Friday, September 28, 2012

End The War!

I believe that if Barack Obama wanted to absolutely insure his re-election, he should call a press conference tomorrow and announce that he'd decided we've accomplished all we are going to accomplish in Afghanistan and therefore, he is ending the war and will begin bringing all our troops home on an expedited schedule. ASAP, in other words.

In 2008, the U.S. suffered 155 casualties  - in 2009, 317 - in 2010, 499 - in 2011, 418 and so far in 2012, 261. Is anyone under the illusion, including the President, that these deaths have made a real difference? Is anyone under the illusion, that Afghanistan won't revert to its true self when we finally leave, just as it did when Russia left? Is anyone under the illusion that Hamid Karzai and his administration aren't corrupt? How could it be that we watched Russia practically bankrupt itself beating its head against the Afghan wall, then we go in and do exactly the same thing....with the same results....for 11 freaking years. Our longest war ever!

In the meantime, the very "partners" we are supposed to be training are killing our own soldiers. Oh, that's not every single one of them. I realize there are Afghanis with good intentions for their country. But it's time to let them have at it. If they can't take it on their own by now, it's on them. We've wasted enough blood and money on a thankless mission.


Monday, September 24, 2012

As Soon As God Gets His Act Together....

Ever since this presidential campaign began, the question has been: "will the real Mitt please stand up." I believe he finally did with the secret Boca Raton tape. His sneering disdain for almost half of his fellow Americans only reinforced what I've thought about him all along - that he honestly sees the country as divided between the worthy elites, of which he himself is a prime example, and the lazy parasites. I think Mitt truly believes that he started even with everyone else and has succeeded so fantastically due to superior intelligence, sheer hard work and perhaps, a little boost from a Mormon God pleased by his pure wonderfulness.

Anyone who wasn't able to do the same obviously wasn't trying. The gall of a man who moves heaven and earth not to pay taxes to contribute to the fabric of the society that has benefited him so extravagantly while patronizing the working poor, the elderly, wounded veterans, the disabled, students is almost breathtaking. The smug self-righteousness of believing that he and his mega-rich peers deserve to to pay less in taxes than a janitor or secretary is amazing. The contempt he feels toward those pathetic creatures who believe food for their children is an entitlement. It is a world view I can't even begin to comprehend.

Romney accused the 47 percent of considering themselves victims but listening to the $50,000 a plate donors, the whine of victimhood was deafening. They are the good guys, as proven by their success. The country, they believe, would go down the drain without them. But no one appreciates them as they deserve to be appreciated. The lower classes, with Barack Obama's cooperation, want to come and take their stuff. This is the way you imagine the aristocrats would have talked prior to the French Revolution.

But all of this is somewhat understandable. After all, the super-wealthy live in an ivory tower and associate only with themselves. They reinforce their own inflated sense of self-worth. They rub elbows in mansions and exclusive resorts and yachts and five-star hotels. The only regular people they ever see are those who serve them and I doubt they give a thought to what it would be like to step into their shoes for even a moment.

What confounds me most is though is the submissive willingness of a big chunk of the lower classes to parrot those same beliefs. Where does that come from? Are the Americans who are either part of the 47 percent (social security recipients, for instance) or, at least a hell of a lot closer to the 47 percent than they are to Mitt and Ann Romney, really deluding themselves into thinking that they are only one invention or one lottery ticket away from being able to pay $50,000 for a political dinner with the Big Boys? Do they really think Romney and the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson would welcome them with open arms as a brother under the skin? Do they really think, in the event of a war with Iran, about which the Romney camp are so gung-ho, that the Romney children or the Adelson children or the Koch children are ever going to join their sons and daughters on the front lines?

The sad fact is that, rather than being one invention or one lottery ticket away from leaping into the ivory tower, they are actually one  lay-off or one catastrophic illness away from economic disaster during which they'd be forced to depend on all the programs of which the $50,000-a-platers are so patronizing.

They are one low-wage job away from not owing federal income taxes - not on the high end of the no-taxes scale, like the mega-rich,  but the low end.

Yet, they seem able to convince themselves they are really members of the elite, temporarily being forced to hang out with us lowlifes, us moochers, us deadbeats.

When I see poor people in desperate circumstances, I always think - "there but for the grace of God, go I." Evidently, the 47 percent who support Romney and his ilk think - "there, as soon as God gets his act together, go I."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kiss Up and Kick Down

"Kiss Up and Kick Down" has long been the Republican mantra but the curiosity is why so many of the lower income groups don't realize it. Do they not recognize a sneer when they see it? Do they not recognize contempt when they hear it or do they simply not believe that the sneering contempt of Mitt Romney and his mega-wealthy cohorts is directed at them?

I assume it must be the last. You can evidently be sitting on the front porch of your home in a red state, with a minimum wage job and no health insurance, but still convince yourself that the lazy deadbeats Mitt was referring to as the 47% are that other guy. Evidently, even though you may be one illness away from losing your home, you feel justified in screaming for Mitt and the Boys to "Repeal Obamacare". It must not occur to you that you're one layoff away from needing food stamps to feed your own kids. Although, of course, if that happened to you, it would simply be bad luck, not that you prefer to be a freeloader who chooses that lifestyle because you'd rather suck off the government teat than take responsibility for yourself.

Doesn't it just make you want to shake these people and say, "hey, Dumb Ass, don't you know they are talking about you? Don't you have any goddamned pride?"

Because, of course, they are talking about you....and me. They get the lower class Republicans to fight their wars for them. "Storm those battlements until they rescind the evil Death Tax" Rush urges, and off the poor schmucks go, swords in hand - even though there is a $5 million exemption on estate taxes ($10 million for couple) so how many of their lowly warriors would ever have to pay a single penny when they die?

Lower the taxes and loosen regulations on the rich. They are the job-creators! Except the last time we did that, they created few jobs (and most of them were overseas) but they did almost cause a meltdown of our whole economy. Never mind, they deserve another chance!

Meanwhile, as the Upper One are fighting against everything that would benefit those of us clinging to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, we smile fondly as Ann Romney takes a $77,000 deduction on her horse. Seriously? Having a horse in the Olympics is a business? Rather, I'd say it is an amusing hobby for a wealthy matron. There's nothing inherently wrong with it. It may even be admirable - but let the Romney's play with their pony at their own expense, not while Mitt's plan calls for raising taxes on poor people while lowering his own even more.

Romney is right about one thing. Forty-seven percent (or thereabouts) of us pay no federal income taxes. But 61% of that 47% pay payroll taxes which implies that they are working at low-wage jobs, not just sitting on their butts waiting for Big Daddy government to support them. Of the people who are left, many of them are the elderly (that'd be me) who worked their entire lives and are now collecting the social security and medicare they earned. Lumped in with the rest are the disabled (including our wounded veterans), students working (presumably to improve their lot in life and be able to pay taxes someday) and yes, those relatively few of us who are lazy bums. Oh, and by the way, there are a few thousand millionaires who paid no taxes either. I don't know what their excuse is although remember, Mitt said it is a "sin" to pay a penny more in taxes than you have to so, I guess, we have to grant them the moral high ground.

The very rich always consider our stuff much less valuable than their stuff. They are consumed with the 47%  of us who pay no federal income tax but most of us pay payroll taxes on every freaking penny we earn. Not so the rich. That payroll tax actually amounts to over 15% compared to the 13.9% that Romney paid. While the elites obsess about the 47%, they have no problem with their group paying minimal taxes on dividend and interest income, in fact, they want to lower it to zero! Because, I suppose, money earned for not working is just inherently more valuable than wages. Wages earned by the sweat of your brow is for the flunkies.

I fight with people on Facebook about this all the time. Man, they come rushing at me, incensed that I dare to besmirch the integrity of America's aristocrats at whose altar we are evidently supposed to worship, even when they are pouring boiling oil over our heads.









Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What We Did Not Learn from 911

Well, the 911 remembrances are over for another year. The day was filled with television images and Facebook posts - heroic police and firemen, crying bald eagles, lots of American flags, memories of where we were when we saw the towers come down. I could hardly stand to watch it. It all seemed so horribly sad. Yes, it was sad for all the reasons usually cited like the tragic loss of so many lives and the loss of our innocence as a nation.

But what compounds the sadness, eleven years later, is what we didn't learn from our national tragedy. For instance, we lauded ourselves for coming together as Americans after 911. America is better off, we affirmed, when we all respect one another. Yes, we may disagree on politics. We may be different colors and religions and genders but we're all Americans. For that short moment in time, maybe we actually believed it.

Over a decade later, we are back to business as usual in the hate department. In fact, I'm 66 and I never remember it being this bad in my lifetime. Maybe it is Facebook; maybe it is virulently vicious blogs, maybe it is internet newspapers allowing comments. But, whatever, we seem no longer to consider the other side "worthy opponents" but rather, evil traitors who don't even deserve to be Americans. A president not of your preferred party is no longer simply wrong-headed on policy, he literally wants to destroy the nation. It is possible that he is even the anti-Christ.

We encourage our political representatives to echo our ugliness. "Obstruct him at every opportunity, " we tell them, "whatever it takes don't let him succeed." We seem to believe that the other side is so awful that taking America down is better than allowing them to remain in power. Democracy? Forget that! If my side doesn't win, it's because the voters are freakin' idiots and I have a perfect right to try to undo their choice...out of love for my country, of course.

What else did we learn from 911? We learned that many of us were gutless in a way that made the "home of the brave" clause sound a little hollow. Unlike the British who rise to the occasion of a terrorist attack by refusing to allow fear to alter their behavior, we cancelled flights and bought duct tape and huddled in our homes. Not just in New York or Washington, places where a residual anxiety might be justified but even here in my little town, where the odds of a terrorist attack were probably about a kazillion to one. Friends of mine gave up their long-looked-forward-to vacations because well, you know, it would just be too dangerous. Al Qaida could strike at any moment to take down a planeload of elderly Midwestern gamblers on their way to Las Vegas. (Gamblers? ha!)

We learned that we would spend how ever many trillions of dollars it took on the remotest possibility of a terrorist attack. Instead of streamlining the intelligence and law enforcement agencies into a focused strike force against terrorism, we created a gigantic and gigantically expensive new government bureaucracy so gigantic in fact, that's is right hand couldn't even see it's left hand, much less know what it was doing. We made it responsible, not just for terrorist attacks, but even unrelated events like weather-related catastrophes, ensuring that it would be a big muddle.

Of course, now we're in a bit of an economic bind nationally but we don't attribute that to any of the spending decisions we made back then when we were being driven by near-hysteria. During the few years after 911, in my small rural county (total population: approximately 35,000), the Department of Homeland Security paid our deputies overtime to guard our water supply, though I doubt if an Islamic terrorist could have even found us on a map. They shipped us a semi-trailer full of gloves....enough for every citizen in the county to claim a pair (assuming we'd be in a position to distribute them). They sent us haz mat suits and paid for all our law enforcement officers and first responders to receive special terrorism training.  I suppose the gloves are still in cartons in the jail basement or maybe they ended up in the land fill. The haz mat suits have never been worn so far as I know. Many of the cops who received the special training have retired.

And we went to war....twice. The first time it was to Afghanistan. Perhaps that was justified. We went after Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden, who promptly fled to Pakistan. Eleven years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars later we're still at war in Afghanistan though no one from the president on down seems to know why. For some reason, we have to stay until 2014 but at least there is an end in sight.

The second war was with Iraq which had nothing to do with 911 and apparently, nothing to do with anything else either except some Neo-con vision that the rest of us didn't understand and saw more as a Neo-con nightmare. Iraq cost us even more lives and even more desperately wounded veterans and even more money - we literally shipped skids of it to Iraq, most of it wasted (although I suppose it made Halliburton even richer). We only just ended that war....long after we got Saddam Hussein and didn't find weapons of mass destruction.

And now the Republicans are quibbling with President Obama over that terrible deficit that he obviously doesn't care a thing about! But mention Homeland Security and the two wars they foisted on us and they're like - "move along, nothing to see here. It is all that damnable Obama's fault".

Last, and worst than all the rest, is that we did not learn that America is an idea, more than just a country. It is an idea in which freedom and principle are inextricably entwined. Those two elements have made us who and what we are.

And we gave both of them up without a whimper. We told our big Daddy government - "listen in on our phone calls if you must; track our purchases and our relationships; give the executive office and law enforcement and courts wider powers to search and seize and arrest, that's fine, whatever you have to do to protect us because we're so scared, don't you know." (Which is exactly what terrorism exists to accomplish).

The principles we've held so dear since our inception? Right to know the charges against you? Right to counsel? Habeas corpus? Take them, please, we doan need no steenken' civil rights.

Our country was instrumental in writing the Geneva Conventions and the ban on torture. Well, justice and integrity were fine when we demanded them from other countries but it is us now, so grab people on the strength of a neighbor's willingness to turn on them for a monetary reward. Throw them into a vile prison. Encourage our people to smear them with feces, , lead them around with leashes like animals, electrify their genitals, terrify them with dogs, waterboard them? Hey, we gotta' do what we gotta' do. And if we can't do it, by God, we'll send them to countries that can! Disappearing people into the hellholes of nations that have perfected torture techniques by means of extraordinary rendition? Sure thing. Build ourselves a monster prison at Guantanamo to hold people forever without proof or trial of their guilt, some of them children when they arrived? No problemo? Even as our own people, who faced torture under other brutal regimes, like John McCain, were begging us not to give up our hearts and our souls by doing the same, we did it anyway.

September 11, 2001 could have been a cataclysmic event that we turned into a long-term positive by strengthening our resolve to remain the home of the brave and the land of the free and a force for justice. We could have emerged more united as Americans than ever. We didn't do any of that and that's what makes the 911 remembrances so sad.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Who Is Better Off Than They Were Four Years Ago?

Who is better off than they were four years ago?

- Gays are better off. Their rights and dignity were acknowledged by their president when he spoke up in favor of gay marriage. More tangibly, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed. America is better off when we live up to our principles by including the last group of Americans to be denied the rights of full citizenship....and our military is better off for being able to utilize their talents.

- The Dream kids are better off - like the young girl who spoke at the Democratic Convention. She graduated as valedictorian of her class at 16 and went on to earn a double major in college. Now she doesn't have to worry that every knock on her door is the deportation police coming to send her back to a country she doesn't even remember. And America is better off because she's going to contribute to our society.

- Children (and soon to be adults) with pre-existing conditions are better off because insurance companies can no longer deny them coverage. And people with illnesses requiring long, expensive treatment are better off because insurance companies can no long apply a lifetime cap to their coverage. America is better off because we are not a country that let's children and the ill suffer and/or die in the name of insurance company profits.

- Soldiers and their families are better off because one war is over and the other is winding down. And our wounded warriors are better off because their benefits and treatment have been strengthened by the Obama administration. America is naturally better off when we honor our obligations to our veterans.

- Women are better off because Equal Pay for Equal Work is now the law and because they have been guaranteed access to contraceptives to be able to plan their own families (unless they live in bright red states with politicians who have passed legislation to limit their privileges). All of America is better off because, of course, women aren't just stand-alone individuals but mothers and wives and sisters and daughters.

- Rich people are better off because their stock portfolios have roughly doubled since President Obama took office. America is better off when rich people are better off because they start business and produce products and hire employees, although they haven't exactly been standing up in the last few years.

- Middle class people are better off for the same reason....higher value in their 401Ks. America is better off because the middle-class is its backbone.

- Auto workers and all those other businesses that depend on auto workers are better off because the auto industry was saved. America, as a whole, is better off with a thriving auto industry because it bleeds into every part of our society. Auto workers buy homes and cars and carpets and television sets and send their kids to college.

The four and a half million people who have found jobs since 2008 are better off. Of course, we'd like to see that number much higher but still, small monthly job gains is better than large monthly job losses. It goes without saying that America is better off for every job created.

College students are better off because their interest rates have been lowered and the banks eliminated as the middle man in student loans. The more college degrees and skilled workers the nation creates, the better off all of us are.

Working families are better off because they have more money in their pockets thanks to the payroll tax cut and a higher child deduction. America is better off because working families spend those extra dollars to boost the economy instead of tucking them away in Swiss bank accounts.

The elderly are better off because the Paul Ryan budget didn't pass, starting the process of turning Medicare into a voucher system. My mother is 93 and suffers from dementia. I can imagine sending her out with a voucher to purchase her own insurance from a plethora of confusing (and not always honest) insurance offerings. Of course, I'd try to do it for her but what about the Moms who don't have me? And, yes, America is definitely better off when its seniors are secure!

The N.R.A. and gun dealers are better off because they are selling more guns and ammunition to paranoid Republicans than ever before. I don't know if that is a net gain for America but guns are part of the economy too so presumably more have been hired to run bullet-making punch presses.

We actually have more wells pumping oil in America than we did under George Bush and we have deported more illegal aliens (concentrating on criminals) so, presumably the "drill, baby, drill" crowd and the "papers, please" gang are better off though I don't expect they'll acknowledge it.

We have work to do and a long way to go but we are on an upward path. Not every individual is better off today than they were four years ago but almost every group is....even most Republicans.








Saturday, September 8, 2012

Comparing Conventions

Finally, both conventions are over and I'm even recovered from my sleep deficit hangover. I was an MSNBC junkie for the two weeks of the conventions. I listened to every speech and every bit of analysis. While granting that I'm biased in favor of the Democrats, I did try to keep an open mind which I do by asking myself - "how would I feel about what I'm hearing if I didn't know which party it was coming from?"

My main conclusion is that Democrats must simply be innately happier people than Republicans. While you got the feeling the invitations to the Republican convention probably resembled a Board of Zoning Appeals notification with Old Business and New Business and a formal Agenda and strict limits on discussion items, you imagine the Democratic announcement as a flyer posted on telephone poles and convenience store doors - "We're Having a Party - Everyone Invited!"

I've heard and read a lot about the Democrats' so-called "enthusiasm gap" but you certainly couldn't prove that by watching the conventions. Charlotte was loud and proud with Dems joyfully roaring out their approval of their party, its positions and its candidate. I heard that Democrats blew away the Republicans in the Twitter war, tweeting thousands more times than Republicans.

Meanwhile, Tampa seemed glum. What excitement Republicans felt was negative....not for something but against something. America is in decline, they told us, and its the fault of  gays and immigrants and Blacks and Hispanics (who mostly all get food stamps, don't you know, wink, wink) and women who dare to want to make their own family planning decisions and question why old white male politicians should be able to order them to have invasive ultrasounds, and wounded soldiers and the mothers of sick kids and union workers and old people who don't have the grace to bow out before going broke so Medicaid  has to step in to pay the nursing home.

I thought one of the best lines of either convention was Michelle Obama saying that if you've walked through the door of opportunity yourself, you don't close it behind you, but instead, reach back to help others through. I would say this is the very heart of Democratic philosophy. By contrast, Republicans remind me of Puritan-Think regarding wealth. The very fact of someone being rich, whether through inheritance or work, is a mark of God's favor. How much better of an endorsement can you have than one from God? Of course, we should make these people our leaders! And, of course, the opposite must be true as well. If you're a poor African-American kid, living in a ghetto and attending a sub-standard school, it probably means God just doesn't like you very much.

Republicans forgot about the wars we've been fighting or are still fighting (and the soldiers who fought them) in favor of brand new wars. The Middle East of the R's appears to be one giant conflagration with the U.S. in the middle of it all. And, hell, throw Russia in there too for good measure! Democrats faced foreign policy head-on. They expressed their appreciation for our military in both words and deeds, in person.

The Democrats showcased their support for abortion rights and gay marriage and immigrant contributions and the goal of allowing everyone to exercise their elemental right to vote while Republicans tip-toed around their extreme positions on these issues in favor of mild-sounding euphemisms. You'd have to actually read their platform to see what they really think. Certainly, you wouldn't find out from their candidates.

Mitt and Ann Romney tried to show their kinder, gentler side and I think within their church and their own Ivory Tower social circle, they probably are kinder and gentler, it's just that their kindness and gentleness wears a little thin the farther from that circle you get. I give them the benefit of the doubt that this is from ignorance rather than deliberation.

The Democrat convention reminded me of how much I love Bill Clinton. And to be honest, there were a few times when the old resentment toward the media and the Democrat establishment and Barack Obama about what they all did to Hillary bubbled up so that I had to forcibly tamp it down. I am a faithful Rachel Maddow viewer now but I only began watching her show within the last year or so and that reluctance was caused by residual anger left over from the Democratic primaries. I still can barely tolerate Ed Shultz or Nancy Pelosi. And, sorry, but I will never adore the Obama branch of the Kennedys again...and that includes Teddy and Caroline. I thought they were motivated by fear of a Clinton dynasty overtaking the Kennedy dynasty....and I still do.

Ah, but this is a different war and my old enemies are now my allies so....

The Democrat speakers blew away the Republican speakers. They made you feel good. Tammy Duckworth  moving forward positively on two prosthetic legs, having lost her real ones in Iraq. The mother ecstatic because her little daughter will not reach her lifetime insurance cap thanks to Obamacare. The young Dream girl, who graduated from her high school as valedictorian at 16 and went on to receive two double majors in college who wants to contribute her talent to "her" country without the terror of never knowing when she might be deported to a place she can't even remember. Auto workers beyond grateful to have their jobs and their dignity back. Positive, uplifting stories.

The Dems seem to have more natural talent for public speaking than the Republicans...or perhaps its just attitude. Maybe you just sound better when you are affirmative rather than dismissive.

There were lots of good speeches and a couple of outstanding ones, including Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama. And Obama himself? After Bill and Michelle set the stage, he drove the point home. We can't go back. Clinton summed up the Romney/Ryan argument best - "we left Obama an awful mess; he hasn't cleaned it up quick enough; put us back in." We'd have to be nuts to buy that argument.

Are we, collectively, nuts? The polls show a neck and neck race so that implies that about half of us are nuts at any given time...it's that word "about" that the kicker, isn't it?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Random Thought On The Republican Convention

- My biggest take-away from the convention was that the Republicans have completely slipped the moorings tethering them to the truth. They appear to have made the calculation (and they may be right) that truth simply no longer matters in American politics. You can just say what you want people to believe no matter how inaccurate it may be and then bluff your way through when you're called on it. They've even stated that as their official position when the Romney campaign promised it wouldn't be bound by fact-checkers. The very premise of their convention "You Did It!" was based on a quote by President Obama that was taken out of context and wasn't at all the intent of Obama's message. The Republicans know that and did it anyway.

- My second take-away was that many Republicans saw this convention more as an audition for 2016 than the coronation of a current candidate.

- Having said that, my Rising Star Award goes to Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico. She was funny and clever and likable and natural. A hat tip also to Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina.

- Most Discordant Argument - geez, but Republicans love the concept of having been poor, they just don't like people who are poor now. They hard-sold us on how their parents and grandparents worked nine jobs and took twelve buses to get to school and/or work, all while raising seven kids with no food in the cupboard and only 15 cents in their pocket at any given time. It all highlights how anyone can be a success in this man's America. If you are willing to work hard and sacrifice, your kids and grandkids too can be speakers at the Republican convention. And if that doesn't happen, it simply proves that you are a lazy, worthless bum who'd rather collect food stamps than lift a finger to improve your lot in life. Even Mr. Mega-millions himself, Mitt Romney, told us how his father went from hanging dry wall to being the president of an auto company all in the space of a single sentence...so there, let that be a lesson to you, Deadbeats!

- Yes, I said "this man's America because while women themselves were highlighted, Republican policies that would affect women were downplayed. The abortion references were all couched in gauzy, inspiring statements about how Republicans revere "life". There were no hardline promises, at least none I heard, about Personhood Amendments and transvaginal ultrasounds and defunding Planned Parenthood and criminalizing doctors who perform abortions and "legitimate rape" and forcing girls who are impregnated by their fathers to have their babies. You have to go to the Republican platform (which was also played down with a wink and a nod) to see what they really believe about all those issues.

- The Republicans featured a large and ever-growing debt clock but they all appeared to have been struck with collective amnesia. Their world began on January 20, 2009 when Obama took the oath of office. And what a dark and ugly world it was too. Deficits from here to hell and gone. High unemployment, a housing crisis, a plunging stock market. It is amazing to think how easy it was for a lone alien Black man to undermine America with the obvious intention of totally destroying it. Oh, the Republicans in Congress fought against his super-powers as hard as they could (sigh....my heroes). They obstructed him at every turn but it was all for naught. He was just too smart and strong for them. In spite of their efforts, he pushed through Obamacare and Equal Pay for Equal Work and saved the auto industry and exported more illegals than his predecessor and presided over more oil drilling and went from monthly job loss to two years of job creation and a stock market that went from 8,000 to 13,000+. Oh, and got bin Laden and most of Al Qaida as well. It has truly been a terrible thing to watch, hasn't it?

- John McCain told us how we need war, more war! And so did Condi Rice. Neither of them have ever met a war they didn't like or a defense expenditure they didn't support. (Well, obviously, we all know that wars don't contribute to the deficit.)

- Paul Ryan explained with his sincerest Eagle Scout smile that a society can be judged by how it treats its weakest and neediest. Seriously? When Paul Ryan's budget will decimate programs for these exact people?

- Ryan also treated us to a touching scene in which he called his mother his role model as she looked on with proud tears in her eyes. His mother was widowed at 51 but salt-of-the-earth American that she was, she rode the bus 40 miles to Madison to attend college, got her degree, then opened a small business, all while raising Paul and his siblings. Heck, yeah, that is an inspiring story and Mrs. Ryan deserves a lot of credit. But it all seemed glossed over a bit. He forgot to mention that the bus she rode was most likely government-subsidized and so was the highway it traveled on and so was the university she attended. Paul's father was an attorney and I believe the family was comparatively affluent so maybe Mother Ryan didn't need Pell grants or a Small Business loan but most widows in her circumstances probably would, so all this maybe wasn't quite as on her own as her son would have you believe.

- Ryan excoriated Obama for our national debt all though he voted the party line on every single budget-busting bill George Bush proposed. He trashed Obama for his wastful stimulus spending although he begged for some of those funds for Wisconsin because he said they would "create jobs". He burned Obama for walking away from his deficit reduction committee's recommendations although Ryan was on that committee and helped kill it. Ryan attacked Obama for a G.M. plant closing in Janesville although the plant was shut down before Obama took office. Ryan dissed Obama for not getting a Jobs bill passed although all the Republicans voted against it. Honestly, I kept expecting Ryan's nose to grow and grow throughout his speech until he toppled head first onto the podium from the sheer weight of it. Even Fox News called it deceitful so you know it had to be bad.....

- Chris Christy's speech was a celebration of.....Chris Christy.

- Ann Romney is an attractive and personable woman. I believe her when she tells us how much she loves Mitt and her family. I believe her when she says raising 5 little boys can be nerve-wracking. I believe her when she says having M.S. and breast cancer are terrifying life events. I just think all these situations are easier with millions of dollars in the bank. For me, what makes a person rich isn't the money itself, it is the lack of worry it allows. Yes, Ann may have lived in a basement apartment and eaten pasta but she never worried that they couldn't afford to pay the rent or buy the pasta or repair the car or that she and Mitt might have to drop out of school to get a job simply to survive. She could always afford babysitters to get away when her kids stressed her out. She knew she'd have the finest medical care for as long as it took to treat her medical conditions. Can she relate to women who have faced all those same issues without her tremendous advantages in any kind of gut level way? And does she realize that when a friend of Mitt's father offered to sponsor him in a business and guaranteed "I won't let you fail" that not many are offered that kind of deal and diminishes a little the whole "he did it on his own" proclamation?

- Jeb Bush came across as the most commonsense adult at the convention.

- The personal video that all presidential candidates now show at their conventions was terrific. It made Mitt Romney seem kinder and more generous-hearted and more real than anything else I've seen about him. Too bad the campaign didn't put it on in prime time. Instead they had.....

- Clint Eastwood. At first I thought, three nights of watching Republicans had simply pitched me over the mental edge into bizarro-land. Could Clint's doddering, rambling performance whereby he communed with a chair that supposedly contained an invisible Barack Obama truly be as weird as it seemed to be? (This make-believe Obama, incidentally, told Eastwood to tell Romney to "fuck himself", which Clint explained to him was physically impossible). But, yes, it turned out that it could be that weird and many other people thought so including Republicans. (Although not Facebook Republicans who could drink Republican-offered ammonia and pronounce it delicious.

- Marco Rubio - More pedestal-building for past relatives who crawled out of the muck of poverty to produce their family masterpiece, Marco himself.

- And finally, Mitt. His speech was good, not great, but good. He made no obvious mistakes. He came across as less robotic than he sometimes does.

- Final thought. A friend of mine who is probably one of the few persuadables left in the electorate pronounced herself comfortable voting for Romney after watching the convention, which I would call ...... Mission Accomplished.