Monday, January 30, 2012

More Non-Thinking

It's a big country, a big campaign, and there's a pretty big chance of someone saying something goofy pretty much every day. As for little ole me, I can't be everywhere taking all this stuff down, then reporting it. And after awhile, you'd conclude it was boring and maybe never read it again.What remains for me to do is to pluck the real gems that, usually inadvertently, reveal a certain lack of logic, the twisting of facts or context that can take your breath away. Because that happens every week, too.
There's Herman Cain, for instance. He's out of the campaign but still hanging around it as though millions were awaiting his next pronouncement. When he quit, his wife smiling in the far background, it was with the promise that he would not be endorsing any of his rivals. And he stuck to that position - for about a month before jumping onto the Gingrich bandwagon last week. His pals in adjoining seats are fellow Newtsters Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson and (from prison, serving out his term) former Congressman "Duke" Cunningham. There is, I believe, plenty of room for more rear ends on the Newt Express.
Then there's the guy who takes up lots of room wherever he sits, New Jersey's heavyweight governor, the three-bills plus Chris Christie. The Guv is a Romney guy this time around, though he supposedly took a hard look at running himself before throwing in with Mitt. He made a remark last week that left me stupefied. Not only, said Christie, should any new design for health care be taken up for a vote, he personally opined that the race-related civil rights measures of the 1960's should also have been put to a vote before being adopted.
I looked it up. Mr. Christie was only born in 1962, so it's understandable that he doesn't remember these things. All that old civil rights era film footage - the dogs, the pressure hoses, the billy clubs, the evil-eyed local southern sheriffs and so forth - he evidently missed all that. Maybe he was eating extra meals.
On the other hand, Christie did attend law school, where someone must have said that some things are too important to be left to a popular vote - the basic principles that we are ALL supposed to believe just by being Americans. He missed that too, I guess.
Finally, no one told him that an election where civil rights would not be in place for all potential voters gives local authorities the green light to deny the vote to all kinds of people they just didn't like. Instead of arguing for the rights of all men, etc, you had local authorities warning about how the imposition of civil rights on southern states would be a huge federal government power grab, or that adopting civil rights would be akin to ensconcing communism on innocent white folks. And since these last were not too keen on granting rights to non-white citizens anyway, there is little doubt how such elections would have ended, perhaps for decades. Perhaps, lacking strong sanctions of some kind, forever. Heck, Mississippi had quasi military gangs in the 1950's specifically given the task of using ANY means to keep blacks from registering and voting. And these gangs of roving rednecks took their assignment very seriously.
Yes, this was awhile ago. But it's important enough to say this: Shame on Christie for not knowing these things, if he didn't, and shame on him for trying to miseducate the American public if he did know. My sympathies for the citizens of New Jersey for having a governor who would want to capitalize on such an evil idea, no matter how long ago it was.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Week Off?

I don't think Vania King will make it into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Still, her name keeps popping up in this space, almost as much as what's-her-name and her sister, whozits.
Ms. King, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is only 5 feet 5, and so the 6-foot Pam Shriver towered over her during an interview following a match at the Australian Open last week. Vania was articulate about her game, but a little surprised when Shriver said she had heard that King had a good voice and asked her to sing. Vania took a second to select a song, then gave a couple of lines from "Dream a Little Dream of Me", the song brought back by the late Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas. The selection wasn't hard to sing, but it was...nice. It was one more reason to like her - as a person, not just a doubles partner. I'm going to start looking for a local chapter of Geezers for Vania to join.

This week's nominee for Snappy Sports Name goes to the always cool Fab Melo, a hoopster with the Syracuse Orangemen. Let's hope he gets his little academic conundrum solved soon. The team needs him in the middle.

This week's title question is meant to ask if it's theoretically possible with everything going on for this blog to ignore the mano a mano of the Republican presidential campaign. My answer is "no", not with so much going on.
For instance, there's the term "Cayman Islands". I'm as good at geography as the next guy, but I doubt I could find C.I. on a map. I think it (they?) are somewhere South of the Virgin Islands. What clicks in your mind at the mention of this particular locale? Two words should suffice. The first one is "tax" and the other could be "cheat". "dodge" or "haven", depending on how tough you want to be.
The point is: legal or not, Mitt Romney has money parked there. That's about as smart for a presidential candidate as holding a press conference to introduce your good friend Tammi, a dancer from Las Vegas who's borrowing a little money because she's been laid off at the Boom Boom Room. But I was so busy, I forgot to tell my wife about it. Darn. Any questions? No, just good friends....

And just as soon as we start to miss Rick Perry's foot-in-mouth quotes, up pops Sarah Palin again, getting way more than her share of attention for a journalist for Fox News. Palin, while explaining her nonexistent South Carolina vote for Newt Gingrich, went on about "vetting", letting everyone know that there wasn't enough of it by the GOP four years ago.
Wait a sec. You mean four years ago, when the nominee was John McCain, the very guy who took Palin out of the deep hole of obscurity that is the Alaska statehouse? The same John McCain who opened the door for Palin to get millions of dollars from Fox and assorted speech listener/suckers for doing little except tease the voters that she could decide to run for president after all? That John McCain? The John McCain who could have conceivably been elected president if independent voters had not gone thumbs down on Palin herself?
Please, Ma'am. This isn't ancient history we're talking about here. It was less than four years ago. Even your followers aren't that thick. Are they?

Finally, a raspberry for the Republicans of Iowa. As an ex-Iowan, I have great regard for the people of the Hawkeye State, but what they (GOP leaders) did last week, stumbling back and forth over the final result of the caucus, was near criminally inept. By the time they had finally concluded that Rick Santorum had, in fact, won the vote, you couldn't blame the campaigns for screaming that they would never return and spend millions of dollars only to be treated shabbily when it was time for the Party to get it right. Maybe in 2016, the first presidential event will be in Puerto Rico. They couldn't mess it up worse.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Tough Day in Salt Lake City

First, from the department of "I'm So Vain": For several years now I've been marking down each day's tennis results, with particular attention to wins and losses. It came time to tabulate the totals for 2011 on New Years Day. I wasn't sure what the results would be, but am happy now to announce the news. My 2011 winning percentage topped 2010 by almost 1%. For what it's worth, I get in about 20 sets a month, almost all in doubles.

Certain images and certain people on TV somehow make us laugh. There's those Coke-swilling polar bears, for instance, and the hamsters who drive the KIA Soul, both famous all over the planet. Another such image, I believe, is that of Charles Barkley, former basketball star and a very funny guy even when he's using other people's words. Anyway, Charles is the latest famous person to undertake weight loss by using a well-advertized system, in this case Weight Watchers. He even uses a line from his most famous commercial, done for Nike, in which he declared "I am not a role model." I can't explain just why, but he cracks me up every time.

Now imagine a scene in the largest room of the largest home in Salt Lake City, home of the Huntsman family. John Huntsman, out of the GOP presidential race as of yesterday, sits on an enormous multicolored couch. Mrs. H. sits, well-dressed, on an adjoining couch as big as any in Buckingham Palace. She speaks:
Mrs: Oh, John. I'm so sorry things didn't work out in the campaign. Can I get you anything?
Mr: Thanks. You know I don't feel sick, but I just feel so dry...
Mrs. : That's because we're home, Dear. It's a desert, remember? How about some lemonade?
Mr.: Thanks. You know I didn't think until this minute that we will have to make other plans. We're not moving to the White House after all.
Mrs.: I guess you're right, Hon, but is it really that bad?
Mr.: You're right, Darling, but once you're as rich as kings, which we are, and the political track is shut off, what does that leave? Every other offer involves money, which we honestly have no more use for, and none of them give you the chance to drop bombs on anyone. I mean, what am I going to do? Go around on my Harley hoping no one recognizes me and says something stupid?
Mrs.: Oh, but it can't be that bad, John. You've already endorsed Mitt. Couldn't you get a spot in his Cabinet or something?
Mr. (laughing): Believe me, Babe. How many guys who are Mormons, have good hair and a pretty blonde wife do you think there would be room for in the Romney administration, if there ever is one? I'll tell you how many - one, and his initials are Mitt Romney. You remember how many times I ripped him in those debates? It was enough that we'll be lucky to be on the Romney Christmas card list. I guarantee Mitt's five times more interested in Colbert's 5% in South Carolina than he is in my 1%. And just think - until I saw those numbers myself I was thinking I coulda been a contender. Now I'm just another ex-governor rich guy. Could it be worse? Yeah, I could be Pawlenty and have to live in Minnesota, but that's about it.
Mrs.: Well, couldn't we go back to China?
Mr.: Once again you're a little short of vertical, my dear. You only leave the Obama administration once. He wouldn't even send us to one of those sinking island countries unless he was sure there wouldn't be a boat waiting. Don't get me wrong. He's a nice fellow and all, but Republicans aren't at the top of his list right now. Know what I mean? There's a bigger chance of a weeping apology from Cheney than there is of us being ambassadors again.
Mrs.: I see. Well, is it too late to run for that old guy's Senate seat? What's his name? Hatch?
Mr.: Gee, I don't know. I just feel like I've shaken way too many sweaty palms and kissed too many homely babies to want to start up again. Maybe I'll call up Rick Perry after awhile. That guy always makes me feel so...ah... smart.
Mrs.: Well, come over here first, big guy. I think I know just what you need to feel a little happier.
Mr.: I second the motion!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I've Seen the Future

When asked the name of the Lion King, three year-old granddaughter Ireland replied without taking her eyes from the screen, "Dad".

Coming to a parking lot near you - Pizza tycoon and presidential wannabe Herman Cain must have realized that any call to take over the Department of Defense won't arrive for at least a year following the next inauguration, and so he has a different plan for the short term - riding a giant bus around the country reminding people of his "9-9-9" tax plan. Let's hope there's room on the vehicle for, ah, Mrs. C.

There was a big meeting this weekend of Christian bigshots this weekend. They are ready to do almost anything to avoid supporting Mitt Romney for president. The vote went to a Catholic, former PA Senator Rick Santorum. I don't know if this will pay off, but it can't be good news for Texas governor Rick Perry. I, for one, will miss statements from Perry such as "Every barrel of oil that comes from Canada is one we won't have to buy from a foreign country."

We got around to seeing the Planet of the Apes movie. I guess you know you're having a bad day when a 600 lb. gorilla is heaving manhole covers directly at you.

Now to this week's subject. You may recall a SCOTUS decision of a year or two ago referred to as the "Citizens United" decision. It's been described in this space before, but the practical applications of this decision are proving to be breathtaking in this election campaign.
What just happened in Iowa is a good example. Big money donors are still restricted to $2000 or so toward the actual campaign, BUT the same donors can make unlimited donations to "Super Fund" operations that just happen to favor a certain candidate. The Romney campaign spent a little over $1 million getting Iowans to line up for Mitt on caucus night, but the Romney-associated super fund spent upwards of $3 million on negative ads - all aimed at Newt Gingrich.
This normally might have finished off Newt for good, but then Newt's own fund picked up $5 million of so from another sugar daddy, and so he's still around, spreading the gift of Newtism to South Carolina.
Donors to these funds may not have to identify themselves at all, and corporations are using their newfound "personhood". I strongly doubt that they'll ever be called on by shareholders to come clean in some future annual meeting, either. The thing that is supposed to make all this possible is the assumed independence of the funds from the campaigns themselves.
But the "independence" may be more legal than real. John Huntsman's fund, for instance, depends on big donations from Utah's richest man, a guy named John Huntsman Sr., the candidate's father! His company looked over the GOP field, and settled on Jr. And the two never consult on how dad's riches are to be spent.
Yes, the future has arrived in the form of a pinstriped suit bearing money AND the subtle understanding that it does not come without strings. Those without this backing are doomed to continue as history's also-rans. I find myself siding with the bumper sticker that states "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one."

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Round One to Mitt

The football bowls aren't over with just yet. We're bound to see some more strange things before they are. I am willing, however, to nominate Whitney Mersilus of Illinois as having the coolest football name. Stanford's quarterback Andrew Luck, by comparison, played a great game but ran out of, ah, luck when the Cardinal field goal kicker flubbed on two attempts, one of which would have won the game immediately. So it goes.

The Iowa caucuses were held last night, and the phrase which still applies is "you couldn't make this stuff up". Mitt Romney was publicly low-keying his chances in the Hawkeye state until some unknown allies in unknown places exercised their corporate right to speak with millions of dollars, not so much for Mitt as against his opponent of the week, Newt Gingrich. The effort by the big money boys earned Mitt a virtual tie with Rick Santorum, ex-senator from Pennsylvania, who was considered a likely first round washout just a few weeks ago.
Newt, seeing his chance at the White House evaporate before his eyes, didn't take his own fourth place finish well. His concession speech wasn't just ungracious, but declared a totally new role for himself in the campaign, that of the anti-Mitt, tied, like it or not, to Santorum's quest. So much for holding off on the negative campaigning.
Ron Paul doesn't look a day over ninety, but he IS 76 years old, and he finished a close third last night. Fox News can't stand him, so he's unlikely to be the nominee, especially since he's left a long paper trail identifying him as a closet Libertarian, a mindset current Republicans only pretend to respect.
The rest of the list is, shall we say, unpretty. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann took 6% of the caucus vote, good only for 6th ahead of Jon Huntsman who abandoned Iowa for New Hampshire some time ago. She's out of the race as of this morning.
Texas governor Rick Perry's numerous public gaffs were funny, unless you were him. He finished fifth with 10%, and still has plenty of money, but no momentum heading into New England. You might next see him working on his line dance moves or signing all those backlogged death warrants back home in Austin.
As for the Mittster, the news isn't all good. Short of the actual deaths of his rivals, nothing seems to move his numbers over the 25% mark. No keys to the Oval Office unless you get 100% of the GOP vote, and some others, as well. He got the same numbers this time as he did in '08, when Mike Huckabee was the Iowa winner. Mitt gets plenty of endorsements, but they have yet to pay off, especially with that self-described leaderless bunch of Tea party folks and the usual Mormon haters clustered in the Deep South. And the prospect of Newt constantly in his rear view mirror can't be pleasant, either.
Still, Santorum has his own paper trail of wildly off the wall statements that may now take center stage, and he has neither the money nor the organization to go toe to toe with Romney. But the longer he lasts, the less time Mitt has to concentrate on bashing Obama full time.
We've already been at this for a year, but we'll have a nominee in about eight months and a winner in just over eleven. Only a large earthquake could keep Mitt from winning in New Hampshire, so the next bloodletting might be in the Palmetto State, a polite name for, uh, South Carolina.