Friday, June 08, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But (Redux)...

I heard this amazing statistic this morning on the radio and had to go dig it up for you:

Asked about the likelihood that they themselves will become rich, Americans surveyed seemed to be slightly less optimistic than they were in 1990. Twenty-eight percent said it is at least somewhat likely they'll become rich, down from a peak of 34 percent in 1996.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and we've scientifically determined that's about 30% of us.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) That blessed silence you hear? No "Obamacare"? No "N___er In the White House!"? No "Low taxes = more jobs"? You can thank Brett Kimberlin. While I can't condone Kimberlin's actions, neither can I really sympathize with those who are up in arms about him. Nearly every one of them, including Michelle Malkin, has cyberstalked under the guise of investigating someone. I've been on the receiving end of that, and while I fought back in the only way I knew how-- fight hard, play dirty, and show them you aren't bullied by anybody, no matter how high up the food chain they are because there's always someone higher up than that, as in the publishers of the magazine they write for or the state they work for (altho I'm not sure what I would do if Barack Obama decided to troll me)-- I don't expect everyone on the planet to be a badass with a bad attitude like me.
2) Shorter John McCain: Facts are stupid things.
3) If you're worried about the password dump, here's a way to confirm if you should be.
4) Ben Bernanke is either not concerned with recent slow downs in the American (and world) economy, or he's hestitant to get involved in an election year. People are suffering, Ben. Do your fucking job.
5) Mitt Romney had more dicks up his ass than the President did in May.
6) Romney's next embarassment: Orrin Hatch. This is even more tepid support than either Romney or President Obama showed in Wisconsin.
7) 6.6 million more people are now insured, thanks to President Obama's healthcare reform package. And the good stuff is yet to come!
8) There is a cure. Granted, it's as rare as hen's teeth but it's a start.
9) Human cloning will happen in our time. Count on it.
10) What the's a beautiful day here in NYC, so let me ruin it for you.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

I Dunno....Is It Just Me Or...

....are we declaring World War III one nation at a time?

The Death Of One Political Party (or The Other)

Contained in the transcript of this interview is an opportunity to make the Democrats (or the Republicans, if they had anyone with balls in their leadership) a permanent majority-- well, for a few decades, at any rate.
ANDREW KOHUT: By the middle of his first term, most Democrats strongly disapproved of George W. Bush. And almost from the get-go, most Republicans have strongly disapproved of Barack Obama. So part of it Is response to these presidencies and the political culture. Part of it, too, is the way the parties have changed. The parties have become smaller than they once were. We have a record number of political independents.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, an unprecedented 38 percent of those surveyed identified as independents, the most to choose that description at any point in the last 75 years.

By comparison, just 32 percent said they were Democrats, and only 24 percent now call themselves Republicans.

There are three bits of information to process here:

1) Self-identified Democrats hold an 8 point edge over self-identified Republicans. This means the Democrats message to its membership has been more effective than the Republicans.

2) Of the 38% who self-identify as "independent," there's a strong diversity (not unexpected) of political views, but no consistency. They can be older and fiscally conservative and socially liberal (which, when you think about it, is an opportunity to make them choose either lower taxes or lower services, and message it that way), they can be younger and fiscally liberal and socially liberal, and then there are the suburban types who really only care about how to take care of the kids and will the trains run on time.

3) Most of the people in the middle, that 38%, aren't independent because they reject either party. They're independent because they believe *both* parties have rejected them. Both have stopped listening to their needs, they feel, and so will choose to vote on candidates.

The opportunity to pluck many of these votes back is waiting, and the work really isn't that hard. Indeed, Bill Clinton was a master at finding votes out of unlikely places, and he made it look easy. You just have to stop framing the world as "us versus them," and start framing it as "me and you."

Look, believe it or not, PBS, The News Hour and Judy Woodruff get it: go out and listen to these people. Speak with them, not to them, and stop using buzzwords and trying to find a Frank-Luntz-like euphemism that becomes a dog whistle for an agenda.
This is a winning strategy for any level of election, from school board to Congress to President. If you pay attention, your reward will be votes. Barack Obama is somewhat better at this than Mitt Romney, and no one seriously questions who will win in November (and that's before the inevitable debates and before the inevitable Romneybot flubs.)
But we need more: we need to find candidates who can set aside a personal agenda and talk with people. Let them know you take them seriously, and don't pop up snappy sound bites in response. That just sounds like you're making the voter a prop (sometimes that works, but not usually.) Really listen to what they are saying, reiterate it back to them, and then find a solution in your bag of bromides that you can tailor to their concerns.
Believe me, we're going to get a lot more votes from independents if we can actually have them saying the next day at church or the dinner table or the gym, "Y'know, so-and-so sat with me and really listened to my problems. I think (s)he cares about what's going on, and may not have the answers but at least understands the question."
Take healthcare reform as an issue: fully 61% of independent voters think it was a horrible idea, that there's already too much government intrusion into their lives. What does that tell you? If someone sat with you and said, "No, there's death panels and mandates and all that."
Here's what would be my response: "Y'know, maybe you have a point. There is a lot of government people running around, telling us what to do, but it's really important to remember something: those are people we elect to keep us safe from harm, to protect us for all threats, foreign and domestic. They are responsible to us, you and me, because we vote for them, or at least, we vote for their bosses. Right now, you have insurers who do the same thing government agents do-- death panels who decide whether you should live or die and how healthy you should be, and mandates that you can't be sick before you buy insurance-- and they aren't responsible to anyone except their profit margins. And they can raise prices for no other reason than they need to pay their CEO a million bucks more. Healthcare reform was an attempt to keep you in the private insurance market, so you can have choices, while keeping a firm hand on the out of control spending that health insurers are pursuing."
A progressive policy laid out in libertarian terms-- government's not the bad guys, they're trying to keep you from having to deal with the bad guys. With a dash of subtle class warfare tossed in for good measure.
It annoys me that something so simple seems so out of reach for so many politicians, and yet, there you have the problem with American politics in a nutshell. No one wants to do anything that hasn't been field tested and brainstormed and focus-grouped to death.
And I suppose I'd feel differently if I was spending tens of millions of dollars to serve for just two years.
All I know is I hate leaving "money" on the table and there's a giant jackpot out there.

A Remarkable Story

It took fifteen months. It weighs tons. It's made of concrete and steel and it floated 5,500 miles.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Ground Game

Michael Tomasky, with some back-up from alleged moderate David Frum, have it right on the reasons for the Walker recall vote. But he misses the point.

I never got very invested in the recall Walker movement. I was cheering for the other outcome, obviously, but I always figured recalling a governor after just two years in office when he's not accused of a crime is a pretty tall order. You see I didn't write that much about it. The margin of Walker's win is a little surprising, but then, he outspent the other side six or seven to one.

As Frum notes over on his blog, the outcome points to a bleak future for public-employee unions, where the next decade will likely see "its pay relentlessly ground down, as private sector pay has been ground down over the decade past." The scope of this loss ought to make these unions and the Democratic Party think twice about what their long-term strategy is going to be here. They're not going to win recall elections against governors who do things they don't like, and even Democratic governors are going after their benefits. It's a terrible thing that the pressure on all wages (except for the top 5 percent or so) is downward, and that private and public employees making, say, $45,000 a year are being pitted against each other, but that's the situation.

Both have begged the question (Tomasky admits that's not what interested him about the recall): why is this so?

How have conservatives so effectively purchased the heart and minds of the average Republican voter as to convince them to be angry at the nurse who takes home $50,000 but to worship the hospital CEO who takes home ten or even twenty times that, nevermind the HMO head who takes home a hundred times that who exploit them for profit?

In Tomasky's defense-- and I've followed his writings since his days at the Village Voice, so I know whereof I speak-- he's a stellar reporter who does amazing work uncovering facts and digging for truth. This kind of analysis is not in his wheelhouse.

But Frum, a political hack who's probably sat in on more "strategerey" sessions than I've had hot meal, ought to be a bit more candid about how this has happened.

After all, he sat in the same room as Karl Rove for years.

A telling stat in Tomasky's piece was the exit poll question where 17% of Obama supporters voted for Walker. Obama was particularly quiet on the vote, and my suspicion is his private polling put the results in less doubt than the public polling. No sense wasting precious political capital on a quixotic venture.

The theory is that recall elections without an actual criminal allegation hanging over the incumbent's head are hard to justify-- Gray Davis had his own issues with a then-popular celebrity leading the charge-- and that these 17% agreed that Walker should be given his legally-won term.

Fair's fair. And there's no guarantee they'll vote for him in 2014. They, like many in 1998, simply felt the complaints lodged didn't rise to a level commensurate with removal from office.

But move that 17% from the Republicans to the Democratic incumbent in November, and the election in Wisconsin becomes an Obama mandate. Too, Walker may have lost the state senate, which is a sign that the support for Walker personally is woefully weak.
The analysis you're going to hear all day is two-fold: Obama will lose Wisconsin (already shown that won't be the case) and unions in this country are dead.
That last may be a bit more true, but there's a problem with that analysis and it begs yet another question.
See, it ignores the fact that the recall took place in the first place. Yes, Walker won and yes, by a large margin, but that doesn't mean it's an endorsement of his first term as much as it's a "leave the guy alone, let him finish it out." There are two points to be made there: one, he won't be nearly as cocky and aggressive (especially if he loses the Senate) since the theme is out there that he's a brutal tin-pot dictator and second, he now knows he has a lot less time to set up his re-election effort and a lot less support.
And I'm not sure he's going to run again. He may have become so politically damaged in this recall that he confronts himself and decides to run for Senate, thus bowing gracefully out of a job he almost got kicked out of. Remember, he's only the third sitting Governor to be recalled. That's not a feather in his cap that he won: it's an albatross around his neck that he was even recalled. To allow himself to be defeated in re-election is a surefire way to shatter any potential future in politics.
I realize that I've begged the whole "why did this happen?" question as well. The short answer is, I haven't given it enough thought, but I do know one thing.
Every conservative that I come across who gloats about the "death of unions" will be asked the question I asked earlier.
How can you be so angry at the nurse who takes home $50,000 but worship the hospital CEO who takes home ten or even twenty times that, nevermind the HMO head who takes home a hundred times that, who exploits you for profit?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Scary, And Yet...

You're all familiar with the Hubble Telescope, that marvel of engineering and science that has created some of the most spectacular and iconic space images of the past decades.
It's about to die, not from some catastrophe, but merely from old age and lack of life support. Now that the shuttle program is terminated, no one much feels like flying up to it to do maintenance and repair.
We would be blind to beauty, except for something that has happened that is at once creepy and wondrous:
The National Science Foundation has just revealed the existence of not one, but two pristine, Hubble-class space telescopes, still in their original wrappings, in a warehouse in Rochester, N.Y. The pair was originally built for the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of spy satellites, to look down at Earth rather than up into space. But the NRO has moved on to bigger and better instruments, and decided to hand the telescopes over. "It just blew me a way when I heard about this," says Princeton astrophysicist David Spergel, a member of the National Academy of Science's Committee On Astrophysics and Astronomy. "I knew nothing about it."
Two points to notice here:
The Hubble makes your 50x military grade binoculars look like the magnifying glass they used to put in Cracker Jack boxes. Imagine one of those pointed down at you sunbathing nude in your backyard. Now imagine a telescope that puts the Hubble to shame. That's what the NRO had in a warehouse, waiting to be deployed.
Second, note that they never deployed them because they found an improved way of spying on us!
Let that sink in for a minute. Despite the obvious budget concerns-- why are we holding not one but two perfectly good telescopes in a warehouse in Rochester, NY never to be deployed because they became obsolete? How much were they and where in the budget do they show up, if at all?-- our government is handing down the best telescope we've ever invented, from a spy ring to our science division.
Why wasn't that working the other way around? I mean, I get that you can't be too public with your intelligence gathering, but on the other hand, science is important to our security, too, and particularly space. That's why NASA even exists in the first place! You could, for example, publicly misrepresent the level of technology on the telescope, and gift it from NASA to the NRO.
I know, the military gets the best candy, even if like a goose fatted for pate, it has to be rammed into its gullet, but come on, Congress. This is science. This is (mostly) good for us.


On Wisconsin!

Throw the bastard out of office. And while you're at it, turn your legislature completely blue.

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Sensible Proposal

Andrew Cuomo has not exactly had the worst term in office of any first term governor...he did get gay marriage passed, after all, which is both a progressive coup as well as a logistical one...but as a former state attorney general, he has shown a mean streak about crime and punishment.

Wading into the debate over stop-and-frisk police tactics, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to ask legislators on Monday for a change in New York State law that would drastically reduce the number of people who could be arrested for marijuana possession as a result of police stops.

Here's the deal: during Mayor Giuliani's tenure, a political philosophy was applied to police tactics. Called "Broken Windows," it assumed that by cracking down and arresting people for minor crimes like turnstile jumping or possession of a joint, a message would be sent that crime would not be tolerated, thus discouraging larger crimes.

Did it work? It's a quaint notion to believe it did and it may have had some small positive impact on the level of crime in the 1990s in NYC.

During the first half of the '00s, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly applied this theory more broadly. Rather than spot a crime, he went out of his way to find them, insituting the "stop and frisk" practice where police would pull over a person for the crime of being Latino or black, and pat them down, then if they were carrying anything illegal or could be shown to be implicated in an unsolved crime, arrest them.

Nice, huh? The average percentage of people who were innocent of anything hovered around 87% over the past ten years. Some white people were stopped, of course, and ironically white people were arrested and/or issued summonses about twice as often as blacks and Latinos. Representing about 11% of the stops while representing two-thirds of the criminal outcomes, you'd think cops would focus on more whites as the years progressed, but not so.

Many of the crimes involved the possession of small amounts of marijuana which, despite its alleged "decriminalized" status in New York-- it merely means possession of pot has been bifurcated from drug possession laws-- is an offense, which results in a ticket.

If it's the only crime of which the offender is cited. Or, more relevant, his first arrest and conviction. After that, Katie bar the door.

Needless to say, possession of even a joint in those circumstances make you a repeat offender and even though it's considered a violation and dismissed the first time, the next time a possessor will face a judge. And then it becomes either a good lawyer or a conviction. A criminal record and all that implies.

Bleak prospects for a young minority youth in a city like New York. You can't get a job easily with a criminal record, you will always have a handicap in terms of income and housing and god knows what happens to you in jail.

It's not marijuana that's a gateway drug; it's being arrested for possession that is the gateway.

Cuomo's idea, to completely decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, makes a lot of sense. This is legislation who's time has long come.

An Observation About George Zimmerman

A very good friend of mine is a former district attorney. One of his favorite sayings is, "The lie you catch them in is the lie they felt comfortable telling, but it is most certainly never the first lie they've told."
Gee, I can't imagine what Zimmerman *koffkoffMURDERERkoffkoff* would have wanted to lie about before this...