Thursday, January 29, 2015

Personal Note: Getting My Writings Published

Just to note that a new anthology History and Mystery Oh My! is out on the market for ebooks.

Amazon has it listed for their Kindle.  Barnes and Noble has it for their Nook and anyone with an EPUB reader can get it via Smashwords.

My story "Dread Secret of the Battle of Los Angeles" is about the real-life event in 1942 when the West Coast was rattled by the post-Pearl Harbor fears of more Japanese attacks.  I make a few guesses, put in a few sarcastic remarks about Hollywood, and add a few references to Star Wars, Flash Gordon and the Rocketeer to boot.  Hope you like it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Only Two Things Come From Iowa: Corn and Political Pandering

A large number of potential 2016 primary candidates were in Iowa today to suck up to the Far Right crowd, some of them more obvious than others in their pandering.  A lot of cringe-worthy moments to worry about.  I'm still horrified by how our Presidential campaigning system is so bent that a single small state like Iowa can twist and pervert the national discourse like this.

From the Des Moines Register article, the main attraction names - plus a few late arrivals to the campaign start-ups - give us a good idea who the primary primarying Republicans are.  I can give you a brief summation of the candidates, and their chances this upcoming cycle, and even a quick guess at their Barber-graded Characters.  And so, welcome to the horror show:

Ben Carson - Surgeon, maybe Maryland (I am not certain which state he will represent)
Positives: Among Republicans, he's viewed as a credible anti-Obamacare critic, best-selling Christian spiritual author, anti-gay spokesperson.
Negatives: Has no elected or governing experience to speak of.  While the Constitution doesn't require such experience, any previous elective campaigning would at least provide the needed mindset and endurance to handle a rigorous national campaign.
Chances: His popularity among the Tea Party base is pretty strong.  He hasn't officially announced but there's been a few "Draft Carson" efforts going out there.  He's the "Outsider" candidate who can claim he's not corrupt as the "Insider" candidates on the list.  It all depends on if he can find enough financial deep pockets and how he handles himself in debates.
Character Chart: He's the most difficult to pin down as he doesn't have a track record in office to measure his style.  His world-view is akin to a Far Right religious conservative, and his anti-ACA positions show a hatred for government health-care controls.  He presents himself as a Passive-Positive (he may even harbor Passive-Negative habits) but his statements and actions lean Active-Negative.

Chris Christie - Governor, New Jersey
Positives: Presents himself as a populist elected official as a Republican who won in a heavily-Democratic state.  Can govern.  Can campaign as hard as needed.  Has a high public profile already.
Negatives: Simply put: he's Nixon without the subtlety or charm.  The guy has two modes: Bully and bullying.  While it's part of his appeal to the Far Right that he's such a bully towards "libruls" and critics, it's an abrasive leadership style that alienates real quick.  He's also the focus of an ongoing federal investigation into BridgeGate.  Even if Christie is cleared of direct involvement, his office clearly was behind a vindictive act that hurt the public: a form of "ratf-cking" on par with Nixon-like retributions back in the day.  These are not good signs.
Chances: Once popular, the stigma of BridgeGate and a crowded campaign field of competing "populist" figures has dropped Christie to the middle of the pack.
Character Chart: He's as close to the poster-child model of Active-Negative traits - aggressive, uncompromising, vindictive - any modern candidate can display.

Ted Cruz - Senator, Texas
Positives: Nobody can pander to the Tea Party base like Gatson uh Cruz.
Negatives: Spends much of his political capital showboating in Congress and sabotaging US House legislation, a breach of etiquette having a Senator undercut the House Speaker on a regular basis.  He may be (college-level) intelligent but he's not (street) smart.  The talk has it that he does not play well with others.  His personal hypocrisy - a Latino minority born outside the United States (he's CANADIAN, people!) who attacks Hawaiian-born Obama as illegitimate - makes him something of a joke candidate.  Except he's deadly serious.
Chances: As well as anyone who can pander to the primary voters with the meaty stuff of attacking Obama and Obamacare on a regular basis.  Campaigning and debating on the national stage are different matters, though.  The real GOP power-brokers - the CEOs and SuperPAC controllers - may prefer one of their own (Jeb Bush).
Character Chart: His public and political recklessness makes it hard to view him as an Active-Negative, but his ambitions and uncompromising habits are clearly in that mode.

Carly Fiorina - CEO, California
Positives: One of a handful of women candidates who can broaden the "appeal" of the Republican platform.  Can claim executive experience as a business leader.  She's not as batsh-t crazy as the other prominent woman candidate on the GOP ticket (more on her later).
Negatives: No elective office or political experience.  She ran a poorly managed Senatorial campaign that ended in a bad loss.  Her track record as CEO - the only real thing she's got - isn't good (was forced out at Hewlett-Packard).
Chances: Slim.  She might run on a platform of "we need a CEO as President", but Romney tried that and didn't win over voters.
Character Chart: There's little on her political resume to confirm a style or world-view, but previous experience with CEO Presidents - Hoover, Bush the Lesser - points to either a person with uncompromising (Hoover) habits or a hands-off administrative style (Bush II).  Considering Fiorina's more aggressive management styles, she leans towards Hoover.  That puts her in the Active-Negative camp.

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.

Sarah Palin - Mayor, Alaska (I refuse to list her brief term as Governor: SHE QUIT THE JOB AND NEVER FINISHED IT)
Positives: I'd like to think I'm not being biased against her, but I honestly cannot see anything about her that can be listed as a positive thing.  Maybe the fact she can present herself as a populist figure... except that she's really not that popular anymore.
Negatives: The phrase "batsh-t crazy" applies to Palin.  Has burned so many bridges in public and in private to the point where most of her Republican media fans from 2008 don't seem to want to talk about her eight years later.  She's currently polling near the bottom of the candidate list.  Her track record in elected office hasn't impressed.  The more people got a look at her (lack) of political skills the more they recoiled.
Chances: Next to nil.  She's putting her name out there as a mixture of pride and self-promotion: after all, her political posturing is how she makes her money.
Character Chart: Much of her political career and personal traits lean towards an aggressive, self-serving pattern.  She'd be a good fit in the Active-Negative category, with the only difference between her and previous A-N types is a lack of intelligence or skill (the closest equivalent would be Andrew Johnson... shudder).

Rick Perry - Governor, Texas
Positives: Long-serving governor of a major state.  Can govern.  Can campaign at the state level at least.  Made massive revisions to how the governor's office ran and how the state government functioned.  At least kept Texas voters - which is a sizable voter base - happy.
Negatives: Has a mixed record as governor, including current indictments for extortion and abuse of office.  Hasn't won over Hispanic voters with his very meager pro-immigrant moves as he still campaigns publicly on harsher anti-immigration policies.  The 2012 primary campaign was such a public disaster - he had a brain fart during a debate that was so painful even his opponents tried to help him - that he's got a long way to show he can genuinely campaign at a national level.
Chances: In this crowded primary, he's bumping against better public speakers (Christie) and populist figures (Huckabee) that can steal his thunder.  He may garner some deep pockets from the rich state of Texas but he's competing against the backroom reach of the Bush clan for that as well.
Character Chart: His track record as governor - hard on veto usage, rare to compromise, sticking to the Far Right political dogma on most issues - has him as an Active-Negative.

Rick Santorum - Senator, Pennsylvania
Positives: Actually ran a competitive campaign in the 2012 primaries, coming closest to being the Not-Mitt Romney candidate.  Is consistent on backing major issues dear to the GOP voting base.  Can be the only candidate to seriously challenge Huckabee's religious creds.  Under normal conditions for the Republican primaries, he'd be a front-runner and near-lock.
Negatives: Is a national punchline to a sick joke (do NOT Google his name).  Hasn't held elective office since 2007 (which is actually a serious problem for other front-runner types like Jeb Bush, but it hurts Santorum more as he lacks the broad power base Jeb maintains).  While he's a hard campaigner on social issues - anti-gay, anti-immigration, pro-fetus - his economic/tax stances aren't as well-known.
Chances: Still has some support in Iowa (due to the high count of social conservatives in-state) which can translate to early primary/caucus wins.  But he doesn't have the deep-pocket support the other big name candidates have.
Character Chart: His consistent social conservative stance points to an uncompromising world-view, again this points to an Active-Negative trait.

Scott Walker - Governor, Wisconsin
Positives: Won election in a relatively progressive state, and survived multiple attempts at ousting him from office (including a serious recall effort within his first term), which shows serious campaign skills.  Has imposed a hard governing style on issues, and has supported conservative platform "reforms" popular with the Tea Party base.  While it's bad for the rest of us, it's a positive for Walker in that he's in tight with the powerful and wealthy Koch Brothers.
Negatives: For all his election wins remains one of the more divisive political figures in the Midwest.  Hasn't polled well even in Iowa.  Hasn't officially put his name in, although his ambition for the Presidency is known.  He's currently the focus of a "John Doe" criminal investigation, which may not end any time soon (despite every effort by the GOP powers to kill it).
Chances: While he hasn't made it official, it's merely a question of when at this point.  His polling doesn't look good, but his backing - the Kochs - puts him in play.
Character Chart: Has an aggressive governing style that definitely puts him in the Active column.  His uncompromising stances on most issues makes him a clear Active-Negative type.

Missing from this list: Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio. Either they aren't at Iowa or haven't informally announced (despite signs and statements of interest).  There's a couple of others I haven't even named, but until I see official confirmation they've put in for the effort I won't name them.

Jeb Bush is not listed as a speaker but I've already reviewed him as an Active-Negative.

In recent weeks, Mitt Romney has expressed an interest in running yet again.  Even after the loss to Obama in 2012.  He's either delusional, thinks the current field isn't better than he is, or thinks that in 2016 the Democratic candidate (right now that's Hillary) will be easier to beat.  While this doesn't look like a Passive-Negative trait for Mitt to keep seeking the White House, it does fit if you look at his persistence as a form of Duty to his personal beliefs (also, the Barber charting method is not absolute: Characters can fall right on the line between Active/Passive and Positive/Negative, meaning Mitt can harbor Active-Negative as well as Passive-Negative traits).

It's horrifying to document so many A-N types running for the Presidency: that's because I can't find evidence right now any of the major Republican candidates showing the primary traits of an Active-Positive.  I don't see many candidates who view compromise and deal-making as legitimate power tools (which are part of the Adaptive trait of A-P types) or any candidates who will approach the Presidency with an affirmative, We-Can-Do-This world-view.  Worse, I can't see any Passive-Positives: those with genuine Congenial traits that make them personable and easy-to-work with even political opponents (Huckabee comes closest, but his God-In-Government stance is a key sign he's not).

I'm not about to say which candidate has the best chance.  Personally, I'm terrified any of them have a serious shot at the White House.  None of them (Active-Negatives) are what we need right now - pushing a harsh GOP platform opposed to basic human decency over immigration or gay rights, pushing a harsh tax-cut and social-benefits-cuts platform doomed to cause more deficits and financial hardships - to lead the nation past 2016.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Follow-Up to Obama's 2015 State of the Union

While I didn't completely get what I wanted from Obama's address - although he DID push for an economic and tax agenda I can support - I did get to bear witness to one of the epic smackdowns in American History:

During his scripted speech, Obama claimed his position as "I have no more campaigns to run."

This prompted a round of applause from the Republican Congresscritters seemingly celebrating that Obama's unable to run for re-election.

Obama then ad-libbed "I know... because I won both of them."




Mic Drop.

Linkage to some Twitter reactions - usually the go-to source for the immediate OMG pulse of the moment - here and here and a few others if you look for them.

It was sweet.

If I ever have kids, I will tell them of this moment.

Here's Your Duly Elected Governor, Florida Voters, Caught Lying and Acting Like a Crook January 2015 Edition

This has been building up the past few weeks.  There were questions back when it happened, but since this last weekend the questions about why Rick Scott forced a well-respected state-level law officer - FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey - to resign got louder, and the accusations - how it was over unethical and potentially illegal misconduct in Scott's administration - got serious.

It's gotten to the point where even Scott's Cabinet - fellow elected officials from the same hard-core Tea Partier faction of the state GOP - are backing off from their rubber-stamping of Scott's move and acting like they're not involved in any of this.  Via Daniel Ruth:
A week after Gov. Rick Scott misled, undermined and duped the independently elected Cabinet into going along with his baseless firing of long-serving Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, (Chief Financial Officer) Atwater finally woke up and perhaps said to himself, "Hey, wait a minute here. This whole thing smells sorta fishy."
Do you think?
Perhaps Atwater had an inkling he had been played for a chump by Scott when Bailey bluntly denied he had resigned from his post and that the governor was a big honking liar for suggesting otherwise.

When your own people are backing away from a bad story, it's time to break out the lawyers.  Via another article at the Tampa Bay Times:

(Attorney General Pam) Bondi on Wednesday became the last of the three elected Republican Cabinet members to distance herself from the ouster last month of Gerald Bailey as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bailey alleges that Scott and his aides meddled in law-enforcement business and used strong-arm tactics to pressure him to resign.
Taking indirect aim at Scott on his preference for secrecy over transparency, Bondi said she and the public have a right to know the truth, and that she would insist that the Bailey matter be discussed "thoroughly and in the sunshine" at the next Cabinet meeting Feb. 5.

This is Bondi coming out against Scott on this matter.  The same Bondi who is neck deep in the beach sand at vacation spots paid for by lobbyists just happening to get her to sell out the state to their whims.  The hypocrisy of this would be laughable if it weren't so horrifying.

Scott's move to fire Bailey was such a shock to the Tallahassee power circles - the Commissioner had served without a problem under other Republican governors and was liked and respected - that questions were unavoidable.  What made it worse for Scott was his own damn mouth: having spent more than four years - dear God, it's been that long already - making false claims and refusals to answer direct questions, when pressed on an issue he couldn't avoid he simply lied about it.  Problem was, the person he lied on - Bailey - was someone the media respected, so that when Bailey charged back accusing Scott of flat-out lying, the papers and politicos believed Bailey over Scott.

And this is more than Scott being a liar.  The reason(s) why Scott pushed Bailey to resign - trying to get state cops to help with the re-election campaign, abusing state transportation, making up a criminal investigation against an Orange County Clerk of Court - point to a political office that tried to force a state agency to "submit" to Scott's political agenda.  Those reasons deserve greater scrutiny as possible criminal acts.

Unless someone in the proper authority can push for a legit independent investigation - the GOP-controlled legislature will be loathed to go that far against their own, and it's a question of who can approach the federal Justice Department to start a probe - this scandal won't go very far.  All it will do is highlight once again how much of a fraud Rick "No Ethics" Scott has been and will continue to be.

This is who you voted for, Floridians.  Both the partisan Republicans who held their noses to vote for this stinkpatty of a lifeform, and for the cowardly Democrats who refused to show up to vote last November in a chance to vote him out.  This is what we're getting, Florida.  Four more years of bullying and lies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What I'd Like To Hear From Obama's State Of the Union Tonight

I'll be working evening shift so I won't see any of it until I get home.

So here's the list I hope to hear about later.

1) "The state of our union is ROBUST." I am sick and tired of hearing 'strong'.  IT'S CALLED A THESAURUS PEOPLE, THEY HAVE THEM ONLINE NOW.

2) "Thanks to massive gerrymandering in Republican-controlled states and pitiful voter turnout efforts by Democrats that turned into a turnoff, a meager 36 percent of voters this past November put a bunch of batsh-t crazy politicians in charge of Congress.  Yeah, I went there.  Now I gotta manage the crazy 24-7 until 2017.  Like I said, thanks."

3) "I will not make any deals on Social Security or Medicare. You are not going after our social safety nets that do work, that just needs minor and yes I mean minor reforms to make them solvent.  Just don't even try cutting Social Security benefits, Congress.  I will make you eat your own serving if you bring that sh-t to my house."

4) "I will insist on a budget where the nation's entire tax burden will be placed on Grover Norquist.  I'm gonna drown YOU, buddy."

5) "We as a nation thrive on immigration.  It's how we went from some rustic backwater of the 19th Century into a major superpower by the 20th Century.  It's how we keep ourselves innovative and refreshed with talent and drive.  For us to turn our backs on millions of hard-working, intelligent young adults that can become part of this great nation through the DREAM reform efforts is not only offensive, it is short-sighted and harmful.  We are going to reform our immigration policies to make it easier to keep families together, to make it easier for our workforce to stay strong."

6) "We need to do something about reducing college costs.  This is why I'm pushing for local, community college programs to be free to millions of American families.  We need to do more to stop the growing amount of financial debt that millions of families are incurring in order to have their own children achieve success.  What good will all that effort be if entire communities go bankrupt, killing all hope for that success?"

7) "If Congress passes one more self-serving pay raise while doing nothing about the wages of all other workers, I swear to God I will personally bitch-slap each and every one of you.  You're already earning six-figure salaries with this job, that's more than what 95 percent of our nation's workers ever see."

8) "Seriously Hollywood, you pat yourselves on the back for awarding a hokey, poorly-scripted movie on race like Crash and yet you snub the hell out of a historic, well-acted and genuinely impactful film like Selma?  I was already upset with your Oscars voters for how they snubbed TRON for Best Visual Effects - TWICE - but now this sh-t..."

9) "We are this close to letting Disney take over Cuba as the first nation-sized Epcot Center.  Don't ruin the deal, Congress, just let me handle it..."

10) "The real reason this nation's future this year is so incredible, why we've got a good year ahead of us?  Because Age of Ultron AND Episode VII are coming out this year!  YES DAMMIT IT IS GOOD TO BE A GEEK IN THE USA!  GOD BLESS US!  LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!"

Friday, January 16, 2015

Take This Plane to Cuba

And from today onward you don't have to hijack said plane to do so.

While the travel rules aren't completely opened, you can meet one of twelve criteria to make a trip to Cuba.  As Ferdman writes in that article, the rules are flexible to where the American traveler "...will no longer have to obtain a special license from the government, which seems to pave the way for a future in which leisure travel is more common, if not completely legal. As part of the updated regulations, those hoping to travel to Havana will only need a general license, which they can declare as individuals. In practice, this will effectively mean that people can claim they are traveling under one of the dozen approved categories, and then book a flight..."

So for example I could claim I was traveling to Cuba to obtain research materials for a book on Caribbean history I've been writing since 1996, check off a box on the State Department paper claiming so, make a 10-minute visit to Cuban archives to photocopy some pages from Jamaica Today, and then spend about two more days on the coast without worrying I'm facing jail time or lawsuits when I get back to the U.S.

I hope.

In strictly legal sense, the 12 criteria covers a lot of professional and personal reasons to make the trip: the best part is allowing family trips, for members of the exiled community here in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. to make the 90-mile journey across the waters to return "home" and visit those who stayed behind.

One of the expected impacts of this loosening of travel is how it will make it easier for U.S.-based Cubans to ship over money and resources to the more impoverished relatives back on the isle.  The other is that the interactions without repercussions can lead to a softening of the harsh divisions between the exiles and homeland.  While that heated opposition won't go away overnight, it could - and should - diminish to where reasonable solutions towards ending the 50-plus years of hostility between the sides can be reached.

Meanwhile, I'm now conflicted between either saving up money for a trip to Ireland or a trip to Cuba.  Should I flip a coin, seven blog readers?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Predicting Character: The Sins of Jeb Bush

"Listen, I didn't grow up wanting to be President of the Unites States," said George W.
Jeb smiled wistfully.  "I did," he said.
"Yeah," his brother replied.  "You did."
- The Family: the real story of the Bush Dynasty by Kitty Kelley

My disdain for Jeb Bush comes from both personal dislike - I've never met him in person, but something he did once had a direct impact on me - and professional distrust.  I need to put this out here first, because I know I'm about to tear into Jeb as he puts himself out here as a Presidential candidate for the 2016 election.

This is my first go at emulating Professor James David Barber for predicting a person's Character as it applies to the office of the Presidency (at least in real time: I did a review of previous - and current - Presidents back in 2013).  As mentioned previously, the deal is to research a bit of the candidate's biography to find the core developments of their lives, the moments that teach them their world views and shapes their styles.  Once that's done, take that data and place it on the chart between Active-Passive and Positive-Negative to establish which trait - Active-Positive, Active-Negative, Passive-Positive, Passive-Negative - that candidate would be in the highest office in the land.

As far as biographies go, Jeb has a head start on a lot of the other Republican candidates: as a son of Bush the Elder and a brother of Bush the Lesser, he's in a sizable list of Presidential biographies.  Not as a main character, but casually popping up in the background.  Considering his place as a Bush with higher political ambitions than the governorship of Florida - if Jeb had won election in 1994 and used that to garner a second term in 1998, he'd have been the one running for the Presidency in 2000, not Dubya - he'd even gotten a few biographies of his own detailing his political rise and hopes for the White House.

A not-so-quick read of various works all point to established facts about Jeb's childhood and background: the second surviving child of a large brood, younger brother to first-born Dubya with whom he shared a sibling rivalry (ask any middle-born son what it's like to live under an older aggressive brother), following the footsteps of poppa by going to the same prep schools, taking a different college with U of Texas but making the effort to graduate quickly with high grades (whereas Dubya compelled himself to attend the Elder's alma mater Yale and couldn't achieve the same academic success), jumping into business with an eye to achieve success like dad did at that age.  Jeb in the process created the reputation as the more sober (literally), smarter brother, and worked towards his own successes while Dubya coasted on the edges of their father's success and connections.  It wasn't until 1994 when Jeb jumped at the chance to be governor of adopted state Florida - having moved there during his help on Bush the Elder's 1980 primary run - that Dubya's sibling rivalry instinct kicked in for him to try a run for Governor in Texas.

Dubya won in 1994.  Jeb did not.  While Jeb did win in 1998, it was "too soon" in terms of political ambition for Jeb to make that run for the Presidency that he desired for himself, and that the Bush children viewed as "revenge" for their father's humiliation at being a One-Termer, which gave the advantage to Dubya in 2000.  And we all saw how that ended.

One of those "what if" games about history is "what if Jeb had been the Bush running in 2000?  What would his administration have been like compared to his older brother's?"

The way things were in 2000, much of the administration would have been the same: Jeb would have likely selected the same people to serve as his Secretaries of the Cabinet.  The possible difference would have been at Vice-President: Jeb might not have relied on Cheney to run the Veepstakes (which ended up with Cheney choosing himself) the way Dubya relied on the Elder's inner circle to help him with the 2000 campaign.  Jeb may have looked for someone else, as he didn't need Cheney's "serious adult" reputation to help float his candidacy or balance the ticket.

But the administration itself, if Jeb had won (instead of relying on a broken electoral system that Jeb's governorship ironically oversaw that year), would have had a vastly different personality behind it than Dubya's Passive-Positive flavor: one that would be best classed as an Active-Negative.

The Active part is pretty clear: similar to Bush the Elder's Active traits of carving out a successful business via challenges confronted and won, and taking the wonky issues of leadership - the homework, the consultations with advisors - more serious than Dubya did.  The Negative part is the difference between son and father, however: whereas Bush the Elder had a more Positive view of political engagement - bipartisan working with Congress, dealing on equal terms with foreign leaders, backroom deals that got things done - Jeb's track record as Governor shows a Compulsive, confrontational style of leadership similar to many of the Baby Boomer generation that dominated the GOP from 1992 onward.

As Florida's Governor from 1998 to 2006, Jeb Bush's track record is pretty typical sticking to standard Republican issues: cutting of taxes, cutting of regulations on businesses, using the line-item veto to keep spending down.

His signature political policy agenda was education reform: which was essentially a constant never-ending push to create school voucher programs and establishing business-run charter schools.  On vouchers, Bush's efforts were ruled unconstitutional as the courts found the vouchers took public funds and allowed them to go to religious institutions in violation of the concepts behind Separation of Church and State (in both federal and state constitutions).  On charter schools, Florida has allowed them since Jeb's tenure, but scandal and failure haven't yet shown them to work any better than the already-undersupported public schools anyway.

Jeb's insistence on privatizing education is part of the Active-Negative view that government itself is restrictive or the problem.  Previous A-N Presidents like Jackson, Cleveland, or Hoover would have expressed similar anti-government, pro-business, self-limiting sympathies.  Active-Negative types confront issues their own way, and when the issue doesn't go their way they ignore or sabotage the issue.  When state voters supported an amendment referendum capping class sizes - which meant more teachers and school rooms needed to be budgeted - Jeb fought it, did little to implement it and left behind a like-minded GOP legislature that's done nothing to enforce the requirements.

The clearest sign of any Presidential candidate's Character - the world view, the personality, the style - is how they respond to crisis: how quick they are to engage it, how adaptive or restrictive they are to finding a solution to the crisis, how to follow-up the crisis to ensure results.  For Jeb, the most notable crisis of his governorship was the Terri Schiavo case.

Terri was a young married woman who in 1990 collapsed from a near-fatal heart stoppage that still leaves her in a coma.  Her husband paid for surgeries and treatments but Terri remains in the "persistent vegetative state."  By 1998 her husband petitions to have her feeding tube removed, to let her die.  Terri's parents fight him on the matter, and the fight gets not only into the courts but it gets into the political arena.  Terri's parents argued on the matter as a pro-life issue, which brought in the interests of the Far Right in Florida - and national - politics.  Eventually this matter got all the way to the state legislature and the governor's office.

How did Jeb handle this?

He backed the parents all the way.  Jeb ignored repeated doctors' evaluations that Terri's brain was too far destroyed being in the vegetative state.  He helped pushed laws to intervene directly in what should have been a private family court battle.  It got to where Jeb came close to ordering in state police to seize Terri from the hospital she was residing (which could have led to a police-on-police shootout).  And in the end, Jeb pushed for a criminal investigation into allegations that Terri's husband staged her collapse (basically accusing him of manslaughter), for what looked to be sheer spite.

A lot of that reads like the gameplan of a typical Active-Negative.

Despite Jeb's attempts to convince his media buddies that he's the “smart” Bush, to convince them he's a “moderate” or bipartisan on key issues, and worse having gotten them to bite on his hook of being an education reformer, he's really none of those things.  His track record hasn't been reform it's been redirection: redirecting tax cuts to businesses, redirecting state funds from public schools to private pockets, redirecting personal issues to partisan exploitation.

The guy can pander to the base as well as anyone, especially on the socio-religious issues that drive the modern Republican Party.  This is someone as an Active-Negative Character who will fight hard for what he wants.

God help us.

So what kind of expectations is Jeb jumping into, the external forces that will shape his responses to the campaign (and to the possibility of being in the Oval Office)?

He's expected to reflect the “establishment” aspect of the Republicans, primarily a pro-business platform. Most likely pushing a tax-cut and deregulation economic agenda. Here's the problem: the GOP itself is more beholden to the Tea Party faction, which will be virulently anti-immigration, anti-Obamacare, and won't care about education as an issue outside of censoring the history and science textbooks.  Despite Jeb Bush's early attempts to position himself as a “safe” choice on immigration and education/domestic policies, he's going to have to survive a primary system against candidates - everyone from Santorum to Perry - tearing him down on those stances.

Jeb's odds of winning the nomination depends on three things: 1) how well he can pander to the base, which will love his pro-tax-cut kill-teachers-unions stance; 2) how much money he can raise to overwhelm the early primary states (which will be the easiest thing for him); 3) how quickly he can kill any television ad that shows a picture of him standing next to Dubya, or morphing into Dubya, or otherwise linking Jeb to one of the nation's worst administrations.

It also depends on which of the Active-Negatives dominating the modern GOP that might run against him does a better job of faking a public persona of Passive-Positive traits.  Jeb is going to try it: if Huckabee does run, he's done a better job of faking that persona and can well run circles around Jeb.

- - -

Works Used:
Date, SV. Jeb: America's Next Bush. New York: Penguin, 2007
Kelley, Kitty. The Family: the real story of the Bush dynasty. New York: Doubleday, 2004
Coburn, David. From Yellow Dog Democrats to Red State Republicans. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Future 2016 Campaigning: What Matters More, the Party or the Candidate?

Still in the process of typing up Jeb Bush's bio for a prediction of his Presidential Character, but while doing so I have to come to terms with where the political parties are this coming 2016 election cycle, and which candidates are actually going to survive the primaries to stand before the electorate on November 2016.

It's particularly troubling that the Republican Party is getting packed with wannabe candidates lining up already for the campaigning and fund-raising.  Jeb Bush has put his name in, but so have other big names like Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker and a slew of others, with current interest from the last guy Mitt Romney weighing his chances against Jeb!  This is on top of the more fringe names like Ben Carson and Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina.  There's about thirty-three possible names on the list for the GOP right about now.

Meanwhile for the Democrats, it's pretty much Hillary Clinton and a list of progressive officials that the more liberal party base are praying puts their names in.  Actually there's about twenty-three possible names, but there's not as much eagerness for people to jump in because Hillary's the one big name and few others seem likely challengers (of course, kinda said that back in 2008 too...).

And while I'm struggling over how to classify each possible candidate - the ones who have an honest shot at winning, that is - one stumbling block I'm finding is the power expectations - one of Barber's key points - that the voting party bases will use to judge those candidates.

The sin of the modern primary system is how it's not the party bosses making deals in back rooms that matter: it's how those party bosses motivate their base to show up to vote in the primaries.  The primaries make and break the candidates: whoever can pander best to the base in each state - which doesn't go by population importance, the state order goes by how easy those states are manipulated - gets the early support and the momentum to secure the nom.

Which is why it might not matter if a Republican candidate is Active-Positive or if a Democratic candidate is Passive-Positive or if a Libertarian candidate has a sense of humor.  If the party wants an Active-Negative to represent them, the candidates who don't fit that want won't win.

Here's the problem I'm finding about the Republican Party: the party base - the Tea Partiers, the Second Amendment Fetishers, the small-government-drown-it-in-Grover's-bathtub crowds - seems so eager to want an Active-Negative type serving as their President.  They want someone who will restrict and slash government services, cut taxes on the rich (while raising taxes on the lazy poor), deregulate businesses to run amok in a Free Market free-range, shut down the borders against illegals, and wage war against The Dreaded Other despite the costs.  A lot of behavior that history shows falls to Active-Negatives under what Barber called the "I Must" mindset that drives A-Ns to compulsive, unshakable agendas.

But at the same time, the party leadership recognizes that such A-N types are difficult to elect to office anymore.  The last official A-N we had in the White House - Richard Nixon - made the personality so toxic that anyone with that overt a trait would be shunned by regular voters (the most recent A-N who wasn't officially in charge - Dick Cheney - reinforced that toxicity).  So the party leadership is trying to manufacture, promote, or encourage the illusion that their "establishment" candidates - the likes of Jeb, or even what they tried with Romney last time - will run "positive" campaigns pursuing "reforms" on topics like education and immigration and job creation.  All the while hiding the facts that their platforms don't have any real solutions for those topics, just decades-old talking points and all pointing towards the same answer (tax cuts and deregulation).

The Republicans have an Active-Negative agenda, yet they need a Passive-Positive - another Reagan with the charm and skill to avoid the issues and project a congenial persona - to sell it.

So I'm watching a Republican Party go schizoid over the possibilities of who they want as their Presidential candidate.  There aren't many Passive-Positives left in the Republican ranks due to the purity purges that left most of the leadership as Active-Negatives.  On that list Wikipedia has, most of the major names lean A-N in terms of adhering to reactionary agendas (hi, Christie!  hi, Scott Walker!  And yes, hi Jeb!).  The more far-out candidates - Bachmann, Santorum, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz - may present themselves as charismatic but they're not impressive with congeniality skills on the level of Reagan.  I'd already tagged Romney as a Passive-Negative, even if he puts back in for another campaign he still fits that trait best.  The only one of the named candidates that could conceivably play Passive-Positive with the populist skill as Saint Ronnie is Mike Huckabee.  And yet even that persona masks a hidden Active-Negative leaning due to Huckabee's religious hardline worldview.  It hadn't helped Huckabee that he's spent years in the echo chamber of the Far Right Noise Machine, which reinforces a negative worldview not only upon its audiences but also on its presenters.

For the Democrats, the madness of the campaigning isn't as severe: the base eagerly wants another Active-Positive, just one that's more active than Bill Clinton and Obama have been.  The only real problem there is that the primary leader - hi, Hillary! - is an unrepentant Active-Negative, which is why a lot of "Draft Elizabeth Warren" efforts are ongoing.  I mean, is Martin O'Malley a bridge too far, or are Democrats wary of having another Irish guy follow right after the Irish Obama?

I keep promising a review of Jeb Bush.  I gave away the Spoiler of how Jeb's an Active-Negative at heart, but I'll try to explain how I got to that as an answer.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Thinking Of Paris, Thinking of the True Words I Read Once

(Update note: Hello to everyone visiting via Crooks And Liars!  Thank you for the link to Mike's Blog Round-Up, and I hope everyone is doing well this new year.  Also to note, the current report about this story is that there's hostages in a grocery store.  This is not good, but here's hoping those hostages get out safe and that the shooters are captured alive so we can get answers...
Update 12:55 PM EST: News is that there were two separate hostage situations, one involving the two original gunmen and then a separate gunman who was allied with them.  It looks like both situations ended in shootouts, there may be hostages killed.  Not good.  Not at all good...).

I had posted this barely more than a year ago.  A quote from a political essayist nicknamed "Junius" as he wrote back in the day of limited speech rights in 1770.  I found it while researching the topic of religious and political intolerance, and it resonated with me on a personal level.

An honest man, like the true religion, appeals to the understanding, or modestly confides in the internal evidence of his conscience. The imposter employs force instead of argument, imposes silence where he cannot convince, and propagates his character by the sword.

I found it relevant whenever I recoiled from the violence employed by anti-abortion shooters and bombers, and it remains particularly relevant today against the terrorists both in France - against a satire paper Charlie Hebdo - and here in the USA - where a man tried to blow up an NAACP office in Colorado.

Every attack of terror is by a group - a rather small minority of haters among millions of honest believers - aimed to impose silence, all because the haters cannot accept or understand.  All because the haters know they cannot appeal or convince with understanding.  All because they have no modesty about their place in the world, preferring to rule and ruin by fear and death than co-exist in hope and life.  And the haters may not actually use swords in this day and age, but the metaphor of being a weapon of death and finality remains apt.

The proper response to all of this?  Well, for starters finding the haters and arresting them so they won't hurt any more people.  The other thing to do is stand up and cast aside the fear they seek to impose on us.  Not to fight back, but to stand and speak your mind and keep the peace.

Victory here is not counted by bullets or bodies.  Victory here is counted by rebuilding, repairing, restoring.  Victory here happens when we move on and stay alive.

There are a billion Muslims in the world, and they are not all at war with us or themselves.  It's just a very few, very violent group of angry guys.  There are a billion Christians in the world, and they are not at war with us or ourselves.  It's just a very few, very violent group of angry guys.  There are millions of Jews, and they are not at war with us or themselves.  It's just a very few, very violent group of angry guys.  There are a billion Hindus in the world, and they are not at war with us or themselves.  Except for the guys messing with us in the Tech Support call center offices, stop it you fiends.  It's just a very few, very violent group of angry guys.  I'm not sure about the numbers on Rastafarians, Pastafarians, and Bronies, but I am certain I can speak to the vast numbers of each being not at war with anyone either.  It's just the haters.

Peace out, peace in, peace be with you.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Predicting Presidents for 2016: Ere It Begins

My personal blogging challenge for the year of 2015 is to cope with the pending headaches of 2016 by attempting to predict each potential political candidate's Presidential Character.

This will follow the system established by James David Barber, who used a basic four-grid chart using two baselines: the energy invested in the Presidency (Active-Passive), and the personal perception placed/will place on the role of being President (Positive-Negative).  This gives us Active-Positive, Active-Negative, Passive-Positive, and Passive-Negative.

The terms used can be confusing because there are multiple meanings to each word.  People get confused about the word "Active" for example, thinking that can apply to Presidents who on a personal level bounce off the walls like hyperactive children.  The word "Active" here applies to how much energy that President puts towards being President: does he go to the job with confidence and vigor and conviction, does he view every policy fight as a good reason to wake up in the morning?  George W. Bush is a good example of the confusion: in personal habits he was very active and engaged with others, but when it came to the Presidency he was decidedly disconnected and more reactive to situations than active, which puts him in the Passive category.

Positive and Negatives might lead to confusion as well.  "Positive" here is the mindset that being President is a good thing, that the powers of the Executive office can be effectively used, that the role of the Presidency is flexible enough to do anything necessary to achieve goals that benefits others (Barber calls it the "I Can" mentality).  "Negative" is the mindset that the Presidency is dangerous (even in your own hands), that there are limits to the office and that things should be done in a procedural manner, that the President cannot or will not derive any satisfaction from the performance (Which falls under "I Must" mentality).

Using these definitions, Barber wrote his first book on Presidential Character in 1972 about then-President Richard Nixon who was about to embark on his re-election campaign.  Barber warned that Nixon showed signs of being a self-destructive Active-Negative type, akin to his predecessor Lyndon B. Johnson and to Woodrow Wilson.  Barber noted that Nixon's desire to face crises - even those self-created - would lead to an obsessive fight over a failed agenda that would collapse Nixon's entire administration.

That book was published and in the stores about two weeks before the Watergate break-in was found out.  It cemented Barber's reputation and his four-grid chart.  For the most part since then Barber's predictions about subsequent Presidents - except for Carter who was more Active-Negative, and for Clinton who was Active-Positive (but who did lean towards the Passive-Positive traits on a personal level) - bore true.  (It should be noted that the traits are not absolutes: even Negatives may show Positive leanings, and Passives may be remarkably Active and influential in the Executive office).

So before I go delving into the early list of 2016 candidates - a wave of Republican hopefuls just beginning with Jeb Bush and now Mike Huckabee, sure to be followed by 25-80 more - I need to clarify just what it is we'll need as voters to look at when evaluating the clowns jumping out of the election car.

Above all, the biographies of each candidate needs to be parsed and investigated.  Barber relied on the prime developing years of each President's youth, college years, early professions, marital pursuits.

In terms of professions, Barber examined the private professions as much as the public offices held, campaigns lost or won, and in each office he identified a key crisis or decision that either influenced further actions or confirmed the traits developed in the man's youth.

From such studies, Barber looked for these elements (from his book's first chapter):

  • Personality: in Barber's view it "shapes performance".  "...the degree and quality of a President's emotional involvement in an issue are powerful influences on how he defines the issue itself, how much attention he pays to it, which facts and persons he sees as relevant to its resolution, and finally what principles and and purposes he associates with the issue." (4th edition, p.4)
  • Pattern: the Personality follows certain patterns based on Character, World View, and Style.  Style (not charisma: nearly every President had his charms) is the easiest to spot: it's his habitual way of offering rhetoric, handling personal relations, and doing homework. (p.5)  The World View is another phrase to describe the person's primary belief structure and how he/she interprets the reality around him/her.  Character is based on what experiences have been "engraved" onto the person by outside persons/forces: it's how you confront conflicts (and Character is What You Are In The Dark).
  • Power Situation: That is, the moral and political climate into which the person becomes President.  What are the expectations of the office by the President as well as everyone else: voters, Congressional leaders, foreign powers?  The expectations of the office have changed much since Washington's heyday, and have changed even further after major economic (Great Depression) and political (Watergate and the ongoing scandal climate) and social (Slavery/Civil War/Reconstruction/Jim Crow/Civil Rights, Women's Rights, Gay Rights, etc) events that altered everything.  When we elect someone, we are expecting the elected official - the President - to perform his duties to resolve the crises and conflicts at hand.  Those expectations influence - either by confirming or denying - the President's pre-existing Character and World View.

So what this means for me is three-fold:

  • I gotta find published biographies of each of the candidate I'll be looking to profile.  Some will be easy to find, others not so.  And autobiographies will be ignored whenever possible, as those are too self-serving (tigers cannot see their own stripes: Republicans cannot admit to their own flaws...).
  • I need to identify any major crisis or conflict in each candidate's track history.  For Jeb it's relatively easy: his governor's performance is a matter of public record.  For the "private" citizens who've never held public office, their private sector performances would have to do, which is trickier to apply to public needs.
  • I need to get this all done in a timely fashion.  There's only 50 weeks now until 2016 itself rolls up and there's going to be about, what, 80 of these guys to review? 

As a side note, why should we expect about 80 or so Republican hopefuls running for 2016?  Because Obama.  Obama is finishing up his second term, capped off by the 22nd Amendment, meaning he won't be able to use his national popularity - it's gone up, by the by - to remain in office.

Making 2016 more enticing is the (flawed) cyclical trend of voters generally bouncing from one party to another even after a popular President leaves office: the thinking is that after 8 years of a Democrat in the White House, middling voters will allow a Republican back in.  Never mind the actual history where popular two-termers had a follow-up from his party win again.  SEE Bush the Elder following Reagan, Truman following FDR, Van Buren following Jackson, Taft following Teddy.  And it should include Nixon following Ike if not for Cook County ballots and Gore following Clinton if not for that damned butterfly ballot in Palm Beach county.  The notable exceptions are of course the unpopular two-termers Bush the Lesser and Nixon (whose unpopularity stained Ford's chances in 1976): in that vein, we'd have had Tilden a Democrat after the disaster that was Grant's administration if not for a broken Electoral college that allowed the corrupt Republicans in Congress to shove Hayes into office.  You'd be surprised how few two-termers there have been...

As for my homework assignment, Jeb Bush is the obvious lead-off.  He's local, he's made his moves, he's got easy-to-find resources within my reach for study.  Granted, I already have a bias against the man - mostly for logical performance-based disasters he inflicted on my state, but also for one very personal and admittedly irrational reason - but I will try to be fair.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 02, 2015

It's Not 2016 Yet, Still Getting Primaried To Death

Posted with comment:

A sure sign that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is planning to do more than just “explore” a run for the White House in 2016 is the fact that he is severing ties, erasing connections and alliances that could “complicate” a presidential campaign.

Given the size and scope of Presidential campaigns anymore, and the massive costs generated by constant campaigning to fund all of it in the first place, we're pretty much into the first year of a two-year program to destroy our love of civics.

There will be more to post about Jeb's interest in destroying the United States after all the fun he had the first time he did in 2000, but for now all I gotta say is this: expect at least 20 80 more Republican hopefuls - the obvious disasters like Christ Christie and Scott Walker, the surprising gamblers like Bob Corker, the hopeless clowns like the two Ricks (Santorum and Perry) - to declare in the next few weeks, because it's all fund-raising at this point and the ones who get the most money the earliest gets the head start in Iowa.