Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looking Past the Candidate

Romney has come under criticism from conservatives as the campaign tries to get past the damage done by his leaked comments at a May fundraiser, where he said that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government" and see themselves as "victims" because they don't pay income tax.  The reaction from Romney’s own mates is what one would expect when things go bad.  The danger for all of us is to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that everything negative that is happening is Romney’s fault.  In other words, don’t blame the person, but understand that the real issue here, for everyone including Republicans, is that the GOP is in trouble with respect to its vision for the country.   Yes, I do realize that most Republicans do think exactly what Romney said at that fundraiser was true. Democrats, according to the average Republican, are a bunch of nit-wits who expect the government to keep on bailing them out of situations which they are too lazy to do themselves, all at the expense of the 53% of those who pay taxes.   But in the eyes of this staunchly independent neutral (this one’s for you, Jack) I submit to you that there is more to it than that.  The average person does understand the arithmetic, to paraphrase President Clinton.  The math problem is a little different from just considering the deficit; The real  question is ‘what is nothing multiplied by nothing?’   Michael Gerson of the Washington Post says the Republican ideology of the "makers" versus "takers" -- a phrase Ryan coined -- "offers nothing."  The electorate, Democrats and independents alike, are smart enough to realize that a party that offers a candidate who claims that “if we win on November 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy,”  while at the same time offering nary a hint about why  lowering taxes for people like himself, will accomplish this, is in trouble on the math.   It’s not Just Romney, folks. 

Just saying . . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Fiction of 'Trickle-down Economics'

The essence of the Republican position is that cutting taxes on the very rich will mean new jobs and stimulation of the economy.  History does not support this claim. The actual statistics behind this contention are in plain view for anyone who wants to be realistic about this contention.   Obama has been president for three-plus years and the claim is that he is a socialist who is trying to redistribute wealth.  The last year alone, under Obama, the cumulative net worth of the wealthiest 400 people rose by $200 billion. That compares with a 4 percent drop in median household income last year, according to the Census Bureau.  Are these 400 people and others like them responding to their vast increases in wealth by pouring money back into the economy like Romney contends?   The above statistics demonstrate clearly that there is no justification for this totally fictional claim.   Trickle down economics has been shown repeatedly to be a false claim, from Reagan to Bush Jr. and now Romney advocates more of the same.

Just saying . . .

Sunday, September 16, 2012


It is a matter of arithmetic.  This is how it works if you are the dictator-like appointed Emergency Manager a/k/a Emergency financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools.  You take the bottom 5% of schools and create a new school district.  You take the best of equipment, including computers, etc., away from what is left of the remaining school district and move those assets over to the new school district.  You run ads on radio telling parents that they should enroll their kids in the new school district because of the ‘educational’ advantages they will have.  Now here comes the arithmetic part.  By lulling better students into inferior schools, the average test scores of these schools will be higher than before. Brilliant.  Why didn’t anybody think of this before?  A shell game, you say?  Am I making this up?  No, this is what is happening in the Detroit Public Schools  trying to function alongside the newly created EEA school district (run by the same man, Roy Roberts).  Voters will be asked to approve this shell game on November 6, 2012.  It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Throuigh the hard work on more than 300,000 volunteers in Michigan, the voters are fortunate that they will have the opportunity to reject this shell game that is being perpetrated at the expense of providing real educational opportunities for the kids of the DPS.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Interview with Romney

I woke up in the middle of last night in a cold sweat.  In my dream, things were going so well.  Mitt had decided to give me an exclusive one-on-one interview.  I took out my paper and pen and started asking my questions:

Q.  Mr. Romney, I understand that you have an exciting new plan to restore the economy.  Can you tell us about it?
A.  Yes I do and I am excited about it because it is not only a major economic plan to restore the country to 100% full employment, but restores America's place as the leader of the free world.
Q.  That sounds pretty impressive, but can you give us some of the details?
A.  Before I answer your question, do you really know what is going on in the world?  Do you understand the threat our best ally faces from the potential for  nuclear destruction by Iran? Do you realize how many times Obama has apologized to Muslim nations?
Q.  I don't understand, are you suggesting that what is going on between Israel and Iran has something to do with the American economy?
A.  Bingo!  You've got it.  The new program is called "Get a job or else."
Q.  "Get a job or else?"
A.  That's right.  We've got ten million or more people in this country just sitting around doing nothing, sponging off the taxpayers of this country.  My new program "Get a job or else" will put them all to work.
Q.  Just how do you propose doing that?
A.  You do understand that I'm a little reluctant to release the details because the mainstream media and the Democrats will try to pick it apart, don't you?  I think it's best if I just leave them guessing a bit on this one, but I can assure  you its big.
Q.  Gee, can't you share at least a little piece of your plan?
A.  I hate it when people beg me for information like that.  It reminds me of all those freeloaders in our country who expect something for nothing.  Do you know how many freeloaders in this country get food stamps?  I simply cannot understand why they don't buy their own food just like all the taxpayers have to do.  
Q. So you think I should just report your plan as "Mr. Romney has a plan but refused to share it because of the criticism he might get?"
A.  See, that's exactly what I mean.  I can't say or do anything without you media-types pouncing all over it.  
Q.  Maybe it would help this time if you gave the details of your plan.
A.  Are you sure you won't criticize it?
Q. (two fingers crossed behind my back)  I won't.  I promise.
A.  Okay them, my plan calls for bombing Iran and starting, in effect, what will become World War III.  The freeloaders of our society, those who won't go out and get jobs, will be drafted first. Do you know that more than 50% of new college graduates aren't working?  We will sign all of these people up for six year stints in the Armed Forces.  I wanted to call my plan  "The Six Year Plan" but Mr. Bolton overruled me on that one.  That's why we settled on "Get a job or else" because this is a jobs program. Remember how World War II ended the depression?  That is what this "Get a job or else." is going to do for our country.  Can I take a moment and sing the national anthem for you?
Q.  Are you serious?  (mocking tone)(waiting, waiting, blocking ears when he hits high notes)
A.  See, that's why I didn't want to tell you.  You're already criticizing my plan.  I can see it on the look on your face, the hands over your ears.  You simply don't want to hear the truth.  Bibi and I knew this would happen.
Q.  Bibi?
A. Yes, Bibi. that's what I call Netanyahu.  I don't hear Obama going around tossing out the first name of the other world leader who has requested our help in starting this war.  He avoids personal contact.  He'd rather just talk to him on the phone.  I went right over to Israel with that guy from Los Vegas, let me see, I forget his name, the one with all the money, and we sat down and talked.  I would guess that Obama doesn't want to start World War III because he's afraid of offending the Muslims.  You know, if we take over those countries, we'll have all the oil in the world.

I wiped the sweat off my brow and tried to get back to sleep.  I wondered if Romney became president if there would be many sleepless nights like this.  Just Saying . . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teaching Seniors

"More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class."  I read this statement this morning, a sentence found in the brilliant Tom Freidmann's Sunday op-ed column in the NYT while he was opining about a different, but related topic.  It got me to thinking about a vast resource that is almost immediately available to public schools throughout the United States; namely, an army of senior citizens with a massive fund of knowledge to be shared with children simply for the asking.  Senior citizens are literally dying to find something meaningful to do at the end of their lives other than walking the dog or playing innumerable games of golf or sewing or knitting or Twittering or whatever.  Today high school kids graduate, if at all,  when they are barely literate, turned off by an educational system that is failing them every day by  turning public education into a political football, stripping away funding so that activities like band, choir, basketball are simply unavailable or are paid for by the kids themselves or their parents, not to mention failing to teach basic stuff like the three Rs.  Class sizes increase to allow educational costs to neatly fit into a yearly budget that is more concerned with cutting costs than teaching kids.  As an example, Roy Roberts is the governor-appointed czar of the Detroit Public Schools who is a former businessman with no academic credentials and who has been entrusted with the fate of the school system.  One of his 'solutions' is to allow class size in the public schools to increase to 61 kids per classroom.  The absolute guarantee that comes with this kind of thinking is that a total school district of children will be under-educated and under-achieving for their lifetimes!  What a legacy.  What a total waste of young, bright minds.  It is not just Detroit, but this malady is happening throughout the country.  

Last evening I asked one of my granddaughters, a super-bright kid who is a senior in high school at one of the so-called elite schools in Michigan, about her first week of school.  Her answer floored me.  "It's boring."  This what I propose;  A group "Teaching Seniors" consisting of volunteers who are willing to a commit time to spend a school year (or more) as classroom assistants to teachers.   With a minimal effort, appropriate candidates could be identified who could provide an ancillary resource to our current teaching system in terms of one-on-one or small group interaction with students.  By way of example, I know at least thirty or more retired musician-type people who would gladly serve as adjuncts to a school band director in teaching music theory and instrumentation to children.  The same with old high school coaches or former college-level athletes who would have so much to offer kids in terms of time, attention and skills.  An incentive that could be offered to these old fogies could be tax deductions for time spent, but I really do suspect that most of us (note the 'us' as in 'me too') would be thrilled to spend our time doing something meaningful.  I don't ask for return input for my blogs very often, but I really would like to know what you think about this.  Think about it and let me know.  
Just saying . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Reality Check

All who sat in amazement and watched Clint Eastwood’s rant to an empty chair during the Republican convention,  listened to Ryan’s false claim about running a marathon more than one hour faster than reality and heard Romney’s sudden decision to apparently adopt the principles of Obamacare, just after his first presidential act of repealing Obamacare may also be amused by the disclosure that Romney is considered by some Republicans to be more responsible than Obama for Osama bin Laden’s death.  Seriously.  I don’t make this stuff up.  As Jillian Rayfield reported in Salon this week;
What does Mitt Romney have to do with killing Osama bin Laden? According to a notable percentage of Ohio Republicans, way more than that good-for-nothing Barack Obama.
“According to a PPP poll of likely Ohio voters, 15 percent of Republicans in Ohio think Romney is “more responsible” for bin Laden’s death than Obama, while 47 percent of Republicans are “not sure” whether Obama or Romney deserves more of the credit.
“Six percent of the overall respondents gave Romney credit where credit is not at all due. Thirty-one percent of them weren’t sure whether the president or the candidate deserves more credit.”

For those of you who may not be keeping track of what is going on in Ohio, please remember it is perhaps the most important state in terms of determining the presidential outcome.  Both parties are operating under the well-documented assumption that one cannot win the presidential election unless one wins Ohio.  Perhaps that is why elected Republicans in Ohio are doing whatever they can to minimize the ability of hard-working folks who just might vote Democratic to be able to exercise their right to vote.  Early voting has been curtailed in Democratic strongholds.  It has been candidly conceded by Republican politicians that such action will make it more difficult because many of these people hold jobs with long hours who simply will be unable to afford to take time off from work to vote.   

So actually, my ‘amusement” about the apparent stupidity of those who somehow think Romney deserves credit for the killing of bin Laden actually requires a far more serious and sober look at what is happening in the presidential race.  Keep in mind, if something like this is going on in Ohio, it’s also happening everywhere in America.  Sane people need to vote and assist others in voting.

Just saying . . .

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Romney the Business Manager

One of Romney’s major untested theories as to why he should be elected President is that his business and management skills and acumen are what the country need right now.  I thought about this claim as I watched both Parties’ national conventions.  What I saw on the Democratic side was a well-rehearsed consistent theme coming from every speaker in a cohesive fashion that suggested, if nothing else, an organization that was prepared to present a unified and thorough presentation of why voters should vote for Obama.  In short, the person in charge deserves an A+ for managerial skills.   On the other hand, the Republican side represented nothing more than a series of platitudes and 2016 campaign speeches from speakers who appeared to frequently veer off whatever topic they were presenting. As an example, Chris Christie, reported to be a favorite candidate for the 2016 election gave the keynote speech.  He mentioned Romney’s name only 7 times and used the first person singular  (I did this, I did that . . .) a total of 37 times!   Not one speaker addressed how the major issue of the day was to be handled.  Watchers wanted specifics about Ryan’s plan, Romney’s vision, but all they got was an 82 year old man in prime time speaking to an empty chair about topics which were difficult to explain to a young child.  “Daddy, what did he mean when he said Mr. Romney couldn’t do that to himself?  Do what?”  Romney’s shining hour should have been given an R rating so that parents would have been warned about letting their children watch.  Eastwood’s presentation would have been funny at a frat party or inside a golf club locker room, but in prime time?  President Truman was right.  The office of the presidency is where the buck stops. If Romney’s C- effort in managing the Republican convention is an example of his self-reported managerial skills, heaven help us all if he should become president. 

Just saying . . .

Monday, September 3, 2012

Walter Mitty, Running and Vouchercare

As an actual, real-life, 28 times-marathon runner with eight times under three hours, I am miffed about Paul Ryan’s false claim that he ran a marathon in under three hours. His blatant claim tells me more about Paul Ryan’s lack of character and integrity than any studied nuance of his various political statements.  It also suggests to me that Ryan does, indeed, live in a Walter Mitty-type fantasy world of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged idealism which worships hard work and rugged individualism as the only means of achieving success.  Presumably, this ideal is the reason his Vouchercare program would require senior citizens to assume total responsibility for choosing and obtaining their own health care from the variety of private insurance carriers competing for the carrion of the senior citizen market like vultures.  Well, Mr. Ryan, let me tell you what it’s really like to train and work hard enough to run a sub-three hour marathon rather than the four-plus hours that the race officials report your real time to be.  One must average a few seconds under seven minutes each mile of the run.  I would like to point out here that it takes a lot of planning, gut-busting training and real effort to reach that goal.  The effort, let’s call it an example of Ayn Rand’s self-determinism (presumably why you make each member of your Congressional staff read the book) has no shortcuts.  Miles and miles of roadwork, interval running on a track, weight training and careful dietary management are all necessary components to achieve a sub-three hour marathon.  In fact, the best equivalent example I can think of how this works is the American worker who for a lifetime quietly and doggedly goes about the daily challenges and pays a fair share of income in taxes and Social Security with the expectation that some blowhard politician claiming to be something he is not will not take it away when retirement times comes.  In that regard I note with alacrity that Ryan and Romney refer to Social Security as an entitlement as though the government is giving the worker something the worker has not spent a lifetime paying for.  In short, Ryan’s hollow claims about the benefits of Vouchercare are as truthful and deceiving as his claims about his marathon time.

Just saying . . . 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Obama Grinch

A brother-in-law made up stories to tell our kids and grandchildren as they grew up. The whole family of kids and ex-kids talks about the Apple Grinch who lives in the cellar of his home and who will, on occasion, grab a little kid with his gnarled hands and commit unmentioned and unfathomable acts. The brother-in-law, an artist, would occasionally embellish the story by drawing a caricature of this monster so that the kids and ex-kids could see what he was talking about. Every kid would have a spell of nightmares and sleepless nights following this presentation, but there was some ambivalence; they hated the story, but also loved it. The kids knew that it was make-believe, but even with parental disapproval they encouraged my brother-in-law to tell and retell and embellish and expand the fables of the Grinch. The brother-in-law was a hunter and had an old trophy head and rack of a deer in the recesses of the cellar basement of his home in northern Michigan. To add to the fantasy of the story, he put the rack on an old stump in a dark corner of the cellar and covered the stump with an old sport coat. From the entrance of the cellar to the dimly lit corner, it was easy to conclude that the Apple Grinch was just waiting there for any kid who dared to venture further into the space. That the cellar door was padlocked only added fuel to the fire of fantasy.

I thought of all this as I watched and read various accounts of the Republican convention this past week. Except that rather than creating an Apple Grinch, the Republican Party has substituted Obama as some kind of monster who is going to destroy everything in sight. During Paul Ryan’s speech he took President Obama to task for allegedly having “funneled out of Medicare” $716 billion dollars.  Furthermore, every one of the thousands of people cheering that line, as well as the millions watching on TV, knew perfectly well that Ryan made his career by arguing for funneling large amounts of money out of Medicare and his own program for handling Medicare included Obama's $716 billion dollars.  Another example can be found in the recent attacks on Obama’s handling of welfare. Romney falsely accuses the Obama Grinch of eliminating the work requirements on welfare. Everyone either knows that it’s not true or can easily find it out. These men are simply telling stories about what they know their target audience wants to hear even though the statements contradict even their most well-known beliefs.

As one of the campaign representatives has implied, they are not going to let facts get in the way of a good story, ala the Apple Grinch. Like my brother-in-law, the scarier the story the better it is received even though people know it’s not true. The blatant falsehoods in Romney’s campaign are possible only under conditions in which the target audience will not hold them accountable for false statements. Like the Apple Grinch story, the intended audience is not expected to believe the falsehoods and they know there is some other function the Obama Grinch story serves. The obvious falsehoods communicates to working class white voters that Romney and Ryan share their values.   For example, it is well documented that white working class voters in the past have been motivated to go to the polls when race is made an issue via invocation of welfare. The Harvard sociologist Lawrence Bobo reported in a 2004 paper that fully 24 percent of whites in his study agreed with the claim that “Blacks prefer to live on welfare.” A large part of the Republican base consists of elderly folks who receive the benefits of Medicare.  A statement made to scare the hell out of them by threatening to take away this entitlement is intended to reinforce the notion that the Obama Grinch must be removed from office.

It is important for citizen-voters to behave like parents with regard to these made-up stories.  Just saying . . .