Sunday, May 31, 2015

Predicting Character: O'Malley By The Numbers

Perking up the Democratic side of the 2016 Slogfest, the expected announcement by former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley came... and went with about as much buzz/excitement as a new album release by (Insert Obscure Grunge Band That Nobody Knew Was Still Together And Touring).  Well, that's not entirely true: O'Malley's rally did get a response, just not the one he'd hoped.  Per the Daily Beast:

...O’Malley, 52, is a former Baltimore councilman, mayor, and, for two terms, the governor of Maryland. He is a proud liberal—under his watch, Maryland ended the death penalty, legalized same-sex marriage and passed the Dream Act. But despite his record and his sociopathically charming demeanor (he plays in an Irish band, too), he is not a star in the Democratic Party, for whom Hillary Clinton remains the obvious favorite for the nomination. O’Malley, who was a fervent supporter of Clinton’s 2008 campaign, has been publicly “considering” running for president for two years, traveling the country and fundraising for other Democrats, and is still barely at 3 percent.
...Jake Polce and Mallory Donaghue, both 18, told me they came because “it has to do with Maryland pride.” Donaghue said she liked what O’Malley stands for, but when asked to elaborate said, “I don’t know,” and asked Polce to intervene. Polce said ending the death penalty and passing the Dream Act were his main reasons for supporting O’Malley, but he admitted he knew little about the other Democratic candidates... 
...But as O’Malley delivered his remarks, a small group of others made their voices heard, too—and called to mind the criticisms of O’Malley’s record on crime and police brutality which came under scrutiny during the Baltimore riots earlier this month. 
A woman charged through the crowd holding a sign reading “Stop killer cops” and “say her name.” She shouted, “Black lives matter!” Someone else yelled, “We don’t need zero tolerance policies, O’Malley!” and “What about police brutality?” The protesters blew whistles, which drowned out O’Malley. 
Police and press surrounded them, and O’Malley just carried on as if it was not happening...

Most of the passion at the turnout was with the protestors, which is not a good sign.

By basic metrics, O'Malley would be the perfect candidate for the Democrats: experience as a popular governor, coming from a major Mid-Atlantic state, Catholic yet Liberal, who signed on for key social issues - immigration rights, gay marriage - that would hearten leftist Progressives.  Compared to the front-runner Hillary Clinton, O'Malley has few scandals dogging him that the Republicans could viably use against him (which won't stop the lying by Fox Not News and their ilk, of course).  Compared to the other official candidate Bernie Sanders, O'Malley is not as radicalized to where the pro-business Democrats would be terrified of his winning the nomination.

But the protests are a harbinger of O'Malley's greatest weakness: his failures as Baltimore Mayor (which he used as a stepping stone to the Governor's office) with regards to crime and race relations.

"The Numbers".  From The Wire (YouTube link won't play on this blog due to copyright block):

The stat games... that lie, it’s what ruined this department. Shining up shit and calling it gold, so that Majors become Colonels and Mayors become Governors; pretending to do police work while one generation fucking trains the next how not to do the job... - Daniels

People may forget that The Wire was not just a television show: it was based on real-life incidents and the ongoing national disaster that is urban blight.  Producer/Writer David Simon worked as a journalist in Baltimore during part of O'Malley's tenure as Mayor, and everything about the internal corruption in government - the obsession over crime statistics - was based on what he covered.

From the Marshall Project blog interviewing Simon:

Simon: It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did...
S: The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was (O'Malley). He destroyed police work in some real respects. Whatever was left of it when he took over the police department, if there were two bricks together that were the suggestion of an edifice that you could have called meaningful police work, he found a way to pull them apart. Everyone thinks I’ve got a hard-on for Marty because we battled over “The Wire,” whether it was bad for the city, whether we’d be filming it in Baltimore. But it’s been years, and I mean, that’s over. I shook hands with him on the train last year and we buried it. And, hey, if he's the Democratic nominee, I’m going to end up voting for him. It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights. But to be honest, what happened under his watch as Baltimore’s mayor was that he wanted to be governor. And at a certain point, with the crime rate high and with his promises of a reduced crime rate on the line, he put no faith in real policing...
S: Originally, early in his tenure, O’Malley brought Ed Norris in as commissioner and Ed knew his business. He’d been a criminal investigator and commander in New York and he knew police work. And so, for a time, real crime suppression and good retroactive investigation was emphasized, and for the Baltimore department, it was kind of like a fat man going on a diet. Just leave the French fries on the plate and you lose the first ten pounds. The initial crime reductions in Baltimore under O’Malley were legit and O’Malley deserved some credit.  But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation. And so there were people from City Hall who walked over Norris and made it clear to the district commanders that crime was going to fall by some astonishing rates. Eventually, Norris got fed up with the interference from City Hall and walked, and then more malleable police commissioners followed, until indeed, the crime rate fell dramatically. On paper...

You need to read that article.  What happened in Baltimore pretty much well happened in St. Louis and Cleveland and Miami and New York City and everywhere else as politicians obsessed over making the numbers look good for them and to hell with civil liberties and actual policing that needed doing.

S: The second thing Marty did, in order to be governor, involves the stats themselves. In the beginning, under Norris, he did get a better brand of police work and we can credit a legitimate 12 to 15 percent decline in homicides. Again, that was a restoration of an investigative deterrent in the early years of that administration. But it wasn’t enough to declare a Baltimore Miracle, by any means. What can you do? You can’t artificially lower the murder rate – how do you hide the bodies when it’s the state health department that controls the medical examiner’s office? But the other felony categories? Robbery, aggravated assault, rape? Christ, what they did with that stuff was jaw-dropping.
Interviewer: So they cooked the books.
S: Oh yeah. If you hit somebody with a bullet, that had to count. If they went to the hospital with a bullet in them, it probably had to count as an aggravated assault. But if someone just took a gun out and emptied the clip and didn't hit anything or they didn't know if you hit anything, suddenly that was a common assault or even an unfounded report. Armed robberies became larcenies if you only had a victim’s description of a gun, but not a recovered weapon. And it only gets worse as some district commanders began to curry favor with the mayoral aides who were sitting on the Comstat data...
S: They cooked their own books in remarkable ways. Guns disappeared from reports and armed robberies became larcenies. Deadly weapons were omitted from reports and aggravated assaults became common assaults. The Baltimore Sun did a fine job looking into the dramatic drop in rapes in the city. Turned out that regardless of how insistent the victims were that they had been raped, the incidents were being quietly unfounded...

Christ.  All so O'Malley could run for Governor...

S: So Martin O’Malley proclaims a Baltimore Miracle and moves to Annapolis. And tellingly, when his successor as mayor allows a new police commissioner to finally de-emphasize street sweeps and mass arrests and instead focus on gun crime, that’s when the murder rate really dives. That’s when violence really goes down. When a drug arrest or a street sweep is suddenly not the standard for police work, when violence itself is directly addressed, that’s when Baltimore makes some progress...
But by then it was too late.  And you get excessive force and questionable arrests similar to what happened to Freddie Gray and so many others...

What happened to O'Malley has been happening - is happening - to politicians all over.  In order to prove effectiveness in office, you have to present evidence.  Statistics can be the best evidence to present as "factual," so if you have to said politicians will twist those statistics to favor them at the expense of reality.  It's not just crime reports, the obsession with numbers for politicians reach into job figures, education test results, anything with numbers...

What the politicians like O'Malley overlook is that each number is a life.  Someone being arrested for no honest reason just to boost a stat count.  Someone made a victim whose crime was under-reported to where no justice prevails.  Someone turned into zero.

And here's a sad thing David Simon himself notes in that interview if he had to, he'd vote for O'Malley: "It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights."

In short, better the devil you know than the devil likely getting nominated for the Republicans in 2016 (Because the Republicans have made it consistently clear that on race relations and crime and urban policing they will be worse).

The other thing about O'Malley is that - aside from the crime stats scandal - he's done good work as governor, and publicly appears level-headed and competent.  From The Atlantic:

In two terms as the governor of Maryland, he’s ushered in a sweeping liberal agenda that includes gay marriage, gun control, an end to the death penalty, and in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants. He’s trim and handsome; he plays in an Irish rock band... He shows great zeal for improving things both large and small: during a recent visit to the Light House, a homelessness-prevention center in Annapolis that provides job training and other assistance, he said that he had, as governor, taken the state’s traditional Day to Serve and made it 17 days long. “I really enjoy progress, and making progress, and my joy comes from understanding that it happens one life at a time,” he told me, reflecting on the center’s work...
During his governorship, he was aggressive in pushing a package of tax hikes and budget fixes, via the Washington Post:

The new governor immediately set out to strengthen the middle class, boost public safety and education, and improve health care and the environment. He froze public university tuition and dramatically increased funding for school construction...
Legislative leaders cautioned against holding such an ambitious special session — particularly with no guarantee of success. But O’Malley pushed through his entire package, with some bills squeaking by after debates that stretched into the wee hours. He had established himself as a force to be reckoned with, even though some efforts — such as repealing the death penalty — didn’t succeed right away.
In the end, there was no major O’Malley initiative that didn’t make it across the finish line. In some cases, he showed a willingness to compromise that frustrated his allies — like slowing the pace of pay increases in a minimum wage bill...

It's still a question mark if his policies will work - his aggressive tax hikes created electoral backlash this past election cycle, and despite his efforts he left office with the state budget still facing shortages - but by some measures he kept Maryland afloat at a time most other states were collapsing during the Great Recession.

But those entries help paint the world-view - the potential Character - that O'Malley would bring if he follows through on his pursuit of the Presidency.  A further look into his formative years - per Professor Barber's review process - shows a child and young man involved with politics since his birth.  From Jill Lawrence's National Journal article printed June 2013:

...O'Malley's story is not like any of those. He's a smart, good-looking, white guy who grew up with two parents, two older sisters, and three younger brothers outside Washington in the affluent Maryland suburbs of Bethesda and Rockville. His political pedigree goes back generations. His grandparents were active in Democratic politics in Indiana and Pittsburgh. His parents met doing work for the Democratic National Committee. His father, who died in 2006, was a lawyer whom O'Malley says was an "Atticus Finch-type figure" to his four sons, all of whom became lawyers. His mother has been a receptionist for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland's Democratic senior senator, for more than 25 years.
O'Malley attended the Jesuits' Gonzaga High School in a checkered neighborhood near the U.S. Capitol, and then Catholic University a couple of miles away. The choice of Gonzaga in a sense foreshadowed the turn his life took later when he attended the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, then stayed in the city to work as an assistant state's attorney, marry a top state official's daughter, and run for a series of political offices...
...By (age 14), O'Malley was already an Irish history aficionado, a musician, and a budding politico. As a child, he followed election returns when his godfather ran for office, and he handed out leaflets for a family friend in another race. As a college student, he worked for Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign, including spending a few weeks in Iowa. As a law student, he ran the field operation for then-Rep. Mikulski's 1986 Senate campaign. It was a fateful job, in part because it afforded him his first glimpse of Katie Curran, his future wife...
...The year 1990 was seminal for O'Malley in two ways. He married Katie, and he made his first run for office--a primary challenge to state Sen. John Pica of Baltimore. O'Malley's brother Peter, seven years younger and a student at Catholic University, ran the campaign with help from Patrick, another brother, and Enright. They did their own opposition research. Peter O'Malley says he and Patrick combed Pica's voting records to discover that he had missed more votes than any other member of the state Senate. They also did their own polling, he says. Martin wrote the questions, and they all made the calls, using lists they bought to achieve a scientific result. (note: the early sign of stat obsession)
O'Malley spent less than $35,000 on the campaign and ended up losing by 44 votes, so close that his friends and family were elated. He says he realized belatedly, "I was the only dope on the campaign" who had expected to win. He was stung, but also encouraged. By the next year, he was working at a law firm by day and campaigning by night for a Baltimore City Council seat. He'd pick up his infant daughter Grace from Katie, who was taking an evening bar-review course, and go door-to-door as long as Grace would stand for it. He won the seat, and his course was set.
What was it about Baltimore that drew O'Malley? "There's probably a biography in the answer to that question," he responds. It started with what he calls his "immersion" into Mikulski's world of friends, family, and supporters. "I felt more at home in Baltimore after one year of law school and Barbara Mikulski's campaign than I ever felt in the Maryland suburbs of Washington," he says. "It is a city with a very unpretentious blue-collar work ethic. I just found something about it very attractive when I moved there for law school, and wanted to stay."
Baltimore has much going for it: top-notch sports teams, cozy neighborhoods, a burgeoning restaurant scene, a renowned symphony and university, and one of the nation's largest ports. Still, 25 years ago, beset by drugs, crime, and racial tensions, it was an odd place for a white Democrat to start building a life in politics. O'Malley says Baltimore's problems were compelling to him. In his 20 months at the state's attorney's office, he handled more than 70 cases and saw a lot of pain and addiction. He was frustrated with the criminal-justice system and wanted to try to make things better "at a higher level."

In short, he was a politician in search of a challenge.  The rest of his story plays out as Mayor, as Governor, and now as Presidential hopeful.

So how does this all translate into Character?  How would I list him on my charts, for his Positives and Negatives and on what he's likely going to be as a President?

Martin O'Malley - Governor, Maryland
Positives: Served two terms as governor in a politically powerful mid-Atlantic state.  Can govern, and campaign in tight, messy elections.  Fought hard on key liberal issues - school funding, ending the death penalty, supporting gay marriage, supporting immigration reform - that would appeal to the progressive base.  His raising taxes on higher incomes in-state - and campaigning on that issue nationally - can play as a welcome populist move as income inequality becomes a big issue.  Presents himself as a "better" liberal than Hillary can, yet isn't as left-leaning as the other candidate Bernie Sanders, which means O'Malley can have better appeal to the moderates by the general election.
Negatives: Suffering backlash from the stat-obsession tenure as Baltimore mayor that has left deep scars in that city.  His defense for higher taxes may play well with the progressive base but unless changes in Maryland show they worked - via improved social services and educational standards - he may lose middle-class voters worried that high taxation would hurt small businesses.  Despite the obviousness of him being a potential candidate - and anti-Hillary alternative - for the White House ever since 2010, still hasn't made a strong impression nation-wide.  In terms of fund-raising, Sanders is already well ahead and is currently higher in the polling.
Chances: He's got a solid chance due to outside factors - not enough challengers that can steal his thunder vs. Hillary - and may appeal to fund-raisers in the party wary of another Clinton era and worried that Sanders is a candidate too far Left.  But he's got way too much work ahead of him, and until the police brutality issue goes away - or he campaigns for legitimate reforms - he's got one hell of an albatross around his neck.
Character Chart: His actions as an elected figure shows an aggressive, constant persona with public (and private) agendas.  His work as Governor - pushing through bills against a reluctant legislature - hints at an Uncompromising world-view, along with the obsession over statistics and results that overlooks genuine empathy for the people he serves.  On the other hand, the issues and results he took - abolishing the death penalty, supporting gay marriage, supporting immigration - display a level of political courage that most Adaptive and out-going character types did in their lives.  The stat-obsession worries me that he can be an Active-Negative type: however, O'Malley has displayed enough Adaptive and Conciliatory traits to make me think he can serve as an Active-Positive.  Compared to his potential opponents in Hillary or ANYBODY from the Republicans, O'Malley is a clear A-P.

In this campaign run, O'Malley has one big weakness and many small advantages.  Whether he can turn those advantages into big ones is the big question.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Personal Note: Local Authors' Event May 30

Just to shill to the seven readers of this blog, I'll be at the Barnes & Noble in Wesley Chapel FL this Saturday May 30th from 2 pm to 4 pm selling my works.

Location is 28152 Paseo Dr
(southwest corner facing the intersection of
Bruce B. Downs and SR 56)
Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
p: 813-907-7739

Just as a reminder, this is my stuff (available online through most book retailers, especially Amazon and

My collection of short stories, published 2003.
E-published, available as download.
I'm currently working on other stories
based in that superhero 'verse.

Contains my short "I Must Be Your First",
which has received great reviews!
Contains my short "Why The Mask".

Contains my short "The Dread Secret of
The Battle Of Los Angeles," based on a
Real Life incident in L.A. at the start of WWII.
E-published, available for download

E-published, sequel to "Welcome to Florida".
I would LOVE to have people show up and support local/independent authors. (hint: buy my books!)  We need to encourage more adult reading (buy my books) and we need to support our bookstores as fun gathering places (buy my books).

So I hope to see all seven of you blog readers in Wesley Chapel this Saturday.  Right?
(p.s. buy my books)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tales Of Corruption: May 2015 Edition

Two separate corruption cases in the news, one common theme.

First, the ongoing scandal that is FIFA:

FIFA, the notoriously corrupt and yet seemingly invincible governing body of world soccer, has finally landed itself an indictment that some would say is worthy of its reputation. The charges against a handful of senior FIFA officials include money laundering, racketeering, bribery and fraud. In short, the federal lawsuit alleges what millions of soccer fans have suspected all along: that FIFA officials have been using the organization's massive influence to line their pocketbooks.

It's not enough to note how long this has been a problem: for decades, FIFA has been raking in millions and then billions of questionable money using the bidding wars between nations to host World Cup games, making decisions less on quality and availability and more on how much the host nation is willing to sell out.  The recent turmoil in Brazil - where FIFA profited at the expense of the impoverished nation - is the latest set of newsworthy reports to follow.  The fate of all those quickly, poorly built stadiums highlights the waste FIFA insisted on (and still does) when creating locations for their games.

FIFA had gotten to where they could dictate to host nations laws to make their organization more powerful and profitable.  They refused any transparency in their internal affairs.  Any dissent inside and outside stifled as the men in power remained in power (until their individual bad habits got to be too much even for FIFA to hide under the rug).

And for decades no-one fought it, no-one questioned it.  Because of national pride: soccer (international football) crazy nations could not say No, could not question the demands, out of fear of retribution or embarrassment.  Nations still pandered for the opportunity to be host country every four years.  Teams pined for the opportunity to win on the field.  Fans still traveled to rickety stadiums in poor urban (and in Brazil's case rural) zones and spent money to FIFA's delight.

Is it any surprise an organization would turn corrupt so fast, so deep?

The news punditry seems to be caught between awe and surprise that any charges at the level of FIFA's top offices were ever brought.  But we shouldn't be: sooner or later this much corruption collapses on itself.  The sin of pride by other nations got swamped by the pride and arrogance of the men who stayed in power too long.  Sepp Blatter has been in charge of FIFA since 1998, pretty much a turning point in how corrupt that organization became, and remains the most obvious problem in that organization that hadn't been arrested (yet).  Let this Slate article document the atrocities (of which I'll list a few):

...listing the seemingly unending litany of corruption allegations against the organization Blatter has run since 1998 and has been an official at since 1975.  ...with this just-ended World Cup and the police allegations of an illegal ticket sales scheme by FIFA’s ticketing and hospitality partner, a company in which Blatter’s nephew has a minority stake. Blatter presided over the decision to hand the £342 million contract to his nephew’s company back in 2007, and it wasn’t the first time he was alleged to have funneled cash to that particular family member...
...In 2002, Blatter was accused by FIFA’s then secretary general and erstwhile ally Michel Zen-Ruffinen of losing the organization $500 million through financial mismanagement, corruption, and cronyism. Zen-Ruffinen also testified that Blatter had paid a FIFA referee named Lucien Bouchardeau $25,000 and promised him $25,000 more for information on a Somali soccer official, Farah Addo, who had accused Blatter of bribery in his first election bid...
...FIFA’s corruption has direct consequences in the real world. In South Africa, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on white elephant stadiums that have rarely been used following the 2010 World Cup in a country where more than half of its children were living in poverty as of 2012. Multiple local officials in that country were reported to have been murdered, allegedly for whistle-blowing or other involvement in stadium fraud.
In Brazil, a $300 million, 40,000-plus seat stadium was built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest where potential post-Cup audiences of that size just don’t exist. That’s probably one reason why a majority of Brazilians opposed hosting this World Cup, saying the more than $11 billion price tag could be better spent on public services...

And we haven't even gotten to the part where everything tipped against FIFA, when the stench of greed became too noxious to bear: the awarding of the World Cups for 2018 and 2022 to Russia and Qatar.  While Russia is a prominent nation with enough major cities to effectively host games, it's also one of the better-documented kleptocracies on the planet with a list of human rights abuses and current border issues with Ukraine.

And Qatar has been a disaster since Day One.  There were open questions about having a nation right on the equator hosting summer games in high heat environments, with each new question poorly answered than the last.  The games have to be moved to winter months, conflicting with other nations' scheduled football seasons.  Qatar simply does not have the infrastructure - the major cities of hotels, restaurants, transit service, communication hubs - needed to host so many games at once, and some places designated as locales don't even exist on the maps.

And in order to build these non-existent places to house insanely expensive stadiums, Qatar has resorted to a criminally bloody system of exported workers working overtime and in hostile conditions to the point of exhaustion and DEATH.  From Vox's report:

Working conditions are, in many cases, horrendous. Multiple reports from Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, and even a contractor employed by the Qatari government have come to basically the same conclusion: migrant workers frequently don't get paid for months at a time, are prevented from leaving the company or the country, and are forced to work in impossibly hot weather and conditions that virtually guarantee some will die.
In one migrant worker labor camp Amnesty researchers visited, "sewage was leaking from the ground — apparently from the camp's septic tank — and flowing down into the street, where it had collected in a large stagnant pool. Piles of rubbish were mounting up at the camp, apparently because the company had not paid for them to be collected, and the piles of rubbish attracted swarms of insects."
There was no electricity or running water. When Amnesty informed the Qatari authorities of this, they provided a small generator — and then took it away three days later.

And the death toll is already beyond the measure of other comparable mass projects:

From the Washington Post
Construction work should not be a death sentence.  And yet FIFA - which is supposed to oversee these projects and ensure the host nations are obeying laws and worker safety - has done nothing about it.  If the organization is feeling like it has few friends at the moment, it's because this corruption has a body count other nations can no longer ignore.  It's gotten to where even FIFA's headquarters home Switzerland is investigating charges of bribery involving the Russia and Qatar bids.

That's the current status of one scandal.  The second scandal just erupted today, although it has its roots back more than a decade by now.  Former Speaker of the U.S. House Dennis Hastert - the Least Powerful Republican With an Actual Title of the last twenty years - has been charged with lying to investigators and hiding evidence regarding a complex extortion/blackmail scheme.  To David Graham's Atlantic article:

But reading between the lines of the indictment against Hastert suggests a darker story than political corruption. In or about 2010, according to the indictment, Hastert—a former high-school teacher and coach—met with an unnamed individual from Yorkville, Hastert’s hometown. They “discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” In effect, Hastert fell victim to blackmail, the indictment alleges: He “agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.” (Since leaving the House, Hastert has become a highly paid lobbyist.)

Guessing games about who Individual A is should dot the blogosphere / twitterverse for the next two days.  And who's got $3.5 million to throw around like that to pay off a blackmail demand?!  Oh, right.  Insider Lobbyists.

Hastert then allegedly began withdrawing cash from his bank accounts to pay to the individual. But federal laws require financial institutions to report transactions greater than $10,000, and Hastert made a series of them. In April 2012, the indictment alleges, employees of Hastert’s bank questioned him about the withdrawals, and he promptly reduced his withdrawals to smaller amounts, to escape the requirement. Authorities were already watching, however, and they began investigating Hastert for structuring currency transactions to evade federal requirements—itself a crime.

"Can't get away with nothing" is probably what Hastert was thinking when he tried to hide transactions that were illegal to hide in the first place.  So why was Hastert acting like that in the first place?  Committing acts of desperation that were bound to draw attention and investigation?

Because he thought he could get away with it.  He was an ex-Speaker with political and financial connections up the wazoo.  He thought he could lie to investigators and have his own identity protect him from further inquiry.  Because power got to his head long ago, and with that power came pride and arrogance and recklessness.  It may not be on the scale of evil and corruption that FIFA leader Sepp Blatter is still committing at this moment, but it still reeks of damage and hypocrisy.

Let justice be done.  It would be nice to think Sepp Blatter will lose Friday's election for the Presidency - his incumbency has gone longer than FDR's - in the wake of the arrests and public outcry over Qatar, but that organization's system is so rigged in his favor I doubt it.  If he wins, he still faces the possibility the EUFA - the European leagues and the most prestigious part of the world football organization - will threaten to leave, destroying FIFA's very existence (A World Cup without Germany or Italy is no World Cup).  More likely is that the recently arrested are in position to turn testimony in exchange for saving their skins, any one of them close enough to Blatter to hopefully reveal a key link to justify slapping handcuffs on the corrupt SOB.

As for Hastert, it's got to come out just what the hell he was paying Individual A to keep secret.  Whoever it is has got to be on the run or planning his own deal to avoid charges of blackmail.  Either way, Hastert is toast: it's merely a question if the sin he's hiding is his own... or someone else's.

In Brief: No, Democrats Have NOT Gone Too Far Left (NSFW)

I'm not going to link directly to Peter Wehrer's article because I don't want to give him 7 more hits of traffic from my readers, but I will link to the articles written to refute his contention that the modern Democratic Party has gone too far Left.

One chart involving the US House (which is reflective of the partisan shifting in the Senate):

The Republicans have dramatically shifted more conservative than the Democrats shifting more liberal.

So in short: the Democrats have not gone too far Left.  The Republicans have gone too far Asshole.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kiss Me I'm Irish (And Pro-People)

This is huge, what Ireland just done.

Ireland - with 62 percent of the voters in favor, and winning in 42 of 43 districts - became the first country to deem by popular vote that gays have a right to marry:

"Today Ireland has made history - the first country in the world to vote for equal marriage," Prime Minister Enda Kenny told reporters.
"With today's vote we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people. Yes to inclusion, yes to generosity, yes to love, yes to equal marriage," he said.
The voter turnout was 60 percent - much higher than in other recent referendums.

This is huge because it's proving that most people do not want to go out of their way to discriminate or hate upon a significant minority within their own nation.  This is the first time a nation opened up to equal rights to getting married - a major cultural, economic, and legal right - by the will of the people rather than a legislative or judicial decree.

This is what being Pro-People looks like.

This is huge because Ireland is famously - almost notoriously - Catholic in their religious faith.  The power and sway of the Catholic Church and the papacy (used to be) greater here than in most other nations (including Italy where the Church originated and still houses its seat of power).  Ireland infamously has one of the harshest anti-abortion restrictions in all of Europe, and it only decriminalized homosexuality itself merely 23 years ago.

In theory and in practice the Catholic Church opposes homosexuality, one of several "conservative" Christian faiths to argue the sin of it.  However, regarding this vote, the Church itself remained oddly silent except for a handful of Bishops coming out late in opposition to it.  The power of the Church had dropped in the wake of sex abuse scandals... and there are signs the current Pope has shifted the dynamics of the Church towards social justice...

So maybe Francis has lightened up.

This is huge because the Irish vote was not only a sizable majority of available voters, and because the vote itself was a solid majority, the polling numbers suggested this wasn't a generational issue.  Whereas the younger voters will trend liberal-leaning (read: open-minded), older voters tend not to.  Except they didn't: polling showed "the support cut across age and gender, geography and income..."

This is huge because it shows to the rest of the world we don't have to hate or discriminate on the basis of our "fears", that we don't have the excuse of religion or faith to discriminate.

This is huge because the more other nations show us that allowing gay marriage does not mean the end of the world, the easier it will get in this "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" to open up to gay marriage across all states.  Here, it's happening mostly by judicial decision and court order, and yet we're still getting politicians and conservative religious leaders standing up screaming "family values" and "religious liberty" as excuses to hate.

There are no other arguments against gay marriage.  The argument against being gay relies entirely on passages of the Hebrew (Leviticus is prominently mentioned) and Christian Testaments (Romans and other Pauline letters).  There are no scientific arguments against gay, where biology and psychology over the decades has revealed reasons why being gay happens (homosexuality is not a choice), and that being gay isn't really special it's just...a thing.

This is huge because more people are refusing to use religion as an excuse to hate.  Because more people are seeing the hypocrisy of religious leaders railing against gays using Leviticus while allowing EVERYTHING else banned in Leviticus and the Bible to happen.

This is huge, having more people being Pro-People.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Modest Proposal For the Republican 2016 Clown Car Debate Format

There is a formal, media-led debate - by Fox (Not) News - scheduled for August 6 this year, and there was apparently some problems getting the lineup figured out.

It seems we are up to 16 (!) viable (?) candidates in the Republican lineup: that's a lot of clowns to pull out of one car to get onto one stage.

So Fox (Not) News decided on a rule: It will limit the prime debate to the top ten candidates polling the highest averaged from five national polls.  The Washington Post provides a current polling sample:

By this rule, Fox will give prime coverage to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry.

More seriously qualified candidates like Governors John Kasich and Bobby Jindal or Senators Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham will be set at the children's table and ignored until the dinner is over.  They have to sit there while Donald "Bankruptcy Court" Trump gets a seat at the big boy's table.

This seems a bit, you know, unfair to treat fellow Republicans like unwanted redheaded stepchildren...

...Now, if you're John Kasich's people, you have any number of arguments you can make. After all, you're only 0.2 percent below Perry in the average, and that's in a bunch of polls with margins of error north of 3 percent. In fact, you've done the same as Perry in every poll except the Quinnipiac one, where Perry got 3 percent to your 2 percent. That's the entire difference...
But should we include Donald Trump? His numbers come from appearances in just two polls, both from Fox News. Does doing well in two polls and not existing in three others count? By the time August rolls around, the field may be settled enough that this won't be as big a deal -- but it could be! With a field this big, pollsters spend a lot more money having their callers ask people to pick from a list of 20-odd names. But if you start leaving people out, that decides when and if they appear in a debate. And that's a big deal...

This is a vicious cycle: the candidates can only succeed if the media is willing to air their positions and show them what they bring to the issues.  But the media can't afford to showcase everyone equally, and the media (and the Party) have already established their favorites from within their insulated closed bubble.  A lot of the candidates polling high are only doing so because they've been mentioned in polls for so long and so often.  As a result a "serious" candidate can get ignored over an "unserious" candidate who just happens to be a friendly insider with the cable channel he/she shills for.

There has to be a fair and just method of establishing who gets to be on the big stage for the opening main debate.

I have a solution.  Bracket busting.

There are - officially and unofficially - sixteen Republican candidates for the 2016 Presidential run:
  1. Jeb Bush
  2. Scott Walker
  3. Marco Rubio
  4. Mike Huckabee
  5. Ted Cruz
  6. Rick Santorum
  7. Bobby Jindal
  8. John Kasich
  9. Ben Carson
  10. Rand Paul
  11. Chris Christie
  12. Rick Perry
  13. Lindsey Graham
  14. George Pataki
  15. Carly Fiorina
  16. Donald Trump
There may well be more candidates, and there are regional candidates - guys who filed within one state but not nationally - but let us be honest these are the major players on the field and it fits this proposal.

We will have Three Rounds of debates in one day.

First Round - Seeded Debate Candidate vs. Candidate

Starts in the morning one hour after a shared public breakfast by all candidates.  Hosting 40 minute debates with two candidates against each other, meaning eight debates.  Each question must take one minute to ask: each debater has three minutes to answer.  It should take 35 minutes (with 5 minutes allowed for overtime).  All debates will use the same questions, so each debate round has to be aired at the same time.  If we are doing this at a hotel with a large convention hall, separate meeting rooms of sufficient size are doable.  The network(s) showing the debates will have to determine ahead of time which seeded debates they'll take and share among them.

There will be five questions, verified by the Party leadership but not the candidates themselves.  An outside debate monitoring service - ToastMasters can sponsor! - will determine the questions do NOT favor one candidate over any others.  ToastMasters will also serve as referees to ensure there is no cheating, no physical contact outside of debate rules, and no improper use of blaming Obama or either Clinton as scapegoats (we are not about to let the debate slide early into fear-mongering).

There will be no bathroom breaks.

The debate lineups shall be based on a seeding method.  Number One debates Number Sixteen, Number Two debates Number Fifteen, etc.  The Five seed vs. Twelve seed should be awesome for an upset if this is anything like college basketball.

Determining the seed ranking shall be a formula derived from these key elements:
  • Previous/Current electoral experience
  • Level of electoral experience: Vice-President over Governor, Governor over Senator, Senator over Congressperson, Congressperson over non-elected Executive or Judicial, all that over State legislator/official, and lastly someone with no governmental experience at all.  In case of tie, current elective/nominated position ranks over former (meaning sitting Governor Scott Walker would rank over former Governor Jeb Bush, suck it Jeb)
  • Average polling rank determined by the top national polls

Using that as a formula, the First Round play-in seeding should look like this:
  1. Walker
  2. Jeb Bush
  3. Rubio (due to polling)
  4. Huckabee (ranks here due to polling over other current governors)  
  5. Christie
  6. Kasich 
  7. Graham (gets bonus points for the prolonged elective career)
  8. Jindal
  9. Perry
  10. Pataki
  11. Paul
  12. Cruz
  13. Santorum
  14. Carson
  15. Trump
  16. Fiorina
...Holy shit.  I might actually want to watch these matchups.

First Round Republican 2016 Debate
1. Walker
2. Bush
3. Rubio
4. Huckabee
5. Christie
6. Kasich
7. Graham
8. Jindal
16. Fiorina
15. Trump
14. Carson
13. Santorum
12. Cruz
11. Paul
10. Pataki
9. Perry

The winners of each debate will be determined by a scoring system and graded both by: a team of three randomly selected judges provided by Fox (Not) News, the National Debate and Speech Association (I would want Toast Masters to be impartial organizers), the National Review, and CSPAN; as well the viewing audience in-person using those remote dial-turner thingees.  The audience cannot include any persons working for any of the campaigns or the Republican Party itself: no cheating to either inflate a debater's score or sabotage the next rounds.

The eight winners will move on to:

Second Round - Open Stage Debate

This happens in the afternoon one hour after private lunches at any of the sponsored restaurants in the area.

This will be an open stage with eight podiums.  Placement at the podiums - radiating outward from the center - will be determined by drawing lots supervised by ToastMasters and one randomly selected worker from the convention center/hotel.  The worker's identity will be hidden by luchador mask.

The debate will have one candidate asking to the rest of the floor one question that should be no more than one minute to ask.  The question can be on any topic (including, yes, bashing Obama or both Clintons), as long as the debate monitors are comfortable the question does not violate common decency/community standards.  Each candidate must answer the question going along the right (their perspective) and cannot be interrupted.  Any other candidate interrupting during the answer will be removed from the floor and not allowed to return.  The questioner can reply to any request to clarify the question.  The first one to ask will be the candidate standing to the farthest right podium (their perspective), and will round to the candidate on the right to ask next (from the left back over to right).

Each answer should not take longer than three minutes to give.  Anyone going over the three-minute limit will received negative grading as determined by the clock: the longer he/she goes over, the more points deducted.  A light system at the judge's table (ToastMasters shall provide and maintain) will warn the candidates if they are close to the limit and when they go over.  This round should not take more than 3.5 hours (I think).

Water will be provided at the podiums.

There will be no bathroom breaks.

The scoring shall be done by five judges: one from Fox (Not) News, one from National Review, one from CSPAN, one from the NDSA, and one from the audiences at the previous round.  The judges shall be pulled from each group by drawing of lots overseen by ToastMasters and the staffer in the luchador mask.  The audience member will be pulled by door-prize ticket number, also overseen by ToastMasters and the luchador.

The judges shall score using standard grading methods for debates.

The top four grades shall move on to the next round.

Third Round - Thunderdome

Four candidates enter, one candidate leaves.

Various weapons shall be provided within the steel cage at various spots hanging above.  Their lethality shall be limited to ensure no bystanders can be killed.  Each candidate will be harnessed to bungee cords to allow them freedom of movement up and down as well as on the ground.  No weapons from outside the Thunderdome will be allowed inside.  All other debate rules should apply.

The Thunderdome will be scheduled before dinner, to reduce the risk of upset stomachs interfering with the round.  Also to keep the candidates hungry and focused.

There will be no bathroom breaks.

The four candidates fight to the death.  Time is open until finished.  Last one standing receives immediate medical attention to ensure that candidate survives his/her wounds.  The dynamics of a four-way fight would be interesting to watch.

This has the advantage of ensuring our next Republican candidate is not some chickenhawk cheerleading for kills on the sidelines: the next GOP bomb-em-all I'm-for-the-death-penalty-yeeha hawk will certainly have blood on his/her own hands.  This also helps weed out candidates from the next round of debates.

As long as all sixteen possible candidates sign off on this, I think this is a doable option.

(with many thanks to Jonathan Swift)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Predicting Character: The Emptiness of Jindal

It's gotten to where you can tell a Republican is going to announce he will attempt a Presidential campaign run by how shameless and hypocritical he gets in pandering to the religious Far Right.

Example: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued an Executive Order for his state allowing (read: encouraging) anti-gay discrimination:

Jindal’s executive order is notable for two reasons. First, the Louisiana governor is clearly considering a run at the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Over the last few years, Republican strategists, pundits, and young ’uns have been telling us that this time around, the GOP would take a tolerant turn on gay rights. But like Jeb Bush, Jindal is doubling down on LGBTQ issues, zigging hard to the right even as the rest of the country zags further to the left. As the New York Times’ Ross Douthat admitted a while ago, the conservative endgame on marriage equality at this point is to guarantee anti-gay holdouts the legal right to demean same-sex couples and their families. Jindal, like Bush, appears to be more interested in pandering to this shrinking minority than appealing to the supermajority of Americans who support equality. (note: I wouldn't call it a supermajority but it's a clear and growing one)

The pandering part is easy to spot.  The hypocrisy part requires context:

Second, Jindal has been a vituperative critic of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, especially his order deferring deportation for many undocumented immigrants. In a press release, Jindal castigated Obama for “bypassing Congress” and “ignoring the American people,” slamming the order as “an arrogant, cynical political move.” Jindal seemed to be keenly concerned that Obama imposed his policy preference by executive fiat rather than allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to have their say. Now, though, the people’s representatives have firmly rejected Jindal’s bill—and rather than persuading the legislature to reconsider the measure, Jindal has simply imposed it by executive decree.
Only a painfully gullible naïf could be surprised to see a Republican eagerly aping Obama’s methods of governance while simultaneously denouncing the president’s maneuvers. Even as Mitt Romney condemned Obama’s executive orders in 2012, he planned a sweeping slew of his own. And Jeb Bush, who scores points on the campaign trail by lambasting Obama’s executive overreach, would enthusiastically issue his own favored executive orders in the early days of his presidency...


One can question if this was an impulsive move or a calculated one, but the end result is an obvious move by Jindal to keep his anti-gay bona fides fresh in the minds of primary voters for 2016.

It didn't have to be this way.  When Jindal won his governorship in Louisiana back in 2009, he was one of the bright smart shining stars of a GOP that had ruined its reputation over bad leadership and growing disdain for genuine deep thinkers.  He showed up on the stage warning the Republicans to "stop being the stupid party."  But then he turned right around and became a perfect example of what a person looks like after having a brain fart.

What happened?  The best argument to make is that Jindal's ambition got the better of him.  He saw the Republican Establishment at the national level insisting on a pure "tax-cut, school-cut, kill healthcare reform" agenda and sold his soul over it.  If we look at the Washington Post article on him from 2013:

...On Monday he dropped his tax reform plan that would have replaced income taxes with higher sales taxes, acknowledging a widespread backlash from the public, religious groups, business and state lawmakers in his own party. "It certainly wasn't the reaction I was hoping for," Jindal said...

There's Jindal offering himself up to the anti-tax Club for Greed crowd that pushes against a progressive income tax system in favor of a regressive sales tax system.

...Deep budget cuts, particularly to health care and education spending, have been unpopular. Polling suggests that a small majority also opposes the vouchers at the heart of his educational reform plan, which a judge has deemed unconstitutional...

The education spending in 2013 was just the tip of the iceberg: in 2015 Jindal is pushing for a major slash of spending for state universities to the point where Louisiana State - home of the LSU Tigers and a key SEC powerhouse - may well lose 82 percent of its funding and could well close its doors (has a major public university of its size ever close before?!).  There would certainly be a revolt by students and (surviving) faculty over the horrific decline of the school's accredited value.  And there's the fealty Jindal has again to the tax-cutter elites: he dare not consider bigger revenue hikes to help the educational system recover or right itself.

The voucher part of that paragraph refers to the ongoing Far Right obsession over "choice" in schools by giving parents the money to send their kids to schools they prefer (including private religious schools that won't answer to state regulations).  They're not really very popular with the parents to begin with, and the courts keep noting how unconstitutional they are.  But the wingnuts insist because it plays to two of their desires: the desire to scam more money out of the public funds, and the desire to have kids sent to private religious schools that would teach God, Creationism, and Fear instead of History, Science and Math.

It's telling how Jindal bends to the whim and will of his corporate and church overlords.  He does not seem to respond to the cries of the public, sticking to a script of "this is what's best for you, take it and shut up" and moving on to the next event that would keep his national profile afloat.  And he's getting to the point where his inflexible positioning over empty ideology has alienated his own party in the state.

If I have to chart out Jindal's positives and negatives and guess (ha) at his Character trait, it'd look like this:

Bobby Jindal - Governor, Louisiana
Positives: Has been able to win election as governor twice, so he knows how to campaign.  His background - Rhodes Scholar - clearly shows someone who had a functioning sober brain, which ought to put him one up on half the contested field.  His presence as a non-white on the debate platform eases the GOP's need to present themselves as "diverse" and not a bunch of old greedy sexist white guys.
Negatives: One of the blandest visible figures trying to run since 2009.  Can be flatter than drywall.  Early attempts to make himself the GOP's answer to Obama - a well-educated ethnic - were disasters. Flips-flops not over policies - he's been consistently conservative - but over marketing and public stances.  Jindal may be an intellectual but he betrays intelligence as a virtue every time he panders to the ignorance of the Far Right.  His actual record running Louisiana is terrible: he succeeded in pissing off a well-respected conservative pundit from the state, and that takes doing.
Chances: Doesn't look that good to begin with.  His popularity numbers are one of the lowest among sitting governors.  His pandering to religious issues does not separate him from the likes of Huckabee or Cruz, who both have a head start and better ground beneath them.
Character Chart: I keep coming back to how the Republican party itself leans so far over to Active-Negative behaviors - rigid Uncompromising attitudes above all - that every Republican candidate is pretty much going to fulfill that character.  On Jindal's specific woes, he's much like Huckabee in terms of a rigid social-religious ideology, but he also carries with him a hard-line economic mindset that would break the federal budget in the worst ways.  His record as Governor - alienating, uncompromising, stuck on broken issues - is proof of that.

It's also painful to note that just as our nation's population is drifting away from church and Christianity - the polls are showing downturns in attendance and affiliation - the Republicans are acting more desperate to pander to the hard-core religious types whose inflexible dogmas and insisting of shoving Religion into everyone's private lives are driving people away in the first place.

We see the likes of Jindal here pandering over discriminating gays at all costs,  We had Jeb Bush as Governor pandering to the pro-fetus crowd over Terri Schiavo (which wasn't a pro-life fight as it was a quality-of-life, which a majority of sane people recognized).  And Huckabee, the worst of these false Judges of us.  We've got a Far Right Purity Purge wrapped around God And Guns (and Tax Cuts) pursuing a platform unpopular with most voters but still unpunished for doing so because our rigged electoral system keeps them safe...

Yeah, I know, I'm ranting.  I'd best leave off with this little tidbit for Jindal to chew on if he ever sees this:

Matthew 23:23: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Put that on your gay wedding cake and eat it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Conservative Cavalcade of Candidates Creates Clown Car Certainty

...took me about 23 seconds to get all the words figured out.

I'm not the only one accused of hit and run oops that's just like Crosstown Traffic, but I digress keeping track of the candidates lining up just to get down for 2016.  David Graham over at the Atlantic site is keeping a running update, and he's been getting busier by the day.

Late May and early June are shaping up to be peak periods for presidential announcements. On Monday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal formed an exploratory committee with plans to make a final decision in June and Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, said he would start his campaign on June 1. Former New York Governor George Pataki announced last week he would announce his decision on May 28, followed by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley two days later.

While the Democratic additions will bulk up that party's options along with Hillary and Bernie Sanders, the Republican field is getting more crowded by comparison.  Jindal and Graham are not the only ones: Ohio Governor John Kasich is mentioned looking into things, Santorum is trying to make things official "polling" his twelve followers on a blog if he should run or not, Scott Walker hasn't made it official, nor has Jeb Bush oddly enough, while Chris Christie is probably going to wait for the BridgeGate stuff to quiet down a little before jumping in.

It seems there may be oddities in the election laws that allow certain persons to announce early while others have to wait.  Given the nature of the Republicans being the opposition party, we're bound to see a lot of wannabes line up by the end of June just for the attention-grabbing alone.  The ones who even delude themselves into thinking they've got a shot will keep it serious enough well into January to say Far Right nuttery things - dear God, Rubio just imploded over Iraq two seconds ago - to keep us moderately sane American horrified.

In the meanwhile, if you keep an eye on David Graham's blog page at the Atlantic, you'll be appraised of the crazy lineup with his own pithy takes before I can usually get a blog write-up done here.

Now, I gotta go to bed.  G'night all and for the LOVE OF GOD DO NOT VOTE REPUBLICAN.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This Involves Rick "No Ethics" Scott Again, So This Entry Is DEFINITELY Not Safe For Work

Yup, this will involved curse words.  Hide the llamas.

Over on Balloon Juice, they call it Peak Wingnut.  The belief - long since disproved - that at some point the mass delusional conspiratorial rumor-mongering of the Far Right would be so over-the-top that everyone and their grandparents would completely dismiss it and the Far Right would be discredited forever and barred from polite society.  You may notice we've yet to reach Peak Wingnut and probably never will (if Hillary wins in 2016, it will only change from racial nuttery to gender nuttery).

Considering what we've got as governor of the state of Florida, I prefer to call it Peak Asshole.  And we've yet to reach that as well.

Even after Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott went to the federal government to beg for Medicaid money - just not Obamacare Medicaid Expansion, because God forbid we get anything with Obama's cooties on it - and getting his sorry hide dismissed for refusing the obvious, we're still getting the stupid out of him as well as the lack of accountability.

Scott has just sent out a letter to the state agencies regarding the budget impasse within the Florida Legislature, and informed those agencies to start planning for the possibility of a full-bore state shutdown.  Per the Tampa Bay Times:

...Scott put agency heads on notice, giving them until 5 p.m. next Monday to identify services that must continue when the fiscal year ends at midnight June 30 and, in the absence of a budget, agencies could not spend money and state employees would not be paid.
In letters to agencies, Scott laid the blame for a potential shutdown on the Senate...

Okay, I gotta interrupt here.  THE SENATE WANTS TO PASS A BUDGET.  Blaming the shutdown on them when it's THE HOUSE THAT SPLIT TOWN THREE DAYS EARLY LIKE LAZY BASTARDS is the height of hypocrisy and blame-gaming.

Back to the report:

"It is possible that Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and the Florida Senate will not agree to any budget without the specific expansion of Medicaid (at a cost to state taxpayers of $5 billion over 10 years)," Scott wrote. "Therefore, we are requesting your agency prepare a list of critical state services our citizens cannot lose in the event Florida is forced into a government shutdown on July 1st."

Scott is making it clear that any budget with federal Medicaid expansion money is unacceptable to him.  His allies in the state House will most likely deny any compromise attempt.

By sounding the alarm of a shutdown, Scott may be trying to rally Floridians to support the view he shares with the House that a debate on health care must take a back seat to a more urgent matter of passing a budget.

Bullshit.  Health care is part of the budget itself.  It HAS to be part of the budget.  Take away any provision of health care funding and we will see hospitals and nursing homes close their doors.

But Scott could also be seen as calling out his fellow Republicans for behaving irresponsibly. Talk of a shutdown could heighten a public sense of dysfunction in a state government controlled by Republicans at all levels.

Dear Rick "Asshole" Scott:  It takes two to have an argument.  Blaming the Senate for YOUR intractable irresponsibility is denial of the worst kind.

Scott's hardball tactics Thursday cost him support from one of his few staunch Senate supporters, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
"I have great respect and admiration for the governor," Latvala said. "But I think it's unfortunate that they're taking this approach in trying to solve the situation between the House and Senate. Raising the specter of a government shutdown is not necessary at this point, and it's meant to put political pressure on the Senate… It's hard for him to be a broker for a solution when he takes one side like this."

I doubt Scott has any friends left in the Senate, the way he's been using them as a scapegoat for his political ambitions and short-sighted betrayals.

Part of me still thinks this whole thing is kabuki, that Scott is just playing the part of an Obamacare Refusnik down to the last minute so that he can play the martyr when a deal gets made including the much-needed Medicaid money.  On the other hand, the Republican Party has become so radicalized over constant campaigning to the far right that Scott may well fear any deal would hurt his 2018 Senate hopes.  There's still that factor from the federal shutdown I noted before, how the Far Right are convinced that the "doom-and-gloom" over a budget impasse / default is all a librul myth, and that if they stick to their guns they'll get the "small government" they've always hoped for.

I am extremely pissed off.  I would love to see Rick "Not My Fault, Screw Everyone Else" Scott get burned over this.  I would love to see the whole state FINALLY fucking wake up to the horrors of one-party Far-Right-Wingnut rule.  I would love to win one of the state lotto tickets before the whole thing gets shut down.  Unfortunately, I know my luck's not that good.  I know we're screwed as a state.  Barring outright arrest warrants issued for Scott by any of the various judges calling on his sorry ass to answer to the law, we're stuck with this crook for another three years.

Insert more curse words here if you like.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Predicting Character: The Hubris of Huckabee

Just to mention, the inevitable jumping-in of Mike Huckabee into the GOP primaries happened.  Inevitable in that he'd been making the rounds at the key states, making noises about starting up funding efforts, making wildly inaccurate accusations about the godless heathens dancing to Beyonce.

He's been mentioned on this blog several times before.  And on several occasions I've made the observation that among the social conservative wingnuts running for the highest office - the likes of Santorum, Cruz, Palin, others - Huckabee is the one that can be the most credible threat to win the nomination.

He made a serious run in 2008 that got him in third behind McCain and Romney, and Huckabee did a serious job weakening Romney's standing among the Far Right religious voters.

That he didn't run against Mitt in 2012 was a slight surprise: against the faux purity of plastic ideology that Romney offered, Huckabee was a genuine Bible-thumping wingnut that the GOP wingnut crowd could back.  The thing is, Huckabee may buy into religious dogma but he's not completely blinded by political ideology: he could see the political landscape in 2012 still favored Obama, and likely didn't want to ruin his reputation on a doomed effort.  Still, he was the one who polled well enough against Obama to have been a real chance for the Republicans to take the White House then.

Why I need to re-address my views on Huckabee now, since I've already got my appraisals from 2008 and 2012 to verify how he'll do for 2016, is that this time I'm also looking at previewing / predicting the Character traits that Huckabee likely brings with him.  Using Professor Barber's system of uncovering the candidate's world-view, I hope to establish just how much of an Active-Negative Huckabee could be sitting in the Oval Office.

Pulling back up the brief preview I wrote earlier this year from his appearance at the Iowa Suck-Up Extravaganza:

Mike Huckabee - Governor, Arkansas
Positives: Populist political figure from a strongly conservative political region (Southeast).  Can govern.  Knows how to campaign in a Congenial style.  Remained a well-known figure on the national stage - by being on Fox Not-News as a pundit - after his failed primary campaigning in 2008.  He polled well as a possible candidate in 2012 (and showed enough awareness to tell it wasn't going to be a good election cycle for Republicans and stayed out of it).  Has legitimate religious conservative cred (ordained Baptist minister).  Can not only pander to the Tea Party base, he can do so without looking like it.
Negatives: Not exactly trusted by the anti-tax crowds still dominant in the backrooms of the GOP leadership (which is ridiculous as GOP dogma is too firmly obsessed with tax-cutting for anyone to violate that rule).  Has been away from elected office long enough for people to forget any good stuff he'd done as governor.  His time as a fear-monger on Fox Not-News will turn away moderate voters.  His early campaigning comments - going after "family values" issues and insulting Beyonce (?!) - are not exactly endearing him to any younger voters.  And that's not even going into legitimate scandals - granting clemencies to violent offenders who promptly killed (again), a son who killed a stray dog under obscure circumstances - that can become millstones in a national campaign.  Worst of all, Huckabee's advocacy of his religious beliefs - his failure to even respect the No Religious Test requirement IN THE CONSTITUTION ITSELF - threatens the sanctity of Separation of Church and State.
Chances: While he won't get the deep-pocket backers the way Jeb Bush (or even Mitt if Romney decides to make one more try) will, Huckabee has a high chance to use his charm and campaign skills to make a serious go at the nomination.
Character Chart: I stated earlier how the Republican Party is dominated by Active-Negatives and has an Active-Negative platform, yet needs a Passive-Positive candidate to appeal to regular voters.  Huckabee can present himself as a Passive-Positive better than any other candidate... but he's so Active-Negative with his strict religious convictions that he'll likely lean that way.

There are different ways a President can be an Active-Negative, but the one trait that type shares is the "I Must" mindset of a hidebound ideology.  As in, "I must do this thing because it is the only way to do it and I am the only one who knows how."  This is the Uncompromising trait that Barber wrote about in his studies on Presidential Character.  Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Wilson, Hoover, Andrew Jackson... each of them with different world-view backgrounds yet focused on the same unbending agendas.  Where LBJ's Uncompromising habit came from his need to succeed as the best, where Nixon's came from his need to prove himself in crisis, where Hoover's came from the unbending logic of an engineer, they all ended up in the same place: inflexibility regarding policy solutions that ended in disasters.

Of the previous Active-Negatives, Huckabee shares most with Woodrow Wilson, the Idealist among Presidents.  Wilson's idealism was a self-assured righteousness, not of faith but of politics.  It was that idealism that drove much of his progressive agenda but also led to pushing too hard for a peace platform in the wake of World War I that ended up isolating the United States in the worst possible way (not to mention various civil liberties violations like the Palmer Raids).

Huckabee's idealism is tied directly to his Christian faith.  Unlike most of the other Republican candidates, Huckabee is not a hardened fiscal conservative (although he'll sign any tax cut bill a GOP Congress will send to his desk) that the Establishment types would prefer.  He seems to genuinely come from the wing of the GOP that takes churching and proselytizing serious.  From the Washington Monthly article by Steven Waldman:

...I met Huckabee in the 2000s when I was running a multifaith religion website called Beliefnet. Huckabee was making the rounds promoting his efforts to encourage healthy eating. He was charming, reasonable, smart, and funny—conservative, to be sure, but empathetic and appealing. During his underfinanced campaign in 2008, he proved himself to be a far better candidate than John McCain. In a party that’s forever searching for the next Ronald Reagan, he’s the closest to the Gipper in temperament than anyone else out there...
...He could have energized religious conservatives while seeming hopeful to the rest of the population...

I know that Waldman's comparing Huckabee to Reagan should be a sign that Huckabee could well be a Passive-Positive - indeed, the one character type that could appeal to a broad range of voters at a time when all we have running are Active-Negatives - but then Waldman notes how Huckabee went and sold his soul:

Then he got a Fox News TV show. He evolved into an uninteresting, standard-issue religious-right pundit. He repeatedly said that Obama grew up in Kenya. He defended Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin. He champions David Barton, who argues that the Founding Fathers did not believe in separation of church and state. He even mocks Michelle Obama’s healthy-eating efforts, even though being the Biggest Loser (in terms of pounds, not votes) was his claim to fame once upon a time...

It's not so much that Huckabee went and re-branded himself as a Huckster.  It's that Huckabee saw an opportunity to make money and still stand on his reputation as a Moral-Majority Republican.  It's kind of a horrifying thought: that he not only got to sell snake-oil as a fear-mongerer, he somehow got to keep his self-image of a true believer whenever he looked himself in a mirror: the worst of both worlds.

Thing is, Huckabee didn't sell much of himself to Fox Not-News.  He had always been that fervent a "religious-right pundit".  Defending Barton - fake historian - over the issue of Separation of Church And State wasn't a new thing: Huckabee spoke against the precedents of Separation of Church and State years ago.  To the flashback machine of my blog:

...Please note sir, that your definition of what God is and what God wants, as a Baptist, is going to be different from even your fellow Christians, be they Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Calvinist, Reform, etc.
Please note Mr. Huckabee that your desire to rewrite the Constitution to reflect *your* point-of-view on God's Will, and it's only *your* will by the by, is going to scare the crap out of every other person who doesn't preach and pray to God the same way you do.  (add-on: and that includes fellow Christians)
Sir, you may be preaching thinking that you want to convert this nation from its seemingly godless ways, but rest assured we Americans are more driven by our faith and our acceptance of God moreso than any other Western nation. There is no need to make the Secular Law of the Land to mirror the Law of Faith. If you do, if you persist, you're going to find more people bickering and arguing over the Law of Faith the same as they bicker and argue over the Secular Law...

Huckabee hasn't changed since 2008.  The only thing's that changed is that Huckabee is more rigid in his denouncements of the "liberal" godlessness threatening Christians.  His claim that gay marriage will "criminalize Christianity" is just one big proof of how his fear-mongering has moved from being a smiley happy preacher to a dark doom-and-gloom judge of us all.

If we go into a more detailed biography - there are several in print, but one from the New Yorker in 2010 may help best - we can see the Uncompromising religious idealism of the man:

When Mike Huckabee was born, in 1955, the mores and values of Christianity seemed indistinguishable from the mores and values of the country. Growing up, Huckabee assumed that everyone was Christian, and in Hope, Arkansas—which is also Bill Clinton’s home town, though the two politicians did not become acquainted until adulthood—he was not far off. His family was not deeply religious, but his mother, Mae, took Huckabee and his sister to Sunday school every week, where the preacher would “literally scare the hell” out of him. “I grew up in a culture where everybody went to church but nobody took it that seriously,” Huckabee told me one afternoon a few months ago, drinking tea on the sunporch of his house in North Little Rock...
...When Huckabee was fifteen, he encountered an alternative. A young couple in his neighborhood offered Bible study at their home on Wednesday nights, and these meetings changed the way he saw his place in the universe. “For them, Christianity was not a cultural expression—it was a personal relationship with God,” he said. “It wasn’t about behavior.” He was attracted to the intimacy and depth of this vision, and to the couple’s emphasis on love rather than fear. "Evangelical essentially means people who have a belief in the authority and veracity of the Bible,” Huckabee said, “but who also believe that the Bible is about good news..."
...In some ways, Huckabee seems like a promising candidate for 2012: a squeaky-clean family man and bona-fide Christian who loves to talk. His communication is folksy but fluid; he never seems flummoxed, like George W. Bush, or befuddled, like John McCain, or unprepared, like Sarah Palin. “If we’re running a race against their most articulate guy,” Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s former campaign manager, told me, referring to President Obama, “we should put our most articulate guy. Huckabee’s that guy...”

This was in 2010.  Other than the change in messaging from hope and love to "war on faith" fear-mongering, there remains the constant of Huckabee's religious convictions.  It may not be a "fundamentalist" form of faith, but it's still an "evangelical" absolutism that few other Republicans can even fake.

It's that religious absolutism that made Huckabee free a lot of state prisoners who found out quick that professing conversion to faith as a quick ticket to paroles.  It's that same religious absolutism that will make him reject the growing public consensus that gay marriage is not a threat to heteros.  It's that religious absolutism that has convinced him that there should be Religious Tests and religious-based laws governing the nation, despite the Constitution and the proof of history that such laws were dangerous.  

Huckabee may have as a personality the Congeniality skills that makes him likable, and approachable among the lower-class citizenry that the other Republican candidates can't abide.  But he's an Idealist who won't bend on matters of personal faith that will dictate his public actions that will affect the rest of us.  That puts him in the Active-Negative category as much as the con artists making up the tax-cut pro-business Establishment candidates facing him in the primaries.

He's simply not a sane alternative to the likes of Cruz or Walker or Jeb or Rubio or any of the others.  In some ways he's worse: he's driven by a belief in God that isn't humble or accepting, it's demanding and inflexible.  It borders on hubris, a form of excessive pride that puts a man above others, making himself a god.  Huckabee may think of himself as God's messenger, but he's not: he's his own.  Hence the hubris, hence the pride.

And the Bible is pretty strict about what pride brings about.  Proverbs 16:18.