Saturday, February 18, 2012

More Santorum extremism

Several years ago, Rick Santorum claimed that "Protestantism left Christianity."

Now he's saying that Obama's agenda is "not based on the Bible."  He calls it a "phony ideal.  Some phony theology . . .  A different theology."

When asked later if he was saying that Obama is not a Christian, he declined to go that far.  But he held to his statement that Obama's values "run counter to Christianity."

This doesn't sound very far from advocating a Roman Catholic theocracy.   Republicans better wake up and realize who they've elevated to front-runner status . . .  and think again.

On the other hand, maybe we should just keep quiet;  let them nominate him.   It ought to be pretty safe.   I can't believe the American people would elect him president.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shutting out Newt

The campaigns of Romney, Santorum, and Paul have all announced that they will not participate in the next scheduled debate in Atlanta on March 1st.  Consequently CNN has cancelled the debate.

This effectively shuts Newt out.   He's the one who wants more debates, because that's where he has picked up momentum from his crowd-pleasing bombast and quick-on-his-feet rhetoric.

There are plenty of other reasons for not having the debate:  there have already been far too many;  it takes time away from other campaigning activities.

But my guess is that robbing Newt of a platform is the major factor.   Look to him to begin excoriating his opponents for being "afraid" to debate him.

Someone said it:   the most effective way to deal with someone like Newt, with his cosmic ego and narcissistic grandiosity, is to ignore him.    That's what they're doing.

But Newt can go a long way on rage and vendetta.   As long as a millionaire or two finance him, he will surely keep going.   But his continued 3rd and 4th place showings are likely to dry that up soon.


"There's good news tonight, folks."

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to the lowest point in almost four years last week, the latest signal that the job market is steadily improving.

This weekly reporting comes on top of the monthly report at the end of January, which was the fifth straight month of declining unemployment, to 8.3% nationally.

If this trend continues, it can only be good news for Obama's re-election chances.  Add to that the chaos and badly scarred candidates in the GOP primaries -- and he should have an easy time.

Another indicator reported two days ago:   Obama is leading in a one to one match-up with each of the Republican candidates in ALL of the ten swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin).   This was reported by FoxNews from its own polling data.

In aggregate of these states, Obama leads Romney by 47% to 30%;  Gingrich by 52% to 32%;  Santorum by 48% to 39%;  and Paul by 48% to 36%.

Interesting, Santorum is closest (-9%) followed by Paul (-12%), then Romney (-17%) and Gingrich brings up the rear (-20%).

Obama's approval rating has now returned to a net positive (48.7% approve; 46.2% disapprove) for the first time since last summer.

So . . . "There is good news tonight, folks !"    That was the longed-for, familiar phrase that we waited to hear, huddled in front of the radio during World War II, as Gabriel Heater reported the nightly news from the war fronts. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Better take a look at what Santorum stands for

Rick Santorum is riding the crest of the latest -- and perhaps the most threatening -- wave of sudden popularity, as conservative voters are still looking for their "not Romney" candidate.   He's now leading Romney both in national polls and in Michigan -- which was supposed to be almost uncontestably in Romney's column.   His father was former governor of Michigan.

This is the same phenomenon we've seen over and over -- Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich -- when some hot issue or a good debate performance gives people the feeling:  "There he is !!"   This is followed by a surge in the polls.   The next step is for his record and his baggage to be spotlighted -- and then the surge plummets.

Everyone seems to agree that Santorum is sincere, that he is committed, that he really really believes what he says.  He has strong convictions and he stick to them.   No dancing around, pretending to be something you're not.  That's appealing in itself.

But what is it he believes?   What is it he wants to do, as president?   Aye, there's the rub.  Here's a list, compiled by Think Progress blog, with my additional thoughts in brackets.

"Rick Santorum's Top 10 Most Outrageous Campaign Statements"

      1.  He promises to "annul" all same-sex marriages, because they "destabilize society."  [But Massachusetts has had same-sex marriage for 6 years now;  and they still have the lowest divorce rate of any state.  The same year it became legal in MA, Oklahoma amended its constitution to outlaw gay marriage.  Six years later, OK still has the highest divorce rate of any state.  And what about States Rights, which most conservatives champion -- or did when it was about race.  Still, he wants to overrule state laws, by presidential fiat?]

2.  "I'm for income inequality.  I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.”
[I don't know anyone who argues with that, but it misses the point.  The controversy is about all the deregulation and favorable tax breaks that help the wealthy, shifting a bigger burden to the middle class and forcing the elimination of safety net benefits for the poor.  "Income inequality" is one feature of this, but no one is seriously talking about forcing income equality.   This country has long had a progressive tax policy, supported by Republicans as well as Democrats.   But in recent years, loopholes and deregulations have offset much of the gains.  Most people think a strong middle class, protection of minority rights, and help for those in need -- are all vital for a democracy.   That's what this issue is really about.] 

3.  Santorum has pledged to repeal all federal funding for contraception and allow the states to outlaw birth control, insisting that "it's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
    [That is an exact quote.  It needs no further comment.]

4.  He wants to reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell, saying that gay soldiers would disrupt the military because “they’re in close quarters, they live with people, they obviously shower with people.”

["They" shower with "people"?????    What kind of aliens does he think gay people are?  But the military says this has not been a problem.  Santorum is projecting his own homophobia.  The military has already adjusted and moved on.  Santorum seems to be terrified of same sex feelings.] 

5.  Obama should oppose abortion because he's black.  His reasoning here is a little garbled, but it seems to be the idea that abortion was once seen as a way to decrease the black population.  And black people should be especially sensitive to authorities deciding who gets aborted.  “I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people,” he explained.
[Just let the racism in that remark sink in.  No further comment.]

6.  Speaking in Iowa in December, Santorum promised to significantly reduce federal funding for food stamps, arguing that the nation’s increasing obesity rates prove the food stamp program is unnecessary.
[I guess poor people can just survive off of their stored fat deposits, huh?  Solve two problems at once.   Nice thinking, Rick.]

7.  He would not allow exceptions for abortions to protect the life and health of the mother, because all such exceptions are "phony."   
 [Except the ones in which pregnancy is, in fact, life-threatening.  But Dr. Santorum knows better than medical experts.]
8.  He claims that Obama is trying to move us to "socialized medicine;"  and his daughter, who was born with a genetic abnormality wouldn't survive under such a system, because they     don't give the same medical care to children like her.
[Ask the people of France about that.  On the other hand, his daughter has almost died several times and wasn't expected to live this long -- and the miracle of prayer keeps saving her.   Why won't prayer just keep on working, regardless of our health care system?]

9.  Health care is a luxury.  Answering a question about the uninsured, Santorum explained that health care, like a car, is a luxury resource that is rationed by society and recalled the  story of a woman who said she was spending $200 a month on life-saving prescriptions. Santorum told her to stop complaining and instead lower her cable and cell phone bills.

[He's all heart, this guy.  Wonder why he didn't also tell her to pray for better health so she wouldn't need the medicine?]

 10.  Insurers should have the right to exclude -- or increase the rates -- for people with preexisting conditions, "because it costs more to cover them."
[Survival of the fittest, eh, Rick?  But what about someone who loses a job (and its insurance coverage) and has a chronic, preexisting illness?  Is that fair?]
[And I will add two more from just the past couple of days.]

11.  Women should not be allowed in military combat areas, because men "have feelings."  When men see women in danger, they have a natural feeling of wanting to protect them, so they won't be able to do the fighting job they need to do.
12.  On "This Week,"  George Stephanopolis asked him about this passage from his 2005 book:
'Sadly the propaganda campaign launched in the 1960s has taken root.  The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.' 
He claimed not to be familiar with the quote (from his own book), saying:  ''I don't know - that's a new quote for me."  Later he explained that his wife wrote that section of the book and that she had given up her career as a nurse and a lawyer to raise their children and that she felt that "many people looked down their nose at that decision."

It must exemplify their family values that his wife gets no credit for her "professional accomplishments" in writing part of his book;  her identity is the self-sacrificing mother of seven.  He did not acknowledge her in his list of people who helped with the book, much less credit her as co-author.

As to unfamiliarity with the quote from his book (whether he wrote it or not) --as has been pointed out, this same passage was a much discussed, controversial issue when he ran, and was defeated, for re-election to the Senate in 2006.

So he has a short memory, in addition to being a bundle of anxieties about sex (I haven't even mentioned his infamous comment about "man on dog sex" when he was opposing gay rights laws a while back).  Now he wants to institutional all his sexual hangups by making them official policy as president, along with institutionalizing Catholic positions on contraception, abortion, etc. -- and make the rest of us live with their restrictions.

Yes, indeed, he has strong convictions and he sticks to them.  That could be a problem.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Somebody's been reading my blog . . .

It happens rather often.   I write something in my blog (known readers of which I can count on one hand), but then a few days later someone in the national media writes something quite similar.

On Feb 4th, I wrote about "Callista's hair," concluding that it does have meaning:   in it's obsessive order and control, it's meant to balance Newt's unruly tongue and his disorganization.  Yesterday, the New York Times had a half-page article about Callista's hair, and it came to pretty much the same conclusion.

On Feb 8th, I wrote about the "Birth control brouhaha," saying that the Catholic bishops need to get over feeling unfairly treated by the Obama administration's regulations offering birth control in the health insurance for their employees.  The bishops (and opportunistic, pandering politicians) are yelling about infringement on religious freedom.

And I wrote:  I face this same problem every day when I'm forced to pay taxes that go to support unnecessary wars and the execution of death row inmates.   I don't get to choose which laws and regulations I obey -- and help pay for.   But my sense of right and wrong is just as much offended by war and capital punishment as Catholics are offended by birth control.  

So, yesterday, Zach Carter, blogger for Huffington Post, wrote about the contraceptive controversy and the Catholics:
For as long as the United States has been declaring war, there have been Americans who object to the use of violence on religious or moral grounds. Entire faiths are explicitly devoted to the total rejection of war: Quakers, Mennonites and many Pentacostal traditions, to name a few. Millions of members of other religions interpret the Sixth Commandment -- "thou shalt not kill" -- as a full ban on warfare. These people all still have to pay taxes, a tremendous percentage of which go to financing not only war, but capital punishment, a sometimes brutal prison system, and the use of violence by police forces. The U.S. government has not found their religious views to be a valid exemption from citizens' tax responsibilities.
So, there you have it.   Maybe it's just "two great minds running along the same paths."

Or maybe someone else is reading this?


Hate group really mis-fired.

Blogger Scott Wooledge writes about the "Million Moms" publicity campaign to try to frighten J. C. Penny to fire Ellen DeGeneris from her newly appointed position as spokesperson for their company.   It backfired, big time.   Here's how Wooledge tells it: 
"The LGBT community owes a great big thanks to the 'One Million Moms' (actually, closer to 40,000) for launching the best LGBT-friendly public relations blitz the community has seen in ages, and battering Christian conservative's image in a way the LGBT community could never hope to do."
The 'Million Moms,' who are more like 40,000 Moms, is a subgroup of the American Family Association, which is listed as a 'hate groups' by Southern Christian Poverty Law Center.  The "MM" group sent out an alarm to 'family values' conservatives nationwide, stating:

'. . .  The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there. . . . JC Penney has made a poor decision and must correct their mistake fast to retain loyal customers and not turn away potential new, conservative shoppers with the company's new vision. . . .'
 Wooledge continues:
"The irony is rich in another part of their release: 'Unless JC Penney decides to be neutral in the culture war then their brand transformation will be unsuccessful.'  JCPenney can only demonstrate their 'neutrality' by firing Ellen for being gay? If that's neutral, what's gay-hostile? . . .

"[I]t was the absolute absurdity of casting the innocuous, likable, almost painfully inoffensive DeGeneres as some sort of radical warrior in the deviant homosexuals' nefarious plan to destroy all things wholesome and American that really made America stop, take notice for just a moment and say, "WTF are these crazy people talking about?! Ellen? They hate Ellen? Really?! Ellen?!" . . . 

"J. C. Penny CEO Ron Johnson . . . called it a 'no-brainer' and dismissed that there was even a controversy to be debated. The Moms couldn't have looked smaller or more irrelevant when Johnson said, "[W]e stand squarely behind Ellen as our spokesperson, and that's a great thing. Because she shares the same values that we do in our company. Our company was founded 110 years ago on The Golden Rule, which is about treating people fair and square, just like you would like to be treated yourself."

Bravo, J. C. Penny and CEO Johnson;  and BRAVA, Ellen !!!!


Monday, February 13, 2012

More legalized gay marriage

Governor Chris Gregoire has just signed into law the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Washington.   This makes seven states now, plus the District of Columbia.

In addition, the New Jersey senate also just passed their bill, which now goes to the lower house that is said to have a clear majority favoring it.  However, Governor Chris Christie has said he will veto the bill.  He thinks it should be put to a referendum of the voters, not the legislators, to make this change.

Maryland has a bill in committees now, and it seems to have a fairly good chance of passing.

Two big factors are bringing about this change.

(1) As more and more gay people come out, their family and friends and work associates then know someone personally.   And that is the single biggest factor in changing people's minds about this.   That is reinforced by more positive images of gay people on TV and in the media.  It's all about replacing stereotypes with direct personal experience.

Of course, the basic thing has to have a positive valence.   In contrast, as has become a political axiom, the more people get to know Newt Gingrich, the less they like him.   Fortunately, broadly speaking, the more people get to "know someone gay," the more they like them, or -- perhaps more aptly -- the less they fear them and the less they see them as "the other."

(2)  It's also clearly a generational thing.   When poll data are reported by age categories, there is an inverse correlation between age and support for gay marriage.   The older you are, the less likely you support it.   There is overwhelming support among the youngest adults.   So each year, the support naturally grow.


How sweet it sounds . . ,

I had almost given up ever hearing these words again, but there was the headline on Talking Points Memo:
"House GOP Gives In"
The House Republicans, apparently resigned to the reality that the Democrats have the political advantage (to say nothing of the right moral and economic position) on the payroll tax cut extension.   The Repubs gave in and said they will introduce a bill that extends them for the rest of the year without requiring a pay-for provision.

Hooray !!!    This seems like a significant shift in political power.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

A disconnect

Romney won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday.  Of course this is non-binding and also of questionable validity, given that eligibility to vote is determined by registration at the conference.  The results:  Romney 38%, Santorum 31%, Gingrich 15%, Paul 12%.

Santorum cried "foul" and charged that the Romney campaign had bought up a lot of tickets and passed them out. That may be true, but that's the way these things are done, and that's why it's called a "straw" poll.  Santorum could have done the same thing.  It's perfectly legal.

More meaningful, is that a telephone poll reported the same day of self-identified conservative voters still gave Romney a 27% to 25% edge over Santorum.

But now here's the "disconnect" part.   We're also told that a Public Policy Poll of "usual Republican primary voters," conducted between Feb 9 and Feb 11, ie after the Tuesday trifecta, had these results:   Santorum 38%, Romney 23%, Gingrich 17%, Paul 13%.

So in the larger group of "usual GOP primary voters" it's Santorum 38% and Romney 23%;  but in the more concentrated group of self-identified conservatives, it's Romney 27% and Santorum 25%.

Further, in the breakdown of the PPP poll, Santorum beat Romney 53% to 15% among those who describe themselves as "very conservative" and by 51% to 12% among Tea Party members.  Gingrich falls in between the two of them in both those groups.

If Santorum had such a large margin in the PPP conservative subgroups on Thurs - Sat, why did he lose to Romney at the Conservative PAC on Saturday?

The only answer I have is "volatility" or something that happened at the CPA Convention.   Is Santorum right?   Did Romney stack the deck for the straw poll?   Even if he did, that doesn't explain Romney's lead in the national telephone poll (not the PPP) also released on Saturday.  Nate Silver has yet to comment on these polls.

It's interesting how I get so caught up in the minutiae of a campaign among hopefuls, none of whom I like, admire, or support.   On the other hand, they are choosing Obama's opponent.  So this is all just prelude to the big event.


PS:   Newt seems increasingly irrelevant in this -- although he could have another rebirth, possibly in Ohio.