Thursday, December 06, 2012

We're Number 5!

Today is one of those rare days where you don't want to be number one.

Mother Jones, a liberal website, has published its 50 Worst State Legislatures and the scoundrels down at the Gold Down stepped in at number five.

Highlights from the top five:
  • Tennessee - Justifying a bill banning discussion of homosexuality in schools, a legislator explained to a radio station that everyone knows that the AIDS epidemic began when a man screwed a monkey.
  • Oklahoma - A bill banning the use of aborted fetuses in food.
  • New Hampshire - It's the third largest English speaking legislature in the world. Given that many people, it's inevitable you will come up with bills like the one requiring any state law to quote the Magna Carta
  • North Carolina - Don't believe in climate change? Simple solution, write a bill mandating sea levels to not rise.
  • Georgia - Obama mind control lectures. Comparison of women to livestock. Welcome to my home state.
Whenever there is an examination of the crazy, some one always says, both sides have plenty of crazy (if you're Republican you will likely mumble something about truthers) and that is true. But the fact is one side shows a particular pattern that the other does not and that creates a very real problem.

There are many people in this world, your humble scribe included, who trend towards conservative philosophy and therefore would naturally fit within the Republican party. However, we feel that we have no home there because the only home available is the Thanksgiving dinner where everyone at the table is the crazy uncle.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Quote Of The Day

From a commenter at liberal Blog For Democracy
" What the hell, we suck you know, shoot for the moon!"
For the second Presidential election in a row, the Democratic President out polled the average statewide Democratic candidate by about 5 points.

Repost: An Appeal To Moderates

Originally written November 19, 2008.

Moderates by their very nature avoid conflict.

For this reason, they spent the last 20 years operating in the shadows, sacrificing principle for the comfort of power as the radicals stomped across the landscape. They said all the right words and when necessary attended the appropriate services at the chapels of venom.

In 2000, when their standard bearer, John McCain was publicly flogged by the so called righteous, they said little.

For 8 years, they stood aside as their bloody brethren ripped at the Constitution - wetting their talons with torture and imprisonment.

In 2008, finally some ventured to speak against yet another disastrous choice and were met by a mob carrying stakes and kindling.

The witch fires have illuminated the shadows. There can be no more standing to the side as the looming beast now feeds on its own.


The beast is a chimera of many parts and it is on these parts which you must strike.

Sarah Palin - Fortune made her the face of the radicalism. She is not as some say unintelligent. Her weight on the campaign was not a lack of intellect but a lack of intellectual curiousity. It is not that she doesn't know the participants in the North American Free Trade Agreement - it is that she doesn't seem to care. She embraces the spirit of know nothingness which now grips your party. This standard bearer must be banished or you will wander in the wilderness for generations.

Abortion - You have lost your voice because those under 30 no longer hear you. They consider this most divisive issue settled and wish to move forward. If due to personal belief you must remain with this issue, you must concede reasonable exceptions. To do otherwise will guarantee those you need most will simply pass you by.

Talk Radio - Recently the voice of the beast was asked if there is room in the Republican party for moderates - Rush Limbaugh responded "We want their votes but they'll never be one of us". A brighter line was never set. If Democrats are the enemy to be fed upon, moderate Republicans are merely the ground the beast walks across. Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Malkin and all those who cry for blood must be rejected. You must stop appearing on their shows. You must stop parroting their insanity. The last two elections have shown the market is rejecting their brand of rabble rousing. Assist the market in hastening their demise.

The Despair of KnowNothingness - Reason must prevail over the heart of the beast. If someone asks you if you believe in evolution, you must say yes, but you leave these issues to science and it does not bear on faith. If someone asks you if you believe in global warming, you must say yes, but add the task will be difficult and we must seek solutions that better us all. You must discount the brand of dishonesty which claims to hold the one true knowledge at the expense of those whose life work is the quest for knowledge.


Now, it is on this ground where you must fight - for it is good ground.

Gun Rights - Heller rightly established the Second Amendment as an individual right and not a collective one. You will find allies across the ideological landscape who are gun owners and believe that owning guns is not a sin. But do not seek them in the halls of the N.R.A. Seek them in the hunting camps of Georgia, the small businesses in D.C. and the indoor target ranges of L.A.

Property Rights - If Heller was absolutely right, Kelo was absolutely wrong. The mere idea that the government can swoop in and take a person's property without a fare-thee-well is more abhorrent than any of the issues the radicals put forth as critical. Forget promising platitudes of nominating judges who rule on "strict construction". Promise judges who understand that as with guns, property is a right of the individual and not the collective.

Business - If you must be the party of business then do so. There are plenty of people who understand the economy doesn't work without big business. But also be the party of small business. It may be the Wal-Marts which make our nation a partner in the global economy, but it is the mom and pop restaurants which make every small town in this country a partner in the whole's greater success. Support small business loans. Support microloans. Offer support to all rungs of the ladder and those who you need most will help raise that ladder to new heights.

Spending - Yes, we must talk about taxes but for the love of all that is good, let us talk about spending first. When John McCain talked as a spending hawk, CNN's fancy dial-a-vote devices went through the roof. When he wandered back into the land of the beast, they fell through the floor. The people want smaller government. They want more local control. They will understand the hard choices to be made. Instead of promising a tax chicken in ever pot, promise we won't have to sell Oregon to pay off the Chinese. It is for their children and their children's children. Every parent understands sacrifice to make the next generation's world better. Talk to your constituents like the adults they are and they will listen.
Not that long ago, I had a conversation with Republican State Senator David Shafer. We met in a not unusual way. He disagreed with something I wrote on embryonic stem cells. Sen. Shafer and I agree on nothing about right to life issues. However, once we set aside that deadly conflict, a conversation emerged on the future of Grady Hospital. I learned more about the issues of local health care in this half hour conversation than any number of position papers, activist marches and stormings of the Grady board meetings ever taught me.
All it took was momentarily setting aside the differences in order to discuss areas where we agreed. It was in that country, not yet touched by the beast, where we not only found common ground but solutions.

It is in these refuges of reason where the battle can be won. But first you must be willing to make your stand. The time for the stalwart has come. The engagement is at hand and the decision must be made - do you fight for this good ground?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Morning Charlie

I've been expecting this article from Charlie Harper. He's a Republican; he's a syndicated columnist; of course he's going to write an article justifying his obvious choice next Tuesday. Half the time, much to the chagrin of his fellow partisans, Charlie surprises. Not today.

Forever, will today's column be known as the jelly bean column. Charlie is not one to normally succumb to mythology, but the pull of Reagan is difficult for any modern Republican to resist.

In those "glory" years of the 80s when we saved the economy from the Great Depression brought on by the feckless Carter and shot laser beams through red, white and blue lenses to obliterate the Berlin Wall, President Reagan's fondness for jelly beans was legend. A former smoker, he used the sugar nubs to curb the cravings. He was also known to use them, along with his aw shucks, Will Rogers (without the Communism) ways, to seduce Democrats into agreeing with his agenda.

Despite living in the post-partisan world after the 2000 election, after 9-11, after Katrina, after the largest economic collapse since the Great Depression, apparently there are people who still think jelly beans are magic.

Let's dig in.
America faces a stark choice for this Presidential election.  Despite third party groups who choose to paint the contrast between the Republicans and Democrats as two versions of the same flavor, there is perhaps a difference in philosophy between these choices that is greater than any election since 1980, and possibly even since 1972.  In many ways this contest has been ongoing for four full years.  Such is the nature of campaigns these days.  Tuesday, it is again time to choose.
 The  shibboleths here are not surprising. Want to paint someone a liberal? Call up the recently deceased McGovern. Want a shadow of failure, summon the scolding Carter. On the one hand you have arguably the most liberal candidate Democrats have ever nominated; who won exactly one state in 1972. On the other hand, you have a Democrat whose administration was forever stained with the perception of weakness on foreign policy.

Then on the hand of reality, you have a President, elected with the largest majority since 1988, who proposed the same health care policy Republicans proposed in 1994 and 1996, who agreed to cut taxes, whose foreign policy has included the promised pull down of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh. And yeah. Ordered the death Osama Bin Laden.

Do I have to replay the last debate where, except for brief calls of that rare beast named nuance, Romney practically agreed with every facet of the current President's foreign policy?

Yep. Just another weak, socialist, scolding liberal. Quite the stark choice.
Americans do not vote against incumbent Presidents easily.  In the last 50 years only two have lost a re-election bid.  We are a nation that likes to criticize, but often still prefers the known status quo to the fear of the unknown.  As too many corporate management consultants are overpaid to say, “we fear change”.
Yet with the backdrop of the housing market collapse and interconnected banking turmoil of four years ago, change was not only desired but demanded.  Along with it, we were given the promise of hope.  The two words coupled together were enough to capture the imagination of a fearful public who had no idea what problems were ahead of them.  They were delivered by a reassuring telegenic messenger – A fresh face who offered stark contrast of the status quo which had failed so dramatically and abruptly.  The American people embraced the idea of change.
 Also true.
We were short changed.
 ZINGER!  On to the real meat.
The President who promised to bring the parties together summoned Republican leaders for a bi-partisan photo op outside the white house early in his Presidency.  When one spoke up to offer a contribution, the President responded on camera with a dismissive “I won”.  It was but one of many early signals that the rhetoric of the campaign would not reflect how this President would govern.
Actually, we were short changed on this anecdote. The Republican leader who offered a "contribution" was the recently defeated John McCain who essentially offered the idea the President should pursue his party's platform even though it had been soundly defeated just a few weeks before.

This is a popular brick in the wall of Republican myth - Obama never tried to work with us. Peggy Noonan recently rolled out the canard, "He misread his Republican opponents from day one. If he had been large-spirited and conciliatory". Apparently, Peggy forgot how President Obama snubbed the Republican press by meeting with them in January 2009 to discuss issues; truly an amazing piece of political amnesia as she was there.

Then there's that guy that prayed at the Inauguration.  The pro-life, anti-gay marriage preacher from Texas.

Sideshows you say? Well, there was also that time in January 2010, with the healthcare battle looming, when he met Republican leaders and took their questions for hours. Maybe the Republicans have a point; maybe Obama does want to convert us to a European style of government. He certainly takes as many questions from the opposition as leaders in a Parliamentary system.

Ronald Reagan's first budget passed with the support of 62 Democrats. President Obama's stimulus package passed with exactly 0 Republican votes. If only he had more jelly beans.
Instead of working together the President remained distant and alone.  Bob Woodward, who has chronicled the inner workings of virtually every administration since Watergate writes in his new book the amazing distance President Obama has between himself and members of Congress from both parties.  His dramatic rise through political ranks left him little time to forge the friendships and alliances that may be unseemly to some who reject the notion of any backroom dealing, but are in reality quite critical to the way Washington works.
More jelly beans. See above.
His challenger, by contrast, was Governor of the most Democratic state in the country.  He has been an executive in government, corporate, and non-profit settings.  He understands that speeches filled with hope and idealism are nice, but unless there is a tactical and realistic way to implement those ideas, as well as metrics to gage their success, then words are, in fact, just words.
Which is why he as Governor of Massachussetts, Romney used his veto power over 800 times and was overriden by the Democratic legislature over 700 times.  Not a lot of jelly beans there.
The President, whose actual record is in stark contrast to the promises made as a candidate and during his first year, has instead chosen to abandon hope and change for an attempt to characterize Mitt Romney as someone who is aloof and out of touch.  Romney, in response, spent most of the early part of his campaign – including the critical infomercial that is what political conventions have become – to sell himself as a person instead of focusing on his agenda.
Promises versus record. Economic stimulus passed - check. Healthcare reform passed - check. No longer use torture - check. Draw down of forces in Iraq - check. Draw down  of forces in Afghanistan - delayed but by 2014 will be a check. Got Osama Bin Laden - check. Yes., that's quite a stark contrast. Disagree with policies if you must, but pretending the President hasn't delivered on major promises is myth building at its finest.
The debates, written off by many pundits as events that no longer matter, allowed the candidates to face off and for once, revealed much of their contrast in style and substance.  In the first debate, voters were able to see a candidate who has had to sell his ideas to investors, legislators of opposing parties, and taxpayers.  They were also able to see the response from a President whose career has been one of speeches filled with lofty rhetoric but often lacking in substance.  One who has been surrounded by a bubble of yes-men for four years who seems out of practice with having genuine conversations with those who disagree.
Most of the speeches I hear contain lofty rhetoric, but they also contain the checklist of accomplishments I've laid out. As far as yes men, maybe true. We'll hardly know until the years down the road when the books are written. But I look back at that first term and see Bush Defense Secretary Gates and former  rival Hillary Clinton and I find it hard to spot sycophants; men or women.
Whichever of these men is chosen to serve our country for the next four years will face a daunting challenge of moving a legislative agenda through a hyper-partisan Congress while facing the will of a sharply divided electorate.  With the challenges we face, however, we cannot afford four more years of gridlock.
Mostly true, but about that gridlock thing. Charlie etal. seem to be stuck in one gear - the only way to solve gridlock is give us all the power. Funny, four years ago, I heard many of the same people say the only way to reign in out of control government was divided government. Now, the only way to reign in out of control government is to give complete control to one party. One question - how's that working for you in Georgia, Charlie?
I will be voting for the person whose experience in bringing together those of opposite parties extends beyond speeches and into actual experience demonstrated in the Governor’s Mansion in Massachusetts.  Mitt Romney is my version of hope and change.
I haven't said who I will vote for yet, but I will say this - I'm leaning towards the moderate Republican.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts From Outside The Bubble : Mulligan

I barely watched the debate last night. I barely glanced at twitter. Foreign policy debates are jet fuel for the irrational; even reasonable people go round the bend.

With two weeks to go in the most bitter election we will see in our lifetime, I'm avoiding confrontations with friends who have become partisan zombies.

Cowardice maybe, but at this point, I value friendship more than politics.

Could be worse. I could live in a swing state.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Myth Of The Day

The last time a Georgia politician sought help in developing bi-partisan solutions to tackle the big problems, it was 2008 and Newt Gingrich. A few months later, I attended the first American Solutions bi-partisan hootenanny and enjoyed the conciliatory tones of a key speaker - Sean Hannity. A few years later, the emails I regularly received from Newt's folks were of a decidedly less than conciliatory "Democrats and Obama are evil" flavor.

Funny how movements want you to sign up to solve things eventually evolve into mailing lists for whatever purpose the money changers and polemicist deem worthy.

Now, here comes former 9th District candidate and radio personality Martha Zoller with something called Martha is very serious about about taming our debt, to the point she challenges us to work together, "no matter whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat".

To underline her "concern", Zoller says the Federal debt is "Currently at $16 trillion, and with no signs of slowing". (italics mine)

Of course, this is false.

Take a look at the above chart. After peaking at just over $1.4 trillion in 2009, except for a plateauing in 2011, the deficit has gradually reduced. 2012 is estimated at just over $1.0 trillion; the lowest it has been since President Obama was inaugurated.

This is how myths (and mailing lists) are created.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Thoughts From Outside The Bubble

Two weeks ago, without watching the Presidential debate, I analyzed my twitter feed to determine who I thought "won". You can read my initial attempt at this new methodology here.

Last night, I did the same. I could have watched the debate, but it is interesting to not watch, avoid the noise and try to sort out the signal from a different data set ( apologies to Nate Silver, I promise a plug later ).

Once again, my twitter feed consists of three subsets: partisan Republicans, partisan Democrats and fairly objective analysts. Here's my off the cuff thoughts from last night:

-It was obvious the President was more aggressive earlier. I didn't even need to see all the partisan Democrats in jubilation, it only took one Andrew Sullivan tweet.

-Early on it was apparent the aggressive/defensive posture's from the last debate switched. As I posited before, to me this is an indication of winner vs. loser. Defensive doesn't work well in close in combat. Examples below.

- I knew it was going badly for Romney, or perhaps more accurately, well for Obama when partisan Republicans swarmed to the comfort of the most familiar canard: media bias. Add on to that the heuristic that he who blames the moderator loses and things headed south pretty early.

-The ultimate tell of dwelling on the minutiae is a losing position was the number of people clock counting. When you are moaning about one side getting an extra 4 minutes ( oh the humanity! ), larger points are flying by faster than Felix Baumgartner

-About that "act of terror" thing.  Both camps are right. Both camps are wrong. And Candy Crowley was right to walk it back. But walking it back misses the larger point and ultimately leads a larger sin. But more on that later.

And with that I'll leave you with more words of advice from Nate Silver;
There is a more subtle form of bias, however, that a lot more of us are prone to. That bias is to look at all the data — except for the two or three data points that you like least, which you dismiss as being “outliers.”
By the way, I'm currently reading Silver's "The Signal And The Noise". It's fascinating and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Whiplash

I spoke yesterday of the whiplash, well there is no better example than this,
Mitt Romney told the Des Moines Register that he has no plans to push for legislation limiting abortion
Following the red meat wallow of the political conventions, traditionally candidates have slowly edged towards the middle. After the Republican convention, Romney continued to whip the base into a frenzy and the wise people inside the D.C. bubble scratched their collective pointy heads; how can he not do what we expect him to do?

Well, here it is, but not exactly how the pointy heads envisioned. From a debate performance filled with policy positions that would have most Tea Partiers screaming to this latest modification of his abortion position (although a staffer walked it back almost immediately), it is apparent Romney is not going to walk to the middle, he's going to turn left and scream towards the middle.

We don't normally see this type of abrupt grasping and anything new leads to questions. The two important in my mind.

-Will the Republican base, which was castigating Romney on these very issues just six months ago (arguably three months ago!), continue to succumb to the euphoria of the post-debate high and give him a pass?

James quick answer: Yes. Republicans fall in line. He's winning the beauty contest and at this point in the game that matters more than single policy issues - including abortion.

-Can the Obama campaign take advantage of the "new Mitt"?

James quick answer: Maybe. Navigating to the middle is usually a high wire act for a challenger. Romney's bull rush has momentarily befuddled the President's campaign, but there is opportunity to point out opportunism.

27 days to go. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Elections Are Worse Than Ebola

From an Andrew Sullivan reader, in response to the ur-blogger going round the bend over President Obama's poor debate performance.
it took a failed war and Abu Ghraib for you to turn on the incompetent mediocrity that was George W. Bush, but Obama now seems to be old news because he was uninspiring on the television? 
After reading Sullivan's wailing last night, I seriously considered backing off politics for the next four weeks.

Elections have a debilitating effect on people. Already I've had to make one deal with a friend to not speak of it until after its over (a pledge both quickly broke). But this particular election seems to be infecting even reasonable people. I expect some level of crazy as even the normally rational succumb to partisan fever, but there's something about this election which is turning people into whirling, tarantella spinning, spewing, thrash monkeys.

But I won't. It's too enticing. Just have to be careful to not let any of the contagious spittle splash on my person.

For those on both sides who tend to get caught up in the whiplash, here's a little non-Buddhist chant you can recite over a candle or whatever floats your boat as you try to maintain some facsimile of humanity:

-Mitt Romney was never as bad as people made him out to be.

-President Obama has never been more deadly than right before he lunges out of a hole of his own creation.

-Every candidacy has a near death experience and that goes for incumbents too.

-Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thoughts From Outside The Bubble

Due to a fortunate conflict, I was unable to watch the debate last night. And still I woke this morning and all the world was well. As my friend Rusty said on Facebook this morning, cutting back the steady push of news and politics has been beneficial to the health of this news junky.

But the jones is strong and I could not stay away completely. Last night, instead of participating in the nerd equivalent of the NFL playoffs (people drunk and screaming at televisions but with less violence), I monitored my twitter feed.

As you might expect, my feed is a mixture of partisans from both sides, analysts from both sides with a few straight up journalists thrown in.

It was a very different experience from my past exposures to the ugly irrational thing that is the debate game and there were some trends that I think are enlightening.

-It was obvious they were in the weeds very early. Past history has shown that unless your name is Bill Clinton, getting into the detailed policy debates don't work for an incumbent. Debates are more about appearing "Presidential"

-As the debate progressed, the trend became one side of partisans getting more aggressive, more bloodthirsty and the other side getting more defensive. As with most everything in life, defense in the middle of close combat is an eventual loser. Examples below.

-Example One from the Republican side. A normally rational individual snarked that it was "quaint" that a candidate who ran on the nebulous hope and change has a problems with Mitt Romney's 57 point plan. A ridiculous straw man but campaigns are built on ridiculous straw men. It's an effective talking point.

-Example Two from the Democratic side. A particularly excitable person proclaimed that Mitt Romney's statement on Big Bird cost him the election. That's just ridiculous. Good rule of thumb - when your supporters start focusing on minutiae, you're losing. (Just look at 2008 with a rational eye. Rezko, Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, etc)

-When Bill Maher starts making teleprompter jokes, President Obama is obviously not doing well.

Bottom line - based on my twitter feed, I knew Mitt Romney would be "declared the winner" before the spin room even opened. But does it matter? There's lots of ways to look at it but I leave you with the words of one of the few rational  players in the game; Nate Silver

-My own instant reaction is that Mr. Romney may have done the equivalent of kick a field goal, perhaps not bringing the race to draw, but setting himself up in such a way that his comeback chances have improved by a material amount

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Must Read Of The Day

From self-described "centrist liberal" Mark Lilla,
Unlike the crybabies at MSNBC and Harper’s Magazine, we never bought into the campaign’s hollow “hope and change” rhetoric, so aren’t crushed that, well, life got in the way. At most we hoped for a sensible health care program to end the scandal of America’s uninsured, and were relieved that Obama proposed no other grand schemes of Nixonian scale. We liked him for his political liberalism and instinctual conservatism. And we still like him.
It's yet another riff on the fever dreams of the current "conservatives". Don't let the references to Hegel and Maimonides throw you off. The piece is as humorous as it is cutting and incisive.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Maker Revolution

A blogger, a professor and a labor statistician walk into a bar - no, this is not the opening to the worst joke in the world - and ponder what is going on in the economy.

When the fever sweat of politics is wiped away and the rheumy eyes are cleared, serious people have known for some time that something serious is going on with our economy. And the scary thing is  very smart people aren't sure why.

That chart up there is all the recessions since 1948. There is an undeniable trend of slower and slower recovery. 

The two big economic booms of the past 150 years, manufacturing and the internet, seem to be petering out and we face the frightening question of, what's next?

These large questions occasionally filters down to the street where those three guys in that terrible joke opener sit on a Saturday, drinking a beer, wondering exactly what's going to fix this.

Chris Anderson of The Guardian may have the answer to how we avoid the possibility of becoming a "nation of bankers, burger flippers and tour guides".
And then there is the first generation of 3D printers. These take "geometries" on screen (3D objects that are created with the same sorts of tools that Hollywood uses to make computer generated movies and turn them into objects that you can pick up and use.
Anderson's column is much broader than the wonderment of things that act like the replicators on Star Trek. His thesis is innovations which powered the internet revolution (and in many ways fueled the service economy explosion) have reached the stage where they can be applied to manufacturing. And the possibility of putting manufacturing directly in the hands of entrepreneurs allowing them to not only dream, but actually create, is truly exciting and it is not too strong to say, could ultimately save the entire economy.

We've had an Industrial Revolution and an Internet Revolution. Get ready for the Maker Revolution.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oh Lord. Someone's About To Make It Much Worse

Since the infamous video of candidate Mitt Romney was broadcast across the internet, only the softheads failed to realize it was probably recorded by someone hired to work the party. Based on some pretty obvious clues, it may have been the bartender. And the deputy dogs are tracking him or her down.
Leder of course isn't pleased, and Goldman reports, "He is in the process of narrowing down the suspects and is contemplating contacting law enforcement."
Leder is the high powered donor who hosted the party.

Bad enough people immediately began blaming "the help".

Think what you will about the act possibly being illegal, does a campaign who's candidate recently said nearly half the population "believe that they are victims" want to deal with the image of a $10 an hour food service industry work being frog marched off to jail?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quote For The Day

From Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic,
In fact, this "47 percent" incident reflects a larger pattern in Campaign 2012. The base of the conservative movement develops a message that plays well internally, and inexplicably thinks it'll be persuasive to the general electorate if only it is trumpeted widely; Mitt Romney slavishly conducts himself as the base wishes; and then the talking points turn out to be as unpopular with swing voters as you'd expect.
I watched my twitter feed with bemusement yesterday as once again the "experts" were shocked a Republican would say these things. I always think, do they not read the same blogs I do? Do they never listen to talk radio? Because if they did, they would realize in the right wing base, the 47% meme is more than a casual throwaway statement; it is mantra.

And as Conor correctly points out, not only are these beliefs more than talking points, to the segment who are currently steering the Republican party, they are gospel (I hear it daily, have made monetary wagers on it and spent a couple of hours last Saturday having someone question my sanity when I posited his fervently desired outcome might not happen).

And like any true believers, the folks who absorb these sermons believe they will work! And that may be the craziest thing of all.

Friday, August 17, 2012

More Red And Black Background

Atlanta's Jim Walls (former employee of a 100 year old newspaper) has more details in the Red and Black controversy; including the background of the apparent center of controversy, board member Ed Stamper.
Stamper’s background might explain why he had to “guess” what journalism is. He was general manager of the Red & Black in 1979-80, then spent the better part of four years in advertising positions at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I didn't mention the memo in my first post because it's origin and purpose is unclear; although the publisher has admitted it was a mistake to let students see it.

My favorite part of the memo?

– Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things
Let's start a list of "bad things" that shouldn't have been reported:  Watergate, Iran Contra, Abscam, Atlanta School Cheating scandal, Bill Campbell, etc., etc.

Arrogance Versus Idealism

Athens venerable Red and Black, the student led independent newspaper, is having quite a week.

On Wednesday, several key staff members walked out. The students allege the board and advisers are fundamentally changing the mission of the paper. Since only one side is talking, it's unclear if the charges hold true or if they are an overreaction to inevitable change.

My first inclination was to doubt the students. It's easy to say, I was young once, but there is a period of everyone's life where naive idealism can overwhelm reason and prudence. When you are first learning the ways of the world, the urge to punch first, talk later, is strong.

But then I read the following quote from the head of UGA's Journalism department, Kent Middleton.
"We want a strong and thriving Red and Black and I hope the students will go in and make it that way. ... They can't be as effective journalists outside The Red and Black.
What an interesting world view from one of the "adult" leaders in Athens little journalism world. I peer at my twitter stream this morning and see quite a bit of journalism going on. Some of it being generated by 100 year old newspapers. A lot of it not.

Perhaps, Kent can stroll across town and have a cup of coffee with Athens Banner Herald Editor Jim Thompson, who four years ago said,

In the end, then, whatever the media platform, what it means to be a journalist today is what it always has meant...It's not a matter of training...It's a matter of trust.
The Red and Black will hold an open house this afternoon. My suggestion is throw wide every door, answer all questions truthfully, with painful honesty and let go of the gatekeeper mentality. The "kids" may be naive and they may stumble into corners, but at least they recognize the world is changing and the openings of the ivory towers now transit in both directions.

Follow the self-exiled student staff of the Red and Black on twitter at @redanddead815 or visit their website at

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fever In Florida

Another incumbent got primaried down Florida way.

Oh, James, you say, it's all the rage! Just look at Lugar and that Texas fella! Probably just another tea party insurgent giving the well deserved swift kick to another establishment, country club attendin', pearl clutchin' Rockefeller Republican.

Well not exactly.

In this case, the incumbent was Cliff Stearns. Sure, he's been there 24 years. I guess you could call him establishment. But he's more famous for something else; holding the hearings that led to the Susan G. Komen / Planned Parenthood ugliness. He's also stirred the pot on Solyndra. Stearns congressional record reads like a segment script of the Sean Hannity show with a little Mark Levin spittle smeared around for good measure.

Didn't matter. In the pockets of deep conservatism, like you will find in the fields around Gainesville and Ocala, bonafides don't really matter any more.

There's a stark lesson there. I continue to wonder - will we ever reach the point where people will realize, it don't matter how crazy fervent you are, someone will always act crazier plunge deeper into the fever.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Politics Of Welfare

Why It Is Crap.

Politifact has a brutal take down. But if Politifact isn't your cup of tea, let someone who actually worked on Welfare Reform explain.

At the request of several Governors, notably certain Republican Governors, the Department of Health and Human Services is allowing flexibility in how states implement the work requirement in Welfare Reform. But the requirement is still there.

What you have is a 15 year old program where reporting and implementation requirements are rather arcane and the Feds are allowing states, under certain circumstances, to experiment with making it less about number crunching and more about getting people jobs.

It's about less federal control. It's about letting the states act as laboratories to guide policy. It is in fact......Reaganesque.

Why This Won't Matter.

To some welfare will always be a hand out. In some political circles, you would think the calendar just skipped right over 1996 (the year welfare reform went into effect).

It will work because despite every poll showing a majority favoring a safety net, there is a deep seeded resentment against the perception of people getting something for nothing. And Romney's simple narrative wrenches that raw nerve straight into the toxic air of politics.

And in politics, it's not the lie that counts; it's the effects.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Paging The Sierra Club!

Hi there, my environmentally focused friends. Remember how you joined the "Plan B" coalition to defeat the T-SPLOST because it didn't have enough rail? And how your new BFFs, the Atlanta Tea Party (conveniently located in Dacula) promised to support your bid to get rail?

Governor "Let's Not Make A" Deal has some news from you. From the AJC Politics twitter feed:
@GovernorDeal says Tuesday's vote "slams the door on further expansion of our rail network anytime soon".
My, oh my! It sure is swell you guys have a "list", er, I mean a "plan". Actually having political power to put in it place would be even better! Dontcha think?

Good Morning, Welcome To Plan B!

TSPLOST lost. As we all knew it would. So time to move on to Plan B! it is!
The Plan B that staggered out of the governor’s office will be its polar opposite: Dramatically smaller, paid for with shrinking funds, and highly centralized. Projects will be hand-picked by a governor who intends to squeeze every penny available.
Projects selected by the Governor, executed by the DOT.

Welcome to the revolution. Same as it ever was.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quote For The Day

Via The Atlantic's Matthew Cooper:

"When John Roberts was nominated to be chief justice in 2005, a very prominent liberal lawyer told me that he was reassured. Roberts, he noted, was a practicing attorney with years of trials under his belt -- unlike the academic Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas with his slew of government jobs and no real private practice experience. The real world experience of Roberts, this liberal lion thought, would make the Chief -- and the court -- less rigid ideologically."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Media Nonsense


Charlie Harper and I rarely, completely disagree. Generally we're on the same page and the devil lives where the devil lives.

His Herald Courier article on "Media Bias" is no exception.

I cannot disagree with the following,
The problem with selective edits and biased reporting of only selected facts is that it undermines not only the integrity of journalism, but on our political process as a whole.  Conservatives have every right to be suspect of what appears on MSNBC.  Liberals have every right to be suspect of FoxNews.
But down where the devil lives things become much more complicated and Charlie suffers from the very contagion he decries.

Is there bias in the media? Yes. Is it pervasive and steered in one particular direction? Outside the clearly uniformed polemicists, not really. And most importantly, does it bleed into reporting? Hardly and usually the evidence given of this grave sin is flimsier than a piece of scotch tape in a hurricane (Charlie's example of Andrea Mitchell's idiocy is a notable exception).

The context that Charlie leaves out in his "pox on both their houses" column is one side has spent over forty years, birthed with the utterance of "nattering nabobs of negativism", constructing a massive mythology that is then used as a narrative cudgel  in any political discussion.

A clearer picture of bias and its level of infection is given by conservative Conor Friedersdorf,
There is some liberal bias. It's fine to call it out -- but absurd to treat it as the very core of your worldview, the explanation for every ideological setback you suffer, or the main factor preventing a better society.
The very core of your world view may sound like hyperbole, but not when practically every conversation about the good Reverend Jeremiah Wright starts with the press didn't cover him, when it was ABC News that first broadcast the outrageous videotape.

Not when Joe Scarborough blasts the NY Times for covering Mitt Romney's Scrooge McDuck like exploits while ignoring John Kerry's fabulous elitism - only to be told the old grey lady in 2004 ran a series about the Boston brahmin's excesses.

Not when you consider a conversation I had with a conservative about the gas shortages of 2008. He claimed the "librul AJC" blamed Governor Sonny Perdue. I recalled most of the coverage focused on the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. He insisted. I researched. And then show him two articles from the AJC that squarely lay blame for the shortage on the storms. Nary a mention of Governor Perdue. He was still not satisfied and insisted the eggheads blamed the Republican Governor.

Of course the left has sinned too and MSNBC is as leprous  as Naaman. But it is not an obsession with the left. It is not carved into their DNA. It is not the subject of every last beloved conversation.

And the greater sin which is covered by this cacophony of constant caterwauling about the unfair liberal media conspiracy is that, as Jon Stewart noted, the true bias is "lazy".

Not in the trenches of the dailies where good people like Aaron Gould Sheinen and Jim Galloway (raging liberals both, I'm sure) toil, but the most fervent wallowing is in the slop houses of the national political press. Where the hogs are fed not on turnips and roots, but by the endless swill that spews forth from the twitter gullet of every person who has traded all vestiges of shame for the title "operative".

Jamelle Bouie of The American Spectator lances straight to the center of the boil,
The monstrous truth of this dynamic is that it’s driven by political journalists. They are the ones who breathlessly cover campaign tweets in a desperate bid for web traffic, they are the ones who act as glorified opposition researchers, evaluating claims on the basis of whether they’ll be used in an ad, and not whether they’re accurate or truthful. The obsessive focus on trivia, the constant search for gaffes—these are things generated by the political press.
 Today's story is about a mythical place called WaWa. Tomorrow's story will likely dance on the head of some new semantic pin. Or whatever is the latest "controversy", "miscue" or blessed shiny object that matters so much to all those who do matter; meaning the press itself and not 99% of the voters who will actually participate in the electing of our next leader.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are myth building, the Democrats are self-destructing, the Libertarians are keeping a straight face while pretending a Romney presidency would somehow blossom with more love of freedom than the current, the Tea Partiers have reached the U.N. conspiracy stage of transportation discussions, we face a terrifying fiscal reckoning and Syria seems intent on solving all its problems by not having any people left alive to cause problems.

And about a million other things that would matter unless your primary bias is your own self importance; which is the only real sin the press has exhibited for years.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quote For The Day

George Chidi is a familiar name to anyone who followed the Occupy Atlanta fun. In a "break-up letter", published by Creative Loafing, he lets loose. While he exposes the many problems many of us suspected existed within Occupy Atlanta, the following stuck out for me.
The tent protest against AT&T's decision to shift roughly three percent of its workers from union wireline jobs to non-union jobs in the U-Verse division was so little respected that the union itself did not meaningfully participate.
People who say the left doesn't police its own have not been around the left leaning activists I've encountered. When Occupy Atlanta first got off the ground, I looked to the movement trench warfare veterans, of which there are many in this town, to gauge the seriousness of what was going down in Woodruff Park.

The reactions ranged from curiosity to utter disdain. Essentially the attitude was "they don't know what the eff they are doing and they will probably eff a lot of things up".

Good rule of thumb when dealing with new movements; always look to see how they are received by the established movement community and you'll have a good idea of their true impact.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

About That New Welfare Drug Testing Law.....

Recently, Governor Deal signed a law requiring all applicants for welfare in Georgia to first pee in a cup.

As many, including yours truly, pointed out during the legislative debate, Florida already has a similar law which not only did its own study committee recommend against but is currently tied up in appellate court due to that pesky thing called the 4th Amendment (and based on previous rulings, including a seminal one from....where else....Georgia)

Well, it gets better.

Not only is Florida's law probably unconstitutional, as predicted by experts, it not only doesn't work, it actually costs the state money.
Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.
Since an overwhelming number of applicants have passed the test and the law requires the state to reimburse the costs of the test to anyone who passes, after four months, the program has actually cost taxpayers over $45,000.

Doesn't work. Costs money. Violates the Constitution.

Governor Deal and the rascals managed to hit the bad governance trifecta.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Quote Of The Day

Ta-Nehisi Coates on lazy pundits not taking the time to research before spewing memes,
And then there are pundits who write more than they read, and talk more than they listen, and prefer an easy creationism to a google search.
The context here is comments by Juan Williams about the lack of marches protesting black on black violence on Fox  Sunday Morning. Coates lists half a dozen such marches and rallies from the past year.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Many years ago, a fortunate connection provided me the opportunity to work the short-lived Sarazen Open at Chateau Elan. We worked the caddy shack, where I met the gracious, Payne Stewart, to the gruff, Bones McKay.

We also on occasion rotated up to the first tee to help with what ever needed helping. As I stood just inside the ropes on one late fall day, watching professional after professional, including the Golden Bear himself, strike balls down the first fairway, I felt a presence next to me.

I looked around and standing by my side was a small seasoned man whose face was as familiar as opening the paper. Although those who knew him swore of his gentle heart, my only knowledge was his sometimes acerbic writing style laced without what could only be called crankiness.

Screwing up my courage, I turned and said, "It's a great day for golf, Mr. Bisher".

He looked up at me from under his floppy, white hat, stretched a broad smile and replied, "Oh, it's a fine day for golf".


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Quote Of The Day

In a sweeping analysis of Andrew Breitbart's methods and impact on the media, Conor Friedersdorf absolutely nails the neurotic obsessiveness the loudest voices on the right display when talking about the media.
There is some liberal bias. It's fine to call it out -- but absurd to treat it as the very core of your worldview, the explanation for every ideological setback you suffer, or the main factor preventing a better society.
If you are interested in the way the media landscape has changed and the impact of operators like Breitbart, the entire essay is a must read. It's as honest it gets, rightly crediting  the man for creating platforms that allow greater consumption of the news, rightly blaming him for using that platform to damage, not further journalism and ultimately, acts as a warning on the temptation to sate on satisfying short term tactical victories while ignoring the larger game being played.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Deficit Is Shrinking

You read that headline right. And the source of this surprising reality? Drudge Peach Pundit Morning Reads.

If you click through and read the article, you'll see the CBO projects the 2012 deficit at $1.08 trillion. Originally the estimate had it dropping below the tantalizing trillion mark, but later revisions nudged it slightly back over that psychological marker.

Can that be right? Can the deficit actually be dropping despite the best efforts of our free wheelin' Socialist-In Chief?

Yes. And it has for some time.

Here's the deficits since 2009 (and remember 2009 was actually mostly President Bush since the fiscal year ran through Oct 1st):

2009: $1.41 trillion
2010: $1.23 trillion
2011: $1.29 trillion
2012: $1.10 trillion


And that chart at the top? That's the rate of increase in Federal spending. That nose dive at the end is not an illusion.

Just a few things to roll around your head in case you have the misfortune of your radio landing on the WSB MEDIA CONVEYOR BELT OF DOOM with some snake oil salesman screaming "HE'S GOING TO SPEND US INTO OBLIVION!"

Reality bites.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Somebody Misses His Wooten

Valentine's must be in the air, for Republican Randy Evans has penned quite the love letter to former AJC scribe Jim Wooten.
But he did not stop there. When writing columns, he researched and verified every word to make sure that every column was thorough, accurate, and complete. He understood that just one mistake, one error, and thousands of readers would call him on it.

I've read Jim Wooten for over twenty years and deigned to be his informal, snarky ombudsman for the last four years of his tenure. What Mr. Evans writes was once true, as documented in my own conflicted thoughts about Jim's gradual transformation from thoughtful conservative in the Durwood McAllister vein to just another link in the WSB media conveyor belt churning out endless half truth panderisms, but it was laid waste in the final years as he gradually viewed his quest as not one for the truth but one that  matched his narrowing world view.

My own biased viewpoint? Absolutely. But feel free to graze on the years where I played Deacon Lunchbox to Wooten's Lewis Grizzard. It's all there for anyone to see.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quote Of The Day

From Conor Friedersdorf on Newt Gingrich's 1996 bill proposing to execute non-violent pot smugglers.
This insufficient regard for the sanctity of human life and willingness to pander with the death penalty is problematic enough when exhibited by a powerful legislator. Electing a president with that mindset is terrifying
Exactly right.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Silliness Of The Day

This is threatening to be a regular feature.

For the record, the only constitutional requirement of the legislature is to pass a budget. If only they'd realize this fact. Instead, every year, they seem intent on proving 40 days is 39 too many.

Sen. John Bulloch (R-Down My Way) wants to allow hunters to use silencers.
A Georgia Senate proposal would end the ban on silencers for hunting firearms. Senate Bill 301 is sponsored by Sen. John Bulloch, who says allowing hunters to use silencers would keep them from disturbing their neighbors
Now in my 30 years of tromping through the south Georgia woods (and I'm sure it's a longer span for Sen. Bulloch), I've yet to encounter a neighbor who complains about the dulcet tones of a .270 Winchester Short Magnum ringing in the crisp autumn air.

I find it hard to believe that the good folks of Sen. Bulloch's home town, Ochlocknee, are a uniquely skittish bunch.

Down The Rabbit Hole

Did you know there is a Presidential candidate with eligibility issues? Due to questions about his citizenship? And his name is not Barack Obama?

From United Liberty (an always entertaining web site that stretches from just inside the sanity line to bull fruit looney):
Mitt Romney’s father was not a citizen, when Mitt was born. It remains questionable, if this citizen issue will be a defining factor in Mitt Romney’s plunge at the hands of South Carolina Republicans.
Birtherism is a weird sub-culture and now I discover the even weirder sub-sub-culture of Romney birtherism. If you google "Romney Citizenship Eligibility" be prepared for a journey into one of the strangest corners of the web.

Two things I love: the endless absurdity of the internet and the wonderland reality skewing adventure which is primary season in the south.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Those Nasty Anonymous Comments

Don't usually toot my own horn, but this statement from analysis by the commenting platform Disqus sounds awfully familiar.
Pseudonyms are kind of a cross between the two: You can say what you want without fear of retribution (a la anonymity) but you also want to cultivate a persona, and, typically, you don't want it to be hated. The result? Better comments.
From August 2007:
Unlike the real namers however, their credibility is based primarily on context. The semi-anonymous develops a reputation based not on name but on the content of their work. If the work is credible and consistent, the handle can become almost as legitimate as a real name.
The internet changes many things, but some truths remain consistent.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quote Of The Day

Charlie Harper on how politicians frequently skew budgetary priorities:
Georgia could spend $20 Million on fishing, but it couldn’t spend money on teachers.  On veterans.  On trauma care. Go fish represents the last Governor’s monument to misplaced priorities
Charlie's article expands on this most recent example of appropriations infamy to explore the upcoming transportation vote and the proposed new Falcons stadium.Well worth the read.

Monday, January 09, 2012

There's Never An Egg Timer When You Need One

Remember earlier when I noted I would be saying "monumental waste of time" more often?

Democrat Pam Dickerson of Conyers wants to make photoshopping heads onto bodies of the nude variety illegal.

Did Britney Spears move to Rep. Dickerson's district and nobody noticed?

Urine Better Than Mine

Before the session began today, Georgians were already exposed to the latest pissing contest.

Republicans Jason Spencer and John Albers think it is only fair that if you receive the roughly 400 bucks a month in welfare that we should make sure what is leftover after buying Chef Boy-ar-dee and Kraft Mac And Cheese isn't spent on the Mary Jane or worse. These fine stewards of public money think our best efforts should be spent on drug testing TANF (Transitional Assistance for Needy Families) recipients.

Spectacular idea! I bet Georgia is on the cutting edge of this type of innovative thought! Oh wait. We aren't? Florida is already lining up the clear plastic cups at the johnnies? Well, certainly before these two wise men of Georgia germinated this idea they must have looked south to see how things fare. Right?

Given that in October, a federal judge issued an injunction stopping the testing and prior to the obviously activist judge stepping in, only 32 people out of 7,000 tested positive, which  isn't that surprising given Florida's own study commission on the subject concluded the amount of positives would not justify the cost, I'm going to go with "no, they didn't".

Not to be outdone in the contest of political puffery, in steps Democrat Scott Holcomb, who wants to test the entire legislature.

Now, Rep. Holcomb is new to the job so perhaps he doesn't know that in 1997 the Supreme Court struck down a Georgia law (we didn't even have to go to Florida to look for this one!) requiring office seekers to step up to the urinalysis trough.

Or perhaps he did and he believes the best way to counter Republican ridiculousness is with Democrat ridiculousness.

Meanwhile, we all sit in traffic on the Perimeter, the Connector and everywhere in between, companies are beginning to question moving to Georgia because the quality of life ain't what it used to be and we continue to snatch school kids all over the place as no one knows what to do with the education system.

What a monumental waste of time. Get used to me saying that this session.

Welcome To The Wallow

They'se back. Let the rolling in the mud begin.