Romney had me right up to the stop the rise of the oceans quip…

August 31, 2012

I’m a sucker for a good political speech.

As I drove my truck up Interstate 5 last night I listened to Mitt Romney’s speech at the Republican Convention. He had me right up the line where he mocked President Obama for promising to “slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet”.  He added: “My promise is to help you and your family”.

Shame on you Mr. Romney for pandering to the know nothings of your party, those who repudiate — or as Sarah Palin might say, “refudiate” — science.

I suppose you could say the implication is that mere mortals cannot hope to control God’s creation, but they can do something about the way they conduct their own lives or about the way their elected government acts. But did not God give us brain power above that of other animals? Are we to despoil God’s creation?

Also, Romney did not mention Afghanistan, where the Obama administration continues to conduct war, but he sharply criticized Obama for not being tough enough and not showing American strength and leadership.

Actually, I think, I would hope, that Mr.Romney is intelligent enough to know that preserving the planet is paramount, but of course he also knows that we can’t simply halt everything we do to make a living and survive in the name of the environmental cause. We have to both survive and preserve our planet. But the political reality is that he has to cave in to the far right know nothings or the shortsighted.

I did not get a chance to see or hear Clint Eastwood, but reading and hearing all the reports, some think he went off the deep end, some think he is senile, and still others think he delivered an ingeniously creative performance. I’ll have to get back to that, after looking up the full video. I have seen some excerpts.

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UPDATE:   Well now I have watched nearly all of the Clint Eastwood video and I found it  presents a muddled message, and although in my original post here I indicated he had said something for pulling troops out of Afghanistan, I no longer am sure what he meant. I think he just took a cheap shot at President Obama, who one has to admit has not found much success there. I don’t know what Eastwood’s view is nor do I know what Romney’s is.

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I will say, and I have said this before, and will say it again: You avoid war at all costs. But once the decision is made you fight to win and don’t pull any punches. Did we not drop two atomic bombs on Japan? We meant business. The leaders of the United States, Republican and Democrat, no longer have the guts to fight war to win.

Gone are men such as Generals Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, and presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman (although he faltered in Korea, but so did Eisenhower for settling for less than victory there.)

To me, fighting a war but settling for less than total victory is a sin, as bad as going to war needlessly.

Romney did, I think, manage to portray himself as more human with all of his folksy talk of family life. And I felt he really meant this stuff. But I doubt he is any more loving of his family than Barack Obama.

The Republicans have made this election out as a struggle for the soul of America between socialism on one side and free will and free enterprise and democracy on the other. I don’t think that is quite accurate, although I grant Democrats push harder for various socialistic type programs within our free enterprise and democratic (small d) society.

I think that despite the necessary political rhetoric we have essentially two moderates running against each other, the Democrat and incumbent President Obama, and the moderate always willing to bend his positions Republican Romney.

As far as I can see both are good men (of course Romney is the hard-nosed business man who would be ready to fire you and Obama is the condescending college intellectual at times).

Romney in my mind has still not made the case as to why he would be a better president, except that he feels that anything you can do to help business is good for America.

I’m sure a lot of folks were sold on that, right up to the great crash of 2008.


Obama or Romney, if only there was a third option…

August 29, 2012

I don’t know what will really happen when I get into the voting booth (well, when I fill out my absentee ballot at home) next November, but as of now I am inclined to look for a third option even though I realize that is probably a vote for the guy I don’t really want to win. I am not impressed with either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. But then again, so far Romney has neither said nor indicated anything that would make me think he would be better than the incumbent president.

It’s a little dismaying to say the least that Romney appears to be falling back on the Richard Nixon Southern Strategy, that is take advantage of the deep reservoir of racism and fear among the white populace and the suspicion of intellectualism and science. But as I understand it Romney feels forced to do this because the thought is that he has to capture the majority of the white vote or he does not win. Minorities and the poor or less well off are not inclined to like his politics. Romney used to be a moderate and in his heart I am relatively sure he still is, but he has wanted the presidency for so long that he just feels a man has got to do what he has to do.

I guess Romney has also had to embrace the anti-abortion cause and keep the illegal workers out cause for the same reasons mentioned above. Ironically, it is often Republican businessmen who hire illegal workers. And ironically it is those who decry government intrusion on our personal lives who speak out the loudest on what women can do to control the reproduction process (well we know one almost sure method, but that does not seem acceptable). 

While I think the Republicans have a point on out-of-control government spending (but they are just as much to blame) I have to disagree with them on the notion that government is always bad and never gets anything right. We have to have government for civilization and those who criticize it so heavily would not know what to do if we did not have it to keep the peace and protect us from foreign invaders, educate the populace (yeah, there is private education but if all those who could not afford it just went stupid we’d be in a heck of a fix), build roads (okay maybe the Ron Pauls want every street and highway a private toll road), provide health and safety oversight (as in contaminated food recalls and water purity regulations and enforcement), and the courts, and probably most important of all to the haves, keeping records of who owns what, and so on.

Also the big bad government keeps those Social Security checks and Medicare payments coming and neither Republicans nor Democrats dare mess too much with that, despite some dangerous rhetoric from the GOP side.

But again, I think the Republicans have a point in that you just can’t keep spending more money than you take in and that the only way to control out-of-control spending is to cut back on the overall spending.

It seems to me that if there is to be any kind of government stimulus, though, either in the form of direct subsidies or tax breaks, it ought to be for industry, preferably with the emphasis, but not limited to, heavy industry. Agriculture also needs to be promoted. It is our remaining strength area in production. Unfortunately, over the years ag subsidies have gotten out of control and therefore have gotten a bad name. But we do need to have some kind of minimum protection of this valuable endeavor. We are fortunate to have the natural resources and area to support it and should make the most of it.

To hear the Republicans tell it, everyone who gets food stamps or other public assistance drives a Cadillac to go pick them up. There area always cases of fraud, but we all know that is not the norm. Public assistance is out of hand because for one reason cutbacks in spending have stripped welfare departments of the resources for checking up on their clients (we used to say “recipients”). Also, job training programs are always being cut back. Actually, industry should be taxed specifically to pay for job training programs and then able-bodied folks on assistance should be required to take part in these programs to get assistance. End of story on that one.

And just as the Bible says: there will always be the poor among us. And we know there will always be the unemployed. In fact, with the lighting advance of technology that continues to displace human workers this will continue to be a vexing problem. I personally think that workers would do well to invest in their own form of unemployment insurance, either through some private investment means and/or some alternative (legal one that is) to the regular job. People growing up today are going to need to be multi-skilled no doubt. And maybe workers should pay part of the premium for their government unemployment insurance. As of now, employers are taxed for that (it probably should be both).

But the one thing that really bothers me in choosing between tweedle dee and tweedle dum is that neither candidate gives me the hope that the U.S. will extricate itself from the wars and militaristic intrigues (drone attacks) that are draining our economy and killing off or maiming for life a portion of our population and making us look ugly in the eyes of the world. Don’t get me wrong. I am in support of a strong defense, offense, not so much, with the exception that once committed to a justified war of self defense, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

Maybe the coming debates between Obama and Romney will bring things more clearly into focus.

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CLARIFICATION:

In my original version of this post I used quote marks on the Bible passage, but have now omitted them since it was not necessarily exact word for word, just the idea. So in the interest of accuracy and to avoid contextual confusion or argument I omit the quote marks.


Ryan sums up the differences in political philosophy…

August 29, 2012

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan just said something to the effect that a Romney/Ryan administration would move government away from the role of sharing wealth to that of championing the cause of those who create wealth — oh, and he added those who need jobs. You see, they get their jobs from those who create wealth, I guess the thinking is.

I think maybe he has at least successfully summed up the philosophical difference between the two sides.

Whether admitted or not “redistribution of wealth” is a principle that has guided much tax and economic policy over these past many decades.

(Polls continue to show that a majority of Americans think the rich should shoulder more of the tax burden, which I think falls under the category of redistributing wealth.)

The idea is that in olden times the wealth tended to stay at the top, simply passed from one generation to the other. In many countries, even in the U.S., to an extent, if you were born to a lower class, you tended to stay there because there was no opportunity. The deck was stacked against you.

Some say, though, that is tending to be the case once more.

The fact is, though, the vast majority of people end up simply working for someone else, a small business owner or a corporation maybe. Their upward mobility is in wages and maybe tax breaks (hence tax breaks for the middle class or middle class working people, middle class not being an exact label).

Even though the Democrats get support from the business sector, their big strength has been among working people.

(Working people is a broad category and I suppose includes working professionals who do not own their own business.)

The GOP is trying to convince working people that their benevolent bosses are the wealth creators who make everything possible so therefore, ipso facto, they should support the GOP.

Meanwhile, the vested interests with their lobbying money take hold of nearly anyone who gets in power. I’m talking primarily below the presidential level, where the laws are written. The president in reality just signs or vetoes them (well he proposes and promotes too) .

I suppose the reason people succumb to lobbyists is that besides handing out outright bribes, they also can generate favorable or unfavorable publicity for a politician with all their money. Politicians depend upon large money donations too.

Ron Paul was noted for big-time fund raising primarily via relatively small donations — he is not in the running anymore.

Obama supposedly got a lot of relatively small donations last election, but he also got a lot of huge ones and is depending upon them now.

And the lobbyist support pays dividends for the donors. Wall Street got a bailout. Big labor got a bailout via the auto company bailouts, con men solar energy creators got part of the government largesse and so on.

But there really is an underlying question of what is the proper role of government and how can it represent the interests of all the people when we have such a diversity of interests. Not all business people really have the same interests and certainly not all people who work for employers (working people) have the same interests.

Sometimes or often, circumstances, some as of yet unknown event, change the outcome of elections. Often it is a gaffe or series of gaffes or crazy visuals, such as a small man with seemingly oversized military headgear (a CVC helmet) riding in a tank, or a well meaning, but slightly out of touch upper crust man marveling at supermarket check out scanners.

And then there is the likeability factor.

President Barack Obama: not so hard to like, except he may be wearing on you by this time or maybe you just don’t like him or his kind (whatever you want that last thing to mean).

Mitt Romney: seems like a lot of people, even his own party, have a hard time warming up to him (his wife had to go on nationwide TV to claim she loves him and that he is lovable). But they have chosen him because they think maybe he can win. Ironic, yes.

But barring the as of yet unforeseen, it would seem to me that just like I told my son-in-law: you might believe in the principles of one party but find that the other represents your own interests. I think people tend to vote their own interests or what they perceive as their own interests at the time (people are of course subject to being misled).


Neil Armstrong’s out-of-this-world feat reminds me of how one can get caught up in the smallness of the personal world

August 26, 2012

First Man on the Moon dies at 82:

 

With the word of the death of American Astronaut and first man to step foot on the moon Neil Armstrong, I realize how 43 years ago I had let the insignificant take over in my life.

Stuck in my own predominantly self-imposed exile from the world or from world events I missed out on most of the excitement of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. And that’s strange, because I was one who was cognizant of worldly matters from an early age.

While much of the world looked on or listened closely on that day in July of 1969 to the news coverage of the moon landing, I was out on a U.S. Army field exercise in Germany worrying about how I could communicate with my fellow tank crewmen.

I mean, think of all the super technology it took to put Armstrong up there and here I was on planet earth and I the driver of the 52-ton tank and could neither hear nor speak directly to the other crew members because the coiled cord, called a spaghetti cord, that carried the received and transmitted voices in my tanker’s helmet, was malfunctioning. The others had to yell at me or maybe nudge me with their feet to relay directions from the tank commander, who had the only clear field of vision. I was really bummed and thought this inconvenience was ruining my whole day.

(Ironically my good friend and tank gunner, whose name I will omit to protect his innocence of ever being associated with me, was an expert on things electronic and at one point was given the job of repairing those helmets when the radio and intercom function went haywire. But we had no extra spaghetti cords with us.)

If you have read this far, by this time you are thinking: here a great man has died and I am writing about something quite trivial. Well that is the point of this little essay:

I often am amazed at how some people seem nearly oblivious to the world around them and only concentrate on their own doings.

But I guess that is how I was back then. I had joined the Army and had realized in maybe the first five minutes that it was probably not for me. I mean everyone was so nice and polite before I signed the final papers and took the oath — things turned ugly after that.

So much yelling.

However, I was fortunate in being eventually sent to Germany where peace reigned, rather than Vietnam were the bullets were flying and soldiers were not just playing army.

(And I have thought about this the rest of my life.)

I was not completely oblivious to it all back on that day. I did hear the news and thought some about it. I was and am proud to be an American.

While with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we know now that our cause in Vietnam was dubious at best and just flat-out wrong at worst, back then we were America who had fairly recently saved the world from tyranny and now we had put a man on the moon. We could do anything.

And while I am not a big government fan per se, I have to realize we did all this through, well, big government. The greatest power in the world by definition is going to have a big government.

Today we still hang on as the predominant world power, but we are in danger of losing that mantle by getting caught up in the self possessiveness of our own lives and listening to the siren call of those who would manipulate things to satisfy their own greed, implying that we each would benefit just as they would (probably not).

Sure one has to look out for one’s self and one’s family first, but there is a world out there, and we did not obtain the freedom and relative security we have in an often violent world by always splintering in different directions.

It’s united we stand, divided we fall.

Well, this piece probably should have been about the late and great Neil Armstrong, but I know so little about him. Apparently, from what I read about him now, he was a fairly modest and private man. I think maybe he did not have to extol his own virtues, rather they spoke for themselves.

And maybe that is how the United States of America should be. Just be great and good and let that fact speak for itself.

So, thank you Mr. Armstrong. You had the right stuff (credit author Tom Wolfe for that phrase in this context).

 P.s.

So was the landing on July 20 or 21? I have read both dates in the coverage. And I guess it depends upon where you were in the world, and what day was it on the moon? I mean what is moon time? Outer space and the galaxies and what was there before it all began is too much for me to comprehend.


Can Romney/Ryan sell the idea that trimming the safety net will help everyone?

August 19, 2012

I haven’t been churning out posts with much frequency lately, even though I would like to keep up with the presidential race. At this point I can’t see so clearly how it is going, except that it seems like it is still neck and neck.

I understand the polls show that Republican candidate Mitt Romney did not get much of a boost from the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, but on the other hand, I see that Romney is ahead in the key battleground state of Florida, according to at least the Rasmussen poll. And it seems that the Ryan selection is indeed turning the contest into an economic philosophy debate (well more or more specifically than it has been), and since nothing seems to be working right now, the electorate just might be willing to listen.

(I interject. My own personal economics, as modest as they are, are just fine, but that always seems to be the case with me. When it is said times are good I don’t see it and when they are supposed to be rough, not necessarily for me.)

One might think that because the Republican Ryan is known for his proposed budget plan that among other things cuts back on social programs and would do away with Medicare as we know it, that seniors, in particular, might be concerned. But Ryan has turned this on its head and charges that actually President Obama’s health care law, known widely as “Obamacare”, actually makes cutbacks in Medicare to pay for itself. Also it is charged that Medicare at its present rate is due to run out of money in the not-so-distant future.

Of course, as everyone knows, the Republicans like to go light on social programs, except they tend to vote to retain them when they hear from their constituents. All those self-made men (and women) don’t want to give up their Social Security and Medicare. You see they paid into it all these years (and think for some reason no one else did). Well everyone pays for these things. Have you ever seen the withholding on your paycheck? And if you are a renter, have you ever been told by your landlord that the rent has to be increased to pay the taxes?

Even though I think there is a lot of hypocrisy and double talk in all of this, as I have stated on this site before, I do think it is healthy to have a debate about competing philosophies of government.

Even though the Republicans decry big government and object to government being involved in everything, it has been my observation that really they just mean they want government to be involved in supporting business interests as opposed to being a safety net for the downtrodden (are there no debtor prisons? No charitable missions to feed the poor?).

The Democrats are a mixed bag of interests but are more in favor of promoting social programs. They claim to support “working people”. But really that often means big labor. For my part, even though I realize labor unions have historically lifted the wages for both their members as well as non members (companies sometimes feel forced to pay more just to keep their employees from going union or going to another job), I don’t necessarily see all their activities as promoting the interest of non-union working people, and not everyone wants to be in a union or can for that matter. Because of the nature of a job or the geography or size of a company and other reasons, not all jobs are open to unionization.

But back to the presidential race specifically.

Barring any unforeseen international thing or other unexpected event, I would imagine it is going to be the state of the economy or perceived state in the weeks or days leading up to the voting that will be the decisive factor.

Romney and Ryan will have to convince enough people — primarily the so-called swing voters — that somehow slashing social programs and helping people who don’t need help will somehow foster a better economy for everyone (and I know I just wrote a sentence biased against them, but really that it what it seems).

It’s the old Reagan trickle down trick. Those who did well in his time say it worked. Others not so much.

Really a whole lot of the economic problems are beyond a president and even beyond the government’s ability to fully handle, it seems to me anyway. But the president can provide leadership and the government structure.

Also, after so many people went broke by running up their credit cards and paying too much for houses at absurdly inflated values, they are more likely to be amenable to the argument that the government should not spend more than it takes in (and really most of us can’t argue with that, except I guess there are economic theories, namely Keynesian, that suggest otherwise).

The government has been deficit spending, as it is called, for decades under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

I find it interesting that a story I read over the past day says that Ryan’s personal business interests have benefited largely from government contracts — you know from that government that is too big. Why am I not surprised?

That aside, there is some evidence, I think, that the Ryan selection will force Obama to defend his spending ways and be more specific about how he is going to fix in his second term what he could not in his first.

P.s.

Even though reports over the past day or so indicate top-of-the-ticket candidate Romney (or his staff) wants Ryan to just look good and say little, and although Ryan vows to simply support Romney’s proposals (as vague as they often are), it seems to me that really in the news reporting it’s almost like Romney pointing to his new more vocal sidekick and saying “what he said”, figuratively speaking, that is.


Ryan probably a good pick for Romney, but then I thought McCain was wise to pick Palin (and I don’t care for any of them)

August 11, 2012

While I am not a Mitt Romney fan I think he has made the correct choice for a running mate, U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

But then I thought McCain had delivered a master stroke by picking Sarah Palin — I had never heard of her and only saw her acceptance speech and it seemed to contain the appropriate Republican talking points. I figured McCain could counter the possibility of the first black president with the possibility that a woman could have a chance at the job (if something happened to McCain or if she ran for the top job after McCain finished his term or terms).

And I emphasize that I am no fan of Romney, and in fact I think I only voted for a Republican once in my life — but I keep waiting for them to give me a good excuse to vote for them anyway. I try to be open-minded.

That aside, although I know little about Ryan, I know he is a power player in Washington and was the author of the Republican budget proposal that would gut social programs and provide tax breaks for the rich — the Republican base eats that up.

And it may be that enough voters will see that Ryan is serious about cutting the deficit even if it does cause widespread suffering and that is the medicine that is needed — sometimes the cure or treatment seems as bad as the disease.

Really, then, maybe it is Ryan who should have run for president. But he is a young upstart (well kind of like Obama was) and needs an older man with a recognizable name to get him close to the White House.

Just read a story that said this will change the debate away from Romney’s summer of gaffes and attacks against his rich lifestyle and his refusal thus far to fully release tax returns.

The debate will be on what is going to be done for the economy — ala Clinton’s, It’s the Economy Stupid.

A key provision in the Ryan budget plan is to slash Medicare and such government social programs. So many people depend upon them. And the party affiliation has no bearing on the need for them or whether someone will take advantage of them.

The only difference as I see it is that when a conservative takes advantage of a government program, he or she will feel and probably say outright that he or she deserves it and paid into it through the years via taxes. They imply that everyone else who gets the same benefits is somehow a freeloader.

There is an honest debate, though, in which voters are asked to decide whether we should move more towards forms of socialism, which we already have to some degree, or whether we should move more towards, well for lack of a better or more appropriate description, everyone on their own.

It seems to me through the years American voters have chosen a middle ground.

And actually, even though the Republicans would deny this, the Democrat and President Obama is more middle of the road or at least he has taken that approach, maybe thinking that was the only way he could accomplish anything.

Hopefully as the election draws ever nearer the debate will move away from wild accusations (from both sides) and silliness to seriousness and a more sober discussion, especially on the economic front. Or maybe that is too much to hope for.

P.s.

Right now my hunch is that Obama is going to get his second term, but that is right now.


Climate change debate filtered through ideology but public may see through it…

August 9, 2012

Just read a newspaper column (on the internet of course) that said there is research that indicates the majority of the public actually believes there is  climate change (formerly called “global warming”) but may disagree on the current severity of it, while there is a minority at both extremes, one thinking it is the end and the other that climate change does not exist (or it is just a simple and natural fluctuation of weather patterns).

(I had to re-read the column to figure out whether it was trying to say that most people believe climate change is man-created or augmented, but the implication is that they do and want their leaders to do something about it. Maybe in my haste to post this I did not represent the message of the column quite right, but what I really am trying to say is that it seems most people know something is wrong and that somehow we can and need to do something about it.)

And of course some people aren’t even aware of the problem or perceived problem. These people don’t really count, though.

But a line in the column intrigued me, something about the ongoing debate between the Fox News public and NPR public.

We all know that Fox is slanted toward the right wing who finds it economically and politically convenient to ignore or dispute climate change and we all know that NPR would most likely align itself with progressive thought that would naturally tend toward saving the environment even if it is inconvenient and costs money in the near term. And then there is the fact that NPR is not above pointing fingers of blame at commercial interests, while Fox would naturally tend to resist that.

It is really too bad most of the information disseminated to the general public comes through ideological filters.

What we need is truth, free of the slant of politics and ideology.

On the one hand, we don’t want to go overboard and pass and enforce needless regulations that hamper everyday business and life and on the other hand we don’t want the farm that feeds us (using metaphor here) to blow away in dust bowl fashion because we don’t want to give an inch to those attuned to the environment, who just might be lefties.

I was interested to hear a news report that said something about soft drink makers taking steps to preserve water supplies. Sounds kind of environmental. But if water is the main ingredient for your product, then it makes business sense (not to mention water is a necessary element for life itself).

You know, the public may be on board in this quest to figure out what to do about climate change and business people will be too as if affects their bottom line.

It may be the politicians who are not up to speed.

They are hampered by the fact that they are sometimes afraid to say what they really think or know because they fear alienating groups of potential voters.

It’s too bad that our decision makers go by votes more than evidence.

And it is too bad that some who want to push an ideological or political agenda on both the left and right use this very real problem as a tool to achieve political goals.

P.s.

I am not really up on the science of it all and I understand there have always been cycles of hot and cold and wet and dry weather, but from what I have read so far, most scientists agree that what we are seeing now is indeed a major earth climate change, affected to a large degree by man-produced carbons in the atmosphere. Even some skeptics in the field of science have now accepted that there is a major climate change taking place.

I give you the link to the article I read that prompted this post:

http://www.omaha.com/article/20120808/NEWS/708089922/1694#grace-climate-change-is-here-so-let-s-talk