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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The Paul Ryan Factor

Aquarian Weekly 8/22/12 REALITY CHECK

THE PAUL RYAN FACTOR

Okay, so now we have a 2012 campaign.

The VP pick is an important symbol for where the pre-convention narrative is going for a candidate, especially a challenger. For Barack Obama in 2008, Joe Biden was chosen to connect with the alienated white, working class voters lost in the epic primary battle with Hillary Clinton. For George W. Bush in 2000 it was to calm the noise on his foreign policy naiveté with Dick Cheney.

The choice became an imperative for Mitt Romney, who has thus far conducted a excruciatingly safe run casting himself as an awkward figure, the length and breadth of which appears neither particularly bold in his ideology nor straightforward with his biography, and is certainly vague in his plans to lead should he be chosen come November.

Paul RyanAs documented incessantly here for the past weeks and just about everywhere else, it is becoming increasingly evidentiary, even to those who support him, that Romney had better be about something other than standing as the anti-Obama if he wants to challenge this thing, which has slowly gotten away from him in recent weeks. Despite historically high unemployment numbers for a sitting president to be leading in national polls, and a sense that any incumbent anywhere, be they Republican or Democrat, is vulnerable these days, Romney’s poll numbers have spun their wheels, and his occasional gaffs and the unshakable unfavorable responses to his personality, demeanor and overall presentation put the onus on his choice as running mate.

At age 42 and with a dozen years on Capitol Hill, enter Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan, a wonkish, staunchly conservative numbers-cruncher whose claim to fame is his wholly symbolic hard-line budget proposal that aims to radically reconstruct the level of control instilled in the federal government for nearly a century. What is known as the “Ryan Bill” is so outlandish to most lawmakers that the previous conservative stalwart in congress, former speaker, Newt Gingrich has dubbed it “Right Wing social engineering”. But there is no mistaking that Ryan is a serious politician. Unlike the party’s previous choice for vice president, Sarah Palin, who had trouble with the most rudimentary facts about governance or practically anything, Ryan is a champion of minutia.

However, like Palin, Ryan is a credentials pick. The aim in 2008 for GOP nominee, John McCain was to energize the base and put a dent into the “history making” run of Barack Obama. Ryan represents the same audacious stroke, especially for a candidate whose motus operandi is bland mixed with a healthy dose of blander. Where Romney is a stuff-shirt with no foundation beyond the robotic ambition to seduce victory, Ryan is as right fiscally as can be mustered in Washington. His very name conjures grief on the left while also creating the unintended affect in allowing the president’s re-election team to point directly at what it deems a radical draconian approach that reaches far beyond the incumbent’s more measured proposals; if in fact the president or the Democrats can conjure one.

You see, it has been Ryan’s plan, draconian, radical or genius, that has stood alone in firing the opening shot at what Republicans have used as a sledgehammer for three years; reducing spending and by consequence, the debt, thus reversing its party’s wild spending spree of the century’s first decade and rebuilding a new narrative upon the ashes of the now conveniently ignored Bush Administration. What makes Ryan’s almost religious fervor to curtail spending bizarre is the fact that he voted for shit-loads of unpaid for nonsense when a Republican was in charge, including unfounded tax cuts, two wars, a massive ramp up of federal government security measures, and the disastrous Medicare Modernization Act.

Ryan makes the most sense for the ticket mainly because now the candidate hopes the campaign can shift to clashing ideologies and away from a personality contest, a game in which Romney would have trouble besting a lamppost. gravitas.

Ryan’s convenient hypocrisy aside, for months Romney has argued, “What not try it my way?” on the stump and in his ads, but no one, least of all Romney, has a clue what that way is, allowing the president to paint it as another run on Bush economics. Romney hopes he now has that alternative; the Ryan Plan, which is in effect becomes the Romney Plan.

Something that should not be ignored is Ryan’s connection with his home state and its governor, Scott Walker, which has become the Right’s clarion call to crush unions and slash budgets. This is the mojo Romney lacks; mainly because he is a wind-shifting moderate, whose record as governor of Massachusetts, his only public gig, makes anyone with a dog-eared copy of “The Fountainhead” wretch. Ryan, by comparison, sleeps with a crumpled photo of Ayn Rand under his pillow. Although, once again, when recently pressed by the Catholic League on his Randian worship (fueled as it is by rabid atheism) he tempered what he once stated as a life-affirming philosophy that inspired his embracing of fiscally conservative economics.

So what does the Ryan pick, maybe the boldest move in Romney’s uneven to spectacularly mediocre campaign, say about the candidate to this point?

Firstly, he is worried about his base, which has failed to completely embrace him. This was clearly becoming a distraction again after he was eviscerated by conservative opponents during a nearly one-year primary roll-out, with recent flak over hardcore conservatives failure to coddle him and the deluge of criticism from blogs, radio geeks and even establishment pundits who initially pushed for him over the fringe candidates. For good or ill on the national level and with more moderate independents, Ryan is the poster boy for the Right’s argument for less government, relaxed regulations, and the age-old trickle-down free ride for “job creators” to rescue a feeble economy.

Secondly, Ryan has a personality; combative, unapologetic and recklessly youthful; all the things Romney is not. Although careful not to give too detailed an answer to his no-compromise pitch to privatize Social Security and gut Medicare in the face of his atavistic cow-towing to a continued bloated military budget, Ryan is far more forthcoming about his rather unpopular measures to refigure the Washington landscape than Romney would ever dare.

However, it is hard to see Ryan — a work-machine whose love of the inner workings of legislation trumps his already serious-as-bone-cancer tone — sitting around like Joe Biden whipping off the occasional eructation between ribbon cuttings. He’s Al Gore meets Hillary Clinton meets the bastard son of Dick Cheney. He’s hands-on, pal. Or at least that’s what Mitt Romney wants you to believe. “Don’t trust me? How ’bout this guy, then?”

The brass tax here, beyond rousing the base and designing an air of credibility to a walking haircut, is affecting the electoral map.

There are no signs that Wisconsin is in play for Republicans, unless the GOP hangs its hat on the recent recall failure of the Left to expunge Governor Walker from office after his marauding of state unions. It is a predominantly Democratic state that last voted Republican for president in 1984. Since Ryan is still young and has made his bones on the national level — specifically in hated Washington — it is unlikely he will be an embraceable figure to many independents there.

This is why Ohio Senator Rob Portman would have been the more strategic pick. While Ryan forces the Obama Campaign, which currently trails the money race by a significant margin, to spend treasure and time in Wisconsin, it pales in comparison to the ever-crucial state of Ohio. A razor thin but widening lead for Obama in a state Republicans need (no Republican has claimed the White House without carrying Ohio since Lincoln) would call for the Portman pick. To be blunt, Wisconsin is a gamble with Ryan, while Portman could have conceivably tipped the scale for Romney.

But Ryan makes the most sense for the ticket mainly because now the candidate hopes the campaign can shift to clashing ideologies and away from a personality contest, a game in which Romney would have trouble besting a lamppost. gravitas.

 

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What is Mitt Romney Afraid Of?

Aquarian Weekly 7/25/12 REALITY CHECK

WHAT IS MITT ROMNEY AFRAID OF? GOP Nominee Must Embrace Rich Guy Status

A few weeks ago Rupert Murdoch berated the Romney Campaign for not being “real pros” and later accused the Republican presidential nominee of “playing it safe”. But, of course, playing it safe is Mitt Romney’s mantra; a Mormon sense of stoic privacy and his “holier than thou” attitude served him well against a parade of loonies during the primaries. And anyone who has been around a campaign, no matter how large, knows at this point for the candidate to try and be anything other than what he or she is courts disaster. Good examples are Al Gore trying desperately to pivot into “earth tones” or Michael Dukakis attempting to act tough in a tank. Yet, Murdoch has a point. Romney has been strangely defensive of his financial success, how he achieved his wealth and how he maintains it, and that makes no sense.

Mitt RomneyIt’s as if Romney thinks he can have it both ways; hard sell the private-sector tycoon obviously more qualified to speed up America’s economic recovery with the same bold ideas he instituted in his career and then be evasive on the very practices he’s pitching. This is an uncanny mirror image of 2004 and John Kerry, so far a doppelganger for Romney — bland, rich, out-of-touch New England Ivy Leaguer. Even Kerry tried being photographed in hunting gear to cut into George W. Bush’s “regular guy” routine, as Romney has gone tie-less in jeans standing in front of a variety of macho machinery.

Kerry’s convention speech, laced with military rhetoric, immediately framed his candidacy during an unpopular war and the continued national fear of terrorism as an alternative to a bungling civilian and the architect of an amateurish foreign policy. Once Kerry infused his character into the equation, Karl Rove and the Bush Campaign unleashed a torrent of abuse on it; questioning the Democratic nominee’s tour of duty in Viet Nam and playing over and over his testimony before congress that war crimes were being committed by his fellow soldiers. Soon a private group calling itself the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ran television ads raising real question about Kerry’s credibility in this arena.

Kerry never defended himself, choosing instead to sheepishly attack the Bush Campaign for practicing dirty tricks with misleading ads and distracting the American electorate from the real issue, mainly that the Bush foreign policy was an abject failure costing the nation blood and treasure for what amounted to basically nothing. And this is exactly what’s happening to Romney right now. His entire argument for being president of the United States is that he is not a regular politician, but a man of business and the free market, while Barack Obama is a lifetime politician and insider whose only solutions comes through a broken Washington system that everyone pretty much hates.

It’s the wise move. Romney was a fair to middling governor, whose economic record was by all measures in the lower echelon of states when he left. And if he dares mention Massachusetts then he must address his mandated health care law and that gets him nowhere. His time working with the Salt Lake City Olympics may add a nice homey story to the narrative, but it’s really his connection with Bain Capital, a company he helped build and what his campaign and many Republican spinners have called a “job creating” enterprise that defines him. And here comes the Obama Campaign kicking the tires, at first bringing up the new third-rail of politics; outsourcing, a reality of business for the past two decades. Outsourcing may be gangbusters in Romney’s beloved private sector, but it is poison in politics. The Obama Campaign has brilliantly, and in many ways deviously, connected those dots. It’s good, clean, hard politics and part of the game, but it’s the way Romney has responded that is curious.

Why Romney refuses to release a decade’s worth of returns when it is the predominant practice of past nominees is weird, but for a candidate promoting himself as a financial wizard it’s downright insane.

Romney has been apologizing for his wealth and success by skirting his professional history and refiguring his time at Bain Capital, which helped earn him his fortune and the type of reputation that put him in the lofty position to run for president of the United States. When pressed about outsourcing he immediately claimed to have nothing to do with it, as he had already retired, for all intents and purposes admitting that whatever crazy shit those guys were doing from 1999 on he was busying himself in the a wholesome job of “running the Olympics”. Then when the Boston Globe uncovers the man’s title as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” for the years he’d denied having anything to do with it he sends a phalanx of apologists on every news show to claim he was “retroactively retired”, whatever the hell that means.

Then comes the tax return issue.

Why Romney refuses to release a decade’s worth of returns when it is the predominant practice of past nominees is weird, but for a candidate promoting himself as a financial wizard it’s downright insane. Even novices know that by not revealing something — this was the Birthers argument with the current president’s birth certificate for four years, still kept alive by Romney Campaign surrogate, Donald Trump — the understanding is that there is something to hide. Nixon learned this the hard way when he at first battled the courts to keep control of the tapes that led to his impeachment.

Romney even went on network television and openly stated that if the tax returns of the past decade were released his opponents would eviscerate him by distorting the numbers. This goes beyond bad politics; it is character suicide. It puts his candidacy in the crosshairs of the oldest weapon in the books; “Make the bastard deny it.”

What Romney needs to do is stop denying it. He needs to stop running from his resume. In fact, he needs to embrace it. No one thinks that all of a sudden three months and change from Election Day that Mitt Romney is a champion of the poor or gives a shit about manufacturing jobs or the black caucus or unions or government regulation. Whatever Romney is, and many including this space have yet to actually figure it out, he must let the freak flag fly. Pull the Newt Gingrich line from 1994 about the party being over for freeloaders. Be the hardliner. Many Republican governors won their posts in 2010 with this approach. Shit, the guy who runs this state, a huge star in the party, is busy trying to fistfight people on the boardwalk and he’s getting a primetime speech at the convention.

Romney represents his party, much like Barack Obama did during his general election campaign of 2008. He smartly ignored Democratic pundits and did not get in the mud with Hillary Clinton, as Romney avoided any goofiness with Rich Santorum and the rest of the bunch this past spring. When Romney did go hard to the Right, something he was uncomfortable doing, he stammered out weak base-baiting crap like “self-deportation” or nonsense about contraception that sunk his chances at cutting into the Hispanic and young women’s vote. His party chose him over those guys, and whatever it is that beats in the man’s heart has to emerge quickly and defiantly to provide the broadest choice in November. What appears to be happening is he’s waiting out the clock, hoping to freeze the ball until the fourth quarter with the hope that no one notices he’s…well…he’s whatever the hell he’s scared for us to fine out he is.

Rupert Murdoch knows something about image. His FOXNEWS has restructured forever the idea of using the news to reframe the narrative. Mitt Romney should heed his warnings. Not being Barack Obama will serve him as well as not being George W. Bush served John Kerry.

So, I ask; what is Mitt Romney afraid of?

 

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The Supreme Cop-Out

Aquarian Weekly 7/18/12 REALITY CHECK

LAST WORD ON THE INDEPENDENT VOTE A Public Service Message Before Business as Usual Commences

Once every two years when national elections loom, this space makes its case for a third political party or at the very least a legitimate non-partisan independent voice to emerge from our fixed system. And make no mistake, it is a fixed system. It’s been rigged since 1860 when the last third party candidate took the White House. Several independents have tried and failed; among them notables Theodore Roosevelt (being shot didn’t help), John Anderson (who?), Ross Perot (twice) and Ralph Nader (lost count), lest we forget the now defunct Citizens Party, Independence Party of America, Reform Party, Unity Party and my favorite, the Modern Whig Party. All of them sent packing under a pile of money, strong-armed racketeering and public derision by the monolithic, monopolized corporate monstrosities know as the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Ralph Nader, a friend to this space, used it in 2004 to reveal the Democrats illegal jerry rigging of poll numbers to keep his independent run from entering primaries, town halls and caucuses, as both parties blocked his and fellow independent, a frequent contributor to the Reality Check News & Information Desk, Pat Buchanan’s participation in the 2000 presidential debates. Details of these and other atrocities against democracy are well documented in compendiums of this column readily available in book form.

Normally I would now descend into satirical hyperbole garnished with an explicative-laced joke-a-rama mocking everything you hold dear. But this is serious business now. There appears to be no way — and the evidence bears this out — that anything can be done during this generation on a bi-partisan basis. One party must rule to get stuff through the system, and usually it is asinine, like when the Republicans went insane and turned the country into not so subtle forms of Marshall Law and the Democrats kicked them out to engineer a massive health care law they still cannot fully explain.

What truly needs to happen to “fix” things is a balance of tax hikes and government cuts the likes of which we have not seen in four generations, because the shit storm is coming, folks, and there is no one in sight who has displayed the balls to deal with it.

John Boehner? Nancy Pelosi? Mitch McConnell? Chuck Schumer?

How long have these fossils been “in-charge”?

They have new ideas now?

I dare either one of these party hacks to utter the phrases “tax increases” or “budget cuts” — and I mean across-the-board tax increases and real cuts to a bloated military and a groaning entitlement coffer.

Perhaps if there was any true balance for the past two decades then things could have gone a bit smoother, but nope. It was all-in, and we have paid the bills and will continue to pay the bills for it. Some of us and our families and friends paid dearly with life and limb. Now these myopic ideological sycophants have the balls to ask us to choose once again between one fuck up or the other?

So the sheen is off the Barack Obama apple? Great. What’s the alternative? A guy who’s been hanging around the political trough for decades pitching the same tired shit that straddled the current guy with a broken economy and a damaged foreign policy? Excellent.

And what is the alternative to back-to-the-future? The guy who was supposed “change” with all the “hope”, who instead was predictably sucked into the system and spit out the other end a flaccid, inconsequential historical burp?

They’re not my voice and never have been. And they don’t give a flying fart about you or your country. Never did and never will.

Soon, I will get e-mail arguing that Obama has been jacked by the congress since 2010 and another will retort that he had control of both houses for two years before that. Then another will counter with how awful the 2000-2006 Republican congress was. And all of it will be spot-on.

So where does that leave us?

Mitt Romney has nothing. If he did, you would have heard about it. He represents the same dead-end refuse the Republicans offer up every time. And this version isn’t even authentic. The Republicans haven’t improved on the Calvin Coolidge model of free-market in a century. The same nonsense that landed this nation into a Great Depression has been watered down to careen us into a Deep Recession, but it’s not anything approaching new.

And then there is the made up stuff, like repealing laws and deporting undocumented citizens. Romney has as much power to repeal law as you and me, which is none. So he will do nothing to the health care law. And he will do nothing about immigration, because Obama has done nothing, as Bush II didn’t, as Bush I didn’t and Clinton in between, or has anyone in the position of president or members of congress during our lifetimes for that matter.

Why? These are ideological party platform issues. Nobody is going to budge.

Same sex marriage? (Yes, I’m going there again) There is no real champion for civil rights in the picture. The idea that a fifty-something progressive president can come to an epiphany that homosexuals are also citizens is enough to make you weep, when you’re done being embarrassed to be an American. Romney, once again, has no idea about this. He didn’t have an idea when he supported it, as he has none now that he is against it. He is a party puppet, an ambitious suit with nothing to offer as president. He, like the guy in charge now, is a party suckfish.

Need more evidence?

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was a Republican invention — the individual mandate the brainchild of Newt Gingrich and the last great Republican revolution on Capitol Hill. It was originally a fairly centrist answer to the colossal mess Hillary Clinton sent to congress. It is also the same model the opposition candidate instituted in his state when governor of Massachusetts. Now the very same idiots who helped forge this alternative call it “socialized medicine”. Why? Because a Democratic congress enacted it, not a Republican one. Mitt Romney has even gone as far as supporting about fourteen of the law’s merits, and he’s the alternative.

Both candidates and their respective parties can’t even agree on the goddamn thing being a tax or a penalty. They have called it whatever suited at the time. It is a song and dance, nothing more: The Democrats did everything they could do doom Reagan, so the Republicans did everything they could to doom Clinton and the Democrats countered with treating G.W. Bush like a pariah and what this president has endured by the opposition party takes all comers.

The debt ceiling debate last year was by far one of the dumbest cons ever perpetuated on the American public. And I am convinced had an independent or non-party affiliated politician been in the Oval Office, it would never have happened. The United States Congress refused the paying of our bills to make political points. It was a battle they could never win, like these empty votes to repeal the health care law or Obama stonewalling Romney on gay marriage, women’s issues or immigration. It’s the same dime-store distractions Karl Rove pulled in 2004 to keep Captain Shoo-In afloat. None of it ever has a shred of truth to it. It is a fantasy dribbled out for our entertainment.

Okay, so I’ll get to my point and get back to the pool and my gin.

Last August a bi-partisan group called Americans Elect had a fine idea to send out a direct primary to the citizenry, so we had a grassroots alternative to nominate a capable candidate to bridge the political divide. It needed no affiliation with the two-party system, just an alternative voice straight from the people — like what the TEA Party was going to be before Roger Ailes turned into a bleating quagmire of slack-jawed car salesmen.

I hadn’t been apprised of Americans Elect until last Sunday when it was mentioned off-hand in an interview on CNN with former senator, Bill Bradley. Now to say I spend an ungodly amount of time trolling the underground media for crazy shit like this is a profound understatement, and I never heard a word of it.

Turns out both political parties spent millions in a successfully engineered kibosh of the thing. True democracy trampled by those who control the system — the jack-booted mutants of our making. We gave them the hammers and hell if they don’t use it.

Now poor Ron Paul, as independent a voice as you’re going to get in 2012, who tried the traditional way to make a dent in this whirlpool of corruption, is trying to just get 15 minutes of time on a podium to make his alternative points at the Republican Convention. The Republican Party wants no part of it. Lord knows the Democrats don’t even have someone with those kind of stones. They’ll be parading the usual bureaucratic wonk-addled “power to the people” snake charmers with nary a dissenting voice.

Meanwhile, this summer into fall we’ll listen to over a century of shitty ideas regurgitated by party shills calling themselves “the voice of the people”.

I ask: What people?

They’re not my voice and never have been. And they don’t give a flying fart about you or your country. Never did and never will.

Now I’m ready to cover this baby.

Bring it on.

 

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The Supreme Cop-Out

Aquarian Weekly 7/4/12 REALITY CHECK

THE SUPREME COP-OUT

Never saw this coming.

But give the law its due; the congress does have the power to tax anything and anyone. This is how we got to the 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court on Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 11-400 and the National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393.

U.S. Supreme CourtHowever, the stance by this space and other relatively cogent opponents of the law has been duly supported, as the White House and its challengers defended it. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, as it has come to be known, is unconstitutional in the realm of the Commerce Clause, giving congress the right to regulate interstate business dealings. That avenue was a boondoggle from day one and everyone knew it. But the Court ultimately ruled correctly under the guise of the powers of the federal government to tax — as was done with most of entitlement programs and heavy leans, like with energy and tobacco, interstate highway tolls and all that crazy crap pulled during times of war.

The issue here, beyond the incredibly juicy political fallout on both sides of the aisle — positive and negative — is the gutless action by the highest court in the land to leave this issue in complete chaos; stating the law’s “wisdom” as questionable and how it will be implemented.

What’s the “wisdom” of any law, and how does the federal government have the right to say, for instance, outlaw a plant or denying basic freedoms, which is happening right now with marijuana and same-sex marriage?

This kind of shoddy, half-ruling should open up a chasm for these cases to cruise through nicely.

The same can be said by a ruling a little less than a week ago on the laughable Arizona SB 1070 Law.

The Supreme Court ruled 90 percent of the thing a joke, but left it up to the local police to dare to racially profile in the remaining ten percent of a law that pretty much calls for racial profiling. It’s not unlike these delusional people I encounter who don’t want to hear that they’re actually eating animals: “Cute little baby lamb? Not me…Yum!”

By the letter of the law both the ACA and SB 1070 infringe on the rights of the citizenry, do they not? This “greater good” stuff is always the way into your pocket and to keep you from doing something you just know isn’t harming anyone but yourself.

Granted, high-stakes gamblers (as I was for most of my twenties and early thirties), who wish to roll the dice and run amok without coverage, will most likely cost some sucker a grand a year. And it always cracks me up to think that sure, why do young people need health care insurance? — they’re healthy and strong with no other responsibilities — ah, but at the same time they’re drugged up and racing around in beat up, barely legal automobiles and motorcycles, hormones raging in random sex-fueled romps worthy of Caligula, topped off with stage diving, moshing, self-mutilation with tattoos and piercings, cliff diving, bungee jumping, night swimming (likely on drugs and in mid coitus), and well…give yourself a minute to think of all the dangerous shit that should have killed you.

Sure, let’s all line up and pay for these cretins.

This is basically, in childish but fairly stringent terms, what the United Stated Constitution was drafted for, the protection for the citizens of this republic to pursue happiness without a confused and powerless police force or the IRS keeping tabs on you.

So, I get the nuances of demanding these idiots and/or their parents get on board with the rest of us suckers and pony up the cash to keep doctors from having to treat the semi-comatose head-laceration that comes in at 1:00 am without a card. But the fact (to which laws are supposed to be based and ruled upon) remains — this is a mandated clause by the government (again!) for us to be part of some pool with the lazy, stupid, fat, pathetic and irresponsible, AND their dullard offspring. It’s akin to the cops forcing you to hitch a ride with a guy tripping on jimson weed. “It’s for the greater good!”

The Arizona law is less a national epidemic than the PPACA, merely because really no one lives in Arizona. It’s a fucking desert with beautiful Sedona trapped inside. Wonder if we could extricate it in an Obamacare medical exclusive, and let those people treat everyone like it’s Kristallnacht. But if they’re going to draft a law that speaks to border safety (a border with Mexico) then the chances enacting that law on a blonde, blue-eyed middle-aged jackass like me is unlikely. Why does any law need to pertain to one set of individuals and not another?

This is basically, in childish but fairly stringent terms, what the United Stated Constitution was drafted for, the protection for the citizens of this republic to pursue happiness without a confused and powerless police force or the IRS keeping tabs on you.

Let’s review, since I am repeatedly (and may I say with good reason) accused of either taking both sides of an argument for laughs or none for heartier laughs. The Supreme Court ruled correctly in both the PPACA and Arizona law SB1070, but did so in a very half-assed way, leaving lawmakers in congress and law-enforcers in Arizona with an extremely short rope in which to hang themselves. It would have been better to simply rule one way or the other — the law is legal under the Commerce Law (which it might be with the right attorney) or it is not (which it most certainly is not) and just wipe out the goofy Arizona law, because without the teeth of it, what exactly are these poor cops going to enforce?

Finally, because we cannot resist in getting a head start on the political charade a-comin’, the president will now have to finally defend his administration’s signature legislative accomplishment. Now the Republicans and specifically Mitt Romney can make it clear that if you don’t like this thing you had better vote for their guy or you’re stuck with it. And for Romney, the architect (along with Newt Gingrich in 1994) of the individual mandate, which was the main reason for the lawsuits in the first place, it will be hard to divest the record from the candidate. It also dilutes some of the crazed rhetoric that this was some kind of fascist/socialist plot, while continuing to make claims on being a strict constructionist.

 

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Attorneys General Rogue Past

Aquarian Weekly 6/27/12 REALITY CHECK

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH U.S. ATTORNEYS GENERAL?

History lesson, kids.

Ready?

Okay, can you name a single United States attorney general that has not broken some kind of major law in the past, I don’t know, let’s say half century?

I cannot.

Eric HolderWell, there are a few, William B. Saxbe, Griffin Bell, and maybe two other guys. There’s also the technicality of what a certain attorney general did before taking the office, like Nicholas Katzenbach, who as deputy attorney general drafted the infamous memo to the dubious Warren Commission that cast light on a government cover-up of the JFK assassination: “The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he had no confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial…Speculation about Oswald’s motivation ought to be cut off…Unfortunately the facts on Oswald seem about too pat–too obvious (Marxist, Cuba, Russian wife, etc.)…We need something to head off public speculation or Congressional hearings of the wrong sort.”

Be that as it may, the list of attorneys general, the chief law officer in the nation, having made mincemeat of some portion of the U.S. constitution is long. Very long.

For the purposes of current events, let’s first discuss the sitting attorney general, Eric Holder, who has been in the news for the Fast & Furious mess that has sullied his status, career and reputation. Without delving too deeply into Holder’s shenanigans here, there is absolutely nothing, not some, nothing that is legal about what Fast & Furious was supposed to achieve. Handing over a spectacular cache of weaponry to Mexican drug lords to track their use that ends up in the murder of an American border patrol agent is hardly murky. It’s indefensible. He simply belongs in prison for this. Not sure what has kept him working all this time. Election year? The possession of nude pictures of the first lady?

Holder’s screw up in all its drug running gun toting glory is a doozy, no question, but what I’m after is bigger; an explanation on why these top level law officers, specifically during my lifetime, have shown a complete disregard for the law. It’s as if by merely representing a concept, it is an invitation to flout it.

Power grab? Circumstance? Bad luck?

It is not coincidental that there has been a spate of attorneys general that for one excuse after another ignored their station — national security being the niftiest excuse — to better treat the law of the land as toilet paper.

Most recently was George W. Bush’s Alberto Gonzalez, who was for all intents and purposes using the Department of Justice as a political tool to launch trumped-up investigations of Democratic congressmen.

Before Gonzalez, John Ashcroft’s Patriot Act was so blatantly unconstitutional it was almost surreal, the only thing that topped it was the complete capitulation of the electorate, including yours truly, figuring that it was so off the charts loony that there was no way to actually enforce half of it. This of course turned out to be true, as the hundreds of lawsuits brought against the government has been successful. It became so messy for Ashcroft, he had to bail after memos circulated amongst his staff that the Justice Department handed iron-fisted powers of surveillance and torture to the executive branch, which included ignoring of the Third Geneva Convention, the ABM Treaty and the convenient sidestep of the First and Fourth Amendments under the auspices of “national security”.

It is not coincidental that there has been a spate of attorneys general that for one excuse after another ignored their station — national security being the niftiest excuse — to better treat the law of the land as toilet paper.

Janet Reno, serving as Bill Clinton’s attorney general, acted on flimsy intelligence about “militia groups” and presided over the massacre of 76 Americans in a compound outside Waco, Texas. For reasons only know to her, a lunatic preacher and his wisecracking and heavily armed Branch Davidians (many of them women and children) deserved to be eradicated with full military force. Later, Reno was held, as is Holder, in contempt of congress for withholding documents implicating the justice department for failing to pursue investigations of known Democratic donors.

That brings us to my favorite, Edwin Meese, as terrible a human being, assuming he was one, as has ever held high office in this land, and that, my friends, is saying something. Funny thing is he isn’t close to the worst attorney general. Meese was charged but not convicted (a technicality at best) and later resigned in disgrace over the Wedtech Scandal, wherein a company he was culling a paycheck from was given easy access to Department of Defense contracts that cost taxpayers millions. But that pales in comparison to the unmitigated contempt Meese held for the First Amendment, which he attacked ceaselessly by harassing every avenue of free expression above and beyond any sane description of his job. And should I bother going into his shameless manipulation behind the scenes to successfully, for a time, keep the dirt off his boss, Ronald Reagan for the outlandishly illegal Iran/Contra affair?

Reagan’s previous attorney general, William French Smith was another in a long line to be held in contempt of congress. This time it was Smith’s turn to withhold documents during an investigation of General Dynamics Corp., a weapons company in the pocket of the federal government for decades.

But Reagan’s clan was not nearly as roguish as Dick Nixon’s.

First, there’s John Mitchell, who paid money to everyone under the sun to commit a series of covert spying crimes against American citizens and sitting government officials, amongst other “national security” concerns surrounding students, protestors and private churches. Mitchell was clinically insane and was sacked by Nixon to parade in a cabal of attorneys general to keep the president from going to jail, including Richard Kleindienst, whose silence in the face of several pay-offs for a phalanx of criminals launched from inside the White House during the Watergate crisis lead eventually to Robert Bork, who carried out Nixon’s manic “Saturday Night Massacre”. This included, among a host of many others, the firing of his predecessor, Eliot Richardson, who had the job for five months.

This was what they call in the law business, the golden age of mayhem.

Then there is the curious case of Robert Kennedy, who had never tried a single case in any court in any land. In a case of nepotism run amok, Kennedy was given the post by his brother as payback for his father’s fixing the 1960 general election in at least five states. And although never outwardly breaking the law, RFK used his position and unusual access to the highest office in the land to heights never intended for attorney general. These include the covert negotiations with Soviet diplomats over the deployment of U.S. missiles in Turkey during the Cuban Missile Crisis and ushering prostitutes and starlets for JFK’s favor to and from the secret White House pool.

Not sure any of the above has to do with interpreting the law unless it is to interpret it through the prism of, at best, questionable behavior, which is what Eric Holder is now doing in the great tradition of the office.

 

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The Summer of Obama

Aquarian Weekly 6/20/12 REALITY CHECK

THE SUMMER OF OBAMA

A national political campaign is better than the best circus, with a mass baptism and couple of hangings thrown in. – H.L. Mencken

The stomp outweighs the gavel where persecution reigns. – Marquis De Sade’s aid-de-campe

With the notable exception of 2008, when there was no one left to defend or explain the abysmal eight years of George W. Bush, all election seasons are about the incumbent — his economy, his international standing, his policies, his leadership, his likeability and the confidence in the citizenry to either award him another four years or be so completely frightened or apathetic about his opponent, the choice is down to the lesser of two evils. Outside influences like hostages or a complete unforeseen economic meltdown and/or the random “October Surprise” not withstanding, that’s pretty much it. And in the cycles of an election season, none is crueler than summer. The best and the brightest, strong incumbents like Roosevelt or Reagan or even Nixon, have felt the sting of summer polls, dips in voter confidence, et al. But for the shaky ones, like the one we have now, the summer can be the death knell.

Barack ObamaIt’s time for those in the White House to get real about how they plan on defending this presidency. The hackneyed early pounding of challenger Mitt Romney by what appears to be a close-your-eyes-and-aim-a-dart strategy at the Barack Obama re-election committee has been weak and mostly ineffectual — and not because Romney isn’t one of the worst candidates in recent memory. Hell, a good deal of the underground element of his party never wanted him. I have yet to hear a single Republican or conservative friend or colleague — as long as they are not in the employ of the GOP — say anything positive about their candidate, except that he isn’t Barack Obama. Also, these same types who keep writing me missives that begin with “Beware the TEA Party” have yet to explain how the hell this fat-cat establishment stooge is their representative after six months of a long Republican primary.

No, Romney stinks, just like John Kerry stunk the last time we had a weak incumbent ready to be had. Kerry’s stench didn’t fully reveal itself until September. That’s about when the “I’m not Obama” thing will wear thing for Romney. He had better be about something and have a semblance of an alternative vision, because if he has to survive on cult of personality or tangible elements, he is toast. But in the summer of an election year when the warts of a presidency are out in full force, it’s all about The Man. And for Joe Cool, there are warts.

This economy, although rightly argued by the White House as markedly better than it was when Obama took office (Dow at 7,500 and the private sector losing 800,000 jobs monthly), it is hardly a scintilla of what was projected or even promised by his crack economic team of Wall St. punks and Clinton-era has-beens. The massive stimulus was hijacked by liberal lions in the congress — a congress that was controlled for four years, two under the president, before being ousted in 2010 in the wake of a slipshod and soon-to-be decided by the Supreme Court “unconstitutional” boondoggle of a Health Care Law.

And while this president has been more effective at this illicit and wholly vague “war on terror” than the cowboy president who preceded him, his ramping up the heat in Afghanistan and the blithe dismissal of most of its dead-end policies has been egregious. Remember, this is our anti-war candidate, who has assassinated more disparate terrorists than any president in history, included in the carnage are an America citizen and the man responsible for 9/11. The chances now or anytime that this guy, or anyone, least of all another Ivy League wimp trying to appear tough, is going to end this perpetual state of war is nil. It has been and will be the bankruptcy of this nation, because even purportedly fiscal conservative voices are in favor of never-ending aggression. Obama has done nothing to curtail it, if anything he has to done the opposite.

Shit, can Joe Cool run on this at best shaky and at worst horrid record of economic solvency, as instituted nearly a century ago, or will this be about how shitty Romney is or how shitty the Republicans were in the first place?

Apparently, even in the bitter heat and unforgiving light for summer, six out of ten voters still dig Joe Cool. And why not? He’s still the young candidate (Romney being another tired Baby Boomer nudge), articulate (except when explaining the actual gig he’s been given) and he’s overseen, Afghanistan aside, an overall responsible and effective foreign policy (the Libyan move — which I mocked ceaselessly — was a win-win).

But these same voters do not want more spending or more pathetic excuses about The Right blocking all these infusive economic salves. There is only a Right because in the dust of a Republican spending surge for the better part of a decade, leftist banshees like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ram-rodded the usual parade of government overreach and caused a backlash. Being shocked that the opposition party, roundly mandated by the electorate in 2010, is blocking your agenda is like being surprised when a TV ad is biased towards the product it’s hawking.

Of course all this pales to the woeful economic numbers that for good or ill (and it has mostly been ill for presidents since FDR made it the business of the executive branch to be responsible for American fiscal solvency) are crushing Joe Cool weekly. Thanks for the most part to Republicans like Coolidge first and Hoover last, both of whom chose to ignore one out of every four Americans being out of work for three solid years prior to Roosevelt’s madness, the country as a whole has henceforth accepted the assistance and regulatory powers of the federal government over the monolithic banking system.

Trouble for this president is his desire to play the middle. Thus, he’s painted as a big-government liberal (in some goofy places as a socialist) as he cow-tows to the interests of speculators, banks, unions, and manufacturers, while also managing to pay lip service to the Dodd-Frank bill, which was passed under a Democratic congress and never certified. The Left claim it doesn’t exist, and what happened last month to J.P. Morgan Chase makes it clear that Joe Cool has no clear footing on either side of the aisle.

And thus here we are, as we were in the summer of 2004 when I sent to press the summation of what this fall’s election should be about: “George W. Bush was ready to be had by anyone aggressive and smart enough to build a viable alternative argument to massive job losses, a throbbing recession, the most spendthrift administration since FDR, and the worst post-war effort ever bungled by a sovereign nation. This election is supposed to be a referendum on the incumbent’s standing. It was ripe for a legitimate challenger to seize the opportunity to engage a debate on its merits.”

Karl Rove brilliantly framed it about gay marriage and soccer mom fear mongering and re-elected a dunce, who continued to care take the greatest economic collapse in eight decades, as will be the case this time around for Barack Obama. Second terms in my lifetime have been doom chambers. No one can survive it, least of all a polarized nation of overfed and over-stimulated mutants ramped with fear over some bullshit they read in a random screed like this nonsense.

But at least I am willing to go on record calling it nonsense, rather than commentary or analysis, even though it is as salient as any crap I’ve read from anyone for months. Shit, can Joe Cool run on this at best shaky and at worst horrid record of economic solvency, as instituted nearly a century ago, or will this be about how shitty Romney is or how shitty the Republicans were in the first place?

Hell if I know, but I do know it’s time for this president to get himself a helmet.

As Voodoo Princess Madam Sissy Meechum says, “It’s a long summer.”

 

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