Friday, January 6, 2012

Last Call

Jobs numbers were rather nice for December 2011...maybe a tad too much so.

Employers in the United States added 200,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, a report that came on the heels of a flurry of heartening economic news and signaled gathering momentum in the recovery. Consumer confidence lifted, factories stepped up production and small businesses showed signs of life. The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years.

It was the sixth consecutive month that the economy showed a net gain of more than 100,000 jobs — not enough to restore employment to pre-recession levels but enough, perhaps, to cheer President Obama as he enters the election year.

No sitting president has won re-election with an employment rate at 8.5 percent, but Mr. Obama is calculating that he can make a credible argument that he took over a country in an economic disaster and slowly walked it back. 

You're going to continue to hear how there's no way the President can win re-election with unemployment this high, but considering that good news politically is almost always relative, and that the Republican solution is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place,  the President has a better chance than the history books insist.

After all, there was never an African-American president until Barack Obama came along, so it's not like he's unused to firsts.

Having said that, there is the seasonal employment angle, specifically the 42,000 FedEx and UPS seasonal delivery personnel and warehouse jobs that will disappear this month.  We'll see what kind of numbers we get from the weekly jobless claims.

Inevitable Progress Marches On

The long arc of history bends towards Washington State as Gov. Chris Gregoire announces she'll head the efforts to put some rainbow in the Evergreen State.

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday said she'll put forward legislation to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

The proposal will be introduced during the legislative session that starts Monday. If it's approved, Washington would become the seventh state to legalize gay marriage.

"Today, I'm announcing my support for a law that gives same-sex couples in our state the right to receive a marriage license in Washington - the same right given our heterosexual couples," Gregoire said before a crowd of gay marriage supporters at her office. "It is time, it is the right thing to do, and I will introduce the bill to make it happen."

The governor spoke for 20 minutes, laying out what she sees as the moral and legal reasons for the move, as well as the evolution of her personal views over the years.

"I have been on my own journey. I will admit that. It has been a battle for me with my religion," said Gregoire, who is Catholic. "I have always been uncomfortable with the position that I have taken publicly. And then I came to realize the religions can decide what they want to do, but it is not OK for the state to discriminate."

Ding ding ding!

So refreshing to hear an opinion that matches my own on this issue.  Ironically, the opposite of that is not Rick Santorum or Rick Perry, but Ron Paul, who wants to fight for the right of states to discriminate all they want to.  It would be another step on the road to equality for sure, but the real battle is of course at the federal level.

Let's remember the kind of justices any Republican president would appoint in the next four years when the Supreme Court would hear California's Prop 8 case, too.

Fire Walker Chronicles, Part 10

The massive political game of chicken that is the recall effort against Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker (working title? Recall: The Electoral Opera)  entered a new phase as former GOP State Senator and Republican-friendly judge J. Mac Davis ruled in favor of the Governor as expected, saying now that the burden of vetting the recall petition signatures now falls on the state's election officials and not Walker.
The ruling by Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis came in a case filed Dec. 15 by Walker's campaign committee and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, asking Davis to order the accountability board to seek out and eliminate duplicate and fictitious signatures and illegible addresses in recall petitions.
Davis, who refused to enter injunctions in the case, based his decision on his interpretation of state law, more than on equal protection arguments brought up by the Republicans. He also said that the board must take "reasonable" efforts to eliminate such signatures.
Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the board, said after the hearing that his organization would have to discuss the decision to see what it needed to change in procedures already in place.
In court, Kennedy testified that entering signatures into a database to look for duplicates could take eight extra weeks for his staff, and could cost $94,000 for software and outside help.
Steven M. Biskupic, attorney for the Republicans, argued that not catching invalid signatures violated the constitutional rights to equal protection of people who chose not to sign recall petitions.
The second-best part is now that Democrats will be blamed for the bill after the Republicans sued in a heavily Republican county in front of a judge that was a former Republican state senator.  The best part is that if the board manages to get all the signatures processed and certifies them, it will be a massive Obama/ACORN conspiracy because the signatures weren't vetted by Walker's people.

Win-win for the Kochs, frankly.

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

When I was in my early teens, something terrible happened to our family.  I won't bore you with the story, it wouldn't mean much if you weren't there.  I was young and had no frame of reference to help me process those events.  I became angry, then sad, then resigned to the inevitable.  But when I was at a low, my mother told me something that changed me forever, and equipped me to deal with things this crazy old world was going to throw at me.

"You don't have any power over what is," she said.  "You only have power over yourself."  That has helped me so much in life.  Instead of fighting reality, I only have to make myself handle it the best way possible.  We cannot change death, sadness or loss.  We can, however, decide how we will react to it, and how we process it.  This is different than sticking our head in the sand, or refusing to fight for a better outcome.  It means we need to realize any illusion of control we have is just that.  We are only responsible for ourselves.

Recently, Lifehacker decided to run a piece that reinforces what I know to to be true.  I thought I'd share it with you.

When things aren't working the way you want them to, or you feel you're surrounded by problems, it can be tempting to look outward and try to change the things that you feel are causing issues. Chances are the issues you're facing aren't so cut and dry. The solution to the problem might just be your attitude. That's what pastor and educator Charles R. Swindoll believes:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.

We forget that we can choose who and how we are going to be. It's easy to blame outside circumstances for who we are, but even in the face of the best or worst life has to offer, how we react is our ultimate declaration of who we are.  Life is full of choices, but how we choose to look at the world is the foundation of how we will survive in it.  Sometimes, rather than try to change the circumstances we should try to change ourselves instead.  As I get older, I have noticed the same as Mr. Swindoll.  I have made a concentrated effort to focus on the positive, and I have tried to work with what I am given instead of demanding something else.  It has made me happier, and in the last year I have enjoyed more success than in the other years combined.

It's something to think about, at least.

When A Report Card Has More To Say

This snippet from a Huffington Post article made me stop and think.  I do not have kids of my own, but I am extremely involved with my nieces and nephews.  One of the things I try hardest to teach them is how to honor themselves while staying within appropriate boundaries.  I want them to use that creative child mindset to come up with fresh, uncluttered views and bring their unique perspective to problems.

For example, I was looking at my living room this Christmas, trying to decide how to arrange the furniture so everything fit.  I am not great with spatial relationships, and I had a piece of paper and was working it out when my niece came up and asked what I was working on.  I explained, and she took a few steps back to the doorway and looked at my room like she had never seen it before.  She then asked why I didn't move my couch so it sat in front of the fireplace (the one that has never been lit in all our years in this house).  It was the right solution, and we used it.  Because I was being too rigid in my thinking I would have never arrived at that conclusion.  In my fixed brain, one simply did not do that.  However, the finished result was perfect and if you didn't know there had been a fireplace there, the high-backed couch would have never let one know otherwise. I would have never arrived at the one solution that made everything work.

The "minus" mark was next to the "Follows directions" category and, according to the teacher, my daughter is very good at following directions about classroom routines (sitting quietly during story time, cleaning up before snack time, etc). When it comes to completing certain art or craft projects, however, "she likes to do things her own way," explained the teacher.

The incident in question had to do with a picture of a monkey. The teachers wanted the kids to color the monkey brown. My daughter wanted to color it red. The lesson was not about color identification, but rather about animals who live in the jungle.

If my husband had been at the conference with me, he would have gotten a cheering high-five. Seriously, I think that is the best criticism I have ever heard and may just merit a trip out for ice cream. I did muzzle myself long enough to verify with the teacher that my daughter expressed her artistic preferences in a respectful manner. When this was confirmed, I danced a silent jig, knowing that my little one has a mind of her own and likes to exercise it.

I worry that this instinct for out-of-the-box thinking and personal self-expression is often socialized right out of kids -- especially girls who are taught that being "good" means "going along." I felt joyful this morning learning that my girl still has her mojo.

Indeed, this mother was spot on. She made sure her daughter was still appropriate in her behavior, but encouraged her to be different in ways that were special for her and not detrimental to the goal. She is right that we are conditioning our kids to blend in rather than stand out, and that is a disservice to creative people who have a lot to offer. If you go back through history, the people who solved global problems and led revolutions that improved mankind often did so working against the established order of things. Being different may make for a slightly more difficult life, but it paves the way for success and lets us each shine in our own way.  That is more important that using the colors that a teacher suggests.  That is the key to a lifelong accomplishment.

Wrapped Up By The End Of The Month?

If Public Policy Polling's latest results from South Carolina are accurate (and PPP is usually pretty close from my experience) then as Josh Marshall points out Mitt Romney may have the nomination wrapped up by the end of the month.

There’s a real dearth of polling data out of South Carolina at the moment. The last public poll was completed on December 19th, which might as well be a hundred years ago. And remember that in recent years, it’s South Carolina much more than Iowa or New Hampshire where you really need to win to secure the Republican nomination.

We know that Public Policy Polling is currently in the field in the state. And they’ve just tweeted a few polling morsels from there first night of polling. And the first night shows Mitt Romney ahead by 10 points in the state, with Gingrich and Santorum battling for second.

It seems very likely that Romney will win convincingly in New Hampshire. If he then goes on to score a clear win in South Carolina, that would likely be pretty much it in terms of a real battle for the nomination

Gingrich had big leads in both South Carolina and Florida in December.  If Gingrich has crashed and burned there as hard as he did in Iowa, and people start coming around to Romney as the inevitable candidate, by the time we get Florida's results on February 1 it's entirely possible that a Romney win will be a foregone conclusion.

And the reason that may happen is Citizens United, pure and simple.  Romney has the backing of SuperPACs that are injecting millions into the race right now on his behalf, just as the rest of the field is sputtering and running out of cash.   Meanwhile, Romney has plenty of his own fortune left to fight with too.  A blitz of negative ads from these Super PACs basically won Iowa for Romney and the other candidates simply can't compete with that sustained level of bombardment.

If South Carolina and Florida go the same way, and what this PPP result showing Romney going from down by 20 in SC to up by 10 means is that the Palmetto State is responding to the ad blitz there, this really could be over by the first of February.  There will be tremendous pressure at that point for everyone else to then fall into lockstep behind Romney and start going after President Obama.

We'll see how the rest of the month turns out, but right now, everything's coming up Mittens.


Related Posts with Thumbnails