Saturday, January 07, 2012

Here We Go Steelers

Here's one of the newest Pittsburgh Steelers fans---Margaret's grandson Beckett.  I don't know if Beckett will be watching the Pittsburgh-Denver playoff game on Sunday but I will.  I don't expect to enjoy it much, though.  The Steelers are heavily favored, but sports writers in Pittsburgh at least are expresssing caution.  It's likely to be low scoring, sloppy and painful to watch.

The Steelers have been painful to watch pretty much all year, and they are entering the playoffs as a Wild Card with a lot going against them. In terms of further success, playoff experience has proven to have minuses as well as pluses.  The two more important factors are the physical health of the team and momentum from the last several games.  The 2005 Steelers won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team, but key players were coming back from injuries and they were healthier than they'd been all year as they began the playoffs.  This year they're starting with way too many injuries.  Their running back is out for the playoffs, and other key personnel--including their marquee players (Big Ben, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison)--are playing hurt.  Any one or two or more of them could be sidelined at any point.

That 2005 team also had tremendous momentum.  It was obvious as the season ended last year that Green Bay was going all the way, although another surprising Steelers team came close in the Super Bowl.  They were hampered by key injuries, and their outstanding running back in that game (although he committed a key fumble) won't be playing at all for these playoffs.  As for this year's momentum, the Steelers have none really, especially on offense. I think most thinking Steelers fans are hoping that they get by a weaker Denver team, but don't get humiliated in the next round.  Of course, as they say, anything can happen in the playoffs.

The NFL this year does have some teams that are fun to watch, at least theoretically, and all of them have a better chance to move on.  I see the Super Bowl being between either Green Bay or New Orleans and either New England or the boring Baltimore, with San Francisco as a sleeper possibility.  But if I'm forced to choose, I'd say this is New Orleans year.  They've got momentum, a quarterback that's having a record-setting year, a healthy team, and a better defense than Green Bay.  But the best game of the playoffs is apt to be Green Bay v. New Orleans (assuming it happens), in the year of the high-scoring pass offenses.

But every year recently I keep thinking that this one will be the last year I'll be watching.  How much longer can I endure moronic commercial after offensive commercial, surrounding brief moments of millionaires giving each other concussions?  Truth is I haven't watched an entire game in more than a year.  We'll see. Or not.         

Getting Better--and Maybe Getting Healthier

Friday's surprise was the strong employment report, with more jobs created than forecast, and an unemployment rate that was expected to go up instead went down to 8.5%. 

Some 212,000 private sector jobs were added last month, including a healthy increase in manufacturing and even some increase in average wages.  Once again the only sector that lost jobs was government.

Politically it was of course good news for President Obama, especially in rising consumer confidence and spending.  It has reduced his GOPer rivals to obvious lies, which admittedly isn't much of a stretch for them.  There must be something different about conservative GOPer Christianity that encourages lying as well as hatred and cruelty than the brand I learned in Catholic school.  Although it might be different in Catholic school now (both Gingrich and Sanctimonious are Catholic.)

The lie--which was identified by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post and Paul Krugman in the NY Times--is claiming the economy has lost jobs under Obama, by conveniently counting the first few months after their hero GW Bush left the country in the toilet, and before President Obama's policies were enacted, let alone in effect for long enough to show results.  (Krugman also shows what a whopper Romney's claim is that he "created 100,000 jobs.")

They continue to repeat their lies, about big government as well, while government is shedding jobs.  That may also be politically to Obama's advantage, but for the economy and society, it's very bad news.  Jobs are jobs, first of all.  And these are mostly jobs that are necessary for the functioning of this economy and this country.  They are going to wind up costing everyone more in the long run.

There is a paradox in economic growth itself.  It is necessary to put bread on the table for millions of Americans.  But high consumption and wasteful practices also create enormous waste and ruins the environment we depend on for ultimate survival.  But at least some of the current growth is better because it arises from green energy development and manufacturing, and such anti-waste efforts as retrofitting.  Plus despite the government job losses and the criminal failure of Congress to support needed infrastructure construction and repair, there actually is some infrastructure work happening, and construction jobs are up.

The truth is that the Great Recession was so damaging, and so many jobs were lost, that even at the highest levels of growth we've had in the past 20 years or so,  this economy is not going to recover what it lost for years.  That sobering truth is one that the Obama campaign will have to introduce sooner or later.  The global economy is still fragile, and the big shocks from the Climate Crisis have barely begun.  We need to have a sounder, more ecologically responsible economy, and economic justice, because it is unlikely that the kind of prosperity this country squandered and is still squandering will be seen for a long time, if ever again.  That doesn't prevent a spirit of optimism, but optimism in achieving new goals--for a sustainable, resilient economy and society-- as well as again defining old, basic ones, of economic justice and the common good.      

Friday, January 06, 2012

Bending the Arc

President Obama made another bold move on Thursday by announcing a plan to reconfigure the mission of the U.S. military, to downscale, and to slow the increase in the Pentagon budget. 

As Rep. Barney Frank said, this is important more for the change in direction than the extent of the changes.  President Obama made the point that all the Bushwars swelled the military budget and the national debt, and such expenditures aren't sustainable.   

 Romney on the other hand has announced a neocon wet dream of a foreign policy, with threats to expand American military hegemony--while proposing a tax system that has been vetted to show that it will decrease federal revenues at the same time as he proposes to further increase military spending.

President Obama made the announcement at the Pentagon, surrounded by defense department and military leaders.  Though he will be viciously attacked by warmongering GOPers, and some Dems and others will criticize him for not going farther or for taking so long, the presence of those officials testifies to the long process behind the scenes that made this announcement possible.  And once the ship of the huge U.S. military commits to a turn, it turns and keeps turning.

President Obama announced a military budget priority that has seldom if ever received emphasis before:

"We’re also going to keep faith with those who serve, by making sure our troops have the equipment and capabilities they need to succeed, and by prioritizing efforts that focus on wounded warriors, mental health and the well-being of our military families. And as our newest veterans rejoin civilian life, we’ll keep working to give our veterans the care, the benefits and job opportunities that they deserve and that they have earned."

Their True Colors

Automated outrage is unseemly from wherever it originates.  When one of Romney's boys repeated a dumb joke (badly, just like Dad) that included reference to President Obama's birth certificate, it ignited the automated furor, demands that he repudiate the idea, etc.  The kid apologized for repeating a bad joke.  Whatever it says about the Romney family attitude, I doubt he even knew what he was saying.  The reaction seemed disproportionate.

But not to recent statements by Rick Sanctimonius and Gingrich.  Rick was recorded saying,  "I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”  When he was called on it, he denied saying it.  Here's a link--hear it for yourself.  It's pretty clear he said "black people."

The importance of this is underscored by a statement on Wednesday by Gingrich. "More people are on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history....And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps."

This is I believe a key to the entire Rabid Right frenzy of this year.  What they are saying is that in these hard times, black people are being favored with government handouts, which hardworking and hard-pressed white people are paying for in high taxes.  A black President is creating a culture of dependence for black Americans, which is destroying the moral fiber of the country.

It doesn't matter that President Obama talks repeatedly about jobs and providing opportunities for all Americans to "go out and earn the money."  Or his nearly continuous praise for Americans "who work hard and play by the rules," and his emphasis on making it possible for them to earn a middle class life.  Or that any increase in food stamps or other support (including unemployment insurance) has to do with people losing their jobs and losing income, mostly as a result of the economic collapse that was the direct consequence of eight years of Republican mismanagement and misrule, and has no racial component whatever.  Except perhaps that black women are harder hit than other Americans, since they've suffered less discrimination by working in social services, teaching and other jobs that are being cut because the one sector where jobs are still being lost is government jobs.  Not government handouts---government jobs.

So first the facts, as summarized by Think Progress: "The majority of people who participate in the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are white. Most of the participants are also either children (who can’t earn a paycheck unless Gingrich gets his way) or seniors who are of retirement age. In 2010, working-women represented only 28 percent of SNAP beneficiaries, and working-age men represented only 17 percent.  What’s more, an increasing number of SNAP beneficiaries actually do have jobs and receive paychecks that are the primary source of their income. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of those incomes are above the poverty line."

This by the way was true in the 1980s and 90s, when Gingrich last pulled this particular trick.  It is on the whole the oldest racist trick in the book, next to all black men are rapists and killers.  It works especially well when lower middle class whites are especially hard-pressed.  There has to be someone to blame, so instead of blaming the 1% for stealing the country's wealth and shipping jobs to slave labor overseas, they are guided by the 1% to blame non-whites. 

I am convinced more than ever that the GOP is deliberately inflaming the lower middle class white anxiety about a black President, and attempting to follow those flames to take over Washington.  It's really all of a piece.  The call for Obama's grades, even the contempt for him because he uses a teleprompter (just like G.W. and everybody else), which are dog whistle appeals to the racist image of blacks as stupid.  Romney's entire campaign is predicated on pushing this: Obama is too dumb to govern, he's screwed it all up.  White people--ALL white people-- are therefore smarter, and the smart white voters should be smart enough to vote for the rich white politicians, who will give enormous tax breaks to their fellow rich white people so that they will provide jobs for their fellow whites of the lower middle class.  So even if some whites are getting food stamps or Social Security or Medicare, well, it's those black hordes who are ruining it by taking unfair advantage.  And Obama naturally is taking care of them, because they voted him in.

This is what all the GOPer presidential candidates are saying, almost without saying it.  Although Rick and Gingrich are coming very close to saying it all out loud.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Meanwhile in Ohio

While the Romney and the anti-Romneys blathered, President Obama acted.  Directly defying the GOPer minority in the Senate that has been using its filibuster power to thwart the will of the majority, President Obama appointed Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  It was a bold use of the recess appointment that has GOPers in a furious tizzy.

President Obama made the announcement and stated his case in Ohio, where Cordray served as a popular attorney general and before that as state treasurer.  After explaining that the only reason Cordray hasn't been confirmed is GOPer attempts to subvert the consumer protection law itself (which no one disputes), and after re-stating his continuing intent to work with GOPers in Congress to do the people's business and accelerate economic recovery, President Obama said:  "But when Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them.  I’ve got an obligation to act on behalf of the American people. And I’m not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people that we were elected to serve. Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans."

It was in many ways a brilliant political move: it puts Cordray in place and gets the work started, which GOPers will have to somehow go to court to stop.  It highlights congressional obstructionism, and challenges GOPers to continue.  The President also made the appointment on a day when the new Congress technically begins, which means that under the law, Cordray can serve until the end of 2013, instead of only a few months--which is what would have happened if the appointment had been made just yesterday.

But the substance of the appointment is the most important.  Cordray's appointment means the law can be fully implemented to protect consumers from fraudelent practices by fly-by-nighters but also by the biggest banks and Wall Street institutions (which have all poured millions into trying to defeat the law.)  It is in essence an action that carries out a fundamental role of government: to set and enforce rules of fairness as well as health and safety. 

President Obama stated the principle simply:  "We cannot allow people to be taken advantage of. And it’s not just because it’s bad for those individuals. All that risky behavior led -- helped to contribute to the economic crisis that we’re all still digging ourselves out of. All those subprime loans, all those foreclosures, all the problems in the housing market -- that’s all contributing to an economy that’s not moving as fast as we want it."

President Obama talked about an older Ohio couple who had been tricked by dishonest lenders and almost lost their house. "They earned the right to retire with dignity and with respect, and they shouldn’t have to worry about being tricked by somebody who's out to make a quick buck. And they need somebody who is going to stand up for them, and millions of Americans need somebody who is going to look out for their interests. And that person is Richard Cordray. 

And we know what would happen if Republicans in Congress were allowed to keep holding Richard’s nomination hostage. More of our loved ones would be tricked into making bad financial decisions. More dishonest lenders could take advantage of some of the most vulnerable families. And the vast majority of financial firms who do the right thing would be undercut by those who don't.

See, most people in the financial services industry do the right thing, but they're at a disadvantage if nobody is enforcing the rules. We can't let that happen. Now is not the time to play politics while people’s livelihoods are at stake. Now is the time to do everything we can to protect consumers, prevent financial crises like the one that we’ve been through from ever happening again. That starts with letting Richard do his job."

The "vast majority" is maybe an overstatement, but the principle of regulation is precise: the function of rules and enforcing them is to put noone who plays by those rules at a competitive disadvantage.  Businesses know that bad practices are ultimately ruinous for everybody--but there has to be government to make sure that the bad guys pay the price, and not the guys who are trying to do the right thing.  This is a logic that nearly everybody understood and accepted, until opposing gubment regulation became a mindless mantra.  It taps into the frustration of anyone who has to deal with impossibly complicated or onerous regulations, administered by cynical incompetents.  The answer is to improve regulations and government administration, not turn the world over to the predatory lawless.

President Obama concluded his Ohio remarks:  "I know that you're hearing a lot of promises from a lot of politicians lately. Today you’re only going to hear one from me. As long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I promise to do everything I can every day, every minute, every second, to make sure this is a country where hard work and responsibility mean something and everybody can get ahead. Not just those at the very top, not just those who know how to work the system, but everybody."   It is the aspiration of being President of the 100%.

President Obama in Ohio--and in High Def

An Iowa Post-Mittem

Cowboy Rick went jogging and was inspired to stay in the race, surprising his own staff.  Maybe God spoke to him again.  And maybe that Voice was heard by way of the upcoming meeting of self-important preachers in Dallas (Texas, get it?) to decide if they can back a single righteous Christian candidate instead of getting beat all the time by one of them goldurn moderates, like Romney, who is to the right of every Republican who ever ran for President before this year, including himself.  They could still back Cowboy Rick, the only one of the remaining three (with Gingrich and Senator Rick Sanctimonious) who allegedly has money to burn.   Gingrich seems more likely to back Sanctimonious. in such a unified effort, but Cowboy Rick still have this last card to play.  If he doesn't get their clear endorsement, he may hear something else whispered to him on a subsequent jog.

The other Rick, Sanctimonious, got a million bucks in online contributions, which he could easily blow in a week of New Hampshire media.  One of his superpacs has dissolved, the other got more professional help, and the jury is still out on whether he will be more than the latest and maybe last anti-Romney flavor of the month. 

Meanwhile, Romney's showing in Iowa is being interpreted as showing weak appeal among GOPers.  "Independents" who participated in the GOPer caucuses generally were there to vote for Ron St. Paul.   There were actually fewer GOPers participating in this year's caucuses than in 2008, suggesting that not only Romney but the GOPer brand is dazed and confused.

What's happening to GOPerland is instructive to Democrats tempted to indulge in their purism, which no human and certainly no governing President could live up to.  Divided, dispirited, and angry with everybody.  Even the candidates are hopelessly incompetent and narcissistic, dragging everybody down to their own level.  John McCain endorses Romney, who he loathes, because he has a worse grudge against Sanctimonious.  Countering the analysis that an extended messy GOPer campaign for the nom is good for Obama, some pundits suggest that the protracted battles between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 wound up strengthening Democrats (registering a ton of new ones, for one thing.)  That's true but the analogy doesn't hold.  GOPer participation is flat or down,  and the Obama-Clinton contests forced both candidates to be sharper on issues, whereas the GOPer race so far has been a contest in who can be the most thoughtlessly outrageous.

The GOP is in a cul de sac--a comfortable upper suburban one for some, a modest Southern suburban one for others--but they are on a street that leads nowhere.  By taking the logic of the post-Civil Rights Act 60s to its logical conclusion, the GOP has become the White Peoples' Party, when the proportion of white people in the voting population is steadily declining.  As evidenced in the states where they won in 2010 as well as in their nom campaign, the GOP has gone all in on Rabid Christian Right attitudes towards reproductive rights and privacy, sexual preference, science in schools as well as the 1% war on the global environment, all of which are on the opposite side of most Americans, especially younger ones.  And finally, even in a progressive state like California,  GOPers are incapable of supporting tax increases to support badly needed functions of government that they as well as everyone else depend on.  That will do them in sooner rather than later.  We might end up with a paralyzed government for another four years.  But in the longer run this GOP is doomed.            

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

As Scheduled

The Quadratids sounds like the name of a band, or maybe a circus act featuring four child siblings.  But it's actually a meteor shower, with its peak last night--and for once, I saw it.

I saw the most shooting stars between 4:45 and 6 a.m.  Not the 120 an hour that probably were visible from prime locations (view of the whole sky without light) but I saw a couple of dozen here...Some were the usual long thin streaks, some were fatter, shorter and considerably brighter than ordinary shooting stars.  I saw several that covered a fair amount of sky and left a vapor trail.  Most traveled from right to left so to speak, but I saw one spectacular one that shot across left to right high in the sky, long enough to look like a rocket.  There were often two within a few seconds of each other, and once I saw two at the same time!

Mostly it was waiting and looking (I started at around 3, came back in, tried again at 4, etc.) in the cold, at times with a cup of hot tea, listening to Beethoven quartets.  It was an unusually clear night for this time of year.  However our house doesn't offer an ideal view of the north and east, where these comet fragments were coming from.  Our best unobstructed, unlit view is more west and southerly.  So I saw the best ones from a small space outside the toolshed and woodpile.  But at last I've seen enough of a scheduled shower to say I saw it.  It's probably the best I've seen.            

Iowa Promises

In his usual dishonest remarks about President Obama,  Romney cited candidate Obama's surprise victory statement after the Iowa caucuses in 2008 as a litany of promises made and broken.  This video from that statement exactly four years ago proves Romney very very wrong.  The only hope that hasn't yet materialized to some extent is a nation less divided.  That's still to come, and if it comes at all, it will be with President Obama.

Iowa Babble

Having again invested too much time in listening to babble about the Iowa caucuses, I will now as usual compound the error by investing too much time writing--or venting--about them.

Romney eventually won by a handful of votes over Rick Sanctimonius, having scored a handful of votes fewer than he did in 2008 when he came in second to Huckabee, who nearly doubled Romney's vote total that year. Romney got almost exactly the same percentage of the vote: 25%.  He remains Mr. 23%

 The news is the Sanctimonious surge peaked at the right time, and the epic fail of the Cowboy Rick campaign, which may well be over in a matter of days.  The Bachmaniac campaign staff urged her to stop, while hinting darkly that they didn't get Evangelical preachers endorsing them because she is a woman.  So far she is resisting this advice, so if she goes on it will likely be with new or no staff (again) as well as no money.  Update: Bachmaniac dropped out, but Cowboy Rick announced he would stay in, and compete in South Carolina. 

The salient fact for the general election in Iowa was something that the Democratic state chair said on MSNBC, though noone there seemed to have heard it: most of the counties that Romney won are solidly Democratic, which means it is unlikely he will win them in the general.  There were Dem caucuses, ignored by the media because there was no opposition to Barack Obama,  but 25,000 Iowans came out anyway, and reportedly these were enthusiastic events.

The other news that bears on the upcoming New Hampshire primary and the rest of the GOPer nom race is the impression that Gingrich (who finished a weak fourth to Rand Paul's dad) is going to make it a personal mission to destroy Romney.  He started in his own rambling remarks, scoring with the assertion that Romney won't transform Washington but will simply "manage the decay."  Earlier, his Superpac "leaked" that it is preparing an anti-Romney blitz in New Hampshire.

 Judging by Gingrich's complimenting Rick S. (as he did in one of the debates as well), it seems he would have no trouble endorsing him if Rick S. proves resilient beyond Iowa, and Gingrich himself doesn't resurge in the South.  It's also worth remembering that the 2008 GOPer candidates were united by one thing: they all wound up hating Romney.  That may turn out to mean something if it happens again in 2012.

There will likely be a parade of GOPer establishment endorsements of Romney, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that he was wounded by this tiny victory.  So those endorsements may mean less than Cowboy Rick dropping out, especially if he endorses Rick S., and ditto Bachmaniac.  St. Paul doubled his 2008 vote in Iowa, so he goes to New Hampshire with some strength.  As someone on Charlie Rose pointed out, Romney has to win 51% of the delegates in these primaries (all proportional this time) by convention time, and if St. Paul keeps getting 20% and the anti-Romneys (probably down to Sanctimonious and Gingrich) keep getting enough votes to add up to more than 50%, the coronation may have to be postponed.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

How To Profit From the Coming Apocalypse

Well, it's here: the year 2012, which according to dubious interpretations of Mayan prophesy as well as the X-Files finale, is doomsyear.  Several versions zero in on the Winter Solstice of 2012, so we have nearly a whole year to waste.  Unless you're in California, where the apocalypse comes in September: that's when Amazon starts charging sales tax.

I've long been interested in apocalyptic tales as stories about the future.  In modern literature, H.G. Wells The Time Machine set the standard and defined an aspect of the genre: it's a cautionary tale, a prediction (at least metaphorically) of what the future could be if certain aspects of his present were taken to their logical conclusion.  They also happen to be aspects of our present: the great divide between the wealthy and the workers.  In Wells' tale, the wealthy evolved into the Eloi, a race of silly brainless but beautiful children.  The workers evolved into an entirely different species, the Morlocks, misshapen brutes who lived underground and tended the machines that kept the Eloi ignorantly and blissfully alive--for the sole purpose of serving as the Morlocks' lunchmeat.

These days it's hard to find what we're supposed to be cautionary about in most post-apocalyptic tales, which tend to be the literary equivalent of survivalist fantasies, the fascination of how the last doomed carry on as best they can.  The pall of the Climate Crisis is cast over these stories, but seldom explicitly.  There just isn't the creative energy that produced so many apocalyptic tales (many explicitly cautionary) in the shadow of the thermonuclear arms race in the 1960s.  There hasn't even been an environmental apocalypse to match Soylent Green.   Though it could be argued that the fashion for zombies and vampires indicates an apocalyptic mood.

As for the supposed Mayan apocalypse, it lacks much of a good story at all.  Plus it's so cosmic that it can't be cautionary--there's nothing we can do but wait for it.  The truth will be out there!  But there was one interesting observation in a USA Today review of the Mayan apocalypse literature (such as it is):

 "The buildup to 2012 echoes excitement and fear expressed on the eve of the new millennium, popularly known as Y2K, though on a smaller scale, says Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor at Publishers Weekly. She says publishers seem to be courting readers who believe humanity is creating its own ecological disasters and desperately needs ancient indigenous wisdom."

Well, that's not wrong.  The so-called New Paradigm reflects the Native Paradigm, as science has wandered onto the reservation of taking nature seriously.  There's a lot of guff about indigenous wisdom of course, which the Mayan apocalypse fad exemplifies.  But seeing humanity as a part of nature, of our time as part of time, of all life as related, which were profound axioms of indigenous cultures, can still be the basis of human civilization's salvation, if such is still possible.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Iowa Out

The tragicarnival of the GOPer nominating campaign will have its first gong show in Iowa a few days into the new year.  Millions of dollars spent, thousands of hours wasted (including too many of mine) on a caucus of a few thousand GOPers, mostly zealots, in Iowa.  It's the few as well as the futility that makes it a microcosm of this tragicarnival so far, though the worst of it would be implications for the future of the country and the planet, due to one of these evil clowns becoming President.

Polls of stunning approximation fall over each other daily as reporters go into the field, and report what their intuition says. (Chris Matthews likens it to visiting Brigadoon, as Iowa "comes alive" to the Beltway arbiters of reality every four years.) On Wednesday (Dec. 28) the buzz was Ron Paul.  By Thursday the buzz was Romney.  On Friday it was Rick Sanctimonious.  But maybe Cowboy Rick (Perry), too.  One Washington Post columnist ( E.J. Dionne) was smelling a Sanctimonious surge to the top, while another (Eugene Robinson) had a feeling it was Cowboy Rick who had the momentum.

All everybody (nearly everybody) agreed on was that Michele Bachmaniac was toast, and so is Mitt Gingrich--a cap on the absurdity so far.  Gingrich was so far ahead in the polls a few weeks ago that it seemed he could sweep to the nomination.  Now he's slipped so far down in Iowa that it seems more likely than not that he will not win, place or show, and will soon drop out of the race entirely.  There's no mystery as to why this happened.  The conservative establishment media and officeholders went brutally public with their scorn, and shortly thereafter some millions of dollars were directed to creating and broadcasting slashing attacks on him, and he had plenty to attack.  Reporters say that nearly half of the abundance of GOPer ads on Iowa TV are attacks on Gingrich.  The only question I have is whether the money people directed the initial establishment attacks in the media as well, or were empowered by them to spend with such generous ferocity.

The question as of Friday was whether Iowa TEvangelicals would become sufficiently alarmed at the prospect of a Romney victory to finally coalesce around one candidate--which would likely be one of the Ricks.  How would caucusees react to the Des Moines Register final poll on Saturday night?  What will be said from the pulpit at their churches on Sunday?  It doesn't look as if either Rick is going to give up for the greater good--you know, a Christian self-sacrifice kind of thing.  But there is some perception that Paul (not the apostle, the libertarian) is fading a bit.  Neither Paul nor Gingrich are going to pick up each other's voters.  But Paul looks strong enough to remain in the top three.  Romney does, too.   Especially if Mr. 23% holds steady--that might even be enough to win.

As for the Third Man (and it is very likely to be a male person), there's a sweet irony: the best outcome for the TEvangelicals is also the best outcome for the Obama campaign.  And the name of that outcome is Cowboy Rick.  The reason is the same: the Third Man--the last TEvangelical standing in win, place or show position--can coalesce the TEvangelical forces in upcoming primaries, and at least string out the process if not change the Romney nomination.  But if its Rick Sanctimonious, he doesn't have the money or organization for the long run, having been no more than a joke until now.  But Cowboy Rick, even if he is a joke, does have some bucks, and apparent access to more (this may have changed however, since he found grade school civics questions too intellectually challenging) and he has at least theoretical appeal in the South.  So Cowboy Rick can carry the Tevangelical banner longer and maybe farther.

Which would delight the Obama campaign.  A quick conquest by Romey, the apparently most formidable GOPer candidate, would start off the new year with head to head viciousness, and would completely doom any congressional action the country needs. If Cowboy Rick could be Romney's focus for a few months, good.  Cowboy Rick actually winning the nomination, better.  That's where it all stood as of Friday night. 

The Des Moines Register poll released on Saturday evening showed strong momentum for Rick Sanctimonious over the final two days of polling, moving ahead of St. Ron Paul, and challenging Romney for the win.  It would seem that this Rick could be boosted further by this result in the remaining days, based only on the movement (because in fact the percentage differences from first place to third are only a touch outside the margin of error.)  Factor this in as well: Rick S. has new TV ads running, which claim he is the most electable against President Obama.  If caucus voters are willing to give him a look, especially TEvangelicals, because he may have the best chance of the anti-Romneys to win,  then the next item they need to tick off is can he beat the hated un-white President.  That ad is also running in New Hampshire, suggesting that contrary to conventional wisdom, Rick S. can go the distance to become THE anti-Romney and THE TEvangelical candidate.

Cowboy Rick on the other hand has let it be known that he'll have 1500 folks working for him to deliver caucus votes, and his ads are going at the other Rick directly (for wasting their tax dollars on earmarks as Sen. from PA.)  It now all could come down to what Evangelical ministers say in church on Sunday, opines E.J. Dionne.  Think on that a moment.  For about two centuries, the rebellion against qualifying government officeholders on the basis of their religious affiliation was known to be a prime basis for American settlement, and the fear about JFK in 1960 was that as a Catholic (no one had ever been elected to the presidency with that religion) he might violate the Constitutional and foundational separation of church and state, and take orders from the Vatican.  In his famous speech addressing the question, he directly pledged that as President his country would always come first.  Now a potential President has to be almost literally anointed by clergy of a minority branch of Protestant Christianity.  Give us our country back indeed.