Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The state of the campaign...

The 2012 national presidential campaign has officially begun. It began last night with the president’s third State of the Union address. The president used language from his 2008 campaign, through the year-long healthcare debate, through the debt ceiling fight, as well as presented some new ideas that are blueprints for his 2012 campaign strategy.
It’s true that a lot of the president’s speech was overly hopeful and hyperbolic, and a lot of the “plans” he presented are never going to come to fruition. However, he is the president of the United States, and it is not only the duty of the president to try and make the country better, it is also the duty of the president to help citizens of this country have confidence that that is true. Republicans seem to be focused on how awful things are – the State of the Union rebuttal was a great example – and want to point fingers at whose fault it is, or who has been unable thus far to completely flip the economic downturn. It took more than a decade to cause the housing bubble and crash, to deregulate banks t the point where they could gamble with our savings and retirement, to deregulate industry to the point where they would re-form near monopolies and use lobbyists to push policies that protect them; the fact that it took a while to create these problems, it makes sense that it’s going to take longer than three years, two terms, or even a few terms to solve these problems.
The president’s administration has been imperfect to say the least. He’s let some people down. He’s continued some of the most appalling policies of the Bush administration. He’s been incredibly insular, when his stated desire early on was to stay open. He’s been dogged about working across the aisle, but has continued to do so even when his attempts were to his – and the country’s – detriment. However, his ideas still remain solid, and he remains an amazing campaigner who will no doubt excite the skeptics and those who feel betrayed.
A personal highlight I had during the debate last night showed that Obama is always so serious, and showed that the charismatic campaigner from 2008 is still there. He was making reference to outdated regulations, citing a particular regulation that considered milk to be oil, and therefore taxed dairy farmers up to $10,000 a year for containment. He goes on to say that with that regulation, it’s ‘worth crying over spilt milk’. He got crickets in the chamber, but the cheesy joke showed a different side of Obama than we’ve seen during his administration – the serious, somber, cerebral administrator.
The president will not officially begin campaigning until after a winner has been declared in the Republican primary, but his State of the Union address was an framework of legislation that he thinks will be successful in his next term, as well as issues he thinks will be politically advantageous in the upcoming election. His policies and campaign style are winners, he just needs to convince the American people of this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dress for success...

I will begin this by saying that I enjoy dressing up and looking nice. In fact, I think it would be nice if people took a little bit of extra time to look nice, instead of "cool". Sure, I wear blue jeans and t-shirts as much as the next person, but I still appreciate the early part of the last century where everyone - literally everyone - dressed up at all times. Men wore suits in every situation and women wore dresses.
I want people to be comfortable, and I'm not going to tell anyone what to wear, but a sharp three-piece suit and a fedora looks a lot nicer than a pair of skinny jeans and a flannel. Hell, even middle class and poor people back in the day wore suits; they may have been lower quality materials, but they still wore them nonetheless.
With that being said, I cannot figure out this need in the modern workplace to dress up. Sure, if you meet with clients all day long, or work in customer service in general, I can understand the company wanting you to look professional. However, when I work in a cubicle all day long seeing no clients, and our office in general recieves visitors only few and far between, I cannot understand the need to wear slacks, a shirt and a tie.
I was told once that I should "dress for the job I want, not the job I have". Alright, I get that. But it still doesn't explain why the job that I want requires me to dress up any more than I do in my current job. Couldn't the job I want just as easily be a job where I can wear jeans and a t-shirt, instead of dress pants and a button down?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The War of the Classes...

Class warfare is real - it is really happening, and has been really happening since...well, since our republic was founded. However, for the two centuries prior to the 1980s, the class warfare argument was being made by the poor (mainly) and the middle class against the rich.
Somehow, the wealthy in this country - or at least the wealthy by political proxy - have begun to make the class warfare argument of the rich against the poor.
Since the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, we've heard non-stop from conservative politicians that the occupiers, and President Obama in supporting their disillusionment with the plutocratic/oligarchic system we've devolved into in this country. It's been a repeated argument by Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, two men who certainly know something about class warfare, because they've been engaging in it for their entire careers.
The rich have been engaging in class warfare against the middle class and poor in this country for the last 30+ years. They've used every means as their disposal to chip away at the democratic system, all to increase their personal wealth. If we look at income disparity in this country, we see that incomes of the wealthiest people in this country have risen over 185% in the last 30 years, while middle and low income workers have either stagnated, or for the first time in history, gone down. Also, we've seen a steady decline in the tax rate for the wealthiest in this country, from a high during the middle of the last century of more than 65%, to a meager 32% currently. This means that through the rough economy of the 1980s and again during the 2000s (for most people, the top-tier continued to do well during those "rough" times), the rich continued to pay less and less of their taxes.
So how has the class warfare argument shifted from the rich against the poor to the poor against the rich? The rich control information. The rich control all media, and therefore are able to manipulate opinion. So as soon as the president or the middle class start having a discussion about rich people simply paying their fair share, you hear the wealthy (by political proxy) complain that the president and the middle class are engaging in tax warfare. The argument the wealthy make is that they're the "job creators", which has shown during this downturn to be complete bullshit, because they've essentially horded their money during these lean times. I'm not a class warrior, and I do agree that in good times people with money are more capable of creating companies (and by default, jobs) than those with no money, but I think this line of thinking fails to recognize two things: the first is that the wealthy are not creating companies to create jobs, they're creating them to make money (which I won't make a value judgment about here, it's just a fact), and second, just because people in the middle and lower classes don't create jobs, it doesn't make them less valuable as citizens (although politicians would have you believe this).
Bottom line: there is a still a class war being waged in this country, but it's a war of the wealthy "capitalists" - what Ayn Rand would call the moochers - against both the capitalist system, as well as the middle and lower classes. We as a society are being taken advantage of by a system of collusion between government and business that has set in place mechanisms to benefit the few to the detriment to the many.
And while the middle and lower-middle class still has a small voice, the poor have been all but forgotten, by EVERYONE. No one speaks of the poor anymore, because they have no political capital and vote in small numbers. We need to re-engage everyone in this country in a national discourse about how to best move forward in a utilitarian way.

Monday, January 9, 2012

As if the natural world's been turned upside down...

I’ve got to give it to Newt Gingrich, the guy is savvy. He decries career politicians, while he has been the ultimate career politician. Even as a “businessman” and “consultant” he was still playing a political role by influencing policy through lobbying. His actual political career was only ended once he was thrown out of the Speakership by angry Republicans. He derides Mitt Romney for not being conservative enough, while himself has a spotty record of jumpy from side to side, depending up on the policy. To note: I don’t think this is a bad thing, but for hardcore conservatives, it is. He scorns Mitt Romney for his super PACs being funded and run by friends and former staffers, but the nature of super PACs being what they are anyone with super PACs in support of them can’t really talk. Romney’s super PACs are attacking Newt Gingrich (which Newt says is the reason for his big loss in Iowa), but Newt’s super PACs are attacking Romney right back. Thieves can’t point fingers at others calling them thieves; they’re all scumbags, and none of them deserve to be president. I will say this about Barack Obama, as well, if he decides to use super PACs during his re-election campaign. If we are to restore democracy, we need to get all money, but especially money coming from unnamed sources, to be completely removed. We should completely change the electoral process, both locally and nationally, embrace moderation over ideology and allow no campaign ads, but simply have publically-funded elections that use debates as the only campaign tools.

Friday, January 6, 2012


I will state from the outset that I'm a big Woody Allen fan. I haven't seen all of his movies, or even a majority of them, but I still connect with them for some reason. Maybe it's the uneasiness with which he (or his "characters") seem to move through life. Or maybe it's the obscure references he's constantly making throughout his films that I find amusing, and even a little educational (I usually am looking them up throughout the movie).
I saw Midnight in Paris last night and I found the movie to be a refreshingly non-Woody Allen Woody Allen movie. It wasn't that the typical Woody Allen movie elements weren't there - they were. The archetypal setting, the city worship, the complex one-dimensional characters (not impossible?), and of course the beautiful women.
The movie starts with about three minutes of shots from around the city of Paris, letting us all know the setting. It's a classic Woody Allen tool to denote his love of the city, and indicate to the audience exactly where we're at.
The only issue I had with the movie was that I felt Owen Wilson was miscast. I don't think he did a bad job; in fact, I think he did a very good job. The problem is that his persona and personality are not right for the part of the character (basically Woody Allen). He's too laid back, too funny, too cheery. Woody's characters are dry, nebbish, neurotic and misanthropic. It just doesn't fit. There are elements of the character that Owen Wilson seems to be well suited, but overall I don't think he delivers the Woody Allen neurosis. But I don't blame him; again, I think he was miscast.
The nice thing about this movie is that while the plot is fairly simple; it explores very realistic emotions that we all feel within ourselves about our place in the world, as well as our place in our relationships. There were moments in the movie when I was frustrated that the Wilson's character did not realize certain things that were happening, because I could imagine myself in the very same situation, and HAVE realized what was happening, and therefore been very upset. But it also delves into the surrealistic world of anachronism and nostalgia, and let's not only the main character, but other characters in the film as well, explore their world beyond the scope of their place and time. This makes the movie fun and quirky, but in the end also let's us in on the point of the entire film.
Recommendation: See the movie. You don't have to be a Woody Allen buff to like it, but even if you are you'll still enjoy elements of the movie that are quintessentially Woody Allen, albeit somewhat muted.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Put a fork in it...

It's over. It's finally over.
Okay, the Republican primary might not be officially over, but after a much better than expected showing - and victory - in Iowa last night, Romney has all but wrapped up the nomination. The polls in Iowa show that he's still having a very difficult time connecting with the hardcore conservative voters, but that is not Romney's base, and he doesn't think he'll need them as much during the general election. In fact, he's basically been running a general election campaign during this entire primary process.
The Romney nomination, however, presents somewhat of a problem. Romney is boring. Romney is moderate. Romney is a flip-flopper. Romney is the Republican version of John Kerry in 2004. However, because of all these things, Romney has broad appeal. He doesn't excite, but his moderation makes him electable; and therein lies the problem ahead for Barack Obama and the Democrats.
If any other Republican primary candidate - short of Jon Huntsman - had won the primary battle, Barack Obama would walk away with the presidency in 2012 with no trouble. However, Romney's boring moderation makes him a candidate to be reckoned with in the general election if the economy doesn't improve between now and November 2012. If we look at history, incumbent president's with bad economies and high unemployment have had a very difficult - if not impossible - time getting re-elected. And since Romney has continued to tout his business experience, he might look like the shiny new thing in American politics, if voters think that he truly can improve their economic outlook.
In summation, we're at interesting crossroads here for Democrats; we're scared of almost every other Republican candidate besides Mitt Romney, and yet Romney is actually the most worrisome Republican to win the primary, because he has the best shot in a fledgling economy of beating Barack Obama in the general election.