Recent news

Here’s a quick round-up of some recent news:

President Obama has been sworn into his second term. The ceremony was a small one done inside the White House in order to meet constitutional requirements that the inauguration take place on January 20th, but there will be the usual public spectacle tomorrow. I expect FOX Noise and other conservative mouth-pieces to compare the turnout between the President’s first inauguration and this one, attempting to make the argument that he has lost popularity and doesn’t enjoy any sort of mandate. It will be a shitty argument since 2nd inaugurations are traditionally filled with less pomp and circumstance.

So-called responsible gun owners keep shooting each other. This weekend has seen ‘Gun Appreciation Day’, an event apparently organized by some guy by the name of Larry Ward. The result has been at least 5 accidental shootings as linked above, but I’ve seen unconfirmed Facebook pictures floating around placing the number at 8. This isn’t any surprise considering how many accidental shootings occur in homes with a single gun.

Over 40 million private sector workers do not have paid sick leave. This is one of the many flaws that arise from the magical hand of the free market. We can’t expect the private sector to voluntarily offer paid sick time to employees; these businesses are looking at the short term. If they had a longer and wider view of the economy, they would recognize that their sick employees spread disease, resulting in greater loss to the economy through more people who call out. Moreover, if their sick employees do call out, that’s a loss to the employee. And as we all know but as conservatives ignore, the economy is majority-run by the consumer. We need people making and spending money.

Religious fighting continues in Mali. I find it interesting that a country with its own religious strife, Nigeria, is getting involved with one-door-over neighbor, but it isn’t overly surprising to see religion filling the gap left by corrupt governments, thus creating greater instability and less freedom. That’s sort of what religion has been doing for the past few thousand years.

Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has been charged with taking bribes. I only find this satisfying because of how disgusted I was when he said New Orleans needs to stay “a chocolate city”. It was blatantly racist horseshit.

The AFC Championship game takes place tonight. The Ravens are rolling into Foxborough at 6:30 tonight, hopefully to face another devastating loss. I don’t know, though. I fully expect a close game, so I won’t be shocked if my Patriots are golfing come Monday. I just hope they utilize their hurry-up offense way more than usual given the comments of a Raven linebacker.

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Election results

The two results that concern me the most are the presidential race and the vote to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine.

Well, good news.

President Obama will continue to correct the mistakes of Dubya and gay people are no longer second-class citizens in Maine. In fact, while Washington is likely to also pass a pro-equality measure, Maine is technically the first state to approve gay marriage by means of popular vote. We’ve done some good up here. I’m proud.

Also, here is my favorite part of this night:

The debate summaries

This is going to be a quickie, just for the record:

Presidential Debate #1: The consensus is that Mitt Romney won this because he was fiery and energetic, but that conclusion misses the mark. The fact is, the President was off his game or had a terrible strategy or something like that. Whatever it was, President Obama lost, but Mitt Romney did not go out and win this. He wasn’t even that energetic. No, he was like the 2006 Cardinals or 2007 Giants, simply there to accept the collapse of his opponent – at least on style. On facts, it is the consensus that the President easily won the debate.

Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden came out strong, calling Paul Ryan a liar every which way without actually using the word “liar”. It was almost sad to see the seasoned veteran beat down what appeared to be a small-time local politician who was in way over his head. But, of course, the conservative media didn’t see it that way. They whined that Biden was rude and that the moderator was unfair. Notice the fact that the liberal media did not do this when President Obama performed poorly.

Presidential Debate #2: The President won this town hall style debate. He called Romney out on his falsehoods much more strongly and he was engaged. He was just as firm this time on the facts as he was the first time, but he delivered everything in an effective manner. Romney, however, did well enough that no one remembers anything important he said.

Presidential Debate #3: Once again, the President came out on top. Romney spent most of the debate agreeing with the Commander-in-Chief, making President Obama look all the more presidential. Surprisingly, the GOP candidate didn’t go hard on Benghazi. Ultimately it is an issue that no one will discuss when looking back at President Obama’s time in office, but it is a big deal when under the microscope that comes with a presidential election. Romney made a mistake by not trying to hammer away at it.

Conclusion: The President and Vice President won all four debates on the facts. They have been consistent in their message and arguments, and they both had a better grasp of the issues than their opponents. Paul Ryan did especially poorly considering his status as “a numbers guy”, but even for just being some schmuck his smacking was notable. Unfortunately, the debate that mattered the most was the first one by virtue of being first, and that is where the President did not fair well and Romney won by default.

Bill O’Reilly is a hack and a liar

I was going to title this post “Bill O’Reilly is an idiot and a liar”, but I like to be careful with who I call stupid. Sarah Palin is a moron. Jack Hudson is genuinely dumb. But Billo? I think he’s a hack and his zone is nothing if not spin, but I don’t think he’s stupid. In fact, he seems to be a fairly smart guy with pretty decent wit. It’s just too bad he’s also a liar sometimes.

I don’t make it a habit to watch The Factor, but I did catch a couple of minutes of it tonight. The guest was some sort of body language expert who was analyzing the President and Romney from the most recent debate. When she got to the part where Romney stepped into a trap that was half his own doing, claiming the President never called the embassy assault an “act of terror”, Billo had two big points to make. First, he said he thought Romney won that exchange. Seriously. He actually thinks Romney didn’t look like a complete fool. If that isn’t hackery, I don’t know what is. Second, he said he had already debunked on a previous show the notion that the President used the phrase “act of terror”. Let’s go to the tape:

The knockout punch begins at the 57 second mark.

Now, there is plenty of room for discussion here. As moderator Candy Crowley noted, and as Romney was attempting to say, this recent attack was not labeled terrorism is any meaningful sense until weeks after it occurred. Mixed messages were sent and I suspect there are two good reasons why. First, it’s politically inconvenient for a president to say terrorists successfully attacked us, especially right before an election. Second, intelligence information takes time to stream in and it gets updated frequently early on. This was probably exasperated by the fact that the FBI was unable to get into Libya for some time. (Hell, CNN reporters are the ones who waltzed in to find Ambassador Chris Stevens’ private journal.) So, sure, a real discussion can be had over all this, but that doesn’t change the fact that the President called this an “act of terror” the following day, Mitt Romney did not know that fact, and this exchange constituted one of the highlights of the debate because the former governor was flummoxed and fact-checked on the spot.

Next thing you know, these Republicans are going to start saying Jim Lehrer did a good job, Martha Raddatz was the worst moderator ever, Paul Ryan either tied or won his debate, and Candy Crowley pandered too much to women by asking topical questions…

Dishonest politics

I really despise when politicians refuse to understand the point of the opponent. It isn’t merely an inability to respect a different perspective because it may be so foreign or opposed to some long-held point of view that gets me. No, it’s when someone expresses a point in clumsy language and the other side pounces, being an absolute bitch about actually listening to the real point. Take, for example, when Mitt Romney said he wasn’t concerned about poor people. Of course he cares about them. He just happens to believe that they currently have a relatively adequate safety net, a net which can be improved (and made unnecessary in many lives) via certain economic policies. (That isn’t to say he really understands them, nor that his policies would actually work, but I do not think he is quite as callous as his original comment might suggest.) Or, even worse, look at John Kerry’s treatment a few years ago. He tried to say that we’re stuck in Iraq because Bush is dumb. The way it came out, though, made it sound like he thinks soldiers are stupid. It was an absurd distraction that was dishonest to its core. I hated every second of it and I think it’s terrible that he had to apologize at all.

Fast forward to the present campaign season and we have the President saying this:

If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.

Whoa! Holy smokes, Batman! The President of the United States just said that small business owners – especially mom and pop shops that have been in the neighborhood for 43 years, giving out free meals to needy orphans and puppies every Thanksgiving – deserve zero credit. Zero. Rumor has it that once off camera, he even went so far as to grab the head of a struggling business owner, pull the guy’s face right up to his ass, and fart. I bet he laughed and laughed. Communist.

Oh…wait. I guess there’s more to the quote:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Oh, snap. Shitty, amirite conservatives? I guess what the President meant was that everyone has had help from others at one point or another. He then gave teachers as one example. Then he says that somebody helped to create the system in which businesses thrive. Then he uses roads and bridges as an example of what has helped businesses thrive. Next we have the big doozie of the whole thing: He says that businesses – gasp! – didn’t build our roads and bridges. For the reading impaired, let me reword the President’s sentences in a way which conveys the exact same meaning with a little more clarity:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that.

Or how about this?

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that stuff.

Or maybe this?

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build those.

Okay, here we go:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build those roads and bridges I just mentioned. In fact, the transcript of my speech should be written with a semi-colon so as to show what I am saying about businesses not building roads and bridges. For example, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges; if you have a business, you didn’t build that.”

And despite all this context, there’s even more to the speech:

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Nothing the President has said is remotely remarkable here. He was simply making the point that everyone needs help in life, and a lot of that help comes from government-funded programs, works, etc. Most teachers are paid by the government. Most bridges are built by acts of Congress and state legislatures. That isn’t to say that businesses deserve zero credit. He outright says that one of the reasons businesses see success is individual initiative. That just isn’t the only reason they see success, is all. But hey, I know how to end this argument with one simple question:

Did Wal-Mart build the Interstate it uses to truck its goods around the country? No? Argument over.

Where were Mitt’s taxes born?

Everyone seems to want Mitt Romney to release his tax returns from his days at Bain. This makes sense since Romney has staked a good portion of his candidacy on his record as a businessman. He doesn’t get to say he was good at something and that that something is relevant while simultaneously claiming that the details of that something don’t matter. He should just release everything.

Of course, I hope he doesn’t.

I have no desire to see Mitt Romney win anything and this is a great issue to hurt him. It’s his birth certificate. The only difference is that the stuff his opponents are saying about him is true.

Affordable Care Act: Romney campaign makes a decision

Yesterday I wrote about the lack of choice Republicans were (and will continue) to make regarding how they describe the Supreme Court ruling on the individual mandate from the healthcare bill. They want to call it both a tax and a fine, but those are not the same thing – nor, more importantly, do they have the same ideological basis. If they call it a tax, okay. That fits their (false) rhetoric that President Obama has done anything to raise taxes. But if they call it a fine, that is because they believe it is anti-liberty to force people to buy something. The Romney campaign sees this and has made a choice:

A senior adviser to Mitt Romney appeared to undercut a central argument Republicans hope to use between now and the November election against President Obama — that although his signature health care reform law may be constitutional, it amounts to a tax.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom was asked whether Romney agreed with last week’s Supreme Court ruling.

“The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax,” Fehrnstrom said.

When pressed by host Chuck Todd about whether Romney supported calling the financial burden placed on Americans who choose not to buy health care “a penalty or a fee or a fine” rather than a tax, Fehrnstrom replied: “That’s correct.”

It’s interesting that they want to call Romneycare a penalty – it undermines his argument that he’s all about liberty and freedom and guns and tits – but it’s a clear choice (at least for now – I mean, this is Romney). Now we just have to see if other Republicans will follow suit.