A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Romney Shifts Focus Away from Economy as it Continues to Grow

by pdxblake

I’m no political analyst, but the more Romney starts using the “Obama is for class warfare” and “Obama is divisive” lines, the worse his election prospects seem.  He seems to be admitting that his strategy to declare victory based on a slow economy (aided by the priority the Republicans placed on hurting Obama politically by making sure as little was done to help the economy as possible) is not working.

And that is a good thing, but it was not inevitable.  Had the economy continued to slow as was feared a month or two ago (or if the European crisis flares up in a serious enough way to hurt the economy in the US) it would have validated an awful strategy that the Republicans employed where continued slowness after a deep recession was a price worth paying to hurt Obama in an election years into the future.

It seems to be failing though, which will probably not stop the GOP from continuing to try it if Obama is re-elected.  They will still have the ammunition to do so by abusing the filibuster and killing anything that they don’t like that gets to the Senate (or shutting it down in the House if they keep their majority).  However, as long as the economy continues to grow (even slowly), it should lose some of its political appeal because it will become harder to slow the economy enough (and Obama won’t be on the ballot again).

However, by turning into a political loser, hopefully it will decrease the temptation in the future for Republican legislators to actively root for a slow economy (and do their best to make it happen).

Politics And Bedfellows, Paul Ryan / Rick Scott Edition

by evanmcmurry

Watch how far Governor Rick Scott (R-American’s Wang) gets from Paul Ryan’s voucherization of Medicare by the end of this statement:

I’m going to support a plan that makes sure our Medicare recipients – we have 3.3 million of them in Florida. I’m going to make sure they continue to get care. They paid into the system. We’ve got to make sure we keep that system going.

So Scott endorses the part of Ryan’s plan that keeps benefits for current Medicare recipients—i.e., the status quo—and has literally nothing to say about the rest.

Yes, this is the same Rick Scott who made his fortune in what became the largest Medicaid fraud case in history. Yes, he’s the same Rick Scott who voluntarily removed his state from the Medicaid provisions of Obamacare. Yes, the same Rick Scott who tried to make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients to benefit his own drug testing company. Yes, the same Rick Scott who actually went back in time and rescinded Charlie Crist’s applications for federal health benefits, including all of this:

$2 million for Medicare outreach, $500,000 for an elder affairs counseling and assistance program, $1 million to help consumers monitor health care premiums in the state and $1 million to plan a health care exchange, according to the Governor’s Office. Then [Scott’s administration] turned away larger sums, such as the first installment of more than $30 million to help keep disabled seniors out of nursing homes. Just how much has it turned away? The Governor’s Office doesn’t keep a tally, spokesman Lane Wright said.

I don’t care if he is, as Pierce put it, “look[ing] at the general privatization of the program as cutting into the profits, the way that marijuana kingpins are opposed to legalization.” If what you’re planning to do to sick and old people goes too far for Rick Scott, you’re waaay out there.

Romney/Ryan As A Foreign Policy Ticket (No, Not Really)

by evanmcmurry

One would think that, after Sarah Palin’s 2008 “I Can See Russia” Tour, the GOP would want at least one half of their ticket to be able to speak words in a sensible order about foreign policy. Instead, Republicans went the exact opposite direction: neither Romney nor Ryan has any foreign policy experience (unless you count this, which I hope we do). The complete absence of foreign policy experience is either:

a) an accident due to the weak GOP field that vaulted Romney to the nomination despite a lack of foreign policy credentials;

b) an inevitable (but still unintended) result of the mixture of Romney’s businessman-as-executive logic and the tea party’s anti-incumbent twitch, whereby the exact sort of position necessary to give one foreign policy experience is looked upon as Washington insiderism;*

c) absolutely intentional, as the neo-conservative wing of the GOP brooks so little nuance, to say nothing of dissent, in the execution of their policies that it’s better for them to have a vacuum in the White House that they can fill via advisors than anybody who might have an idea of their own.

Robert Farley essentially makes point C:

It is impossible for a member of a modern GOP Presidential ticket to hold what amount to “realist” views on foreign policy.  Indeed, it appears to be virtually impossible for members of the campaign team to hold such views. This is less because of the popularity of defense hawkery (even the GOP base is more skeptical of hawkishness than the tickets would reveal), but rather because neoconservatives have won what amounts to a virtual battle of annihilation at the elite level. The influence of the constellation of right wing think tanks over Republican foreign policy is especially pronounced with figures like Romney and Ryan, neither of whom have any foreign policy experience or appear to have thought very much about foreign affairs.

If you’re a neo-con, do you want somebody who’s been to Israel and Saudi Arabia, or has diplomatic connections and personal histories with foreign figures, or served on the Foreign Relations Comittee, running around the White House with his finger potentially not on the trigger? Nope. You want Romney, who will use his outsourcing business experience to outsource gather a cabinet of advisors whom you recommend to tell him what he does next, all while Paul Ryan is down the hall drawing a red line through Medicaid. Could you imagine the war room scene in which Mitt Romney disagreed with a room full of neo-con advisors about whether to bomb Iran? “Shut up, Olympics boy, and press the button.”

Long blah short: it’s at least possible that the Romney/Ryan ticket lacks foreign policy experience because somebody thought it would be a good idea that it did so.

* For the purposes of this argument, Michelle Bachmann doesn’t exist. Kind of want to stay there, don’t you?

Atheism And Groupon: A Tale Of Transference

by evanmcmurry

Every once in a while, the interwebs lines up a couple of unrelated stories such that they seem to make meaning together. It’s easy to overread into these random juxtapositions. And fun! Let’s do it.

Yesterday came news that the world, including the U.S., is becoming less religious, or (more likely) more openly owning up to its decreased religiosity. The ranks of atheism swelled 700% in the U.S. since 2005, and the number of people who self-identify as religious* went down 13 percentage points, all of which should come as a mild surprise to anybody who just sat through Rick Santorum’s unlikely primary success. I’m not inherently anti-religious, and I find outspoken atheists obnoxious, but the statistical rise of skepticism is still something to celebrate

A couple of columns over is a eulogy for Groupon. The company went from the potentially fastest-growing company in the history of the planet to watching its newly-released stock plummet, following news that its business model had vastly exceeded its limits and was contracting at a stunning rate. Alas, this info came too late for all the people who bought big on its IPO last week, and who now find themselves watching the value of their stock slip like sand through their fingers.

Sound familiar? Only six months later, Facebook’s public venture would undergo through the same collapse but at an accelerated rate, to the point that multiple lawsuits are in the works. And I hope these companies do get sued for everything they’re worth, which, in Groupon’s case, is starting to look like a pittance.

But nobody’s holding a gun to the heads of investors and forcing them to overpay for tech business stock. Around the time of Facebook’s IPO disaster, some made the case that the historic sale was the result of cross-fingered optimism on the part of the financial community, as they prayed that FB was the financial event that would initiate a recovery out of our recession. This would be easier to buy if the economic collapse itself hadn’t been caused by compulsive overvaluing, overleveraging, overpaying, over-everything. At this point, we seem less incautiously hopeful than pathologically, almost categorically unable to learn from our mistakes, even from cataclysms that occurred before our very eyes. No matter how many times we get burned by an overvalued commodity, we keep believing in the next one that comes along. It’s almost enough to make one wonder if the credulity seeping from religion is simply finding a new outlet.

If I were the lyricist for a punk/metal band, here’s where I’d growl something like, “MONEY IS YOUR NEW GOD!” (This works, too.) Instead, I’ll say that there’s probably not a substantial overlap between those who have stopped believing in God and those who have overbought on poor investments in the past seven years (though some crosstabs sure would be interesting). It was just two articles that happened to appear on the same day.

Let The Swift-Boating Begin

by evanmcmurry

Via Yahoo News (whatever, you’re not special either):

A group of former U.S. intelligence andSpecial Forces operatives is set to launch a media campaign, including TV ads, that scolds President Barack Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and argues that high-level leaks are endangering American lives.

Leaders of the group, the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc, say it is nonpartisan and unconnected to any political party or presidential campaign. It is registered as a so-called social welfare group, which means its primary purpose is to further the common good and its political activities should be secondary.

[…] The OPSEC group says it is not political and aims to save American lives. Its first public salvo is a 22-minute film that includes criticism of Obama and his administration. The film, to be released on Wednesday, was seen in advance by Reuters.

“Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden, America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not,” Ben Smith, identified as a Navy SEAL, says in the film.

“As a citizen, it is my civic duty to tell the president to stop leaking information to the enemy,” Smith continues. “It will get Americans killed.”

For the insult-to-injury award, the group is registered in Delaware.