Friday, January 27, 2012

Democracy Means "Loyal" Opposition

Wow, I am even more depressed than usual about politics. I've just been having a back and forth discussion with a good friend. I would normally describe her as a generous, reasonable and intelligent person. But she's completely off the rails about President Obama. She's one of those who believes he is a Muslim, an alien, a stealth president who secretly (well, not even so secretly) wants to destroy America. She can't understand why I, whom she considers to be a generous, reasonable and intelligent person, can not believe those things.

Here is her e-mail (from which I edited some purely personal asides):

Vic ~ ....I am going to try to explain to you why I feel the way I do about the current jackass (pun intended) and my political thoughts. 

    First, the current president is in my opinion allot like Bill Clinton.  I know how much you like the Clintons but as soon as it's campaign time, he got all "conservative".  obama knows what the people want to hear so that's what he says and his speech the other night was nothing but a kick-off speech for his campaign. (if he said all the things you wrote to me). Yes, I agreed with 98% of what you wrote but again those were words, not actions.  And no, I have not watched or listened to that speech yet, and seriously doubt I will.      

    You say I 'hate' him, well maybe I do. I definitely have serious disdain for him.  And as I've said in the past, he may be president but he will never speak for me. 

    He is disrespectful of all patriotic Americans, and has been from day one.  His 'agenda' has nothing to do with the citizens but furthering his own cause. And yes, this can be said about anyone that runs.  But someone who has and projects so much hate for the country he's supposed to love bothers me on many levels! 

    He disrespects our flag and our military and states over and over and over again in speech after speech his Muslim background and affiliation.  I have listened to several of his speeches online and he bashes America in almost every one of them. And affirms his Muslim beliefs and affiliation. This is a number one bell ringer for me!  99% of the terrorists today are Muslim because of their beliefs.  This is very scary.

      You asked why I can't watch him.  Hell, I can't even stand to look at his picture in the paper.  Egotistical, manical, two sided s.o.b.  Again, a description of darn near every politician around these days.  And I AM NOT PREJUDICED!  I am willing to help elect any person, regardless of race (& religion) as long as they show respect.  Colin Powell would have outdone this clown 5 times over.  I have serious doubts about Romney.  I just don't like any of them Vic!

    Guess I fall into the bracket with about 80% of the people who just don't want to spend their time on politics, and hope for the best outcome without have to spend much effort.  Which is pretty sad.  It should be exciting and dynamic like it was when I was in high school.  I remember helping Alex Devine make signs at one of the party headquarters.  It seemed there was an excitement in the air and hopefullness and quality about those running.  That they had values and thought the same as me, and could actually change the country for the better.  Maybe it was because I was a teenager?  I don't know. 

    It will be several months before I decide for sure, but I can guarantee you this, even if I know nothing more than I know right this instant, I would vote only to vote against this current jerk. Although I do not know who I will vote for, only against.

    Voting for the lesser of two a sad sad way to vote.  Your awesome e-mail back to me was astounding in clarity and very should be a speech writer for the democrats!  Seriously, you are that talented a writer.  But I'm sure if I looked up the republicans descriptions of that speech it would be totally opposite.

    Again, I'll judge the president on actions not on words alone.  His actions are against what I believe in.  

    I guess, we will just have to agree to disagree and not talk politics because unfortunately we do not see eye to eye and never will.   I have a right to my opinion, no matter how faltered it may be or you can prove that it is, just as everyone else has a right to theirs for whatever reasons they have. "

We began this debate shortly before the State of the Union address and it carried on until after.

What I find such a source of despair is that this is one of my best friends. I know her extremely well. I can't simply dismiss her as a right-wing wacko because in other areas, she isn't.

I responded to her letter, of course, although I know it is a waste of time. I asked her what actions of Obama's are against what she believes in?

Killing Bin Laden, which Bush failed to do in 7 years?

Obamacare? She is a older single woman. I asked her where she'd be if she lost her job tomorrow but I know the answer. She'd be without healthcare because she couldn't afford to "choose" her own as Romney wants her to be able to do. She has several pre-existing conditions. Obamacare would prevent her from being discriminated against by insurance companies because of them.

Saving the American auto industry? Although most Republicans were against bailing them out, Obama went ahead, preserving tens of thousands of jobs. G.M. is back to being the number one automaker and has since repaid the loans given to them by American taxpayers.

Fighting hard to force the Republicans to extend the payroll tax credit (from which she benefits)?

Proposing that the exceedingly rich pay a tax rate of at least 30%? I don't know how much my friends earns but I'd be surprised if it was even $40,000 annually. Does she truly think it is fair for Romney to pay only 13.9 per cent on $20 million dollars while she pays more?

I told her that I don't think it is politicians that have changed, it is the voters and that's because of both the Republicans and the media, their media. Because, of course, the Republicans pioneered creating their own media so that their true believers would never have to deal with the awfulness of hearing any views except their own. Democrats were way behind on this and still haven't caught up completely. Early on, the Republicans had Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and a whole slew of right-wing websites that pumped their vitriol into the body politic.

I told my friend that back in those good old days she remembers so fondly both the parties and the people believed in elections. We might work as hard as we could for our candidate but if the people's choice disagreed with ours, we accepted the results....and even if we opposed the policies of a president we hadn't voted for, we gave him the respect the office deserved. And our representatives followed the same philosophy. They would fight hard for legislation they believed in but, beyond that, they were willing to come together to compromise for the good of the country. And that was so, even when it involved their own. I watched every minute of the Watergate hearings. It was the Republicans who eventually told Richard Nixon that his actions constituted high crimes and misdemeanors.

I believe this attitude changed with Bill Clinton. The Republicans hated Clinton so much that they refused to accept the decision of the voters and decided they would destroy him. They impeached him over something that barely rose to the level of a misdemeanor, much less a high crime. They said the most hateful things about him. They posted the details of his impeachment on the freaking internet. But, in the end, he was re-elected despite their best efforts. It wasn't just Bill Clinton they maligned, it was our entire American system.

Then came George W Bush, whom we Democrats disliked almost as much as the R's disliked Clinton. To make it worse, we weren't even convinced he'd actually won the election. But...the Supreme Court said he did and despite our disgruntlement, we acceded to that ruling. I violently disagreed with many of Bush's actions - unnecessary war with Iraq, the Patriot Act's weakening of our civil rights, torture and extraordinary rendition and holding people forever without the opportunity to defend themselves in opposition to the very Geneva Accords America had fought to bring into being. I could go on....and on. But the point is, I wrote columns critical of George Bush. I worked against him in his re-election. I lost that fight. I did not want to impeach him. I did not accuse him of being a traitor. I did not say he did not speak for me or that he was not my president. Because, by God, you either believe in our democracy or you don't. You can't pick and choose and only pay lipservice when you get your way.

So, grumblingly, we lived through Bush and then along comes another Democrat president....and it is Clinton all over again. The Republican noise machine goes into overdrive to convince their followers that he isn't even really an American. He isn't even really a Christian. He hates America and wants to destroy it. They obstruct every piece of legislation he wants, even on issues they had approved in the past. They are willing to hurt Americans in the name of the higher goal of ensuring that he is a one term president (such as refusing to pass an extension to the payroll tax cut or for God's sake, practically letting America go bankrupt.)

And my friend, who won't watch either the State of the Union speech or the Republican debates to see whether she actually supports any of her party's candidates, says she has a right to her opinion.

But no one has a "right" to an opinion that is based on outright lies.

And no American should say any president is not their least, not if they believe in our democracy.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Brainwashing is the Only Explanation

Am I jealous of the rich? You're goddamned right I am! I know it's not p.c. to say it. We're all supposed to pretend that "oh, my, no, I'm not a bit envious. Bless their hearts, they deserve what they worked hard to earn." No class resentment here.

And some of them did work hard and I do admire some of them. I admired Steve Jobs, for instance, who created a brand new thing, or at least, hugely improved an old thing. I admire Bill Gates. I admire the Google guys and the Facebook guy and old Bill France, who brought NASCAR into being (with a little help from his friends).

I admire all these visionaries and don't mind that they all became enormously wealthy from the fruit of their creativity. More power to them. That's good old American capitalism.

I don't even mind their children also being rich. We all want to be able to pass on a big chunk of what we've accumulated to our kids. What I do mind is the way our society coddles those second and third generations, encouraging them to rack up even more riches by giving them special treatment like lower tax rates and devious tax shelters and exemptions and loopholes.

What I also mind is people (I'm tempted to say men because of course, they are mostly men) who made their vast fortunes, not by inventing and creating products, but by shuffling papers and and manipulating money, often in ways that go against the best interests of the rest of society.

I mind very much that the U.S. Congress evidently believes that unearned money is preferable and more valuable than earned money. Income that is derived from interest and dividends is taxed at a lower rate than wages. In other words, the Mitt Romneys of the world can choose to lounge on the beach in the Bahamas as their investments wrack up dividends and interest and pay less than those of us who punch a time clock every day...or teach kids...or build houses.... The result of this tax policy is that the rich just keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

Mitt Romney is, in fact,  a perfect example of what I mean. First, he says he didn't inherit money. He "made it" on his own. Well, of course, "on your own" doesn't mean exactly the same to a Romney as it does to poor people. If anyone doesn't think that not having to worry about tuition at Harvard (while being able to afford frequent plane tickets back to Michigan to visit your fiance) isn't a head start, you're naive. If anyone believes that when you graduate with your MBA, having a father who was the CEO of an auto company (American Motors) and twice governor of a state (Michigan) isn't an advantage in the "Looking For Employment Sweepstakes", you're nuts.

So, Mitt says he didn't inherit any money from his parents. George Romney was an extremely wealthy man himself. Did he just give all away to the poor, do you suppose? Later, Romney amends his statement to say, well, yes, in fact, he did get a check from his father but he gave it to charity and shared it with his kids. I wonder if that has anything to do with the "Dynasty Trust" that exists in our tax code that allows you to pass on wealth tax-free by skipping a generation? We won't know unless Romney releases more of his tax returns than just 2010 and 2011.

We do know that Mitt made almost $50 million in those two years, for doing absolutely nothing. We know that he had off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland for tax sheltering purposes. We know that he paid 13.9 percent in taxes in 2010 and estimates he will pay about 14% in 2011.  That's compared to the approximately 30% most of us who earn a low-to-middle class income will pay on wages we earned by working.

That's not good old American capitalism. That's the rich taking freaking care of their own while taking unfair advantage of the rest of us!

Is there such a thing as being too rich? To me, when you can buy a $12 million house on the beach and tear it down so you can build a larger house - going from a piddly little 3009 square feet to a more worthy-of-a-rich-man 11,062 square feet, you're probably too rich. But that's me. Hell, I'd feel rich if my $60,000 house (a cramped 2310 square feet!) was paid for. I guess richness is relative.

What I don't get is how middle-class people can support the candidates who espouse the very policies that screw them. During one recent debate, Mitt asked Newt Gingrich if he believed there should be zero tax on capital gains and Newt said, "absolutely".  Mitt followed that with a chuckling, "you realize if your policy was in effect, I'd have paid no taxes in 2010?" Newt allowed as how that would have been just fine and dandy with him. "Hey, all us rich folks are in this together."

Truly? This is what you working-class Republicans feel is fair? A mega-wealthy Mitt Romney who pays no taxes at all? (I haven't looked but I assume Newt, also a wealthy man, would benefit from a zero capital gains tax as well).

The only thing I can figure is that a lot of you are brainwashed by delusions of grandeur, hoping you'll end up as one of them. That's probably isn't going to happen considering the way they have the deck stacked in favor of themselves and against you.



Monday, January 23, 2012

Obama's Fault, Republicans? Really?

I keep hearing the Republicans say how the poor economy is the product of Obama's policies. This is a re-post of an blog I posted in February 2008. It proves that the economy was sinking long before any of us even knew who Barack Obama.


* 39 American soldiers killed in Iraq in January 2008

America lost 17,000 jobs in January. This is the first time in five years that we've actually lost jobs. Economists had forecast a gain of 70,000. What is worse about this statistic is that it doesn't even tell the entire story of our economic tailspin because it doesn't factor in which industries gained and which lost and what that means to American workers.

This is the 19th straight month that the manufacturing sector has shed jobs. Meanwhile the construction industry lost 141,000 jobs in 2007. So, where are the gains we've had in the past coming from? Well, one place is the hospitality business (and even they only gained 19,000 in January instead of the forecasted 30,000). Who would you guess, in general, pays the most and offers the most benefits to its workers - manufacturing and construction or hotels and fast food? Yep, you're right, the better-paying jobs tend to be in production and building while the lower paying positions are clustered together in hospitality.

It seemed as if the powers that be weren't even aware that the economy was going south until recently even though those of us in the working classes had been feeling insecure for a while. We noticed that houses were being foreclosed and the ones for sale were sitting on the market longer. We noticed how much more it cost to fill our cars up with gas and how our heating bills had gone up and that the package of chicken breasts that used to cost $3.00 now cost $7.00 instead.

But, you know, the stock market kept going up and that seemed to be the only economic indicator that that registered in the minds of the great economic thinkers. The business shows on television chortled gleefully when the Dow went up and up. I guess if you get the majority of your income from stocks and bonds and interest on your investment you think that as the stock market goes, so goes the economy.

Of course, it isn't true. It is actually - as the consumer goes, so goes the economy. Consumers are us and we were becoming tapped out. For the first time this year, our savings rate actually went into negative territory because we were spending more than we were taking in via credit cards and home equity loans. We cut back on Christmas so holidays sales fell. Naturally, the mortgage crisis played a part in shaking our confidence in our banking institutions. George H W Bush had the savings and loan fiasco. Now young George has the mortgage loan disaster. How is it that we never learn from our mistakes? De-regulation, the mantra of the Republicans, does not work, has never worked. You cannot trust organizations to police themselves because they will always get caught up in greed and over-reach and who pays the price? Why that would be us, the taxpayers.

So now, we are heading into recession and in order to try to avert it, Congress is debating a stimulus package which will be too little, much too late. First, short-term, we aren't even targeting the best way to get this money into the economy so it will be spent quickly. Studies have shown that the two places to put that money to have the desired effect is 1) food stamps and 2) extending unemployment benefits. But, oh no, the president is opposed to that, I guess because he thinks the people who need those two benefits don't "deserve" it and, as usual, the House went right along with his orders. If the House bill goes through, those of us who pay taxes and make under a certain income ($75,000?) will receive checks for $650. And where will we get the money? Why, we'll borrow it from the Chinese just where we've been getting the billions we need to pay for the Iraq War.

And what does giving people a quick fix of a one-time check do in the long-term? Almost nothing. We would be much smarter to take the $150 billion the stimulus package is estimated to cost and pour it into programs to rebuild infrastructure, like the bridges that are in dire straits all across the country. Many of these projects have already been approved and just need the money to proceed. That way, instead of giving folks a one-time shot, you give them a JOB! Reminds me of that old saying, "if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for life."

That brings us back to where we started. What we need in this country are not checks but jobs. Why is that so hard to figure out?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marine Snipers - I'm With You

They are our sons. We taught them to hate and we taught them to kill because you usually have to hate before you can kill. And I suppose they experienced a lot that made that hate burn even hotter and brighter, like seeing their fellow soldiers burned and blown up and shot down. And while we sat safely and comfortably here at home and watched via our widescreen t.v.'s, they walked the mean streets and deadly mountain trails of Afghanistan, burning hot in the summer and piercingly cold in the winter.

We trained them to be snipers, not to kill by tossing a grenade or loosing a bomb or spraying automatic weapon fire at whoever, but to capture their target in a scope, bringing them up close and personal, not a generic enemy, but an individual, then to squeeze the trigger and triumphantly watch them fall dead. That's what we wanted from them; that's we called doing their duty.

They took their hatred and contempt one step farther, urinating on the corpses they'd created and worse yet, making a video of themselves doing it. A foolish act, to be sure.

And that's what has us all indignant. We call it desecration, as if making a human being dead isn't the ultimate desecration. No, we're fine with them killing. We probably gave them medals for being such effective dealers of death. It's being "insensitive" to the ramifications, of forgetting that wars are fought on diplomatic channels as well as on battlefields, that has us up in arms.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, finds their behavior "deplorable" and completely "unacceptable". President Hamid Karzai wants "the harshest punishment possible". Generals intone their own unctuous judgments. Reporters are breathlessly horrified. The Obama administration contemplates criminal charges.

Do we not even see how war twists our sense of morality into a fucking pretzel? What these marines did was not like bombing villages, even though the "collateral damage" might include women, children and the elderly. It's not like torturing and humiliating living, feeling human beings at Abu Ghraib. It's not like sending people to Guantanamo for years without ever charging them with a crime. It's not like water-boarding. It's not like "extraordinary rendition" whereby we transport possibly innocent victims to countries that use the most brutal methods to get  torture-coerced "confessions".

No, all these things are perfectly fine, just what you have to do in times of war. But, pissing on corpses, now that is beyond the pale. Jesus, People, can you even recognize how perverted this kind of thinking is?

These Marines did everything we asked of them. They hated when we told them to hate and killed when we told them to kill. And then they lost it. How easy it is to say we would never do the same under the same circumstance when we'll never have to prove it?

Now, we are engaged in the most monstrous hypocrisy because this is really all about not upsetting the tender feelings of the other side. Not that I've noticed them worrying much about upsetting us when they drag our soldier's bodies through the streets of Somalia or behead Americans and send the video to t.v. stations. Hillary (and anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows I love Hillary) gets her most disapproving school-marmish look. Hamid Karzai cries his crocodile tears. President Obama bows to the pressure. Our leaders apologize in our names. Well, they freakin' don't have to apologize on my account. I'd respect them more if they stood behind their soldiers. ("Yes, we realize that they over-reacted in the heat of the moment but we find that understandable under the circumstances and we have no plans to do more than reprimand them. Sorry if you don't think that's enough.")

We know all about the offenders who served as scout snipers - a team of 4, members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, but we haven't heard a thing about the deceased. Maybe if we knew who they were and what they'd done, we might temper our  judgment. But there will probably be a conspiracy of silence because our leaders want to "direct" our opinions.

Desecration is defined as treating something profanely. These Marine snipers will end up being the scapegoats. Isn't that always the way it is? The grunts pay the price while the movers and shakers who created the whole mess will get off scot-free to pursue their paths to political power. That's what I consider profane.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gimme a Million, Five Over Here, Now Gimme Ten! Sold!

Well, hell, since the Supreme Court declared that dollar donations are free speech and that individuals and corporations can contribute as much as they like to the presidential candidates' coffers, we may as well just dispense with the hassle of elections and just have an auction.

In January of 2010, the Court sided in favor of a suit brought by Citizens United, declaring limits on campaign contributions long as the candidates did not coordinate with the contributors! Is your stomach hurting from laughing yet? That condition has turned out to be a monumental farce. Did the Supremes not see that coming? If they didn't they should have if they'd paid the slightest bit of attention to past experience and the creative ways politicians find to manipulate campaign laws.

Now all the candidates have their SuperPacs. For Mitt Romney, it is Restore Our Future. It is packed with former Romney staff members but Mitt winks and grins when he claims not to coordinate with them. A New York Times poll of November 30 showed Newt Gingrich ahead of Romney in Iowa by 14 points. Restore Our Future flooded the Iowa airwaves with anti-Newt ads, pouring $3 million into the state in the next 30 days. Surprise, surprise, Romney won the Iowa caucus.

Naturally, Newt has his own SuperPac, Winning Our Future (although it may be too little, too late). Rumor has it that billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, is planning to donate $20 million to the GingrichPac (though Adelson denies it) to even the playing field. Reportedly, he's already shelled out $5 million for negative ads against Romney in South Carolina.

Of course, President Obama has a SuperPac too, which will get into high gear when the general election campaign starts. His Pac is Priorities USA Action. Don't you just love these names? They make you want to put your hand over your heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, don't they?

But, actually, that is the last thing they should make you feel like doing because corporations and meg-rich individuals being allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to pimp their own candidate is anything but patriotic. You may as well give the Sheldon Adelsons of the country the opportunity to simply buy the Presidency.

In effect, that's what we're doing - determining the occupant of the White House by means of a bidding war. One in which the 99 percent need not apply to be part of the process with their little dibs and dabs of $5's or $10's or even $100's.

My guess is that our next president will be bought and paid for by the SuperPac that raises the most money.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Doomed to Repeat History

Yoohoo! Does anyone out there remember the S & L crisis? It really hasn't been all that long ago - the 80's. I haven't heard it mentioned during our latest banking brouhaha. It's as if this one sprung full-blown out of nowhere, as if we've never had any previous experience with de-regulating financial institutions.

America's Savings and Loans used to be considered the most conservative arm of banking. They were limited in how they could invest and how many deposit dollars they could accept. They mostly financed prudent residential real estate mortgages based on the modest savings accounts of their customers (average at the time was $6,000).

Then inflation reared its ugly head. The S&L's were tied up in low interest fixed rate loans as rates climbed higher. They were losing their shirts.

As always, Republicans believed the solution was in deregulation, same as we're hearing today. In 1982, under President Ronald Reagan, the Garn-St. Germain Act was passed by Congress. The Act allowed the S&L's to make riskier loans, to eliminate deposit caps, to hold less capital as security. And the result was predictable. The Savings and Loans jumped into commercial real estate and junk bonds like there was no tomorrow.

But, of course, there was a tomorrow. Many of the worthless loans came back to haunt the S&L's although lots of people made lots of money before they did (remind you of anything?) The FDIC was about to be drug under itself since it was the ensuring body for S&L's that were failing by the dozens. You might say the S&Ls were too big to be allowed to fail (remind you of anything?) and none other than George Bush, Sr. (Republican!) was forced to institute the largest bail-out in the country's history (and, yes, it is still ranked first, even now, despite today's Republicans screaming about awfulness of Obama and TARP.)

Before it was over, almost a thousand S&Ls were bankrupt. The figures vary as to how much the bailout cost American taxpayers but the figure is somewhere between $180 and $220 billion.

Remember the scandals that went along with it? The Keating Five were five U.S. senators (Dennis Deconcini-D, John McCain-R, Alan Cranston-D, John Glenn-D, Donald Reigle-D) who were accused to interfering with an investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan. The owner, Charles Keating, had made large contributions to all the Senators' campaigns. In the end, the investigation was dropped. Result: Lincoln went under and thousands lost their life savings. All the Senators won re-election. When asked if lobbying by the senators had helped in getting the investigation into Lincoln dismissed, Charles Keating replied, "I certainly hope so."

Fernand St. Germain, named sponsor of the Garn-St. Germain Act was questioned about improper dealings in the S&L bailout. He lost his congressional seat as a result but returned to Washington as a lobbyist for.....guess who?..... the Savings and Loans. Imagine that.

Jeb Bush defaulted on a $4.6 million dollar loan to the Broward S&L. He'd used the loan to purchase an office building but during the bail-out, the property was found to have a market value of only $500,00, which, Jeb so oh-so-generously repaid. Reckon whatever happened to the other $4 million?

Neil Bush was also caught up in the scandal. He was named to the Board of Directors of Silverado S&L. Silverado then made a large loan to Neil's oil company. Silverado afterward collapsed to the tune of $3 billion.

But do any of our esteemed political media today bring this to our attention? Do any of them say, "by the way, folks, we've been through this movie before"?  Do any of them say, when the Republicans tout de-regulation as what the country needs to get the economy growing, "didn't we try that before with disastrous results?"

Not so's I've noticed. And we, with our collective amnesia, just accept each new bail-out as if it had never happened before.


Jimmie Johnson as Barack Obama, Carl Edwards as Mitt Romney

When I became so disgusted with politics during the last presidential primaries, I was fortunate to find NASCAR to feel equally as passionate about. I discovered, though, that there were more similarities between the two "sports" than I would ever have imagined.

There are remarkable resemblances between our drivers and the presidential candidates. We have our quirky little driver who doesn't ever really expect to be the champion. He participates to deliver a message. If Robbie Gordon was a presidential candidate, he'd be Ron Paul. He has an almost cult-like following of fans who admire his non-conformist integrity.

We have a female driver, who gets both more and less credit than she deserves, being lauded or dismissed, based on her gender alone. If Danica Patrick were a presidential candidate, she'd be every female who has ever run for that office.

We have a driver who is smooth, handsome and articulate. He's also extremely business savvy, as shown in the way he handled his own contract negotiations. Sponsors/donors love him. While others have difficulty finding $$$, Carl's coffers overflow with contributions. He almost comes across as being a little too perfect to be true. If Carl Edwards was a presidential candidate, he'd be Mitt Romney.

We have a driver who is funny and bright and talented but so low-key it is easy for both fans/voters and sponsor/donors to overlook him. If Matt Kenseth was a presidential candidate, he'd be Jon Huntsman.

We have a driver who has already won the title but wants to prove that he can repeat. He makes winning look pretty effortless. He is cool and analytical but many fans don't like those qualities, which they consider altogether too vanilla. If Jimmie Johnson was a presidential candidate, he'd be Barack Obama (although I doubt if he'd appreciate the comparison, NASCAR drivers mostly being Republicans).

We have two brothers who are driven, creative and occasionally brilliant on the track but who sometimes fall prey to losing their tempers and their minds. If the Busch brothers were presidential candidates, they be Newt Gingrich.

I'm not sure who I'd cast as Rick Santorum, who calls himself the Jesus candidate. Trevor Bayne comes closest to being as openly devout as Santorum although he doesn't seem quite as hard-edged and hard-hearted about it.

We have presidential wannabes that never quite make it into contender territory. If David Ragan and Brian Vickers and A. J. Allmendinger were presidential candidates, they'd be Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels or Michelle Bachman (which isn't to say, they might not make a more credible run at it in some future Chase/election.

We have drivers who've been given a head start by family. John Menard (billionaire) meet Jon Huntsman, Sr (billionaire). Romney family fortune meet Earnhardt family fortune. Of course, the money helps a lot but it doesn't seal the deal. You have to do that with your own performance.

We have the NASCAR media, which like the political media, is often wrong in its predictions. Fortunately, unlike politics, the NASCAR media can't actually influence who wins races.

The individual races are like the primaries. Win a few races/states and collect enough delegates/points and you can move on to the championship run and fight to become the Champion/President.

The final race is as suspenseful as election night if the participants appear to be locked into a close battle and one of them isn't running away in the points/polls.

And we fans/voters pour our hearts into rooting for our favorite drivers/candidates. We think the future of NASCAR/America is riding on them. In the end, they win or lose but either way, the sport and the nation just keep rolling along.




Sunday, January 8, 2012

Line Up Over Here, Republicans

Oh, God. I watched two Republican debates in 24 hours. If that's not going above and beyond the call of duty, I don't know what!

Saturday Night - The Republican debate last night was the first debate I've seen....because we're getting down to it now, down to the time when the Republicans will be making real decisions about who President Obama's opponent will be instead of just talking about it. So after months of trying to avoid the ugliness, it seemed as if it was time to tune in.

First, a prediction: Mitt has it in the bag. All the rest is just fun and games. He swatted his debate mates like they were so many annoyances, while focusing on Obama as if he is already the nominee. Chris Matthews had promised me that Newt was going after Mitt like a tiger goes after a gazelle. I was led to expect a bloodbath but instead, Newt never laid a claw on Romney. It was almost as if he'd been warned off by the Republican pooh-bahs who know a foregone conclusion when they see one.

I also thought Ron Paul cut Gingrich off at the knees with their back-and-forth about military service. Newt went on and on about being an Army brat as if that was almost the same as being a soldier. He didn't get deferments and anyway, he couldn't go because he was married and had a child during Vietnam.

"Oh, really," was Paul's rejoinder. "I was married and had two children but I still served my country when I was called."

The Libertarian war non-believer who served versus the gung-ho pro-military Conservative who didn't.

Gingrich seemed deflated after that exchange and never bounced back.

Perry wants to send our troops back to Iraq even though the departure time was negotiated by George W and Iraqi leaders. I don't know how a man this dumb ever got to be the governor of Texas, although there is a precedent.....

Santorum seemed to be trying to downplay his extremist attitudes about social issues. I honestly think he believes the real conservatives already know how radical his views are but he's trying to wink at them while allaying concerns moderates may have. But, he did say he believes states have the right to outlaw contraception and he did say that he could tolerate long as they never acted on their desires and he did say that if we approve gay marriage, it would lead to polygamy and man-on-dog relationships. It is a little late to tack back to moderation once you've beached your boat on the shoals of extremism.

Huntsman. He appears to be the most sane of the candidates. He had the audacity to declare that gay people should be treated with dignity. That's probably enough to sink him with this incarnation of the Republican party right there.

Ron Paul is by far my favorite of this group. I am something of a libertarian myself - a liberal libertarian. They are honestly not all that far apart. I agree with him on the drug war and war, in general. I agree with him about the government not sticking its nose in our private business. Of course, when he glides off into the thin ice of "every man for himself" and "survival of the fittest", I have to part ways with him.

Still, Paul is courageous about voicing opinions guaranteed to be unpopular with much of his audience. He has no qualms about going where angels fear to tread. Of course, he isn't really running for president and they are, so he doesn't have to trim his sails. He just flies into the wind in spite of the storm warnings. He's what Captain Jack Sparrow would be if he was an old Republican politician. (The Republicans seem to inspire me to thoughts of the sea).

And, finally, we come to Romney. It is ironic that the Republicans of the 80's coined the nickname "Slick Willy" for Bill Clinton and now it appears as though they are going to nominate the slickest of the slick, the smarmiest of the smarmy, the most plastic of the plastic.

Despite all their big talk about the Tea Party and its grassroots values, they will be represented by a mega-wealthy CEO who wouldn't know an unemployment check if he saw one. And speaking of unemployment compensation, this is a man who continues to collect approximately $26 million dollars from Bain Capital for doing absolutely nothing years after he left their employ. How many Tea Partiers have a deal like that, I wonder? It's no surprise that he's not in favor of increasing the tax on capital gains or dividends or huge estates or interest on stocks or even the salaries of the rich.  These are his people, members of his club.

Sunday Morning - The boys got a little more down and dirty today but it's too little, too late. They should have been going after Romney like this long before now. Huntsman had the most moving statement of the debate when he defended his service as our Ambassador to China in an Obama administration for which Romney had taken him to task. He essentially said it was attitudes like Romney's that were wrong with America today, that we are so divided along partisan lines we would refuse to serve our country at the request of our president.

Newt finally got some body blows in on Mitt. He called baloney on Romney's attitude of floating above those other eg0-driven politicians on the stage. Ole Public-spirited Citizen, Mitt, that's me. Gingrich pointed out that Mitt has been running for some office or other for much of his adult life and the only reason he isn't a "career" politician is because he lost more elections than he won. Newt also called Mitt on the nasty ads Mitt's super-PAC ran against Gingrich in Iowa. He asked Romney to disavow those ads and Romney looked pretty shifty explaining how he couldn't because it was illegal for him to have anything to do with them (although the PAC is administered by his former staffers).

Nothing that Perry or Santorum said stands out in my recollection except that Santorum seems to feel more animosity for Ron Paul than anyone else but why? Paul isn't his competition.

Paul was his usual self and made his points clearly and concisely, not that it will matter in the end.

New Hampshire votes on Tuesday. I expect Romney to slip a little in the polls but not enough to do him in serious damage. He'll win or at least finish a respectable second in South Carolina and that will be that. Many Republicans won't be too happy about their nominee but as the saying goes, "Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line." And fall in line they will even if they have to swallow hard to do it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

God Has It Made

I don't get involved with religion much. I don't attend church and I don't watch televangelists. Most of my friends are Christians, to one degree of devoutness or another, but we don't discuss their faith. I don't try to talk them out of it and they don't try to talk me into it.

Then came Facebook and suddenly, religion was everywhere. Facebookers wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak. The posts are a cascading collection of messages and sermons and cartoons (both innocuous and profane) and music and videos and photos and political statements and jokes and statuses. The fun of Facebook is that it is all things to all people.

I often read the religious posts, having always been curious about faith and how people found it (or it found them).

The conclusion I have come to is that God has it made. He receives all of the credit for anything good that happens and none of the blame for anything bad. He doesn't have to justify any of His decisions. Figuring out His intent is on us and woe to us if we are mistaken.

Prayer requests flood into Facebook and prayers flow out to the asker. (I always politely say I'll send good thoughts and I do). Sometimes, everything works out. The husband's surgery is a success, the child is cancer free, the dog survives being hit by a car. Yay! Thank you, God! Other times, not so much - the surgery isn't so successful, the chemo didn't work, the dog died. Well, we must simply have faith that God has a plan and that the baby's leukemia is part of the plan and therefore, must be a good thing although I have a difficult time imagining what can possibly be good about a baby's suffering.

People in Facebook say that we should "listen" to God to find out what he expects from us. So far as I know, God has never spoken to me and I don't have a clue what he wants. (The only guide I've ever had is my own conscience coupled with the Golden Rule). If you think you hear God and you make a choice that turns out badly, then either you didn't listen closely enough or it was the devil in disguise. If anyone should know how fiendishly clever the devil can be, you'd think it would be God, but it appears that He doesn't give credit for good intentions. Just know that it is, somehow, your own fault.

I've asked people what it is like when God speaks to you. Does he actually whisper in your ear, is it like a serendipity, how do you judge if it is really God? No answers. It must be difficult to explain.

A picture of Tim Tebow on his knees on the football field draws a flurry of comments defending his right to pray in public. Of course, I think he has a right to pray in public too although I doubt that God is a football (baseball, football, hockey) fan. I support Jimmie Johnson wholeheartedly but I'd be ashamed to pray for him to win a race. If I thought I had even the slightest influence with God, I'd pray for the baby with leukemia instead. I lose a little respect for an athlete who prays for his own success when God has so many more pressing problems. You assume He hears beseeching prayers every minute of every hour of every day - from people whose entire families have been wiped out due to genocide, to refugees in living brutal camps, to those whose world has been swept away by tsunamis.

I remember back during the Vietnam War, my aunt prayed constantly that her two sons should not have to go to war. In the end, one of them failed his physical and the other drew a high lottery number so that the war was over before he was called. My Aunt was convinced it was God. I asked her, "but what about those mothers whose prayers he didn't answer? Did they not pray hard enough or long enough? What makes you so special?" I wasn't being a smart-ass. I was truly interested in her answer. She didn't have one. Her sons were safe. End of story.

I read the entire Bible one year. The Old Testament was full of punishment by pestilence and plagues and famine and the killing of first-borns. That God was too cruel for me to accept. Then in the New Testament, He wanted to reach His followers and the method He chose, was crucifying His Son? Whew! If the Bible is our instruction manual on life, it is full of mixed messages, written in God-speak, a language in which few of us are fluent.

Those are the thoughts I have about religion...not that I express them on Facebook.