Archive for August 2012

And The Winner Is?

August 31, 2012

Technically it is still too soon to pick who will win, Mitt Romney or President Obama.  Voters do not have all the information.  Next week we will watch the Democrat Reality TV show.  A fair question is will Democrats beat the low “information and fact” bar set by the GOP this week?

This week’s GOP convention demonstrated as clear as necessary that political conventions are like the saber toothed tiger.  They look powerful but have actually morphed into obsolescence. The convention was expensively orchestrated yet has served little or no purpose.  GOP leaders hope that it has done no damage.

The best outcome of these conventions is exposure to large television audiences.  The worst outcome is what the television audience sees.  The GOP offered plenty of exaggerations, omissions, and a few outright mistruths.  To those already decided GOP voters, it was honey.  To those already opposed, it was vinegar.  Sounds like kissing your sister.

The really big question, “who would make the better President for the period 2013-2016” is still hanging out there unanswered.  Instead voters are told Romney is a successful business man.  Voters are asked to connect that fact with the promise Romney would be a great President.

Voters are left without any clue as to how Romney would lasso the deficit or how he would create 12 million new jobs or how he would be a more effective leader.

Voters also have no clue why a second term for President Obama would look much different than his first.  (Next week when President Obama gets his TV time, maybe we will learn more).

Some things the GOP did not mention.  For instance:

  • Which party was in power when the deficits began to grow?
  • What three new events lead to increasing deficits?  (Bush tax cuts, two un-financed wars, and an unfunded drug provision addition to Medicare).
  • Under which Party did the worst recession since the great depression take place?

Never the less, the GOP line is that President Obama has been a failure.  They claim America has experienced the longest period of high unemployment since the great depression and that is squarely President Obama’s fault.  The Country’s job creators would gladly add untold new jobs were Government only to step out of their way.  And if all that was not enough, the Affordable Care Act is a jobs killer and must be repealed.

Last week’s convention did not reveal any global comparisons.  Had the GOP shown the data, voters would have seen the US economy (and economic recovery since 2008) is (has been) recovering and is one of the best.  Among the larger economies, no country has returned to economic growth rates they were enjoying in 2007.

Most Americans care more about their own job prospects than to be concerned with global comparisons, for sure.  What Americans may be missing, however, is that the recession of 2008 was not your ordinary recession.  Arguably, it is President Obama’s steady hand that is leading the best recovery in the world and one that will not be blown away with another bubble.

Government regulations are, without a doubt, two edged swords.  Free market capitalism in a laissez faire environment is a prescription for disaster.  Someone will end up holding all the marbles.  This does not mean that all regulations achieve their intended purpose or remain effective forever.  Regulations must be constantly reviewed and amended periodically.

The GOP argument against the Affordable Care Act may be the most telling.  Repealing ACA would leave Americans with the most expensive health care in the world (and not the best) and would lead to 30-50 million to no longer have coverage.  The top 2%, however, need not worry.  They can afford to pay.  ACA may not be the model for sound health care legislation, but repealing it will leave Americans with less, and a health care system which is too expensive for most to afford.

If Romney would do a better job as President, it is hard to understand how he can convince Americans unless he builds his case upon facts.  A simple referendum on Obama’s performance should not support Romney’s election.

For a lot of voters, however, facts are irrelevant.  World comparisons are unneeded, they think.  This is true for both Democrats and Republicans.  So next week, Democrats will take aim at the 10-12% undecided.  The only question remaining is whether Democrats will use facts or simply try to out spin the GOP?

 

 

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Finding The Hole In The Line

August 29, 2012

This Saturday kicks off the 2012 College football season.  Football fans can’t wait.  The magic of a long touch down pass or an offensive lineman who blocks so well a gapping hole opens in the defensive line.  Through that hole, the star back races and scores a touchdown.  What a sight.

Last evening someone who looks like a football lineman spoke at the Republican Convention.  Governor Chris Christie might even be bigger than some linemen and if words can be an indicator, Christie is as fast as any.  It is hard to be sure but it sure looked like Governor Christie opened a hole in the Democratic line.  The question now is can Mitt Romney run through it?

Christie emphasized leadership and telling voters what reality really is.  Christie said that voters know what is going on and telling them before asking for sacrifices is what needs to be said.  On this score, Christie couldn’t be more correct.  GOP faithful, however, may simply prefer to think Christie was “right” as in right wing.

So Mitt Romney has the chance in his acceptance speech to run through the hole and set the record straight not about being “right”, but being “correct”.

We will know Romney is on the correct path if he says:

  • Our economy has become very complex in the last 50 years ago.  America needs comprehensive plans to both encourage entrepreneurs and help develop a labor force with 21st century skills.  We need government direction that aims at a steady but controlled growth rate and increases in the number of good jobs.
  • National Defense is the government’s first priority.  Defense, however, must reflect America’s national goals and self interests.  In this complex, global economy, America needs a more affordable combination of foreign policy and defense.  While America should remain the strongest country in the world, it cannot afford to spend more on defense than all other countries combined,
  • Families remain the most important unit in America’s future as in its past.  The family unit, however, must be flexible and open to new norms if America is to utilize its best talent.  Both women and men may become the “stay at home” partner and greater access to safe day care is essential if both parents work.
  • While I (meaning Romney) do not believe as a matter of faith that abortion is acceptable, I (meaning Romney) also recognize that the woman is the final arbitrator in whether to end a pregnancy or take it to full term.
  • While I (meaning Romney) also do not believe as a matter of faith that homosexual life styles including same sex marriage are acceptable, I recognize these Americans are human beings too.  As President, I will heed the wishes of Americans on this subject.
  • Lastly, I (meaning Romney) will propose to Congress a “comprehensive” immigration plan and seek from  Congress legislation that will address the estimated 12 million undocumented aliens living in America.  America has thrived upon immigration in the past and can again in the future.  Our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico, who share with us the longest unguarded boarders anywhere in the world, must be given special recognition amongst all the possible immigrants.

I am confident that if a Mitt Romney were to say this (and mean it) Thursday night, he would streak through the hole in the line and race on to win in November.

The likelihood, however, is that Romney will not go near these subjects.  As a consequence, Romney will need to carry the extra burden of disinfection by certain groups and outright disbelief by most that lowering taxes and raising defense spending lay on the path to more jobs and a balanced budget.

 

Strike Up The Band…

August 28, 2012

The GOP Convention begins today.  It actually officially began yesterday but Hurricane Mildred (or whatever its name) prompted Republican leaders to shorten the first day to about one hour.  The party (like those who came to party) were delighted.  Others got out their worry beads.  Media companies saw profits tumbling.  Would the Hurricane (or is it really a Tropical Storm?) overshadow the free publicity the Republican Convention was expecting?

In the olden days, Conventions often played a pivotal role in selecting the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates.  This time we know who the candidates will be.  Conventions also hammered out the “platform” and played mediator on the exact language.  Maybe this time too, but it looks like “no abortions, no exceptions” will carry the day.  This, however, speaks volumes.

The polls tell us that about 90% of voters have already made up their minds.  More information will only confirm the already established opinions.  What does this say to you about the sincerity and wisdom of Party Leaders who are flooding the airways with “Liar, liar, pants on fire” political ads?

Politics has always been about capturing and distributing political spoils.  In the recent past, maybe back to Reagan, national politics were about sharing the public troth.  The winning party simply got a little more.   It looks like today it is not a little more, but rather a lot more.

We have seen decades of kicking the can and avoiding tough but mandatory decisions.  Despite the GOP rhetoric, this election seems no different.  Cutting taxes (read lowering taxes on the wealthy) and also reducing entitlements (read taking government spending from the lower 98%) is a proposal going no where.

The GOP will strike up the band tonight.  Promises will spew forth.  Ironically, the most judicious path forward for the GOP is actually to promise a lot less.  The idea that sane, educated, and caring people could support no abortion, no exception is politically ridiculous.  I cannot see a family man like Romney standing before the cameras and saying that “if Anne’s life had been endanger, I would have still tried to save the baby even if it meant taking Anne’s life”.

Democrats have so far simply been less Republican.  Democrats have offered no coherent plan to get control of the deficit or to grow jobs.  Democrats have, however, shown far greater appreciation for voters as people.  So what?  Will that sway the election?

My guess is that in the final weeks of the election, both parties will turn to negative ads with a capital “N”.  The strategy will be to hit the other candidate with outrageous lies and hope there will be too little time for the other side to respond.

What a way to run an election.

It’s Scrambling Time

August 27, 2012

What a situation to find yourself in.  You subscribe to the “Etch-A-Sketch” theory but unfortunately life events seem to be working against a miraculous do-over.  If people had no memory, then once the nomination was in hand you could kiss good-bye to all those promises you have made which had no chance of bringing about the change you said they would have.  I wonder whether Mitt Romney is feeling angst?  He might have to campaign on these promises.

This particular crack is into which Mitt Romney has worked himself.  It is a shame, even a tragedy, that the only way Romney could hope to obtain the GOP nomination was to propose policies which were internally inconsistent and unworkable politically.  The far right controls the money and therefore controls the route to the nomination.  Romney either follows their script or he loses.

President Obama, also has some supporters whose positions he disdains.  Tree huggers, unions, and social activists all have elements which demand far more than their fare share.  For the most part, however, these groups do not have the financial wealth that far right groups do.  As a consequence, Romney has had to more closely toe the line or face rejection.

Hence the desire to flip the “Etch-A-Sketch” pad and get a new clean slate.  A new slate would in theory allow Romney to now propose a more moderate, centrist philosophy.

To some extent, all politicians cling to the “Etch-A-Sketch” approach.  Get the nomination, then tack back to the middle where compromise is possible.  This approach is pragmatic but not very courageous.

The GOP has lambasted President Obama with claims of one “failure” after another.  The wasteful Obama stimulus even though fully one third of the $600 billion was tax relief which all GOP members love.  The Affordable Care Act is even more incredible as a target of GOP dislike.  The ACA is almost a dead copy of Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan.  Right once, wrong now.

The real problem the GOP “Etch-A-Sketch” approach is that almost everything that has been already proposed will neither lower the deficit nor increase jobs (or economic activity).  Each element could have merits but in combination, are not destine to work.

One is left with the unmistakable impression that Romney and the GOP simply want to gain office and participate in the benefits of office holding.  It’s all about money.

The complete bag of GOP promises (read their platform) contain many proposals which appeal to the right and have nothing to do with the economy or jobs.  These policies are so right of center that some voters will vote against these social issues and overlook anything Romney has said about the economy.

The “Etch-A-Sketch” irony is that Democrats and President Obama have no better plan.  (It is possible, of course, that doing nothing and letting the economy recover on its own may be the only reasonable course of action in the new “globalized” world.  No one, however, has said that.)

The real point is that Democrats and the President have taken no stand on how to increase employment or grow the economy or how to get the deficit under control.  Any reasonable and balanced GOP approach could have had wide resonance.

Instead Romney finds himself in the midst of one contradiction after another with unnecessary (and unneeded) policies spreading the impression that Romney is anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant.

Well, I guess that is why Romney has bet so much on the virtues of “Etch-A-Sketch.

 

What Is An Athlete To Do?

August 23, 2012

Baseball has announced the 50 day suspension of the second major league baseball star.  It makes no difference what this player name is, it appears it could be almost any star.  This time it was the star pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, the previous one was the star player for the San Francisco Giants.

Of course, both players apologized.  They said they were sorry and that they had let down their fans, not to mention major league baseball.  For these players, it’s good bye to the 2012 season and the beginning of looking forward to 2013.  But will they be the same?

Sports articles indicate that athletes get into “doping” in various ways.  The slipperiest way is to try to speed the recovery from an injury.  The objective is not to gain an advantage but rather to return to the athlete’s playing level following a painful injury.  Apparently injuries keep coming and the cure works again and again.  Then one day a urine test flags a controlled substance and the athlete is outed.

In the 90’s and 2000’s, in the days of Bobby Bonds and Mark McGuire, miracles took place right before our eyes.  Strong, talented baseball players grew bigger right before our eyes.  Bonds went from an almost scrawny youth to a round faced, full figure home run hitter.  You had to be blind to miss it.  Something had to be wrong.  McGuire grew arms which were huge.

For both players, homer runs followed.  Fans loved it,  Baseball’s leadership must have known but was content to look the other way.

Roger Clemens whose physical appearance would suggest he too had used drugs was never found by baseball to have used doping materials.  Clemens even beat Federal charges that he had lied to Congress when he said he never took banned substances.  Was Clemens telling the truth or just a little cleverer than the rest.

Lance Armstrong, a seven time Tour D’France bicycle race winner, has never tested positive for banned substances.  Never the less, he has been accused of having used illegal substances for years based upon “hearsay” (teammates who said they saw him or knew he had used banned substances).  Armstrong’s accusers, interestingly have all been granted immunity from punishment in return for their testimony.

So what is an athlete to do?

These banned substances seem to be effective.  Users heal faster and regular users seem to perform better and longer.  These users’ teams benefit from their improved performance and fans enjoy more rooting for a winner over cheering for a loser.  Teams reward these players with bigger salaries.  The last piece of the puzzle is put in place.

The unspoken code is “take banned substances if you wish, just don’t get caught”

In the ideal world, it seems more desirable for everyone to play on natural ability, not ability enhanced by medication.  In the real world, however, things get complicated.  The public responds to outstanding performances, teams are willing to pay (because great performances increase the team’s market value enriching the owners), and there is no shortage of experts trying to develop methods of delivering illegal substances free from detection.

So, what is an athlete to do?

In both college and professional football, athletes are asked to crash their bodies into opposing athletes.  These collisions, however, have their own consequences.  It is now being shown that these head to head collisions are causing brain damage.  There are indications that this damage is leading to early onset of dementia.  In essence, the business of college and profession football is putting players at risk.

So again, what is an athlete to do?

I think the answer lies in what the athlete thinks is best for him/her…  and what they can live with personally.  Taking performance enhancing drugs while leading others to believe you have not, seems unethical.  Taking performance enhancing materials, banned or not, that are tacitly tolerated, must pass the test of what will be the consequences and are they worth it in the mind of the athlete.

Saying that organized sports has spoken and is against performance enhancing drugs, I think, is premature.

What Makes People Do Silly things?

August 22, 2012

I am currently traveling in Europe.  News travels.  Ridiculous news travels even faster.  Say hello to Todd Aken.

Senate candidate Todd Aken opened mouth and inserted foot.  (Did I mention Republican candidate Todd Aken?)  For anyone and especially politicians that is not hard to do.  It seems Americans expect their candidates to know everything there is to know about everything.  We are human, you know, and to misspeak is not that hard to do.

There are two conditions that make it incredibly easy to misspeak.  The first condition is when someone is pandering.  This means someone is saying something because he expects his audience to like that type of reply.  The words just jump out with no mental processing like “what did I just say”?

The second condition is even more dangerous.  This involves someone who just holds a “flat earth” type of view.  This group of people think they are smarter than their listeners and can talk their way around any obvious holes in their view.

The first condition is about the fool in all of us, and the second is about people unfit for public office.

So, by now everyone knows Todd Aken told a clever interviewer, that there were degrees or types of rape.  If someone was really raped, their body would naturally prevent conception.  So believing that a woman does not have a right to choose, even in cases of rape or incest, was in Aken’s mind sound.

It is certainly defensible to be against abortion and strive to see the number of abortions reduced.  What is in question is who decides whether an abortion is an option, the woman or others?

There are many ways to approach this argument.  Most people think that if a mother’s life is in jeopardy, she has the right to end the pregnancy.  (Most people but not all.)  How can someone take the position that they have more right to choose who lives than the mother in question?

From saving the mother’s life, it flows to rape and incest where the woman did not voluntarily become pregnant.  Why should she carry to full term?  Who of us has the right to force her when she did not ask to be pregnant in the first place?

Now the slippery slope comes to degrees of voluntary intercourse where pregnancy was not the goal but it happened anyway.  Why should it not be the woman’s call to end the pregnancy if she does not want to commit to raising a child at this point in her life?

The usual argument says the fetus has rights too.  Ending life is an important decision with large ethical and moral tones.  Yet, I come back to the same issue.  The pregnancy is real for the woman.  She may be choosing to say “not now” (because I am a student, new employee, have other responsibilities, etc).  How can any of us say to her “you must”?

The situation people like Aken get themselves into is that the simplest logic suggests no to ending pregnancy in all cases will provide the greatest strength to the unwanted pregnancy case.  Life is just not that black and white.

Fundamentally, the issue rests upon the fact that only the pregnant person has a right to decide.  The rest of us can encourage, either way.  The women is the only one who can get pregnant and it is her body.

The Akens of this world have gotten their wires crossed.  They have lost sensitivity and with it, sound judgement.  Views like this (that he can pronounce whether someone could or could not end their pregnancy) are basically flawed.  If they are flawed on this subject, what else are they flawed on?

Who Am I?

August 16, 2012

The Photo ID laws recently put in place in several States are a testimonial to Jim Crow.  States have power to enact unneeded laws that have consequences.  These ID laws are also a testimonial to complacency as well as a show of pure political power.  Photo ID represents a precedent that wise men should not have provide the masses.

The Photo ID laws have popped up in a number of Republican controlled State legislatures.  Elections have consequences and for Republicans to enact legislation they believe is well intended is their political right.  The issue is more about a blatantly unnecessary law such as the Photo ID and that it will just beg an equal and opposite law when Democrats gain power.

What is most glaring about Photo ID is how supporters can look each other straight in the eye and say “this is for your protection”.  The argument is that any fraudulent vote cancel outs another person’s legal vote.  Or does it?

This argument reveals clearly the partisan nature of Photo ID.  It has nothing to do with the security of voting.  Instead it is all about suppressing non-Republican votes.

Early in 2012, a Pennsylvania Republican controlled legislature pushed through a voter ID law.  In a moment of jubilation, Republican House majority leader, Mike Turzai, told supporters that with this law in place, Pennsylvania would elect Mitt Romney.

Yesterday a Pennsylvania District Court ruled the Photo ID law as Constitutional (that is it met the requirements of the State Constitution).  What is most puzzling is that during the trial, the State Attorney General provided written evidence that the State knew of no cases of voter fraud.  The State legislature had enacted a law to fix nothing.

So why again did the State pass this law?

Most citizens would want the person voting to be the person registered.  And, they would want that person to vote just once.  These are common sense demands.  The question is “how does Photo ID assure this?”

If someone wants to vote more than once, or simply vote when not qualified, manufacturing a photo ID is not that difficult.  It should come as no surprise that voter fraud could increase with the Photo ID requirement.  Poll workers need only compare the likeness and not study the signature.  How good is your driving license photo?  Dead voters and those living at different addresses will have just as good if not better chance to vote now.

But let’s not get carried away.  These Photo ID laws are not about the integrity of the vote.  They are about suppressing the vote.  These laws are intended to scare some voters (elderly and recent immigrants) from trying to vote.

Once America begins going down this path of erecting voting booth barriers again, corporations (who are people, you know), gain an even larger voice. And those corporate votes (like Super Pac spending) can swamp the power of the ballot box.

So once again, who am I?