Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stuck in the Fifth Dimension with Romney

As I've said for over a year and still say, Mitt Romney will limp or crawl over the finish line -- pummeled, bloodied, scorched, necktie all awry -- and win his party's nomination. Even if he loses Michigan tonight.

In short, Republicans are stuck with him, this bumbling Frankenstein of their own making.

Time's Joe Klein is thinking along similar lines and adds a few points:
"In the end, I suppose, Romney must still be considered the favorite to win the nomination. But he has been dragged well right of the American mainstream, and he has proved himself a brittle campaigner who lacks the confidence even to answer questions from the public at his rallies–and who, when he slips, slips into $10,000 bets and twin cadillacs and rhapsodies on the joys of firing people. The sad thing is that Romney, especially, has a potentially important case to make against the economy as Barack Obama has chosen to run it. But at this point, the messenger is as damaged as a used Nash Rambler."
Klein is wrong about the supposed case that Romney coulda shoulda made against "Obama's economy." There is no case, and never was. Global pressures aside, could the U.S. recovery be further along had Republicans put country first and cooperated with Obama? You betcha. But blame the GOP, not Obama. And since the economy is in fact on the mend, whatever Obama did is working. Detroit certainly gets that. So does most of mainstream America -- even if the pundits (who are hopelessly imbued with magical thinking) do not.

But back to the inevitability of Romney's nomination, I've been careful to add one caveat. If Republicans choose suicide, then, yes, they'll use a cyanide pill in the form of Newt or Santorum. But I'm not convinced they are that crazy -- yet. That said, for Republicans, there's no escaping from the Twilight Zone. The "Nash Rambler" they're bound to nominate will still be crushed by Obama in November. Rod Serling would have loved the irony.

Monday, February 27, 2012

'Blessed are the mean-spirited ...'

Granted, we are way, way beyond the looking-glass and anything can happen in this GOP presidential race. But I sense another corner has been turned.

Prediction: Rick Santorum is about to start his downward trajectory to political oblivion. Seemingly taking leave of his senses over the weekend, Santorum actually said this:
“President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!” [big applause] "I know why Obama wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image." [bigger applause] “I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.” [delirium with arms raised to Jesus]
After all, Santorum implied, only effete liberals go to college. The university is Satan's playground. "Real Americans" work for a living, preferably in a deep coal mine, by god. And this from a guy who after graduating from Penn State went on to earn -- wait for it -- a MBA degree and a law degree (with honors, no less). Can u spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e? Once again, I don't know who is scarier: Santorum or the people applauding him.

Rampaging against modernity

Tom Ferrick is convinced that Rick Santorum "has one of the finest minds of the 13th century." Heh. Great line.

But Ferrick is serious, sort of. Writing for the NY Times, he elaborated:
"It was meant to elicit a laugh, but there’s truth behind the remark. No Vatican II for Santorum. His belief system is the fixed and firm Catholicism of the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century. And Santorum is a warrior for those beliefs."
I simply don't know what to make of Mr. Santorum. Nor do I care to learn ("O, that way madness lies," said King Lear). But his zealotry really is breathtaking.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Miles to go before we sleep ...

An interesting LA Times piece today asks "why Oscar distribution tends to favor white over nonwhite actors." Then it answers its own question: The membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is overwhelmingly white (94%) and male (77%). It's not that complicated. That's not to say the AMPA is consciously racist. Yet, it is what it is. Which is simply to say, to paraphrase Robert Frost, there are "Miles to go before [we] sleep."

He. Just. Can't. Help. It.

Poor Mitt. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

Back in the day, Romney strenuously argued AGAINST bailing out the U.S. auto industry. Let 'em go bankrupt, he loudly opined. It's the American way. President Obama (wisely) ignored the advice and went all Lend-Lease on Detroit with oodles of taxpayer cash.

As Dirty Harry said during halftime at the Superbowl, Chevy & Company (along with America and apple pie) are back, baby -- firing on all cylinders thanks to Uncle Sam. Today, Obama looks like a hero. Mitt just looks dumb.

Seeing the error of his ways, Mitt is backpedaling and trying to convince folks that he really, honestly, truly does love Detroit and American cars. That led him to say this to an audience:
"I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs. I used to have a dodge truck, so I used to have all three [of the big automakers] covered."
Now remember: Try as he might, Romney is simply incapable of not coming off as Thurston Howell III (the uber rich guy of Gilligan's Island fame). He reeks of wealth down to his pores. So that led an amused Jon Chait to write this:
"It does make sense, in an extremely narrow way. If somebody were to accuse you of hating the Girl Scouts, you might point out that we bought a half dozen boxes of Tagalongs. That’s Romney’s thought process. I don’t hate Detroit, I love Detroit! I have a whole fleet of cars! My wife rides in a Cadillac, with a driver following behind in a second Cadillac in case she feels like changing colors in the middle of the trip! What? What did I say?"
Heh. To paraphrase the late great Ann Richards of Texas: Poor Mitt. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

Ben & Jerry's love you long time

Has America, even liberal America, lost its collective mind?

So there I was, minding my own business online this morning, when I stumbled across this cultural hiccup:
Ben & Jerry’s has begun selling a limited-release new flavor at its Harvard Square shop in honor of basketball’s sudden sensation, Jeremy Lin ... the new frozen yogurt pints are made at the Harvard Square shop with vanilla frozen yogurt, lychee honey swirls and come with a fresh waffle cookie on the side, which can be dipped into the container or crushed on top ... The fresh waffle cookie ingredient replaces initial batches of the flavor that included 'fortune cookie pieces' mixed in with the frozen yogurt ..."
Um, wha'? Wait -- fortune cookie pieces?

It seems Ben & Jerry's did a quick backward moonwalk, Michael Jackson-style, when some customers began pointing out that using the Chinese crisps were, well, kinda sorta stereotypical in a racist kinda way. Ya think? New York magazine's Dan Amira put it best: "You would think [Lin] was the first Asian person ever."

If you want a taste of real American Lin-sanity, well, here it is. Evidently, we "love you long time," Mistah Jeremy. Disappointing, ain't it?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Arizona debate

From the Washington Monthly:
Roger Simon had the most succinct description: "One word sums it up: desultory. Which Google tells us means “'lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm.'”
So, 20 debates later, who's the winner and reigning "champeen?" That man in the White House, Barack Obama. Way to go, GOP.

'Un impulso suicida'

Steve Benen: "In last night's debate, for example, he [Mitt Romney] was asked about his preferred approach to immigration policy, and Romney responded, 'I think you see a model in Arizona.' "

¡Ay, caramba! In one fell swoop, Mitt just kissed off the Latino vote, the fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation. Breathtaking, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Are we there yet?

Are you as tired of this endless Republican primary as I am? Yet another GOP debate (hopefully the last) is scheduled for Wednesday, this time here in Phoenix. Swell.

Despite all of the slings and arrows Mitt Romney has taken -- along with the barrages still to come -- he remains the likely GOP nominee. He'll be battered and bloodied, and it won't be pretty. But Republicans are stuck with him. To pick one of the alternatives -- Gingrich or Santorum -- is to hand President Obama a landslide in November. I'm not convinced the Grand Old Party is ready to commit political suicide. At least, not yet.

As for Romney v. Obama, Eugene Robinson sums it up succinctly: "Mitt Romney, whose main selling point is his supposed ability to beat Obama in November, has shown himself incapable of putting away a couple of — let’s face it — political has-beens whose glory days were in the previous century."

The outcome in November is hardly in doubt. The election has always been (and remains) Obama's to lose. (See the above photo. Does he look worried?) If only we could fast-forward to Election Day and get this thing over with.

'They call me Mr. Tibbs!'

I was a kid when I saw the Oscar-winning film In the Heat of the Night for the first time.

Its star, the great Sidney Poitier, quickly secured his place as a lifelong hero of mine. He is the epitome of dignity, poise and integrity, on and off screen.

For me, the best lines of the movie were these:
Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger): "You're sure of yourself, Virgil. Funny name for a nigger boy from Philadelphia. What do they call you up there?

Virgil (Poitier): "They call me Mr. Tibbs!"
Poignantly and poetically, Poitier was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009. It was indeed, as Same Cooke would put it, "a long time coming." Poitier turned 85 yesterday. Happy birthday, Mr. Tibbs.

Monday, February 20, 2012

'Some of my best friends are Asians ...'

Suddenly, it seems as if much of the nation is reflexively saying: "I don't care about Lin's race. Why some of my best friends are Asian." That's a sure sign that somebody's got a race problem.

As the whole world knows by now, red-faced ESPN fired an editor for using "chink in the armor" in a headline about hoops star Jeremy Lin. Anthony Federico, the perp, told the NY Daily News that he was devastated when he realized his mistake. "This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny," Federico said. Apparently he had "used the phrase 'at least 100 times' in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story."

And you know what? I actually believe the poor bastard. Which makes it even worse. It speaks volumes about the insidiousness of racism, a scourge that plagues us still even when it's unintentional. Bigotry had centuries to burrow deep into America's cultural marrow. It will take at least another generation -- or three -- to eradicate it. But as we slouch toward that elusive state of grace, our painfully self-conscious reaction to Lin should come as no surprise.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Voting ourselves to the back of the bus

Andrew Sullivan raises a larger issue while commenting on Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a bill from the New Jersey legislature backing gay marriage:
"The way in which a tiny 2- 3 percent minority seeking basic civil equality has been forced now to be subject to state referendums, even after winning legislative victories, strikes me as revealing. It's basically an attack on representative government, a resort to the forms of decision-making which maximize the potential for anonymous bigotry and minimize the importance of representative government, a core achievement of Anglo-American democracy, that can help enhance reason of the accountable against the sometimes raw prejudice of the majority."
He's right, of course. How would a public referendum on eliminating the Jim Crow laws in Alabama or Mississippi have fared in, say, 1932? You know the answer. As Sullivan noted, there's a reason the founders feared the "tyranny of the majority" and established a republic not a pure democracy.

Bodice-rippers are big business

According to statistics compiled by Simba Information, the ubiquitous romance novel "is by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American publishing, with over $1.35 billion in revenues estimated in 2010. That is a little less than twice the size of the mystery genre, almost exactly twice that of science fiction/fantasy, and nearly three times the size of the market for classic/literary fiction." Frankly, I don't whether to laugh, cry or faint at this rather amazing news. (Hat tip: The Awl)

How dare NBC not mention Arizona's Centennial

Having once toiled as an editorial writer at the Arizona Republic, I'm no stranger to letters to the editor. You haven't lived until you've seen this correspondence in the raw. Combing through the dreck, one ends up asking again and again: Who are these people -- and why, oh why, do they have this pathological need to share the imaginary slights they've suffered as citizens?

Now occasionally, a reader will submit a succinct, thoughtful commentary or observation. Rarer still, the letter will exhibit the well-turned phrase and even wit. Editors love those.

But, as seen in today's Republic, newspapers mostly get this:

"I was disgusted that neither of the national evening newscasts on CBS and NBC on Tuesday congratulated Arizona on its centennial birthday or even mentioned it. This was especially bothersome because the respective local stations (Channels 5 and 12) have provided wide coverage of the event."

Um, disgusted? That's a tad visceral. Let's set aside the fact that most Americans (and a shocking number of Arizonans) have no idea the Grand Canyon State turned 100 this week -- and could care less. What compelled this Sun City resident to shake his fist at the news media and then rush to share his angst with the rest of us? Well, because, presumably, there's nothing better to do in Sun City. (Oh I kid the town.)

And why, for that matter, did the Republic publish his letter in the first place, thereby encouraging more screeds from the likes of Mr. Sun City? Because that's entertainment, folks. And people wonder why newspapers and constructive discourse are seemingly in a death spiral.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Feigning interest: That thing presidents do

New York magazine describes the above scene. Obama: "So you put, what — luggage, laptop cases, that kind of stuff in here? Incredible." Heh.

And then there was Lin

I won't bother getting too deeply into Lin-mania. Culturally schizophrenic America (it has something to do with our social-networked hive mind) careens from obsession to obsession. Jeremy Lin, overnight superstar, is merely our latest infatuation. As Mr. T would say, I pity the fool. For what goes up must come down. He's the flavor of the month. And, trust me, the taste won't last. As a Harvard grad, however, Lin is smart enough to start cashing in on his 15 minutes. On that score, I wish him good hunting and big bucks.

On the other hand, I have no idea of what to make of a bloke who, when asked about the highest compliment someone could pay him, says: "When I see Jeremy play, I see him play for God.” Um, right. I'll simply take the fifth, senator, on the grounds that any commentary I may offer will tend to incriminate me.

I do, however, fear that Lin is living in a fantasy world when it comes to women. He described his ideal "babe" to the New York Post: "First she would really love God and be a faithful Christian, and then after that, I think, a desire to serve other people, to help with the underprivileged, do a lot of social work ... great personality and easy to be around. Someone that’s definitely chill, low key, low maintenance."

If it floats your boat, hooking up with a Christian woman is fine. But the rest of it? A hot-looking but earnest do-gooder with a "great personality" who is also low maintenance? Really? Keep dreaming, bro. God is merciful, but not that merciful.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Sunday thought

"Why is it that our memory is good enough to retain the least triviality that happens to us, and yet not good enough to recollect how often we have told it to the same person?" (Francois de La Rochefoucauld)

Friday, February 10, 2012

USS Gabrielle Giffords

The Navy announced today that its new Littoral Combat Ship will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords in honor of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. Wow. That's an honor indeed. It's rather amazing how Giffords, 41, has become such a beloved American icon. Then again, why not? We need all the inspiration we can get these days. Next stop, Mount Rushmore? In fact, if God is merciful and she fully recovers, I say forget about returning to Congress (as she pledged to do). The way is clear for her to make a White House run one day. And I daresay she would be unbeatable.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Earth to Mitt: No, the sky is not falling

Mitt Romney: "The nation is suffering. Three years into his four year term, 20 million Americans are out of work ... or are underemployed in part time jobs. Home values continue to go down. Foreclosures are at near-record record levels. Our national debt is skyrocketing–President Obama is on course to add as much debt by the end of his term as all the former presidents combined. ... President Obama’s recovery is not only anemic, it is one of the worst on record. The President made the recession worse and he made the recovery worse.”

In other words, the Apocalypse is nigh.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the Washington Post's Jonathan Bernstein notes: "Today’s economic news is that new claims for unemployment benefits have fallen again, with the four-week average now at the lowest point since spring 2008. That’s not all; the stock market is also at its highest point since spring 2008, and Gallup’s economic confidence numbers are also approaching post-recession highs."

In other words, the sky is probably not falling.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

'Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Head'

Breaking: This just in from the august New York magazine:
Gisele's post-Super Bowl outburst implying that Tom Brady's teammates hadn't held up their end of the game might have been inappropriate. But she now gets sympathy points after Giants running back Brandon Jacobs issued a far more offensive response. "[Gisele] just needs to continue to be cute and shut up," he told the Post. Oh. Maybe football players just need to keep their mouth guards in.
Sigh. This is why journalists rank right up there with lawyers and car salesmen.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

All Hail The Facebook Caesar

When Facebook goes all IPO this spring, founder Mark Zuckerberg's personal net worth will rocket to $28 billion -- overnight. No, that's not a typo. 'Tis true: He'll be richer than God. Way richer. And, unlike Julius Caesar, young master Zuckerberg didn't even have to cross any Rubicons to get there. Without getting his feet wet, he simply launched his famous social network from his Harvard dorm room. And since "The Prince" (that's his childhood nickname, seriously) will command 57 percent of the voting rights over Facebook Inc., he will reign as undisputed Caesar. Fortune smiles upon thee, Mark Zuckerberg. Mazel tov. But one wonders: What on earth does all of this money-power-glory-fame do to a 27-year-old mind, a kid for whom shaving is still a relatively new experience? What a curious world.  (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Friday, February 3, 2012

The real problem, perhaps, is us

A commonplace conceit today is that our political system is broken. Granted, there is a whisper of truth to it. How could it be otherwise given the mediocrity if not atrociousness of most politicians and much of the news media. But there is a greater truth. To paraphrase Walmart founder Sam Walton, there is only one boss in the end. The voter. And he or she can fire everybody in Congress from the top leadership on down, simply by voting for somebody better. It's a shame that too many of us simply whine about the dismal state of politics rather than doing something about it at the ballot box.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wanted: A regular guy

Writing for the Atlantic, Brian Fung observes: "[T]he closer Romney gets to becoming real to a voter, the more his likeability declines. ... Most politicians tend to be ordinary-looking people who spend their time convincing voters they're office-quality material. Romney is rushing the other way: he's the politician from central casting who is stumbling through an audition for a role of regular human. Not that other candidates don't make mistakes -- they do, all the time -- but in Romney's case awkward moments stand out like neon road signs precisely because we expect him to make the jump from TV to reality as effortlessly and convincingly as his polished appearance would imply."