Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Call Me Radical but What's Your Theory?

Well, my own Indiana Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, caused quite a stir with his "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intends to happen" judgment, concluding that therefore, there should be no abortion exception for rape victims. There was a flurry of media attention, mainly because Mitt Romney had endorsed Mourdock only the day before and declined to rescind that endorsement.

It was much the same as the firestorm that followed Todd Akin's declaration that women couldn't get pregnant if they were "legitimately" raped. There was much huffing and puffing and faux disapproval on the part of his peers but after enough time had passed for the controversy to simmer down, they slipped him safely back into the conventional Republican fold.

And why not? Many us may gasp at Akin and Mourdock's extreme positions but conservative Republicans don't, because these are actually the mainstream beliefs of the right-wing of the party (and, face it, there isn't any other wing left in the GOP).

Their own vice-presidential candidate echoes the same dogma, for God's sake. A baby is a baby from the second an egg is fertilized and rape is just another form of conception.

Right next door to Indiana, Illinois House member, Joe Walsh stated unequivocally that " with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" where abortion is necessary to protect a woman's life or health, which, to use Joe Biden's word, is so much self-serving malarkey.

In state after state, Republican candidates have taken the no exceptions stance. Not just one or a few but dozens.

Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee himself has said he'd be happy to sign a Personhood Amendment which would ban all abortions. He has said he'd name Supreme Court justices like Samuel Alito. Good-bye, Roe v. Wade.

What is missing in all of this? I would argue that it is any compassion or empathy whatsoever for the baby-producing machines known as mothers. Put a living, breathing woman next to a petri dish containing a fertilized egg and every bit of Republican concern flows toward that petri dish. The female who carries it is just a side issue. Her own anguish, her trauma, her emotional fragility in the aftermath of rape or incest are nothing compared to that all-important egg. "Sorry, lady," the mostly male Republicans tell her, "suck it up, you're just a carrier and that's the only intrinsic value you have."

Why is that, I wonder? What about this issue makes Republican men so much more preoccupied  with a zygote than an actual person? It's not as if they carry their love for eggs beyond birth. Once they've asserted their will to ensure a baby is born, they lose interest. Food stamps to feed them? Schools to educate them? HUD to house them? School lunches? Medical care? Head Start? Nah, it's every child for himself once he or she comes crying into the cold light of day. And Mom loses even what bit of worth she had as an incubator. Now, she's just a contemptible part of the 47 percent, a user who want to take from the Mitt Romneys and Richard Mourdocks and Todd Akins of the world.

What twisted logic they use, condemning her for not wanting to take responsibility for her life when they won't take responsibility for the new life they insisted she be responsible for bringing into this world in the first place!

Here is my unscientific, totally biased theory: I think conservative Republican men are obsessively attached to their own macho maleness. The woman is a passive receptacle; it is their courageous little sperm that goes boldly into a strange land to plant its flag and stake its claim. As long as that fetus is still inside the woman, it is "them", still exercising their right of dominance over the colonized territory. Once a baby is born, it becomes an individual person. It now becomes the primary property of the mother and Dad loses interest.

We know there are African-American men in the ghetto who exhibit this same behavior. Their sense of pride stems from impregnating as many girls as they can, then walking away from the resulting children. Their ego is invested in the impregnation itself, not the end result. Republican men have this same "Baby Daddy" syndrome which manifests itself in a somewhat different way being that they have the power and clout to shield their sperm from attack by way of government policy.

Even men who don't participate in the fertilization process still maintain that sense of possessiveness toward male occupation....the males who rule the Catholic Church, for instance. My former church has always considered women third-class citizens, of less importance than 1) men and 2) fetuses. And there's not much difference that I can see between the Catholics and the Mormons in this respect.

These men, of course, see God as totally male Himself and as such, they judge him by their own personal moral yardstick. The Richard Mourdocks see no problem with letting God off the hook for the rape itself , (of which he would naturally never, ever ever, approve!) while still giving him full credit for the pregnancy.  Talk about holding two conflicting beliefs before breakfast!

I sort of understand the self-centered place that men are coming from. I haven't yet been able to get a grip on why women go along with it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hitting Rock Bottom

Someone asked me - "what would you choose if God let you decide between Jimmie Johnson winning the NASCAR championship or Barack Obama winning a second term?"

I had to think about that one for a while. NASCAR and politics are my twin passions. Jimmie is only seven points behind first place with four races to go. The presidential campaign is a virtual tie with less than two weeks to go.

Of course, I understand that in the scheme of things, who sits in the White House is vastly more important than who hoists the Sprint Cup trophy. And, it is true, that the one elemental factor that rules both politics and NASCAR is money. That always has been, and probably always will be, the way of the world. People who have money generally come out ahead of people who don't. But beyond that, NASCAR is purer, more of a meritocracy than politics. The media, no matter how biased, can't influence the outcomes of races. The fans, no matter how passionate about who they love and hate, can't influence the outcomes of races. Ads, no matter how negative and/or clever, can't influence the outcomes of races. Super-pacs, no matter how powerful, can't influence the outcomes of races. Put 43 cars and drivers on a track and the final result will depend on the fastest car, the smartest driver, the most strategic crew chief and oh, yes, a bit of luck as well.

So, I think I would tell God that I vote for Jimmie. That's not because I don't want Obama to win but that I almost think his winning may not matter in the long-term. In 2012, I see America as an alcoholic who hasn't yet admitted her addiction. Until she hits rock bottom, I'm not sure she'll start to come back. I think rock-bottom would come with a Romney election so maybe we should just go ahead and do it. Let's have that intervention now and get it over with.

The conservative-dominated Supreme Court we have has already given us the travesty of Bush v Gore. It has already given us the malignity of Citizens United. It has already given us "corporations are people, my friend" and gazillions of dollars in political contributions by unnamed millionaires. This bunch may do away with affirmative action in this term. And certainly if we let Romney have a couple of nominees, Roe v Wade will be gone. Will America really like what it gets with an even more radical Supreme Court?

Women are now virtually second-class citizens in this era's Republican party. We don't deserve equal pay for equal work, we don't deserve to be protected from domestic violence and we certainly don't have the mental capacity to make our own family planning decisions without wise old white men to guide us down the proper path. All anyone has to do to understand the contempt the Republican party has for women is check out what has been happening in Republican-led states. If a Personhood Amendment ever passes, as it seems sure to do if Romney wins and has a Republican congress, women will be of lesser value than a one minute old fertilized egg! Baby-making machines is what we are to Republicans but once the babies are born, all bets are off. Better not need food stamps or school lunches or health insurance to raise those babies. Republicans lose interest in children after they actually come into this world.

Science in Republican bizarro world is now a thing of the past. They proudly put their most Neanderthal members on the science committee! Men like Todd "women who were legitimately raped can't get pregnant" Akin. Men like Paul "the world is 9,000 years old and evolution is a theory straight from hell" Braun. Men like Dana "earlier climate change was caused by dinosaur flatulence" Rohrbacher. Credible scientists are stunned by the ignorance of the men Republicans have selected to determine our science policies. As the ice bergs melt and the evidence of climate change is overwhelming, Republicans remain in total denial.

Politics have become progressively more vicious with this new breed of Republicans, who seem no longer to espouse the principles of democracy. They are so positive of their own inalienable rightness in contrast to the obviously mentally challenged voters who occasionally out-number them, that they have come to believe that the ends justify the means. Thus, impeaching Clinton on grounds pathetically less than "high crimes and misdemeanors". Thus the willingness to go to the mat on and the Supreme Court to ensure that George Bush won in 2000. Thus the "swift-boating" of John Kerry. All of this culminating in the denial that Obama is even an American, the insistence that he is a Muslim and a traitor, which is common fodder on Facebook. And no, the Democrats have done nothing remotely similar to Romney.

The Democrats have some strong partisans but they have no one who begins to compare in sliminess to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Donald Trump and Glenn Beck. They have no credible leader like Sarah Palin who recently wrote a blog accusing Obama of "shucking and jiving". The Republicans have moved beyond silent dog whistles ("food stamp president" - "should learn to be an American" - dropped work requirements for welfare for the sake of his base") to full-blown racial bullhorns to remind everyone that Obama is black. Wink, wink.

And on the economy, working class Republicans will fight tooth and nail to defend the pedestal on which they've placed Mitt Romney. He's the Man. Yes, he and his cronies deserve to pay lower taxes because he's so much smarter than the rest of us. And we doan need to see no steenken' tax forms (even though he lied about his taxes in Massachusetts - oh, well, he went back and amended them when they found him out. No harm, no foul, eh?) Why, you can tell just by looking at him that he is would never do anything to hurt the 47%. No matter that he says right out loud how much disdain he has for them. No matter that people lost their jobs and pensions so that he and the Bain Boys could pose with big smiles and dollar bills (or maybe that was $100 bills) sticking out of their pockets. No matter that Sendata employees are very minute fighting for their economic lives as Bain, who owns 51% of the company, prepares to send it to China, despite the fact that it is making profits. Never mind that Bain called in law enforcement to arrest protesters begging for their jobs to stay in America. Never mind that this is happening even as he had the gall to take Obama to task in the debate for not being tough enough on China. Is this sort of like "it takes one to know one"?

We have never had a Congress so intent on thwarting anything good for America. In every other recession we ever had, we agreed on an infrastructure bill and an increase in the debt ceiling...until the Republicans said no. They said no to Equal Pay for Equal Work, no to renewing the Domestic Violence Act, no to taking tax rebates from oil companies, no to immigration reform, no to individual mandates, no to giving gay people their full civil liberties. They said no to policies they've agreed with in the past, even those they created, if it might help Obama. They signed on to a sequester rather than asking the rich to pay more in taxes. That seems their single most cherished ideal....that and abortion. This Congress has filibustered more than any other. They have wasted time voting to repeal Obamacare 33 times even though they knew they'd lose. They have practically taken out billboards saying they mean to screw over the middle and lower classes and yet many of these same people refuse to see it. Have we become a nation of submissives? Are we all 50 Shades of Grey now?

And that whole "disagreement ending at the water's edge" attitude toward foreign policy we used to believe in? Another victim of Republican partisanship. Forget supporting your president and your government in times of war or attack. Forget Americans coming together in tragic circumstances. To today's Republicans, those are just more opportunities to score political points.

So, let's do it. Let's take this new breed of ultra-conservative Republicanism to its ultimate conclusion. Maybe that's the only way we'll start on that long painful road back to sobriety.

In the meantime, go Jimmie #Sixpack!




 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poor Mitt, Poor Ann

Average Income and Change In Share of Income

I don't get it. My friends on Facebook...single women who are limping along financially....seem ready to fight to the death for Mitt Romney. They quote things like, "you can't help the poor by destroying the rich," - that was one I saw just today. But destroying the rich certainly hasn't been what America has been doing for decades now. The difference between what a CEO makes compared to a laborer on the factory floor is now 300 times. (Consider that Henry Ford thought 7 times was the right ratio, and Henry was no bleeding heart!) Wall Street honchos are making higher salaries than ever. Oil companies are making record profits.

We have done  nothing but make the rich richer under both Republicans and Democrats. The rich benefited under Bill Clinton and benefited even more under George W (who told us they are the job creators as his rationale for pumping even more of our aggregate income to them - sound familiar?). They've continued to benefit under Barack Obama. So, it's not like the Democrats actually put any kind of hurt on the rich but simply close the disparity gap by the merest bit.

If the rich had actually taken the tax bonuses Bush gave them (and that the Republican Congress maintained for them) and passed along some of it to the rest of us in the form of jobs as we were told they would, we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion. I don't think the working class is greedy. They want to go to work every day. They want to buy a house and a car. They want to send their kids to school. They want to take an occasional vacation. Give them that and you can get as rich as you want and they won't complain.

But is this what happened? No. The rich took their money and ran....ran to China, ran to India, ran to Mexico. Because, hell, why should they waste their dollars paying American workers big money (!) and benefits when they can get virtual slave labor in other parts of the world? Why should they build factories in America where there are expensive environmental and worker safety regulations in place when they can pollute at will in poor countries? Why should they pay taxes to support America when they can incorporate in the Caymans?

And, truly, I understand that. Greed is part of human nature. Getting and keeping as much as you can is the American Dream. I understand it from their point of view, I really do.

What I don't understand is our side. Where is our greed to at least reclaim at least some small part of the pie for ourselves? Why are we so submissive, so worshipful of the rich? I thought that was one of America's claims to fame? I thought the remarkable declaration that all men were equal was part of what we stood for in the family of nations. No more royalty for us. No king or duke or earl is any better than any of the rest of us.

In fact, we seem well on the way to turning America into an aristocracy. We can't wait to get in that voting booth and cast our vote for King Mitt and his cohort of court followers. We can't wait to tug our forelocks when the royal carriage passes by.

Talk to my friends about the Blunt Amendment and the Personhood Amendment and transvaginal ultrasounds and another right-wing justice on the Supreme Court and forcible rape and they put their hands over their ears. "Nyah, nyah, nyah, we don't want to hear it."

That's because they are over in the corner obsessing about some little welfare mother who collects $239 a month from Temporary Aid to Needy Families and who just might smoke or have a cell phone or get her nails done. They worry incessantly that guy on Medicaid who is probably faking it because he looks fine to them. They turn their burning resentment toward people who are the smallest blip on the radar screen of Americans who can hurt them while letting the extortionists off scot-free.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is the David Copperfield of politicians, the master illusionist. He distracts our attention by making a plane disappear with one hand while he's making our money disappear with the other. He changes his position to whatever he thinks we want to hear. He convinces us that we're one of him. He pats us on the back, "you're not part of the deadbeat 47 percent, you're like us. Come on down to Boca Raton and pull up a seat at the table." And I guess we want to believe it but the fact is, most of us are one hell of a lot closer to the welfare Mom than we are Mitt and the Capital Bain boys. In fact, they are the main reason so many of us are standing in the unemployment and the food stamp lines.

We gave them the pay-off up-front but they welshed on their share of the deal. Now Mitt wants to do it again. And many of my friends seem happily willing to take the same leap of faith that has never worked in the past. George W Bush once famously said, "fool me once, can't be fooled again."  

But, evidently, we can....be fooled again...and again....and again.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seriously? You're Still Undecided?

My first thought about last night's second Presidential Debate was: did MSNBC have to hire a search team to assemble so many stupid people for their focus group? Good Lord, Undecideds, these two men are night and day! Their policies are night and day! Their personalities are night and day! How could you possibly have watched them campaign for months and debate twice and seen a million ads about each of them and still not have made up your freakin' minds?

You either think Obama has done as well as possible with what he inherited four years into his administration or you don't. You either think Romney has better ideas for where to go from here or you don't. You either think abortion should be made illegal or you don't. You either think gays should be able to marry or you don't. You either think Dream kids should be able to stay in America or you don't. You either agree with Mitt Romney that it is fair for him to pay less taxes on a $20 million income than a teacher or you don't. You either believe 47 percent of Americans are freeloaders or you don't. How hard could it be? I don't understand you. Are you going to go with the last ad you see before going into the voting booth?

My second thought in reflecting on the debate was that Mitt Romney is an arrogant asshole. I used to work in a corporate office in which the executives left every Friday at noon for lunch at the country club followed by an afternoon of golf. They made a special point to inform us that they'd be out for the rest of the day, seeming to enjoy rubbing it in. The Plant Manager always said, "wish me luck." And I always thought, "luck? I hope you trip over a tee and break your neck." All the employees despised him and his cronies for their attitude of smug superiority toward the "little people". Mitt Romney makes me feel the same way.

And you know what finally happened to that plant? The executives bought it. They ran it into bankruptcy. They walked away with big $$$ and the workers walked away to unemployment lines and lost pensions. My  bosses were pioneers in what eventually became the Bain Capital model of investment.

My third thought about the debate was: thank God, Obama brought his A-game this time and didn't let Romney get away with the obfuscations (okay, call them lies) and bullying tactics of the last one. And thank you, Candy Crowley for not being a door mat as Jim Lehrer was. The cracks in Romney's facade showed last night when he actually had to face an opponent who fought back. He was hectoring; he was contemptuous; he was in-your-face; he was holier-than-thou. Obama doesn't like Romney either and that was plain to see but his reactions were more direct. Romney's most naked moment came when he thought he was moving in for the kill when he questioned whether Obama had called Libya an act of terrorism in the Rose Garden. He was wrong, of course, and both the President and Crowley called him on it and deflated his "gotcha" balloon.

And lastly, I wonder what effect the debate will have on the electorate. When I went to Facebook, all the Romney supporters were still Romney supporters who thought he had won or at least, that he would have won if Candy Crowley hadn't been in the tank for Obama. All the Obama supporters were still Obama supporters who thought he had won in a breeze. The spinners were all there spinning like tops.

Are there really a significant group of people out there who continue to agonize about their decision? Are there enough of them to make a difference? Romney was gaining some momentum prior to this debate. Was that because of the last one and will they now swing back to Obama? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Myself, I wonder how any woman could vote for Romney when he so clearly is laps behind on women's issues. Do women know about forcible rape and Personhood Amendments and the Blunt Amendment and what another conservative justice will do on the Supreme Court and the abolishing of Planned Parenthood and how they will cope with a child with a pre-existing condition if Obamacare goes away?  I wonder how any gay person could vote for Romney when he is so clearly behind the curve on their issues. Do gays know that he opposes their full equality? I wonder how any Hispanic could vote for Romney when he is so clearly out of touch with the future. Do Latinos know about self-deportation and the "papers, please" act that Romney lauded as a model for the nation? I wonder how any young person could vote for Romney. Do students know that he was opposed to eliminating the banks as the middle man and giving the funds directly to students for student loans which Obama did? I wonder how any poor person could vote for Romney. Are poor people aware of how he demeaned them by calling them victims who refused to take responsibility for their lives? I wonder how any union worker, especially auto workers, could vote for Romney. Do they know he advocated letting Detroit go bankrupt, despite what he says now?

Rich people yes, I understand Romney's appeal for them. Bankers, yes. Lobbyists, yes. Oil companies, yes. But the rest of us are nuts if we vote for Mitt Romney.




Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gall - The Word That Characterized the Debate

A word of caution to my Republican friends - I remember how excited I was because I thought Hillary killed Barack Obama in every debate between them. You see how that turned out for her. A caution to my Democratic friends - I remember how excited I was because I thought Hillary killed Barack Obama in every debate between them. You see how that turned out for him.

I think the Republicans may be placing a little too much of their hope in the first debate basket. Not that I don't agree that Obama did poorly. Throughout the debate, I kept thinking, "put me in, Coach!" I know I could have been more passionate in countering Romney's attacks than the president was.

On the other hand, I wasn't as enamored with Romney's style as many others seemed to be. If Obama was on downers, then Romney was on steroids - attacking, charging, bullying the moderator, accusing the president of being a liar, speaking so manically he was almost spitting on himself. It was the difference between a diplomat trying to be an honest broker and a salesman willing to make any false claim to close the deal.

I think the word that most characterized this debate was gall. I think Obama was taken aback by Romney's gall in denying his entire past history in the sweep of a 90-minute debate. I know I was. "I never said that." "I don't believe that." "I'm not going to do that." Huh? But, but  those are all the things you've been saying all along. "No, I haven't."

Some other misstatements: "My plan covers pre-existing conditions." "I've never heard of companies getting rebates for moving jobs overseas." "President Obama is going to take $716 billion out of Medicare but I wouldn't do that." I could go on and on.

How do you counter that kind of breathtaking hubris? Well, the fact checking afterwards might show some of what was going on but how many people will pay attention to that? Romney had his 60-million strong audience on the night that counted.

In any contest, when one person is bound by the rules and the other one hits below the belt, the cheater has the advantage. It will be curious to see what happens in the Vice-Presidential debate because we already know from the Republican convention that Paul Ryan has any more qualms about being under-handed than Romney did.

I think the statement of Romney's that made me the angriest was his supreme chutzpah is telling us how he will go to Washington and work cooperatively with the Democrats to get things accomplished. As if it hasn't been the Republican ploy from Day One...and it was literally Day One, Inauguration Day, when the Republicans met - to plan how to obstruct Obama at every turn. It is the Republicans who have voted no on every program Obama put forth...even policies that were always bipartisan before, even policies that were initially their idea, even policies that were necessary to help the country recover. It is the Republicans that have filibustered more than any other Congress in our history. And Romney has the unmitigated gall to suggest that by his power of sweet persuasion, he will convince the Democrats to side with him.

And since we Democrats are the party that believes it is our duty to try to govern and they are the party that believes it is their duty to consolidate power, it could possibly work. Let's say, theoretically, that Romney is elected and proposes something that is a pet Democratic program - raising the minimum wage, for instance. This is something the Republicans hate but what do you think they'd do? Swallow hard and vote yes? And, of course, the Democrats would vote yes as well because they are convinced a higher minimum wage helps working Americans. It would pass and Romney could then say, "see, that's how you get things done." Having established his "able to work with the other side" creds, he and the Republicans would go on to propose the middle-class killing programs they really believe in.

The American people are the question mark in all of this. Do they recognized gall when they see it?






Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Race for The Chase




That's my guy, Jimmie Johnson, the one in the middle. The 10-race Chase, which is NASCAR's version of the season play-offs is in full swing. Three races down and seven to go. Brad Keselowski, driver of the iconic Blue Deuce #2 Miller Lite Dodge, is leading the points standings. Jimmie is second, five points behind (Go Lowe's 48 Chevy!) Denny Hamlin, the #11 FedEx Toyota driver, is 16 points behind the leader. Part of the fun of NASCAR is that it is totally unpredictable. It isn't like stick and ball sports where you know its going to come down to two teams in the end. The top twelve teams after the end of the 26-race regular season are competing for the championship but they have to continue to race the entire field of 43 on every track. By the time we get to the last race at Homestead Miami Speedway, it could be one driver so far ahead no one can catch him or it could be five and whichever one gets the best finish that day wins it all.

The three pictured above have been the class of the field all year so it's no surprise that they seem to be separating themselves from the rest but wait, Talladega looms this week. Talladega is called a crap shoot for good reason. It is a 2 1/2 mile high-banked super-speedway. Speeds average roughly 200 mph. The cars race in packs, three rows of speeding vehicles inches from one another - in front, in back and on each side. You can see there isn't much room for error. If a driver makes a small mistake and nudges the car ahead of him, causing it to spin, the resulting wreck can easily take out 20 race cars. That's why it's called "the big one", a chaos of screaming engines, shearing sheet metal, burning rubber, and twisted cars skidding in all directions, hitting walls, tumbling down the track end over end. Fans are kept in suspense waiting for the big one, then holding their breath until the smoke clears, hoping their driver wasn't in it and hoping his competition was.

The three drivers who lead the points right now are as different as men can possibly be. Jimmie Johnson is the old hand. He's won the Sprint Cup 5 times in a row - 2006 through 2010. He cool, calculating and generally, unflappable. His crew chief, Chad Knaus, is called the NASCAR garage's evil genius. Jimmie never brags or complains much. He's a master at making "chicken salad out of chicken shit." If he qualifies poorly, he calmly slices and dices his way through the field to get to the front. If the car isn't handling well, he deals with it until Chad can make it better. Lots of fans call Jimmie too vanilla. They don't like him for that bland exterior. NASCAR fans get off on passion and they don't think Jimmie has enough. As a driver, he uses his car as a scalpel rather than a blunt instrument.

Brad Keselowski is the new kid. He's brash and bold and smart and aggressive. He made the Chase in only his second year in Cup. In 2012, he's leading the points, a feat few would have predicted when he first moved up to the top series. Back then, fans nicknamed him Crashalotski. He's excelling despite the fact that he only has one teammate to rely on for information and assistance. And that his owner, Roger Penske, has already announced that he's leaving his current manufacturer, Dodge, to go with Ford next year so he's racing for what is, in effect, a lame duck team. One of the main things he has going for him is his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, who is starting to be called the "new Chad Knaus". Like Brad himself, Paul figures all the angles and when he makes a decision, it is more often than not the right one.

Brad was the first to Tweet from the track when the Daytona 500 was under a red flag for a safety vehicle on fire. He gained 100,000 Twitter followers during that event. Brad is outspoken, you might even call him mouthy, but he generally doesn't make statements he can't back up. Like Jimmie, Brad is the very definition of "clutch". He doesn't blow his cool, regardless of what circumstances befall him.

And that is the concern about our third guy, Denny Hamlin. He is an exceptionally talented driver with an extremely talented team but Denny seems, so far, to be unable to level out his emotions, or at least, not to show them. When he is on a high, it is plain for all the world to see. He can be supremely confident. The week before last he called his shot, predicting that he would win the race at New Hampshire, which he then proceeded to do. When the race was over, he made a motion like hitting a home run, aping Babe Ruth. Denny has had, arguably, the fastest cars on the track toward the end of the regular season. He has a lot to be confident about.

But last week was Dover, the Monster Mile, one of Denny's worse tracks. He had a rocket ship of a race car. He and his teammate, Kyle Busch, led the most laps. It looked like he was going to end up second, if not first. Then it turned into a fuel mileage gamble and the Fed Ex Toyota placed the wrong bet. They had to come in for quick pit stop to top off on gas. In doing so, they fell out of the top five and came home 8th. It was a great finish for Denny compared to his previous performances on The Monster Mile, but instead of being thrilled to have out-achieved his expectation, he seemed devastated, falling to the wrong end of the emotional scale.

In 2010, Denny was leading the points with two races to left. The next to the last race turned out to be a fuel strategy race. Denny had to make a pit stop when Jimmie didn't, allowing the 48 to cut his lead in half. He came out Phoenix demoralized and never found his way back to an even keel. Going into Homestead, he still had a fairly substantial 15 point lead but he lost his focus and ended up losing the championship as a result. In 2011, he gave the appearance of a beaten man.  He swore he'd found his way back in 2012. He wasn't going to be so up-tight. He was going to have fun. He was working with a sports psychologist to to find the mental toughness needed to win a championship. And until Dover, it appeared he'd done just that but then we saw his emotional balloon pop again.

We'll see where things stand after Talladega, where one twist of the  kaleidoscope has the potential of turning the pattern we see completely upside down.

Will it still be the experienced Zen Master, the cocky Kid or the Drama King? Or will someone new rise from the carnage....like Smoke?