No Confidence: Thoughts on Election 2012

I’ve seen several Obama endorsements over the past few days, all of them acknowledging that Obama is flawed, but then making mostly negative cases.  They endorse Obama despite himself because of how much they despise the policies, campaign, and ignorance of the Romney campaign.

JT has the most detailed explanation of why you should vote Obama, Jen McCreight (who I love) has a short and not totally reasonable post against third-party votes, PZ has a detailed argument against third parties, and Andrew Tripp has an argument that we need more George McGoverns and fewer Obamas.

On the issues, I’m actually fairly close to Obama on most fronts.  He’s center-right, I’m left-center — I usually score a bit closer to Jill Stein though she and I have differences — but as candidates who represent your point-of-view, I don’t have any major problems with Obama that are also things I think he can realistically do anything about.  Yes, he is authoritarian in some of his presidential powers, but it is going to take someone truly extraordinary in the job of the presidency to reduce the amount of power of the job — or a strong Congress willing to take responsibility for their actions.  (I highly recommend Drift by Rachel Maddow if you’re interested in this topic).

So, if you love Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson or even, FSM forbid, Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode, what should you do?  According to my internet friends, vote for Obama.

PZ:

I’m not saying that we’re doomed, though, just that the presidential race is the wrong place to effect change.

He’s not totally wrong, but the fact of the matter is that the Green Party is putting up a lot of candidates across the country in many different levels of government.  Having a loss-leader green party candidate to get more attention for local races, and to try to get more matching funds for the party as a whole, makes a lot of sense.  Even I, denizen of a red district in a red state, have the opportunity to throw my vote away to a Green Party candidate other than Jill Stein.

Jen:

If you’re voting third-party, you’re voting for Romney. Stop being an idealist and wake up to the reality of how our system works. I agree we need to have more parties in the dialog – trust me, I’d be way happier voting for someone more liberal like Jill Stein if I had the knowledge my voice would be heard – but that’s not going to happen by throwing your vote away and helping a Republican win.

This needs a huge caveat that this is only true if you live in a state where there’s any question of who is going to win the election.  The reality is that less than 20% of the American population lives somewhere where their vote has the potential to matter in the overall election.  It’s not me in South Carolina, it’s not Jen in Seattle, it’s not PZ in Minnesota, but it is JT in Ohio.  A vote for a third-party isn’t a vote for Romney unless you live in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, or Virginia.

I agree with JT’s conclusion:

Here’s what I suggest.  If you live in a state that is already decided (California, Texas, etc.), vote third-party.  Why?  Because in 1992 Ross Perot won 19% of the popular vote as a third-party candidate, and that was not meaningless.  If forced the two dominant parties to realize that the people were pissed off.  That led to bi-partisan efforts that undoubtedly contributed to Bill Clinton’s success.  Even if it’s unrealistic to expect a third-party candidate to win, at least for the time being, I believe sending that message is still important.  Is it a perfect fix?  No, but it’s something to do in the meantime that doesn’t carry the risk of pissed away votes in swing states opening the door for the lesser of the two candidates with a legitimate shot at winning this year.

Now, let’s look at my ballot in South Carolina, so that I can show you why I am really not upset with people who don’t bother to go to the polls on election day.  So, you’re in the 80% of the country that doesn’t matter at all presidentially, surely you matter locally, right?  Not necessarily.  A third of the races in SC are people running unopposed.  Not only is this true for school boards or council seats, it’s true of the state house and senate.  It’s also true of one of our national house races.

The other day I was listening to NPR and a Californian called in to complain that, thanks to a new combined primary format, several places in CA had people of the same party running against each other in the general election, and he was very upset.  I wanted to call and scream because I am going to be given a ballot that says this:

House Representative District 02
Joe Wilson (REP)

The fact that I am de facto supporting Joe “You Lie” Wilson alone makes me not want to show up at the polling place.  Knowing that every single race where I do have a choice is going to go to the Republican doesn’t make me any more eager to waste the hour or so of my time it will take me to go to the polling place.  Of the 12 races I am voting on, 7 are people running unopposed.  The rest are polling strongly against my choices.  I can’t even write-in the presidential race for the amazing Rocky Anderson.

Geography has determined that I will never cast a vote for a winner.  A meaningless protest vote is literally all I have.  So here’s my recommendation: vote, but vote for whoever makes you feel good about voting in the first place.  Because the real work is everything we do to get the right people on the ballots in the first place and trying to convince those already in power to do the right thing.

Unless you live in Ohio.

Today in embarrassing moments for Mitt Romney

I admit I’ve had a few good laughs at poor Mitt Romney’s expense these last few weeks — killing Big Bird, binders of women, bayonets and battleships, but today came something that must sting coming from the Mormonest place on earth.

JT pointed me the direction of the Salt Lake Tribune which just endorsed… Barack Obama.  Now, to be fair, the paper endorsed Obama four years ago and was formed as the Mormon Tribune in order to criticize the LDS church.  That said, Mitt Romney helped organize the 2002 Olympics and is a Mormon. He should have gotten at least a nod or a thank you in such ostensibly friendly territory.

That is not what happened.

If this portrait of a Romney willing to say anything to get elected seems harsh, we need only revisit his branding of 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, yet feel victimized and entitled to government assistance. His job, he told a group of wealthy donors, “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Where, we ask, is the pragmatic, inclusive Romney, the Massachusetts governor who left the state with a model health care plan in place, the Romney who led Utah to Olympic glory? That Romney skedaddled and is nowhere to be found.

Perhaps Jon Huntsman will have the opportunity to run more successfully in 4 years time.  He is a man that Utah and Mormons and even the Salt Lake Tribune can be proud of, even if he is a Republican.

DOMA ruled unconstitutional by CONSERVATIVE federal judge

A woman married to another woman owed almost $400,000 in estate taxes upon the death of her wife because DOMA prevents the federal recognition of her marriage, so she filed a case arguing that this was illegal discrimination.  This case was just reviewed in federal court by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, a super conservative judge.

Shockingly, not only did he (and the court) rule DOMA unconstitutional, his opinion includes language that states that LGBT should be treated with heightened scrutiny under the Constitution.  This basically means that the court recognizes that LGBT are a historically marginalized group who deserves special consideration when having laws directed at them.

In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny: A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.

Not only is DOMA unconstitutional, but ALL attempts to discriminate against gay people have to pass heightened scrutiny — something that law has, somewhat shockingly, completely failed to establish.

The hope now is that SCOTUS will adopt the same reasoning.  They should because it is completely reasonable, but that doesn’t always mean anything.  If SCOTUS did accept this reasoning and adopt it, it would functionally mean that all discrimination on the basis of orientation would be illegal.

The opinion is here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/110431508/12-2335-447

This is a big deal, or at least could be. Fingers crossed.

BREAKING NEWS: Green Presidential Candidate Jill Stein Arrested

Jill Stein and her running mate have just been arrested outside the presidential debate for “blocking pedestrian traffic” AKA for showing up in protest of the two party monopoly over politics in this country.

Video of the arrest:

http://rt.com/usa/news/police-jill-stein-debate-589/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/10/16/green-party-candidate-arrested-outside-debate-site/

You just got Biden’d

I should probably start with the fact that I am a huge Joe Biden fan.  Joe is snarky and funny and his “gaffes” are usually just him being too honest rather than anything else.  Plus he destroyed Robert Bork.  Plus he’s really smart.

But Joe Biden knocked it out of the park today.  He was not only fired up in a way that could almost make you forget Obama’s lack of energy last weekend, he consistently called Ryan on his lack of specifics, flip-flops, and lies.  I’ve never heard someone call someone a liar in as many ways as Biden did tonight.  Truly well done.

Martha Raddatz was a superb moderator as well, really pushing for specifics from both candidates — something that will probably be called liberal media bias because Ryan didn’t have any specifics to offer.

Highlights:

“Oh now you’re Jack Kennedy?” – Joe

“Biden leveled the playing field alright, leveled it right through Paul Ryan’s milkshake. Which he then drank.” – Ana Marie Cox

“FACT: Ryan has opposed abortion access for rape victims since 1998 http://thkpr.gs/OXi9fE” – Think Progress

Biden mentioning Bork.

“The CNN panel of floating women voters hated that Ryan answer on abortion. It stayed flat as a pancake” – Guy Adams

“Ryan reiterates that secularism – the distinction between politics and religion, between state and church, cannot and should not exist.” – Andrew Sullivan

Stepdad: Well, he’s better than Sarah Palin. #damningwithfaintpraise

“Hello 9 1 1? There s an old man beating a child on my tv” – Bill Maher

Paul Ryan bringing up a car accident story in an attempt to connect on a personal level… to Joe Biden… whose wife and daughter died in a car accident…

Malarkey, Sarah Palin, 47%, Osama Bin Laden… so much things

Let’s look at the — let’s take a look at the facts. Let’s look at where we were when we came to office. The economy was in free fall. We had — the Great Recession hit. Nine million people lost their job, 1.7 — $1.6 trillion in wealth lost in equity in your homes, in retirement accounts from the middle class.

We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that — and when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, no, let Detroit go bankrupt. We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, no, let foreclosures hit the bottom.

But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently, in a speech in Washington, said 30% of the American people are takers. These people are my mom and dad, the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, not paying any taxes.

I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class, we’re going to level the playing field. We’re going to give you a fair shot again. We are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the superwealthy.

They’re pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families. And they’re holding hostage the middle-class tax cut because they say, we won’t pass — we won’t continue the middle-class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the superwealthy. It’s about time they take some responsibility.

The Republican spin machine is amazing, they’re already trying to turn this into Joe Biden was condescending because he laughed at Ryan too much.  I think that as soon as the only defense you have is that someone laughed when your man told lies, you’ve confessed that you’re losing on substance.  But Republicans are so much better at staying on target and on topic with these things.  Remember, fact-checking someone when they’re talking is disrespectful.

But the fact remains that Biden’s number one goal is to get the base fired up.  The reality is that if all registered voters were to vote, Democrats would win in a landslide.  And there’s no way to watch the performance he just gave and not be fired up if you agree with him.

Is being Mormon a problem for Mitt Romney?

I am taking a class this semester on intersectionality and, unsurprisingly, despite the fact that the class is about Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality, it has also become significantly about religion.  You’re welcome.  It has also focused on the election a great deal.

One thing that has come up is the idea that Romney’s religion has functioned to oppress him, perhaps not to the extent that Obama’s race or Clinton’s gender might have impacted their lives, but caused problems for him.  This despite poll after poll that shows the Christian Right is happy to vote for him.

I struggle with the idea that Romney’s religion creates a significant change on his overall social status. The Church of LDS is considered, inaccurately in my opinion, a sect of Christianity, which is very much in the majority in this country. They have a state that is basically entirely their own and they are overrepresented, slightly, in the US government compared to their population percentage; 2% of the population has 5 senators and 11 congressional members. Compare this to the religiously non-affiliated who are currently 20% of the population and have not a single representative or senator — there is one atheist in congress, and he is a Unitarian Universalist. Self-identified, “hard” atheists, incidentally, make up more of the population than Mormons at 2.5%.

Add to that that the religion is almost exclusively white, middle to upper class, male dominated, married households and it is difficult to interpret the Mormon faith as something that is oppressed. Add to this that being part of the club means that you get massive financial and man-power resources at your command because the church wants to expand its power. Consider that 70% of the money that successfully overturned gay marriage in California came from the Mormon church. No, they haven’t had a president, but I don’t think that is symptomatic of disenfranchisement. The Mormon church is undoubtedly less savory to many Americans than being a Protestant, but it is much more savory than other (non)religious traditions as well.

Sally Quinn wrote an article for the Washington Post last week about the presidential debate and pointed to the fact that Romney’s religion is actually a huge boon for him because he’s part of God’s Own Party and has claimed God as his ally in the debates in a way that Obama has not. And, according to her, that matters because “Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.” In fact, one of the problems Obama has had has been not seeming Christian enough. 17% of the population still thinks he’s Muslim; being Muslim is much worse in the eyes of the American public than being Mormon.

But then, I am undoubtedly bringing my own perspective very heavily into this discussion because I live in a state with this enshrined in its constitution: “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.” My identity comes very strongly from that background, and I am sure Governor Romney’s comes very strongly from his Mormon background — but I suspect his rich white maleness is the more important identifier.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/mormonism-voter-enthusiasm-concern-evangelicals-17435665#.UHTen_l25v0
http://www.pewforum.org/government/faith-on-the-hill–the-religious-composition-of-the-112th-congress.aspx
http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/romney-captures-the-god-vote-at-first-debate/2012/10/04/e897f44c-0de3-11e2-bb5e-492c0d30bff6_story.html
http://www.scstatehouse.gov/scconstitution/a17.php

Prop 8 Update: on the SCOTUS conference docket

The first SCOTUS conference of the session is today and both DOMA (multiple cases) and Prop 8 are on the docket, meaning the Court will (probably) decide whether to take one or the other up in the next term. The votes of four justices are required for a case to be heard by the Court.

Although they are on the docket, it’s not uncommon for cases to be rescheduled, so it’s possible for the day to end without any information on whether the Supreme Court is planning on hearing the cases.

So what do we want?

Well, because of the extremely narrow ruling in the Prop 8 trial, it would probably be better for the court to decline to hear it. As I understand it, this would make gay marriage legal in California, effective immediately. It would also mean that the court would not be ruling for universal gay marriage, but they are somewhat unlikely to do that off of the Prop 8 decision — again, because of the narrow ruling in previous courts.

DOMA, on the other hand, looks like it could be fully destroyed by the court if it is picked up.

Gay marriage might resume in California very, very soon.  We shall see.

Neiman Marcus attacks Women’s Shelter over name

Neiman Marcus apparently has a brand they’ve trademarked called “LAST CALL” through which they sell high-end clothes.

Columbia, SC, has a charity resale store called “Revente’s Last Call“, which is essentially a Goodwill, that gives all of its procedes to the local Women’s Shelter.

RLC was opened in 2010 to benefit The Women’s Shelter. We donate ALL of our net profits to the shelter and also clothe those in need through referrals from various local agencies.  As of May 1, 2012 we have donated over $40,000 to the Womens Shelter.

Well, Neiman Marcus is apparently concerned that “Revente’s Last Call” is going to be confused with “Last Call with Carson Daly” “Last Call by Neiman Marcus” and has sent a letter threatening to take legal action against the charity.

Sometimes, corporations have just no idea that they are coming across as complete jackasses, do they?

My immediate instinct would be to encourage a boycott of the local Neiman Marcus but, oops, there isn’t a Neiman Marcus in Columbia, SC.  In fact, there’s not a Neiman Marcus in the ENTIRE state.  But they feel really threatened by The Women’s Shelter charity anyway, I guess.  Their Facebook statement to the complaints:

Like all businesses, we have a responsibility to protect our trademarks. Our VP of corporate communications can be reached at (214) 573-5822 if you would like a more detailed statement from us. Thank you.

Oh hey, look there’s a number we can all call!  So call that, and if you want to write about this and help ensure they get the bad PR they deserve, please do! I will even link to you if you want!

And here’s a wonderful suggestion by Christopher Bickel:

Neiman’s team could have been more proactive in sending a letter stating “We believe that your store’s name unintentionally infringes on our mark, but we are prepared to help you defray the costs of changing it in light of the mission of your organization” or alternatively “we would be happy to allow you a non-exclusive license to use the mark so long as your store continues to serve the community as a non-profit.” Sometimes protecting your PR is as important as protecting your legal rights.

The fact is, Neiman could have been a lot better about this in a dozen ways.  For example, picking up the phone and calling the charity instead of sending them a legal letter.

My recommendation to all corporations: Before you wave around your legal dick to threaten people over sketchy, petty bullshit, make sure you’re not doing it to a company that does something like feed orphans, save battered women, or clothe homeless vets.

I get e-mail: Mitt Romney is super likable

Sometimes I get e-mail that I have to share.

Subj: FW: Why should we vote for Mitt Romney when he is such a despicable unlikeable guy?

This is the man who should be President of theUnited States!

A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney not being “likable” or that he doesn’t “relate well” to people.  Frankly, we struggled to understand why.

So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this “unlikablility.”

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:

1. Drop-dead, collar-ad handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting’s #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.

2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.

3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)

4. Can’t speak in a fake, southern, “black preacher voice” when necessary.

5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from bothHarvard Law School and Harvard Business School…and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.

6. Doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today’s America?

7. Represents an America of “yesterday”, where people believed in God, went to Church, didn’t screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!

8. Has a family of five great sons….and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab.  But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that “choice” deserves America’s scorn.

9. Oh yes…..he’s a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest. 

10. And one more point…..pundits say because of his wealth, he can’t relate to ordinary Americans.  I guess that’s because he made that money HIMSELF…..as opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn’t understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans. My goodness, it’s a strange world, isn’t it?

*****************************************************

Personal Information:

His full Name is: Willard Mitt Romney

He was Born: March 12, 1947 and is 65 years old.
His Father: George W. Romney, former Governor of the State of Michigan

He was raised in Bloomfield Hills , Michigan
He is Married to Ann Romney since 1969; they have five children.

Education:
B. A. from Brigham Young University, J. D. and M.B.A. from Harvard University

Religion:
Mormon – The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints

Working Background:
After high school, he spent 30 months in France as a Mormon missionary.

After going to both Harvard Business School and HarvardLaw School simultaneously, he passed the Michigan bar exam, but never worked as an attorney.

In 1984, he co-founded Bain Capital a private equity investment firm, one of the largest such firms in the United States.

In 1994, he ran for Senator of Massachusetts and lost to Ted Kennedy.

He was President and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

In 2002, he was elected Governor of the State ofMassachusetts where he eliminated a 1.5 billion deficit.

Some Interesting Facts about Romney:

Bain Capital, starting with one small office supply store in Massachusetts,

turned it into Staples; now over 2,000 stores employing 90,000 people.

Bain Capital also worked to perform the same kinds of business miracles again and again, with companies like Domino’s, Sealy, Brookstone, Weather Channel, Burger King, Warner Music Group, Dollarama, Home Depot Supply and many others.

He was an unpaid volunteer campaign worker for his dad’s gubernatorial campaign 1 year.

He was an unpaid intern in his dad’s governor’s office for eight years.

He was an unpaid bishop and state president of his church for ten years.

He was an unpaid President of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for three years.

He took no salary and was the unpaid Governor ofMassachusetts for four years.

He gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity.

Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest self-made men in our country but has given more back to its citizens in terms of money, service and time than most men.

And in 2011 Mitt Romney gave over $4 million to charity, almost 19% of his income….

Just for comparison purposes, Obama gave 1% and Joe Biden gave $300 or .0013%.

Mitt Romney is Trustworthy:

He will show us his high school and college transcripts.

He will show us his social security card.

He will show us his law degree.

He will show us his draft notice.

He will show us his medical records.

Mitt Romney’s background, experience and trustworthiness show him to be a great leader and an excellent citizen for President of theUnited States.

You may think that Romney may not be the best representative the Republicans  could have selected. At least I know what religion he is, and that he won’t desecrate the flag, bow down to foreign powers, or practice fiscal irresponsibility.

I know he has the ability to turn around this financial debacle that the current regime has gotten us into. We won’t like all the things necessary to recover from this debt, but someone with Romney’s background can do it.

But, on the minus side, he never was a “Community Organizer”, never took drugs or smoked pot, never got drunk, did not associate with communists or terrorists, nor did he attend a church whose pastor called for God to damn the US.

If you care about the United States of America– Send this to all your friends!