Sunday, February 12, 2012

Last Call

Meanwhile, the people putting their money where their political prognostications are seem to be betting big on the President getting re-elected.  TPM has the Chart of the Day:

The most recent numbers are still around 58%-59% from this weekend: a far cry from the sub 50% numbers in October.  The President hadn't seen the north side of 60% on Intrade since last June, and was at 70% when Osama Bin Laden's death was announced last May.

Things are getting interesting, especially if you note the President's chances have jumped roughly 9-10 points in the month since New Hampshire's primary.

One Moment In Time: RIP Whitney

I don't give much thought to the phrase "rest in peace" but I can't think of a person for whom it is more appropriate.  Whitney Houston was an amazing talent, a voice that was instantly recognizable and loved by just about everyone (rare for pop stars).  She sang a version the national anthem that has been used to measure every performance since.  No offense to those who came after, but all were found lacking compared to the clarity and strength of her voice.  It truly was her song.

She was once also a fresh young girl with big hair and bigger dreams, and fell into a darker world. Her dimples and sweetness were the first things you noticed about her in pictures.  Some of it was hype to move records, but she truly was excited to sing and let you see her shining soul when in the middle of a performance.  When she would hit the note just right and her eyes would give that little roll, a look that said "yeah baby, that's what I'm talking about" that let you join in her celebration.  The lady loved to sing, and she did it well.

The sadness is that her life and career were made unnecessarily difficult by addiction to drugs.  Those bright eyes went dull, and while her voice never wavered the sweet girl was eventually replaced with a jaded woman who had seen too much suffering.  Still, we loved her so much that I truly believe after everything settles, she will be remembered for her successes rather than her failures.  Her life has served as a reminder that even the best can fall prey to addiction.  She had a team of supporters and all the money in the world, and she suffered from a problem that affects millions of people.

Maybe that's the other reason why people of my generation felt so connected to her.  Brilliant, talented, and subject to the same demons that haunt us all.  Didn't all of us want to dance with somebody who loves us?  All the girls my age wanted someone to inspire us to sing like she did in The Bodyguard.    Every single vocalist I knew swooned over One Moment In Time.  Some of us never know that feeling of seizing that one special moment, but Whitney Houston knew.  She did it with style over and over, and I hope that is what she is ultimately remembered for.

And may she truly find the peace that she was denied in this life.

The Return Of The Moose

Over at PoliticusUSA, Leah Burton believes that Sarah Palin's "brokered convention" speech at CPAC indicates she's going to be upsetting an infinite number of apple carts very soon.

I will give it to her, she did a stellar job. Her speech contained the appropriate colloquialisms that she is so known for and she did not disappoint us with her propensity for leaving the ‘g’ off of “ing” words. As much as I disagree with Palin, I am not going to diss the fact that she has an ability to raise the enthusiasm and emotion of a dedicated voting bloc that we would be remiss in ignoring. No other speaker at this convention whipped up the crowd like Sarah and she is well aware of that.

Today was Sarah’s birthday, and the adoration and chants of “Sarah! Sarah!” could not compete with any other gift that she received today.
I have said this for three years, do not count her out. Many have chastised me for taking this position, but today we saw the beginning of her “cat and mouse” game with conservative voters that can make or break the election of a nominee out of the four candidates in the running. She is well aware of this and lapping it up!

Out of the numerous dog whistles in her speech, none resonated more with my “Palin-is-going-to-run radar” than “the door is open”.

I agree completely with everything Leah says here other than the part where Palin actually throws her hat into the ring.  She doesn't have to.  But boy, people are certainly going to give her a lot of money anyway thinking that she will.

Look, this is classic Sarah Palin grifting. She's going to get a lot of attention, she's going to get on TV a lot this week, she's going to get donations to run, she's going to keep the money and she's going to have a good, long laugh about it.

The last thing Sarah Palin will ever do is run for President.  She has a good two decades plus or more of Wingnut welfare to earn from people gullible enough to think she'll run for the White House.  All she has to do to stay relevant is show up at events like this once in a while and she'll rake in millions.  That's all that she cares about.  And it's a brilliant plan.

The Makers And The Takers

Over at Balloon Juice, Mistermix points out this NY Times piece on the fact that government money is going to middle-class government-hating Tea Party types and not the poorest Americans.  It's a fascinating read, but the real issue is that behind the obvious hypocrisy, there's good ol' Puritan Shame.

The government safety net was created to keep Americans from abject poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits. A secondary mission has gradually become primary: maintaining the middle class from childhood through retirement. The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54 percent in 1979 to 36 percent in 2007, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis published last year. 

And as more middle-class families like the Gulbransons land in the safety net in Chisago and similar communities, anger at the government has increased alongside. Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

That's a load of crocodile tears, of course, as the piece goes on to explain.

But the reality of life here is that Mr. Gulbranson and many of his neighbors continue to take as much help from the government as they can get. When pressed to choose between paying more and taking less, many people interviewed here hemmed and hawed and said they could not decide. Some were reduced to tears. It is much easier to promise future restraint than to deny present needs. 

“How do you tell someone that you deserve to have heart surgery and you can’t?” Mr. Gulbranson said. 

He paused. 

“You have to help and have compassion as a people, because otherwise you have no society, but financially you can’t destroy yourself. And that is what we’re doing.” 

It's interesting to note what the real argument is here, because it's not being said.  And the real issue is there are Tea Party folks like Mr. Gulbranson of Minnesota who believe that what the government gives them is fine.  It's what the government gives all those other people that needs to be cut.   

And the even bigger issue is that the whole point of the GOP austerity movement is to demonize and "other-ize" enough of the American population so that the concept of austerity can be sold to the American public.  "It's not you who will get hurt, it's all those undeserving slobs on the dole who will be."  It exists to transfer wealth upwards to the top.  It seeks to leverage the tyranny of the majority in order to take rights from minority groups and keep them out of power so that people like Gulbranson can maintain their middle-class status.  It's literally class warfare.

Only the reality turns out to be the one percent at the top are going to take it all and leave middle-class America devastated, all over the fact the people at the top have enough money to influence people that millionaires and billionaires are the only minority class worth protecting, and that the notion that the 50%+1 of America is enough to permanently remove the rights of all other minority classes.  There's a logical endpoint to that kind of thinking, of course:

It's working, of course.  And if more folks like Mr. Gulbranson here vote and people like you don't, then they win.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page this morning is reduced to sputtering ad infinitum attacks on the President's health care rule on covering contraception, because it's basically all they have left after losing so completely.

Yesterday's new adventure in damage control and bureaucratic improvisation makes the compliance problem much worse. There is simply no precedent for the government ordering private companies to offer a product for free, even if they recoup the costs indirectly. Why not do that with all health benefits and "bend the cost curve" to zero? The shape of the final rule when the details land in the Federal Register is anyone's guess, including the HHS gnomes who are throwing it together on the fly to meet a political deadline.

Ahh, but a wiser man would notice that down the road, that's the point of the exercise.  That might give heart attacks to the WSJ's corporate readers, but for the 99% it's what the plan was all along.

Consider that the Catholic bishops have moved the goalposts again:  now their objection is that the government is violating the First Amendment rights of any employer or employee who is Catholic with birth control coverage.

The statement released by the Catholic Bishops conference said the proposal requires "careful moral analysis," saying it did not appear to offer clear protection for self-insured religious employers or religious and secular for-profit and non-profit employers.

That's the real thrust of the game here.  The Catholic Church is now saying that the only part of the Constitution that matters is "freedom of religious expression".  And let's keep in mind if it were up to the church, birth control wouldn't exist at all.

If we apply the same WSJ logic to the Bishops' argument, we'd of course get "Why have secular government at all if anyone who is Catholic might object on religious and moral grounds to what the government does?  That violates their religious liberties!"

And there are plenty of folks out there who wouldn't mind that lunatic outcome at all.
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