From hope & change to fear & loathing

Ruth Marcus (classified as a “left-leaning” columnist on the Washington Post opinion page) looks at the Democratic strategy for re-electing President Obama:

Forget hope and change. President Obama’s reelection campaign is going to be based on fear and loathing: fear of what a Republican takeover would mean, and loathing of whomever the Republican nominee turns out to be.

Of course the Obama campaign will attempt to present the affirmative case for his reelection, citing legislative achievements, foreign policy successes and the current flurry of executive actions. But his strategists have clearly concluded that selling the president will not be enough, and the contours of the ugly months ahead are becoming increasingly apparent. . . .

David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and now a senior White House adviser, made the reelection campaign’s two-step, fear-and-loathing approach clear in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

First, fear: “This country cannot afford to go back to the same policies,” Plouffe said, “that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and all of these presidential candidates are offering: Let Wall Street write its own rules, make it easier for polluters to foul our air and water, and give millionaires and billionaires more tax cuts paid for by asking the middle class and seniors to do more.”

No matter who wins the Republican nomination, Plouffe said, “they’re offering the same economic policies that led to the Great Recession, that led to destruction of middle-class security in incomes.” Obama advisers plan to paint the eventual GOP nominee as a dangerous rubber stamp for a Congress controlled all, or in part, by Republicans.

Next, loathing. Obama advisers believe that Romney is the most likely nominee, and they have prepared a two-pronged attack on the former Massachusetts governor — as unprincipled and uncaring.

“He has no core,” Plouffe said in an unusually sharp attack for a White House official. “You get the sense with Mitt Romney that, you know, if he thought . . . it was good to say the sky was green and the grass is blue to win an election, he’d say it.”

Next, although Plouffe didn’t get around to it Sunday, is the planned depiction of Romney as the fat cat from Bain Capital, the heartless management consultant who bought companies, stripped their assets and sent their jobs to China.

via Campaign 2012: Welcome to the slugfest – The Washington Post.

Personhood amendments

Mississippi voters will decide on Tuesday whether or not to amend their state constitution to define human embryos as persons before the law.  But some pro-life groups don’t think this is a good idea.

An antiabortion movement that is gaining momentum nationwide is hoping for its first electoral victory Tuesday, when Mississippi voters will decide whether to designate a fertilized egg as a person and potentially label its destruction an act of murder.

If approved, the nation’s first “personhood” amendment could criminalize abortion and limit in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control. It also would give a jolt of energy to a national movement that views mainstream antiabortion activists as timid and complacent.

“They’ve just taken an incremental approach,” said Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi and father of 10 who initiated the state’s effort. “We’re just going to the heart of the matter, which is: Is this a person or not? God says it is, and science has confirmed it.”

“Life-at-conception” ballot initiatives in other parts of the country, including Colorado last year, have failed amid concerns about their far-reaching, and in some cases unforeseeable, implications.

But proponents of the amendment — who were inspired partly by the tea party movement — say they are more confident of victory in Mississippi, a Bible Belt state where antiabortion sentiment runs high and the laws governing the procedure are so strict that just one clinic provides abortions. . . .

Still, the measure has broad backing across party lines, with both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates voicing support for it (the Democrat, Johnny DuPree, has expressed concern about how it would affect birth control and in-vitro fertilization).

For years, the strategy favored by conservative activists nationally has been to gradually decrease access to abortion by cutting government funding and imposing restrictions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images before the procedure.

The aim has been to reduce the number of abortions while awaiting a mix of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that would be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

An energized group of activists has grown impatient with that approach. They take an uncompromising position on abortion, opposing it even in cases of rape and incest. Some also oppose making exceptions to save the life of the mother, arguing that both lives are equal and that doctors do not have the right to choose to save one over the other. Some even object to the term “fertilized egg.”

“It’s an embryo,” said Walter Hoye, a California pastor and president of the Issues 4 Life Foundation. “Calling it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”Personhood efforts are underway in more than a dozen states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Ohio. The movement has grown recently with the help of passionate young antiabortion advocates and more seasoned activists who have grown disenchanted with the pace of change.

via Antiabortion movement hoping for electoral victory in Miss. – The Washington Post.

Do you think this is a good tactic for the pro-life movement?

Romney keeping his promise to the left?

According to the Washington Post, when Mitt Romney was governor, he reassured pro-abortionists, gay rights activists, and environmentalists that as he rose through the ranks, he would change the Republican party’s hard-line stance on these issues:

Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state’s abortion laws.

Then, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion.

He would be a “good voice in the party” for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be “widely written about,” he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

“You need someone like me in Washington,” several participants recalled Romney saying that day in September 2002, an apparent reference to his future ambitions.

Romney made similar assurances to activists for gay rights and the environment, according to people familiar with the discussions, both as a candidate for governor and then in the early days of his term.

The encounters with liberal advocates offer some revealing insights into the ever-evolving ideology of Romney, who as a presidential candidate now espouses the hard-line opposition to abortion that he seemed to disparage less than a decade ago.

via As governor, Romney worked to reassure liberals – The Washington Post.

 

Colbert occupies Wall Street protesters

To his great credit, Stephen Colbert is an equal opportunity satirist.  A tip of the hat to Bruce Gee for alerting me to this interview with two Occupy Wall Street protesters.  The thing is, they, being stone-cold serious, are much more funny than Colbert being humorous!   But here is his interview with the “female-bodied” human named Ketchup, in which you can also learn the Robert’s Rules of Order equivalent for running a meeting by consensus (something you all should adopt for your church meetings).

Gross National Happiness

The nation of Bhutan has developed an ideology that is being picked up by other countries:  The use of government to make sure its citizens are happy.  Whether they like it or not.

Some fidget, a few eyes wander here and there, but for a minute or two, hundreds of primary schoolchildren are quiet, learning to meditate together at morning assembly — palms upturned and thumbs together in the style of Buddha.

This is Gross National Happiness — or GNH — at work in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a country determined to hold on to its ancient values even as it modernizes, to preserve its environment even as its economy grows and to prove to the world that there is more to life than money.

The term was coined by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972 in an apparently off-the-cuff remark to a journalist.

“I am not so much interested in gross national product,” he reportedly said. “I am more interested in gross national happiness.”

Those words grew into an ideology that has been examined and embraced by development economists and political leaders the world over.

Not since Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence of people’s inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has the idea been so widely disseminated that a government should promote — or at least not obstruct — its citizens’ happiness. France and Britain are incorporating measures of happiness and well-being into their national accounts, and the U.N. General Assembly adopted happiness as an unofficial Millennium Development Goal in July.

The U.N. resolution was a victory for Bhutan as it looks to win global approval for its national philosophy, but the utopian-sounding idea has proved difficult to put into practice at home.

“The joy of GNH is that it offers Bhutan a distinct and alternative path to development,” said opposition leader Tshering Tobgay. “The pitfall of GNH is that we are more satisfied with talking about it, preaching about it, rather than sincerely implementing some of its important principles.”

The government has tried to factor happiness into policy in a systematic way, creating a Gross National Happiness Commission and conducting two comprehensive studies of the happiness of its citizens based on what it sees as the four pillars of happiness: sustainable development, good governance, preservation of the environment and promotion of traditional culture.

via In Bhutan, pursuit of happiness is a tough mountain to climb – The Washington Post.

The article goes on to explain efforts to quantify an index of Gross National Happiness and how mandatory utopia laws are just not working as advertised.  Still, that is not stopping the government of Bhutan.

Do you think this will catch on here?  Isn’t that what both parties are implicitly trading on, what policies will make us the most happy?

More and longer field goals

Football has a new wrinkle, thanks in part to the phenomenon of youth soccer programs:

NFL place kickers are connecting on their field goal attempts at a higher rate than ever, threatening to make even long-distance kicks nearly as automatic as extra points. . . .

NFL kickers have been successful on 86.5 percent of their field goal tries this season. That is the highest percentage at this point in a season since at least the 1987 season. NFL officials say it would be the best percentage in history over a full season with at least 100 field goal attempts if kickers are able to maintain that pace. . . .

Through seven weeks last season, NFL kickers had connected on 81.9 percent of their field goal attempts. They hit 84.4 percent of their tries through seven weeks of the 2008 season, when they finished the year at what league is thought to be the record full-season percentage of 84.5 percent. Data on the number of field goal attempts and success rates wasn’t always kept reliably throughout league history, but it is generally accepted that field goal accuracy has improved greatly in recent years. . .

“The biggest difference is the kicks from beyond 40 yards,” said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee. “That’s where the improvement really is. That was the impetus behind us wanting to change the overtime format for the postseason [eliminating the possibility of a team winning with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime] because the accuracy has become so good.”

Kickers even have been accurate on field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer, making 70.7 percent of them this season. Scobee is 5 for 5 on such kicks and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski is 5 for 6.

Several people said kickers’ skill has been improving for decades, citing everything from the quality of the young athletes who take up kicking to the sophistication of the instruction they receive.

“You’ve got guys that are starting at a younger age, taking it way more seriously, training seriously,” Akers said. “You have kicking camps. Guys are specialized, and even specialized in the way they train.”

Gary Zauner, an NFL special teams coordinator for 13 seasons with three teams, now works with individual kickers and runs development camps and combines for kickers.

“The kids who are the better soccer players, they’re coming to football to kick,” Zauner said. “In high school, they’re getting instruction. They get to college and they get instruction. In the old days, nobody was really working with guys at a higher level. When you get better instruction earlier, it pays dividends down the line.”

Zauner said the large number of kids playing soccer in the U.S. has made the quality of kicking in football better.

via NFL kickers making field goals at record pace – The Washington Post.


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