Weekly Musing 12-22-13
Great Stuff…Presenting ATR’s 2013 Naughty/Nice List
“It’s A Wonderful Life” … But It Will Cost You
“It’s a Wonderful Life” presents us with this choice: you can be alive to others who cross your path, or you can be dead to them. Whatever you sow for them, both you and they will reap. It’s also about our inner battles – greed vs. generosity, humility vs. arrogance, sacrifice vs. fulfillment – but the central message is friendship. In fact, that message is literally put into writing in a note at the end of the film: “Remember, George, ‘No man is a failure who has friends.’”
A great safeguard against misery and a sense of failure in life is having good and dependable human companionship. We forge these bonds through various associations and institutions in civil society. In fact, it seems the excessive accumulation of wealth and status is partly a way for individuals to compensate for social isolation, or try to build a hedge against it.
…Distrust among people is a starvation that begins with the silencing of our innermost thoughts and beliefs. That’s exactly what “political correctness” aims to do. When a person fears their opinions will make them a pariah, they find it more and more difficult to strike up heart to heart talks with anyone new. Hence there is less exchange of ideas, and a dwindling of folks with whom people can entrust their private concerns. Political correctness serves to disintegrate social bonds – always, of course, in the name of promoting them. Once people are starved of social bonds, the state steps in to feed on the people’s yearning for community. As Nisbet wrote, “expansion of power feeds on the quest for community.”
Individuals in isolation cannot withstand centralized power. Ultimately, only voluntary bonds of faith, family, friendship, and associations based on goodwill can prevail. They’re stronger than Potter’s urge for power, and far stronger than an isolated George Bailey, separated from others. As in the happy Bedford Falls of George Bailey, these bonds have their roots in the meaning of Christmas, the mystery of love.
Obama: Government Man – Liberal Hypocrisy & Arrogance
President Obama is more perceptive about the shortcomings of government than we thought. “We have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Wow!
And pity the poor businessman who doesn’t know which federal agency to turn to for help. “If you’re a small business person getting started, you may think you need to go to the Small Business Administration on one thing [and] you have got to go to Commerce on another,” he said. “We have got, for example, 16 different agencies . . . to help businesses, large and small, in all kinds of ways, whether it’s helping to finance them, helping them to export.”
That’s not all he knows. The way the government—his government—purchases technology is “cumbersome, complicated, and outdated,” according to the president. He’s also discovered, he revealed at a press conference, that “insurance is complicated to buy.” And he’s aware that renewing a driver’s license takes “a long time.” Why, he asked in the Matthews interview, “do you have to do a written driving test if you already have your license?”
Good question. Indeed, it comes at a critical moment. Gallup, the polling people, found in December that nearly three-quarters of Americans feel big government is a larger threat to our country in the future than big business or big labor. On this, a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents agree. So Obama is in good company.
But there’s a rub, a contradiction, a colossal disconnect. The president is largely correct in his critique of government, its inefficiencies, and its multiplicity of agencies assigned to the same task. Yet his approach to every issue is exactly what he recognizes as a problem: more and more government. Based on his policies, he’s a government man through and through.
WaPo: ‘Every Democrat Should Be Scared’ of this Obamacare Ad
The conservative group Ending Spending may have premiered the ad that nationalizes the 2014 midterm elections around Obamacare.
The 30-second killer ad was produced by Republican media consultant Larry McCarthy and goes after Jeanne Shaheen, the first-term Democratic Senator from New Hampshire who is likely to face former GOP Senator Scott Brown next year.
The Death of Obama’s “Noble Lie” The disastrous ObamaCare rollout unmasks liberalism’s paternalistic dishonesty.
Back in 2009, to accuse President Barack Obama of lying about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was to crawl onto a pretty lonely branch. In December of that year, when I leveled the charge in response to the president’s knowing mischaracterization of the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of his signature piece of legislation, I was called “flagrantly dishonest” by none other than the (rightly respected) civil liberties blogger/reporter Glenn Greenwald.
As recently as November 2012-more than two years after the administration published grandfathering regulations as part of its health care legislation, rendering ludicrous the president’s frequently repeated pledge that “if you like your health plan you can keep it”-much of the liberal commentariat was calling the electoral contest between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney a referendum on political honesty. The only way for truth to prevail, they argued, was to vote for the Democrat.
“We may find out whether a ‘post truth’ candidate can be elected president,” Washington Post “Plum Line” blogger Greg Sargent warned just before the election. “If there is one constant to this campaign, it’s that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions.”
GOP Makes Tech Gains But Still Playing Catch-Up
Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee released a political autopsy titled “Growth and Opportunity Project.” The much-discussed report touched on the wide array of perceived party shortcomings — from poor messaging to the lengthy presidential primary — that presumably hampered the GOP in the last two (losing) presidential elections.
The most conspicuous points in the 100-page report focus on Republican attempts at “rebranding” and improving the party’s standing among young, female and minority voters. Whenever Republicans make a messaging misstep — such as when the RNC tweeted praise for Rosa Parks and “her role in ending racism” earlier this month — opponents gleefully point to the gaffe as evidence that the rebranding efforts have failed.
Barack Obama Is Not George W. Bush
Has Barack Obama turned into George W. Bush? This terrible fate, desperately hoped for sinceHas Barack Obama turned into George W. Bush? This terrible fate, desperately hoped for since the outset of Obama’s presidency by the Bush administration veterans as a kind of vindication fantasy, has become a new conventional wisdom. It has been floated, with varying levels of certainty, by Chuck Todd, Chris Cillizza, Bill McInturff, Ron Fournier, and Politico.
It is certainly true that Obama’s approval ratings have fallen to Bush-2005 levels. It’s also entirely possible they’ll fall further still: The administration’s panicky preparations for January suggest the first month of actual Obamacare coverage may be just as chaotic and unpopular as the onset of Medicare Part D. Yet the Bush comparisons state, or imply, broader forces at work than mere sagging approval ratings. They suggest a presidency that has hit a new inflection point beyond which its credibility is severed and its agenda broken. And that conclusion falls apart because it completely misses how power works in the Obama era. the outset of Obama’s presidency by the Bush administration veterans as a kind of vindication fantasy, has become a new conventional wisdom. It has been floated, with varying levels of certainty, by Chuck Todd, Chris Cillizza, Bill McInturff, Ron Fournier, and Politico.
It is certainly true that Obama’s approval ratings have fallen to Bush-2005 levels. It’s also entirely possible they’ll fall further still: The administration’s panicky preparations for January suggest the first month of actual Obamacare coverage may be just as chaotic and unpopular as the onset of Medicare Part D. Yet the Bush comparisons state, or imply, broader forces at work than mere sagging approval ratings. They suggest a presidency that has hit a new inflection point beyond which its credibility is severed and its agenda broken. And that conclusion falls apart because it completely misses how power works in the Obama era.
Re-Branding the GOP From the party of big business to the party of the little guy
Republicans as a party, however, and conservatives specifically, should not be subservient to corporate interests on core issues. The American electorate must come to view Republicans as the party of the middle class rather than the courtiers of big business. The GOP “brand” must change. While conservatives and business will remain part of a broad center-right coalition, the key question is: On what terms, and who calls the shots?
Let’s review some history. In 1980, as conservatives rallied to Ronald Reagan, many corporate leaders were enthusiastic supporters of former Texas governor John Connolly for the GOP presidential nomination; Connolly was a former conservative Democratic politician who looked and talked like a CEO. Others liked Senator Howard Baker and George H. W. Bush. Mindful of the Goldwater defeat, all these business leaders saw Reagan as too conservative to win. Most CEOs were more comfortable with a mainstream candidate closer to the political center.
With eyes on Hillary Clinton, Democrats fight to maintain digital edge
President Barack Obama’s team of 20-somethings data gurus gave him a major edge in 2008 and 2012 – and now they’re among the leading players in a quiet struggle for control of the Democratic data market in 2016.
The biggest prize, both symbolically and financially, is a spot on the growing team surrounding Obama’s 2008 rival: Hillary Clinton.
The 2016 presidential campaign will be Big Data’s biggest proving ground yet. Expect the savviest campaigns and their techies to surpass Obama’s vaunted 2012 effort, where data and analytics influenced everything from which fundraising emails went where and which ads aired when on different cable stations, to which doors got knocked and what the volunteer said when they opened.
That the competition to take it to the next level is playing out a year before Clinton or any other serious candidate might enter the 2016 race underscores the increasing importance of the intersection of Big Data and Big Money in American politics. At stake are political clout, corporate branding opportunities and lucrative contracts from unions, super PACs, candidates and party committees planning ambitious new projects.
Some of the biggest names and deepest pockets of the Clinton and Obama eras are involved in various digital efforts, including billionaire financier George Soros, Clinton insider Harold Ickes, Google’s Eric Schmidt and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
Machiavelli With Malaprops
The former boxer’s ability to absorb blows and, even more importantly, to counterpunch, perhaps with an occasional hit below the belt, are the secrets of his longevity—and no doubt he will deploy them once again as the Senate fights this week over the budget deal. Unlike most of the preening Club of 100, Reid expends little effort tending to his public image.
Driving home messages (the Tea Party is destructive) and advancing legislation (the nuclear option) are what energize this tireless son of Searchlight, Nev., a speck of a town outside Las Vegas where Reid’s hardscrabble childhood helped produce a man impervious to most political considerations and virtually immune to criticism.
The majority leader is a mélange of contradictions—a Machiavelli with malaprops (otherwise known as Reidisms)—but you can’t understand them just from the vantage point of the theater up on Capitol Hill. I’ve seen them revealed over a quarter century of close observation back in Nevada, where Reid, 74, has always been both a study in outperforming expectations and a political fighter with bare-knuckles ambition. Many still puzzle over this—how Reid can be at once a seemingly soulless manipulator of the process while occasionally revealing deeply held beliefs; a religious man proud of his Mormon faith who has metamorphosed into a social progressive; and an outwardly meek, bland figure whose cutthroat ways make him easily the most feared man in Nevada by politicians of both parties.
Gingrich Schools Reich: ‘Every Major City Which Is a Poverty Center Is Run By Democrats’
When former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich tried to blame the increase in poverty in the past five years on Republicans, former Speaker of the House and current CNN host Newt Gingrich called it “baloney” firing back, “Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats” (video follows with transcript and absolutely no need for additional commentary):
G.O.P. Firebrands Tone Down Their Message and Run Again
Now he is among at least nine Republicans, a mix of former incumbents and previous challengers, who are running again — but with a difference. This time they have shelved their incendiary remarks about President Obama and the national debt in favor of anarrower focus on the Affordable Care Act, which they hope will attract moderate voters from both parties, even in heavily Democratic districts, who are disenchanted with its rollout.
The campaigns, if successful, could be an indication of change in some corners of the Republican Party as many former firebrands mellow their messages and people like Mr. Dold, who benefited from the Tea Party but was one of the more moderate members of the House, try to capitalize on the center. At the very least, their campaigns show that some people who ran vociferously against Washington appear eager to get back there.
They figure their odds of winning next year are much better in a nonpresidential election without Mr. Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket.
Branding…PJTV: The Power & Danger of Iconography
A great video…with some “still” great messages for political candidates and parties. Maybe something we can learn from 2009….for 2014?
George P. takes baby steps away from Bush name
The latest scion of one of America’s most powerful political dynasties is trying to convince voters he’s something other than what his famous surname suggests.
George P. Bush, Jeb Bush’s 37-year-old son who is a grandson of one former president and nephew of another, is launching his political career by running for Texas’ little-known but powerful land commissioner post.
But rather than campaigning on the mainstream Republicanism embodied by the family name, Bush says he’s “a movement conservative” more in line with the tea party.
How John McCain Turned His Clichés Into Meaning
It is not his fault, or not entirely. Many of us become walking self-caricatures at a certain point, and politicians can be particularly vulnerable, especially those who have maneuvered their very public lives as conspicuously as McCain. They tell and retell the same stories; things get musty. They engage in a lot of self-mythologizing, and no one in Washington has been the subject and the perpetrator of more mythmaking than McCain: the maverick, the former maverick, the curmudgeon, the bridge builder, the war hero bent on transcending the call of self-interest to serve a cause greater than himself, the sore loser, old bull, last lion, loose cannon, happy warrior, elder statesman, lion in winter . . . you lose track of which McCain cliché is operational at a given moment. He does, too. “I think I was the brave maverick when I was taking on Bush,” McCain told me, “and then I was the bitter old man when I was criticizing Obamacare.”
Critics will take their shots, he says, it comes with being “in the arena.” That cliché isn’t McCain’s exclusively — it’s the self-consoling Teddy Roosevelt line that politicians are always trotting out. “It’s not the critic who counts” but “the man who really was in the arena.”
McCain has another favorite Teddy Roosevelt phrase, “the crowded hour,” which I have heard him invoke several times over the years. It comes from a poem by the English writer Thomas Mordaunt, and T. R. used it to famously describe his charge on San Juan Hill. In McCain’s philosophy, “the crowded hour” refers to a moment of character testing. “The ‘crowded hour’ is as appropriate for me right now as any in a long time,” McCain told me as we walked through the Capitol. In some respects, this is just a function of public figures’ tendency to overdramatize the current moment and their role in it. But five years after losing to Barack Obama, after enduring the recriminations between his splintered campaign staff and rogue running mate, Sarah Palin, and after returning to the Senate and falling into a prolonged funk, McCain finds himself in the midst of another crowded hour, maybe his last as an elected leader.
Ukraine: On the Edge of Empires
The name “Ukraine” literally translates as “on the edge.” It is a country on the edge of other countries, sometimes part of one, sometimes part of another and more frequently divided. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was divided between Russia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it was divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary. And in the 20th century, save for a short period of independence after World War I, it became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been on the edge of empires for centuries.
…That is what I found most interesting. Ukraine is independent, and I think it will stay independent. Its deepest problem is what to do with that independence, a plan it can formulate only in terms of someone else, in this case Europe or Russia. The great internal fight in Ukraine is not over how Ukraine will manage itself but whether it will be aligned with Europe or Russia. Unlike the 20th century, when the answer to the question of Ukrainian alignment caused wars to be fought, none will be fought now. Russia has what it wants from Ukraine, and Europe will not challenge that.
Ukraine has dreamed of sovereignty without ever truly confronting what it means. I mentioned to the financial analysts and traders that some of my children had served in the military. They were appalled at the idea. Why would someone choose to go into the military? I tried to explain their reasons, which did not have to do with wanting a good job. The gulf was too vast. They could not understand that national sovereignty and personal service cannot be divided. But then, as I said, most of them hoped to leave Ukraine.\
Ukraine has its sovereignty. In some ways, I got the sense that it wants to give that sovereignty away, to find someone to take away the burden. It isn’t clear, for once, that anyone is eager to take responsibility for Ukraine. I also did not get the sense that the Ukrainians had come to terms with what it meant to be sovereign. To many, Moscow and Warsaw are more real than Kiev.
A Word from the Ukrainian Barricades
The following two documents, recently sent to me from Lviv, usefully illustrate the dynamics of today’s Ukrainian drama. The first may help Western readers understand just how a corrupt, thuggish, post-Communist regime operates. The second gives a flavor of the witness that students whose teachers care about both intellectual and moral formation can offer Ukrainian society. It is instructive to note that much of the EuroMaidan protest has been led by young people who have grown up since Ukraine achieved its independence in 1991; they have no memory of the Communist regime, and they want a normal, European future, which they associate not with MTV, but with democracy, solidarity, and respect for human dignity.
The texts have been lightly edited for readability.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Years from the Anuzis Family!
To My Democrat/Liberal Friends…
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2014, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great.
Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.
We wish you good luck with Obamacare, whether you were misled or lied to about keeping your doctor or existing health care plan, President Obama has already explained he really didn’t mean it – in that way…but you voted for him/that…so I’m sure it will be fine.
By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.
To My Republican/Conservative friends…
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!
Stay In Touch…Feel Free to Share
My goal is for this to be a weekly political update…sharing political news and analysis that should be of interest to most activists.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook.
On Facebook at:
On Twitter at:
My blog “That’s Saul Folks” with Weekly Musings & more:
Thanks again for all you do!