Thanks For Next To Nothing

Aquarian Weekly 11/21/12 REALITY CHECK

THANKS FOR NEXT TO NOTHING Election Day Boondoggle – Freedoms at a Premium

Those of us unimpressed with this ongoing myth that the United States of America promotes the pure tenets of freedom are to say the least lukewarm on these referendums passed in four states (Colorado, Washington, Maryland and Maine) last Tuesday to legally recognize same-sex marriage and decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. Are we supposed to burst into song and dance lauding the democratic spirit because four out of fifty states pulled a majority to allow civil rights and ration basic freedoms?

Marriage EqualityThe public voting at the state level to grant equal treatment under the law and remove the consideration of prison for the consumption of a plant is a joke. I see less reason to cheer this pathetic crawl to liberty than to call it what it is: Nothing less than a patronization of constitutional law, doled out incrementally by the ballot in place of the inalienable rights we rush to celebrate.

A sadder display of freedom is hard to conjure.

This phony notion America has become anymore progressive since Election Day is lip service to those of us who believe that slowly providing rights duly granted by the constitution is patently insane. It is, as depicted in this space for over a decade now, an embarrassment. We should be ashamed to call ourselves free. Who are we kidding with this bullshit?

There was a lot of talk during the election season that religious freedoms are being threatened by the federal government, most of it stemming from the outlandish argument that if an organized religion runs colleges and hospitals, it is supposed to be treated as an extension of that religion’s faith. But religious freedom is an absolute, protected by the first amendment to the constitution, granted not by vote, but by rights proffered and fought for during the American Revolution over 250 years ago.

The federal government does not dictate how a religion conducts its business inside the guise of religion; the pulpit, the synagogue, the mosque, the temple, church or ministry. But the federal government does deny Americans the right to smoke a joint and marry the person of their choice.

Why don’t we put up for a vote whether organized religion should be allowed to function as a private non-taxable concern, which may still infuse its will (based not on fact or law or anything tangible, but on faith and belief) on the body politic. I say we vote on that. No? Why is that? Because it is a non-negotiable right.

So why are we happy that people are voting on other non-negotiable rights?

Just because those rights occasionally win?

Why are we voting on rights?

We have become so anesthetized to the atavistic, puritanical recoiling this nation has displayed in denying basic freedoms for eons that we celebrate like children when we’re granted half-assed amnesty.

We have become so anesthetized to the atavistic, puritanical recoiling this nation has displayed in denying basic freedoms for eons that we celebrate like children when we’re granted half-assed amnesty. Oh, thank you masters of a broken system for allowing us a glimmer of hope that our rights might be slowly realized at the whim of the public!

The paranoia citizens have about the public sector being absorbed into a state institution should begin not with the pocket book or moral outrage, but with the individual; as Thomas Paine imagined it, as Thomas Jefferson sermonized it, as the people formulated it, and the blood of the infantry sacrificed for it. When a free society ignores the rights of the individual, not just the public at large, then we are all in chains. No vote, no public outcry, no protest can make it so. Law makes it so. It is what separates us from the beast. And I say we are beasts when we ignore law, and then for some bizarre, inexplicable reason, we vote on this aberration.

This is not a reason to celebrate. It is a reason to throw up.

You know how I know this to be true? What if we vote on whether you can drink beer? How’s that work for you? Or how about your son or daughter being denied the same rights as someone else’s son or daughter based on eye color or height? You know why Dick Cheney, a man with an abject abhorrence of any liberal cause know to modern society, supports gay marriage? Because his daughter is gay, just like you’d support it if it were your daughter.

Without spending too much time on same-sex marriage, which has nothing to do with sex, homosexual or otherwise — or marriage for that matter — the audacity for a government to deny taxpaying citizens the right to legally join their fortunes is criminal. Period. This is another in a long line of silly omissions which litters our history that we will soon, maybe ten years, maybe twenty, laugh at; as we did when we denied women the vote, African Americans full and complete citizenship, interracial couples to marry, you name it.

The marijuana issue is not only flat-out asinine, but could greatly assist in the decreasing of the debt and the creation of jobs, not the least of which the crippled farming industry.

Hardly anyone in our mostly ill-informed voting public has an idea why marijuana is illegal in the first place, and this ignorance has led to the most costly, ineffectual war this country has ever waged; the War on Drugs.

Over the past four decades the U.S. has spent over one trillion dollars losing this completely futile battle, and for what? The hemp industry threatened the paper industry (timber and fiber) in the 1930s, so the Hearst papers and Du Pont Corporation unleashed a smear campaign casting marijuana as a dangerous poison with no scientific proof?

During the years following this fabricated corporate power play our judicial and penal system has been ravaged by senseless incarcerations. The feeble FBI and bloated DEA are overwhelmed. Drug cartels, organized crime and mutants profit while pot is readily available to children.

The worst period of this nonsense occurred during the Reagan Administration’s “Just Say No” head-in-the-sand stupidity. Since 1980, we’ve had three times as many citizens imprisoned per year on senseless drug possession charges than prior decades. Our prisons burst with ten-times the incarcerated as any of the world’s richest countries. In 2010 alone, 1.6 million people were arrested on marijuana charges alone.

So excuse me if I’m not ecstatic over this dribble of sewage water being sold as champagne by a snickering media and joyous liberal commentators, who are so used to scraps they’re apparently pleased the American people are being treated like preschoolers bargaining for an extra ten minutes of TV time before bed.

 

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Obama Victory 2012

Aquarian Weekly 11/14/12 REALITY CHECK

THE JOE COOL STOMP II Barack Obama Doubles Down On History

That was fun. Eighteen months of hard campaigning, billions of dollars spent, hundreds of speeches, rallies and whistle stops, trillions of words spewed from every avenue of punditry, and here we are: President Barack Obama, Republican Congress, Democratic Senate.

How did we get to status quo?

Obama VictoryFirstly, this was about Barack Obama. Beyond the distractions of his opponent’s mostly sub-par to at times atrocious candidacy, this victory cements his place as the most impressive Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s not even close. Truman barely survived Dewey. LBJ quit. Kennedy was murdered. Carter never had a prayer. Clinton failed to win the popular vote twice. Joe Cool stomped the terra. Took the names and buried the comers. In my lifetime, this was the domain of Republican candidates. Until Obama.

Obama achieved the impossible, twice. Just by getting elected as the first African-American president in the first place; not to mention as a northern, liberal, two-year senator, and then, weakened and vulnerable, repeating the achievement as the owner of the highest unemployment as any victorious incumbent from either party since 1936. Thirty years from now journalists and head-scratching Republicans will have to listen to the myths of Barack Obama the way we’ve had to endure those of Ronald Reagan. He is the liberal pillar to Reagan’s conservative one; both men overcoming recession, harsh and unfair attacks from opponents, and a mid-term congressional dump to win an impressive re-election.

Just like the old liberal establishment of the early twentieth century failed to comprehend the pall of the Depression Era, the fatigue of world wars and the yolk of government had faded into the yuppie gore of the 1980s, there is an equally fervent rejection of reality by the Cold War, trickle-down nerds who have been living in a nether world of falsehoods that finally came home to roost on November 6, 2012.

Republicans will argue, and it is starting right now as I write this, four minutes before Mitt Romney’s concession speech, that the candidate merely sucked. He did suck. But if so, he’s sucked for seven years, and despite a TEA Party uprising in 2010 that brought the GOP back from a post-Bush funeral, he, and not a true conservative became the party’s overwhelming choice. And with more disposable cash than any candidate in American history, he was trounced.

Turns out, Romney’s high watermark was that evening in Denver when his campaign was ditched and he boldly unleashed the biggest ass kicking anyone is likely to see in a presidential debate again. Before that his team was deeply divided and the candidate’s performance poor. His desperate lurch to the center and then to shamelessly mirror his opponent in the final debate confused anyone paying attention for more than a few weeks. And perhaps keeping him from any interviewer, radio microphone or television camera for the last 45 days of the race made it impossible for the electorate to embrace him.

But this was not a Romney problem. For weeks nearly every conservative commentator fell over one another to tell us that all the polls were wrong and “momentum this” and “enthusiasm that”. “You’ll see!” they all said. They just didn’t have anything to back it up, like polls or data; not unlike their candidate’s economic math or dozens of other campaign promises that were devoid of detail. It is this kind of disconnection from reality that has plagued the Republican brand for years now, whether in matters of social, cultural or economic concerns.

No campaign, especially those that Rove’s $400 million-plus American Crossroads miserably failed to rescue, can ever make the mistake of ignoring this reality again.

A lot of people got a kick out the Republican Primaries, it was great political theater, but they also scared the hell out of many more. Fighting against gay rights with religious nonsense, dismissing women’s health care as promiscuousness, treating the human element of immigration reform as if rounding up cattle, laughing at climate change and trashing the government you’re auditioning to run was a recipe for November 6, 2012.

This parade of nonsense helped build on Obama’s overwhelming demographic dominance, putting the onus on the GOP to expand its ever-dwindling voting block — working-class whites, religious fanatics, married white women, neo-cons, and fat cats. Fact is right now there is a pretty good chance the next 20 years of trends whether ethnic, social, or gender will land squarely in the opposition party’s column. An entire generation of young people has now come out to vote for a Democratic president twice. The old adage is that three such elections and you have that voter for life.

The Obama Machine, which gained its fangs in those drag-outs against the mighty Clintons in 2008 and designed the nation’s finest grass roots ground game ever, has set the standard. Pinpoint inner polling, a Herculean get-out-the-vote discipline, county-by- county retail political sweeps, and heavy demographic targeting as precise and lethal as a military engagement will be the norm now, not the exception. Fossils like Karl Rove, Michael Barone, George Will, and Dick Morris, who were all sure Romney would win, (Morris predicted a landslide) applied the last vestiges of the loser’s lament; wishful thinking, when well-researched and irrefutable arithmetic were readily available to them. Rove, once the boy genius of a time now long past, was so flummoxed election night he openly fought on the air with the FOXNEWS statisticians until the cold reality of his folly had stripped him bare. No campaign, especially those that Rove’s $400 million-plus American Crossroads miserably failed to rescue, can ever make the mistake of ignoring this reality again.

And finally, the statistical matrix of the race, specifically the superstar, Nate Silver and his 538 blog, with its weighted poll system and de-junking of antiquated systems, has turned a heretofore unreliable prognostication tool into a dead-on indicator of voter loyalties and leanings. This has changed the very landscape of politics forever. Dismissing this data or failing to use these tools as vital measuring sticks to victory for candidates by any campaign or the media from now on will be done at their peril.

Silver is the great revelation of this 2012 presidential campaign. His miraculously stellar 2010 prediction odds were only outdone by the nearly six months of consistent and illuminating polling data that never once gave Mitt Romney a more than 30 percent chance of victory, and as late as Election Day provided Barack Obama a 92 percent probability rating, based solely on fastidiously balanced internal state numbers that failed to waver but only for a few weeks in October and then settled back out to the original and ultimately finishing totals.

Never has polling data been so reliable and in-depth at providing not only the correct outcome weeks even months ahead of time, but factored in all the information politicos, the press and the public would need to know about the electorate at large. Covering or following the ebb and flow of a presidential campaign will never be the same again. It is the political junkie’s equivalent of Einstein, Edison, you name it. Compared to Silver, the rest of the field was using sticks and rocks in an atomic age.

In many ways the 2012 election cycle was historic. Whether this results in competent governing is for those in the wishful thinking category. We feel sufficiently pleased that cold, hard reality won over bullshit for now. We take our victories where we can get them.

 

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Countdown Election 2012

Aquarian Weekly 11/14/12 REALITY CHECK

COUNTDOWN ELECTION Final Fever-Induced Thoughts From The Desk

If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public. – Nate Silver 538 Blog

You provide the picture, I’ll provide the war. – William Randolph Hearst

Nate SilverSomewhere between Silver and Hearst that sliver of light, the minutest strip of disparate verisimilitude, the infinitesimal morsels of the fact/fiction continuum is where this column lies. It has tight-roped that baby for years, too many to count. Shit, this is our fourth presidential election manning the Reality Check News & Information Desk. It has been far longer than that on the freelance wire, and before that, long ago, when this voice actually gave a crap who won these things. Absolutes here are a luxury. We visit them from time to time, like Cabo San Lucas or Pete’s Tavern; a home away from home where it appears life is somewhat free of hard fact and colder reality.

This is where I tend to agree with Mr. Hearst, a giant in print publishing. A man so powerful he once brokered a peace accord with a foreign country for the United States when he had as much legislative power to do as say Rupert Murdoch. He twice asked for someone to put a bullet in President McKinley, which of course someone fatally did. Hearst had no mind for facts; he was a man of raw emotion; if it bleeds, it leads; crush opponents and prop up friends. This was the aim of American Journalism. I am nothing if not its bastard child and I stand aloof from crunching numbers and getting the exact tallies down. I’ve been writing for years about how Richard Nixon won the 1960 election, as did George W. Bush in 2000. I believe these things from the heart, not the head.

Although, Nate Silver is a shrewd customer. In a way, this election is on him and his ilk. The geeks have taken over baseball and football and every inch of our country’s computer landscape. Why not politics? But as my long-time friend, Jersey Pete reminds me time and again, if they knew then what we do now, half the shit that is lauded would be worthless, like using leeches to cure TB. And according to Nate Silver’s 538 blog, which blew every other statistical analysis out of the water in 2010, the president has an over 80 percent chance of winning a second term.

But polls are strange bedfellows. We run to them when they fill our cup, but from them as poison when the news is less cheery. Yes, but we never ignore them. We are inundated by them; professionals and the public alike. So many to choose from, so many biases, so many vacillations. It was so much easier to cover these things in the eighties when Reagan showed up and the country fell at his feet, never mind the thirties when Roosevelt didn’t bother to campaign. H.L. Mencken mused that even if everyone stayed home FDR would carry 48 states.

But no matter the illumination, numbers are weird. Right before A-Rod resurrected his persona as Yankee pariah this October, Jersey Pete sent me a screed from one of a billion online statistical analysts that proved the he was a far more productive play-off performer than the guy, Derek Jeter, who holds half the records for said play-offs. His numbers made sense to someone who had failed to watch or listen to or review the box scores of every Yankees play-off game since 1976, otherwise it was preposterous nonsense. Not to mention, before breaking his ankle (to which afterwards the Yankees failed to even lead a single inning for the rest of the series) Jeter was having an excellent play-off, following an excellent year. A-Rod was being the A-Rod people love to dump on.

So timing is everything too. Proof being in the pudding, and for Silver, the proof comes two days from when I write this; hacking up a lung in front of a dying fire in a room devoid of heat and the little electricity my generator can burp up. I am a professional, Koczan, if nothing else.

The thing is, as far as this reporter is concerned, since July all of the polling data, dismissing Silver altogether, has pretty much kept Barack Obama far enough ahead to maintain the probable electoral votes needed to reach 270.

You see, Silver, unlike Hearst, has to back up his bold headlines about a secure Obama win, not a landslide, but a fair electoral firewall with a steadfastly cruel deconstruction of the numbers. Obama and Romney will make a nifty living on speaking gigs, Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow will still have shows, but who in their right mind is going to ever take Nate Silver seriously if Romney wins? It’s over for him. I like that.

The thing is, as far as this reporter is concerned, since July all of the polling data, dismissing Silver altogether, has pretty much kept Barack Obama far enough ahead to maintain the probable electoral votes needed to reach 270. That makes him president; not momentum or unforeseen circumstance or money or whatever is argued counts more. 270. Not popular vote or any other Al Gorish crapolla.

And while Mitt Romney, like John Kerry in 2004, a candidate I believe he most resembles in comportment and general flip-flop handling of his campaign, did make it a real horserace in early October, he never could overtake Obama in places he needed to steal to block his road to 270, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and then nudge his opponent to the side in battleground states like Nevada, Colorado, Florida and most importantly Ohio. If anything, Obama has slightly stretched those leads as late as November 3.

Kerry, of course, is an interesting case. The polling in the final weeks of the ’04 campaign had Kerry’s rise falter and there were still several electoral paths for Bush, just like the Romney/Obama matrix. The exit polls were the ones that screwed everyone. They looked tremendous for Kerry by 5:00 pm on Election Day, but by 10:00 pm, it was the polar opposite.

Now, we’ve dismissed polls here many times. They are minor guideposts, but they do have relevance, since they have historical measures, and this time they all point to one thing: If Mitt Romney is the next president of the United States he needs to steal states he is currently trailing that lean blue and lock up anything resembling a battleground state, and if he has any prayer, he had better not drop Ohio. Or, as Silver writes, “hope the polls are dead wrong”.

Look, we’ve been without Internet connection, besides the tiny smart phone, here at The Desk for almost a week now — and for most of that AT&T screwed us. I’ve recently emerged from a hellish 48 hours of hallucinating fevers that would fell most mammals. Most of my brain cells have been boiled away. I thought my left hand was Mayor McCheese as late as 3:00 am this morning. I have no fucking idea how well Obama played this crisis, nor do I care. All he had to do was beat Katrina, and a lamppost could have bested that clusterfuck.

You know our stance; if you don’t want to vote, don’t. This idea that people died for this right is correct; but it’s the right, not the mandate. They can’t prevent you from voting, but they can’t force you to do it either, which is what I keep explaining to these anti-gay marriage idiots; it doesn’t mean you have to marry a homosexual or that every homosexual who is currently dating is now officially married the second it’s legal, it just means some numbskull in congress can’t disallow their right to do so.

Also, you know my stance on second terms; they’re awful (Johnson — Viet Nam, Nixon — Watergate, Reagan — Iron/Contra, Clinton — Monica Lewinsky, GW Bush — running out of space, I’ll pass on this list) And as far as this space is concerned, neither of these candidates have bothered to put forth a coherent road map to their agenda over the next four years, (I love when people show up to a debate to tell everyone to look at the web site, it’s like your daughter’s date showing up at your house telling you to check out the Facebook page).

I’m interested in seeing Romney govern; I seriously have no idea what we’re getting. It’s a wild ride for someone like me. Obama helps me on my whole gay marriage kick, but I don’t believe him, so there’s that.

Holy shit, a gremlin is trying to kill my cat.

 

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Woman Vote 2012

Aquarian Weekly 10/31/12 REALITY CHECK

WOMEN, WOMEN, WOMEN The Pandered Demographic Model Circa 2012

Somehow there are five to seven percent of people, maybe it’s four percent, maybe less that are undecided about this year’s presidential choices; of which there are only two. Now I can clearly see why there isn’t a three-party system. This is apparently tough enough. And so two weeks out the campaigns have narrowed their targets down to one group — as is the custom in these final harried days — white, middle-class, suburban women; known more condescendingly as “soccer mom’s” or “security mom’s”. But generally, as we have heard from the swatch of punditry willing to toss it all in; whoever is to be the next president will be is almost solely dependent on women, women and more women.

Woman VoteYou hear it all the time now; Women find this appalling. Women are turned off by this or that. Women especially prefer this disposition. Women don’t like aggressive interplay during debates. Women only care about reproductive rights. Women have to get home to cook dinner for the kids. Women vote this way and that way.

Frankly, not being a woman, but nevertheless the proud husband of an intensely alternative thinking woman and the father of a pretty damned independently minded girl (not to mention the son of a raving lunatic), I would think these generalities to be a tad insulting.

Strike that, it’s a fucking embarrassment.

Yet it is repeated over and over by both campaigns and strategized to death. And of course it is the mantra of the media: How will women respond to Romney’s tie or Obama’s smile? Who is “more likable”, sweeter, calmer, less threatening, cordial or fatherly? This is the equivalent of “The American people choose the man they want to have a beer with or hand the keys of their car to” crap.

Of course, we play into their hands. For instance, this idea that Mitt Romney could show up to a debate in early October, after running for president for 16 months, enduring 20 debates, hundreds of interviews, a grueling primary season, stage a multi-million dollar biographical and ideological convention and continuously spend in the millions on ads and still manage to have a coming out party to turn the polls upside down means we really don’t pay much attention to this stuff. The president rewrites his record and no one seems to notice. Romney says one thing for a year and then says the complete opposite — not sort of different or a slight shift in ideology — but a diametrically opposing stance, as if reinventing another candidate, and it matters not.

So, we’ve earned this “people vote this way” tag, however pathetic.

Still, this accepted idea that “women like this” and “women vote this way” stuff is patently insolent. It is the point I was trying to make when Bush or Cheney were prattling on and on about “The Iraqi people”, as if there was one type of Iraqi people. And as we have come to understand at the very least there were three divergent sects of Iraqis, all of which had no interest in pooling their differences to form a democratic milieu.

The key to women, we are told in one way or the other by both campaigns and the lapdog media is the availability of this demographic. It is movable. Not entrenched. This is the main reason many Republican strategists have told me for three years now that the party must expand or fade. There are only so many groups left to maneuver now and women are the ripest. As for Democrats, they have the advantage in social concerns, specifically in Roe v Wade, which is the sticking point. In fact, there is not much point in a woman who is not religious or entering menopause to ever vote Republican. Why would you let the government dictate what goes on in your body? This kind of thing tends to trump economic and security issues: Capital Gains are down, but we’ll need you to act as carriage for the next nine months, thanks.

And let’s try and ignore, if we can, the absolute insanity coming from Republican candidates for Senate, who have in two different occasions now interpreted rape as either some divine interplay by the omnipotent Godhead or a vague distinction of “illegitimate” in which the female organs biologically reject semen.

This accepted idea that “women like this” and “women vote this way” stuff is patently insolent.

These are the main reasons why Barack Obama enjoys an on average seven to nine percent gender gap among likely women voters, much less when taking minorities out of the equation. It was larger prior to the aforementioned early October debate. Thus, it is the only demographic the Romney campaign feels could be available to make up the last inches of ground in order to secure victory on November 6. Hispanics are out of the question. African Americans are long gone. And the youth vote is probably better for the Republicans if it sits this one out, as it usually does with the exception of 2008. For Obama, white working class men are way out of reach, as are religious types, a good portion of the elderly who are not scared shitless of Paul Ryan, as well as the usual Republican strongholds; wealthy, military, etc.

Therefore, it is women.

The Romney Campaign recently told me that they have been working their way back in the race on the strength of the woman vote; suburban mostly; specifically those outlining areas around Cleveland and Toledo, just outside Philadelphia and Phoenix, and similar areas around cities in nine other battleground states. Contraception, health care, right to choose, taxes, national security, jobs; these are the buzz words that will ultimately decide this election if both campaigns are to be believed. Too simple? Maybe. But nevertheless, this is the way the political wind blows.

More recent examples would be Richard Nixon’s 1968 “Southern Strategy”, wresting the defiantly racist portion of the white, male population away from the Southern Democrats that had maintained a foothold since The New Deal. This was the fundamental shift that allowed Republican candidates for president a mortal lock on almost anything south of the Mason-Dixon Line for decades.

In 1972, it was the Silent Majority; Nixon’s term for those not taking to the streets to protest the abomination of Viet Nam, which he promised to end with “a secret plan” in ’68 and that whisked him to power on the televised riots in the streets outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Those frightened by social change, youth uprising on college campuses, drug culture and rock music, what Dr. Hunter S. Thompson dubbed Freak Power.

In 1980, there were the Reagan Democrats, or lunch pail white working class men; previously unavailable to Republicans but brought in on fears of Iranian Hostage Crisis and a crumbling manufacturing sector. In ’84, and ’88 it was the growing Evangelical community or what it is known as the Religious Right. In 1992, it was the Yuppies and the disaffected Boomers; the “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” types who’d had it with 12 years of Reaganomics. In 2004, it was Karl Rove’s “security mom” strategy with the slam-dunk previously untapped anti-gay contingent, which at that time was upwards of 74 percent of Americans.

Two years ago Barack Obama achieved the near impossible; parleying the outlandish notion of a black, liberal two-year senator into president of the United States, largely due to the most effusive and active youth voting block in the history of this nation.

Now you wonder if women; long considered part of the general racial, cultural and geographical demographics, will use this new attention to defy the logic that they all respond, think, and vote in solidarity.

Or the” Women don’t like to be referred to merely as women” vote.

 

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New Ball Game

Aquarian Weekly 10/17/12 REALITY CHECK

NEW BALL GAME A Baseball Philosophy into Romney’s Mid-October Comeback

A little over a week ago while Mitt Romney was kicking Barack Obama all of the stage in Denver during the first of three presidential debates, The N.Y. Yankees were beating up a depleted Triple-A team wearing Boston Red Sox uniforms and closing in on their 17th or 18th division title; it’s hard to count there’s so goddamned many. But all it did was provide the Yankees with a puncher’s chance for a play-off to come. It didn’t make them world champs or even American League champs. In order to accomplish this, a team has to first qualify. Little did anyone realize that evening Romney was doing his own qualifying.

Mitt RomneyBaseball analogy further, the Yankees were forced to win that game, the final game of the season to clinch, because they had blown a lead to the surging Baltimore Orioles in late summer, just as Romney absolutely had to win that first debate due to his lackluster September. The Yankees had squandered a ten-game lead. Romney had stumbled his way through one catastrophe after the other. On the same night, both righted the ship.

But again, nothing was truly decided. Turns out there are two more debates, and the bump Romney enjoys still has not given him leads in key battleground states. Despite besting them in the regular season, the Yankees ended up in a play-off series with the same Baltimore Orioles team that chased them into autumn. The same team right there again knocking on the door. The same issues facing Romney over these next three weeks of campaigning.

Baseball, though, unlike presidential politics, is a sport without a clock. There is no four-corner offense or kneel down or freezing the puck. You have to play it out. It has to be taken. It is a sport where the defense has the ball first, and dictates the outcome by delivering it to the offense. Mostly, baseball is the cruelest of sport. Hit the ball hard, get nothing. Make the best pitch, break a bat, and it falls in for a two-run single that sinks you. It is our national past time for a reason. It reminds us of beauty and anguish in the same game, and sometimes even during one play.

Presidential politics can have tantalizing moments of cruelty and joy, but there is a clock. Waiting out the opponent for that grand mistake can sometimes be effective. But this time around that strategy has backfired on both candidates. As a wise man once uttered, “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.”

Romney and Obama were each in enviable positions during this 2012 campaign. Each thought they could merely ride waves into victory. First Romney, having endured the primary push to the Right, something he did grudgingly and in many cases uncomfortably, emerged a confident challenger to a vulnerable incumbent; the “winnable candidate”. He was the Yankees ten games up in June.

The Romney strategy out of the blocks was to hang in there and don’t be too bold, be the alternative to the low approval-ratings guy and ride his negatives into the White House. But the “anything but Obama” stance started to falter around late June, so Romney began talking and talking and sinking and sinking in the polls; losing ground in battleground states he had never led in but figured would somehow come his way by osmosis.

That’s about when complacency took over the Obama campaign, having battled out of a weak economic record and scary wrong-track numbers to show life and build its own seemingly secure lead, the way the Yankees opponent, the Baltimore Orioles, a team riddled with holes and questionable pitching, began to storm into a tie with New York on Labor Day.

For three dismal weeks in September, Romney looked as if he and his campaign had no idea where he was going or what he was doing, culminating in truly pitiful poll numbers in not only battleground states, but flimsy defenses in once solid “red” ones. Senate and congressional races were tossed into jeopardy, the conservative press and donors began to wonder if Romney’s heart was in it. He was now the vulnerable one.

What looked like a sure six months ago for Romney and then a surer bet for Obama two weeks ago turns once again into a cruel shift of fortunes.

So, instead of taking the dagger handed to him by Romney, Obama, in his most defining moment in the campaign thus far, decided to play prevent defense; acting at best cordial and at worst neutered for 90 minutes while his opponent hit him hard on fact and fiction.

Before October, 3, 2012, Mitt Romney had not been “in the game”. If anything, his campaign and his own inability to lead it had managed to push what was a mild-to-solid Obama lead in every battleground state into nearly overwhelming odds. Romney had completely lost any chance at stealing Wisconsin, was so far behind in Pennsylvania and Michigan his campaign announced to the traveling press there would be no more money spent there and the candidate would be taking his road show elsewhere. There was serious internal talk of abandoning Ohio and going the Karl Rove route of the mountain states and securing Virginia and Florida for an end-around approach that nobody thought was feasible beyond a minor miracle.

Then Romney escaped from several factions inside his campaign and the party, ceased his pussy-footing with the fringe TEA Party advisors and his change-a-minute team, and go back to being the moderate that the country, so far unimpressed with him, could stomach. Why else would a man who claimed for 16 months to repeal the Affordable Care Act reel off six or seven of its most popular provisions as something he supported, while also amazingly touting his own health care initiative in Massachusetts? Why else would he deny his math-challenged 20 percent tax cut across the board with no tangible raise in revenues for a hearty support of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

It was a brilliant Clintonian pivot and it changed this race.

Now, as the Yankees and Orioles, after 162 games, a spring, summer and fall behind them, and 22 games head-to-head match-ups, try and finally decide who will survive a play-off series for a spot in the World Series, Romney and Obama find that no one is in the driver’s seat. As I write this the teams prepare for a fifth and deciding game and after a relative draw in a mostly non memorable vice presidential debate in which Joe Biden did his bluster thing and Paul Ryan did his dodging thing, we’re nowhere near decided.

The Obama impenetrable firewall through the Mid-West and the South East is now tightening. The only good news for the president, beside a yet-to-be-polled significant dip in the unemployment figures below eight percent for the first time since the 2008 crisis, is no matter how bad things get, his Republican challenger cannot completely overtake him in the only scoreboard that counts; the Electoral College. It is as if the reluctance to embrace Romney has a ceiling. Can Romney break through it in the final weeks? Will Obama fight for his job?

What looked like a sure six months ago for Romney and then a surer bet for Obama two weeks ago turns once again into a cruel shift of fortunes.

The numbers don’t lie, and although the road still remains an incline for Romney, it is no longer as steep or insurmountable.

The battle is forged. The game goes on.

Be careful, say the baseball gods. As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

 

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Obama Slumber Party

Aquarian Weekly 10/10/12 REALITY CHECK

OBAMA SLUMBER PARTY President Jacked by Desperate Romney Salvo

Apparently the past month of the Mitt Romney Campaign follies, which sunk him in nearly every poll imaginable, has given the Obama Campaign the idea that by merely showing up and not making a complete ass of its candidate will be enough to secure re-election. If not, then perhaps the president’s stupefying lack of interest or hint of motivation in the first of three debates illustrates that perhaps he’d prefer sitting the next four years out. In one of the most lackluster, half-assed, almost condescendingly flaccid debate performance in recent memory, Barrack Obama slammed the brakes on any post-convention, anti-Romney momentum he’s enjoyed and thus failed spectacularly to put this election season to rest.

Obama SlumberThat is not to say this wasn’t a two-way street. Mitt Romney came to play, displaying an attention to detail and passion to refute, charge and emote that was sorely missing in the incumbent. Romney looked like a man whose chances of winning were diminishing. He was bolder, surer and insensibly prepared for a fight. And although it appears at times as if he, and especially his campaign, is not focused on winning this election, the candidate deftly displayed he is not fond of losing either.

This was the Mitt Romney the numbers crunchers were looking to emerge since he locked up the Republican Party’s nomination months ago. He shit-canned the one that spent months flopping around awkwardly sucking up to the ultra-right of his constituency, trying to out-Newt or out-Trump the loons and spewing goofy base-meat. The old model looked uncomfortable paining to shed his well-earned moderate, Eastern establishment Harvard business school sheen. That Romney fed into all the notions that he was anything but genuine; shifting his purpose with each news cycle, honing in on subjects he knew little if nothing about.

The new and improved Mitt Romney that showed up in Denver was nothing like that guy. He displayed the grit that helped him fend off many, too many, primary debates, appearing presidential, staying on point, shoveling aside attacks while heaving the kitchen sink at his opponents. Romney was not the stiff we’ve been accustomed to during television interviews or campaign speeches. For the first time in the general election the Republican candidate actually looked comfortable in his skin; even animated and strident.

Of course Romney was anything but perfect. Many of his “facts” were at best dubious and some complete fabrications, as too were a glut of Obama’s claims; that is when he bothered to cobble a few together in a barely coherent form. There were times you felt Romney’s desperation, the bullying into retorts that repeated his original point, his controlling the pace by pushing around the feeble and obviously overwhelmed Jim Lehrer, who moderating the thing like someone who’d wandered off the street with a vaguely penciled outline that he scrambled to conceive. Mostly, if there is one critique of this masterful performance by a challenger it’s that he appeared as if he were a heckler allowed onstage to better berate the talent. A good debater knows when he has taken the hill. Romney wanted to take it and dance around for while reminding you he took it.

While Romney beat points to death and had answers for anything that came his way, like his miraculously unchallenged claim that he doesn’t boast an across-the-board five trillion dollar unpaid for tax cut (specifically estimated at 4.8 trillion over ten years clearly displayed on his web site for months) the president barely followed up on his charges of Romney’s fuzzy math or his trickle-down theories or even Romney’s skewering of the magic $716 billion in Medicare cuts that everyone loves but seems to accuse the other side of loving.

By acting above the fray, and attempting to appear so stately he could hardly be challenged by this attack dog that wandered on stage, Obama came off as wholly disinterested, even baffled at times; spending extended seconds looking down at his podium and jotting the odd thought or doodling into a pad and then looking up as if to say, “Huh, what? What happened here?” You know the look. You’ve seen it from someone you know when they have their face in a smart phone paying attention to something else why you try to finish a sentence.

It was Obama who threw out dead-end platitudes and when firing his own bullets did nothing in the way of cementing it with force.

Of course, Obama pulled the same routine in 2008 against Hillary Clinton, who mostly wiped the floor with him in every primary debate. When his supporters and many pundits begged him to get tough, he played it the other way, feeding on his likability and painstakingly fending off the “angry black man” tag that was sure to rear its ugly head. He survived with this “holier than thou” routine in the presidential campaign merely because John McCain was the one on defense. The Republican president presiding over the greatest economic collapse in generations was wildly unpopular and beaten to a pulp. The country was hungry for change. Obama was the “change” guy.

This is not 2008 and Obama is not the outsider anymore. He is not only the president, but also the frontrunner. The math still strongly favors him in the Electoral College. To be flogged relentlessly like this and not have a scintilla of a defense in a debate format is an embarrassment that will cost his campaign some ground, not to mention a blown opportunity to bury what has been a haphazard campaign to unseat him.

Without getting into the wonky details, of which there were plenty of long-winded snoozers from both men, Romney unleashed the kind of measured criticism that is needed in a campaign against a vulnerable incumbent. He performed the task of a worthy challenger; shedding doubts about his weak survival techniques in the face of self-inflicted turmoil and inconsistency. There is little doubt he knocked it out of the park, as best as can be expected from a man that even when he is doing well in a battle of intellectual volleys still looks as if he is regurgitating computer data in his head.

If anything it is Obama that looked robotic and confused. It was Obama who threw out dead-end platitudes and when firing his own bullets did nothing in the way of cementing it with force. And while a challenger always benefits in the first debate from sharing a stage with the president of the United States, it can also be opportunity for the president to remind the electorate who’s in charge. That opportunity has come and gone. Romney evened the field to that end if nothing else.

But the biggest gain for Romney and in turn loss for the president, resides in the scheduling of the next debate, a two-week respite to leave time for the vice presidential sound-off. Two solid weeks for the Romney campaign to tag ads and dominate the news cycle the way the Obama Campaign has done over the past three weeks. It is harder for the president to keep bashing Romney with the 47 percent comments or his Bain Capital record or his absent tax statements on the stump when he completely left them out of the narrative during the debate. Although I believe it would have achieved him a measure of the day, it may have been a wiser move to avoid getting into a muckraking contest with Romney and leave it to his surrogates. Nevertheless, this was a shell of the man who has been ramping it up along the trail and that is a head-scratcher for many in the Obama Camp.

What this ultimately means is Romney is not dead, which he surely would have been if he stunk up the joint. But he didn’t. He kicked ass and saved his campaign. Period. He sent notice to those in his camp that were convinced he was crashing and burning that he intends to hang around.

Historically, two debates that portrayed a disinterested and dumbfounded incumbent were George H.W. Bush’s 1992 performance that caught him several times checking his watch as if he were enduring a boring gala and not defending his job and Ronald Reagan’s beating at the hands of the man he would soon crush, Walter Mondale in 1984. Reagan looked so lost in that first debate many wondered if he had the faculties to find his way home, much less lead the free world. Reagan returned a different man and won. Bush did not, and lost.

This performance has put Barack Obama in the same boat.

One has to wonder now if he knows how to swim.

 

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Train Wreck Romney

Aquarian Weekly 9/26/12 REALITY CHECK

TRAIN WRECK ROMNEY How to Tank a Campaign in Two Weeks

Since I left Colorado two weeks ago having just completed a column on the DNC Convention that vaulted the president’s approval ratings over 50 percent for the first time in half a year and jacked his head-to-head polling near seven percent nationally while beginning to show daylight in almost every swing state, the Mitt Romney campaign has gone off the rails. For two weeks now the Republican candidate has been shooting from the hip during impromptu press conferences commenting on events abroad that hadn’t yet happened and deconstructing comments made during a private fundraiser video in which he described half the American electorate as “victims” and wishing his father was Mexican so he could sucker what he obviously considers a laughably gullible Latino vote.

Mitt Romney It is getting harder to believe Mitt Romney actually wants to be president. Perhaps this is just another business venture for him to increase his speaking engagement fees or raise his profile among anti-EPA lobbyists before investing in land-raping ventures. There was always a sense back in the primaries that Romney simply had run out of shit to do; CEO, Governor, Senate candidate, Olympic chairman, and now; “What the hell, I’ll try president.” Otherwise someone has to explain to me the wisdom behind the past two weeks of general election self-immolation rarely if ever survived by serious candidates for the presidency.

Whatever half-bright measures led to rolling out a Republican candidate with non-existent foreign policy bona fides to comment on the unfolding events at the Egyptian and Libyans embassies should have been abandoned in the woodshedding phase. The standard rule is for presidential candidates to not opine on a developing foreign crisis. Period. It’s on the first page of the manual. This is best exemplified by Ronald Reagan’s brief and wholly presidential moral support of President Carter after the failed military attempt to free the Iranian hostages in 1980.

Whether Romney’s comments held any merit or not is not at issue here. The gamble just wasn’t worth the risk, unless the people who engineered it are in panic mode. That would be the only reason to grab-ass anything that moves in hopes of putting a Romney Stamp on it. By the way, that’s also in the manual’s first page: Don’t let the other side see you sweat. Either way it’s a Hail Mary heave that reeks of desperation and makes the candidate look like a piker.

Then there is the matter of the surreptitious tape of Romney answering questions at a fundraiser as if he were Mel Gibson on a bender. The crux of which is connected with who doesn’t pay taxes. Once again, regardless of what poorly deconstructed Ayn Randian nonsense this crap comes from it is not optimum strategy for a serious presidential candidate, least of all one that has big problems shedding the Out of Touch Rich Guy tag and who has brashly hidden his entire tax records.

Assuming, as we all do, let’s face it, that Mitt Romney has no fucking idea what he stands for or what he should say next; who exactly is directing him towards these senseless cliff-diving exercises in political suicide?

Reportedly there are now three different factions representing the Romney campaign struggling to fill the empty voids the candidate has left by failing to a establish anything close to a consistent message.

Principles, whether real or imagined, may be a boon in politics but are the death knell of the business world.

Of course, consistency has never been Romney move. He is a businessman first, and as such has been trained well to play the cards dealt on the table at which he is currently sitting. Principles, whether real or imagined, may be a boon in politics but are the death knell of the business world. You must never appear the same with Subject A as you would with Client B. Every situation calls for a differing approach in demeanor and most times even shifting personal opinion.

And so the first segment trying to fill the “principle” void over at Romney Headquarters is the TEA Party wing that supported the Paul Ryan selection for vice president. Nothing Romney has ever uttered hints in the least that he truly believes or even knows a thing about the kind of “moocher class” drivel he spouted to the fundraiser group that he has now been forced to spend yet another crucial week in a waning campaign season defending. Even his “I don’t care about poor people” was merely one of several feebly phrased gaffes. But these sentiments were different, they express a libertarian view; perhaps even a libertine view of every man for himself that diametrically opposes how he governed in his only political job.

The second voice belongs to the Republican Party establishment, which handed Romney the nomination on a silver platter when he was being kicked around during the primaries. They assisted in shifting delegates, re-figuring close counties, shunting Ron Paul, and leaning heavily on his opponents to drop out of the race. This group wants a more disciplined Romney, the one they found in Massachusetts and hoped would be the alternative to the historically unpopular mess that hijacked the party in 2010. This is the guy they are currently coaching up for the debates by sending him out these past days tout national health care.

And finally there are the insider ground-gamers; those from the very beginning, before Romney was the darling of the “electable” set and was the enemy of TEA Partiers. These are the ink-stained, body-odor, crumpled shirt geeks who crunch the numbers and once boldly promised to put Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada in play — all of which are now long gone. They are beginning to crystallize the difficult math that has been rearing its ugly head since July; the states that don’t add up for a run to 270 electoral votes that is only achievable by sweeping every swing state left.

The numbers guys have been begging the TEA Party/Establishment heads for some kind of dramatic shift in momentum that will stop the bleeding.

I know those guys. I’ve spoken to them about these numbers for months. They told me in April that they would have to play a tight game, take a solid lead by summer and then endure the inevitable autumn hits, as did John Kerry in ’04 and McCain four years ago. They did not expect this kind of dysfunction and disintegration nor did they expect a candidate this wildly off-message to take a workable strategy against an eminently beatable incumbent and piss it away so frivolously.

But know this; not one of these bickering groups, which conservative columnist, Peggy Noonan called “a rolling calamity” this week in the Wall Street Journal, thought for one minute Mitt Romney would paint the elderly, poor, disabled, war veterans and low-income families as freeloaders. That, they were sure, didn’t need to be in any manual.

 

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Democratic Convention 2012

Aquarian Weekly 9/12/12 REALITY CHECK

2012 Democratic National Convention THE SHOW PART II

This is a crappy time to be president. GDP diving. Manufacturing is down. Unemployment hangs steadily over eight percent. Congress is in gridlock. A war still rages, which apparently no one beyond those fighting it or dying for it care about. Even the stuff that doesn’t suck is created out of thin air by opponents. The Democrats are in control of the office and must defend it over the next sixty days and it more or less started this week in Charlotte. Unlike Republicans, whose job at their convention was to put a face to all this talk about Mitt Romney being the font of business acumen and shrug off allegations of his casual disingenuousness, and, if possible dent the overwhelming disadvantage in the gender and Latino gap, the Democrats need to ramp up damage control and then go about undertaking the thankless job of convincing those once beatific followers of Barack Obama this baby isn’t a complete dud.

Bill ClintonThe Republicans may have missed an opportunity to go beyond “throw the bum out” and present a viable alternative to the six or seven percent of undecided and/or independent voters which will decide this election; thus giving the president and the Democrats a sliver of daylight to argue that Barack Obama, while being something less than a messiah, is not the harbinger of doom. The Republicans painted an ugly picture last week, perhaps overreaching. All the Democrats have to do with a likable candidate that the country not only knows but voted for in greater numbers than any Democratic presidential nominee in a generation, is prove that being less than stellar is far less dire a prospect than destroying the Western Hemisphere.

Failing that the Democrats turn at The Show must at least rouse its base and try and rekindle the incredible enthusiasm that gripped the Hope & Change Obama Machine of 2008. This is nearly impossible, for what the Republicans deftly accomplished last week when not derailed by a seemingly half-soused octogenarian Hollywood icon mumbling incoherently at an empty chair, was to say that all the hoopla and energy and soaring rhetoric cannot be digested this time without first combing the record that is there for all to see.

Many Democrats pressed to answer the famously quoted Reagan query from the 1980 campaign; “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” fumbled it badly on nearly every Sunday morning news show prior to the convention, something the Republicans did not mess with in 2004 by quickly pointing out the positives of two unwinnable wars and an exploding debt. The Democrats argument cannot be won on the promises proffered by the 2008 Obama campaign, but to say the brink of economic collapse, a Dow Jones at 6,500, the loss of 750,000 jobs a month and two unfunded wars raging out of control in the late summer of ’08 is not far worse than the slowly trudging economic recovery of ’12 is hardly rocket science. One Democratic strategist remarked to me the other day, “If a Republican president killed Osama bin Laden and doubled the stock market in three years they’d have already erected a statue of him.”

The Democrats have decided, if these evenings of processed drama be believed, is to embrace the idea of anti-government as anti-American, the way the Bush re-elect campaign used anti-war as being anti-American. This segues neatly into what this week has been the first real defense of what everyone, even chirping Democrats, now call Obamacare, which still polls terribly as a monolithic piece of legislation, but gets gangbusters ratings when stripped into vital segments.

It was as if the Wizard of Oz had not only pulled back the curtain but driven a Panzer Tank through the heart of Munchkinland.

Things did not begin well for the convention upon the discovery of the word “God” stricken from the Democratic platform giving the God-crazy Republicans, whose most fringe voices have vociferously depicted the president as either a Godless heathen who is hell-bent on stripping religious freedoms or an evil Muslim insider looking to enact Sharia law, a mighty hammer. But soon The Show was underway and the speeches, initially highlighted by First Lady Michelle Obama (the most political speech given by a First Lady since perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942) and the keynote, the 37 year-old Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro (a sugary attack dog act), which duly patronized the woman and Latino voter base.

And then it was time for the Minister of Fun.

By the time former president and current lauded statesman, Bill Clinton had wrapped up his half-improvised 48 minute screed the entire pundit class was left genuflecting in awe. Nearly every conservative voice on the news networks heaped reverence on Big Bill with an embarrassing level of girlish glee, calling the entire race a wash and the point of whatever the current president could manage to utter the next evening would be backwash. Liberals wet themselves.

For the first time in this election cycle a representative of the political realm actually talked policy, numbers, economic strategy and the effect of ideological debate on the grand structure of governance. It was as if the Wizard of Oz had not only pulled back the curtain but driven a Panzer Tank through the heart of Munchkinland. And it was done with the causal pace of a passing stranger in a hotel bar. It was the finest piece of political theater this reporter has seen in some time and not only roused the base, but could also well have tipped some independent scales. What it may have unintentionally done was eclipse the entire idea for the charade of voting for candidates that might well be incapable of achieving its measure; most specifically the man he was there to defend, whose ability to explain these concepts over four years has been sadly non-existent.

The damn speech, far too long and dripping with Arkansas smarm, kicked ass, took names, and rang every bell available to ring within 10,000 miles of North Carolina, where Barack Obama and maybe the progressive set was making its final stand.

To that end, the president took the stage the next evening and offered up a less than stellar defense beyond “I need more time” and “Things are working” with the occasional swipe at the soaring rhetoric that made him a most compelling candidate four years ago and eventually an historic presidential choice. But it rung hallow in its shadow, like a fading rock band trying to recapture its relevance. Whether this performance and another week of The Show excited those whose enthusiasm has most assuredly waned remains the story of the next two months.

The president still has the mathematical advantage in the Electoral map and his opponent offers only answers to all this fancy economic stuff that are pretty much the same ideas that still helps keep this economy in a slog and the deficit rising (the Bush tax cuts remain), but make no mistake, Barack Obama’s most looming foe in 2012 is the guy from 2008. Problem is no one can beat that guy.

 

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Republican Convention 2012

Aquarian Weekly 9/5/12 REALITY CHECK

2012 Republican National Convention THE SHOW PART I

People in the business of politics recognize convention weeks as “a show for the uninitiated”; those voters, most of them outside the fisticuffs of the junky set, who choose presidents based on appearance, likability or the general self-interest of the moment. This key demographic must be dazzled by the parade of like-minded revelers — signs aloft and fists a-pumpin’ — but also provide a sniff of the refreshing scent of unrealized prosperity unleashed in a bevy of carefully crafted spin-a-thons posing as speeches. The true goal for any convention post 1980 — the last time parties actually negotiated the party platform, its ideological stance for the upcoming election, and the completing of the ticket — is to appear to not be incompetent and, if events are tightly choreographed, not say anything that may haunt come debate time.

GOP Convention 2012This is not politics; it is a show.

Politics is nothing anyone wants to see televised. The raw wiring of a political personality does not translate to optics. In fact, it a disturbing blend of grotesque subversions played out beneath the strain of irrational narrative. The best example would be, say, the work of Alejandro Joborowsky, specifically his seminal film, The Holy Mountain, which I was introduced to in my very first Political Science class at Trenton State College by an ill-humored professor that I was quite sure was recovering from an episode of extreme panic. This is why C-SPAN is…well…I don’t watch C-SPAN and I’m mildly interested in the craft.

The subtext of these things is to play both to the room and the television audience, a difficult Mcluhanian balancing act that can be accomplished by looking away from the camera when spitting out party pabulum framed to rouse auditorium cheers and staring directly into the camera when seducing the hearty few who have not yet switched over to “Shark Week”. The undecided vote is the nut here; the ones fresh from vacationing or normally fascinated with celebrity and sporting events, who, for the first time, are seeing what this whole shebang entails. And, of course, it is to unleash a torrent of barely substantiated rumor and gory innuendo at the party’s opponents; their ideas, personality traits, and general comportment to see what sticks.

Finally, we have the acceptance of the party’s candidate for president appearing presidential; looking proud (distinguished without pomposity), passionate (but not crazy) and determined (full of promises never completely conceived). He must strike a distinction to what he opposes, but never to ratify his own stance on governance. This must be avoided. It is a wait and see proposition; a gamble known as The Vote and the candidate is the ultimate odds maker — the grim card dealer that stands between you and bum-hood.

The most crucial parts of these conventions are presented at ten and eleven pm, after the networks have plied their trade and rapt audiences can stick around for coverage of the big speeches from the big players, the ones the party wants the country to see in the best light with the most hoopla. The damaged, overly-ripened, bug-addled fruit, as it were, must be pushed to the back of the cart, given their due to fill out the display but be strategically hidden to avoid revealing any taint. It all must look like there is no slip in production value from “So You Think You Can Dance” and a presidential candidate making his case.

Oh, it’s a show, and it must be a good one; because there is only one shot with two months of campaigning to go. Ask John McCain, who was so spooked by the Barack Obama mass-hallucination convention he lost his equilibrium and chose a half-bright loose cannon for a running mate in a desperate attempt to appear as if he were not an eighteenth century gremlin.

This was a big one in Tampa, Florida this week. It had to be. Mitt Romney is still struggling to gain traction in the middle, a place he must grab, as his constituency of white, rich, paranoid, religious, anti-Obama types has been tapped. He’s left to party-crash on Hispanics, women and the disenfranchised youth, who still cling to the current president’s damaged bandwagon, but whose dedication may be enough to re-elect him.

The Republicans did not have an easy backdrop, what with Hurricane (or tropical storm) Isaac bearing down on the Gulf Coast and (gulp!) New Orleans — a place that still conjures images of Republican incompetence and insensitivity. There was little doubt that the precious television audience, especially the key demographic — those less interested in politics than a natural disaster and its resultant video evidence — were going to be distracted.

Oh, it’s a show, and it must be a good one; because there is only one shot with two months of campaigning to go. Ask John McCain, who was so spooked by the Barack Obama mass-hallucination convention he lost his equilibrium and chose a half-bright loose cannon for a running mate in a desperate attempt to appear as if he were not an eighteenth century gremlin.

The party did the right thing in postponing for a day what amounts to a televised whoop-it-up whilst American citizens braced for disaster. But, alas, they could wait no longer, as the storm hit hard amidst the cheering revelers chanting and fist-pumping merrily along.

It also did the right thing by burying the stench of its faded past; the Bush Administration, which was represented by only one speaker (and not in primetime), former Secretary of State and national security advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, an African-American woman. There was also nothing in primetime for the more recent past, like religious zealot, Mike Huckabee, the second most popular Republican four years ago. Recent goofiness by Missouri senate candidate, Todd Akin about “legitimate rape”, which Huckabee has strongly defended, and the losing battle of social issues amongst women, shoved him into insignificance. Then there was the present dumping ground like Speaker John Boehner, who fronts the most unpopular congress in the history of this republic, droning on and on about bars in suburban Cincinnati with half the house missing and those who were left chatting about the Florida heat.

One voice that was heard loud and clear was that of runner-up for this year’s nomination, Rick Santorum, whose camp was given a set of provisos he was to hit home, not the least of which is the dubious claim that his primary legislation of Welfare Reform has been side-stepped by the president, which he duly ignored beyond two sentence and then enacted a small measure of revenge on the Romney ticket by instead hammering home his standard culturally-charged message.

Not so clear, since they were silenced and kicked out of the hall, were the Ron Paul singers, whose tune of true conservative reformation was not welcomed. The nominee and his running mate, Paul Ryan needed to sidestep their sizable liberal histories; the former, a government-run health care system that served as Obama Care’s template, and the latter, whose voting record of bloating the national debt with government overreach (unpaid-for tax cuts, two wars, Homeland Security, No Child Left Behind, a massive $700 billion Medicare expansion, TARP, the auto bail-out, and, stunningly, a request for $20 million of the Democrats’ stimulus package for his state in 2009) set about several hours of wrangling over delegate rules. The catcalls from several Paul delegates left to bellow disapproval was audible when during his acceptance speech Ryan thwacked the president for ignoring the bold Simpson/Bowles Plan, something the Wisconsin congressman vehemently opposed.

As for the GOP candidate, who was barely mentioned by many of the speakers throughout the week, his acceptance speech was as expected. He’s a bore. He did nothing to dispel my critique that he is merely the candidate that stands in opposition to Barack Obama and not a strong alternative with a unique vision. And it was pretty much the same Republican stuff; hawkish, socially and scientifically atavistic, and predictably anti-government when it befits the ideology.

But all of that doesn’t matter, nor does it matter than this is a nation in love with the angry, fired-up “regular guy”, like our corpulent governor, Chris Christie. Nor does it matter that half the stories you hear are overly dramatized or half the promises that are in direct opposition to the beliefs of the people espousing them.

It was a show.

And there’s another one next week in Charlotte.

 

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A-Riteway Construction Must Be Stopped

Aquarian Weekly 8/29/12 REALITY CHECK

A-RITEWAY CONSTRUCTION MUST BE STOPPED

A-Riteway Construction has been allowed to run a deceitful, negligent and dangerously haphazard business here in New Jersey for far too long. Its spectacular string of unfinished or in many cases barely begun jobs — despite gladly taking deposits — false claims and empty promises and, as one livid victim of its egregious practices put it, “a blatant disregard for human decency” has cost an agonizing roll call of unsuspecting “customers” hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with grief and damages that its owner, a chunky, chain-smoking stutterer named Leonardo Petrosillo has apparently no intention of rectifying.

I know this because I am a victim of A-Riteway and the devious Petrosillo, who at the time of this writing continues to take on new jobs despite a host of complaints stemming from what can only be described as a festival of carnage posing as legitimate construction. But I am also a reporter and have put that to good use by digging deeply into A-Riteway’s pattern of at best incompetence and at worse malfeasance.

A-Riteway’s shoddy work on the Clemens Estate (named, of course, for the great Mark Twain, who thrilled in deconstructing the habits of the brainless) began this past April, overrun with sloppy and mostly incoherent sub-contractors, who, while actually showing up –something those directly involved with the parent company or the obviously distracted and apathetic Petrosillo failed to do — treated the grounds as if a refuse pit; leaving debris, broken glass, discarded materials and tools everywhere. One low point featured the pulling of fish from out of a community lake and, when confronted, dumped back in, bucket and all. When A-Riteway did show up, like for instance to blow insulation in walls or even to rebuild a wall, it was done in a way that even a layman such as myself harbored doubts these men had previously attempted anything resembling it.

Let’s face it, I’m a maniac, and when things went sideways around here I blew several gaskets. After throwing these cretins off my property, I began to harass the poor girls at the A-Riteway office, not the least of which was Petrosillo’s own sister, Maria, who for my money was the toughest and most honest of the bunch, which best explains why she walked on her feckless brother after finding no more excuses for the barrage of accusations hurled at her daily. More times than I can count the woman promised that Petrosillo or someone would show up when, in many cases, the workers were at disparate jobs or I later learned from inside sources working on Petrosillo’s own home.

It was then, around early June that Petrosillo literally disappeared under a torrent of dubious alibis that he instructed his new receptionist, a soft-spoken and overwhelmed 25-year old named Rosemary Trapani to roll out on an hourly basis every day. “When Leo did show up to the office we gave him a list of customer complaints that he either would just ignore or would give me a rotating list of excuses written next to each customer to tell them where he had been, whether in the hospital or Europe or he was getting a shot in his back or in surgery,” explains Trapani, who was so appalled by Petrosillo’s disregard for civility she had to go on record to expose what she claims was a formulated attempt by him to respond to damaged property and unfinished jobs only when a disgruntled customer “lawyered up” and not before. “I dreaded picking up the phone because he had a specific story per client that I had to keep track of.”

Trapani remembers that for a month and a half almost every call the office received were complaints: “On a normal day I took calls on average of one every fifteen minutes, and in some cases multiple calls at a time from people screaming at me that deposits were taken and work wasn’t started.

“I was very angry and scared,” continues Trapani. “Here I was a woman left alone in that office for hours on end and that any one of these people he took money from could come in and… who knows what?”

Quite sure after more than a week of unreturned calls and ignored texts that the jig was up, Petrosillo had all-but stolen the money I had given him and was not going to provide the proper services rendered, I set up a face-to-face meeting at the A-Riteway offices. Petrosillo agreed through Trapani. For five hours I waited on a Tuesday morning, as Petrosillo told Trapani for me to wait for him throughout. Of course, he failed to show. I later learned that day from an A-Riteway worker, who feared so much for his job he begged me to have him remain unnamed, that Petrosillo had the entire workforce convene at his house to delegate the day’s schedule in order to avoid meeting with me.

But that was his mistake.

“Everyone at A-Riteway lied about things all the time,” concludes Trapani. “The worst is that they wanted it to look like a completely family owned business, so much so that some of the workers would tell customers they were married to Maria and that Leo was their brother-in-law or even Leo’s brother.”

While there I was able to obtain key information to help fill out the details of what was fast revealing itself to be a strategic level of bait, switch, duck and cover by A-Riteway for months on end. The workers and office staff, Trapani and a young and very frightened woman by the name of April regaled me with tales of confused and angered crews, apoplectic visits from wronged customers, and a blow-out resulting in the exit of a company partner named Rocco — the name familiar to me as months before he had warned me that Petrosillo was in his own words, “going mad”.

Documents left lying out in full view and posted blackboard lists displayed up to 30 different recalls (complaints from jobs completed badly) and impatient customers having invested money with no sign of work being done. I listened as call after call came in berating Trapani and demanding to see Petrosillo. I could see her cringe when a prospective customer would call looking for assistance. “I feel like telling these people to run,” she whispered to me. “But what can I do?”

I took the information gleaned from my visit and began contacting some of A-Riteway’s victims; David and his brother Raji Chandan from Jersey City, whose home was dismantled improperly for over a year after handing over $15,000 of the proposed 18 grand for a job never close to being done, Victoria Rodriguez from Hackensack, who hired A-Riteway in April and by May, after parting with a down payment and enduring a complete demo of portions of her home, was abandoned, Donna Brooks from Wayne, who was sold two erroneous “annual insurance policies” for gutters and face work not constructed properly in the first place, and a gentleman from the Newark area so livid over Petrosillo’s chicanery he preferred to remain anonymous for this piece so that he could surreptitiously destroy A-Riteway on his own terms.

“I hated what Leo turned me into,” says Rodriguez, who furiously tracked down Petrosillo’s mother, allegedly the company’s accountant, and threatened a lawsuit, which unleashed another spate of confused and unsupervised workers that eventually stopped showing up. “Dealing with Leo was like handling a drug attic, telling one lie after the other to get his fix until the whole thing implodes and the family gives up.”

The Chandans’ two-family home was left in “disaster” after what David describes as A-Riteway “sending people out here sporadically without supervision and half-completing crap work only after several calls to complain” (Trapani, who took many of them, estimates his brother Raji’s calls to the office at five times a day). Upon discovering that the paving in the front of the house was not done with a proper permit resulting in the job being shut down by police, the Chandan brothers placed several unreturned panic phone calls to A-Riteway before contacting a new contractor. They were further angered to find that there had been major violations like no parchment put on plywood to prevent build up of moisture that could lead to harmful molding and another city inspector that confirmed an uneven stone staircase that previously had nearly caused Mr. Chandan and his sister-in-law to fall.

Donna Brooks, who’s filed complaints to the Better Business Bureau (at present count there are a total of 31) was left holding completely useless “insurance contracts” from A-Riteway before her own freak-out calls led to her being told they would respond in 24 hours to any issues — the key issue being major leaks from substandard work. Each time she was met with wait-times up to a week after which still no one arrived.

“By then I was pissed off and asked for the guy who sold me the insurance policies,” Brooks explains. “I was told he no longer worked for A-Riteway and when I asked for the owner, they told me Leo was at the doctor (the doctor excuse, as confirmed by Trapani, was likely a completely fabricated con to avoid a professional response). Brooks then filed a small-claims case that soon went to court. Not surprisingly, no one, least of all the now running for cover Petrosillo bothered showing up.

The kick was the court judged against A-Riteway, but only when Ms. Brooks was instructed to return a week later to provide “expert witnesses” to prove her complaint, putting the consumer and not the obvious recidivist Petrosillo on trial. The system in effect is set up to protect marauders like Petrosillo and A-Riteway by making it nearly impossible to sue under the misty guise of “perceived value”, as in my case, wherein the contractor can yammer on about having done enough work to justify the costs, while claiming customer impatience or general ignorance to the “inner workings of professional contracting”.

At the time of this report, the length of breadth of which is still being unfurled, the North Haledon Police Department (the town where A-Riteway currently resides) has gotten involved. According to Trapani, one particularly fed-up customer demanding a check arrived late one afternoon in mid-June, a few days after I was there, with the police in tow. Given the runaround until day’s end and threatening Petrosillo with arrest, the cops preceded to his home, where they found a purportedly dazed Petrosillo being helped by his wife to a hospital, the victim of an alleged nervous breakdown. (Petrosillo had told me himself for whatever its worth that he had begun to show signs of mental duress from pills prescribed to him after an employee he sacked ran him over with his car)

I followed up with local police weeks later and received a call back from a Detective David Parenta, who informed me that there were four different complaints against A-Riteway and I was welcomed to come down to the station to join in. I gladly did a few weeks later and spoke in length with several officers who all knew of Petrosillo’s tactics, but beyond “keeping an eye on him” considered the matters civil cases. One source at the station confirmed to me that Petrosillo had been run ragged for weeks under a barrage of fiscal woes and was summarily evicted from his offices, where he had moved into only months before after rambling from his original location in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Another source proffered a theory that swirled around one complaint from a woman in Rahway, who had seen A-Riteway billboards further south, indicating perhaps that Petrosillo was expanding his reach in order to allegedly avoid too much local blowback to his gradually growing negative image.

It will be hard to do after this piece.

Or what may be coming from Trenton, as I later learned just minutes before sending this to press that Passaic County Consumer Affairs Senior Investigator for Consumer Protection Carol McClellan told another wronged A-Riteway customer from Mahwah that there have been so many complaints against A-Riteway that they had to send the entire case up to the state.

“Everyone at A-Riteway lied about things all the time,” concludes Trapani. “The worst is that they wanted it to look like a completely family owned business, so much so that some of the workers would tell customers they were married to Maria and that Leo was their brother-in-law or even Leo’s brother.”

Not sure what will happen to A-Riteway or Leonardo Petrosillo once this hits newsstands and the long arm of the Internet, the results of Trenton’s influence or the local police, but it is painfully obvious that something has these charlatans and any contractor who feeds on those who entrust them with their homes.

As for the Clemens Estate, after taking bids from reputable contractors for nearly two weeks in mid-June my job was completed by several entities, mostly the extremely professional Bernie Connors Construction and Rick Hamilton, a private carpenter who both rescued the place from Petrosillo’s dim-witted disrepair, the running thread in opinion seemed to surround a practice of many New Jersey contractors that have used the downturn in the economy to under-bid legit companies in an attempt to get a name on a dotted line, grab the cash, start the job in the most rushed, slapdash way, and disappear, which A-Riteway has done and is still very likely doing to numerous new customers.

For the record, Petrosillo was warned this type of brutal action was coming from me. He was told in no uncertain terms that it was not a good idea to screw with a journalist, especially a vindictively crazed journalist, and the might of my viper pen would be unleashed should he not make right. But despite several calls (unreturned, of course) A-Riteway has presently declined to comment or make amends.

This, among 100 other reasons still being uncovered, is why A-Riteway must be stopped.

This is just the beginning.

 

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