Thursday, October 04, 2012

Romney's Etch-a-Sketch Moment

Could the traits of a good president -- unflappable calm, sober deliberation and dedication to facts -- prove lethal to presidential candidate Barack Obama?  Last night's first presidential debate showed us "no drama Obama" at his most wonkish, and the world called it a good night for Mitt Romney...

...whose agility onstage was stunning in direct proportion to his unbelievable re-invention.  His etch-a-sketch moment, whose timing was impeccable.

First off, the good news.  On the surface, both candidates were more serious, wonkish and focused on real issues than I have ever seen in a presidential debate. Moreover, in making his veer toward the center (see below), Willard Mitt Romney established what might actually be the outlines -- come December and January -- of a compromise on the budget that reasonable men and women could work out in a bipartisan manner, solving the Fiscal Cliff.

Assuming that one of the sides gets hammered enough to remember how to be "reasonable men and women."

== The New Mitt Romney ==

I had been wondering when -- after securing the Republican Party's nomination, Governor Romney would take one of his patented veers, suddenly charging hard for the political center. (Or "shaking the etch-a-sketch") to re-configure himself for centrists or undecided voters.  Why did he delay till now?

Apparently, after a tepid convention, he seemed unsure of solid support from the GOP base and felt he needed to shore it up.  Does that theory explain why, for several weeks, he maintained consistency with the far-right positions and statements he proclaimed during the primary?  Those included:

- adamant vows to repeal all of Obamacare (despite it having originally been cloned from the Massachusetts plan that he helped bring about, and the earlier Alternative Republican Health Care platform of 1995.)

- adamant and absolute refusal to increase revenues to the federal government, especially from the top 1%.

- decrying government regulation in principle and especially constraints upon big banks, Wall Street -- and denouncing any empowerment or activation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was blocked for two years by House of Representatives (GOP) inaction and by GOP filibusters in the Senate.

- ridiculing alternative energy methods and declaring absolute fealty to tax breaks for fossil fuel companies.

- insistence on supply side "boosts" to the economy by funneling trillions into the richest pockets, on the always-wrong wager that this time it will result in a burst of economic activity that increases tax revenues.

== The Big Swerve ==

All of those positions -- declared vigorously during the primaries -- are (on average) deeply unpopular with centrist Americans and I was wondering... when will Mitt do his veer?
You saw signs of it about five days before the debate, when he floated a very vague, but suddenly-different, notion that the rich might face an upper limit to their itemized deductions.  If the limit were chosen low enough - without exceptions -  it might offend the mortgage industry, charitable trusts and many other interest groups; but yes, it could result in major revenue to counter the arterial losses inherent in Romney's top rate tax cuts.  You had to admire the jiu jitsu agility of it all, while denying he was breaking his "no new revenue" pledge.  (Of course it amounts to a huge tax hike and could, indeed, be a basis for December-January compromise.)

In fact, what we were witnessing during the last week was brilliant prep work, perfectly timed, for his Wednesday night veer and hard charge toward the center.  When Romney flat-out denied holding ANY of the beliefs or policies cited above!  Not only that, but he blamed the president for failure to unleash the CFPB on Wall Street with more vigor!

With panache you just had to admire, Romney moved from chutzpah...  claiming that - because of his three-day-old new tax policy he had never ruled out revenue increases or asking the rich to pay more or ever proposed a vast supply-side gift of trillions to the top 1%...

...all the way to flat-out lying. For example that ObamaCare is not directly modeled on the health care system he and the Democratic legislature enacted in his home state, when he was governor, down to the details of actual language in the bill.  As more and more elements of Obamacare have come into action, and proved publicly popular, those portions have come into Mitt's category of "oh, well, I'll keep THAT part, of course."  And each time, he gets away with claiming that it is not a reversal.

Or his claim that Obama's 90 billion dollars of aid to sustainable energy was fifty times the 3-4 billions per year of tax breaks given to the oil industry... when that 90 billion is mostly not expenditure but loan guarantees resulting in much lower costs, and is spread across many years.

I was reminded of an old Saturday Night Live sketch, in which a wife comes home to find her husband in bed with a bimbo and screams "what's this?" To which he replies: "What's what?  I don't know what you're talking about."  He keeps up his denial while calmly getting dressed and the bimbo dresses and departs. Stonewalling her rage, he maintains the counterfactual with such puzzled calm and patronizing panache, while making coffee and suggesting that the wife is having blithering fantasies, that she winds up just sitting at the table with him, letting him change the subject to how her day went.

Seriously. Are we that stupid?  And is Obama such a klutz he will just stare at the lies, in pole-axed surprise?

== The insanity of liberals ==

It has long been the bane of liberals that they keep offering to negotiate, expecting that they are still talking to the party of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley and that the spirits of those noble, old-style, intellectually formidable conservatives might somehow be roused -- and the Beck-Fox madness quelled -- by finding the right arguments or by marshaling enough facts!

Mitt himself showed the impossibility of that during the debate.  In his biggest chutzpah, he claimed that the Democrats were the partisan fanatics, because ObamaCare passed without a single Republican vote, whereas in Massachusetts he got the nearly identical plan passed by working with all parties.  Of course this reflects history, in that democratic-controlled legislatures always negotiate with Republican presidents and governors.  Reagan, both Bushes, even Nixon were able to get large parts of their agendas passed that way.  (In the case of GWB, that acquiescence constitutes a shame for which the DP should deeply atone.)

The opposite is almost never true.  Just once, in 1995, the Republicans in Congress worked with Bill Clinton and negotiated two epochal achievements -- Welfare Reform and the Rudman-Tsongas budget compromise that Clinton then meticulously enforced, giving us four years of budgets in the black and paying down debt.  After which, the new wave of GOP radicals swore that cooperation with a democratic president would never ever happen again.  They made that vow openly and publicly -- launching the impeachment hysteria and so much else -- and have kept it to this day.

The failure of a single Republican in Congress to support ObamaCare... which was based upon Newt's Alternative Republican Health Care platform of 1995... was not about Democratic intransigence.  It was about the fact that the GOP has become the most tightly disciplined partisan machine in the history of the American Republic.

And ... President Obama wasn't able to make hay of that???

Did any of you notice the lame little jibe he made? "And I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers, and they say it's the same plan."

Ah, yes.  I guess he made my point... and maybe five people caught it.


== What the President did right ==

Look, I personally am happy with some things the President said.

Did anyone else notice that he mentioned  SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGICAL LEADERSHIP five times?  That's more than lip service to the one factor in our society that produced more than half of our economic growth and power since 1945.  Anyone who cares about a logical, scientific, progressive, pragmatic, problem-solving civilization should take that -- and a myriad similar data -- as evidence for why only 6% of U.S. scientists are still Republicans.  No such mention is ever made by Republicans.  Except Newt.  Ever.

And sure, if he had to err in one direction or the other, then "no drama Obama" is the correct choice.  Frankly, I don't think he'd be president today, if he had an angry bone in his body. (Though he got Osama bin Laden, and nearly fifty other top terror leaders.)

Still, what would it hurt to -- well -- invoke the ghost at the banquet?  A particular name.  The name of a fellow known as George W. Bush?

Jeez!  The Republicans are fleeing from that name like the Knights Who Say Ni!  They never ever mention their own record at governance over the United States, which lasted longer and was more fierce in control than the shorter spans of democratic rule.  Can you imagine this final chutzpah?  Demanding power, while frantically refusing to discuss how you used it before? Or the resulting outcomes?

ALL of our current deficit can be attributed to two multi-trillion dollar wars of "nation building" that resulted in new satrapies of Iran, giant tax gifts to oligarchs who created no jobs, the unfunded Medicare Part D and the trillion dollar raid on our economy that led to the Second Depression... and the Dems are afraid to remind voters any of that?  Any at all?

Well, maybe they've assigned that role to Vice President Biden.  If so, I hope he is well rehearsed.  Because Paul Ryan is a pit bull.

== Follow up ==

In my posting about Questions I would Ask at the Debates, I linked to some of my earlier articles about each topic.  Still, I expect folks just skimmed on past, so let me urge you to consider:

My series about gerrymandering, offering some easy fixes you have almost certainly never seen before!  Including the simplest reform that would require a minimum of bureaucracy...

.... and about the Electoral College.  Let's not bother to eliminate it. (Too much trouble.) But there is a simple, almost trivial fix that could ensure that there's almost no chance that the popular vote winner will ever again be frozen out in the Electoral College.  See also this very informative video assessment  by Mansur Gidfar


Tony Fisk said...

I note that Obama is now pointing out Romney's policy back-flips. Why on earth didn't he pounce on them in real-time? (every other observer seemed able to!)
Doing so in hindsight is making him look like a grouchy sore loser.

Anonymous said...

Better late than never.

David desJardins said...

Most of the $90 billion is not "green energy" at all, it's things like energy conservation or improving the grid, that are exactly as important if you're generating energy from fossil fuels as from solar or wind. And trains! Trains certainly don't have any feature that makes them run only on solar-generated electricity. The actual green energy spending is only a relatively small fraction of the $90 billion. Obama could have said that.

David desJardins said...

Tony, I think Obama went into the debate with a deliberate strategy to not challenge or question Romney directly, but only to repeat his own points. I don't think this was a good strategy, but I think it might be the answer to your question.

David Brin said...

Weather girl goes rogue:

David Brin said...

Well, the jiu jitsu interpretation is "let's get the 'challenger did surprisingly well' part of this process over with." Now expectations for Romney in the last two will be very high and hard to match.

sociotard said...

Why, why do Democrats not get this? David, you may see yourself as a contrarian centrist, but you have failed a very important part of understanding the right. Yes, even the sane right.

States. Rights.

Obamacare is not the same as Romney's Massachusetts law, because it was not a Federal program.

It was a State program, passed into law by a state and enforced by a state. Not the federal program.

Obamacare may be a great solution, but it is a federal solution, passed into law by a federal government and funded by a federal government.

Mitt Romney was very specific that he thought the plan would be good . . . for states.

The distinction is important to people on the right. I'm not even especially right wing and I care about it. Federal/state is as important an element of Separation of Powers as the three branches of government.

Rob said...

What I'm still trying to wrap my brain around is how Obamacare is supposed to be a violation of the 10th Amendment. Didn't we have a Bush appointee explain to us all how it wasn't, (taxation power; no matter how many words Congress minces) through which it was made settled law?

Then again, nobody listens to me.

David Brin said...

ZSociotard, I get that. But in that case, the difference is narrow enough that you cannot demonize it or call Obama satanic Stalin for passing a template. All you can logically do is complain that there should be variations and exemptions available to states... and guess what.

Suddenly you are negotiating. trapped by Obama saying "Fine! Let's sit down and talk and when reasonable exemptions and experiments are arranged, then will you sign on and stop calling me Stalin?"

That can't happen. It cannot be allowed.

Tony Fisk said...

Mr Obama told a rally of some 12,000 supporters on Thursday: "When I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.

Maybe the fellow claiming to be Mitt Romney should have been met by another spirited fellow claiming to be Samuel 'WTFU' Jackson?

Ian said...

There's a simple - if imperfect - fix for the Electroal College.

Increase the size of the house of Represenatives by 50 or 100 seats, this would make it far harder for a candidate to win an EC majority without also winning thep opulat vote.

All this would require is an Act of Congress- prior to the early 20th century this occured on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Sociotard, what you neglect to mention is that approximately half of the Massachusetts health care law was funded by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT(i.e. taxpayers from around the country). The notion that it was simply a state program is false. It's also ridiculous to say that Mitt Romney thought the plan would be good for the states but not at the federal level. That may be true of the current version of Romney, but just a cursory Google search shows Mitt Romney on video, several times, and in an op-ed he wrote, holding up the Massachusetts health care law as a federal model.

Empirical Liberal said...

That last comment was mine. Sorry about the long username. I used my AIM username, Empirical Liberal, with OpenID, not realizing the long random screen name that would result. I won't be doing that again.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin, you need to study WHY the electoral college exists. The founders of this nation understood that there are two kinds of majority -- the majority of the people, and the majority of the states. The electoral college was created to ensure that a majority of the people (which with current demographics could mean the populations of California and a handful of North-eastern states) do not get to run the country for the rest of us. It means that the successful presidential candidate has to appleal to the majority of the states as much as to the majority of the people. Find another way to stike that mathematical ballance, and I will listen.

Anonymous said...

I would like to suggest that Mr. Obama intentionally turned in a lack luster debate performance to narrow the gap between himself and Romney in the national polls and thus keep Roves millions of SuperPAC dollars focused on a race they can't win rather than on the many Congressional and Senete races.

Carl M. said...

A simple electoral college fix: break up the big states. Some of the western states are gigantic because Congress was haggling over the slave issue when they were admitted. California and Texas need to be broken into several states each. New York City could be its own state.

Jon said...

Your analogy has made it clear: Romney is gaslighting the American people.

Acacia H. said...

I've mentioned in the past we should add another 100 seats into the House of Representatives. The problem is that this would reduce the power of small states - I'd suggest that the first 50 seats should be split evenly among the 50 current states and the rest according to population.

Actually, the real problem is that the House doesn't want to spend the money to expand on the House. There is a viable alternative and one that technology would easily allow: Virtual Representatives. You set up high-quality webcams for the 100 Virtual Representatives and allow these Reps to work from their home state using computer workstations. These 100 Reps would be better situated to follow the dictates of their state because they're not stuck in Washington for much of the year.

These machines would ONLY be for telecommuting and registering votes. They would not have any web surfing capabilities, no USB or other features, and basically be built so that all they do is register the vote of the Rep. All House documents could be sent to a regular computer owned by the Rep or sent via Postal mail for hard copies.

If the Remote Access Representatives work effectively, it could either be expanded upon, or more traditional Reps could be allowed to start working from their home state as well. (In fact, the 100 Virtual Seats could be rotating among the elected Reps, so that each year a different Rep is allowed to work from home.)

The benefits is that you now have an expanded Representative base, allowing for more accurate depiction of voter and party interests. These "Home Reps" would also be better situated to understand what their state situation is at. And it might cut into gerrymandering. After all, it would be much more difficult to effectively gerrymander if a state suddenly has another five or so House Seats to fill, and any attempts to do so would become quite visible.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Frank Alejano said...

Anonymous said...

It means that the successful presidential candidate has to appleal to the majority of the states as much as to the majority of the people. Find another way to stike that mathematical ballance, and I will listen.

Doctor Brin's proposal of proportional representation does exactly that, without the possibility of having regional interests completely trump national interests. Take the following example. Please indulge my preference to use very simplified math.

Presently, number of Electoral Votes (EV) = #congressmen + #senators per state, or #congressmen + 2.

Let's look at 5 states:

Big C (pop. 70 Million) = 37 EVs
M (pop. 30 Million) = 17 EVs
G (pop. 20 Million) = 12 EVs
N (pop. 10 Million) = 7 EVs
Little D (pop. 6 Million) = 5 EVs
Little H (pop. 2 Million) = 3 EVs

The smaller states currently have a lower combined population but have significantly higher influence if taken as a whole (44 vs. 37 EVs)

Consider a president that is highly unpopular in M, G, N and H (90% against), and only somewhat popular in C and D (45% against)

In popular vote, that means that

Against: 91 million
For: 47 million

Current system: the president gets re-elected (42 to 39) in this sample of the country, despite losing the popular in historic fashion.

Proposed System: the president goes down in flames (59 to 22)

Now to address your objection: pretend said president is worshipped in C (80% approval) and reviled by all the other states (20% approval)

In this case, the president also goes down in the proposed system (about 41 to 38) even though he actual gets a slightly higher portion of the electorate- the perils of being a regional president.

The constant addition of 2 to each states EV total means that smaller states have disproportionally more influence than large states. Not a massive increase, mind you, but a president with broader geographical appeal will indeed enjoy an easier road under either system. The proportional system simply adds influence to minorities in states that are heavily weighted- in essence, your argument taken to a local level. You should actually SUPPORT this if you're worried about smaller local groups retaining influence.

Jacob said...

Hey Carl M,

If we're going to do pretty disruptive work like state busting, shouldn't we look at a model to organizing by urban, rural, mixed regions?

Robert, the House of Representatives shouldn't throw any bones to small states. The existence of the Senate already gives them more power than they should have. That is if you believe in one person, one vote.

Acacia H. said...

The thing is, I don't think one Rep can represent an entire state, no matter how few people live there (within reason). Giving a state two Reps minimum would result in two things: first, greater power for the minority party of that state (either the majority party will gerrymander to protect one seat, or risk losing both seats - in either case, the minority party gains power), and second, a more effective representation of that state's regional interests (thus meaning a state's reps could work against one another if they have diverging interests, or cooperate and negotiate on effectively looking after both interests).

In order to allow by population each state to have a minimum of two Reps, by population numbers, you would need 1,102 Representatives in all. That would be one Rep for every 280,000 people. On the plus side, you'd probably see several "third party" politicians elected to Congress.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Electoral College reform.
1- distrib all of a state's elector's proportionately with the error bonus going to the plurality winner.

2- distrib all but TWO that way and make those statewide.

3- have two be statewide and the rest elected BY congressional districts.

#3 is how it is done in Maine & Nebraska. If done in Texas you'd then have gerrymandering effects Still there's a real chance that the electors would then become what the Constitution envisioned. Actual delegates to an actual conference that might actually deliberate and argue and maybe even negotiate. A possibility with both inspiring and scary scenarios coming to mind.

David Brin said...

Is it remotely possible that the silver lining was deliberate? That BHO deliberately came across as an earnest wonk, saving his sharpest knives for later, conceding that WMR would "exceed expectations" and in fact helping him to set his own bar way-high?

... and drawing Rove's money away from senate and Cong races?

Jeez, if he were that smart.

Huh. Looks like this particular posting is drawing a LOT of traffic!

David Brin said...

A more journalistic look at the lies:

Ian said...

Lengthy but worth reading:

Back in 2008, Focus on the Family predcited what america would be like in 2012 if Obama were eelcted.

- Russia has re-occupied all of Eastern Europe;

- Iran has nuked Israel;

- Taxes have increased massively;

- Petrol is $7 a gallon.

- home schooling is illegal

- Most Christian publishers and proselytising groups have been shut down

- The Boy Scouts disbanded rather than admit homsoexuals

Next time someone tells you how horrible a second Obama term will be, show them this.

Karl said...

Before we even get to fiddling around at the electoral level, we need to look at the single vote/simple plurality system that's used across the board, and the way that it actively squeezes out all choices except the two parties with the most inertia.

People need to start encouraging their localities and states to look into adopting approval or score voting, so that voters can use their ballots to accurately express their preferences without having to worry about a vote for someone they feel is the best candidate becoming a de facto vote for the opposition.

Stefan Jones said...

A tangential rant.

There's a popular claim, in conservative circles, that we don't need public TV any more because of the many cable TV stations offering arts and science programming.

You know. A&E (Arts & Entertainment), Bravo, Animal Planet, Discover, History, The Learning Channel.

Gosh, what a rich mosaic of educational opportunities!

Here's what's on these channels tonight:

A&E: Six hours of "Criminal Minds"

Bravo: "The Real Housewives of New York City," "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," "Groundhog Day"

Animal Planet: "Monsters Inside Me," "Infested!"

Discover: "Flying Wild Alaska," "Deadliest Catch."

History: "Cajun Pawn Stars"

The Learning Channel: "Secret Princes," "Say Yes to the Dress"

National Geographic: "Alaska Trooper" and "Hard Time."

There's a fair amount of crowd-pleasing drama on PBS, but it is also the only place where you're likely to find quality investigative reporting, and science programming that isn't embarrassing crap involving UFOs.

Pulling federal funding from PBS wouldn't kill PBS, but it would hurt many smaller stations, limiting access to non-commercial radio and TV in poor and rural areas.

It's almost as though conservatives want to keep people . . . unchallenged.

David Brin said...

Stefan, I think even our closet and non-closet conservatives here agree with you about the History Channel having become the Bigfoot Channel.

In fairness, SCI and DISCOVERY still have high ratios and the Military History Channel has absorbed the interests of the old History Channel.

But yes, the oligarchs are using the barbarians against us... and it is no satisfaction knowing that the fools will be turned-upon by their unwashed tools.

Ian, Focus on the Family will only tell you that all of those horrors were prevented by Paul Ryan and Senator Imhoff.

Tony Fisk said...

Stefan, didn't the Texan GOP make it a matter of policy to remove critical thinking from the state schooling curriculum?

Anonymous said...

Mittens is very skillful liar. Even the comparison he made of the bipartisan effort required to bring universal(ish) healthcare to MA with Obama's failure to garner a single Republican vote for Obamacare is dishonest.

Mittens saw the MA governorship as a stepping stone to the presidency. As governor, he knew he needed an accomplishment to distinguish himself and, since healthcare reform was an important issue at the time, Mittens saw a dramatic reform of MA's healthcare system as the sort of accomplishment he needed. (Recall, that before the collapse of the financial system seemed imminent in the weeks prior to collapse of Lehman Bros., healthcare reform was the top issue that the candidates of both parties were running on).

To obtain this trophy, Mittens worked with an opposing party that enthusiastically shared his desire for universal healthcare in MA. (Mitt, of course, did this with an eye toward higher office, whereas, the members of legislature were most motivated by a genuine desire to aid their constituents). Indeed, Democracts in the MA legislature had worked incrementally toward the goal of increased and ultimately universal coverage since the 80's.

In the case of Obamacare, Obama confronted an opposing party that vociferously opposed any expansion of coverage on philosophical grounds. (That party also sought to actively undermine the presidency of Barack Obama from the moment of his inauguration). Romney was pushing on an open door when he approached Democrats in the MA legislature. Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, slammed the door in Obama's face. So, Romney's comparison is essentially one of apples and oranges.

atlasfugged said...


Pulling federal funding from PBS wouldn't kill PBS, but it would hurt many smaller stations, limiting access to non-commercial radio and TV in poor and rural areas.

Keep in mind the deductions cap Mittens proposed this week (and which is alluded to in this article). Because a taxpayer's deductions for charitable donations would contribute toward this cap, this policy would likely reduce charitable donations significantly ( I imagine donations to PBS would really suffer as a result. In effect, Mittens' proposed policies would deprive PBS of two of the three streams of revenue which it relies on: federal subsidies and charitable donations. Maybe state funding could pick up the slack, but that seems doubtful given the dire fiscal straits that many states find themselves in.

Mitt Romney seems to really have it in for Big Bird.

Acacia H. said...

Actually, Anon, the analogy that fits best is apples to rocks. With Charlie Obama getting rocks thrown at him by Republicans.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I think the machine has had it in for Big Bird & co for a while now... (recall the Liberal plot to brainwash kids against Capitalism).

Romney has been primed and pointed.

David Brin said...

1) Please don't demean Gov Romney by repetitious nicknames. Once is being cute. Repetition is just being mean, even if he deserves little respect.

2) The standard response of the right - when reminded of Clintonian surpluses -- is to give the credit to the GOP Congress of 95-2001.

On another list, a slightly more reasonable line is offered. "The ideal is a Democratic President and a Republican Congress."

Here was my response:

Let's be clear that we disagree on whether the Clintonian surpluses are so
easily written off as dotcom-boom based. Yes, (as I say below) each decade of
the 2nd half of the 20th Century, Americans introduced new innovatipns that kept
us rich enough to pay for arterial gushers of trade imbalances that thereupon
uplifted whole regions of the world. That is a FEATURE and not a flaw... so
long as we keep investing in innovation.

Which stopped dead in 2001... but more on that below.

Nevertheless, that excuse is facile. It was not a democratic president and
republican congress that gave us those surpluses. Stop doing convenient pattern
recog. It was a democratic president and a CENTRIST bipartisan majority that -
in 1994 - passed the compromise of Tsongas and Rudman that Clinton then
meticulously enforced.

Think please. That compromise got equal numbers of GOP and Dem votes, much to
the outrage of radicals of both parties. Moreover, during those four years of
surplus, it was the GOP right that screamed the surplus should be given over to
tax cuts and not (as the middle class polled favoring) spent on buying down
debt. Proof of this is simple. As soon as Clinton was out of the way, that is
exactly what happened.

Again... Demo Pres and gopper Congress is NOT the explanation. WE HAVE THAT

It was Demo Pres and moderate reasonable willing-to-negotiate, bipartisan
grownups in Congress. That was the magic formula.

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Ian said...

Jack Welch and John McCain lead a new assault on one of the knowledge castes.

A statistical report isn't favorable to your party? Just cry fraud.

Greg Malone said...

Well stated perspective, David. Though I too am a scientist and an educator, and I lean left of center, I find the Democrats' ignorance on what they're up against to be confounding and frustrating at every turn. It was interesting how that I generally found Obama's debate performance to be a winning one – mostly because I prefer a reasoned argument and facts over emotions and hyperbole – Only to find all of the commentators and journalists to take the exact opposite view of the outcome. I certainly do agree that Obama missed many many opportunities to nail Romney, and still use the facts against him. Maybe somebody should start an online petition to demand centralized nonpartisan fact checking of all candidates for public offices.

endgame said...

The debate that wasn't: In the real world the global economy is contracting which means more workers are laid off which means less demand which means more workers lose their jobs which means that eventually the global economy will collapse which means global chaos which means we need a contingency plan. Re: "Trials and Tribulations: The Contingency Plan" @

Arcee said...

Obama's biggest mistake was underestimating the damage 8 years of Bush did.

Let's not forget the fact that the Republican minority kept most bills from even coming to a vote. Even court appointments for Christ’s sake! Remember Mcconnell and the “goal one term president”!? Republicans obstructed without regard to what was/is good for the country when Democrats compromised to move forward.

Don't forget the many republicans in Congress that have obstructed progress by putting themselves before the good of country.

Joe said...

Etch-A-Sketch. This campaigns polite moniker for "pathological liar."

Tacitus said...

In just a few weeks we can stop having the vapors about the political story of the day.

Meanwhile, more importantly...

I think David had a WWI ship named after him!

The Good Ship Brin!

Nautically yours


Tacitus said...

lets try that link again.

or one clickable?


Yours with ten technothumbs


Alex Tolley said...

A minor nit:

I was reminded of an old Saturday Night Live sketch, in which a wife comes home to find her husband in bed with a bimbo and screams "what's this?" To which he replies: "What's what? I don't know what you're talking about." He keeps up his denial while calmly getting dressed and the bimbo dresses and departs. Stonewalling her rage, he maintains the counterfactual with such puzzled calm and patronizing panache, while making coffee and suggesting that the wife is having blithering fantasies, that she winds up just sitting at the table with him, letting him change the subject to how her day went.

I believe that is a scene from the movie, "A Guide for the Married Man"

SNL may have done it too, I never saw that.

Ian said...

Alex, there's a similar event in an episode of the British sitcom "Father TEd" in which the titular Father Ted kicks his nemesis the Bishop "up the arse" and then simply denies doing it.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, why do you think our son is Ben Brin?

Tacitus said...

just trying to figure out what temporal discontinuity allowed you to be a turn of the last century Italian politician AND to ghost write the script for the 2012 Sci Fi epic "Battleship"

I personally would not expect you to admit to either.

Anchors aweigh!


rewinn said...

@Tacitus - a simpler explanation than time travel is that the Dr. Brin we see at book readings is an actor, hired by the aliens who otherwise use his books and blogs to study the human psyche.

The battleship stuff and so forth may be just part of the experiment. Since you're noticed it, you might want to establish a code word to indicate to us that you have been abducted for further testing. Perhaps the phrase "I voted for Obama" ?

Tom Crowl said...

I questioned my attorney once during a pause in a deposition regarding why he seemed to passively allow the witness he was questioning to spout on about nonsense obviously in conflict with his previous statements.

His answer was that it was a good idea to let the witness proceed to hang himself without interruption... and that the trial was the best place to confront the witness with these conflicts.

Now I don't know if that was the Obama strategy... but he's got plenty of ammo for the next debate.

Acacia H. said...

When did Dr. Brin admit to ghost-writing "Battleship"?

The more important question is this: did you get paid, and was it enough to buy some decent alcohol to numb the memory of that atrocity to film? ;)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

I "adjust dials" when I see films. For Battleship it was "crank all dials down to 3rd grade cartoon level! Then reach inside and rip out the wires leading to LOGIC, dialogue, character, and/or the way the military works on this or any known or unknown planet. (Seriously? There are live 16 inch artillery shells currently aboard the USS Missouri museum in Pearl Harbor?)

(I do refuse to lower my morality or political-preaching dials, which is why this did not work well for the Star Wars prequels.)

When I do this, I am able to sit -- effectively stoned-lobotomized -- and enjoy special effects. Some of which in BATTLESHIP were cool!

David Brin said...

Steve Martin in one of the strangest political ads ever

David Spencer said...

The reasons are clear: Democrats are complicit in smaller numbers than Republicans, but are still complicit in all governance crimes listed, and that's a political risk. Don't shit in your enemy's kitchen if your enemy is your roomie.

The two-party system is a one-party system when it comes to cross-party crimes and failures, and has needed a serious dismantling since prior to either World War. Various populist and labour movements tried, but that again was a place where there was a surprising amount of dual-party unity. Hardly democratic. Not saying vote for Romney, I'm just saying it's not a democratic choice to vote for the lesser of two evils (or the more effective of two evils if you consider the muted liberal opposition to such things as drone strikes since a Democrat has been doing them).