Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Bets

The Obama campaign is betting heavily that they can define Romney now in a way that essentially disqualifies him in the minds of enough voters in the swing states to make the difference.  They've outspent the Romney campaign 2 to 1 so far trying to do this, and there is evidence that they are getting voter attention.  They are counting on voters who want to make up their minds now, and ignore the rest of an increasingly exhausting media campaign.   So far however the polls don't show Obama gaining advantage, although in truth the polls are all over the place--except the ones that are very close either way.

The Romney campaign is betting that as unemployment continues to be high, month after month, voters will be receptive to his negative ads, which distort the President's words shamelessly, but which could sew enough doubt or disgust to engender an "anybody but Obama" vote.  They are piling up money to do huge media after the Democratic convention.  They are betting on low information voters who make up their mind when they absolutely have to, close to election day.

I have to believe there is a second component to the Obama campaign, a positive one, with real action from the White House and an exciting vision for the second term.  It may not be enough to define Romney as the wrong solution (which of course he is, to a devastating extent) or to continue a general theme campaign.  Confronting the realities of this summer would also be helpful.  Let's hear Romney deny global heating.  But the Obama campaign, and President Obama himself, need to add something new.

The question for the Obama campaign will be whether there will be any air time left to buy, let alone money to buy it.  They need a strong convention and strong debates.   It's not clear that Romney has a second act to his campaign.  He's betting that he doesn't have to release his tax returns or state actual positions or make actual proposals on issues--he's betting on the power of millionaires to lie him into the White House.

Friday, July 20, 2012


The tragic shooting in Colorado late last night at once reveals two public policy needs.  The first is obvious: gun control and the control of ammunition.  The shooter got literally hundreds of rounds off the Internet, including for his assault rifle.  The NRA has dominated political decisionmaking on this and other issues for far too long. 

But the second public policy need is revealed by the positive outcome of this tragic event: the effective response by police, EMTs and other public agencies.  Police were so swift in responding that they caught the alleged shooter as he was returning to his car--judging from the extent of his armory and his garb, it seems likely he was about to drive to his next target location.

But there are many places in America right now where the police and other agencies are so understaffed that response like this is unlikely.  All kinds of situations that require the quick and effective intervention of public agencies--including public health agencies--are happening with increasing frequency now, and will happen on even greater scales in the future as the climate crisis causes more emergencies.

 Right now the Republican party and the Republican candidate for President are willing and eager to sacrifice the public good and the training, equiping and simply the livelihoods of public servants on the front line of trouble, all to further line the pockets of people who have more money already, and a greater percentage of shared resources, than makes any sense.  The Republicans in Congress have blocked any attempt to help the states keep their public employees, and those public employees--teachers, police, fire, emergency medical, etc.--are being fired by droves.  It's there in every monthly unemployment report.  It's hurting our national economy, and it's hurting communities.  It's scandalous.  And it will only get worse if Romney and Republicans are elected to federal and state office.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Witness to the Procrastination

"Here’s what American exceptionalism means now: on a per-capita basis, we either lead or come close to leading the world in consumption of resources, production of pollutants and a profound unwillingness to do anything about it. We may look back upon this year as the one in which climate change began to wreak serious havoc, yet we hear almost no conversation about changing policy or behavior."

So begins an online opinion column by Mark Bittman of the New York Times.  Yes, and that exceptionalism has been quantified: again this year, Americans ranked last in the world in sustainable behavior, and they don't appear to be upset about it.

Meanwhile, new heat waves are embroiling the Midwest, teasing the East Coast and contributing to drought in many areas.  The impacts are starting to mount up.  Heat and drought is threatening the Midwest corn crop, with ripple effects through the food chain.  Even grass-fed cattle in Oregon are being deprived of their feed by fire.  And the heat has helped lower water levels in the Mississippi river, which is making barge shipping more difficult--thus a major threat to commerce-- and may be allowing pollution of the drinking water in New Orleans with seawater.

And oh yeah, another huge iceberg the size of Manhattan has broken off from a Greenland glacier and is sailing out to sea.

But it's what's happening in the U.S., and our national non-reaction to it so far, that is most remarkable.  Writes Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker:

"One of the most salient—but also, unfortunately, most counterintuitive—aspects of global warming is that it operates on what amounts to a time delay. Behind this summer’s heat are greenhouse gases emitted decades ago. Before many effects of today’s emissions are felt, it will be time for the Summer Olympics of 2048. (Scientists refer to this as the “commitment to warming.”) What’s at stake is where things go from there. It is quite possible that by the end of the century we could, without even really trying, engineer the return of the sort of climate that hasn’t been seen on earth since the Eocene, some fifty million years ago.

Along with the heat and the drought and the super derecho, the country this summer is also enduring a Presidential campaign. So far, the words “climate change” have barely been uttered. This is not an oversight. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen to remain silent on the issue, presumably because they see it as just too big a bummer.

And so, while farmers wait for rain and this season’s corn crop withers on the stalk, the familiar disconnect continues. There’s no discussion of what could be done to avert the worst effects of climate change, even as the insanity of doing nothing becomes increasingly obvious."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Big Shoe

Of all the millions of dollars given to SuperPacs so far for this year's presidential candidates--the overwhelming majority going to support Romney--80% of it was provided by a total of 196 people.  Since much of this is given in secret, it is only an educated guess, but it is likely that the single person who has provided more millions than any other for Romney and other GOPer candidates--with an on the record boast that his giving could be "limitless"-- is multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Known during the primary circus season as Newt's Vegas sugardaddy, Adelson's global casino business enables him to provide millions to the Romney campaign and to its SuperPacs.  He hasn't been shy about his intent to in effect buy the presidency.  But his motives seemed to be ideology and vanity.  Now another motive may have emerged.  A big shoe has dropped.  He may be buying the presidency to keep himself out of jail.

A PBS Frontline and ProPublica investigation suggests that Adelson and his gambling empire may have criminally violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by in effect bribing an official to pave the way for an extremely lucrative mega-casino in Macau, the only place in the whole wide country of China where gambling is legal.  Adelson's company is being investigated for just such possible crimes by federal officials. This may also have involved money going to the Chinese mob.

Violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a federal crime, so it really really helps if you own the U.S. Justice Department.  Which might well be among Adelson's acquisitions should Romney be elected.

Romney may need to own the Justice Department for his own defense as well--against perjury, for instance.  But his needs would likely be secondary to Adelson's. 

Rachel has her usual sterling storytelling and analysis of the Adelson affair (though she takes awhile getting there in this clip) and here's more on the story from ProPublica.

This attempt at a get out of jail free card is precisely the kind of corruption that laws limiting campaign contributions and providing full disclosure and oversight were meant to limit if not stop.  It's why these laws were created and passed, even with opposition from those who benefit from these opportunities for corruption.  At least until the current Supreme Court decided that money is speech and corporations are people, and that there is no evidence that unlimited and unaccountable campaign money leads to corruption.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.  The great instrument of moral good is the imagination."

(a quote I copied in a notebook in 1966.)