Romney’s Santa Routine May Hurt Him Long Term

Santa MittI spent the debate “live blogging” over at The Reaction. You can go over there to see my reactions as they occurred in real time. My initial thinking was that Romney did better than I had expected—and I expected him to do fairly well. But I didn’t think that Romney necessarily “won” the debate, whatever that might mean. He did, however, dominate it. He talked a lot more.

What surprised me was just how hostile the liberal reaction was to the debate. I guess this makes sense, though. They want the president to be a fighter. I feel the same way. For example, I couldn’t believe some of the things that Romney was able to get away with. In particular, I hate his claim that he can’t give specifics about his policies because that’s not how you negotiate. Never has a bigger pile of bullshit excreted from a politician.

Regardless of how the debate went for the pundits, my overall reaction was that Romney was even worse than I had thought. For a while, I’ve been pushing this line that Romney’s tax plan is, Trust me. But now I see that this is his plan for everything. Education reform? Trust me. Financial reform? Trust me. Healthcare reform? Trust me! It reminds me of Nixon’s secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. You may remember that the war didn’t actually end until he was out of office.

The more substantive point regarding the debate was that Romney’s policy ideas changed radically. Now he’s not giving a tax break to the wealthy! Now he’s going to cover pre-existing conditions by—Wait for it!—magic! He’ll increase funding for education. And the military. And anything else that you might like. It reminded me of the Michael Dukakis line from 1988: Mitt Romney is the Joe Isuzu of politicians. Or if you’re too young to get the reference: Mitt Romney claims to be Santa Claus.

President Obama has always been an “eat your broccoli” kind of guy. So we shouldn’t be too surprised that he used the debate to talk to the American people like they were adults. (As my friend Andrea would say, “That’s a mistake!”) But in the end, I think there is much fodder for the Obama campaign. Romney will get a bump from this, but over time, I think it reinforces the Romney nobody likes: the guy who will say anything to get elected.

Update (3 October 2012 9:24 pm)

A couple of debate tweets for you. First, Karen Finney and I seem to agree on the best line of the night, “Part of being a leader is being able to say what you’re going to do.” That to me sums up the whole debate. Matt Yglesias tweeted a question I have long asked, “If voucherizing Medicare for current old people is so terrible, why does Romney want to do it for me?” And finally, Dean Baker made the best collection of tweets of the night. I particularly liked this one, “Romney knows about picking losers, 22 out of 77 companies in his tenure at Bain Capital according to my colleague Eileen Appelbaum.”

Update (3 October 2012 10:17 pm)

Paul Krugman has something to say. I will quote it in full since it is short:

People tend to forget how close the 2008 presidential race looked as late as August, and the immense frustration many Democrats felt with Barack Obama at the time. He seemed weirdly unwilling to drive home his case against Bush/McCain economic policies; his instinct, as people said, was apparently to go for the capillaries.

The hard-hitting and effective campaign against Romney led many people to believe that this wasn’t going to happen again. But in the first debate, there was Capillary Man once again.

I really don’t know what this is about.

Update (4 October 2012 9:11 am)

Josh Barro notes that Obama actually spoke 4 minutes longer than Romney. As Barro correctly points out, “It certainly didn’t feel like that watching the debate.” However, Michael B. Dougherty points out that Romney spoke 500 more words.

Do You Not Own a Mirror?

Recently, News8000 anchor, Jennifer Livingston, received criticism of her weight by occasional viewer, Kenneth W. Krause:

Hi Jennifer,

It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed [indeed!] to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make [like homosexuality!] and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain [like meth!]. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle [like bulimia!].

[Hugs and kisses, Ken]

Jennifer’s response was impressive: dignified, intelligent, and very professional.

Mr. Krause, it must be said, is one confident son-of-a-bitch. He responded to Jennifer’s video with this statement:

Given this country’s present epidemic of obesity and the many truly horrible diseases related thereto, and considering Jennifer Livingston’s fortuitous position in the community, I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of Coulee Region children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year, and, to that end, I would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept.

Oh, where to begin…

At the beginning. I’m sure Ken felt that greeting a complete stranger with a casual “Hi Jennifer” was the perfect beginning to a bit of gentle criticism. “Ms. Livingston” might perhaps have been a better indication of the well-meant advice that followed, but then I’m not really familiar with the etiquette of “I don’t know you but you disgust me” correspondence. I must say that I do feel for him though, being an unsuspecting “witness” to a “physical condition” (i.e. crime) first thing in the morning. How can anyone be expected to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a bran muffin while being visually accosted by the “obesity” of a local public personality?!

Now, as my friend can attest, I may be one of the cattiest (and cruelest) people in the world – behind someone’s back. Most of the time. Unless I love the person, then I’ll abuse him right over the phone. However, I don’t consider myself a bully, nor do I believe Ms. Livingston’s critic is a bully. His note was presumptuous, inappropriate, insensitive, tactless, rude and self-righteous, but not bullying. A bully is someone who verbally or physically abuses another person for their own amusement or pleasure. It is a known fact that children can be outrageously cruel (if you haven’t experienced it firsthand, or vicariously through your own children’s schoolyard traumas, check out Lord of the Flies), and I heartily agree – cruelty or kindness are learned at home. Although, to be fair, some people are born lacking the capacity for empathy and a predilection for causing harm; they are considered douche bags.

Speaking of douche bags[1], I would love to see a photo of Ken. Was he, at one time, a disgustingly fat pig of a human being, but after an intervention and gastric bypass surgery, is now a certified judge of healthy weight for women? Or, perhaps he was blessed with the gift of universally acknowledged beauty. As a perfect specimen of robust yet slender health, Ken must feel obliged to reach out. Like Mother Theresa, Mister Krause just wants to help. Only instead of tending to lepers, he is compelled to seek out those whom he finds to be plain or pudgy and let them know how much better they would look with a little makeup. His thoughtfulness knows no bounds.

Nature or nurture, one thing is certain, the belief that you have the right to tell another person that you find their appearance offensive, that comes from the heart. Or the gaping hole where one’s heart ought to be.

Ken, take your own advice and try to transform yourself into a kinder human being.

[1] A good example of bullying.

Proxy War with Two Coptic Children

Coptic CrossI get religious intolerance. It’s like someone saying your mom’s a whore: it’s upsetting if it’s not true; it’s devastating if it is. This is really all about civility. I don’t like rudeness.

Just the same, a lot of people are nothing so much as outrage springs ready to be triggered. And that is its own kind of rudeness—and worse.

Here’s the thing: there are those who are trying to offend and those who inadvertently offend. It is like the difference between someone who looks you in the eye and purposefully kicks you in the shin and someone walking past who does it by mistake. It may be the case that both of these kicks hurt equally. But no reasonable person is going to make a scene about the latter. Shit happens. Life is pain. Get used to it.

Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I’m pretty liberal in defining what is inadvertent. I often write about religion in a very critical way. This will no doubt offend religious people, but that isn’t my intent. I am trying to figure out God, the universe, and everything else. Similarly, I think that the Muhammad cartoons were probably created to be funny, not to offend Muslims.

There was a really thought provoking article in Ahram Online today, Two Coptic children arrested in Egypt for ‘insulting Islam’. It’s not what you think. The two children in question are 9 and 10. The village Iman saw them tearing up pages of the Koran. But he didn’t take them to the police. Instead, he took the children to their church and asked that they be punished.

Thus far, I like this story. This is the way that civilized people behave. If some kids are vandalizing your house, you talk to the parents. Unfortunately, the story goes off the tracks from here. As far as I can tell (and I’m reading between the lines here), the people at the church gave the kids a slap on the wrist. They claim that the children were illiterate and so didn’t even know that the pages they were destroying were from the Koran.

I question this. I don’t think you have to know how to read to know you are dealing with a holy book.[1] Apparently, the Iman felt the same way and so went to the police. Just as I think the church could have been more understanding of the Iman, I think the Iman could have been more understanding of the kids.

What I think is going on here is that neither group particularly likes the other. So the children are being used as a kind of proxy war for the two local faiths. I cannot believe that the two groups couldn’t use this opportunity to break down the walls that are separating them instead of building more. But then, I’m a liberal and that’s just like us.

[1] What kind of a church is this that doesn’t teach their children to read?!

Predicting Smartphone Revolution

SmartphoneMatthew Yglesias has a short article about how terrible the 2007 predictions of which Smartphones we would be using today. They predicted that Symbian would be the market leader with 40%. This is mostly Noikia (31%). It hasn’t worked out that way. Symbian now has roughly 1% of the market, as you may have noticed that you are not, in fact, using a Noikia smartphone right now.

These experts also thought that Microsoft would have a large share (14%) of the market, but they too are way down (4%). The predictions about RIM were roughly correct.

Given that the predictions about the winners were way off, it should not surprise you that they were also off about the loses. At the time, Apple had 4% of the market. But these guys were no idiots. They predicted that Apple would grow—a lot. They said Apple would currently have 14% of the market. This is less than half of the 32% share that Apple has. This is bad, but it could have been worse. And it was!

In 2007, Google had no market share at all. But they had plans and so the experts predicted that Google would have 6% of the market by now. This is a little low—by a factor of 8.5! Google now has 51% of the market.

And now for my predictions. Oh, never mind!

Bill Murray Shills for Romney

Bill MurrayBack in February, I was too busy celebrating my birthday by hiding from everyone I know to notice that Bill Murray was shilling for Mitt Romney on CNBC. This brings up one of the great annoyances of life that is always simmering in my brain stem. But first I should tell you what Blurry said. It wasn’t explicit. “I think we ought to be personally responsible. I think if you can take care of yourself, and then maybe try to take care of someone else, that’s sort of how you’re supposed to live.”

Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of the end of that. You’re supposed to take care of yourself so you can take care of someone else who shouldn’t need it because they’re supposed to take care of themselves? But Blurry isn’t finished with his babble, “It’s not a question of asking other people for help or being rescued or anything like that. I think we’ve sort of gotten used to someone looking out for us, and I don’t think any other person is necessarily going to be counted on to look out for us.”

I would continue with the quote but it becomes a tangled mess. So let me tell you what I think our friend Blurry is trying to say:

I’m an asshole who, with relatively meager skills, has become ridiculously rich and famous. I want to support a philosophy that not only tells me that I don’t need to give a shit about anyone else but that also tells me that it is a sign of the perfection of the universe that I am so successful. Also, I don’t want any of my fans to know what an asshole I am.

Do I have that about right, Bill, I mean, Mr. Blurry? I just have one question, “Does this press liaison position come with dental?”

Even Fox Covering DHS Senate Report

Department of Homeland SecurityA new Senate report slams the Department of Homeland Security. It seems that the fusion centers created in every state aren’t fighting terrorism so much as just militarizing local law enforcement and infringing on the civil rights of Americans. If you’re think Quelle surprise! you’re not alone. A lot of people on the left and right were concerned all the back in 2002 that this is the sort of thing that would happen. Wired has a very good article on the report, DHS Counterterror Centers Produce ‘a Bunch of Crap,’ Senate Finds.

As you may remember, after 911, much of the push for reforming our “security” system was to allow the various organizations to share data so that never again would we suffer such a devastating attack. And the government’s great idea was: a huge bureaucracy inside of which all the other agencies would fit. The linchpin of this would be these fusion centers where all the data would be brought together:

“Nor,” the Senate panel writes in its just-released report, analyzing more than 80,000 fusion center documents, “could [the inquiry] identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot.” Unnamed DHS officials told the panel the fusion centers produce “predominantly useless information” and “a bunch of crap.” An internal 2010 assessment, which DHS did not share with Congress, found that a third of all fusion centers don’t have defined procedures for sharing intelligence—”one of the prime reasons for their existence.” At least four fusion centers identified by DHS “do not exist,” the Senate found.

But it is not just that these centers are mostly useless (except as a works program—I’m all for that), they are actively bad:

As civil libertarian groups have long warned (.pdf), those that do are hives of incompetence, bureaucracy, mission creep and possible civil-liberties abuses. Despite instituting privacy protections in 2009, the Senate report discloses, “DHS continued to store troubling intelligence reports from fusion centers on U.S. persons, possibly in violation of the Privacy Act.” A third of reviewed fusion center intelligence reports either “lacked any useful information” on terrorism or potentially violated civil liberties. Other reports sat for months, until their information was “obsolete” by the time DHS published it. Instead of focusing on terrorism, “most information” from the centers was about ordinary crime, such as “drug, cash or human smuggling.”

Interestingly, Fox News is also covering this story, but given that it is basically a GOP program, they tread lightly, As post-9/11 program grew, info on Americans, not terrorists was collected; price tag huge. The article doesn’t mention Obama or Bush. But instead of primarily being about the civil rights issue, it portrays the program as mostly being a financial boondoggle. So even without mentioning Obama, the article is still a hit piece, pushing the standard Republican “when we’re not in the White House” line that debt is killing us.

But I’m pleased they’re even covering it.