies, he never saw the statistics I'd sometimes get from the HR departments telling me there were 60, 75, 120 applicants for one opening, he never listened in to the phone call interviews I'd have with some firms who politely point out that I'm not really the best fit for what they're looking for...  This is a problem: people don't get it, they don't get the fact that it's not our fault we're unemployed for so long...

There was a reason I was out of full-time employ for 4 years, and why I had a hard time finding or keeping any part-time employ: I was over-qualified for what was available on the local - Florida - job markets.  That was the big reason dad insisted last year I needed to get shipped to Maryland and try up where my educational/research skill sets would be more attractive.  Thank God for Bartow Public Library.  But I have to admit: I lucked out at the right time with a decent job.  The other long-term unemployed out there?  What luck are they gonna find, Republican Congresscritters, when there's no money left to keep them afloat while they look?

My problem with the Democrats is that they're not taking this unemployment problem as seriously as they need to.  For the love of God, the GOP was willing to shut down government and default on our nation's debts just for the lulz of it back in October: the least we should expect from a party like the Dems - who WANT government helping people survive and get out of this economic malaise - to fight harder, like force their own threats of cutting off something the GOP prize above all else, force Congress to stay open this holiday season, force the GOP to stand up there and get brow-beaten by the fact there are still too many unemployed Americans out here.

At what point will our own government wake up to the fact that the number one problem in our nation is that we do not have enough good jobs at good wages?  At what point will we the voters put into office elected officials who will get off their asses and get us the jobs and high wages we need?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Forty-Four, the Long Game of Barack Obama

Or, as Andrew Sullivan is fond of paraphrasing it: Meep Meep.

It's difficult, but not impossible, to speak on a sitting President's political Character. Professor James David Barber did it himself during the Nixon administration, predicting the collapse of Nixon's second term mere weeks before the Watergate break-in.  Barber was subsequently asked to predict the following Presidencies before they took office, and reviewed them accordingly.  It helps, mind you, to have the distance of time to look back with less biased views - I'm one of the amateur historians who'll argue that RANKING a current President should have to wait 20 years before you can see how bad the damage was - but when you're doing the full roster for evaluation you might as well evaluate.

I also have to make it clear - if it hasn't been noticed yet - that I have a positive bias for Barack Obama ever since he showed up on the primaries circuit for the 2008 election.  Granted, I compared him to Jed Bartlett (quoting the origin myth of Mrs. Landingham telling the teen Bartlett he was a "boy king" destined for great things), but that wasn't meant to be a full slight: I was noting how Obama fit the profile of the idealized Democratic left-wing leader, youthful and energetic and forward-looking, in the style of Kennedy (and to a lesser extent Clinton) in terms of motivation and demeanor.  If it was a negative comparison it was referring to his lack of national credentials to serve as President.

Obama also appeared on the scene as an innovation: a political figure of African-American heritage actually running on the issues rather than his race.  Unlike Jesse Jackson, the last major black candidate for the White House, Obama had electoral (and legislative) experience.  The only previous candidate I could compare him to in this regard was Shirley Chisholm who ran back in 1972, but that was honestly a hopeless attempt (just coming out of the Sixties when a lot of animosity over civil rights remained: Chisholm survived three assassination attempts, that was how seriously bad it was).  By 2008, the nation was honestly ready for Obama to run - and for Obama to win - the Presidency.

I should amend that.  By 2008 (and 2012), most of the nation was honestly ready for Obama to run and win the Presidency.

I thought during the Nineties that the hostility the Republicans had towards Bill Clinton was over-the-top (the obsessiveness of the likes of Limbaugh and Sciafe, for example).  That it was partisan political positioning - to make the sitting President representing the other party look a failure to voters and to history - at its worst.  But that was nothing compared to the open hatred I see anymore from the Far Right and the modern GOP party as a whole when it comes to Obama.

We had a Republican Party from Day One of Obama's tenure push a program to ensure he failed, completely, even at the cost of competent governance and legislation.  Before 2012 it was to make sure Obama was a One-Termer: after 2012, when that didn't work, it's to make sure Obama never gets anywhere near the Top Twenty rankings (where a lot of Two-Termers save the really bad ones  cough Grant and Bush cough end up).

Never mind the possibilities that the Republicans could have maintained some semblance of respect with a Beltway media market that prizes "bipartisanship" above all else.  Or at least provide more input into political agendas with an Obama administration that keeps approaching the GOP for deals primarily because the nations expects sensible leaders to do that.

It's a pity of the Republican hard-liners that they've gotten to the point where any compromise is viewed as a surrender, where any deal is viewed as a defeat.  A saner political opposition would be taking advantage of the fact that Obama is an Active-Positive President, which means that compromises and deal-making would be the norm with Obama rather than a hard ideological stance.  The GOP keeps seeing Obama through a biased lens of "Kenyan Socialist Fascist Usurper Who's Lazy and Needs Teleprompters" (oh yeah, not racist at all /headdesk) when they should have been - and should be - seeing Obama as a pragmatic centrist whose liberal leanings are nowhere near where the Far Left ever hopes them to be.

Rather than pursue straight-up Far Left policies, Obama has publicly encouraged and endorsed more centrist positions on the budget, on the economic recovery from the 2007-08 Recession, and on foreign policy issues.  Rather than accept that, the Far Right in control of the Republicans focus instead on the aspects of Obama's positions they deem "liberal" and "un-American": such as Obama's insisting on balancing a budget with tax increases on upper incomes (which a majority of Americans support), his "taking over of the automotive industry" (which was finally sold back this year after a successful industry-wide recovery), and attacking Obama on every foreign policy move - from Libya to Egypt to Syria to Iran - even when he changes gears and even when he produces results that A) prevent Americans from getting embroiled in another ground war and B) maintains respect with both our allies and our rivals.

Highlighting all this has been Obamacare, the signature law of Obama's administration that was designed to fix a broken health care system in the United States.  Even as the Far Right attack it as a "socialist" "failed" program, they refuse to recognize the facts that the law A) is based more on market control of managing health care costs, B) based on REPUBLICAN policy ideas designed to counter Bill Clinton's complex and ill-fated 1993 attempt, and C) nowhere near the truly socialist "universal healthcare" programs that are pretty much used IN EVERY OTHER INDUSTRIALIZED CAPITALIST NATION ON THE PLANET.  There's still a sizable number of leftists out there complaining we should be going to a "Medicare For All" system, fer crissakes...

Indeed, the reason why Obama went with backing the Heritage Foundation's 1993 system of healthcare reform was based on the belief that it was a "centrist" position to take.  Translation: a "centrist" legislative bill is meant to curry support down the middle of both parties for the ones leaning right in the Democrats and those leaning left in the Republicans.  Obama wanted a bill that could pass support from both parties.  Pity was, by this point the Republicans didn't want to support anything that Obama would support. As John Cole notes in his epic one paragraph:

I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.

But in some twisted way, a lot of this plays to Obama's advantages - and strengths.  Because while A-P Presidents tend to be Adaptive, they also tend to be very competitive game-players (SEE Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt) who relish challenges and better still view such challenges as a long-term, long-developing program.  And the game we're talking here is 3-Dimensional Chess (it helps that Obama is an open Geek.  Want more proof?  The top photo of this Wired article is of Obama wielding a lightsaber...).

Andrew Sullivan started off calling it "the long game," where Obama takes a practical, comprehensive view of the political landscape.  Other commentators refer to the chess-master strategy of playing the whole board, looking not only at the move made now but the moves needed to be made over the next five, ten, twenty moves.

A perfect example of that was Obama's stance on marriage equality for gays.  A major issue for the liberals who championed it, Obama for the most part kept a low profile on the issue and even issuing arguments against it, while the polls showed a slim (but shrinking) majority opposed to marriage equality.  When his Vice President Biden made a public speech claiming the White House would support gay marriage, the Far Right howled in eager response, thinking at last they could hit Obama for being too liberal (and un-Christian to boot).  Obama, however, gazed upon the landscape and saw two things: A) that supporting gay marriage at that moment would galvanize Democratic fund-raising, and B) the advantages of a Presidency's bully pulpit - used brilliantly by other A-Ps like both Roosevelts - meant he could tip the scales to make the nation more supportive of gay rights as well.  Obama came out in support of gay marriage, the nation visibly turned pro-gay (what I prefer to call pro-people), and the Far Right were left standing there going "WTF?"

It even caught Sullivan - who was already viewing Obama as a chessmaster - completely off-guard.  But later on, Sully started calling it something else.  "Meep Meep."

This is in reference to the Road Runner/Wil E. Coyote cartoons where an always moving, always faster road runner keeps running circles around an increasingly frustrated coyote who keeps self-inflicting the worst catastrophes on himself trying to catch/eat the road runner.  It became a near-perfect metaphor for how Obama was getting the modern Republicans to consistently self-destruct chasing after their illusory "Fake Obama" - think Clint Eastwood chiding an empty chair meant to represent Obama but in fact made a lot of commentators laugh their asses off - while he set policy goals in the real world.

Sullivan always seems to be constantly surprised by Obama's game-changing tactics, to which I emailed him about why he needs to read Barber's Presidential Character book to get a better idea about Obama's Active-Positive adaptability.  It was a bit of a thrill to see him post the email, to which I can only hope he's finding the time to read that book.  But my key point remains:

Adaptive A-P Presidents are more keen on compromise than the other three types (Active-Negatives won’t, Passive-Negatives might but would rather let someone else do it, Passive-Positives never want to rock any boat), and are certainly more creative in their solutions and in seeking alternate solutions as well. While the Active-Positive may look like a flip-flopper (especially to the more extremist wing of the president’s party) he’s actually shrewdly calculating the “long game” of getting his enemies to trip over themselves and his allies standing there gawking like they've never seen the Hand of God before.

The only problem with Obama's A-P habits has been the "long game" approach preventing a more proactive, let's-do-something-now approach to policy that would allow him to juggle multiple policy agendas more aggressively.  Some A-P Presidents are able to pursue a variety of issues and reforms and objectives all at once: others are hampered either by a desire to complete one project before starting another, or else hampered by external forces that make it difficult to diversify the administration's focus on multiple needs/wants.

I have to think it's the latter problem that kept Obama from focusing on too many other issues.  Most other Active-Positives able to pursue a broad range of policies - Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, in some respects Kennedy, and I think Fillmore was able as well - did so with political support from a Congress either held by the same party or else amenable to bipartisan deals.  The A-Ps unable to pursue more ambitious agendas - Hayes, Truman, Clinton, Obama - were/are dealing with recalcitrant legislatures that preferred conflict over deals.

It's been a Far Right Congress - first with a Senate bogged down by Cloture rules, then by a GOP-led House - that has prevented Obama from pursuing any stronger, more jobs-oriented stimulus packages to cope with the recession.  It's been a fight - even among Republicans themselves as the party recognizes the need but doesn't have the will - to even get any immigration reform considered by Congress.

In some respects Obama can't pursue a more aggressive agenda that an Active-Positive would like because the political landscape doesn't favor it.  While this kind of gridlock can sometimes help put the brakes on an over-ambitious A-P, there hasn't been any real sign that Obama is that ambitious - to hell with the haters, Obama's not a gun-taking, commie-loving, radical religious nut looking to impose sharia law - and so it's been a long, long administration this nation's been working with.

It's a good thing Obama's good at the long game.  Here's hoping he's got moves for 2014 to break the gridlock, and get some damn economic recovery reforms in place so we can get America back to Good Jobs At Good Wages, dammit.

Meep meep.

Next Up: A Review Of The Reviews.  We Tally Up the Numbers and See What's What.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Saturnalia Wish List of 2013

One of the ongoing wishes of previous Saturnalias had been for a job, and thank ye Ring-Bringer Parading the Skies, I received one here in Bartow Library yay and yes and woot. :)

But 'tis the season for the asking of presents, and into this I have a wish list for the Anno Domino (or Common Era to all you pagans) of 2013:

1) A wish that 2014 sees the end of Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott's Reign of Error upon the state of Florida.
2) A wish that 2014 sees the end of the GOP Reign of Fraud from the US Congress as Democratic voters turn out to keep the Senate Democratic and drive out the "Crash Government" Republicans of the House.
3) A wish that I finally get the g-dd-mn motivation to finish the handful of writing I've been working on the last five freaking years!  /headdesk
4) Not so much a wish as it is a even higher motivation to f-cking lose some 30-50 pounds here!  My back can't take much more of this being over 300 lbs... oy

So there you have it, O Saturn. I guess I gotta leave some honey-wine out tonight to sate your thrist at the house shrine?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Forty-Three, The Phantom President

This blog began during the George W. Bush tenure (back under a different name), so don't be too surprised if you go back through the archives to find some of the then-current complaints I had about someone I consider (present tense) the worst President ever (although I will need to update the Labels to have the tabs more search-friendly).

Any animosity I have towards John Tyler, Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Charles Logan are tempered by the distance of time and the fact that Logan's fictional (and on a show I never watched, I had to Google the name).  For the likes of LBJ and Nixon I will grant the horrors of their tenures but still allow some sympathy for tortured souls, ambitious men who tried but were left wanting (and wrecked the nation in the process).

I have more sympathy for the likes of US Grant, Herbert Hoover, Martin Van Buren, James Madison, Jimmy Carter, and Millard Fillmore.  Good men stuck in jobs they were ill-suited to serve.

Also, don't talk any smack to me about Chester A. Arthur or Harry S. Truman, or I will have to take you out back and hurt you.  I know already you'd better not be talking smack about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.  Those badasses will rise up and smack you in response...

But here I am, having to give as unbiased a review of Bush the Lesser as possible, considering this is meant to be a review of the man's Presidential Character given in the vein of Prof. James David Barber (who died in 2004, right in the midst of Bush's two terms).

So for this I ought to do some honest research: refer to others as references and use their understanding and expertise to counter-balance any bias I may have of the sonofabitch former President.

Some external research looking for others who are of a mind to review Presidential Character pointed to John Dean, he of the Watergate era, writing a review of Mitt Romney and comparing him as an Active-Negative much like he viewed Bush the Lesser:

Barber's active/positive criteria requires a "relatively high self-esteem (with) … an emphasis on rational mastery," which is not Bush. Bush no doubt loves being head of state, enjoying the pomp of his high office, as well as the politics of the presidency. Yet there is no evidence he even likes being head of the government (for it involves far more intellectual rigor than Bush enjoys). In fact, Bush is like Nixon in that he gets out of the White House every chance he has to do so.
There is an abundance of evidence (from simply watching television coverage of the seldom smiling, often annoyed, forehead-wrinkled Bush) that demonstrates that Bush reaps a "relative(ly) low emotional reward" from the job -- to quote one of Barber's active/negative criteria.
Indeed, Bush clearly fits many of the traits that Barber relies upon to define his Active/Negative presidents. For example, Bush has a "compulsive quality, as if … trying to make up for something or escape from anxiety in hard work." Consider how he has immersed himself in continuous campaigning throughout his first term, while Cheney minds the store. (notice the underline I added, we'll get back to this point later)

Problem with that is that Bush's personal traits don't consistently align with an Active-Negative.  (I also noted Mitt wasn't so much Active-Negative as Passive-Negative running out of a sense of Duty, which is why I'm wary of Dean's evaluation here)  Dean noted how the close observers saw Bush "enjoying" the perks and activities of being President and with a brush-off disregard those observations, focusing more on Bush's obvious dislike of the workload of the Presidency itself.

What Dean also ignores is the case history: Bush's background leading up to the Presidency, the man's work history as a businessman and Texas Governor.  Barber himself at least delves into such details when he wrote his evaluations.  If we do the same for Bush the Lesser, what we can glean from those descriptives is a Bush that's not really that ambitious outside of proving himself to one man: his father, Bush the Elder.

George W. talked mostly about his dad, admiringly, of course. About how GHWB had been a World War II fighter pilot who, upon graduating from Yale, left the safety and comfort of the eastern establishment for Midland and the oil works. As an aside, we also talked about W., how he, too, had gone to Yale, learned to fly fighter jets, and moved to West Texas to make it in the oil biz. He wasn’t exactly bragging, but he was letting me know that he, too, was accomplished, although he seemed well aware that his life so far was one writ small compared with his dad... (Walt Harrington)

Stories abound regarding Bush the Lesser as a failed CEO: starting up Arbusto but getting hit by the 1979 Energy Crisis; getting bought out by one energy firm before getting bought out by another in Harken Energy, getting put on the board of directors as part of the deal; questionable loans and stock selling practices while at Harken; getting into an ownership group with the Texas Rangers that itself had questionable financial issues involving stadium deals; finally working up enough political credit to run for Texas governor in 1994 and garnering a win while his (more successful at business) younger brother Jeb failed the same campaign in Florida.  Throughout all of this was a man who, while showing some ambition, did not show the self-discipline and exacting drive that a lot of other A-N types - Hoover, Johnson, Nixon - displayed in their pre-political years.

The stories also describe a George W. Bush being congenial, talkative, glad-handing, joke-making, back-slapping.  Harrington's article points out the various run-ins the writer had with the Bush family throughout both Bushes' administrations (and periods before-after), where Bush the Lesser's personality from the first meeting was "...friendly, funny, bantering, confident man, a regular guy. He was easy to like, and I liked him..." with few exceptions noted afterward.  This is not the mark of an Active-Negative (anyone calling Herbert Hoover or Richard Nixon a back-slapping "life of the party" has had one drink too many, thankyouverymuch).  It is, in fact, much the mark of a Passive-Positive.

Molly Ivins - she of the hard liberal viewpoint of Texan and national politics, and someone I read from college onward (about 1992) - wrote a book during the 2000 campaign on Bush the Lesser titled Shrub: the Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush.  While critical, Ivins and her co-writer Lou DuBose pointed out Bush himself had positives: he was comfortable working campaigns, having been involved in so many of his father's and that circle of friends since the 1970s; while hard Right on social issues wasn't personally hateful towards the usual targets, which made Bush successful with Hispanics and even Black voters (well, compared to other Republicans) in Texas; made friends in all the right places in Texas - corporate headquarters - and knew how to keep those friends.  That Bush the Lesser, on a personal level, was a likable guy: similar in traits to previous Pass-Pos types like Harding and Reagan.

Ivins and DuBose made note of the fact that in Texas, there's a lot more power to the state legislature than the governor's office: while Bush had an agenda - one that took care of his business and Christian allies - he had to defer often to the other branch of government.  Being a Passive-Positive makes that an easy task: he just uses his Congeniality traits to make his presence known and apply just the right kind of back-slap and handshake to make everything work.

What Ivins also noted was Bush the Lesser's utter lack of interest in actual governance: while personally active, almost hyperactive - something that got George Will to think Bush was Active-Positive, which again was a too-simplistic reading of Barber's charting system (Active doesn't mean active, it means "likes to govern") - Bush himself would get bored at meetings and did not take the time to keep up with paperwork.  While Active-Negatives may hate the job they're doing, they actually focus on that job due to their driven sense of "I Must", by using the power of the Presidency to achieve some self-resolution.  Bush never really did.

Bush's ambition for the Presidency was almost Passive-Negative out of a sense of Duty: it was what Bush the Elder did, so Bush the Lesser had to do it too.  But that single P-N instinct goes against everything else Bush demonstrates - P-Ns don't like politics at all, while Bush enjoyed and endured it - so it's clearly not his primary trait (Barber does allow for the fact that the Traits are not exclusive to one Character or another).  Passive-Positive, with that Congeniality - that obsession with being Well-Liked - is the only Presidential Character that makes the most sense.

So if Bush the Lesser was really a Passive-Positive at heart, something that Ivins points to, why was Dean so convinced that Bush was really an Active-Negative?

Because much of the Bush administration was a disaster of obsessive secrecy, reckless war-making, and abuse of powers that one regularly sees in an A-N administration.

Mind you, Passive-Positives preside over scandal-plagued tenures - Reagan's was chock-full, as was Harding's and Grant's - but for different reasons than an Active-Negative's such as Johnson or Nixon.  Pass-Pos' scandals are due more to the nature of such Presidents allowing their cronies free range to embezzle and indulge, whereas A-N's scandals stem from the President's own personal faults and obsessions.

Bush's tenure as President did include a lot of that indulging - through policy positions on massive tax cuts (not themselves scandalous as they were legal... just damaging to the federal budget because those tax cuts created massive deficits we've yet to pay off), hiring on people from his circle of friends to comfortable positions in government that they were fully unqualified to serve - but that administration also presided over such things as a secretive energy policy that never received public review, failed to work with a Congress that was even controlled by their own Party and at points outright lied to that Congress (or worse failed to testify at all), and pretty much lied to the Congress, the American People, and the world when it came to the reason for invading Iraq over "weapons of mass destruction" in dictator Saddam Hussein's "possession."

And that's not even going into the lies about the start of a torture regime during the War on Terror against Afghani, Iraqi, and other Muslim/Asian peoples.

These are the kind of crimes an Active-Negative - angry, self-serving, self-destructive, illegal - would inflict on themselves or others.  Not necessarily something in Bush the Lesser's demeanor (he would rail about the media's attacks on his father during the Elder's troubled administration, but that was not really self-serving nor self-destructive: at the end of the day Bush would deal with that same media).  Bush prided himself on being a "uniter, not a divider" and in public and in policy would act that way.

It might help to understand that a Passive-Positive President is by nature too trusting of his allies and cronies: Harding is a perfect example.  It's often noted in a Pass-Pos administration the tenor of the office defined more by an underling or group of underlings (much like Franklin Pierce's seemed more dictated by his Southern Democrat allies, and Reagan's with regards to the Iran-Contra scandal).  With that consideration, also note that during Bush the Lesser administration we had the most politically-powerful VICE President our nation ever saw in Dick Cheney.

As noted elsewhere, Vice Presidents are usually ill-remembered and isolated from the Presidencies they serve under.  They're also usually political disasters when ill-considered and the President dies/leaves office to their charge.  Before the 20th Century, the Veep's office was where political careers went to die (and a good number of Veeps did die in office, but that's another story).  Most Vice Presidents were barely involved in their President's administrations (Presidents favored their Cabinets more often): the only noteworthy Veep (before the 25th Amendment and the Cold War that conjoined it) that did work with his boss was McKinley's first Vice President Garret Hobart.  Everyone else was hidden away and only let out in times of Senatorial deadlock.

Even with the advent of the Cold War, and the necessity of a Vice President being more involved and more informed, the man working as Veep had to subsume his political ambitions and personality traits in order to work with the more dominant President.  Bush the Elder a perfect example: even with Reagan being a Passive-Positive, Bush respected the chain of command well enough to work within the administration rather than pursue his own Active-Positive interests (outside of whatever role he had in Iran-Contra).

Cheney was different.  Cheney seemed to dominate Bush the Lesser's administration the minute he was given any authority by Bush, and that even began during the 2000 campaign.  Entrusted as a family friend of his father's, Bush put Cheney in charge of finding his Vice Presidential ticket balancer.  There seemed to have been a review process but in the end the selection was... Cheney himself, which puzzled people then but makes more sense when you look at Cheney more closely.

Cheney's biography and personality fits so neatly into an Active-Negative character: aggressive, secretive, driven.  That he was there at the end of Nixon's administration highlights the influence that event had to have on Cheney's political world-view.  As Nixon believed, so too did Cheney in the idea of a "unitary executive theory" that a President must be all-powerful, all-controlling (this was also a Wilsonian stance, so you might notice an A-N trend by now) and never in the wrong (that when the President does it, it's not illegal).

This was a man who was perfectly willing to tell a fellow politician on the floor of the Senate to "go fuck yourself."  Granted, this wasn't a full-on assault with a walking cane, but certain rules of decorum apply (you're supposed to save that for the parking lot).  This was a guy who told a fellow Secretary of Treasury that "deficits don't matter (regarding more massive tax cuts that even the Secretary felt were unneeded).  This is our due."

This was a man who chaired the secretive energy policy meetings.  This was a Vice President who had his office and had his friends in the Defense Department set up a competing "investigative office" to undercut CIA intelligence that didn't fit their "Iraq Has WMDs" narrative.  This was a Veep whose Chief of Staff "Scooter" Libby was indicted for his role in revealing the classified identity of a CIA agent whose husband had publicly questioned the WMD story.

This was a Vice President who used his unprecedented level of authority to ignore standard procedures on a regular basis.  When confronted by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office - the ones who handle and store classified materials on a daily basis, mind you - about refusing to turn over materials starting from 2003 into 2007, Cheney did his best to eliminate that part of the National Archives altogether.  Cheney's argument?  As Vice President serving both Executive and Legislative duties (as President of the Senate), he was exempt (the "Fourth Branch" of government argument).  Basically claiming he didn't have to answer to anybody.  Not even to the President.

What Cheney did as Vice President is one of the reasons I'm very keen on the idea of getting rid of the Vice President's office.

That Cheney was able to get away with this had a lot to do with the Passive-Positive nature of Bush the Lesser.  When other Pass-Pos types served, they rarely had an Active-Negative on Cheney's scale of ambition before.  You can discount the 19th Century Pass-Positives since during that century the VP role was disconnected from their administrations from the get-go.  Harding's Veep was a Passive-Negative (Coolidge).  Reagan's was an Active-Positive who may have wanted the authority but respected the political system to ever over-reach like that (Bush the Elder, who later on publicly questioned his old friend Cheney's arrogant behavior).  Other Active-Negatives serving as Vice President (Johnson and Nixon) served under constraining Presidents: for Nixon it was under a Passive-Negative Eisenhower whose dislike of politics would have limited the White House's powers; for Johnson it was under an Active-Positive like Kennedy who had confidence in his own administrative powers and preferred the advice of others that Johnson loathed (little brother Bobby Kennedy, for example).

Cheney's Active-Negative traits flourished because he knew in a way he'd have all the powers of the Presidency without any of the accountability (which would fall to his boss George W. Bush).

To this shadow Presidency a good amount of Bush the Lesser's woes can be laid.  While Bush himself remains complicit in a lot of the crimes committed under his administration - signing off on an unnecessary war and occupation of Iraq, signing off on a torture regime, signing off on a tax-cutting program that induced massive government deficits, allowing an alarming number of incompetent players within the Republican ranks to gain too much authority and influence that taints the party to this day - Cheney had his hands all over a lot of those programs and disasters to begin with.

The dark heart at the center of Bush the Lesser's failures is Cheney.

Next up: Gonna steal this from Sullivan:  Meep.  Meep.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Meanwhile Back In Florida: The Dog Ate Their Homework Excuse

One of the big news down here in Crazystate has been the recent state Supreme Court decision that state legislators and their staff MUST testify in the court cases filed against them over the (alleged) partisan nature of how the state voting districts were drawn in 2012.

State amendments passed back in 2010 - thank you, voters - required that districts for both state and federal congressional elections had to follow population density and respect city and county borders (and also be "continguous", rather than disconnected which some previous districts were) when forming those voting districts.  In short: no gerrymandering to stretch out districts across counties and dividing up cities to favor one political party over another.

So of course, when 2012 rolled around and new districts were drawn up... the districts still stretched out funny, still divided portions of cities out towards less populated areas to where the city voters were in the minority of those districts, and still favored Republicans (in the state House, 75 Republican to 45 Democrat: in the Senate: 26 Republican to 14 Democrat) by roughly 65 percent to 35 percent.  Even though Democrats outnumber Republicans (as of 2013) 4,660,000-plus to 4,160,000-plus.  The only way the numbers favor the GOP is if they took the No-Party guys at 2,634,000-plus and lumped them all in with the Republicans in order to get a 3-to-2 advantage over Democrats... and that's not right because the No-Party voters shouldn't count that way (what if most of those No-Party registered voters are just Democratic trying to avoid getting purged by the GOP?).

Simple logic would have it the districts even out closer to 51-49 percent, with the No-Party registrants providing variation.  Although to be fair, in the real world it might not line up that way, but at least it ought to be withing a 55-45 range.  But 65 percent?  Favoring the party that's got fewer registered voters?!

Take a look at the state House map.  While a lot of the rural counties tend to be lumped together to fill the population equation, you'll notice the city/urban areas get carved up and portioned out in ways that do not favor city or county lines (what's with Ft. Myers and Naples' coastline all being one district when they've got perfectly good counties in Lee and Collier to earn representation?).

Hence the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters and others that the 2012 districts are violating the constitutional amendments that passed voter approval.

The state legislature, still in charge of the district drawing and thus controlled by the party in power (guess who), tried to avoid testifying under oath what was discussed and planned with the map drawing.  The state Supreme Court said "nah, you still gotta testify."

And now it's coming out that a lot of the documentation, such as memos and e-mails, that went with those meetings and decision-makings had been destroyed.

To refer to columnist Daniel Ruth with the St. Pete sigh Tampa Bay Times:

But any doubts about the legitimacy of the redistricting process could be easily cleared up before you could say "Where do I drop off my campaign check?" if Weatherford and Gaetz and all the other Republicans involved in redrawing districts would simply submit themselves to testifying under oath to sort out any misunderstandings. They could merely hand over all the documents, emails, voice messages and notes created during redistricting to prove once and for all that this effort was so apolitically Simon Pure, it made the Founding Fathers' Constitutional Convention look like a Raccoon Lodge meeting...
...Tragically, a series of unfortunate events happened. In a sort of "my dog ate my evidence" scenario, it seems untold numbers of emails, notes, voice messages and other Republican materials related to what went on behind the scenes in the redistricting toga party have been — alas — destroyed...
...The legislators' legal brain trust argues that such vaunted elected officials and their factotums can't be required to testify about their actions and (egad!) turn over all manner of communications, lest there be a "chilling effect" on the redistricting process.
But that is exactly the point. Lawmakers should know they will be subject to legal review under oath resulting in punitive sanctions if they attempt to finagle legislative districts to protect a disproportionate political advantage.
Federal courts have stipulated that when a party has a reasonable expectation of litigation it has an obligation to preserve any and all relevant records. Since redistricting efforts are almost always subject to legal challenges, Republicans certainly had to know that everything from complex documents to pizza receipts would be sought by various parties who viewed the process as if the Grand Old Partitioners of the Florida House and Senate were divvying up the early Italian city-states.
If Florida's Sunshine Law is supposed to allow the public open access to meetings, legislative bills, financial records and all the other elements of government and governance, then certainly citizens should also have a right to know how a bunch of self-interested partisan pols arrived at the decisions they made to draw squiggles on a map. And they should see the paperwork and digital records to boot...

This reeks to high heaven.  For starters, the state's own Sunshine Laws make it clear documentation from meetings involving state agencies and committees need to be made and held for public record.  For any body of state government to immediately destroy such documentation is telling me - and ought to be telling everyone else - that those officials wanted to hide what they did.

This ought to come to one resolution: hold those officials who destroyed those records accountable for what they did.  Force those officials to testify what those documents pertained to.  Force them to prove they were not colluding to violate the state constitution by gerrymandering those districts for partisan gain.

And re-draw the damn maps so that the Democratic majority in this state has a better chance (not a permanent chance: let the voters - hi, No-Party guys! - decide) of getting majority representation than the pathetic 35 percent that has been allotted to them.  That makes no goddamn sense at all for a voting majority to be so under-represented.  No goddamn sense at all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anniversary: It's Been Five Years...

...and four of them a long long struggle to recover, but still...

Yeah, back on Dec. 17 2008 I lost my employment with Pasco County Libraries.

Between then and now was a long struggle: filing for unemployment, filing for WIA re-training funds, taking more computer classes, job-hunting, tweaking resumes, job-hunting, not getting interviewed, never getting interviewed, not even getting looked at by the retailers for part-time (the sins of getting a Masters degree education, you make yourself overqualified for a sh-tload of part-time jobs) work...

It was hard as hell on my family, especially my parents who helped out financially as best they could, and they couldn't understand why no one would even interview me for office work or anything like that.  My twin brother once chewed me out (on our birthday no less), accusing me of being a lazy-ass living off our parents' largess.  They couldn't understand I was up against 60, 100, 150 (!) applicants for every job opening (it wasn't just the unemployed I was competing with, it was employed people looking for something stable during uncertain times), and that I was going up against HR departments being finicky with who they interviewed (younger and cheaper were better, less educated and less prone to look elsewhere were better, etc.).

I found a part-time job in 2009, but it was will-call... By 2010 I put in for the Census work, but that turned out to be shorter than I expected... 2011, nothing, not a peep.  Things picked up by 2012 with 5 different libraries and computer-oriented workplaces interviewing, but I ended up not making the cut...  I finally got a part-time with a tech firm doing contractual installs for offices, but that was will-call as well... by Christmas 2012 Dad threatened and began plans to ship me up to my older brother's in Maryland (WINTER?!) to look for work in what he felt was a better employment environment.

Thank God this January I had three libraries interview me one right after the other... with Bartow, GOD BLESS THEM, offering me a job as their Reference and Computer training librarian.

I'd like to think I'm doing well here, that I'm fitting in (truth be told, my struggles losing a job and then trying to find one has left me with a bad case of "Oh GOD Don't Let Me Eff Up" that's got me more jumpy about how I'm doing than usual).

But in the meantime, while I've gotten out of unemployment purgatory, there's still Seven percent of Americans (and that's just the official numbers, the real numbers are far worse) stuck in unemployment, with clear evidence that the long-term unemployed (those out of work for more than six months) are really screwed by HR offices and companies who won't take in experienced older workers or anyone viewed as a hire risk.

We need a Jobs bill in this country.  We need to force companies to turn their record profits into more jobs or at least better wages for existing employees.  We need to make the economy based on employment, not stock options.

To everyone out there still looking for work, I hope and pray the best for you.  If you need help looking, check at your libraries for job-hunting help and resume tips.  Stay active in politics to vote the right people - the ones pushing for REAL JOBS, not tax cuts for companies already rolling in profits - into office at the state and federal level.  Hell, GO to the local political (okay, go Democrat, because I honestly think the Republicans would ignore this issue or defame it) offices and sign up to run for state office on a Jobs-Jobs-Jobs platform.  The more candidates we've got out there pushing for real job creation, the better our chances.

Good luck.  Here's hoping your anniversaries for firing fade quick and for hiring come quick.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Forty-Two, I Survived The Clinton Years (UPDATE)

(UPDATE below)

SO SUCK IT, LIMBAUGH.  You fear-mongering Cubicle Commando.


I really wanted to refer to this article I read ten or twelve years ago about Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 to 1965) that a fellow boomer used to describe his own generation as selfish, destructive, and reactionary.  Except where he made note of THE Boomer President, Bill Clinton, as a notable exception to that destructive impulse because Clinton genuinely believed in "the future imperative".

Clinton was referring to something a college professor had taught him, that the Future Imperative - not the language construct, but a political viewpoint - was an American-based ideology where the players and motivators on the political stage in the Present focused on how their current actions would boost or help Future generations.  The article writer's implication was that, where the Boomers would focus on their own needs at the expense of past generations - their parents - and future generations - their children and grandchildren - the likes of Clinton would focus on taking care of needs so that future generations would have something to work with.

And damn me for a fool, even for five straight days of using my librarian skills to the fullest, I can't find the thing.  I've forgotten if I'd read it in Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, or someplace online like

'Cause that bit about "the future imperative" is what's stuck in my head when it comes to defining Clinton's Presidential Character.  Without Professor James David Barber as a lighthouse guiding me on the matter (I also tried looking for journal or magazine articles by Barber about Clinton, but it seems 1992 was his retirement), this is one of those cases I've got to make using my own evidence.

UPDATE (7/17/14): The article has been found!  The search term should have been "Future Preference", not Imperative.  My bad...

The actual quote about (and from) Bill Clinton provided by Paul Begala in his Esquire article "The Worst Generation":

...I can still see Clinton doing his Quigley impression, eyes full of mischief, his voice an Arkansas version of a bad Boston accent, as we bounced around in a bus or flew through a thunderstorm on Air Elvis, our campaign plane back in 1992. "Mistah Begahhla," he'd intone as he looked at me through the bifocals perched on the end of his nose. "Why is America the greatest sociiiiiiety in human hist'ree? The Few-chah Pref'rence. At every critical junk-chaah, we have prefuhhed the few-chah to the present. That is why immigrants left the old waaahld for the new. That is why paahrents such as yours sacrifice to send their children to univehhsities like this wan. The American ideal is that the few-chah can be bettah than the paahst, and that each of us has a personal, moral obligation to make it so."
So there it is.  Now, back to the original essay...

Doing research online, I've come across others referring to Barber's Character charts and applying the Passive-Positive label on Clinton, mostly due to his open desire to be liked and popular - the Congeniality trait - and because Clinton seemed to bend too much in dealing with a Republican Congress, being viewed as a weakness.

But that habit of dealing or working with Congress is a common Adaptive trait, if one noticed how Clinton, despite the expectations of his being a Liberal or Far Left leader, was able to deflect a rebellious GOP Congress from shredding more of the New Deal than they sought to destroy.

One of the big gripes I'd seen against Clinton was how he allowed the existing Welfare program to change from basic financial aid to families into an employment-related "workfare" program that satisfied most voters' concerns about a social aid program that appeared to allow the poor to endlessly live off the government (the reality may have been different, but the conservatives had succeeded in convincing the public that's what Welfare had become by the 1980s).  The thing is, the reform benefited by timely improvements to the economy itself - aided by job-boosting trade deals started under Bush the Elder and carried over by Clinton, and by a technology boom with computers and the Internet that few if any ever predicted - and from changes to the tax code and other social safety nets (food stamps) to cover any consequences of the workfare changes.

Rather than fear the dangers of changing welfare - as the Far Left worried that it would force more families into poverty, not less - Clinton and his administration was able to accept the bigger picture that the reform could work as long as other economic forces aided it.  In this regard, along with other points, I'd put Clinton in the Active-Positive category of Presidential behavior.

If Clinton did fail on some of the big Liberal ideas he was expected to pass/defend - failing to pass a healthcare reform that, let's admit it, was too complicated for its own good - it was because the nation itself was still not ready for most of those ideas (we as a nation are still not prepared for universal healthcare similar to every other major economic power on the globe, so how the f-ck can it be a commie socialist plot to destroy America if it works in England and Japan?).  For example, it had to take another decade of increasing health care costs for the nation to even tolerate a conservative, pro-business plan that became Obamacare.

Other signs of Clinton's A-P traits cover his self-deprecation, an honest desire to genuinely mingle and emotively relate to American voters (his "I feel your pain" was easily mocked, but it was sincere).  He was also able to re-position himself without ever crossing the line into flip-flopping, earning him a moniker "Slick Willie" (among other reasons, such as lying and using lawyer-speak to wriggle out of jams) but also making him adaptable to any political circumstance, including his fights with his opposite number Newt Gingrich, fellow Boomer and then-Speaker for most of Clinton's tenure.

For all of Gingrich's pro-conservative bluster, and for all of Gingrich's ambitions, Clinton could run rings around the guy.  And Bill was never that fast of a runner. /rimshot  Nearly every time Newt tried to confront Bill on a domestic issue - above all the budgets that were held up by Congress-fueled shutdowns - the President would get the nation to see his side of the argument and humble the Speaker and Congress down into accepting deals that may have benefited a conservative agenda but came across as Republican defeats.  Attempts to weaken Clinton during his first term of office with a legislative war didn't work: Clinton cruised to an easy re-election in another threeway race between himself, the Republican Bob Dole, and Ross Perot (whose impact, already meager, was diminished by 1996).

If anything weakened Clinton, it was himself: odd among most Active-Positives in that his personal and business dealings were very self-destructive (another reason some critics viewed him as a Passive-Positive like Harding, who did share those habits).  It could be argued that things like his Whitewater dealings, or his wife Hillary's law firm billing practices, were a mark of the post-Watergate era of unethical behavior by a lot of political figures.  But it left him vulnerable in ways that did limit his decision-making on the Presidential stage and had an adverse effect on his own staff.

Clinton's advantage during all of this was the colossal overreach of his political enemies.  All too eager to think the worst of a "hippie liar", hating on wife Hillary as a prominent feminist figure (the vitriol for her was worse than any bile aimed at him), the Far Right that came to dominate the Republican Party post-Reagan/Bush began an open campaign to discredit, humiliate, and delegitimize the Clinton administration.  Aided by a cable news channel led by a prominent conservative media whiz - Roger Ailes and his Fox News - and by radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh - whose career flourished the more he attacked Hillary - they talked up every potential scandal against Clinton they could find.  Whitewater became the new Watergate.  The firings of the White House travel office staff became headlines.  The suicide of a Clinton personal ally became the focus of three separate Congressional and grand jury investigations.

The overreach achieved peak crazy when it got out that Clinton had a sexual affair with a White House intern.  Immediately convinced she was the keystone to every Clinton scandal ever, the Lewinsky Affair dominated the news.  Long-standing media elites like Sam Donaldson openly predicted Clinton's resignation "within the week."  Clinton was forced under other investigations, including a civil suit by Paula Jones contending he sexually harassed her, to testify about having an affair with Lewinsky (and like any guy who thinks with his d-ck, Clinton did his best to weasel out of it).

But by this point a majority of Americans were jaded and burned out by the constant scandal-mongering by the Far Right.  What had started out as serious-sounding scandals - Corrupt land deals!  Dead lawyers!  A Trail of corruption across Arkansas! - turned up nothing but an intern with a stained dress.  What was promised as "worse than Watergate" ended up as "blowjobs".   Hillary was able to with a straight face go on national television and accuse their accusers of being part of "a vast Right Wing conspiracy".  And a lot of people agreed with her.

By the time the GOP Congress pushed to impeach Clinton for his perjury and obstruction before a grand jury (the BEST they could come up with), the Republicans were embarrassed by a poor 1998 midterms campaign that saw their seat numbers in both houses drop, although they retained majority control in both.  Feeling betrayed that they lost voters against Clinton's moral failings, the House turned against Gingrich as Speaker forcing him to drop the title (he would resign from the House less than a year later), and then coped with the embarrassment of their Speaker-designate Bob Livingston resigning when his sexual scandals came to light.  Meanwhile, with the Senate nowhere near the 2/3rd required to impeach the President, the vote wasn't even near that: the perjury charge went 55 votes against impeaching to 45 for, and the obstruction charge went dead even 50-50.

By 2000, Clinton left office with decent popularity numbers (although rightly hit for his poor honesty) while his opponents were sitting around thinking "what the hell happened?"  Rubbing salt into the wounds was the fact that during the impeachment and after, Clinton (A-P as always) was still able to get bills through Congress, nowhere near lame as most ending two-term Presidents tended to be.


It is hard to describe to the children and teens of today what it was like to be a survivor of both The Reagan Years and The Clinton Years.  Both different in terms of tenor and yet both similar in terms of economic booms presided over by highly charismatic and influential figures.

The take-away from the Clinton Era was a feeling of a missed opportunity, that Clinton could have been so much greater if he had reined in his personal appetites and unlocked his personal fears of political overreach.  If he had focused on a more comprehensive agenda that covered more needs rather than the several he prioritized above others.

To be fair, Clinton's Boomer impulses focused inward rather than outward onto his administration or the nation.  His one strength of political character - Adaptability while remaining tasked to a big picture - remains the saving grace of an otherwise bruised administration.

Next Up: If anyone's read this blog since the day I started it, You know how I feel about this one.  I may yet prove charitable regarding his Character...

Monday, December 09, 2013

Why Every Floridian Needs To Vote In 2014... And Need To Vote Rick Scott OUT

Gosh, Paul, you really feel that way about voting a crook like Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott out of office?!


(also, I'm real keen on the Bucs firing Schiano.  That's another issue, and better followed on

But here's the thing I want everyone to look at: a graphic map of Florida (via Miami Herald) highlighting all the places where companies with 100+ employees cut jobs from 2011 to now.

For all the bragging Scott's office and campaigners like to say about the jobs created during Scott's tenure, they'll of course never say word one about the jobs lost.  The current total of jobs created related to Scott's efforts: roughly 45,000.  Current total of jobs lost related to said efforts: roughly 49,000.  That's a NEGATIVE value of 4,000 or more LOST JOBS.

He's not exactly creating jobs like he promised (700,000 jobs over 7 years).  Like the voters should have ever trusted him on that... gggggrrrrrrr.

Making it worse has been the overvalued tax incentives, tax credits, and tax cuts Scott and Co. have doled out to corporations on the "promise" that these acts would create jobs.  All it's done was incite national companies to shift jobs from one state to another (causing grief elsewhere), create temporary jobs that didn't last, and basically nothing more.  A lot of that money's gone to waste, floating in the aether.

While the state's employment numbers have improved... it's been due to the overall national economic picture, with little to do with Scott's executive policies or the legislature's actual efforts.

So in terms of improving Florida's employment and economic numbers, Scott hasn't done much of anything.  And thanks to his insistence on tax cuts and benefits to large corporations, it's not helping improve Florida's budgets and public coffers.

Of course, I should also note that Rick Scott and his cronies are back at voter suppression efforts AGAIN in another attempt to make it harder for voters to register and submit ballots.  Such as issuing an "edict" to deny people to drop off absentee ballots at easy-to-visit locations: 

The latest trouble erupted a week ago when Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued an edict, or a "directive" as he called it, that county elections supervisors should not "solicit return" of absentee ballots anywhere other than the supervisor's office. The law is clear, he said.
Yet some counties let voters hand in absentees at early-voting sites, and Pinellas' Deborah Clark has a network of remote dropoff sites, secure and staffed by her employees, where ballots are kept under seal until they are driven to her headquarters. 
Evelyn Balogh, 83, a Tarpon Springs retiree who uses a wheelchair and does not drive, said Clark's system is why she is still voting. "I don't know what this man is thinking," she said of Detzner.

Our counties are not exactly compact and covered with elections offices: You may think Clearwater is a central locale easy to reach in our smallest geographic county (Pinellas), but Tarpon Springs is like freaking Siberia from there and I'm speaking from personal experience. Considering the high count of retirees who won't or can't drive in this state - not to mention the high count of poor people who can't drive, or the high count of people working long hours unable to get away to vote during the day - the county elections officials have to apply common sense and designate alternate locations to help out.

And indeed, the county supervisors for Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco have told Detzner (and Scott) that they will ignore the edict, noting they are in "full compliance with the law," meaning the actual statutes they have to follow and that the courts would go by if this matter ever goes that far.  This is a big thing for Pinellas, where a special election for a now-vacant Congressional seat (with the passing of Rep. Bill Young) covering half that county is going to rely a lot on the voters able to use the absentee ballots and drop-offs to get the votes in. 

In the meantime, this becomes more important.

The damn Democrats, moderates, and sane Republicans still left in that nihilistic radical fringe who are opposed to the bleeping Medicare crook in the governor's office NEED TO GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT IN 2014!

Dear National Democratic committees: instead of constantly emailing us to send in $25 every week driving us crazy with your endless fundraising, can you start emailing us to remind the voters to GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT for state and local elections just as much as you did for the Presidential campaigns.  Democratic turnout for midterms sucks to high heaven, and it's usually because the national-level organization (YOU) decide in some half-assed logic that the states should take care of their own... which they can't because they need a higher-ranking official to come in and knock skulls between the local factions.

The Republicans may have their problems - mostly because A) they are currently ideologically hidebound to a Utopian fantasy, and B) obsessed with thinking it's the "packaging" when in truth it's their policies that scare voters away - but when it comes to organizing at a national, state, and local level they coordinate their funding and support to a competently-good level.  They are focused on both the big picture (of keeping the federal government broken) and the small picture (take over enough state governments to destroy the national social safety net, and take over enough school boards to embezzle privatize schools and promote Creationism).

Democrats, if you want to get Rick "He's a Damn Crook" Scott out of office, organize.  Register the voters.  Stand up to the suppression attempts now and tomorrow.  Put candidates up in ALL the districts at ALL the levels - Congressional, Governor, State Senate, State Lege, County offices, School Boards - that you can.  To hell with the GOP's attempts to gerrymander: this state is more purple and Leans Blue than you realize, AND YOU GOTTA FIGHT FOR IT.


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Forty-One, There Was Competence But Not Confidence

"You gotta dance with who brung ya" - one of Molly Ivins' favorite sayings.

In the first election I ever cast a vote, it was for George H. W. Bush.  For a couple of reasons.  First, I grew up in an old-school Republican house (so old-school my dad still doesn't think Nixon did anything wrong).  Second, I came of age during the Reagan years, and as such had a hazy, complacent view of the political arena despite my years reading Doonesbury and sympathizing with the plight of the proletariat.  Third, seriously Dems?  Dukakis was the best you could do?!  Tsk...

Looking back, I grew into a kind of bemused awareness - this was in college - that while Bush was a competent enough political operative, there was a kind of distance to him, a disconnect that separated him from the immediacies of day-to-day living in America to the high-ended objectives of his administration with regards to economic and international issues.

I couldn't put a label on it then, other than noting that by 1992 during a hard jobless recession that had a direct affect on me - graduating with a bachelors and no job prospects lined up - that President Bush didn't seem focused on fixing the economy that would mean job opportunities for meself and others.  Hindsight can give me now a better understanding.

In hindsight: What happened was that Bush the Elder (as I've taken to calling him) had come to the Presidency as the Heir to Reagan and was stuck dancing to the agenda of a Passive-Positive administration that left him incapable of fulfilling his own more Active instincts.

He had taken on the mantle of a social conservative agenda that he himself wasn't too comfortable with: when you look back, you'll see Bush trying to take a moderate stance on abortion (for cases of rape, incest, and health of the mother) that was counter to the hardline pro-fetus stance (no exemptions, never, and no contraception either, you sluts and whoremongers).

Bush had taken on an economic conservative agenda of mass deregulation and massive tax cuts ("Read My Lips, No New Taxes"), when during his administration he made a bipartisan deal with Congress that included tax increases.

Bush pursued an international relations agenda that relied heavily on diplomacy and personal communication that would have impressed Nixon, with an emphasis on increasing trade to open global markets like never before... but angered up an increasingly isolationist, America-First right wing that abhorred deals like NAFTA and sought U.S. hegemony in the wake of the collapsing Communist opposition.

Things I think Americans take for granted even today, was how Bush was able to build on the trust Reagan engendered with the Soviet Union to further improve international relations.  On the one hand, it proved helpful to keep the USSR on the sidelines when one of their client states - Iraq - went rogue, invading Kuwait, drawing Bush in with a truly international coalition to free Kuwait and weaken (but not topple, which would have busted the coalition) Iraq.  While the neocons of today looked back and considered it a failure that we didn't invade Iraq then and overthrow Saddam, hindsight proved that an occupation would have driven away our allies, depleted our resources fighting an unending insurgency, and given neighboring Iran the opportunity to sway the large Shia Iraqi population to their influence.

Bush, remembered, presided over one of the more peaceful political overthrows our planet's ever seen (with the sad exception of at the time Romania) when the Soviet Union, unable to maintain any economic or military control of Eastern Europe, allowed their satellite allies freedom to self-determine their rules.  The summer and autumn of 1989 witnessed nations like Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and finally East Germany bring an end to one-party rule, open borders, and basically celebrated like free drunken hippies.

I will never forget, sitting at the apartment at Gainesville the whole night of Nov. 9th, watching just hour after hour of people dancing atop the Berlin Wall on the television, tearing at the graffiti-ed concrete with pickaxes and shovels, wanting oh so much to hop onto a plane and just fly out there to join in, although knowing that 1) I had no passport and 2) by the time I got there the party would be over kinda kept me planted in the sofa.  Bush's diplomatic efforts, tied in with political leaders like Gorbachev who sought peaceful reforms, made a lot of that happen.

Part of me wonders to this day if Bush had stayed in office for a second term, if the collapse of Yugoslavia into Balkanized factions driven to civil war would have been curtailed or controlled to a more peaceful ending...

Pity of it was, by 1992 none of that mattered: what mattered was a broken economy that needed an infusion of government investment to boost jobs and wages.  And Bush, sad to say, found himself stuck in a one-note conservative platform ("cut taxes, cut regs") because those were the Republicans that brought him to the Big Dance.

It didn't help that Bush the Elder faced one of the more peculiar third-party attempts in the nation's history: a disgruntled business executive, Ross Perot, decided to muddle into politics on a platform of trade protectionism, balanced budgets, and an idea of "direct democracy" allowing direct input of the electorate through the burgeoning Internet.  Part vanity project, part serious reform movement, Perot became a banner to rally among the far right and/or centrist voting base, which cut more into Bush's political support than the Democratic challenger's.

Bush's final problem was simply an inability to present himself in as confident a manner as possible.  Part of that image had come from his seeming acquiescence to the Vice Presidency under Reagan - at a time when those in the know believed Bush's political views could and did differ from Reagan's - and part of it had come from an increasing vibe of disconnect during his own Presidential tenure.  While he showed confidence in 1988 campaigning as the successor to a popular Reagan, by 1992 he could no longer campaign like that: he had to campaign on his own successes.   Because his domestic success - passing a bipartisan, tax-increased budget - was in opposition to his party's platform, he couldn't.  He had to ignore what he did and campaign on what was expected of him by the base.

As an anecdote, during that tenure Saturday Night Live was at its apex of political satire and commentary (seriously, the 1992 political skits should be bottled and preserved for future generations).  Dana Carvey, doing about as pitch perfect a Bush impersonation (and even a Perot impersonation) ever seen, slowly depicted week by week a desperate, almost pleading Bush trying to figure out what to do to please people (holding up a sign "Message: You're Pissed" at one point).  It's as apt a description of how Bush struggled towards his loss in November to Bill Clinton.

All this talk about Bush the Elder and little yet about his Character.  Mostly because I want to note something else: this is as far into the Presidential Character as Prof. James David Barber took his 4th edition of his textbook.  Bill Clinton will be the second jumping off point into the Unknown where I have to make my own interpretation.  As for Bush, lemme dig up a quote or two on him:

By the summer of that election year, asked "What about George Bush?" I was puzzled that "the basic question about Bush, is not character, but world view.  What is his vision?  What is his direction?"... (p.457)
(from Barber's New York Times 1989 article) ...Those who think he will be simply a steady, middle-of-the-road chairman of the White House team might well be wrong.  There are signs that this Presidency could be far more innovative - for better or for worse - than the last one...  Mr. Bush wants a mission.  It is important that he likes normal, ordinary politics and that he invests much energy in that work.  His character is Active-Positive, a pattern that means he is ready to learn, to change, to develop in office, as distinct from the fixated types, such as Nixon or Johnson... (p.458-9)

That in hindsight was a common part of Bush's style: a negotiator type, someone capable of dealing and Adapting as the circumstances required.

Problem was, the Republican Party that brought him to the dance didn't like changing their tunes.  And Bush didn't have enough confidence to make the Party see that the dance style had changed from Charleston to Rave.

Next Up: There was this article about The Future Imperative relating to this guy.  I gotta go find it.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Serious Ways To Celebrate Saturnalia (updates)

While the philistines at the FOX Not-News channel wage their ungodly war on the pagan festivities, it might behoove me to pass along some tips on how to honestly and sincerely celebrate the Roman winter solstice holiday known as Saturnalia.

1) Decorate your home with sun and moon iconography.  Apply garland wreaths where appropriate.

2) Hang out with Vestal Virgins.

2a) (update) In the possibility you cannot locate any Vestal Virgins to hang out with, you have a good excuse now to travel over to Rome, Italy and ask around for one.  Hell, this is a good time for Rome to set up a Vestal temple for the tourists...

3) Decorate all trees on your property.  They don't have to be the traditional triangle-shaped fir trees, any trees will do.  For those of us in Florida, we've been decorating palm trees for years...
image from the Minimalist Sweet Home website
Update: that photo isn't showing anymore!  The link might be broken.  Let's try this one...
from the Jen On The Edge blog

4) Drink Roman-styled wine.  There's a version called mulsum which mixes honey into the wine.  Should be interesting around bears...

5) Give small presents.  Nothing large or ostentatious.  Maybe a set of keys to a new electric-powered car.  ...what?

6) GO TO ANY TEMPLE OF THE GOD SATURN AND LIGHT A CANDLE TO EARN HIS FAVOUR.  If you can't find a temple, trick your local churches into funding a charity that you'll secretly use to build one.  That oughta learn 'em, stealing the winter solstice and all...

7) Gamble.  It's allowed during this festive period.  But do it in legally-approved areas like Hard Rock Casinos on local tribal lands or Las Vegas.

7a) Gamble using other people's money.  See 6) for hints.

8) Sing classical Roman ditties.  If you don't know any classical Roman ditties, sing "Louie Louie" off-key and no-one will notice.

9) Greet everyone by saying "Io Saturnalia!"  Now here's the tricky thing about the Latin language: they didn't have a letter J to represent that phonic in the western tongues, so they doubled it to the letter I.  It's really Jo Saturnalia! being said.  And the Romans pronounced the J not like "jay" but like "yo".  So it should sound like YO SATURNALIA (akin to YO ADRIAN).  But type it IO SATURNALIA.

9a) Do this early and often around Bill O'Reilly until he goes batsh-t insane.

10) Enjoy the holiday season no matter how and why you celebrate it.  If you're Christian, Hebrew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Shinto, Pastafarian, what have you.  THIS IS A TIME TO CELEBRATE, TO REFLECT, TO ENJOY FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO THE UPMOST THAT WE CAN.

This message brought to you by a faction of the Unitarian Jihad.