Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year In Review of Funny Pictures

I mess about on ICanHasCheezburger, okay?

These are the best ones I made for 2012.

Some were political.

Some were funny.

Some were inspired.

And of course, the best one I made all year:

See you all in 2013!  I gots more planned then.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What Romney Didn't Want: A View Into Presidential Character

I've wanted to write for a long time about the Presidential Character.  And the recent revelations about Mitt Romney's failed 2012 campaign is a good time to do it.

When I'm talking Presidential Character, I'm looking at the definitions created by political scientist James David Barber who developed the four types of Character based on Active/Passive and Positive/Negative traits: Active-Positive, Active-Negative, Passive-Positive, and Passive-Negative.

As a good example, look to the first four Presidents:
George Washington was, believe it or not, Passive-Negative.  P-Ns only become Presidents because of a sense of duty, not any desire for the office.  They're wary of executive power, and not thrilled with political negotiating.
John Adams was Active-Negative.  A-Ns are aggressive, uncompromising, unhappy both personally and professionally, but do relish a good amount of executive authority and do seek accomplishments to fulfill.
Thomas Jefferson was Active-Positive.  Optimistic, forward-thinking, capable of overreach, reveling in the ceremonial aspects of the Presidency, A-Ps are just as aggressive as A-Ns but more capable of compromise and reaching goals.
James Madison was Passive-Positive.  P-Ps are optimistic and friendly, but unfocused, more akin to being a caretaker letting the People's Business do its own thing.  Things can happen during their tenure but more often the Passive-Positive President is not leading the charge.

There is no bad precedent: Negative or Passive are not bad traits per se.  It all depends on the timing:  Washington was perfect as a Passive-Negative because as the first President under the Constitution it was up to him to define the limits and powers of the office.  By being that self-controlling, he stabilized government and gave it time to settle down.  An Active-Positive at that time could have led to chaos and constant in-fighting against the Congress: an Active-Negative could have made himself dictator out frustration.  On the other hand, Madison as Passive-Positive happened at a bad time: the War of 1812 happened under his watch, something an Active-Negative could have avoided, or an Active-Positive could have managed to greater success.  Passive-Positives could be successful during tenures of great upheaval: sometimes through luck, but most times because such passivity actually makes them flexible and capable of making sound deals with Congress or foreign nations. To that, look at Ronald Reagan: He campaigned as a radical anti-government conservative but in office his P-P nature made him amenable to government's effectiveness, which lead him to revoke his anti-tax stances and eventually pursue ground-breaking treaties with the Soviet Union.

That said, Active-Negatives tend to be very bad for the nation over the long haul: SEE Hoover, Herbert; Johnson, Lyndon B.; Nixon, Richard; Cheney, Dick (I would contend that Dubya himself was a Passive-Positive, allowing an Active-Negative like his Veep Cheney far too much power in his administration).

So what does this all have to do with Mitt Romney, the Man Who Will Never Be President?

Because his circle of insiders - his son Tagg, for example - are now claiming after his 2012 election debacle that Mitt Romney never wanted to be President anyway.

At first glance this looks, walks, and quacks like a case of Sour Grapes: he lost something of "value", so now they're claiming he never wanted it.  But the more you look at it, the more you see how this can fit into the Presidential Character grid that Barber devised.

I wanted to write about Romney's character - or lack of one - a few months back when I wanted to discuss this Presidential Character idea then.  I wanted to point out that Romney's constant flip-flopping on the issues made it impossible to determine just where on the charts he fit.  But then I realized he had a constant - his ever-fixed mark of the massive tax cut - and realized Mitt fit on the chart after all.

Mitt Romney, if he had won the Presidency, was going to be a Passive-Negative.

To refer back to Charles Pierce's Esquire article:

Willard Romney didn't want to be president. Willard Romney expected to be president, and that was his real undoing...
It has been years, probably, since Willard had to go to all the emotional fuss and bother of actually wanting something. If there was something that caught his eye -- a slow-moving company's fat pension fund, a nice house in La Jolla, the governor's office in Massachusetts -- there would be a deal to be struck and whatever it was that should be his would be his. This is not a man who tolerates disappointment well, not because he burns with ambition and avarice -- although he profited for years from very effective simulacrums of ambition and avarice --but, rather, because he rarely has experienced disappointment in his life. He does not want. He expects.

That fits the P-N psyche pretty well.  Passive-Negatives run out of a sense of duty or obligation.  For Romney, it has to do with the legacy of being George Romney's son: his father was an active political figure, running for all the right reasons (George Romney fit well to the Active-Positive if only he had bested Nixon in 1968).  It has to do with Romney being a major political figure within the Mormon church, an Americanized religious off-shoot of Christianity still looking for a President to validate the church's success.

The big difference keeping Mitt from qualifying for Active-Negative was all of Mitt's flip-flopping.  A-Ns, if anything, do have a core set of values outside of political ambitions: even Nixon for all his paranoia and loathing had his limits.  Romney's lack of core values - he honestly did not care one whit about abortion, or war, or poverty, or employment, or governance, or people in general - made him oh so very Passive in that regard.
(And at least Passive-Positives are well-liked.  Passive-Negatives?  Unless you're George Washington or Ike, who both earned respect enough to be liked, you're sh-t out of luck).

And what would that have meant?

Think George W. Bush's passive nature in office: he kow-towed to the "experts" in his administration, especially Cheney who quickly pushed his own secret agendas on the nation's energy policies, the nation's economic policies, and then the nation's war policies when 9/11 happened.  But at least against that, Dubya still had some semblance of leadership: he showed pragmatic concern for the GOP to pursue a moderate immigration policy (the Far Right refused), and he pushed for tolerance for Muslims and other faiths at a time the neocon's obsession with waging holy war in the Middle East led to a lot of bad feelings among the Far Right.  And at least during his first two years, before Cheney sunk his hooks further in, Dubya allowed more sensible figures in his Cabinet (Powell at State, O'Neill at Treasury) to craft policy.  Look to Powell's (and Condi Rice's) handling of the Spy Plane incident with China.

Mitt Romney would have filled his administration with the pushiest, meanest set of political hacks - hello, neocons - that dotted the edges of the Dubya administration.  He would have had to: the Far Right in the Republican Party would have insisted on their due, and Romney would accept it because Romney wouldn't have cared who was in charge at State or Defense or anywhere else in his Cabinet.

The Character of any President matters based on the times we as a nation are in.  We are still mired (2012) in a jobless recession requiring serious government intervention and jobs stimulus.  We are still mired in one ground war - Afghanistan - and still trying to clean up the messes of the other - Iraq - while at the same time juggling the political instability of the entire Middle East.  We're in the times where an Active-Positive President would be the most value.  Even an Active-Negative (as long as the Negativity was channeled elsewhere, say, resolving the professional hockey lockout) wouldn't be that damaging.  But a Passive-Negative?

Mitt Romney would have wrecked the United States.

In a way, it's a good thing Mitt really didn't want the Presidency.  He could have ended up being the first President to have been successfully impeached out of office (Nixon resigned, and both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton stayed in office).

P.S.  That said, how does Barack Obama rate on Presidential Character?

He fits the Active-Positive chart: the reason he lacks more success in an era that needs an A-P President is due to an obstructive Congress.

In the meantime, I seriously recommend James David Barber's text Presidental Character: Predicting Performance In the White House (4th Ed), 2008, ISBN 978-0205652594.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Io Saturnalia!

Tis the season to remember your Latin!  ...which means that I should write that as Satvrnalia: no U in the alphabet, and I am already substituting the I for J for the Jo part of Io Satvrnalia.  (label/tag will remain with the U because, well, modern Intertube traditions and all that).

This video is but a tourist-y Disney-fied version of Satvrnalia of course (the Romans were a bit more into the, ah, festive parts of festivities), but it's as best a representation of the holidays I can find.

So find a fellow Pagan and together tell Bill O'Reilly to STOP his War on Satvrnalia!  Io!  Io Satvrnalia!

Monday, December 24, 2012

How Went the Year 2012?


1) I'm still looking for full-time employment.  I have a contractual will-call job at least, which keeps me active and up-to-speed with the technological needs of my information-based profession.  I did get about six different libraries interviewing me - two of them with follow-up interviews! - which is a vast improvement to the number of interviews I had in 2011 (one) and 2010 (one).  And I still have an interview scheduled for this Friday, with one of the libraries that interviewed me with a follow-up, so I'm hopefully in good standing with them (fingers crossed for luck).

2) My guy got elected to President.  The Far Right's attempts to paint Obama as a "failure" and a "disaster" went nowhere.  And the one place at the federal level where the Far Right still holds any power - an unbalanced U.S. House - is one vote away from falling into chaos.

3) A lot of great genre movies - The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Wreck-It Ralph, Brave, Skyfall - this season.  I'd love to see all of them nominated like crazy for the Oscars this year... but noooooooo, it's all gonna be Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty instead.  Sigh.

4) Too many shootings.  And even now, there's reports that someone shot at firefighters responding to a New York state neighborhood fire with two firemen dead and two others wounded.

5) The Mayans did not doom us.  Which is kinda okay, because the real Mayans never wanted the apocalypse anyway: it was some crank Eurowhite guy trying to sell his books.

6) Breitbart's legacy - a website smear machine - is going through some rather public splits right about now.  Schadenfreude, thou art pretty tasty during the holidays...

How was the year for you?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypse Why

It's just to note that today is WELL PLAYED MAYANS DAY we've been worried about since, oh, the Mayans forgot to make a follow-up long form calendar for the one expiring today.

Personally, I only found out about today back when I was a huge fan of The X-Files (aka a Philer, and a 'Shipper to boot), when the Mayan Calendar date was a plot point to the series finale.  But before that I've borne witness to such end-times embarrassments as Y2K, Harmonic Convergence, the Jupiter Effect, and the Tampa Bay Bucs winning a Super Bowl.  Not to mention a constant stream of predicted Raptures and Armageddons by various religious leaders screeching about War, Plague, Anti-Christs and hangers-on.

Just to note, before I go any further, I do not blame Mayans (and yes, they are still around) for the hype and hoopla.  This is all from some New-Age crank selling books.  But that comes later...

Look at that end-time embarrassments list regarding Dates Predicted for Apocalyptic Events on Wiki, this is something stretching back to even before Christianity was a gleam in Mother Mary's eye.  And it's not even including the mythology of various pantheons - such as the Norse and their Ragnarok - spelling massive catastrophe for not only humanity but the Gods as well.  This seems to be a hard-wired element of the human psyche: the expectation that at any moment, especially a moment that higher powers decided to create clues for announcing such doom, the world will end.

So, the eternal question: Why?

This is an even bigger question considering the age we live in.  We have enough human history now, enough recorded moments and documented failures of apocalypse - I've lived through (from 1970 to now) what I count to be more than 40 (I gave up around 2006)! - that I'm just sitting here asking "Why are people still buying this sh-t?"

Making it worse is noticing how the SAME NAMES keep cropping up on the list of predictors: David Berg, Harold Camping, Pat Robertson, Ronald Weinland, even a psychic debunker like The Amazing Criswell made an End-Times prediction for FSM's sake.  You would think after getting the FIRST and what was supposed to be ONLY prediction of THE END wrong, nobody would let them come back and make even MORE predictions ("Okay, so last Friday didn't work out, but I guarantee JEBUS is gonna show up at Mardi Gras like three years from now and order some Hurricanes!").

Insert head-desking here.

Why?  Why are these guys still out there?  Why are they still allowed to spew predictions they've already proven they're not good at making?

It's not that I blame the First Amendment, the right they have to say whatever they believe as long as it doesn't incite to riot.  After all, these End-Time predictors are global (Japan, China, Uganda, etc) in places that don't have as much free-speech rights.  And there are a ton of First Amendment users who abide by the common-sense principles of not saying anything stupid that can come back to haunt them later.

What I blame are the con artists who found in religion a near-perfect scam.  Look at how nearly all of these seers of prophecy are religious leaders or spiritualists of some form.  All they gotta do is whip up some frenzy, get the True Believers thinking they and only they are special enough to survive the Wrath of God, and get them involved with money work and more money to get a cozy little life-style going (NOTE: I am not a huge fan of wealthy priests claiming to serve God while owning four-car-garage mansions.  Living the good life while supposedly helping the impoverished reeks of hypocrisy).

Thing is, these "religious leaders" have to give these Believers something to fear: the expiration date.  You gotta give 'em an End Time to actually be worried.  And so they offer up a date, something that fits well into the numerology of faith (the number of years since the birth of the Messiah, the numbers of the Beast, the anniversary of a significant event).  And now, you've got the attention of the faithful who'll make sure to advertise everyone's doom, safe and satisfied that the Good Lord spares the True Believers (SEE Rapture, The; something that caught on in American Christian theology in the 1830s).

And then the day comes and goes, and for some Godforsaken reason none of the True Believers seem to get really p-ssed off.  Oh sure, the "outsiders" aka the People Who Didn't Buy It For One Second may laugh their asses off, but they're not in much of a position to sue for emotional damages or anything.  If anyone's got to be angry at the likes of Ronald Weinland - a "pastor" who predicted TWO different End-Times in 2011 AND 2012, and is still ballsy enough to "amend" his deadline to 2013 now that we're 10 days away from that year - it ought to be the people who bought his Rapture story and got suckered.

Could it be the embarrassment of admitting you got suckered?  Could it be the Belief is strong enough to ignore the doubt of the failed seer?  In a sane world, anyone having predicted an End-Time that does not come about ought to be removed from the stage, mocked for all time, made to refund any moneys made from selling doomsday materials - Books!  Recordings!  Beach towels! - and forced to repair broken-down casino slot machines on Indian reservations as a reminder that the odds are not ever in their favor.

For myself, I've seen enough, read enough to know that the End of the World on a global scale is more in the realm of science, not Faith.  End Times on a personal matter such as a death in the family or that of a friend, that IS Faith, and one that ought to be a guiding point in each of our lives but in our own ways.  My End of the World isn't going to match yours, I know that.

And the question of why that is doesn't bother me at all.  Because in my worldview, God is not going to end the likes of us.  We're too good an audience to God's everyday delights.

And thus endth the sermon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wrong Kind of Anniversary... Again

It is now four years to the day since I lost my full-time job as a librarian.

I've found some part-time jobs here and there, and I currently have a contractual job with an IT vendor needing desktop support... but it's not a full-time, 40 hours a week, with benefits type of job.

This year (2012) saw a lot more interviews by libraries than I've had since 2008 - six separate libraries interviewing, two of them interviewed me twice - and one can hope that the coming year will see more opportunities and with any luck an actual hire.

But in the meantime... still job-hunting... still trying to get around my writer's block to see about getting something published and marketed... still...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Why The Mayans Are Not Dooming Us Friday 12/21/12

Here, straight from Xunantunich Belize near the center of all things Mayan, is your list of Top Ten Reasons the Mayans Are Not Dooming Us this Friday Dec. 21st, 2012!

10) The Mayans care not about ending the suffering of Detroit Lions/Cleveland Browns/L.A. Clippers/Toronto Maple Leafs/Houston Astros fans any time soon.

9) Mayans had nothing to do with Twinkies (tm) being no more.  Blame that on the corrupt CEOs at Hostess Inc who mismanaged the company into bankruptcy.

8) Mayans are still around.  If they had any sense regarding any prediction of apocalypse, they'd have fled the planet long ago in their ancient rocket ships

7) Misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar.  It's really a recipe sheet for the MOST INCREDIBLE BANANA NUT MUFFINS YOU WILL EVER HAVE IN YOUR LIFE!  ...what?

6) The Mayan calendar's power source has run down, that's all.  We need to replace it with a Baghdad battery.

5) Didn't anyone read the Terms and Conditions agreement in the bottom left-hand corner?  This thing hasn't been valid since Cortes voided the warranty.

4) Planet-destroying Aliens do not go by the Mayan calendar, they go by Stardate.  Duh.

3) The so-called Calendar is really a promotional poster for an ancient Mayan drama about a weather priest forced to live the same sacrificial day over and over and over again.  It was called "Lowland Paca Day"

2) It's just a BLEEPING calendar!  We can get some astronomers and chronal measurement professionals together and make a BLEEPING PC/Mac app for a new Mayan calendar starting on this Saturday!  C'mon people get working on that app!

And the Number One Reason The Mayans Are Not Dooming Us this Friday Dec. 21st, 2012:

1) Disney is making a new Star Wars movie.  Disney will not allow some f-cking catastrophe to end the world before even pre-production is finished.  Even the Mayans know not to f-ck with Disney.  They go after day care centers for God's sake.

(had to write this, because the madness of the other major news story right now is too rage-fueling for me to cope)

Friday, December 14, 2012

What the Second Amendment Has Become: A Death Note On Everybody

Update Below

The Second Amendment has gone from being an 18th century constitutional concern for well-regulated militias to basically a license in the 20th-21st centuries for individuals to go on goddamned shooting sprees.

We had a shooting spree earlier this week in Oregon at a shopping mall, during the busiest time of the year Christmas season (here's your War on Christmas, Mr. O'Reilly), with a gunman using a military-level semiautomatic rifle that was once banned during the Clinton years but allowed back on the market during the Bush the Lesser years.

And just right now, as I'm writing this, we're getting reports of a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, with 20-27 deaths reported, most of them KIDS.  There's a whole school a whole COMMUNITY of survivors now, traumatized, friends they just spoke to minutes before now dead...  It's said that childhood ends when you learn what death is... and these kids just learned death in the most horrifying way...

This is after a mass shooting in Aurora Colorado at a movie theater.  This is after year upon year of yet even more shootings in public places and gatherings, where most law-abiding non-gun-owning Americans would like to gather without fear of GETTING SHOT AT.

Every year, we've got a body count of gun-related deaths in this country equivalent to a goddamn civil war in some Third World nation.  As of 2009 (for statistics, it takes awhile to tally up numbers), the United States had 15,000+ homicides with 9,000+ caused by guns/firearms.  That's roughly 60 percent of violent deaths due to guns.

People kill people, you say?  True.  But it's also true that GUNS MAKE IT TOO GODDAMNED EASY.

Dear National Rifle Association:


We need gun control in this country.  We need laws restricting gun ownership, not making it easier.  We need to restrict ownership the same way we restrict car ownership, to make sure people are insured, licensed to use 'em, tested with exams to make sure there's no goddamn loose screws in their heads.  We need to restrict gun sales to ensure that gun sellers are NOT selling or passing on firearms to unqualified would-be buyers (Dear God, they're selling 'em online exactly BECAUSE online sales are unregulated.  NONE OF THEM CARE FOR SAFETY OF OTHERS, JUST THE GODDAMN SALE).

We need to establish ACCOUNTABILITY with guns much in the way we have accountability for car drivers, employees in high-risk industries, what have you.

We don't need civilian militias anymore.  The frontiers are closed.  The borders have guards now (even with the illegal immigrant issues, so shut up).  We have an organized permanent military (the Founders may have feared the threat of tyranny from such a thing, but for the most part the military traditions of answering to civilian rule have reduced that risk to nothing).  It doesn't take days to answer to a threat anymore, it takes minutes for law enforcement to respond.  The NEED to own guns has gone down as crime rates have gone down (violent crime in particular has dropped).  Just what the hell are you afraid of, gun nuts?  (answer: other gun nuts, usually)

It is time, it is WELL PAST TIME that we as a nation rewrite that Second Amendment, and make it damned clear that while gun ownership is possible it MUST BE REGULATED to ensure the safety and protection of ALL Americans, including the ones who DON'T OWN GUNS.

What's more important, National Rifle Association: an 8-year-old's life that could have become a doctor or a teacher or a parent or a President, or a goddamn lump of metal that has only one purpose - to kill?  Which do you worship more, you sons of bitches

Update: David Frum is angrier about it than I am:

A permissive gun regime is not the only reason that the United States suffers so many atrocities like the one in Connecticut. An inadequate mental health system is surely at least as important a part of the answer, as are half a dozen other factors arising from some of the deepest wellsprings of American culture.
Nor can anybody promise that more rational gun laws would prevent each and every mass murder in this country. Gun killings do occur even in countries that restrict guns with maximum severity.
But we can say that if the United States worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be many, many fewer atrocities like the one in Connecticut.

And I'll say: I'll accept no lectures about "sensitivity" on days of tragedy like today from people who work the other 364 days of the year against any attempt to prevent such tragedies.
It's bad enough to have a gun lobby. It's the last straw when that lobby also sets up itself as the civility police. It may not be politically possible to do anything about the prevalence of weapons of mass murder. But it damn well ought to be possible to complain about them - and about the people who condone them.
Fuck you, NRA.  Fuck you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Saturnalia Wish List of 2012 That Even Mayans Would Like

Heya!  Once again, every reader from Japan, Russia and elsewhere linking to this site for the "funny Iran military" pictures on that Iran Day Six article, as part of our effort in the WAR ON BILL O'REILLY'S CHRISTMAS we here at this blog celebrate the life-affirming pagan holiday known as Saturnalia! The day where fully expect the Mayans to show up even though their calendar ends on 12/21.  Okay Mayans, you're bringing the homemade brew and you know it!

Anywho. As part of tradition, I'm posting my wishlist to The Roman Lord of Time (hi there!) in the mad hopes that the pagan gods will once again after thousands of years notice us tiny insignificant lifeforms, and smite our enemies and grant us boons.

So here's the wish list!

1) A freaking full-time job.

2) No, seriously, a full-time job.  It's been 4 years since I lost my job as a librarian, I've been looking for anything related to my skill sets, only just recently getting a part-time on-call job working desktop support, but it's been hard as hell to find anything thanks to a Congress that refuses to do any kind of Jobs Stimulus package to encourage more hiring and boosting of the economy.  It's not the deficits or the debt that's the problem, you Beltway morans, it's the LACK OF JOBS!  THE LACK OF WAGES TO PAY FOR SH-T LIKE COLLEGE LOANS AND MORTGAGES AND KIDS' SCHOOLING AND HEALTH CARE!  /rage

3) 50,000 people buying my ebooks!  If I can't have a job, at least a boost of income from ebook sales...

4) Grover Norquist forced to watch as dreaded TAXES GO UP, and the universe failing to implode, demonstrating once and for all THAT HE'S AN IDIOT.

5) A nice stocking stuffer would be this GravityLight thingee someone's trying to market.  For $5 a pop, you get a light source off of an LED light (the wave of the future) by using simple mechanics (pulley/gears) to charge up the light.  No batteries, no outlets, no burning of carbon fuels like oil or coal, just human energy lifting the weight up and viola!  We live in amazing times.

6) Yo, Obama!  If you need a reference librarian to shelve books in the West Wing, CALL ME...

7) That the civil war ends in Syria as soon as possible with as little loss of life than has already been lost; that Egyptian democracy endures on the streets as peaceful protests end the threat of dictatorship and Islamist extremism; that Iranian politics give way to moderate leadership more keen on economic and social well-being for their citizenry than on aggressive nuclear baiting against the U.S.,

8) That the traffic I got on this blog during October and November (2000 to 3000 views!) keeps up and I get some honest-to-Mithras comments for a change...

9) That voter suppression efforts that the GOP tried to inflict on people this election cycle get blocked, banned, and richly denied in order to ensure ALL voters have their rights protected for all time,

10) That the upcoming series of movies in 2013 - Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3 - not suck.  Please o PLEASE SATURN LORD OF TIME, LET THESE MOVIES ROCK N ROLL...

There.  Oh, and again, make sure you forward any bills for your annual sacrificial bull get sent to Mr. O'Reilly care of Fox Not-News.  BWHAHAHAHAHA.

Enjoy the season!  ...and the countdown to the Mayan calendar continues...

Friday, December 07, 2012

Changing the Senate AND Changing the Veep

I mentioned earlier I had some ideas about fixing the Senate, especially when we consider how undemocratic that body of legislature is today.  What had been a balancing force between states and regional politics has altered into a logjam of political ideology, because the number of states have grown and the population difference between large states and small now unwieldy.

At the same time, I've had some issues regarding the Vice President, that it is for all intents an archaic office with only three functions: being the tie-breaking vote for the Senate (as President of the Senate), service as replacement/back-up to the sitting President, and of course protecting the space-time continuum.

So, like all mad scientists, I figure why not solve both problems with one solution?  (either that or create a giant monster, but for that I need a government grant)

First off, let's look at the office of the Veep: why does it exist, really?  Back in the beginning of the Constitution's formation, the Vice President was the second-place runner-up for the Presidency.  The Roman concept of co-consulships had appealed to the Founders, but they figured a true executive had to be in one person, so to the winner..  The consolation prize for getting second place was getting the President of the Senate, a body that was designed for even-number membership no matter what, meaning the need for a tie-breaker vote.  The Vice-Presidency was there to establish a chain of succession in case of emergency (which would get tested by 1841), and to grant the Senate body a slightly better rank of value over the House (and the Speaker of that body).

However, party formation f-cked that idea up by 1800.  The Founders didn't count on party factions trying to run on two-person tickets to secure both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, creating a major constitutional crisis that had to be fixed with the Twelfth Amendment.  Now, the runner-up didn't get the Senate tie-breaker seat: the President got a loadstone around his neck in the form of a Veep who had no constitutional office within his own administration while the Senate got someone who answered more to the White House than the Capitol.

The thing is, a Vice President isn't really needed.  In terms of creating a succession chain, the Twenty-Fifth Amendment already establishes the means of determining who can replace the President if death, illness, impeachment and/or criminal prosecution happens.  And it can be tweaked as needed (for example, there is an ongoing push to revamp the succession among Cabinet members to have more national-security type offices - such as the newest one Homeland Security - get priority over other Secretaries such as Education or Housing/Urban Development).  What IS needed even if a VP is no longer part of the Executive branch is a tie-breaking vote for the Senate.

What's also needed for the Senate is a means to counter the unbalanced power that the smaller populated states - such as Wyoming or Montana or Delaware - have over the larger populated states - California and Texas and New York et al.  A handful of senators from enough small states can thwart the political will of senators from larger ones: in essence, a minority of the population can completely stymie the interests of the vast majority.  While the rights of the political minorities ought to be protected, that shouldn't come at the expense of the majority... EVERY... FREAKING... TIME.

More senators elected from the larger states might help counter that: it's been suggested before, so hello Professor Larry Sabato.  Another suggestion was to make ex-Presidents into permanent standing senators representing the whole nation: while it gives former Prezes something to do, it's not exactly a democratic answer (and having a Senator Dubya or Senator Jimmy Carter doesn't look too helpful, ya)... but the idea of nationally elected senators is more promising.

Nationally-elected senators would have the appeal and support of the nation's majority of voters (meaning those residing or sharing in the values of the larger states), providing a counterbalance to those senators from smaller (or more partisan-leaning) states.  Creating these new offices would also provide a start-point for those politicians tempted to run for higher national office (ahem, President) who may not be able to appeal at their residential state's level but at the national level (for example, a moderate Republican residing in Alabama able to run, or a centrist Democrat from Vermont).

Ergo, we can do this:
  • Drop the Vice President office.  Presidential campaigns are now free to pursue a life of political fulfillment without juggling the demands of party factions.
  • Create electable offices for the U.S. Senate for nationwide representation.  Make it an odd-then-even number of open offices to be filled for each of the Senate election cycles: three open seats for the first cycle, two (or four) open seats for the second, and then two (or four) open seats for the third.  You end up with seven (or eleven) National Senators.
  • Have it so that the incoming Senate body votes between the incoming National Senators (who will not vote, as they are the candidates) for the office of Senate President (what the VP is supposed to be).  This is where the odd total number works: the appointed Senate President does not sit on committees but presides over the body, enforces decorum, and casts any tie-breaking votes as needed.  This might also provide wacky hijinks if say the Senate body is mostly one party but the national senators from another: trying to see who gets picked as Senate leader would be fuuuuunnnny (or of course create another constitutional crisis, but then again every action has its own unplanned consequence).
  • Every new incoming Senate gets to vote on the Senate President.  It's possible for that person to just serve the two years: it all depends on that person's performance and/or the makeup of the new Senate.
  • Insert the Senate President into the chain of succession as part of the Twenty-fifth.  Placed below the President and above the Speaker of the House, where the VP currently has the spot.  This means whoever gets chosen by the Senate to serve as Senate President has to fulfill the office requirements (over 35, resident of the nation 14+ years, must be a natural-born citizen).
  • The remaining nationally elected Senators get to sit on committees and vote as regular members of the Senate.

Viola!  The National Senators replace the office of Vice President, and nothing gets lost.  The President no longer has to worry about a Vice President that could serve as a loose cannon or represent an inter-factional force against her (or his) own interests.  The Senate gets to choose their own Senate President who got elected on his/her own terms.  And the interests of the nation's majority has a better chance of getting heard and resolved.

Add this to the other proposal of increasing the number of senators elected from the ten or fifteen most-populated states (Sabato argues for 2 additional, but I feel 1 addition fits within the election cycle), and we reduce the damage that can be done by a small-population Senator even more.

This is a do-able amendment idea that can fix a lot of what's wrong with the U.S. Senate: the other fix - getting rid of Secrets Holds and weakening if not eliminating the filibuster altogether - has to be done by the Senators themselves.

To quote the wise man: What do you think, sirs?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

We Need More Wallpapers for Saturnalia

On a whim, to see about spicing up my desktop screen with a Saturnalia wallpaper, I Googled (using the proper search engine to ensure trademark protection) "Saturnalia wallpaper" and got... not a lot of images I could use for a desktop.

I has a sad.

So, ergo and ipso and pre facto, I'm on a push to design a new Saturnalia wallpaper, once that's festive and colorful and fun.

So... what are the primary colors associated with Saturnalia...?

Lemme know please and thanks.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Killing The Gerrymander

Not a huge fan of the gerrymander.

Because it does these three things:
1) promotes one political party over the other by crafting "safe" congressional districts where registered voters are a majority/plurality over opposing parties, with such safe districts that incumbent officials can rarely be removed from office through honest vote;
2) distorts honest representation of communities by dividing them up and sharing them out to outlying, more sparsely populated areas that could now overwhelm that portion of a large community;
3) simple unfairness: a state could have one party with a larger registered voter base but - thanks to gerrymandering - the smaller party can retain control of local and congressional offices... and worse carve out supermajority control of state-level offices disproportionate to actual representation.  This could allow the more extreme positions of that minority party to pass legislation harmful (at least spiteful) to the actual majority of state residents who would oppose such laws.

Basically, gerrymanders create wasted votes.

First Problem is... the parties in power don't really want to see gerrymandering go away.  Let us be honest here: this IS one of the few times that claiming "both sides do it" is accurate (ask Florida Democrats, ask Illinois Republicans).

Second Problem is... how the hell can it be stopped?  The carving out of districts has to happen: democratic/republican government has to allow regions - cities, metropolises, counties - to provide local representation.  Each representative required to stand for a certain number of the populus, and done so at equal numbers so that one official does not represent a handful while another represents a vast number.  So districts have to get made.  But the people tasked to map them out are still people: biased and favored at best, corrupt at worst.

Some solutions are in place in various states, with hope that they can reduce if not end the threat of the gerrymander altogether.  Some states have non-partisan independent committees assigned the task of mapping out redesigned districts every Census count (10 years), and to do so without party consideration.  Other states - like here in Florida - passed state amendment laws forcing the state legislature (most state gov'ts control the process) to draw districts with strict limits - only by population density, must be reasonably shaped (rectangular as much as possible), etc. - to reduce the most blatant aspects of gerrymandering (the stretching out a district in bizarre shapes to provide the "safety" of that district).

But even these options have their limits and flaws: the Republican-held Florida legislature was still able to figure out how to carve out enough safe districts under the new rules to keep a solid GOP majority in both state houses, despite the fact there are more registered Democrats in this state.  So clearly, more needs to be done to kill the gerrymander.

Some ideas I've been mulling:

Increasing the number of representatives to Congress/state offices.  I've scoffed before at this idea of making more seats in the U.S. House to make Congress more responsive to the voters.  But now I think the guy who suggested this - professor Larry Sabato - might be right.  Not so much the need to drop the number of people represented from roughly 650,000 per district down to a more manageable 150,000... but because increasing the number of districts makes it harder to shape them into gerrymandered districts.
Look at it like this: Florida's got 27 Congressional districts right now.  Say we doubled that number to 54... and still requiring that districts have to be carved out based above all on population density as the state amendments require.  It makes it suddenly a lot easier for urban, densely populated areas to get more districts; and makes it a LOT harder to carve out those districts to share with the sparsely populated areas.  Ergo, fewer gerrymanders.

The cap on the number of representatives at 435 total isn't set in stone: it was capped back in 1929... back when the U.S. population was 123 million... we've nearly tripled that by now at 330 million for 2010.  An argument can be made that the cap set 100 years ago is no longer feasible and should go up.  Trick is, by how much?  There are only so many office spaces in D.C. to go around...

I would argue for a change in base representation, where the smallest populated states get one representative and that's it.  I'd suggest bumping that up to two representatives for the smallest states, just to give every state some diversity in representation.  Then I'd take that divided number of the fifth-least-populated state (currently South Dakota at 824 thousand or so) and use that (412,000 or so) as a basis for district drawing for all other states (dividing Wyoming as the least-populated would have given us district sizes at 284,000 which might be going too small).

Let's do the math for the most-populated state (California, 37,692,000 or so) with that 412,000: we get 92 representatives compared to the current 53.  It's not that huge a boost (close to double the current, yes, but not over).  For Texas (25,675,000) they get 62, over the 32 current.  By the way this is tracking out, it looks like a 42 percent increase of representatives per state.  Not sure how it will total up in the House, but I figure it's an extra 182 seats, minimum.  Can we afford/handle a 618-seat House?

Creating more districts does make sense as well at the state level... except in New Hampshire, they have 400 members for a state population of 1.3 million.  Florida's got 25 million residents, at least our house numbers (120) seem more sensible although a slight increase to say 150 reps is doable. 

Another option might be to create a Lottery system of randomly dividing up the registered voters per seat.  Get rid of districts for a state, change it over to just seating at Congress, and then allow for the technology to randomly assign a House seat per voter.  Your neighbor may end up voting for a candidate for Seat 12 while you get to vote on who gets Seat 24.  And your friend down the street gets Seat 5 while her neighbor gets Seat 7.  No-one gets to say who gets assigned to a Seat vote.  No favors.

This has the advantage of getting rid of "safe" districts altogether.  It also forces the two parties to run candidates for EVERY seat rather than selectively put their energies into those "safe" districts.  It also prevents parties from putting up candidates who might be extreme enough for that "safe" district - hi, Steve King of Iowa! - but who can end up being toxic for statewide voters as a whole (note the lack of super-crazy Senators: yes, most are partisan but even the most partisan of them aren't as wingnut as some of their House counterparts).  But the disadvantages are huge: this does have the effect of eliminating genuine community representation.  Local issues - trade vs. tourism, for example - will diminish as state issues dominate.  And there runs the ever higher risk of rigged lottery disbursement of voters.

Those are pretty much the two ideas I've got going.  If anyone else has sensible suggestions, please leave a comment here on this blog.  (again, if the Blogger system is NOT favorable to your login needs, let me know through other means such as my direct email, thanks) 

Also, if anyone else out there is coming to this blog via the Iran Day Six entry I wrote 3+ years ago... why are you still linking to that article?  Is it the pictures I have on that entry?  Is it the article itself?  I'm still getting steady traffic thanks to that one article, I'd like to know why...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Middle East As The Center Of The Storm

There is, once again, little peace between Israel and Palestine as disparate peoples as much as nations.  There may be a ceasefire in place now with Gaza, but ceasefires can end without the resolution of both sides to stop the downward cycle of violence.

There is still an ongoing civil war in Syria, with tens of thousands dead, tens of thousands as refugees... and no honest solution in sight other than outright war that few other nations, including the bordering Turkey, have the stomach or budget to fight...

Iran has been living the horrors of occupation by their own leadership since the uprisings of 2009 (that an old blog entry from then is STILL getting hits on my little-viewed blog on a daily basis amazes me), combined with a global sanctions against the regime's nuclear program that's hurting the civilian economy but not the elites', leaving that a very unhappy place at the moment.

Egypt, coming off the high point of a relatively powerful yet low-on-body-counts uprising against their own dictatorship in 2011 and with a delicately well-managed crafting of that Israel/Gaza ceasefire, is now coping with an arrogant move by the newly elected President Morsi where he claimed sweeping extra-constitutional powers (basically making himself a new dictator replacing the old dictator), bringing the protestors back out into the same streets and gathering spots they've been at just one-and-a-half years ago.  Good Lord, can anybody catch a break here...?

And Libya's not entirely stabilized either after the overthrow of (misspelled name here).  The attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi is but a smaller part of ongoing street violence between the militants and the more open, pro-democracy groups trying to rebuild after decades of brutal dictatorship.

And this doesn't even include the ongoing quagmire that is the U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan, nor the ongoing unrest in Pakistan.

I have no solutions.  I doubt anyone does, at least a solution that WON'T piss everyone off.  I have pity for any person going into foreign policy as a career, if you ever get signed in to do a job in that region.  Madness would be the only sane response the way things are going...

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Post-Election Scenario Now

Before the election results, there were five scenarios - two for Romney and three for Obama - for how the President / Congress dynamic would look.  With Obama's victory, we're on the fourth one, what is basically the status quo we've had since 2010: Democratic Senate, Republican House, and Obama Democratic Presidency.

What I said then:
The only problem then will be dealing with a Republican House standing as the "last bastion" against an Obama-dominated regime.  If it was a job herding cats before, this will be like working as an alligator teeth puller operating without pliers and standing waist-deep in a swamp.  The fight to get anything resembling a budget will be close to impossible without the wingnut faction in the House getting everything they want (which in a sane world won't happen).  Obama may yet want to finish out a second term where SOMETHING got done for job growth and economic stimulus, but the House will fight that every inch of the way.  And some legislation HAS to start in the House, not the Senate.  Meaning something approaching compromise has to be done... and Lord knows what Obama may have to give up in order to get a jobs bill passed...

Is pretty much how the post-election dynamic is lining up with the early positioning on the lame-duck Congressional session to finalize a budget deal.

It's the Fiscal Cliff scenario: a combination of deals and laws are intersecting this winter that would pack a one-two whammy on the U.S. economy if Congress refuses to act.  The Bush the Lesser tax cuts of 2001-03 are set to expire, which would raise everyone's tax rates not to historic highs but to Clinton-era (i.e., manageable) rates.  There's the Sequester deal made last year, where automatic spending cuts in ALL government programs - including defense/military, AND social programs - will kick in alongside more tax increases when 2013 calendar rolls up.  The sequestration isn't a bad deal overall: it's that the cuts will be akin to using a sledgehammer during surgery where a knife would be more apt.

Separately, either situation wouldn't be too harsh: together, the bump up in tax hikes and severe spending cuts can very well lead to another deep recession at a time where the U.S. economy is still crawling out of the last one.  It's a Double-Dip Recession we're facing, and it definitely has global economic consequences that wouldn't get resolved for another decade...

Thing is, a new bill out of Congress can kick both deadlines to the curb by overriding the sequestration and by re-working the Bush-era cuts into a more manageable tax hike.  So before December 31st rolls around, there are a good number of politicians in both the White House and Congress who want to get a deal done.

Problem is, on whose terms?

Obama wants to re-work the sequestration to reduce the amount of spending cuts to a more manageable level and combine it with returning the tax rates of the upper 2 percent of income to their Clinton-era levels.  The House Republicans would prefer keeping the spending cuts on all social programs, ignore cuts to defense spending, and keep the Bush-era cuts permanent if they could.

Worse of all, the Republican Party overall is reeling right now: their leadership AND voting base were so certain of a Romney victory - and some even thought they would gain control of the Senate - that their loss last Tuesday night really kicked their guts in.  All that hate and vitriol they spilled in Obama's direction, and still they lost.

The Republican Party hate-on for Obama is at unheard of levels: I remember the Republicans' disdain for Bill Clinton with all its conspiracy-laden what-the-hell alternate reality of America, and even THAT was mild compared to what they're hitting Obama with.  The closest historical I can think of is the hate-on the fiscal leaders of the GOP had towards FDR.

This is a party that has planned to obstruct Obama and his agenda - decried as socialist, un-American, anti-business - from Day One of his administration.  The use of Cloture and threat of filibuster has more than doubled.  Once the Republicans gained control of the House during the 2010 midterms based on paranoid-hate-fueled outrage, the House proceeded to ignore every Democratic attempt at a jobs stimulus bill and instead spent 31 useless votes on trying to overturn ObamaCare.  The Republicans have spent four years in an open attempt to make Obama a "failed" President akin to Jimmy Carter ("history's greatest monster!") and make Obama a One-Termer.  And they failed.

This does not mean the Republicans will give up the obstructionism.  They can well double-down on the obstruction.  They are still convinced that Obama is a failure: and they want history to reflect that belief.  They are NOT going to give Obama anything he wants.  I don't mean everything Obama wants: anything, at all.

That means if Obama comes calling with a deal on sequestration and ending the Bush-era tax cuts on just the upper 2 percent incomes, the House Republicans may well say NO in large unfriendly letters.  There may well be enough Republicans who will refuse to deal on anything and even allow the deadlines to pass, enacting that dreaded fiscal cliff.

Problem is what can happen: Obama can well live with Congress taking the country over the fiscal cliff.

Previous times negotiations had to happen to get budgets done, Obama was not in a position to negotiate much.  Facing re-election, he didn't want to overstep or fall into any traps the GOP may have laid out against him.  This time, however, Obama has little to lose: he's won re-election, he's got four more years to get something done with the economy and job woes.  And despite all protestations from the Far Right, Obama does have a mandate: the polling and the votes have shown that a solid majority of Americans back Obama on his plan to raise tax rates on the uber-rich.

It's the tax hikes that are the obvious sticking point for the Republicans.  They'll refuse to actively vote for any deal that raises them (the "no new taxes" pledge to Norquist overrides any obligation to the nation as a whole with these guys).  All Obama has to do, really, is let the Bush-era tax cuts expire, raising all taxes regardless.  And then the day after that, come back to Congress with deal to cut taxes back down close to Bush-era levels... with the exception of the upper 2 percenters.  This will catch the Republicans in a lose-lose situation: they'll be presented with a tax cut they CAN vote for which would be clearly for the middle-classes, but will give Obama a political victory they dare not allow... or they can vote against it on the excuse that the upper-classes need a tax cut as well, which is political poison in this economy and re-enforces the image of the Republicans as greedhead suck-ups to the billionaires.

As a result, there are some Republicans who see the benefit of getting a deal done now and make it look bipartisan in nature, giving them some of the credit... or they can obstruct some more, get caught with their pants around their ankles, and let all the credit go to Obama or all them blame to the House GOP.

It's all up the House Republicans right now: how they'll handle themselves this lame-duck session before 2013.  We'll see then if we'll have a working government or another round of Republican-led gridlock.  We'll see...

Thursday, November 08, 2012

It's Cheap, It's Easy, It's Winners And Losers the 2012 Elections Edition

What can I say?  I'm swamped with getting more NaNoWriMo done...

Losers: I mentioned them in an earlier post.  The elite pundit class - especially the conservative ones who came to power during the Reagan administration 30 years ago - really got their butts kicked for publicly anointing their preferred candidate Romney when the stats said otherwise, and even going out of their way to mock the statisticians who focused more on polling results and provable trends.

Winners: Nate Silver and every other statistician who worked on the numbers, stuck to the arithmetic, and proved themselves far more accurate than the pundits who preferred "narrative" and "gut instinct" over facts.  Arithmetic, bitches.
Next, the guy making xkcd will chart with unnerving accuracy the flow of Karl Rove's tears.

Winner: the Word of the Year, thanks to Bill Clinton and Nate Silver.  Arithmetic.

Loser: Karl Rove. The "genius" for the Republicans, the man responsible for coming up with a winning strategy to get George W. into the White House, exposed by his own network on Election Night being completely out-of-touch YET AGAIN. Why Rove keeps getting treated as a genius is beyond me: his game-plan of playing to the base and do just the bare minimum to get enough independent voters to side with you (the "50-plus-one" plan) is half-lazy, half-reckless, and it relies too much on luck and a broken electoral system. Outside of 2004, when Rove tricked the Democratic leadership to back a weak candidate in Kerry (vulnerable to attacks on his military record and pro-Iraq War vote), this guy really didn't win anything (if it weren't for the Butterfly Ballot in Palm Beach County, Gore would have won Florida and the 2000 election). Rove's one true skill seems to be bluffing. Too bad Obama's a better game-player than Rove, eh?

Losers: The vote suppressors. In battleground states where the Republicans held control of the state legislatures and governorships, there were clear and open attempts to suppress minority, poor, and college-age voters in a blatant and coordinated effort to weaken the turnout of Obama's voting base.  Like Pennsylvania.  Like Ohio, repeatedly by a Sec of State John Husted who kept defying the demands of the courts (if anyone needs to see jail time over this, it's Husted).  Like Florida, where Rick "Yes, I HATE This Guy" Scott tried to slash the voter rolls claiming non-existent fraud, and cut back on early voting days in an effort to cut back voter turnout in key counties like Dade and Broward.  Good news is, it looks post-election that their efforts were for naught.  In fact, by pushing so hard so publicly to disenfranchise voters across the nation, it seemed to have the effect of getting even more minority voters and college-age voters out to vote... more voters 2012 than there were in 2008.

Winners: Obama's ground game crew.  Every volunteer, every campaign office organizer, every person who manned the phones and canvassed the neighborhoods and registered the voters.  This was the antidote to the vote suppression efforts.  If the Republicans wanted to suppress the vote: make sure there were enough registered voters to overwhelm any suppression.  If the Republicans wanted to cut back on voting hours and early voting days: get more people to vote with absentee ballots that get around the restrictions.  If long lines were gonna form up at the precincts: make sure the voters know that they have the right to stay in line even past closing hours.  It worked.

Losers: Every Republican candidate who wanted to ban abortion and dismissed rape as an issue, especially the Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.  They got their asses handed to them and kept the Senate safe for the Democratic Party.  As a side observation, a major Florida amendment ballot tried to limit abortion access to where the only exception allowed was "the health of the mother".  Yes, the ballot DID NOT have an exception to rape/incest, which happen to be very popular exceptions for a vast majority of Americans (even the ones who profess being pro-life: even they know how serious the problem rape and incest are).  Result: the ballot went down to defeat by a solid majority.  Lesson to the GOP: DO NOT DISMISS RAPE AS A SERIOUS ISSUE.

Losers: Rick Scott.  Thanks to his voter suppression efforts, our state was even more ill-prepared for the election turnout than in 2000, making us more a laughing stock than we were back then.  Also, 8 of the 11 amendment ballots he and his legislative buddies pushed onto the election suffered major rejections, especially the amendment that tried to Court-Pack the state judicial system to make it more partisan (the amendments that passed were three tax exemption ballots for veterans, widows of veterans and first responders, and low-income seniors: I argued against them mainly because of their origins, the revenue cuts may prove minor given how these changes benefit a slight minority of the populus).  Better still, the effort to get three State Court Justices voted off the bench - a clear attempt at forcing vacancies that Scott could fill with cronies - came back with all three judges getting 3/4ths of the vote to RETAIN, a huge slap in the face to Scott.
The big talk I'm hearing right now is how to kick Scott out of office in 2014 when he comes up for re-election.  If the state Republicans had any sense, they'd look at Scott's poor polling and run a viable primary candidate to kick him out before the whole state does...

Winners: Marriage equality advocates and Pot Legalization advocates.  Two states (almost three, I think one state is still counting ballots) voted in FAVOR of gay marriage rights, while one more state voted down a ballot that would have overturned a legislative pro-gay law.  Two states voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, a huge salvo in the fight to end a broken and ineffective War on Drugs.

Winners: Women.  Women candidates won elective office in huge numbers across the nation at both the state and federal level.  Lemme double check, but I think nine women won Senate seats this election, a huge uptick in gender representation in the Upper House of Congress.  Guess what, pundits?  There was a War on Women, and the women fought back.

Losers: Senate Republicans.  Not only did they fail dramatically to garner a slim hold of that wing of Congress - which would have combined with their solid hold of the House - but they lost major leadership from either retirement (Kyl, indy Senator Lieberman) or losing to more liberal Democratic candidates (Scott Brown losing to Elizabeth Warren).  The incoming Democratic Senate make-up is going to be more liberal than ever before, and more than likely to weaken if not eliminate the Cloture rule (and by extension the filibuster), the biggest weapon the Senate GOP had in obstructing Obama's policy agendas.

Winner: Me.  The blog traffic to my site bounced from single-digits to the hundreds thanks to my article on the Florida 2012 amendment ballots.  Especially a huge crowd of viewers conducting search terms from Japan.  Wow.  Now, if I can get you new viewers to consider the fine possibility of buying my ebooks...  wait, don't go!  Sniff, it gets so lonely here...

Loser: Well, yeah, had to mention him sooner or later.  Hi, Mitt.

Winner: Barack Obama.

And now, with his Anger Translator Luther:

Luther: "“I mean, you know how much money they spent trying to get rid of this? Millions, son! I said millions!"

Losers: Speaking of those millions, the billionaires who shipped tens of not hundreds of millions of dollars into unregulated SuperPACs in an effort to make Obama a One-Termer.  What you all get for your value, dawgs?  NOTHING!  ALL THAT MONEY WASTED BWHAHAHAHA!

Instead of being afraid of how Citizens United may make it easier for the wealthy to win elections - which 2012 proved the opposite - there needs to be a genuine investigation into what happened with all that money that got funneled into Karl Rove's and others' SuperPACs.  There seems to be a lot of waste happening there: not many ads made, almost no ground game like how Obama organized, a great number of reports of how the people "managing" the SuperPACs walked off with huge salaries and bonuses they paid themselves...  I'm serious.  Campaigning has turned into a BILLION-DOLLAR industry and there's little oversight: it's the perfect scam for con artists...

Winners: every person in Dade and Broward Counties who stood in line for 7,8, God love 'em probably 10 hours on Election Night.  The Obama campaign made sure the word got out that the law ensures any person standing in line at the Closing time (7 pm EST) had the right to stay in line and get their vote in, no matter how late it got past that.  This is democracy in action.  While it was a damn shame they had to wait so long, God Bless Them for doing so.  And next time, let's make it easier on them to get their votes in and counted.

Did I miss anyone?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Rump Parliament of Media

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!  - Oliver Cromwell to the Rump Parliament

In the aftermath of this 2012 election, one of the most obvious results of last night was how the conservative columnists and media darlings sitting at the head of the American political commentary were so utterly and completely wrong about how the election was going to play out.

To quote Conor:

Barack Obama just trounced a Republican opponent for the second time. But unlike four years ago, when most conservatives saw it coming, Tuesday's result was, for them, an unpleasant surprise. So many on the right had predicted a Mitt Romney victory, or even a blowout -- Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes. Joe Scarborough scoffed at the notion that the election was anything other than a toss-up. Peggy Noonan insisted that those predicting an Obama victory were ignoring the world around them. Even Karl Rove, supposed political genius, missed the bulls-eye. These voices drove the coverage on Fox News, talk radio, the Drudge Report, and conservative blogs.

Those audiences were misinformed...

Each of those talking heads/columnists have been publicly exposed for putting personal viewpoints ahead of the facts and sticking to fantasy of their narrative - they are more invested in a close horse-race in order to keep ratings high - rather than doing the hard work of actual journalism - which would have involved research, genuine analysis, and more than likely direct interviewing of key people which in this case would have been a decent sampling of Honest-to-God voters.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that these media types - isolated in their offices, traveling in hermetically-sealed limos, chatting with each other in closed studios - are truly in a bubble of their own making.  They can't perceive the world outside that bubble and think that Real America - some idealized majority among us 300 million -  is just like them: pining for the era when America saved everyone during the Cold War, our Dollar was golden and Reagan their God.  Just look at Peggy Noonan's insistence that she could see the Real America, simply because she saw so many yard signs for Romney as she rode down the streets of Florida... without realizing that a low-staffed Romney ground game had little else to do BUT put yard signs everywhere they could.  Or that Obama yard signs kept getting stolen by spiteful Romney supporters.

This shouldn't be too surprising when the Republican leadership during the Bush the Lesser years embraced the idea that their belief, and acting on that belief, would force the Real World to bend to their will.  Again to Conor:

In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood's convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama's America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense -- not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.

Each of the people named by Friedersdorf - including Rush Limbaugh, who wasn't named but is part of the same problem - are now conservative columnists and radio hosts who came of age in the shadow of Reagan.  None of them seem to grasp that it's not 1985 anymore.  It's been 30 years since the heyday of Saint Ronnie's regime and yet the likes of George Will and Noonan and seem to think that most of America's problems can be solved the same way (unlikely: the problems we have now stem from what happened in 1985...) and with the same leadership (a solid conservative manly, religious, and devoted to deregulated economics).  These columnists and permanent guests on the talk show circuits have a problem accepting the slight possibility that a non-Republican could lead this nation: these are the same people who had problems accepting Bill Clinton, focusing more on his flaws than his skills, and it's only 10 years after he left that they're finally grokking why a majority of Americans still think well of Clinton and his presidency.

Their failure this weekend to stick to the facts, the whole-hearted way they gleefully predicted a Romney landslide as though he would be yet another Return to Reagan-ism, brings to the fore just how out-of-touch these self-appointed judges of Real America really are. This is the breaking point of "Epistemic Closure", the groupthink of people who haven't the need to think for more than 30 years...

I'm with Ta-Nehisi here: time to fire the pundits.  We don't need a term limit for elected officials, we can just vote them out if needed.  No, it's time to retire some of these self-indulgent out-of-touch media elites who have sat too long in the television studios (here now to James Fallows):

Remember, these people's claim to fame -- especially in the case of (in their respective primes) Barone, Morris, and Rove -- is that they know something special about politics. If they are putting their names behind these predictions, presumably they would like us to take them seriously. We'll see what happens in the next day or two: If they are right, all appropriate credit. But if they are not, this should be remembered, rather than just blown off. And similarly, if the "quants" who are unanimously predictable a sizable Obama win prove to be wrong, they should be made to explain.

They should be fired.  They should resign if they have any true perspective on the world around them.  But ah, the temptations of those six-figure speaking fees and seven-figure book deals...

Starting Off The Post-Election Blogging, I Want to Say Thank You

I went to bed last night at 1:00 AM, well after the Electoral vote count was called for Obama (yay) and with a slim Popular vote count for Obama (keep it up), and well after making sure that the worst of the worst Florida amendment ballots had crashed and burned to defeat.  And so this morning I know I got a lot of things to write about.

I want to start off by thanking the people who stopped off to view the blog during these final months of the election.  Especially everyone who came by looking for the blog entry reviewing the Florida 2012 amendment ballots.  The pageviews for that got into 1,000+ hits within the month, becoming the second-most viewed entry on this blog.

It's a bit amazing what I get from the page count stats on this blog.  It's showing me what search terms were used, showing me where the searches are coming from (Japan?  The second-most views are from Japan?  ...I mean, I'm thrilled I'm getting readers that far overseas... But now I feel the need to send a gift basket or something to the local consulate...).  It's been a thrill watching the daily pageview counts go from 7 per day to 100 to 200.

It's a pity I can't get more of you to post a comment though.  Is it really that hard to use one of the account options that Blogger allows?  I'm seeing it allowing Yahoo Open ID, Google, I think Facebook logins...  Do me a favor, someone.  Let me know what you're seeing for Login options for Comments, I will read your Anonymous submission and post it as long as it's clean and on-topic.

My next posts are going to be covering observations about how the 2012 Election went last night (messier than it ought to be: forget voter fraud, the TRUE scandal of voting is how effed up is this system), and a deeper comment about the Florida Amendment votes and what it should mean for Rick "Ass Kicked" Scott.

Big smiles, Obama people.  Big smiles!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

This Day, WE VOTE

November 6, 2012.

Election Day.


Please for the Love of God VOTE OBAMA.

Please for the sake of this great state of Florida do NOT vote for any Republican for any office.

Please for the sake of this great state do NOT vote for any of the amendment ballots that Rick "Vote Suppressor" Scott and his legislative buddies are forcing on Florida residents.

Please for the sake of sanity and honest governance DO VOTE to RETAIN the state justices that Scott wants to kick out so he can cram the courts with his cronies.

Please, voters, please, try to see what I see: that the Republicans are obsessed with forcing more tax cuts on us after years of a Bush the Lesser administration that clearly proved tax cuts DO NOT work; that the Republicans are obsessed with eliminating any exemption for abortion including cases of rape/incest and protecting the mother's health, even though a vast majority of Americans are fine with those causes as a need to keep abortion as a choice; that the Republicans are eager to destroy every aspect of government and privatize everything, even though history has proved the need for effective working government to uphold laws and regulations that protect us and even though history has proved privatization doesn't save on money it more often increases corruption and health risks; that the Republicans do not reflect or represent the whole of this nation showing their open disdain for minorities, women, the college-age voters...

Please, voters, try to see this: Obama has been an effective President; getting health care reform passed, closing down military operations in Iraq the way the nation and the world wanted us; keeping our economy stabilized and growing while other parts of the world like Europe and Asia are collapsing under their own austerity plans; making Bin Laden and Al Qaeda the priority in the War on Terror, not unneeded ground wars in more and more Middle Eastern nations; standing for women's rights especially regarding women's health; making a public stand for marriage equality and ending Don't Ask Don't Tell; saving the auto industry and ensuring enough manufacturing jobs stay in this country to where America is still building things for ourselves and the world...

Dear God: please let us get the vote out today and in favor of the leadership we need and deserve.  Dear God, let us vote for Obama for four more years...

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Call To Action

Dear Florida residents:



(gasp) (wheeze) I'm not finished yet...





P.S. I do accept most comments submitted for posting.  I will NOT, however, post anything from any coward signing on as Anonymous.  There ought to be a couple of ways of logging in to post with even an online nickname, but I've found Anonymous posters are cowardly trolls not worth the response otherwise.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

It Should Never Have Been This Close

I know this is a partisan sentiment.  Still...

How the hell could this 2012 Presidential campaign be this damn close?  It's a goddamn nail-biter going into Tuesday.

I know I shouldn't view myself as an Only Sane Man.  There are others out there who I know are looking at this same situation and headdesking until there's a foot-deep dent in their worktable.  Besides, sanity is relative: I know I'm coming to this game with some personal emotional issues - depression, social anxiety, PTSD from having survived Tarpon Springs Middle School (shudder) - but even with all that I'd like to think I'm still level-headed and possessing clarity and awareness.

But how the hell could this election be so damned close?

I know our elections are dominated by a strong two-party system, where the base choices are Republican and Democrat and where any viable Third Party choice really aren't that viable at the moment.  I know this tends to force the elections to be closer than they need to be because of tribal identity: people vote their party because dammit that's how they've voted, how their families voted, how their social circles voted and they are not going to change now simply because the party's offering for candidate(s) are moronic wingnuts.  This is pretty much why popular votes - outside of gerrymandered/rigged congressional districts - tend to be around the 55 - 45 percentile breakdown.  But this alone couldn't explain why we're facing a situation where a good incumbent President - Obama, who has pretty much kept a solid majority of his 2008 campaign promises - is not cruising to an easy re-election.  A President Obama who got a health care reform package passed, a President Obama who carried through on ending military operations in Iraq (a war he DID NOT START BUT DID FINISH ON HONORABLE TERMS), a President Obama who made getting Bin Laden a priority after the Bush the Lesser administration basically forgot Bin Laden was America's Enemy Number One, a President Obama who presides over a solid growing economy that is doing tons better than the economically unstable Eurozone stuck in austerity nightmares.  I'm talking about the possibility of reliable, consistent, effective leader President Obama losing the election to the likes of Mitt Romney.

I'm talking about a candidate in Romney who for about five-six months of primary campaigning was NOT the preferred candidate for his own Republican Party.  The primary voters kept flipping over to other candidates, other choices like Cain (?), Santorum (?!), Gingrich (?!?!), all in a desperate attempt to find a candidate who was Not-Romney.

I'm talking about a candidate in Romney who became the Presidential candidate while carrying the weakest likability numbers of ANY candidate since the mid-20th Century.  Even Bush the Lesser had higher likability numbers in 2000, even NIXON had higher likability numbers in 1960 AND 1968.  Romney is so plastic a candidate you can put him next to a statue made out of Lego(tm) and not be able to tell them apart.

I'm talking about a candidate in Romney being so much a flip-flopping panderer that there should be no honest way enough voters should believe Mitt on ANYTHING other than Romney's most consistent platform position: that of his damnable massive tax cut plan that goes far deeper AND CAUSES FAR MORE DAMAGE than Bush the Lesser's proposed plan in 2001.  It's like a mass number of voters have completely forgotten already that massive tax cuts DO NOT CREATE JOBS, DO NOT FIX ECONOMIES, DO NOT SOLVE ANYTHING AT ALL.  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU VOTERS!  Okay, alright, gotta dial it back, but seriously people why are you still buying this tax-cut snake oil?

I'm talking about a candidate in Romney who LIES SO OFTEN and KEEPS PUSHING THE SAME LIES EVEN WHEN CAUGHT that he's already made himself the least-trustworthy candidate OF ALL TIME.  This is with a candidate list that has Nixon on it (twice!), LBJ, other well-known prevaricators and dissemblers.  I will admit, every candidate lies: Most of them have the common sense not to repeat the lies once caught, most of them have the common sense not to tell big whopping lies that can be easily disproved.  But Romney, dear God: ROMNEY LIES AND KEEPS LYING.  And he's still getting votes?  Because apparently enough people prefer the lies over the facts... and that thought alone should drive any citizen possessed of civic virtue over the edge.

I'm talking about a candidate in Romney who got caught on video at a private fundraiser with fellow super-millionaires (I think some of them in attendance were below the $1 billion cutoff for billionaire status, the slackers) disparaging what he called "The 47 percent" - an arbitrary percentage of Americans who do not pay federal income tax because they are impoverished, not earning enough income that could or should be taxed.  Mitt basically pissed on every poor family, every single mother struggling with two jobs and twenty bills, every disabled citizen in need for federal aid to help pay medical costs, more than just that "47 percent".  It's said that "Character is what you are when you think no one is looking (it's actually "What you are in the dark," but Romney was in a well-lit room so the exact analogy would get nit-picked)," and in that moment when Romney thought no voters were looking he bared his soul to people he thought were like him.  He openly stated he will as President IGNORE such people, he would ignore roughly half the nation, just to indulge the ones he felt he should represent.  Even though the job as President means you're supposed to REPRESENT THE WHOLE NATION, EVEN THE ONES WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU.  Romney spoke his disdain, with a disrespect that would have should have disqualified him for the candidacy right then and there... and yet the SOB is thisclose to becoming President anyway.

And it can't be only because he's the Republican offering on the ballot in a two-party-dominated electoral system.  The entire Republican Party shouldn't be doing this well considering the damage they're still accountable for as a party from 2001 to now.

I'm talking about a Republican Party that has proven over the last 10 years to be fiscally irresponsible, creating massive amounts of debt when they were in charge of the purse-strings and yet still screaming that Obama is going to create even larger amounts of debt.  The hypocrisy of it reeks.

I'm talking about a Republican Party still dominated by neocons regarding foreign policy, claiming that Obama is making the United States un-liked among our allied nations - a blatant lie - and claiming American greatness can be restored by STARTING MORE WARS in places like Iran and Syria.  I'm talking about a group of neocons still convinced that torture is legal and would go back to that regime within a heartbeat of getting Romney into the White House (for all the woes on the civil liberties far left side that Obama is a terrible civil rights President, just remember: THE REPUBLICANS HAVE BEEN AND WILL BE FAR WORSE.  Yes, degrees do matter.  Work with the ones you can trust more than the Cheney acolytes).

I'm talking about a Republican Party that has been so openly obstructionist to where this session's Congress (the 112th) had its popularity numbers around 11 percent approval.  THERE WERE DISEASES MORE POPULAR THAN THIS CONGRESS.  And yet not enough voters woke up to the fact that the persons to blame for our weak economy is not the President - he can enforce the laws, he can propose budgets, but he can't pass them - but the Congress that passed ZERO jobs bills and voted 31 times in a useless gesture to overturn health care reform.  To any voters still out there who are going to vote on Tuesday, please remember this: THE REASON OUR JOB GROWTH WAS SLOW THE LAST FOUR YEARS IS BECAUSE OF CONGRESS, NOT OBAMA.  Please, God, let the voters hear this and remember this...

We're talking about a Republican Party that has been so open and blatant about their voter suppression efforts in key swing states that the entire Party should be charged with violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and other voting rights laws).

This is what we're up against this year.  This is what's at stake this Tuesday November 6th.  We're voting for a candidate in Obama and a party in the Democrats that have us on the right track in domestic, economic, and foreign policies, against a candidate in Romney and party in the Republicans that would take us back to the domestic, economic, and foreign polices that FAILED during the Bush the Lesser regime.  Worse, if the Republicans win anything, such as the White House or the Senate, they are going to be emboldened by the belief that it was their policies and NOT THEIR LYING, OBSTRUCTION AND YES VOTER SUPPRESSION that won it for them.  Thus emboldened, they will continue to act this way: getting worse with their lying; getting worse with their obstruction; taking away voting rights for minorities, college age citizens and even women, voting rights that we as a nation fought and bled for over 200-plus years to EXPAND not retract.

This is why I keep screaming DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN.  Because this Republican Party is not a party, it's a radical ideology betraying every civic virtue an honest political party would uphold.  Sullivan's been noting for years that this GOP is not conservative, and he's right: the Republicans are dogmatic-obsessives, convinced of the purity of their quest to cut all taxes, kill off government, and form an impossible utopia.

This Tuesday is key.  November 6th is key.



I can only pray now that Obama wins.  Right now, that's the best any of us can pray for...