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Pundits Crown Big Bird Killer the Winner

Created By John Mavroudis

I am trying to understand why the debate about the debate is starting to bother my core.    Between the hysterics of the likes of Chris Mathews and Ed Schultz, what we have here is a crisis among the pundit class.  They loved how Romney was an in charge powerful white guy.  They loved it.  Did it matter that he was brash and a liar?  Only on a secondary level.   They wanted the guy who is America’s idea of a winner: Paternalistic Authoritarian Oaf.    They want the President become a bully, or at least to fight like a bully.

They wanted  from Obama the appearance, the veneer of domination and power.  Well guys, you will not get that from Obama.   Since pundits live in the world of theatrics, brashness, zingers, platitudes and pseudo sports environment of winning, they want to impose this culture on all of us.   Obama, has an inner core that you still don’t get.   It is not the pushy white guy core.  The pushy white guy, the Romneys, of this world got us to this mess.   Mr. Mathews, I am glad the President does not watch cable news, someone has to step away from the culture of brash and crass.

As someone who worked as a community organizer and in the public sector, I remember countless encounters with men from the public finance sector, investment bankers and such, who would railroad local governments with slick presentations promising everything and offering little substance.  When I would break down their faux complexity, they would always appear frazzled and angry.  Obama was not professorial, he spoke in a simple and clear language.  Romney threw a word salad at us that made no sense.  Obama had more time, but apparently Romney used over 700 more words than Obama.

Everything about Romney’s swift talking, glib gibberish means  to overpower and not inform the listener .   Because, if the listener understood what they were saying, of course they would not buy their gizmo, idea or gadget.    Talking fast of furious, shock and awe, with little desire to inform of the complexity and the risks.   It seems that we are still impressed with such men and we want to give these lazy peddlers the reigns to lead us.  God help us.

So, the pundits declared Obama a loser, based on one debates performance with a verified liar and shape shifter.  They crowned the liar and shape shifter as the winner.  It seems that these are the values that we want to honor and reward.

Obama I think failed in two ways.  Americans do not understand when someone does not look at them.  They think it’s fear, cowardice and shame.  They want a stare down.  Give it to them.  Second, no Mr. President, your position in anything is not like the Romney positions, they are in any way similar and they should not be particularly on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the environment, women’s rights, healthcare, gay rights, immigrant rights, foreign policy, education and the environment.  Do not give them an opening for discussion, they see it as capitulation.  This is the politics as a horse race class, winners and losers.

The responsibility of the commentators after the debate was to judge the performance, but also the content.  In the end, Romney changed every single position.  Bullied the elder and respected journalist, Lehrer.  Violated the terms and conditions of the debate structure and it seems that was a good thing.   This is what we want, people who want to win at any cost.

Romney displayed everything that I find repulsive about white male behavior in business, government and many other domains.  It starts with a lazy core, it does not matter if you have the skills, credentials, you just have to appear that you have the makings of whatever you are trying to do.   Charles Pierce calls it Political Eloquence, I call it the white guy swagger.

In the end, pundit class  declared the bullying liar the winner.    They even make fun of Obama’s attempt to be polite to the elder Lehrer.  Yes, the President was right, he made a human gesture to Lehrer.  Lehrer’s ability to control the domineering bully was lacking, but it was not Lehrer who should be faulted, it was the rude liar, Romney.   This after all the hype against bullying, we have crowned the supreme bully a winner.  They had a chance to call out Romney for his core failings, they missed it.  How did they miss it?  Obama did not buy into their culture of  bullying passing for a virtue.

( Meme created by Zenpop)


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Empathy and Compassion

Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis and had cancer.  Rick Santorum‘s baby has a major disability.  Both need medical care that is very expensive.  Ann Romney, as the wife of a multi-millionaire, has access to all the care that she needs.  Rick Santorum, assuredly has health insurance and most likely the insurance he was given by the American people as US Senator to cover his child’s health care. We are told their stories over and over to humanize them and to make the “likable” because they suffer.

Yet, Ann Romney is married to a man ,who if elected, has promised to cut the healthcare that is offered under the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Rick Santorum, showed no compassion or empathy with people who do not have access to health care and have sick children.  Before the Affordable Healthcare Act, children with severe disabilities faced the lifetime cap that precluded them from getting anymore coverage.  Some of the children reached the cap at an early age. Compassion and empathy without a commitment to some form of social and economic justice is an empty sentiment.  A cheap Hallmark card.  An empty gesture.

When someone seeks compassion and empathy for themselves and shows no such compassion or care of people who suffer the same condition and have few resources then that is simple sadistic cruelty. Santorum used simplistic analogies of people “expecting free medication”  yet they buy and iPad for $900.  This is exactly the kind of “folksy” oversimplification that is used against people to dehumanize them and to take away a social sense of compassion and empathy for our fellow citizens.  Instead, they become a caricature.

These self same politicians and their wives, want us to see them as humans with real pain and suffering. When you make your life’s work the demonization of your fellow citizens and of the people of other nations, do not cry and beg for my compassion.  Do not try to pull my heartstrings.   So, Mrs. Romney, I do not care about your struggles until I see that you face the heartless policies of your husband.

As far as I am concerned, you are nothing more than the wife of a mobster, Carmella Soprano comes to mind.  You choose to be with that man.  You have free will.  Your struggles are artificial and deserve little of my attention.  I will save my compassion for those who are left out without care, without protection.

Mr. Santorum, your parents worked for the VA, the biggest national healthcare.  They paid for your healthcare as a child from generous public benefits.   If they were so capable, why did they not work out in the private sector?  You have been on the public teet your entire life and you go around scolding others as if you are some type of self-made man.   I know a scoundrel when I see one, and you are one.

To the Republican Party and particularly the Romney household.  Your personal narrative of suffering should be repressed and kept private.  If you follow your core values, your fellow citizens do not owe you one ounce of compassion.    

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Question Austerity

As our heads spin  from the upside down economic actions of our governments,  Mark Blyth a professor of International Political Economy at Brown University and faculty fellow at its Watson Institute for International Studies, explains in the video below the idiocy of the Global Austerity strategy. He is writing “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea,” forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2011, I cannot wait.

By the way, thanks to the taxpayers of Wisconsin, I got to hear him speak about this on To The Best of Our Knowledge, where you can find the best thinkers of our time and get all the tips on what to read next.

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Beware of Industry Experts

Our experts are failing us. In three global realms experts convinced us that things are under control. That they know better than us. They have the mathematical models, the scientific know how, the insider track, the intelligence. In all three areas they told us the outliers are not possible.  We were repeatedly told:  “We have modeled and planned for the possible outcomes and we got it under control“.  “Listen to us” , they told us,” we have studied and we have planned for the best outcomes“.

The first example is our global financial calamity. The experts, the financiers and bankers told us they hired all the mathematicians and physicists to model the possibilities. The formulas and the new liberal financial markets, will protect us from busts and keep us on a trajectory of booms.

Yet, my instincts, my experience was telling me the following:

  • American household incomes did not rise since 1978.
  • Household debt was on the rise.
  • All on the idea that property values would continue an upward trajectory.

For example, in Richmond, California a friend bought a house for $550, 000, no cash down. The story was that prices would rise and she could then have equity. I turned a few shades of green and red when she told me that she put herself into this mess. My instincts, and experience in housing told me that for each $100,000 of debt, a household will make payments in the range of $800 to $1,000 per month for debt, taxes and insurance. It’s a simple calculus that I gained from twenty plus years of designing affordable housing programs. At $550,000, she would need to pay out, just for housing, something in the range of $4,400 to $5,500 per month. Remember, these were variable rates, so you calculate for the highest possible interest.

So, my dear friend would need to be able to have a minimum of $52,800 per year to make her payments. Now, this does not include food, health insurance, car payments, repairs, entertainment, savings etc. In the old days, banks would say a family was safe if they spent in the range of 25% to 35% of their income towards housing costs.  Well that went out the window with the promise of ever rising values. Let’s be conservative and say that for a time, families can have a housing payment of 50% of their income. So, she would need an income of over $100,000 per year. The median income in Richmond is somewhere below $50,000. Meaning, at that price, hardly anyone in Richmond could afford a house at $550,000. The expectation that somehow the values would rise and there would be a market in the future, was basically a scam.  For the scam to have worked, incomes in Richmond would have to take a remarkable up turn.

At that rate, the population in Richmond would have to have a rise in incomes that was no possible under any of the economic realities of our time.  The financial experts never bothered to do this one simple calculation: Can people who live in that city where we make loans, buy these over leveraged houses in the future, or even now? Of course, the mathematical calculations told them it was a slam dunk.

Our second set of failed experts were the foreign policy experts and middle east experts.  For decades they collectively droned on and on about what happened in Egypt and Tunisia was not possible. People in those nations were passive; They told us “Arabs like the tyrants because they are stuck somewhere in the crusades, they are so far behind the rest of the world. Time has passed them by and they need to be tortured and oppressed because they will just want to take back the world and impose Islam.”

The story line was convenient and convenience is lazy. No one bothered to listen to the voices of Arabs from the various nations, they made up a story and kept telling it to each other. No one bothered to read. No one bothered to follow the demonstrations in Egypt for the last five years at least, or wonder, who is in the prisons. The same batch of recycled ex officials from Europe and the US perpetuated the narrative. When Edward Said accused the west of being Orientalist, meaning they made up a racist story and stuck to it, he was accused of being a radical and anti-Semite. It was in front of them, but first you did not think it within the capability of the Arab people to desire, demand and demonstrate for the human rights they deserve. The democracy that we purport to support with all the sub clauses that are tainted with racist and colonial overtones as to why we don’t think certain people can manage such rights.  You see, the underlying racist assumptions drowned the experts in the echo chamber of foreign policy talk.

Time after time, in nations where they convinced themselves that people were stuck in the crusades, people of all walks of life proved them wrong. All that the experts had to do is get out of their echo chambers.  All you have to do, is be curious.  Talk to some people.  Read their writings.  Go beyond the bubble of our own experts who are paid to project our self interests.

Finally, we have the nuclear experts and the offshore drilling experts. Look, they told us, these systems are safe. Your doomsday scenarios are just naive and sensationalist. In less than twelve months, the worst case scenarios happened in the Gulf of Mexico and in Japan. Two major industries are proving to us that when the worst happens–that small catastrophic possibility occurs– they are not equipped to manage the disaster. They really did not plan for the worst case.  When the catastrophe happens, they tell us to not panic, that it’s not the time to panic.

They pat, pat us on our heads and tell us not to worry our pretty heads, they are the industry scientists, the experts. They hold the wisdom and the tools for our safety. In truth, we have abdicated our welfare to a bunch of corporate, self serving interests. Sure, we close our eyes because we get a flow of electricity and energy that courses through our veins, so we nod and wink and buy the comfort that Daddy will take care of us.

Next time someone tells you ” I am an expert, let me do the worrying, I have it under control” run. Run fast. Run and engage your instincts, your critical thinking and your advantage of being outside whatever echo chamber of experts is patronizing you.   To rift on the Reagan right wing quote, if you hear ” I am an industry expert and I have come to help”, shut the doors, take cover and hide your wallet.  “We don’t understand the world as well as we think we do and tend to be fooled by false patterns, mistake luck for skills (the fooled by randomness effect), overestimate knowledge about rare events (Black Swans), as well as human understanding, something that has been getting worse with the increase in complexity”, Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

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Mubarak: State Sponsored Terror Against Egyptians

This is the man, this is the regime, this is the state we have supported against its people.  They used to do it in closed prisons, behind closed door, in dungeons.  Now they do it in front of the world.  Here is how your stability was sustained.  The anti Mubarak  demonstrators were peaceful and acted with all the anti-violence values of resistance.  Now, Mubarak has unleashed oil workers, undercover policemen, NDP party members to brutalize the demonstrators.

This is the peaceful transition that he promised.   They went on top of buildings, throwing stones and all types of things.  This is the terrorism we should be fighting, state imposed terror.  I wonder who helped him to cook this strategy?   The Army stands by.  Is there any doubt that they are complicit?

“@ waelabbas : Police arrested the secretary of thugs named Ali Mohammed Ali Yasin, number: 89015191 – Lessa end Bicol Mubarak supporters?? ”

aidaseif aidaseif 

One pro Mubarak demonstrator: Sergeant Yasin Ali Mohamed Ali, from 10th of Ramadan police station. ID 89015191 #jan25 #Egypt
They have shut down Al Jazeera, they have shut down the cell phones, they have shut down the internet.  Now, he brings on anarchy to shut down the opposition.
The army had no “orders” to intervene, to stop the paid thugs.
From the Egyptian Chronicles, Blogger Zeinobia

As expected Mubarak and his regime have been preparing a scheme to attack our great protesters.

There is a civil war currently in Al Tahrir protesters thanks to the NDP thugs and there are currently dead and injured among the peaceful protesters , I want to cry and scream.

We understand the plan now , the police forces were resting during all those days. The NDP businessmen tycoons reportedly like Hassan Ratab and Mohamed Kamal paid money to thugs and to their employees and workers in order to launch these huge


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A Guide: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt

The past few days I have heard so many stupid things from friends, blogs, pundits, correspondents, politicians, experts, writers that I want to pull my hair.  So, I will not beat around the bush, I will be really blunt and give you a handy list to keep you from offending Egyptians, Arabs and the world when you discuss, blog or talk about Egypt.  Honestly, I would think most Progressives would know these things, but let’s get to it.

  • “I am so impressed at how articulate Egyptians are.”  Does this sound familiar?  Imagine saying this about a Latino or African American?  You don’t say it.  So don’t say it about Egyptians.   Gee, thank you oh great person who is of limited experience and human contact for recognizing that out of 80 million people some could be articulate, educated and speak many languages.  Not cool.  Don’t say it.  You may think it, but it makes you sound like a dumb ass.
  • “This is so sad”:  No, sad were the thirty years of oppression, repression and torture.
  • ” I loved Sadat”:  Mubarak was made of the same cloth of Sadat.  Same repression, same ill-treatment of their people, yet you were all in love with Sadat.  Hmm, where and when do you think the repression started?  The State Of Emergency?  Sadat was not loved by the Egyptian people.   Why do you love Sadat?
  • “What they did to the Mummies is horrible”:  Yes, but who did it?  Think, Mubarak, for years has been playing the “I am the stabilizing force”.  The one thing you know about Egypt, the stuff that was underground and from the past, you will be distraught and find the protestors to be disgusting.  Yet it was not the protesters who did it.  In Alexandria, the young people protected the library.  Did anyone carry that story?  Statement from the Director of the Alexandria Library:

The library is safe thanks to Egypt’s youth, whether they be the staff of the Library or the representatives of the demonstrators, who are joining us in guarding the building from potential vandals and looters.  I am there daily within the bounds of the curfew hours.   However, the Library will be closed to the public for the next few days until the curfew is lifted and events unfold towards an end to the lawlessness and a move towards the resolution of the political issues that triggered the demonstrations.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. It renounced violence in the 1970s and has no active militia (although a provocative martial arts demonstration in December 2006 raised some alarm that they may be regrouping a militia.)

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan Al Muslimun in Arabic, is frequently mentioned in relation to groups such as Hamas and Al Qaeda.

  • “The Twitter Revolution”. No, this is the Revolution of the Egyptian people.  Egyptians resisted for decades.  They were tortured, jailed and repressed by the Mubarak and Sadat regimes.  Twitter and Facebook are tools.  They did not stand in front of the water canons, or go to jail for all these years to get the credit.  There were demonstrations all summer long and for a several years through out Egypt but they are rarely covered, because we are worried about what Sarah Palin said, or some moronic Imam saying something stupid.  Does it sound a bit arrogant to take credit for a people’s struggle?
  • “The women are so brave”:  Egyptian women have always been brave.  If you want to know about Sadat’s Egypt, read Nawal El Saadawi’s memoir while in jail.  Memoirs from the Women’s Prison
  • “Al Jazeera has come to its own”: Al Jazeera has been on it’s own, you just only noticed. .  Do you think you believed the Bush administration spin about Al Jazeera?  Just maybe you believed the bullshit?  They must be doing something right if all the factions on the ground want to shut them down.  The tyrants, the US and the Israelis.  Hmm, maybe they are speaking truth to power?
  • “Mubarak kept the peace treaty”: So, what do you think, if the Egyptian people choose another government, they will go to war with Israel?  Maybe they will demand a few more things from Israel in how they negotiate with the Palestinians.  Maybe Gazans will get better treatment?  Maybe the balance of power will not be tipped over to Israel?  Egypt protests: Israel fears unrest may threaten peace treaty.   Hmm, so we should support the oppression of 80 million Egyptians for a false stabilization?
  • “If they get Democracy they will elect extremists”.  Imagine if the world said that about America.  The Tea Party threatens world stability, as did the Bush administration.  How would you like if others used that as a threat to support an autocrat who made all opposing parties illegal?  In truth, US politics threaten world stability more than Egypt does.  Second, the implication is that democracy is not to be trusted in the hands of “certain” nations, people and religions is offensive, racist and ignorant.  You do not claim to value human rights, democracy and freedom and then you make exclusions based on race, nationality and religion.  Don’t say this shit.
  • “The people are so nice”:  Yes they are, it’s your ignorant self that assumed they are all terrorists and fanatics.  What did you think?  Glad you went to Egypt and found the Egyptians nice.  After all, they do have a cosmopolitan civilization of over 5,000 years, yet you reduced them to “rag heads” , “jihadists”, “ali babas”, “terrorists”, the list is endless.  Imagine saying this about African Americans?  Asians?  Nope.  Just don’t fucking say it.  It’s patronizing.

It’s time Egyptians were heard.  It’s time the pundits and “Egypt hands” (old recycled western diplomats) were retired. These people were as good at predicting the current events as our economists were in predicting the economic calamity.  I am glad you all got to see things from Egypt outside your comfort zone.  Maybe now, you can give Egyptians and Arabs some respect.  The people in Egypt are struggling for human rights, dignity and freedom.  Like the rest of us, they want the economic means to care for their families.  Break down those closed ideas that dehumanize the Arab and Egyptian people in general.  That is all I ask.


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I Am A Sanctimonious Purist: Obama Says

I must say, he does have a way at hurling names towards the Progressives that helped him win.  Every chance he gets, he bitch slaps the lot of them.  I say them, cause I was and am a Roosevelt Democrat, I am not a Progressive  and Liberals, by their history are way too attached to the free market mythology.   These days, being a Roosevelt Democrat, you are a lefty.  Yes, my politics are far left, but I have to be in the reality of American politics, and the Democratic Party of the Roosevelt era is the party I am partial to, and frankly, I am not willing to give it up to the namby pamby Democrats.   I am a lefty who does not foresee a revolution, but yes, I choose incremental improvements to make society more just.  But, I do not believe in capitulation and not standing for the basics of the historical Democratic Party.

I am a partisan as well.  Why?  Simple, elected Democracies without political parties that stand for some things, does not work.  We get this mess we are in.  We can all choose to think we “vote for the man”  but for me, I could never biologically, psychologically or politically vote for a Republican.

I did not buy the “selling of Obama” as transformative and transcending.  Actually, I found all that crap annoying.  I also did not buy the mass hysteria that the Clinton’s are racists, it was all one big media scam to get him elected.  If you are a Progressive and bought the Obama story that he “is the Progressive of all times”, sorry, you are a fool.  The guy always told you what he was going to do, you imagined what he was going to do.  You inferred.  You deluded yourself.  Why?  I don’t know, maybe it was the great old Teddy Kennedy telling us that he was “handing off the Liberal credentials”, maybe it was his age.  I don’t know, whatever it was, I did not see it and therefore I am not surprised.

” But he inspires me with his speeches”  you vapidly repeated to the press and on your Facebook.  Inspires you to do what?  Do you need the personal narrative of others and of public speakers to be inspired?  Inspiration should come from some work you do and actually it is a process of a lifetime.  The droning automatons who were “inspired” never explained their “inspiration”.  The question is what did they do with it and why is Obama the President failing to inspire?  Cause his actions do not fit his words.

Now he is in power and he is proving to be what he said he is.  Look at his editorial interview with the Reno Gazette, he was casual, comfortable and spoke his mind, not some Axelrod manufactured astro turf speak:

I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.

If my memory serves me right, the excesses that Reagan was opposing were all the core issues of the Left, Liberals and anyone calling themselves Progressive.  As Matt Stoler said at the time,

Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement.  The libertarian anti-government ideology of an unaccountable large liberal government was designed by ideological conservatives to take advantage of the backlash against these ‘excesses’.

It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so.  Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power.  Lots


Those living in political fairy land told me, “wait till he is elected, his true Progressive inner self will come out, he is saying this now to get elected, get real, be practical”.  Sorry folks, politicians who I vote for never, ever praise Ronald Reagan.  I therefore take the “Sanctimonious Purist” poke as another compliment Mr. President.

Frankly, I never believed he was anything more than what he is now.  I never saw anything in his history as a politician that indicated otherwise.  He always folded.  When he gave the “speech against the war” he was a State Senator, he had nothing to lose.  When it mattered, he voted with everyone else.  When Hillary did not tell you what you wanted to hear, you got mad at her.  Actually, I admired her more and more when she would not tell you her vote was wrong.  Yep, she took the attacks, Obama can’t.

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