Monday, July 23, 2012

Blowing It

Here is Romney's new ad:

And this is what the president actually said:
But you know what, I’m not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney or folks who don’t need them. So I’m going to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more. . . .
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
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.
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.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.
Which is a less artfully stated version of this argument from Elizabeth Warren:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory, and it turned into something terrific or a great idea: God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” ---Elizabeth Warren

Slate's David Weigel calls the sound bite from Obama's speech
a magic word gaffe—a statement that reveals not what a politician believes, but what you already feared, in your bone marrow, that a politician believes. Democrats still can’t understand why Obama’s speech is supposed to offend anyone. Republicans know that he’s a closet socialist, and that this sentiment only comes out when his energy is flagging. 
So, here's the deal: any intelligent voter is going to figure out that Romney has taken this quotation out of context with the intention of misleading voters. And while Republicans believe that the quotation confirms what they already believe about the president, Romney is wasting his time talking to them. Those republicans will suffer from temporary idiocy and eagerly take the quotation out of context and pretend that the rest of the speech doesn't exist. They wouldn't vote for Obama in a million years. Romney should be trying to reach independents. But Romney can't count on independents to share Republicans' preexisting beliefs about the president. And I'm sure that most of them don't like being manipulated by a deceptive politician. So I don't know how this ad is going to do the job.

Hey, Republicans: why should I vote for your candidate when he has to mislead me and resort to fiction to get me to vote for him?

Republicans: your terrible candidate is blowing it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Smarter than you think

I can't believe that I'm making the time to write this.

Dana Stevens is a film critic for Slate. I like her reviews. But I have a problem with something she said in her review of Katy Perry: Part of Me. And no, I haven't seen the movie and I don't plan to. Anyway, here's what she said, first about the movie, and then about one of Perry's hits:
There’s no mention of Brand’s well-documented struggles as an alcoholic and drug addict—in fact, there are no unwholesome substances anywhere on view in Part of Me, with the exception of the you-go-girl blackout drinking Perry espouses in her mega-hit “Last Friday Night.”

About “Last Friday Night.” Not to sound like a scold, but I agree entirely with the comedian Rob Delaney’s brilliant line-by-line breakdown of this song, in which he takes the unnamed protagonist (and by association, Perry) to task for glamorizing a nightlife that includes unprotected sex with strangers, drinking to the point of amnesia, and possibly sexual assault. Why do I care whether a pop singer I never voluntarily listen to hits it big with a cute ditty about how awesome it is to spend your Friday nights doing stupid, dangerous shit? Maybe because I have a daughter who’s a born ham, someone who, like the younger Katy Perry we see in old home video footage in Part of Me, has dreams of standing on a stage one day doing something—singing, dancing, playing an instrument—in front of a cheering crowd. If and when that time comes, I want her to know she has options besides spraying whipped cream out of her bra.
I am a casual fan of Perry, but it's not because of her above-average looks. I like her music. I don't love it. It's not good enough to love, and her albums are too goddamned loud. I just listened to "Last Friday Night" again, and like too many casualties of the loudness war, it really does sound like dogshit. But I don't think that's Perry's fault. Anyway, I know a little something about this.

Stevens should tell us why we should assume, as she does, that a songwriter who sings about a morally objectionable lifestyle thereby approves of it or espouses it or glorifies it. If Stevens had taken the time to listen to the lyrics of "Last Friday Night," she would have heard the following:
Yeah, I think we broke the law
Always say we're gonna stop
But this Friday night
Do it all again
That doesn't sound like glorification to me. That sounds like an indictment of the meaninglessness and pointlessness of the lifestyle Stevens finds so morally objectionable. And isn't that what one might expect from a songwriter who still considers herself to be a Christian? Stevens writes that she "left the film with a slightly higher opinion of Perry as a singer and songwriter." Then why not give Perry some credit and consider the possibility that the song has more than one layer of meaning? And by the way, why not teach your child to think, creatively and critically, about the music she consumes?

I grew up listening to the Dead Kennedys. On the surface, some of their songs appear to glorify horrible things. But of course their intention was to condemn those things, not glorify them. A perfect example is their song "Riot." Jello Biafra seems to celebrate the joys of rioting in the song as he describes the riot in detail:
Now you can smash all the windows that you want
All you really need are some friends and and a rock
Throwing a brick never felt so damn good
Smash more glass
Scream with a laugh
And wallow with the crowds
Watch them kicking peoples' ass
But a closer look at the lyrics reveals that he actually has contempt for the rioters. Here's the chorus:
Riot - the unbeatable high
Riot - shoots your nerves to the sky
Riot - playing into their hands
Tomorrow you're homeless
Tonight it's a blast 
At the end of the song, we can hear the rioter's high wearing off as he realizes that he's destroyed his own neighborhood, and perhaps it wasn't worth it after all.

So it's not difficult for me to imagine that Perry is ridiculing the lifestyle she describes in "Last Friday Night," and ridiculing those who enjoy that lifestyle and who also believe that Perry has expressed her approval of them in the song. And I suspect that she's a lot smarter than most of us think.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Crook or a Liar

From "Obama Campaign Says Mitt Romney Is Either A Crook Or A Liar," a Time Magazine story by Michael Scherer:
Mitt Romney wants you to know that both of these things are true: 1. He remained the “controlling person” in a number of Bain Capital investments between 1999 and 2002, when he left to work on the Salt Lake City Olympics. 2. He had no actual personal control over those investments during that time. . . .
Statement number one comes in several contemporaneous SEC filings, which the Obama campaign has been sending around to reporters. Statement number two comes from Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, and was certified on a federal financial disclosure in 2011, when Romney said he left active management of Bain Capital to work on the Olympics in 1999. That means that Romney’s position is he was both the “controlling person” and had no active management responsibilities.
This does not surprise me. For Romney, the truth is to be crafted rather than acknowledged.

But think about it: Romney, the sole stockholder of Bain Capital, had no control over its investments? I'm not buying it.

But I wonder how much this story could possibly hurt him with the base and Republicans in general. Look, Romney was a venture capitalist, and many conservatives will tell you that the only thing a capitalist should be concerned about is making a profit. I think that view is not only false but at least slightly insane. But that's what they believe. Anyway, a lot of Republicans won't care that Romney outsourced American jobs, because they believe that capitalists can do whatever they want as long as it increases profits.

The Boston Herald broke this story. Read it here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Courting the White Racist Vote

I guess Mitt doesn't like the subsidy that would allow poor black people to purchase health insurance. Perhaps the white racist doesn't realize that it would also allow poor white people to purchase health insurance. I think Mitt just doesn't want to be bothered with thinking about poor people. He did say, "I'm not concerned about the very poor," after all. I say we take his word for it.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson