Thursday, February 26, 2009

Developmentally, They Really Are Children!

UC Berkeley linguistics professor, George Lakoff, has a brilliant post called “The Obama Code” that was so widely distributed throughout the blogosphere, that I’m surprised [No I’m not] Professor Lakoff didn’t ask to be a guest poster on Left-Over!

It’s a great discussion of Obama’s subtle communication style, as it attempts to help progressives read between the lines of Obama’s multi-layered message. While it’s all great reading, this section caught my attention:
Conservatives tend to think in terms of direct causation. The overwhelming moral value of individual, not social, responsibility requires that causation be local and direct. For each individual to be entirely responsible for the consequences of his or her actions, those actions must be the direct causes of those consequences. If systemic causation is real, then the most fundamental of conservative moral—and economic—values is fallacious.

Global ecology and global economics are prime examples of systemic causation. Global warming is fundamentally a system phenomenon. That is why the very idea threatens conservative thinking. And the global economic collapse is also systemic in nature. That is at the heart of the death of the conservative principle of the laissez-faire free market, where individual short-term self-interest was supposed to be natural, moral, and the best for everybody. The reality of systemic causation has left conservatism without any real ideas to address global warming and the global economic crisis.
This section mirrors an idea that I’ve often pondered, one that was echoed in this DKos post that mockingly notes the failure of three notable GOP attempts to respond to Obama’s popularity - the “trifecta” of Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, and Bobby Jindal!
As best as I can discern, each of these stooges represent some sort of response to the Obama phenomenon. And while I can't blame Republicans for reacting to the Obama phenomenon, watching them try is both sidesplittingly funny and mind-numbingly sad. It evidences either a shockingly thorough ignorance or a deliberate denial of Obama's appeal.

Is it possible that they actually believe that [youth + melanin = instant majority]?
It all points to the image of conservatives as having a relatively simple-minded approach to interpreting the World – a somewhat childish, immature approach! In fact, I’ve frequently noted that the GOP seems to respond like spoiled children to just about everything that doesn’t go their way.

For example, tax cuts, which are to extreme conservatives very much like cookies to a small child. If one cookie tastes good, then they instinctively want to devour the entire box, and then run to the store to stock up on more cookies! It is as if, developmentally, they are incapable of understanding that eating too many cookies will rot your teeth and make you fat!

It’s Lakoff’s distinction between direct and systemic causation over and over again! And it’s what I alluded to recently when I expressed surprise that the GOP would actually expect people to blame Obama if the stimulus doesn’t immediately fix The Bush Bust™.

Somehow, it seems that extreme conservatives have a stunted capacity to comprehend the World beyond immediate appearances, and so they think that what appeals to the electorate about Obama is that he’s young, charismatic and multi-racial. Hence, their foolish wagers on Palin, Steele, and Jindal as the future leaders of their party.

They aren’t capable of understanding that what people really appreciate about Obama is that he’s, honest, thoughtful and has integrity, while devoting himself to pushing to improve the lives of Americans of both parties; In other words, “systemic” qualities, rather than “direct” visible qualities.

This also explains why Obama seems willing to give conservatives a sometimes puzzling level of respect - because they can’t help it! To do otherwise would be like getting angry at a developmentally disabled child for being “stupid!” Obama knows that conservatives can only learn at their own (slower) pace, and that the best way to help them learn is to be supportive and consistently set a good example.

On the other hand, there is a serious problem! While it makes sense to provide support and leadership to a spoiled and perhaps developmentally stunted child in the hope of enabling the chance to mature, it would not make sense to put that child in charge of the family budget, or let that child be the spokesperson for dealing with disagreeable neighbors!

Likewise, conservatives, with their simple-minded and childish understanding of the world, should not be placed in the position of governing the Nation. Hopefully, by watching Obama demonstrate how to govern in a mature, adult, manner, any voters capable of understanding the difference will be drawn away from supporting conservative candidates.

The extreme conservatives will surely continue their superficial and illogical criticisms, and will keep throwing their periodic tantrums over not getting enough cookies. But as we are beginning to see already, their numbers will continue to dwindle until, as a political force, they can all fit in the small bus!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Candy Crowley: What a Republican Cheerleader Looks Like!

After listing to Crowley’s ridiculous (but predictable) interview on Stephanie Miller’s radio show this morning, in which she offered her impressions of President Obama's address and the Republican response, I couldn't help but shoot off the following e-mail:
Dear Stephanie,

I am normally a big fan of your show, but today I was really disappointed to hear your interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, because it was clear that Crowley's entire purpose on the show was to make excuses for Bobby Jindal's terrible performance in response to President Obama's address to Congress (assuring us that Jindal is much smarter and more popular than he showed last night); and to tell us that Obama is not as popular as the evidence suggests.

Crowley wants us to believe that Obama only seems popular because it's his first month as President, specifically pointing out that George W. Bush was "just as popular" after his first address to Congress, and discounting Obama's high approval numbers in the post-address polls by asserting that they were “weighted toward Democratic voters” who watched the address.

Essentially, Crowley was relentless in her assertion that Jindal and the Republicans are better than they looked, while Obama and the Democrats are worse than they looked, and yet you didn't directly call her on any of it! You made a few quips about Jindal that were completely ignored by Crowley, who stuck to her "Republicans = underrated, Democrats = overrated" theme for the entire interview, before being sent off with enthusiastic appreciation for being a "News Goddess!"

Give me a break! Crowley was nothing but a right-wing hack propagandist trying desperately to keep the playing field level after Obama made his conservative detractors like Jindal look petty and foolish. She deserves absolutely none of the deference you gave her. She certainly shouldn't be treated as a respectable journalist, much less a "Goddess," when she has such a clear agenda that is out of touch with all empirical evidence about President Obama's wide support from the majority of the American people.

Really, Stephanie, Candy Crowley's assessment of the political terrain is worse than useless! Your listeners would be better informed if you left her off the show and substituted a couple more fart jokes!



Monday, February 23, 2009

Too Dumb to Live.

Inspired by this account of the ongoing PR battle surrounding the stimulus package, Kos points out the obvious stupidity in GOP efforts to use a growing deficit to argue the need for more tax cuts!

And if that’s not dumb enough for you, here’s more from the same article:
. . . the Republican Party has made its own bet: that the stimulus package that Democrats rushed through Congress will have been deemed a failure by the time the 2010 elections arrive, leading voters to rebuke Obama and reward the GOP with much-needed victories.
Seventy percent of the American people understand perfectly well that the current gaping wound to our economy was caused by George W. Bush and the Republicans.

The stimulus represents Barack Obama’s attempt to slather on enough antibiotic ointment to allow the wound to slowly heal.

And the GOP, in all their undiluted “brilliance,” think they can spend the next two years wiping at the ointment and picking the scab . . . and in 2010, if there’s still an open wound, people are going to blame it on Obama?

How do these people even make it though the day without stepping out in front of cars or lighting themselves on fire with their own kitchen stoves?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roland Burris’ Career Goes From Needing an Engraver to Needing an Embalmer!

This is the Roland Burriss monument, already engraved with a partial list of his many accomplishments.”

A close-up view of the list shows some pretty impressive feats, probably even worthy of his self-proclaimed title of “Trail Blazer."

Too bad he didn’t get to engage the family engraver in time to add “U.S. Senator” before the current embarrassment he has brought on himself. Nearly everyone but his dog is calling on him to resign. Even the White House is signaling that he should “think hard” about his future. His own Chief of Staff has just resigned.

Yet why won’t I be surprised if he keeps fighting for his political life, even as the embalmer is waiting alongside his career with a huge syringe of formaldehyde? It’s almost as if the lying, delusional demonic life form that inhabits the body of Rod Blagojevich has jumped, B-movie style, into Burris as well.

Of course, since it appears Burris has the engraver on retainer, he might as well go ahead and get some work out of him. How about:
First African-American in Illinois to Become:

A Laughing Stock Who Was Canned by the Democratic Party After Lying Under Oath to Get a Senate Seat.
Then again, I guess there’s no need to mention the “Democratic” Party, since everyone knows that in the GOP, such behavior gets you a leadership position!

Friday, February 20, 2009

California Budget Aftermath . . .

• Nate Silver breaks down the implications of Abel Maldonado’s open primary gambit, and concludes that it might seem appealing to some voters, but it tends to favor the minority party and could produce a land of a thousand Liebermans!

• Big surprise: According to Brian Leubitz, the “dinosaur” media are positively drooling over open primaries.

• Governor Schwarzenegger is set to appear on This Week with George Snuffalupagus on Sunday to crow about his “great victory,” and answer the decidedly non-burning question:
Is there a future for Arnold's "post-partisan" politics?
“Post-leadership” politics, more like!

• Yet Arnold says the budget compromise was due to his optimism and hard work:
I am an optimist, and I never give up. I approached this problem the same way I approached bodybuilding, when I said I would be a world champion but was told I was crazy; and the way I approached Hollywood when the critics said a guy named Schwarzenegger with an Austrian accent would never be a box-office winner. My goal in these negotiations was a responsible budget for California that fixed our system once and for all, so I went for it with that same optimism and determination.
Yeah, right! Let’s recap, shall we?

Here’s how Arnold approached bodybuilding:

And here’s how Arnold approached Hollywood:

(Note: The images are just an added bonus. It's the links that tell the story!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The GOP Can Kiss Off Statewide Office in California Forever! [Updated]

As Californians wait on the edge of the cliff for a single GOP vote that will keep the rest of the party from being the ones to push us all into the abyss, the current “last hope,” Abel Maldonado, is apparently throwing around a list of demands required to get his vote.

Reportedly, he aspires to run for statewide office, and wants to guarantee his ability to survive a GOP primary, and so he is willing to overtly hold the entire State hostage to his demands!

This naturally makes me wonder how any Republican could possibly hold such aspirations in a predominantly democratic state, when they have stubbornly clung to a destructive ideology even after it became clear that it meant burning down their own house to prove a meaningless point.

Rather than giving in to Maldonado’s demands, the Democrats should call him out for what he is – an extortionist who is willing to sacrifice California for his own personal ambition!

Make it clear that Maldonado, and any other Republican who refuses to negotiate in good faith with efforts to salvage a dire situation with a difficult compromise, will never win a statewide office in California!

Make it clear that continuing to reject every possible solution to pull California out of an economic freefall is a direct affront to, and in fact an attempt to undercut, the ability of President Obama to carry out his national policy goals; and that any one of them who aspires to any elected office beyond their gerrymandered wingnut districts will face a fierce challenge based on their failure to consider California, and by extension the entire Nation, during this critical moment!

Only if Maldonado, and others who may have higher political ambitions, begin to see their obstructionism as an albatross that will hold them down forever, will they begin to release their grip on Grover Norquist’s member long enough to extend an open hand to their fellow Californians.

[Update] Now that the deal is done, with Maldonado finally agreeing to support it in exchange for some probably meaningless concessions, it's important to realize that Dan Weintraub is right when he points out that the GOP obstructionist tactics won!

The narrative has to continue to be driven forward that the budget process in California is broken, and the GOP took advantage of it - like the thief who steals your car stereo through an already broken window! They will do it again and again until we fix the window (and probably install a good car alarm too!)

Already, there are two ballot initiatives beginning to circulate that would follow John Garamendi's suggestion to reduce the required margin on budget issues from two-thirds to 55 percent (which is better than nothing, but still amounts to merely rolling up the window enough that they can't get their entire arms through!)

Monday, February 16, 2009

State of the CA State Budget!

For those of you not in California - we are in the midst of a ginormous budget mess. For the last 100 days state leaders and the Governor have been huddled together trying to come to an agreement on how to squeeze 41 Billion dollars out of a dysfunctional California economy. Three days ago an agreement was finally struck with a balance of "Taxes", cuts and borrowing. The legislature convened to vote on the massive 26 bill package. Then somewhere in the middle of the procedure the Minority Republican Senators decided that the deal was off - even though their leader, the Assembly Republican leader and the Governor were all on board.

So now we sit waiting for one Republican Senator to decide to vote yes on the package. The State of California perched at the edge of a financial cliff................. and one Senator can keep it from happening. But instead that senator wants to play games, give cryptic interviews and bask in his new found media spotlight.

And so we wait!

You can follow the ongoing mess Twittered here by my pal John Myers from KQED radio.

And while you are awaiting more tweets - enjoy this clip of Senate Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg at the end of a 28 hour session Sunday night 2/15 - putting the right wing Senators in their place!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not So Deep Thought

Why is it that every politician, on either side of the aisle, must have a stool that has exactly three legs? Wouldn’t the American people be better served by a four, or even five, legged stool? Or how about a La-Z-Boy?

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Wish Sean Hannity Was Right!

Among the desperate Republican efforts to discredit the stimulus bill was Sean Hannity’s claim that the bill is so full of wasteful spending that it includes large sums of money that would be used to build such things as "Frisbee Golf Courses."

Of course it wasn’t true. In fact, the bill expressly prohibits spending on such parks, but Hannity is such an ignorant tool that he apparently failed to read the bill before spewing his criticism.

And it’s too bad Hannity isn’t right about the bill! I’ve been a Frisbee golfer (actually known as "Disc Golf") for over 20 years, and I love the sport enough to wish there were more courses all across the country. The reason for the paucity of good Disc Golf courses is pretty obvious: It’s not a big money maker like "ball golf," but instead is truly a "sport of the people" that just might be the perfect addition to any plan for dealing with the current economic crisis.

Instead of appealing to Wall Street CEO’s looking to blow their obscene bonuses on something other than hookers, Disc Golf attracts a motley crew (many of whom look like they belong in “Motley Crue!”) It attracts young kids, looking for a cheap, relaxing good time. It attracts old geezers, with their homemade disc/cooler carts. Basically, Disc Golf requires only a few things from players: a couple of discs, the effort needed to find a course, and free time (the last one is the reason I don’t play more than I do!)

And it’s still way too difficult to find a good course!

I once joined a group of friends in an informal “cross country” Disc Golf tournament where we set out to play 108 different holes in one day. In order to do this, we had to put in nearly 400 miles of driving to connect enough courses to get to 108 (we probably would have stopped at 100, but we needed a multiple of 9!) In order to finish, we had to tee off our first hole at 5 AM, and yet we found that even at such an ungodly hour, we were sharing the course with a variety of assorted characters who seemed as if they had been up all night throwing discs.

It’s an odd and exclusive group, disc golfers, and I suspect that going forward there are going to be many more people who fall into the cultural and socioeconomic categories that tend to lead people to the sport.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, based on the kind of self-selection that determines the exclusive world of disc golfers, if we are really heading into "The Next Great Depression (or, as I prefer to call it, “The Bush Bust™”), and will be experiencing up to a decade of double digit unemployment, we’re going to need a lot more Disc Golf courses!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Game Board Is Set: Advantage Obama!

After watching the President’s press conference and listening to several senators, particularly Ben Nelson (D-Umbshit) and Barbara Boxer (D-Lightful), give their post conference assessments on the Simulus Bill, what began to gel in my mind was a range of future scenarios that all work well for Obama.

Two consistent themes emerged: “We need to act immediately” and “Republicans are making us get 60 votes!”

With the general acceptance of these two ideas, Obama is in pretty good shape – because if the compromised version of the stimulus bill works, despite being watered down in order to get a few GOP votes as well as support from the Ben Nelsons and Joe Liebermans of the World, Obama can still take credit for pushing it over heavy Republican objection.

If it doesn’t work, Obama can approach Phase Two with a statement sounding something like this:
Look, the economy was dying! It was on the table with its heart stopped and we needed to act immediately to shock it back to life. I would have preferred to use our full power in order to maximize the chances of jolting the economy back to life. But the Republicans made us get 60 votes, which meant that we had to dial down the power to conserve enough energy to pick up a few more votes. We did this, in the hope that it would work anyway, if we acted quickly enough!

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.

The scope of the problem was too great for the reduced shock we ended being able to provide, and now we have another decision:

Do we turn up the dial to full power, where I wanted it in the first place, and keep trying to save the patient?

Or do we proclaim the patient dead?

I think we, as a people, are too resilient and too resourceful to just give up in the face of adversity. I still think we can save our economy if we have the determination and discipline to keep trying!

And that’s why I’m asking the Congress to provide an additional $xxxxxxxxx as quickly as possible, so we can carry out the responsibility we have to our children and grandchildren to get this economy beating strongly again!
I'd say the Republican couldn't refuse, but I know better. They just can't refuse without looking even more useless than they already do!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Is it just me, or as Susan Collins becomes more prominent as one of the faces of Republican centrist nitpicking over the most needed components of the “Bush Depression Prevention Bill,” is she beginning to look more and more like Arlen Specter in a wig and a dress?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What the Players in the Stimulus Battle Really Want!

As Barack Obama prepares to barnstorm the country in a campaign style push to build support for the quick passage of an economic stimulus bill, I think it’s worth breaking down the apparent desires of the various players regarding this bill.

First of all, however, I want to highlight the most obvious truism spoken about the bill in recent days, which was Obama’s light hearted mocking of his critics while pointing out that “spending is the point” of stimulus! More specifically, as both liberal and conservative economists would likely agree, the point of stimulus is to get more money in circulation – by putting it in the hands of those who will turn around and spend it. The only real disagreement, on the surface, between liberals and conservatives is over how to get that money in circulation, with liberals favoring direct spending and conservatives favoring tax cuts as an alternative method of “putting more money in peoples’ pockets.”

That’s the basic political debate, albeit one filled with lots of blowhard posturing and hidden agendas that get in the way of the basic logic behind the point of the stimulus bill. So here is how I would characterize the real desires of these various players:

Barack Obama – He wants a bill that will work at easing the economic crisis, so that the initial steps of his presidency will be seen as a success.

Conservative Republicans – They want two things: the inclusion of as many tax cuts as possible that might provide benefits to the wealthy as “collateral stimulus;” and a reduction of actual stimulus such that the bill will fail and allow them to blame it on Obama.

“Centrist” Republicans – They want only one thing, which is to remain electable in their States. (It should be noted that in the House, there are no centrist Republicans; and in the Senate, there are only “Centrist” Republicans from centrist or liberal-leaning States who would otherwise have the same desires as Conservative Republicans!)

Centrist Democrats – They also seem to want only one thing, which is as little change as possible! This, I suppose, is the same as saying they want to remain electable in their more conservative districts or States (a benevolent interpretation), or that they are stealth Conservative Republicans (a more skeptical interpretation).

Mainstream Democrats – They are the hardest to peg as a group. Some undoubtedly want a bill that will be effective in turning around the economy; a few apparently just want some pork; and others (cough, Harry Reid, cough!) mainly want to avoid making the Republicans embarrass themselves with a real filibuster against saving the economy!

Majority of the American People - They wants a bill that will work at easing the economic crisis, so that the initial steps of Barack Obama’s presidency will be seen as a success.

So I guess the point of this exercise is to say that, with Obama set to conduct a series of town halls with real people about the stimulus bill, he will finally have a chance to talk to a group that he knows want the same thing that he does!

That group will likely be more accepting of the basic logic behind the point of stimulus than the members of Congress - which is that getting the money to those who will spend it is best accomplished by spending to provide jobs to those who don’t otherwise have them; and not by cutting taxes for those who already have sources of income being taxed (and who may have the flexibility to put the additional money in their pockets rather than spending it!)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Damn, Now I’ve Got to Give up Cheez-its!

Well, it looks like Kellogg is the first self righteous bunch of bastards who think they are too good to be associated with Michael Phelps over a single sleazy tabloid photo of Phelps taking a bong hit:
The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company said Thursday that Phelps's behavior _ caught on camera and published Sunday in the British tabloid News of the World _ is "not consistent with the image of Kellogg."
Frankly, I would agree with them if they had said that Michael Phelps “is not consistent with the image of Kellogg.” Phelps is an amazing physical specimen, while Kellogg pretty much specializes in ruining the physique of its customers!

On the other hand, take a look at their list of products and tell me the image of Kellogg isn’t completely consistent with Phelps’ “behavior!”

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

So Much for Three-Dimensional Chess!

For those convinced that every time Barack Obama make’s an inexplicable move (like Hillary Clinton for State, keeping Robert Gates as Def Sec, or using his influence to enable Joe Lieberman to stay in the Dem Caucus), he must have a complex plan that involves so many future moves that nobody else is smart enough to figure them out, I think Tom Daschle’s withdrawal for HHS kind of ends that line of argument.

Barack Obama may be inspirational and brilliant, and certainly he is worlds above what we’ve had leading us in Washington for the last 8 years, but there’s no way Daschle’s withdrawal amid a cloud of controversy can be spun as more evidence that Obama is way ahead of us all in his strategic planning!

This proves that Obama’s judgment is fallible, and I say this knowing it’s a statement Barack would accept and agree with. In fact he has said as much, admitting in a recent speech that “there will be setbacks and false starts,” and accepting responsibility for the vetting failure that caused him to lose a key cabinet choice.

It also proves that the most important role for Obama’s supporters, going forward, is not to sit back and wait to see what the chess master Obama will do, but to make known our wishes, even when they don’t mesh with Obama’s stated policy goals. We should express our skepticism when his methods for achieving our preferred goals seem to call for skepticism.

Like, say, when he nominates an anti-labor Republican as Commerce Secretary knowing full well the Democratic Governor is only going to appoint another Republican!

“Bipartisanship” may sound great on paper, and in fact it may be Obama’s quickest and best chance of fixing a sick and dying country. But until Republicans, and even Blue Dog Democrats, show that they view “bipartisanship” as something other than a one way street to getting more of what they want (i.e.: not the change we’ve been hoping for), I find it hard to envision a successful strategy that doesn’t ultimately end up marginalizing conservatism conservative obstructionism to the fringes of social acceptability, and creating something approaching “unipartisanship” toward progressive leaning Democrats.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Leaaaaave Michael Phelps Allllooooone!!!!!!

I’ve already had it with breathless speculation from various media outlets about how Michael Phelps’ career may be "in ruins” because he was photographed taking a bong hit at a party. Enough with the self righteous condemnation about a failure to live up to his responsibilities as a role model! Or how he’ll undoubtedly be punished with the loss of corporate endorsements!

The guy made a mistake and apologized. End of story! Yeah, he’s a role model who didn’t live up to the ridiculous standards of perfection society places on, well, athletes and perhaps clergy, and that’s about it! Everyone else, particularly media critics and overzealous photographers, get to f**k up without consequence. If Phelps ends up in rehab, or begins swimming like he’s constantly bloated on Cheetos or Taco Bell “sixth meals,” he’ll have to deal with the consequences. Otherwise, the kid is a swimmer, who is competent enough and disciplined enough to have won eight frickin' gold medals!

It’s not like he spent the last eight years in the most visible and influential position in the World as an alcoholic, former cocaine abusing, man-child who completely failed at everything he touched, and whose mistakes actually killed people! Phelps didn’t enable the destruction of the World’s economy, while authorizing war crimes and ignoring his responsibility to protect Americans from natural disasters and runaway corporate greed!

Unlike George W. Bush, who will still have plenty of eager corporate donors willing to help build a Presidential Library and “Think Tank” as a monument to his complete and utter failures, Michael Phelps is an unqualified success in his real responsibilities - the ones he carries out in the pool!

Phelps’ mistake hurt no one and will likely have no impact on his swimming ability (either positive or negative). In fact, if he wasn’t motivated to prove he can out-swim anyone on the planet again in the 2012 Olympics, I think the odds on another eight gold medals in London just went up exponentially with the growing chorus of finger pointers trying to boost their own self worth by calling him a failure!

As for me, a lifelong swimmer who actually spends hard earned money on swimming related products, if I hear of any corporate sponsor dropping Phelps specifically because of this momentary lapse of judgment (and some slimeball with a camera and an opportunistic desire to tarnish a hero), I will never spend another dime on anything from that company again!