The Turtle Plods Forward

15 Apr
English: Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell

English: Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has the field to himself in his upcoming re-election bid. He has used attack ads to eliminate one possible opponent, actress and activist Ashley Judd. Seeing his approval ratings in the mid-thirties and fearing Judd for her name recognition and possible fund-raising prowess, McConnell wasted no time. Judd was given a taste of what a no-holds-barred campaign could be. Blasted for being a non-resident “Hollywood type”, Judd decided to sit this one out. Rumor has is that she will soon establish residency in Kentucky for a future race.

Now a group called American Commitment is running ads in the state urging voters to call our dear Senator and thank him for standing up for hard-working voters. The 501 (c)4 group has previously run ads against Democrats who supported ACA. McConnell “stood up” for voters by opposing the “carbon tax” which would have “raised more money for the federal goverment to waste.” No mention here of the brave fight he put up against ending the Obama payroll tax holiday. Because of course not a peep was heard from the dear Senator. He spent his energy in a mostly successful bid to protect those in his donor base from the repeal of the Bush tax cuts.

A page on the American Commitment site rails against Obama and his “war on coal”. Unabashedly pro Fossil Fuel, it warns of a “staggering array of anti-coal regulations” that will “shut down all coal-fired power plants in America.” This message is tailored to appeal to voters in the eastern part of the state. No mention of record low natural gas prices, which have done  to the coal industry what the most onerous of regulations could not. Emissions in 2012 returned to levels not seen since the 1990′s due to the wholesale switch from coal to gas for power generation. American Commitment should salute the free market at work instead of hacking away at straw men.

Is the “Turtle” trolling us?

2 Mar

In the run-up to the announcement of a possible Senate run by actress Ashley Judd, questions swirl around the political landscape. First and foremost is …will she run? Judd has been drawn into advocacy by her work as a global ambassador for YouthAIDS. Polling shows her within spitting distance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Judd, as YouthAIDS Global Ambassador, speaks a...

Judd, as YouthAIDS Global Ambassador, speaks at an event in South Africa (January 2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do these results indicate anything other than high name recognition for the actress? Is she seriously considering a run for office or is she just taking advantage of this opportunity to get some free publicity?

Much has been made of Carl Rove’s preemptive attack ads which paint Judd as an out-of-touch poser who does not even live in the state. “Turtle Man”, as McConnell is known in progressive circles, is thought to be the most unpopular office-holder in the senate. Is he afraid he might lose his seat? Or can this consummate political operator be turning this to his advantage? Is he trying to “select” his opponent… one he feels comfortable running against? He could be trying to bait Ms. Judd into a campaign.

During the last election cycle, Claire McCaskill of Missouri shaped the race in her favor, going so far as running  primary ads in support of the Republican she wished to face in November. This strategy proved successful. Her seat had been considered threatened, yet she won by a wide margin. Could The Turtle, preparing for a sixth senate run, be taking a page from this playbook?

Ms. Judd has promised a decision by the date of this year’s Kentucky Derby. As for the Turtle, a wise man once said “Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.”

Haunted by the Ghost of Clinton

11 Sep

The Big Dog is off the porch and runnin’ wild. Bill Clinton has entered the presidential race with his full-throated endorsement of Barrack Obama during the democratic convention.

At a time of deep divisions in all aspects of the body politic, the once controversial former president is taking advantage of his 69% approval rating.  His appearance in the race seems to be the major factor why a little daylight has appeared in the polling numbers of the two candidates. A race that was essentially tied, and had been for months, now seems to be leaning in the incumbent’s favor.

Bill Clinton’s presidency began with accusations of murder from the radical right. He lost the last two years of his presidency to a sex scandal now largely forgotten. His political opponents, he feels, needlessly persecuted him, hurting the chances of his would-be successor. Payback is now the order of the day.

How sweet it must be to slip the hot knife of revenge between the ribs of the GOP’s great white hope during this campaign.

What are Clinton’s motivations? His wife lost a passionately contested primary to Obama just four years ago. Bad blood was exposed more than once.

His probably has two primary reasons, beyond the cold revenge. One is legacy. The more time a Democratic president can spend in office, the more opportunity he has to shape the narrative in his favor. The other reason is that he hopes to put his wife in a position to run for the highest office in the land should she so desire.

A Democratic win in 2012 makes a run by Hillary much more likely in my opinion.

And the Big Dog is sniffing around for a path back to the warm confines of the White House

The New Owning: Property in the Digital Age

3 Sep

I do not have a “media room”, more like a media closet. The books, CD’s, a few DVD’s, and yes even a couple shelves of LP’s  that I got away with in the divorce are tucked away,  remnants of a former life. Saved I suppose because I have no reason to dispose of them. A music collection starting with the Beatles and James Taylor morphs through Southern Rock then turns more recently to Bluegrass. The science fiction classics of my teen years stare out at me from the bookshelf – testament to an early interest in alien worlds and un-earthly environments. These items form a shadowy profile of my mental life.

Saved among them are things I took from my childhood home after my father passed. I awoke to political consciousness during the Watergate years. My mother absolutely despised Nixon. Among the relics I have are newspaper clippings she methodically collected and preserved throughout the summer of the Watergate hearings. Among the items rescued from my childhood home is a 78 rpm phonograph record of the Glenn Miller hit “String of Pearls”.

Are totems like this important to me? Not supremely. Yet they are something. They connect me to my youth. The smell of the aging, brown paper brings back memories of a time forever gone.  Miller’s sax intro conjures up images of World War II.

Imagine if, upon my parent’s passing, a representative from the newspaper showed up on the doorstep demanding return of the “Watergate Collection”. Oh, and those 78 RPM records with which they  learned the foxtrot, they must be returned to the record label. Your “ownership rights” do not survive.

Outrageous? Of course!  And yet that eventuality is faced by all users of digital media. Got an iPod full of purchased tunes? It may as well go to the grave with you, it cannot be passed down. Your kids will have to re-purchase all the content.  Is your Kindle full of classics reads? That digital bookshelf will not be perused upon your passing.

We are leasing the content we enjoy, there is no ownership. Quoting the Amazon terms of service,  “(Amazon) grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Kindle or a Reading app …Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense, or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party.”

Apple’s Terms are nearly identical.

The digital devices we enlist for our entertainment give us control of our media which we commonly mistake for ownership.

Media companies have a long history of selling the same content to us over and over, just on different formats. I have the experience of buying a song on a 45 rpm, then an album, a cassette tape, then a CD and finally digitally from iTunes.  Limiting survivorship ensures multiple sales of the same content into the future.

Does this upset you? It apparently upsets Bruce Willis. http://tinyurl.com/btfdfnf  The action movie hero swings into action, threatening to bash corporate bad-actors. He is suing Apple. B ruce has apparently amassed a “huge” itunes library and wants to pass it on to his kids.Insert cartoon image of super-hero punching Apple logo.

The raising of consciousness this fight should bring will hopefully result in the opening up of a new legal frontier. Considering the amount of partisan gridlock in Washington, can relief be had for either side of the digital rights divide. Not likely.

One can only hope for the type of social media outcry which earlier in the year doomed SOPA to an early (and much-deserved) death.

“POW!!” “WHACK!!”

Go Bruce!!

How does “we” get to be “we”?

30 Aug

And so, on Thursday night in Tampa, the Republicans exposed the sub-text of their convention, the reason behind the animosity of the Tea-partiers. The anger driving those who see thePresident, actually most democrats, as usurpers. They consider his presence in the White House to be an offense, an abomination.

During a rambling, off-prompter speech by Clint Eastwood, the highlight of which was a conversation with an empty chair, the core phrase was uttered.

“We own this country.”

The crowd erupted with a tremendous ovation.

“We own this country”. Not you mister President, with your hidden Kenyan birth certificate. You are not of this place and do not belong here.

Now I am sure that Clint is not a birther. I cannot believe that of him. He is too intelligent to truck with that party.

And yet this sentiment echoes the Tea Party cries of “Take our country back!” Do they mean back from it’s duly elected government?

The circle of “we” has been drawn and includes the mostly white, mostly privileged participants of the convention. It beckons, come and be with us, not with “them”.

This sort of tribalism springs from a deeply human source. The urge to tag “us” from “them” no doubt has an evolutionary favored component.

It continues the attempts to paint the President as outside, “not from around here”, somehow a scary “other”, that sprang up during the ’08 campaign and accelerated as his term in office proceeded.

It asks undecideds to vote with “us”, not with the “others”. It kills any hope of an appeal to African-Americans or Hispanics.

It is simply an attempt to maximize the base vote, especially the white non-college educated component.

They have made the calculation that tribalism will sound an alluring call heard by the target demographic.

It is a sign of desperation.

Hello universe! (Why think small?)

26 Aug

Well, it looks like I have done it now!

Time to get off the bleachers and into the game.

I am going to talk about the things that concern me, most notably politics, and see if I can kick up some dust.

My political inclinations lean to the left, but I like to think I have an open mind and am willing to listen to arguments from the other side.

As I write this, it is becoming clear that hurricane Isaac is going to miss Tampa, the site of the Republican convention and head instead for Louisiana, God having apparently tallied the sinners in each location and picked New Orleans. I wonder what the score was.

My day job is computer and network repair and support and I have just returned from my former brother-in-laws’ house (install wireless printer on three laptops). He is a stock broker and has sorely felt the effects of the financial crisis. Many of his former clients, at least the ones who were not wiped out, refuse to participate in what they view as a rigged game. His views on the cause of the collapse mirror the vast majority of people I come into contact with on a daily basis. He repeats  a script that could be read practically verbatim on Fox News.

He blames primarily the government (of course) for the debacle. This from a veteran who has a developmentally disabled child and is not a natural government hater. Phrases like “They showed Barney Frank wagging his finger during those congressional hearings” and “Fannie and Freddie forced the banks to lend money to people who could not afford it” came out of his mouth.

Sheesh!

I countered that Fannie and Freddie mostly left the mortgage market in 2003, well before the housing crisis gathered steam. Barney Frank was advocating for the percentage of minorities receiving loans being raised, but it never ever approached 100 percent. They were tinkering at the margins. I argued that much or even most of the blame for the housing crisis should be put on the corrupt system which made loans to homeowners expressly to sell them to investors clamoring for a slightly higher return than was generally available on the bond market at the time. The loaning bank or mortgage broker got paid whether  the homeowner nade his payments or not.

Gave him something to think about anyway, as he claimed to never have heard of a “liar’s loan”.

This interchange illustrates the power of the Republican propoganda machine that is Fox News. I well remember the days when Barney Frank waving his finger ran non-stop while they reverse-engineered a government-blaming narrative to explain the housing crisis. It had an impact.

A blogger like me is akin to one of Poppy Bush’ thousand points of light, only left-leaning. I am trying to shed some light on political issues.

While Fox is like the Death Star, hovering just over the horizon, spewing a death-laser of mis-information over the body politic.

I encouraged him to read “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis, a compelling story of the financial crisis told from the perspective of one of the few traders who saw early on that the emperor had no clothes – that many homeowners were taking out loans which would reset quickly at a much higher rate. They would have to re-finance or default. You know what happened. That trader made a killing. I do not recall any mention of Fannie or Freddie.

He may actually look at the book. But while he does, Fox will be blaring in the background.

So I have run over my preferred word count. I plan on re-visiting these posts to clean up grammar and correct factual errors. For instance, as I think of it, I am unsure about Fannie and Freddie’s exit from the loan market. I will have to check on that.

Future posts will cover the doings of my senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell (you’re welcome America). Election news during the 2012 season and anything else that occurs.

We shall see how it goes. I wonder if there is Blogger’s Creed I have to sign or something…lol.

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