Monday, September 10, 2012

On Crushing

Friday, August 3, 2012

Obama's Logic-Defying Odds of Winning

Earlier this week, statistics-messiah Nate Silver reported that his forecast model gave Barack Obama a 70.8% chance of winning the Electoral College, the President's highest number to date.  (The number actually went up slightly with today's jobs numbers, to 71.1%.)  So, despite the fact that the national unemployment rate is 8.3%, with the economy just barely creating enough new jobs to keep up with population growth, Obama is still the odds-on favorite to win in November.  That's insane, people.

If the economy is indeed the most important issue to voters, and if voters prefer Romney to Obama on the economy, then it stands to reason that Romney should be the favorite, doesn't it?  In fact, I can only think of one explanation for this discrepancy, and it's that everyone in America hates Mitt Romney personally.  ("Gee, Mitt, we really think you'd do a better job than the other guy of solving our most important problem, but we just find you so darn creepy, is the thing."  That's hurtful, America.)

Still, it could be worse for the GOP.  Imagine if they'd nominated this guy - we'd be falling all over ourselves to elect Obama president-for-life, probably...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harley-Davidson: The New Normal?

Have you heard the one about how Harley-Davidson made big profits by firing more than a fifth of its work force?

No? Well, how about this one: The New York Times is reporting today that the same Harley-Davidson has forced its manufacturing employees to sign a contract that freezes their wages for most of the next seven years. How do you force unionized workers to accept such a contract, you ask? Why, you threaten to move their jobs elsewhere if they don’t, effectively leveraging the misery caused by the worst recession in 80 years. Obviously!

It’s not “mean-spirited”, though, says Matthew Levatich, the president of Harley-Davidson. “We have to retool if we want to survive. We should have started doing this, in small steps, 20 years ago.”

What Mr. Levatich doesn’t mention, of course, is that the decrease in demand for motorcycles, which is so disastrous for Harley-Davidson’s workers, doesn’t seem to be affecting the company’s executives in quite the same way. In fact, in 2009, Keith E. Wandell, the CEO of Harley-Davidson, received more than $6 million in compensation. By comparison, in 2006, then-CEO James L. Ziemer received around $4 million in compensation.

Call me a socialist, but it seems like an odd sort of economic system in which the biggest share of the risk is borne by the people who can not only least afford it, but who also inevitably receive the smallest share of the rewards.

Welcome to the new normal?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts on the "Ground Zero Mosque" (and community center)

Pointing out that Sarah Palin is being hypocritical is like pointing out that a Mama Grizzly shits in the woods – not exactly revelatory – and yet I feel it needs to be done, if only to counteract the hurricane gust of half-truths and hot air that unceasingly blows from her general vicinity.

In this case, I actually happen to agree with the former governor of Alaska. The leaders of the Cordoba Initiative, the group behind the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (which is actually a planned community center), should be sensitive to the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 in choosing the center’s location. By the same token, opponents of the community center should be sensitive to the feelings of Muslim Americans who had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center, and yet have been made to feel like outsiders in their own country. I don't mean to engage in a debate about whose pain is more strongly experienced; my point is simply that both are worthy of acknowledgment.

And that’s where the hypocrisy comes in. Because Sarah Palin’s pleas for “Peace-seeking Muslims” to reject the community center “in the interest of healing” because “it stabs hearts” expresses a desire for compassion strikingly similar to the "political correctness" that she has taken so many occasions to lament and lambaste and generally use to criticize those who disagree with her. Even if this is an honest calculation, and not a cynical one – even if Mrs. Palin would regard the one as different from the other because of its extreme nature – I wonder, how high are we willing to set the standards for tolerance?

It makes perfect sense that people whose loved ones were murdered by Islamist militants would be opposed to seeing a Muslim community center two blocks from the site of the tragedy and, if the families of 9/11 victims unanimously felt that way, Mrs. Palin’s would be a stronger case. But they don’t. Some seem to feel that the best way to honor their loved ones, as Mayor Bloomberg so eloquently put it, is by defending the freedoms that the terrorists attacked. Both views should be respected and carefully considered by the owners of the land, with whom the decision ultimately resides (as it should).

Whatever happens, I can only hope that we will all take away an appreciation for what it is to feel marginalized, and a recognition that having different opinions and values makes us Americans and not enemies. Whether you call it political correctness or not, sensitivity is vital to our success as a nation; it can be overdone, certainly, but that is hardly cause to “refudiate” it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Playing not to lose

After receiving a thumping in Massachusetts at the hands of a state senator known for little more than owning a truck and having once been naked in a major women's magazine (a man who, I might add, has already angered Glenn Beck in the two days since his election), the Democrats are now tripping over themselves to back down on the health care legislation that they've spent the better part of the last year working on, and openly quivering in fear because, as Sen. Barbara Boxer of California put it, "every state is now in play."

And that is precisely why they will lose in November.

Anyone who thinks it's politically expedient to, as Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana put it, "go back to the drawing board" on the signature legislation that the Democrats have fought and clawed for over the past year is absolutely out of his or her mind. Yes, there are voters who vociferously oppose the health care bill. There were even some of those in Massachusetts, but that isn't why the Democrats lost there. The Democrats lost in Massachusetts because: (a) their candidate ran an absolutely pathetic excuse for a campaign (Curt Schilling a Yankees fan, really? And, hey, if you can't spell the name of the state correctly in your own campaign ads, you don't deserve to win) and (b) President Obama hasn't delivered on the change or the leadership that he promised. Instead of embracing the mandate the American people gave to a progressive agenda, he went straight to the first page of the Democrat playbook, which reads in big, bold letters: "MOVE TO THE CENTER."

There have been a lot of mistakes made by the Democrats over the past year but, for the most part, they all fall under the same umbrella of "playing not to lose, instead of playing to win." Anyone who's ever been a competitive athlete knows that you have to be aggressive to be successful in sports, and that holds true just about everywhere else as well. It's no coincidence that the first of Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is being proactive. While the Republicans have controlled the debate on health care by recklessly floating falsehoods like "death panels" and government takeovers and holding up for political reasons a bill that would save the American taxpayers a trillion dollars over the next couple of decades, the Democrats have fallen back on their heels, defending themselves against baseless attacks when they should be on the offensive about the lack of cooperation from the other side. You can't be reactive in politics and get anything done, especially right now. Period.

If the Democrats back down now on health care reform, not only will they fall in November (and, really, if you're so worried about losing your job that you can't effectively do your job, then you're probably not cut out for that particular line of work), but it will effectively put the nail in the coffin of the progressive agenda. If we give up on health care reform now, it won't be taken up later, it will die, and so will climate change legislation, and equal rights, and serious financial regulation, etc. Mary Landrieu is dead wrong that we can wait until tomorrow -- there is no tomorrow. In the words of Langston Hughes, "a dream deferred is a dream denied."

So, just for once, let's make like Republicans and play to win.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In a humbling loss, an opportunity to lead

Once again, Democrats have put up a needless roadblock on the path to effective governance, this time by bungling what should have been an easy victory in liberal Massachusetts and managing to lose both a priceless heirloom (the seat that Ted Kennedy had held for 47 years) and the crucial filibuster-breaking 60th vote in the Senate.

There are no doubt a lot of conclusions to be drawn from this shocking turn of events, but the prevalent argument that lawmakers should stop and consider what voters are saying about health care reform doesn't hold much water for me. Even if it's true -- and it very well may be -- that Republican wins in New Jersey, Virginia and now Massachusetts are indicators that the public is skittish about the President's signature legislation, I'm not sure how much bearing that should have on whether or not Congress passes it. This is a representative democracy, after all, and, as Wikipedia puts it, our elected officials are "charged with the responsibility of acting in the people's interest, but not as their proxy representatives." If lawmakers are going to be nothing more than slaves to the latest polling data, we might as well replace them with referendums, and we've seen how well that's worked out for California.

It's a fundamental assumption of American politics that the people aren't always right and, just as holding elections serves as a check on the power of our officials, so should the authority vested in them serve as a check on ours. The suggestion that legislators should bend their decisions to the will of a fickle public strikes me as a kind of character-less politics we might do best to avoid. I would much prefer that my congressperson vote based on a careful study of the issue than on what's more likely to get him or her re-elected.

All of which is to say that if Congress ultimately decides to let health care reform die in the wake of Scott Brown's victory, it should be because the men and women we've entrusted with our futures truly believe that the overhaul is not in the best interest of the American people, and not because they like the views from their offices. This is a seminal opportunity for our leaders to stand by their values in the face of adversity. Let's hope they surprise us.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mike Huckabee is an ass

"Some of us fail to understand that our First Amendment right to speak and assemble is meaningless without our Second Amendment right to bear arms, we don't make the connection."

This is a shockingly idiotic statement. Does Mike Huckabee really want to give every dissident group free access to weapons? Or just the ones that he likes? And can we stop for a moment and imagine how many more innocent people would have been killed in Iran if thousands of scared protesters had been firing guns indiscriminately in the streets? Talk about a massacre. How about at Kent State in 1970? Or in Birmingham in 1963? Is he really suggesting that Gandhi would have benefited from an assault rifle?

While civil war (and, indeed, violence) may become necessary in the course of human events, it should be a last resort, not a first. Regardless of how you interpret the second amendment, what Mike Huckabee is advocating for isn't democracy, it's anarchy, and it's an irresponsible position for a former United States governor to take. Maybe he's just ratcheting up the crazy for the Fox News crowd, or competing with Sarah Palin for wingnut of the week, but for some reason, I expected more of the Huckster (must have been those sweet Chuck Norris ads...)

Source: [Wonkette]