Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Second 2012 Presidential Debate

This is not going to be a pretty post.  I took notes during the debate and could not find anywhere else but here where they'd fit, so here they shall be pasted for your reading pleasure, whether it be to reinforce or conflict with what you remember of the debate, or whether it be to inform you of what went on because you missed it (though I am sure most networks will repeat it in an hour or so).  Here, then, are my notes, which are unedited, were taken on the spot, are all in lower case and sometimes in less than completely grammatical form, and include my comments when I knew something to be true or untrue, or when I thought something should be mentioned to provide a context.  

i heard romney say he's keeping pell grants.  he's not!  he has always said pell grants are part of what he intends to slash.  never mind he is talking about creating jobs, which he can't do.  he says he will bring them back; obama already is doing that.

obama talked about making tax incentives for those who keep jobs at home, the jobs he's already created, manufacturing jobs, energy efficiency, and student loans, and says let's use the money spent on war and use it for infrastructure.  he said that romney said let detroit go bankrupt.

romney was asked what he could do immediately about the longterm unemployed who need a job right now.  he says the president's policy has not put people back to work and that there are fewer people working than when he took office, which is not true; he cited phony numbers.  he names a number of jobs that he can't actually create. he also then says the president is wrong about detroit and had gm, for example, go bankrupt too.

the president then said that romney had no plan to get detroit back AFTER bankruptcy, called him on his bain policies of stripped companies without mentioning bain, and he looked right at romney when he said it.  

the next question was about a statement the department of energy made that it's not their job to lower gas prices. at first it seemed as if he was not going to answer the question, and he went on, appropriately enough, about clean energy and energy independence, but then he got back to gas prices. he didn't comment on the statement though.  that was a bit of a cop-out in terms of the question, but the question was kind of a trick question to begin with.  why should obama have to speak for the other person?  he told HIS policy.

romney countered by saying there was less drilling on FEDERAL land.  so... why is he qualifying this?  he talks about how one drilling area was closed down and prosecuted for killing migratory birds which were protected (as if there's something wrong with that).  then he lied about coal miners' grabbing his arm and begging him to save the coal industry.  how do i know this is a lie?  because i know that when he spoke to the coal miners, there were hundreds of coal miners standing behind him seeming to support him but their mines had been closed that day and the miners ORDERED to attend the rally, for NO pay!  

the moderator asked obama to clarify whether has prices were the purview of the government or the new normal. obama then disputed what romney had said, especially about his previous statement that coal mines kill!

romney said obama cut energy production leases on federal lands.  obama said that production was UP; the leases were not being used so the companies that had them got the leases canceled and the leases were redistributed to those who WOULD use then, and production is therefore up.  romney said it was down by 14 percent and obama said that was simply untrue.  romney then went off on a tangent about the alaska pipeline, and would not let obama talk, and also interrupted the moderator who was trying to cut in.  she finally did and took the floor from romney and got the talk back to gas prices.  obama talked about what a mess the economy was in when he inherited it.  obama said we have enough pipeline to wrap around the country (or did he say world?) twice.  he talked about wind power and the people in iowa who have actual high-paying jobs doing that.  romney, he says, had said he was against it.  romney tried to tell the moderator the rules so he could answer, she corrected him, and he barged right on anyway and answered obama even though it wasn't his turn.  she kept trying to stop him and he bullied his way through.

new question to romney: you have stated that you would reduce tax rates for all tax brackets and work with congress to eliminate some deductions.  she asked about mortgage, charitable and child tax credit and the education deduction. what is your position?  he said he wanted to bring rates down, simplify the tax codes and let the middle income tax payers have lower tax rates.  he went into some math, and he lied about someof the prices, such as health care prices.  he used the word buried, which he and ryan lifted from biden.  he said the top five percent would "continue" to pay 60 percent, which we all KNOW is a lie; they do not!  he said that there would be a limit to deductions and the taxpayer could choose which ones to use to fill that limit. he could not state a number; he made up an example, which is fine for now.  then he said there would be no tax on interest, dividends and capital gains.  he didn't mention that those things are only really a burden, so to speak, on the top one percent!  he promised not to raise taxes on the middle class and then said the president's borrowing and spending would cause him to raise taxes on the middle class (although obama has actually spent less, and decreased taxes on the middle class, ALREADY).

obama said he cut taxes by $3600 (which is true) and cut the taxes for small businesses 18 times (also correct).  and he wants to cut them more.  but if we want also to cut the deficit, then in addition to tough spending cuts, so for the wealthy, the first $250,000 of income, no change.  he said that romney's allies in congress are holding this policy hostage so they can keep their own tax cuts.  he talked about clinton's success.  he mentioned romney's 60 minutes appearance where he was asked if it was fair that he paid a lower tax rate than a bus driver.  he said yes it's fair because it grows the economy.  obama went through what he thinks will grow the economy:  jobs for veterans, for example. he said romney had campaigned all year on the basis of cutting taxes for the wealthy.

romney then repeated that he only wants to cut taxes for the middle class.  he said he wants to cut them for small business, but we know from previous experience that his idea of a small single-owner business would include millionaires like donald trump.  he then went through more statistics about how many unemployed people there are.  he did not address what obama said.  then he said he spent his life in the private sector.  this isn't actually true!  

the moderator then asked obama about his not letting the wealthy folks have their tax cut and instead letting the middle class have the cut.  obama talked about what romney said in the last debate, about the across-the-board 20 percent tax cut for everyone.  obama talked about how much that would cost and add to the deficit and he was specific about the numbers (about eight trillion).  he mentioned romney's paying 14 percent (not sixty as romney said).  he mentioned big bird but only in passing.  he called romney a successful investor and asked romney what he'd say if someone asked him to invest in something but didn't give the details about how the investment would pay off.  he wouldn't take such a sketchy deal. 

the moderator asked romney, if the numbers didn't add up, would he consider the 20 percent... he interrupted before she could finish.  he said of COURSE it adds up and then cited his25years of business experience, and said that the president had not done what he promised, and said the president doubled the debt.  this would, he said, put us on the road to greece.  he says his deductions would offset the cost of the tax reductions.

the moderator wanted the next question and romney would not shut up; eventually obama laughed and joined in.  

the next question was about females making 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

obama talked about his single mom and how hard she worked. he also talked about his grandmother, and got specific about how she hit the glass ceiling and trained people to be above her, even though she was vp of a bank.  he then talked about the lilly ledbetter act (the first thing he signed as a president).  this is a women's issue, but also a family issue and a middle class issue.  he got education in and talked about romney's mention of pell grants, which obama expanded, but he forgot to mention that romney had specifically said in the past he would eliminate pell grants.  he talked about having made student loans easier to get and pay back, and that would let women compete in the marketplace, and then we need to enforce the antidiscrimination laws.  

romney told a story about trying to find women to take staff jobs with him, and he said women need to be more flexible.  he cited taking care of kids as an impediment to having women in top positions.  he talked about employers' making flexible schedules.  he said women have lost 580,000 jobs in the last four years.  i don't think this is true; i think women are hit harder than men by unemployment and get laid off sooner, but i don't see obama's policies being at fault for that. he criticized the current economy (without mentioning where it was four years ago!)  then he wouldn't let the moderator stop him.

obama pointed out that romney's campaign wouldn't even comment about whether or not he supported the lilly ledbetter bill.  he then talked about health care and how romney feels comfortable about having politicians making decisions about women's health care.  he says it's also an economic issue, money out of the family's pocket.  romney, he said, says an employer should decide, and would stop funding planned parenthood, whose functions he described, and said was a pocketbook issue.  he talked about how he provides credits for child care.  these are not just women's issues. they are family issues.  they economic issues.

for the second time the audience had to contain its applause, which was subtle but i heard it.  i forget when the other applause was squelched.

the next questioner said she was disappointed in the progress of the last four years, but mostly blamed bush, and feared a return to the same policies.  how are you different from bush?

romney didn't want to go on until he answered what obama had just said, and he said his policy was that every woman should have access to contraceptives and obama was wrong about what he'd said.  we know this is a lie because romney himself said the opposite through most of his campaign, even last week! then he got to the issue, and said he would get tough on china, and he would add trade agreements, especially with south america (which actually obama has been doing).  he criticized the growth of the deficit under obama.  he said he wants to support small enterprise, and then he said one thing he found disturbing about obamacare is that small businesses say it keeps them from hiring new people.  i think this is untrue, based on what i myself have seen as testimony from small businesses and also based on the 18 tax cuts obama has given them.

obama talked about the job growth, and his numbers are supported by the bureau of labor (which he did not mention it).  he disputed romney's toughness on china and cited romney's investments in china, including supporting spy equipment used by the chinese government against chinese people.  he specified his suits against china, all of which he won.  he went on about china a bit, then compared romney to bush... saying romney had gone more extreme in social policy.

next question for president:  i voted for you in 2008 but i'm not that optimistic now, most things i need for daily living are very expensive.  what have you done?

obama said he cut taxes for middle class families and small business, end war in iraq, refocus attention on our actual attackers, put in place health care reform so insurance can't jerk you around, rein in wall street excessed, created jobs (five or 500 million?) and rescued the failing auto industry... and he did all that.  then he got specific about controlling energy of today and future, and said that whatever commitments he made and was unable to keep, not for lack of trying, he still intends to keep.  he talked about all the things romney's been promising to do which he is now saying the opposite of.

romney said "i think you know better." he went on about how bad it's been in the last four years.  he talked about the things obama hasn't been able to do, like get unemployment down to 5.4% and he named other things, most of which we know the republican congress has stopped him from doing, but romney didn't mention that.  he talked numbers and i don't know all of them but i do know the insurance premium rates' going up is untrue. he said 32 million food stamp recipients have become 42 million.  he criticized dodd frank, which is all we have between us and being ruled again by wall street, but he didn't say that.  he attributed the drop in unemployment to people giving up looking (which isn't true; the bureau of labor has said that's factored in).  he threw more numbers out but he didn't compare to where we were, which was worse!

new question for romney.  a latina!  what do you plan to do with residents without green cards who are productive to society.  

romney said he would speak broadly and then answer her question. he spoke of his immigrant parents and ann's.  he said he welcomes LEGAL immigrants to the country.  make sure our legal system works.  stop illegal immigration.  (doesn't say how.)  says he will not grant amnesty to those who come here illegally.  will not put in magnets, like driver's licenses as the president would (that's not true).  the kids, though, should have a pathway, and he names military service as a pathway!  he criticizes the president's not having put through a new immigration policy with a supermajority (which he didn't actually have).

obama agrees that we're a nation of immigrants. he talks about the dream of coming to america.  but we're also a nation of laws.  he has done everything he can on his own and sought cooperation from congress.  he wanted to streamline immigration to make legal immigration cheaper and easier and faster, and explains why that will create jobs.  he said he put more border patrol and the flow of undocumented worker is lower than any time in last 40 years.  i happen to know he has tougher immigration policy than any recent president and has also deported more than them, but he didn't say it.  he said we should go after the criminals first.  he talked about the dream act children and said that although romney just said he would help these people, but that's not what romney has said.  he said romney claimed to be against the dream act (i've heard romney say that) and that he wants the arizona law enacted nationally (that's the racial profiling thing).  obama didn't try?  not true!  i've sat down with democrats and republicans, some of whom used to support it, but their standard-bearer has told them not to.  he mentioned self-deportation.  let's make it so miserable for them they'll leave!

obama denied saying the arizona law was a model for the nation.  just the e-verification part (i don't know if this is true).  he says obama's answer is no answer.  he agrees to go after criminals.  he hedges about self-deportation.  then he goes on about a blind trust, and blames them for investing in china.  he asks the president if he's looked at his pension.  obama said he doesn't look because it's not as big as romney's.  the audience laughed.  then romney and obama and the moderator all spoke at once and the moderator chose obama to speak.  obama corrected romney and reminded him he had liked the WHOLE arizona law as a national model, not just part.  he said make the legal system better.  but when it becomes a political issue and have no bipartisan support... romney interrupted and the moderator stopped them both.

another question:  libya:  reports that the state department refused extra security for the embassy in benghazzi.  who denied it and why?  (note that the embassy is in tripoli and it was tripoli is who asked for extra security.)

obama said he ordered more security all over not just libya as soon as the situation became apparent.  he talked about romney's press release trying to make political points.  that's not how a commander in chief operates.  why isn't obama correcting this guy about who made the request and why isn't he telling him that the request was DENIED by the republican congress? surely he knows this?  this is the first time i think obama isn't answering right.  he's not saying anything wrong but he's leaving important stuff off.

romney talks about how obama is responsible for the failure.  he is obviously referring to clinton's taking responsibility today; romney obviously denies this.  he talks about how many days passed before we knew what happened.  he asked why we didn't know?  he finds more troubling that the day after, the president flies around for political fundraisers.  i think he's full of hooey; the president wasn't going to libya and can be on the phone from anywhere!  he talks about obama not supporting israel (not true)and not attacking iran (thank heavens true!)  he talks about a policy of leading from behind.

moderator to obama about clinton taking responsibility.  does the buck stop there?

he says, she works for me and i'm always responsible.  he says the day after the attack he stood in the rose garden and told the public that it was an act of terror and he was going to find out who did it.  two days later he was at andrews air force base with the families.  he is offended that anyone would play politics at such a time.

romney repeats the act or terror line and says it took 14 days. the moderator interrupted and said that indeed obama had declared it a terrorist act that day in the rose garden but it took 14 days to dispel the part about a spontaneous riot (they're not mutually exclusive i add).

new question for obama:  during the 2008 convention you said keep ak47s out of the hands of criminals.  what have you done about gun control?

obama says, we believe in the second amendment, but he has had to comfort too many people who have been the victims of gun violence.  he spoke of a woman whose son had been shot.  we have to enforce the laws we've already got, keep doing background checks, keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, but war guns should be kept off the streets.  part of how to do this is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, and also intervene to make sure young people have opportunity, schools are working, catch it before it gets out of control.  i want a comprehensive strategy.  get assault weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill but also catch violence before it gets to that point.

romney says we don't need new legislation, assault weapons are already illegal (is this true?  didn't we repeal an assault weapons ban recently?)  then he says a two-parent home, that people should get married before having kids, says that decreases poverty, to bring people away from violence. the greatest failure is fast and furious, a program under this administration, he admits he doesn't know how it works, in which assault weapons were given to drug lords and used to kill people, including americans.  it's been investigated to a degree but prevented all information from coming out thanks to executive privilege.

moderator corrects romney that the assault weapons once banned are no longer banned (so i am right!) and asks romney why he banned them in massachusetts but doesn't support new legislation now.  he talks about hunting and how pro- and anti-gun people agreed to a law.  he says we don't have leadership to do things on a bipartisan basis.

obama says romney was for it before he was against it but went against it to get the support of the nra.  he agrees about families, and the importance of school. he talks about games in math and science and education programs being set up to retrain workers. moderator looks annoyed but lets him go on.  then she interrupts.  (in fact obama is weak on gun control, i admit, which doesn't negate what he has just said, and i guess he had a point about the deadlock, which was romney's word.)

new question about keeping jobs in america.

romney talks about jobs lost to china.  he should talk! what an ass, sorry, but he's just lying through his teeth. he will make sure it's more attractive to come to america again.  he uses that silly phrase "trickle down government" and talks against hiring more government workers.  (in fact obama has decrease public sector jobs and increased private sector jobs.)  he talks about currency depression by china.  he doesn't mention that obama has successfully sued china and saved auto industry jobs that way.  he talks about tariffs.  he says he'll be strict but it's also about making america the most attractive place to work.  he doesn't mention that he wants to eliminate minimum wage!  he says small businesses say they feel they're under attack from their own government; this is not what small businesses have been saying, in fact.  he talks about getting back manufacturing jobs but in fact obama is the one who's done that, against protests by romney!

obama counters about lowering corporate tax rate, but he wants to close loopholes that allow companies to move to china and invest offshore.  romney wants to expand those tax breaks.  he describes them.  he says double exports.  we're on pace, he says.  we're pushing trade deals.  gov. romney talked about china.  in the private sector his companies were pioneers of outsourcing.  we've put unprecedented trade pressure on china.  exports have increased under my presidency.

moderator:how to convince company to bring manufacturing back here.

romney: china is stealing intellectual property, hacking, people should play on fair basis.  make america the most attractive place. that's what brings jobs in.  president's description is false.

obama:  some jobs are not going to come back.  they're low wage, low skill jobs.  i want high skill, high wage jobs.  he describes them, and says we need research and education, need to train engineers.  those investments will ensure we continue to lead world economy.

last question:  each, what do you believe is the biggest misperception that americans have about you and a candidate., debunk it and set us straight.

romney says some campaigns are more focused on attacking than making a plan, and president has mischaracterized him.  he cares about 100 percent of the american people and all the kids.  he says he spent his life in private sector (oh?)  he talks about believing in god.  responsibility to care for one another, was missionary, was pastor (actually he was bishop). i went to the olympics to get them in shape, as governor got everyone insured (true) and got schools first in country (not true; 47th out of 50!)  talks about bad situation.  if he becomes president he will balance budget, get us working, preserve social security and medicare, and says president didn't.

obama:  a lot of the campaign has been devoted to my thinking government creates jobs.  that is not what i believe.  free enterprise he believes in, self-reliance, but everyone should play by same rules, and that's how we built the middle class.  i believe government is a good man (i don't!) but i believe when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of americans considered themselves victims and wouldn't take responsibility, who was he talking about?  veterans, students, workers, people working hard every day, paying payroll taxes, gas taxes, and don't make enough.  i want to fight for them. that's what i've been doing.  g.i. bill wasn't a handout; that advanced the whole country and i want the next generation to have those advantages.

the end!


There you have it.  This was my debate experience.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Federalist Paper

Let's talk about federalism vs. states' rights.  Tonight, in a debate in which Mitt Romney lied through his teeth, a fact only evident to those who have been paying attention all year to what he's been saying, Romney pushed for states' rights at every turn.  Health care:  let's do it state by state.  Education:  none of the federal government's business.  He intends, he says, to create lots of jobs, so I guess there is something he leaves to the federal government, apart from making nice, profitable wars, but he neglects to say how; perhaps in the end his intention is to let the states figure that out too.  So what's wrong with letting states do what they will?

First of all, what have we ever gained, as a nation, from favoring states' rights?  Let's see:  slavery, a civil war, conflicting levels of civil rights, including the rights of minorities, women's rights and gender-identity rights, huge education quality gaps, and cities and states approaching bankruptcy and asking -- guess who? -- the federal government for help (then criticizing said government for spending).  Witness Paul Ryan's objection to the Stimulus, then witness his outstretched hand beckoning stimulus money to come visit his state (it did; he then denied it; he then said his staff wrote the letters asking for aid and he just signed them; Romney is not the only liar in this team).  

The reasoning behind giving states' rights preference over federal control has something to do with the perception that states know better what their people want/need/will tolerate, and that the federal government is some kind of enemy to be kept at bay and milked occasionally for what the states can't themselves provide.  This may well be the belief of individual citizens, and that belief may well be born of more than just what their local, municipal and state leaders feed them; especially in the south, where slavery was touted as a states' rights issue, not a human rights issue, there is a tradition of holding such views.  However, there are issues -- usually the very issues in contention -- whose applicability to the entire population transcend states' rights.  We no longer profess to believe (even if we do -- and some do!) that slavery is okay in some states and not okay in others, but it is within living memory for many of us that segregation was "okay" in some states and not in others, and plenty of folks my age were on the segregation side of that battle, in which, thanks to them, there were very real casualties.  In today's America it makes no sense for a married gay couple to find themselves not married anymore if one of them gets a job that moves them to a different state, or for a woman to be able to obtain a needed abortion in one state while a woman in the same situation cannot obtain one in another.  These are not policies; these are human rights.  They should be guaranteed on a federal level and states should be compelled to comply.

States cry "Less government!  More freedom!"  They almost always mean, of course, federal government, and they often confuse the freedom of the citizen with the state's freedom (or one religion or another's freedom) to bully some citizens.  Todd Akin is a (mental) case in point:  he thinks private companies should be able to pay different wages based on gender, race and God knows what else, because if the federal government has laws regarding that, it's not a matter of human civil rights; it's a matter of interfering with free enterprise, which apparently trumps human civil rights.  Likewise, those who consider -- or for political reasons profess to consider -- abortion to be murder (pushing laws that date personhood from conception, or in Arizona's case, two weeks before conception) call themselves pro-life but in fact are pro-pushing-their-religious-views-onto-everyone, which is unconstitutional.  They ignore science, which tells us when a fetus develops functioning nerve endings; they make up their own science.  Why would they bother to do that?  If they did not make up their own science, they would have to admit they were simply trying to violate the religious freedom of others, not to mention the right of women to control their own bodies.  The war on women is a whole other topic, into which I won't delve here.  What I will point out is that these same people who cry "Less government!" want the government, whose interference they would not tolerate with regard to what is expected of a school and its teachers, to control who sleeps with whom as well as every little thing about a woman's body, including what constitutes "legitimate" rape.  Does anyone see a philosophical conflict here?

One has to wonder why an antifederalist would even want to be president... unless one took a close look at Romney.  Okay, not even a close look would be required -- just a look at his record would be enough.  The man has more money than God.  He needs power now; it's his new toy and he wants it, badly.  Of course if he by some nasty trick of fate or through the amnesia of the American public actually became president, his power would be illusory; the Koch brothers will be our president, and our democracy will have devolved fully into plutocracy.  That, too, is a story for another insomniac moment.  For the nonce, let's take his power bid at face value.  Why would he want to be the executive of the despised federal government?  Well, for one thing, he could dismantle a good deal of it from within.  For another, he could command the only part of the federal government states' rights advocates really like:  the military.  What lucrative fun, to be in charge of the war machine!  What warm-blooded American boy doesn't secretly long to blow stuff up?

More difficult to fathom is the source and even the veracity of Romney's seeming antifederalism.  Can it be real?  Is it just something he picked up while kissing the tea-drenched asses of his party's more insane members?  Per the Boston Globe, Romneycare was largely funded by the federal government. Bain Capital was bailed and rebailed out, to the tune of "well over $50 million," according to the Patriot Newswire.  I guess states' rights include the right to beg the federal government for help while decrying the awfulness of its very existence.  You might even call it representation without taxation.

Tonight he repeated part of what we recently heard him say -- that what was good for Massachusetts (Romneycare) might not be good for the nation (like Obamacare).  He did not explain why.  The part he didn't repeat was that he felt we already had good enough health care for the uninsured:  they could be picked up in their apartments (of course they're in apartments!) and be hauled off to the emergency room to be treated for free (it's NOT free, of course, and it's also completely useless care for someone who hasn't got a broken leg or a heart attack; it's not appropriate care for, say, a diabetic, or someone with cancer).  He added (in case you're wondering why I've brought this up) that of course every state had its own way of handling this procedure.

So Romney is, unlike your humble blogger, neither a federalist nor an anti-federalist.  He is, apart from being a liar (and a sociopath), a pragmatist.  If he is running a state, of course he wants as much control of the state as possible; if he is running a country, he will want to exert his power over the whole country, although he may delegate not out of prudence but out of mental laziness (he is used to having things done and even thought for him).

The original Tea Partiers dumped three shiploads of tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes on that product imposed by the East India Tea Company and the British government; they objected, they said, to being taxed by anyone whom they had not elected to represent them.  This may have been their true reason, or part of it; perhaps part or all of it was that they just resented paying the high taxes, regardless of representation or lack thereof.  We may never know.  The point is, they claimed they wanted representation, which means government.  They were not antifederalist; they were anticorporate.  Today's Teapublicans are antifederalist and revere uncontrolled capitalism, which isn't even capitalism anymore; they're plutocrats, from the poorest brainwashed redneck to the divine Kochs themselves.

The original antifederalists were against the ratification of the Constitution.  However, the Constitution was in fact ratified and we've been using (and sometimes abusing) it as the bedrock of our nation for over two centuries.  It works more often than it doesn't work and I'd hate to scrap it just because some people would prefer to follow local prejudices and incivilities (until they need some money).  I certainly would not like to see it scrapped in favor of the (I fear) impending plutocratic order that would finally be fully established should Romney win the 2012 election.  It would not matter then whether he was a true antifederalist or just a Teapublican pawn.  And how would the 50 states fare then?  They might find themselves just a bit freer than they can afford to be -- and their citizens less free than they ever expected.