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Hillary Clinton’s announcement video that kicked off her 2016 presidential campaign will go down as one of the great works of political advertising and strategy in modern history. Decades from now Poli-Sci majors will be writing papers about that piece and what it meant to the 2016 election.

The candidate doesn’t even appear in the ad for the first 90 seconds. The visuals are a snapshot of very likable people, your fellow Americans, going about their daily lives. The mix of people is diverse, middle class and represent broad archetypes that will resonate with the average viewer. The characters depicted are real, approachable and totally believable. These people are your friends and your neighbors and they slip Hillary Clinton, someone who is most definitely not middle class, into this river of average Americana. Yet, for all its technical perfection, that’s not the real brilliance of the piece.

The real brilliance of this piece is that it’s inviting Republicans to stick their head in a noose. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Republicans will respond with attack ads. By being so consistent, the GOP has made themselves predictable and this ad is calculated to capitalize on the contrast.

Instead of coming back with their own positive vision for America and actually arguing issues, Republicans will come back with attacks. That will be a strategic a blunder of monumental proportions and the announcement ad is engineered with that response in mind from the very first frame. The great thing about Republicans as an opposition is they can be counted on to shoot themselves in the foot and the extremist faction of the party, which can’t keep their mouth shut on a good day, will rise to the bait starting on Monday morning. Instead of talking about the issues, Republicans are going to spend all of next week talking about Hillary Clinton.

What the ad did is put Clinton in the midst of a crowd of Americans and makes her campaign about them. So when Republicans start attacking her, by extension, they’ll be attacking their fellow Americans.

The ad is also overwhelmingly positive so the contrast between Clinton’s positive message and the Republican response will be immediate and glaring. Part of the handicap Republicans are faced with is they have no positions to run on. Gutting Social Security and Medicare isn’t much of a platform and the public is finally catching on, after only 40 years, that supply side economics is a sham and tax breaks for billionaires don’t buy us anything. Bombing Iran is not going to play well next to that ad.

Since they don’t have any issues to run on, the billionaire’s club that the GOP has become will almost certainly go negative in a big way. They can’t help themselves and don’t have a lot of options in either respect.

The smart response would be for Republicans to ignore Clinton altogether. Acknowledge she’s in the race and go back to their business. That would be smart, so there’s no real threat Republicans will do that. They’ll stick their head in the noose and climb over the rail because that's who they've become.

Whether you like Clinton or not your choices in this election are not going to be between competing policy ideas. Your choice in the 2016 race is going to be between crazy and not crazy. You can vote for the nice lady in the Clinton ad or the nutcase behind Door Number 2. For the overwhelming majority of Americans that choice is going to be a no brainer.

Discuss
This is what happens during high tide in Palm Beach. My family grew up rollerblading on these trails that now routinely flood.
People lie all the time. In my business you get used to it and with politicians you expect it. That’s especially true if that politician is Governor Rick Scott. Seriously, what do you expect from a guy whose company fleeced U.S. taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars and claimed he knew nothing of it? Do you believe that? Me, either. This is the Republican idea of leadership: picking a guy to be governor who should rightly be using what little of his fortune he has left to keep from being passed around like a bag of Oreos in his prison block.

When it comes to his denial of climate change, I can tell you exactly why Rick Scott is lying. On the news you’ll hear the helmet-hair anchors claim some coastal zones in Florida will be flooded in 85 years but that too is a lie. That “nuisance flooding” they’re talking about isn’t a comfortable 100 years in the future; it’s right here, right now. This is one case where the lying isn’t about avoiding a 20 year stretch in pound-them-in-the-ass federal prison, it’s about survival.

If the unfiltered truth came out what the world would learn is that low-lying areas in Florida are already flooding regularly. Not during the rainy season, though it floods then, too, but during high tide. Parts of Miami, parts of Palm Beach don’t just flood after rains, they flood nearly every day. During king tides, the days when tides are highest during the month, they can flood twice a day. Nearly every day you can go over to Palm Beach and find places where the storm drains flow backwards at certain times of the day, where some boat docks are underwater and even shallow waves will top the tide walls. That’s not 85 years in the future, that’s today; that’s right now.

An example of storm drains flowing backwards at high tide.
All around Miami crews are working at a feverish pace to raise storm drains and to protect the aquifer casing that connects Miami to its underground supply of freshwater from saltwater intrusion. Due to the composition of the soil under Florida, Miami is eventually going to lose that fight. It’s a virtual guarantee that, some day, Miami will lose its source of freshwater. There’s some vague talk of reverse osmosis and distilling sea water, but it’s hard to keep a city the size of Miami going with desalination.

When it rains, now that’s a whole different story there. When the federal National Climate Assessment says that the low-lying areas of Florida can flood during heavy rain events, they’re not making a far flung future prediction, they’re reporting the news. During the summer you can expect a “heavy rain event” pretty much every afternoon. Late spring and early summer, the rainy season here in Florida, is when it’s the worst. You can see it on the news at least once a week. There are videos of cars immersed up to the windows, buses stranded, people wading up to their knees on city sidewalks and kids body surfing down streets and sidewalks. Business owners in certain parts of town have taken to keeping boots and sandbags handy.

That daily reality here in South Florida is why Rick Scott and other Florida state officials lie with tenacity that borders on desperation and why, had Charlie Crist won the election last year, he’d likely be doing the same thing. The truth is South Florida is going to be dead long before the waters rise high enough to claim any significant amount of the land. What’s going to kill Florida is not being able to get a mortgage and not being able to get flood insurance, homeowners insurance or business investments.

I’m actually surprised that you can still get a mortgage for a coastal property and still get insurance in low-lying areas, but that’s not going to last. At some point insurance companies and mortgage providers are going to wake up to the fact that Florida is not going to be able to stop the water.

One reason you can still get property insurance at all is because Florida has been insanely lucky when it comes to hurricanes. Whenever I mention that fact down here, my friends will hit me and say, “Shush!” See, they’re doing a little Rick Scott number in everyday life. The deep seated fear no one wants to admit is, if South Florida gets hit by a big enough hurricane coming in from the right direction, you’re going to find boats washed up on I-95. When the big one hits it’s going to make hurricane Katrina look like a Texas dust devil. The damage won’t be in the tens of billions, it will be in the hundreds of billions.

When the "big one" hits South Florida, this is all going to be underwater.
That epic event will be the wake up call that mortgage providers and insurance companies will need to realize that South Florida, for all its trendy charm and Latin rhythm, is a bad risk. Investment will dry up, sports teams will leave, jobs will flee the state. That’s what’s going to kill Florida and that’s why state officials will continue to deny there’s a problem with climate change until the waves finally cover the city.

The good news, if there is any, is that your grandkids are going to be able to go scuba diving in the world’s most awesome underwater park.

Discuss
Now that is a hamburger at Hamburger Heaven in West Palm Beach.
I was researching a story for a local magazine here in Florida and it finally dawned on me why McDonald’s is struggling and why they’ll never figure it out. The story I was working on was finding the best burger in South Florida and, even though we have many McDonald’s down here, they were never on my list in the hunt for the best burger. They wouldn’t make anyone’s list for the best burger and that may well be the nexus of their downfall.

That fact is both significant and a bit ironic. Significant because it means in my mind, and probably the minds of millions of other Americans, McDonald’s does not qualify as a burger joint. It’s ironic because McDonald’s started out life as a little barbecue restaurant in California in 1940. In 1948 the operators, Richard and Maurice McDonald, transformed McDonald’s into the original burger stand.

Over the years McDonald’s grew into a multinational corporation and started adding more and more food items. Over time McDonald’s got away from their core business and morphed into a fast food restaurant and away from being strictly a burger stand. As McDonald’s became more and more vertically integrated, their products became more uniform. That perfection in consistency is what you’re paying for today, not the food. McDonald’s doesn’t serve food, it serves sanitized sameness and flash frozen consistency and they are masters at it.

BurgerFi beats McDonald's at their own game and makes it look easy.
BurgerFi crushes McDonald's at their own core business. That's why they'll never understand why they're losing.
As McDonald’s got larger they grew away from and gradually forgot about their core business. They still served burgers but they’re burger patties that could have been grown in a petri dish rather than on a farm. A consistent grind blended with precisely measured additives formed into a flash frozen meat patty with all the visual appeal of a hockey puck that they mass produce by the billions.

It wasn’t long before boutique restaurants started beating McDonald’s at their own game and carving out a niche for themselves as actual burger restaurants. These establishments, like BurgerFi here in Florida and In and Out Burgers in California, crushed McDonald’s at what used to be their core business. The success of just those two chains illustrates that America still loves a good burger, they’re just not going to McDonald’s to get it.

This is also a real burger from Grease in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida.
This is also a real burger from Grease in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida.
So, when you’re out hunting for the best burger in South Florida you don’t even think about the golden arches or their Canadian competitor Burger King, you go to Hamburger Heaven in West Palm Beach. The owner, Cindy, uses her own formula of three different cuts of beef, custom blended for her by a nearby processing plant. That custom blend of beef comes to the table in a big slab cooked to a precise internal temperature and served on a toasted bun with lettuce, big slabs of tomato, onions and pickles. If you get a shake at Hamburger Heaven, it’s made with real ice cream and milk. If you get a shake at McDonald’s you’re getting some stabilized dairy product loosely resembling a milkshake but lacking any kind of soul.

That, I believe, is why McDonald’s will never recover. Their food has no soul, just like the company has no soul. The sanitized sameness of their food and starvation wages that have taxpayers picking up the tab to feed some of their employees combined to make McDonald’s invisible to a large segment of potential customers.

People still go to McDonald’s and they have the dwindling sales numbers to prove it. But McDonald’s has lost their first love and grown into something stale, sanitary and cheap. If you’re craving a real hamburger, McDonald’s doesn’t even make the list.

Discuss
I knew Florida Democrats were in trouble early when I found a poll worker sound asleep on a bench outside city hall. He woke up with a start and I asked the same question I'd asked at a half-dozen other polling places. "Any lines this morning?" He snorted a laugh and informed me that you could drive a truck through the polls and not hit anyone.

There are few things more difficult to face than a critical analysis of why you got your ass kicked. That’s just human nature; it’s humiliating to get beat up and we want to put the incident as far from our collective mind as possible. So today the Democrats are comforting one another with long-term demographic trends and will no doubt trot out platitudes that off year elections are tough ground, trying desperately to look past the fact that they just got an epic thumping.

Democrats couldn’t even pick off the two least competent and unpopular governors in the country; Rick Scott in Florida, a guy by any measure who should be a convicted felon, and Scott Walker, a sleazeball who is quickly turning Wisconsin from blue to red. In Iowa a Ted Cruz level nutcase, someone who makes Sarah Palin look like a luminary by comparison, will be taking her place in the new Senate Republican majority. If that wasn’t bad enough Democrats fumbled the governor’s race in Massachusetts. There isn’t enough lipstick in the world to touch up this pig and Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

For the better part of a year I’ve been sounding the alarm about the Democrats dismal messaging. I got a reminder of that dreary spectacle nearly every day in my email box; a daily parade of fundraising pitches, all with a depressingly similar style. First would be the Republican atrocity of the day, followed by a fundraising plea on roughly the same level I get from animal welfare groups. We need money or Rick Scott is going to kick this puppy! The messaging from Democrats was sad and pathetic, an uninspiring waste of time of time that I couldn’t get rid of despite multiple unsubscribe requests.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one and the best thing that could come out of this electoral drubbing is if Democrats wake up to the fact that they have a problem. In their case the problem is a corporate toadie named Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and right now that problem is still dictating the solution. She needs to step up and accept responsibility for the unfocused and anemic Democratic message and resign as head of the Democratic party. Who they pick to replace her will be a major factor in whether Democrats can ever dig themselves out of this pit. Dems can’t afford to keep bringing a textbook to a knife fight.

The polls in Florida were largely empty.
I could outline a messaging strategy for Democrats but, as long as they have the problem dictating the solution, it would be little more than pearls before swine. I can tell you there are no Democrats meeting behind closed to doors to make Mitch McConnell a one-term senate majority leader. There won’t be a parade of Democrats on TV every day blasting McConnell and Boehner for selling out the American people. You won’t see Democrats threatening to shut down the government over chained CPI for Social Security recipients. You won’t see strikes, you won’t see Democrats supporting labor on picket lines, you won’t see Democrats trying to defund Koch Industries or deny them government contracts. You won’t see any of that, or anything like that, and Democrats will keep on losing, always hoping for demographics to ride to the rescue.

Politics is a contact sport and if you’re not willing to play the game, don’t put on the uniform. There are two things Americans hate: Pussies and losers and right now Democrats are showing themselves to be both.

Discuss

Mon Oct 27, 2014 at 04:15 AM PDT

Can We Save Miami? Should We?

by The Gay Blade

The Lake Trail in Palm Beach routinely floods during high tide. Water tops the seawall in several places, boat docks are underwater and storm drains flow water.
The Lake Trail in Palm Beach routinely floods during high tide. Boat docks are swamped, sidewalks flood and water tops sections of the sea wall threatening historic structures.
When we talk about climate change and sea level rise rarely is it with any sense of urgency. Sea level rise might be a problem in a hundred years, a problem for your grandchildren to manage. Sea level rise lacks the immediacy of a tornado or hurricane and the spectacular visuals of a volcanic eruption. There are no videos of a rising sea level sweeping away cars, trucks and houses. Sea level rise is slow and it all seems so comfortably out in the distant future but that future may not be as distant as we think, especially in South Florida where the ocean seems to be in hurry to get started on reclaiming the land.

Even along the coastal areas of Florida the economic machine is in full denial. Property values, especially along the coast, are up. Almost every week there’s a new artist conception of a new development along the waterfront in Miami. Banks are still handing out 30 year mortgages, insurance companies are still covering properties, new developments are going up faster than anytime in the area’s history, including the go-go days of the 70s and 80s when development was fueled by drug money.

It would be easy to suggest that South Florida is run by climate deniers but, at this point, it doesn’t matter if you believe global warming is man-made or not, it’s here with a vengeance regardless of the cause. The ocean is going to keep coming and South Florida is going to be powerless to stop it. In less than 100 years Miami is going to be underwater, but decades before that, possibly in our lifetimes, it’s going to be dead economically. That’s because the entire Miami metro area sits on top of a giant dome of porous limestone, full of channels and voids. Think of the soil under Miami like a giant hunk of Swiss Cheese. While seawalls may be able to stop storm surge, there’s no way to stop saltwater from intruding underground.

It would take a sea level rise of six feet to effectively flood the Miami area and large sections of the Florida coast, but it will only take a rise of 12 inches, which we could easily see in our lifetimes, to destroy Miami economically. In 12-16 inches of sea level rise toilets don’t flush, storm drains flow backwards and brackish water intrudes on Miami’s water supply. That will be the panic wake up call for insurance companies, commercial lenders and property values will collapse. People who live in Miami and coastal Florida already know there’s a problem.

Storm drains flow water during high tide in many areas of coastal Florida.
Storm drains routinely flow water at high tide in many parts of Miami and coastal Florida.
There are parts of Miami and Palm Beach that flood during high tide as storm drains start running backwards. Flooding happens all over South Florida during the rainy season, with some store owners and residents now keeping boots and sandbags close at hand. The Lake Trail in Palm Beach, that runs along the Intracoastal side of the island, routinely floods at high tide and large sections are currently under repair as the regular flooding undermines the pavement. My family grew up walking, biking and rollerblading that trail and the flooding has started in just the last few years. Today at high tide water laps across the top of the sea wall in many places, submerges boat docks and threatens some of the oldest structures on the island. Sea level is not only rising, it’s accelerating.

The inevitable disaster for South Florida is not a hundred years in the future, it’s 15 or 20, if that. There is no technologically feasible way to stop the water but that doesn’t mean Miami isn’t trying. Currently hundreds of millions in state and federal tax dollars are at work trying to stave off the inevitable. Massive projects are underway to fix the inundated storm drains and sewer system of Miami Beach and to keep the city supplied with fresh water. All those efforts are doomed to fail, the only question no one can really answer is when.

None of this even addresses what would happen to Miami in the event of a hurricane. Losses to storm damage could easily escalate into the hundreds of billions. It’s inevitable that Miami and the state of Florida would turn to taxpayers for relief. The question we should be thinking about now is should we sink more of our collective treasure into trying to salvage a city that can’t be saved? We did put the hundreds of billions into New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but the geology of the two areas is vastly different. Even the addition of giant pumping systems simply wouldn’t be enough to keep the ocean away from Miami. Looking at satellite images you can see that, at high enough water levels, Miami gets flooded from the west, across the Everglades. Pumps aren’t going to stop the water.

Miami is going to die, probably in our lifetimes, but certainly within the lifetimes of your children. Your grandkids will be diving in the world’s most awesome underwater park. The same fate awaits Palm Beach but no one will shed a tear for that loss; the wealthy elite will land on their feet. But Miami is going to be an economic disruption that will ripple across the country. We’ve never lost a city of that size before and, make no mistake, the results are going to be cataclysmic.

Discuss
This is not the transportation system you're looking for, move along.
This is one of those odd times in life where I think conservatives might have a point or at least they’re not parroting Koch brothers brand bullshit. Unfortunately it’s a fringe topic that few really cares about and that’s Amtrak.

One of my recent story assignments was to gauge the state of passenger rail transportation in the U.S. So I grabbed the wife, booked a couple tickets, grabbed the wife again as she is entirely squeezable, and headed out on a journey of discovery. Unfortunately, what I discovered wasn't pretty. The state of passenger rail in America is dirty, primitive and bewilderingly convoluted. That’s true everywhere outside of a narrow stretch along the northeast industrial corridor where trains are not only a competitive mode of transportation, they’re the preferred method for short-haul trips.

I was genuinely surprised how many people actually ride trains. We consistently traveled in cars that were full or had only a scattering of vacant seats. The crowd was much the same as you’d find in any small town, though lacking the business types who don’t consider rail a viable transportation option in most situations. Our fellow passengers were, unfortunately, pigs who would foul the bathrooms with urine, paper towels and toilet paper in a matter of minutes. My wife took one look and refused to set foot in one for our entire journey. Honestly, I couldn't blame her. The smell alone was hard to take and clung to you even after you left the rocking confines of those few cramped commodes with overflowing trash cans.

Another sad fact were the primitive and limited options we faced when booking a trip online. We discovered that the train stopped in a small town that was actually closer to our destination than the ticketed stop, but not knowing that in advance we had already arranged transportation at the more distant location. On the way back the train took a two-hour detour through a large city that would have made a great overnight stop but, again, not knowing that in advance we were unable to capitalize on the additional stop.

The rail cars we rode in were old, dirty and swayed to sometimes heart-stopping angles. Compared to the clean, smooth ride in our local rail transit system, over some of the very same tracks, riding on Amtrak was one step above a hay wagon. In fact, if we could have had it to ourselves, we would have gladly taken the wagon and still beat the train home.

Even the nice Amtrak stations were functioning museum pieces.
Despite the dismal passenger accommodations, Amtrak was far more expensive than driving to our destination; easily three times as much. It was as if the whole system was deliberately designed to discourage people from riding. To punctuate that feeling, on the last leg of our journey, the rail car was so cold my hands went numb. When I asked the staff if they could adjust the temperature, they said they could only do that at the end of the trip as the thermostat was brilliantly engineered so that it could only be set from the outside of the train. So our options were sweltering heat or Ice Station Zebra. I ended up making frequent trips to the space between cars to defrost. Some of our fellow passengers were obviously aware of the freezing temps as several were wearing winter coats.

One of the classic tactics of the right is to starve a service of funding and then blame them for performing poorly. I tried to give Amtrak credit for that and the lack of funding was evident in the state of disrepair I saw in many train stations and facilities. Many Amtrak stations aren't just old, they’re functioning museum pieces more in line with what you’d expect in a third world country. Yet the worst problems I witnessed were those of Amtrak’s own creation.

Rust and decay was everywhere you looked.
I still believe in passenger rail just like I still believe in the worthy national goal of space exploration. After covering the end of the shuttle program my opinion of NASA is that it’s an aging collection of risk-averse mid-managers flying in formation with a rusting theme park endlessly replaying clips of their glory days. After seeing what SpaceX could accomplish with funding that’s basically a rounding error for the agency, I’m not convinced that NASA is the right organization to carry us forward in our journey into space.

After experiencing the reality of passenger rail, I think the right might have a point that we could be getting more bang for our buck and Amtrak may not be the best choice to define the future of passenger rail. I certainly agree that throwing more money at passenger rail, until we can be certain of getting a good return on our investment, is not in our national interest. Let’s set aside the dream of a nationwide high speed rail system for the moment and just focus on what we could do better with the money we’re already spending.

I definitely don’t have all the answers when it comes to fixing rail traffic in America, but I’m equally convinced that Amtrak doesn't have them either. If you’re planning a trip anytime soon, take my advice and drive.

Discuss
This is not going to be pretty.
The messaging coming from the Democrat camp leading up to the midterms has been anemic, defensive and borders on the pathetic. The messages I’m seeing scroll through my inbox on a daily basis focuses more on what evils would transpire if Republicans manage to take control of the Senate than what Democrats stand for. Playing defense against the best offense in politics is a strategy doomed to failure.

I would have thought that it would be entirely obvious by now that you’re never going to beat and well-funded and disciplined messaging machine by trying to minimize your losses, but apparently not everyone gets that. Republicans are constantly on the attack, either trying to gain ground or deflect from their own policy shortcomings. Democrats keep coming back with unfocused and anemic talking points, trying to hang on with the message that they’re not Republicans. Listening to messaging from Democrats is like watching a train wreck in slow motion (disclosure: I’m taking a train trip this weekend so train wrecks on my mind). Instead of staking out ground and fighting for it, Democrats are content to cede ground to the Republicans and fight at the margins. It’s a losing strategy and the polls support that observation. The New York Times is already trying to find a bright side to the Democrats losing the Senate.

Our local Democrats are a prime example. Every event invitation I get is attached to either a ticket charge or suggested donation. Nothing says Big Tent quite like a constant barrage of fund raising requests. Perhaps ironically, Democrats and Republicans frequently use the same venues for fundraising events on different days. It should be no surprise to anyone that, to the casual observer, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the parties.

Both parties are not the same and, instead of going out of their way to highlight those differences, like trumpeting the successes of the Obama economy, it’s almost like Democrats are intentionally trying to blur the lines. Why aren’t Hillary and Bill Clinton out stumping for Democrats running in tight Senate races? What are Democrats fighting for besides some marginal changes to our immigration laws? It’s one of the most confused, bewildering and ineffective displays of political gamesmanship I’ve ever witnessed.

Americans love a winner and won’t remember that, instead of working on jobs and budget issues, Republicans spent their first months in Congress trying to erect obstacles to abortion. They don’t know about the Koch bothers and don’t realize what they’re supporting when they buy paper from Georgia Pacific or paper towels from Bounty. They also don’t care about the endless parade of public gaffes made by GOP politicians from other districts even though left-leaning media seems to devote an inordinate amount of time to publicizing those missteps. When faced with a strategy that’s clearly not working, other organizations would try something different but not Democrats.

I left the Republican party because it left me but I’m constantly bewildered by the lack of fight demonstrated by Democrats, who remind me of the manatees that roll up in the shallows on cold days here in Florida; formless, colorless and barely awake. I would have a lot easier time accepting fighting and losing than this limp-wrist muddle of party that barely has a pulse and seems far too comfortable with getting their collective ass kicked.

That’s one thing I admire about Republicans, they’re not afraid to lose and they’ll go down swinging. Too bad we can’t say the same about Democrats.

Discuss

Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:58 AM PDT

The Obama Economic Miracle

by The Gay Blade

If you listen to right wing media you’d think the economy has been on the edge of collapse for the last six years.  Anyone who listened to those whiny naysayers missed out on what will go down in history as one of the greatest economic bull market recoveries in modern times.  After a slow winter GDP roared back by 4 percent.  In June the trade deficit dropped to $41.5 billion, largely on the strength of increased exports.  Yeah, that’s America sending things overseas.  We gained 200,000 new jobs and, since government hiring has been slow to recover, the bulk of those new jobs are private sector.  Real wages, which did lag the recovery for a long time, are finally starting to move higher and every qualified job applicant is competing against three other qualified applicants, down from seven in 2010.

My dad is in his late 80s and has dabbled in investing all his life.  Last year dad made enough from investment income to buy a house, a nice house.  He made more from the stock market last year than the top 3 percent of wage earners.  I’m a bit more conservative investor than pops and only made enough to buy a car.  The best part, since some of those increases were capital gains, dad paid lower taxes on his stellar income than most of you pay on regular wages.  

The 54% of Americans who invested in the Obama stock market are today steeped in a capitalistic orgy of cash the likes of which I don’t remember in my lifetime. I can see why some right wingers might be mad.  If I had listened to Glenn Beck and kept my money out of the market and bought gold, which dropped from near $1,800 an ounce to around $1,300 an ounce, I might be a tad upset myself.  Instead of reaping an investment bounty, they’re huddled in their bug out trailers stuffed with freeze dried food and assault rifle ammunition. How’s the market for bug out trailers holding up?

I can go to any business site and find people complaining about Obama’s socialist policies.  From my perspective, if this is socialism...bring...it...on!  Give me some more of that socialism!  Socialism is making my family wealthy.  

If this economy would have happened under Bush, Fox News would be the 24 hour Republican good news channel.  Republicans would be out in force during the mid-terms and every billboard in America would be touting the GOP economic miracle.  And yet, what are we hearing from Democrats?  A tepid position on immigration, which is important, but barely a peep about the economy.  

The pathetic whining and economic incompetence of Republicans is matched only by the spineless, ineffective and gutless messaging of Democrats.  Where’s the Democratic victory lap on the Obama economy?  Maybe it’s muted by the 46 percent of Americans who don’t invest in the stock market.  Hey, I’m sorry if you missed out on the greatest bull market in history, but the signs were there for the half of America laying their money down.  I believed in the Obama economy and put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and it paid off big.  Isn’t that what America is all about?  Why shouldn’t I be proud of that? Why aren’t the Democrats?

Here’s a free talking point - Republicans have been dead wrong on every major economic issue of our time.  Every...single…one.  Where’s that apocalyptic inflation I still read about on right wing rags?  Still waiting for the apocalyptic inflation, still waiting for the dollar to collapse, still waiting for the economy to grind to a halt and we’re still waiting for higher taxes to kill jobs in California.  None of that shit came true, NONE of it.  Getting advice from Republicans on the economy is like getting a lecture on abstinence from Jenna Jameson.  

Aside from the economy I believe the treatment president Obama has gotten from this country will go down as one of the great shameful and repulsive moments in our political history.  While I disagree with many of the president’s policies, particularly when it comes to spying on Americans, I don’t question his patriotism or country of origin and certainly don’t question his handling of the economy.  

I don’t care what label you put on it, we’re going to look back with longing on the Obama economy some day, I know I will.  

Discuss

Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 01:06 PM PDT

Our "Failing" Institutions

by The Gay Blade

When I talk about failing institutions I don’t mean institutions of government or, perhaps it would be more accurate these days to say, I don’t just mean government.  Our social institutions are failing us the same way horses are failing us as a transportation option.  

For much of America’s history churches were integral to society.  While in some parts of the country they still are, for a growing segment of the nation church is losing its value as both a personal and social institution.  As science continues to challenge religious mythology many are finding religion and the church hold less meaning in their lives.  

The modern world is also putting pressure on our concept of family, which stems more from a rural pattern of life than its urban counterpart.  So much of our view of marriage and family stem from agrarian roots where a family was important as a source of labor, support and common defense.  The church and family structure played right into our animal instincts to reproduce and give that genetic imperative context.  

There has never been a time in earth’s history where it’s less necessary for human beings to reproduce.  We don’t need children for labor, in fact children in the modern world add to our workload.  We don’t need kids to tend the farm, take care of us when we’re sick or help defend the homestead from invaders.  With breeding no longer a necessity for survival, combined with the easy availability of high quality birth control, for the first time in the history of man having children is completely optional.  While people are likely to continue to find reasons to reproduce, it’s no longer a necessity for the individual or any even any substantive benefit to society.  

Marriage is another institution taking it on the chops in modern society.  Like having children, the institution of marriage is now entirely optional.  Far from being the harbinger of societal decay that the religious right makes it out to be, I see the decline in marriage as a positive sign.  We’ve managed to build a world where individuals are able to thrive and compete strictly on their own drive and merits.  Marriage may be convenient for legal reasons (it was for my wife and I), it may even still be desirable for many and that’s fine.  But marriage has, by and large, outlived its usefulness to society in general, with the possible exception of divorce lawyers.  What marriage is not is the cornerstone of the family, with more than a quarter of kids overall being raised in single-parent households.  

That begs the question of whether our institutions, at least those outside government, are really failing or we’ve just outgrown them?  One question my wife and I frequently field as a childless couple is who is going to take care of us when we get older?  My answer to that is to point out services like Google Express and others that deliver groceries right to your door and services like Uber and Lyft for transportation if we couldn’t drive.  Not that we’d even need those services here, where transportation services for the elderly are already available.  A home healthcare nurse is available for $40 an hour, which is a lot cheaper than college tuition, and the cleaning lady charges $20 an hour.  With all the money we saved not having kids, we’re not going to have any problems affording elder care in our declining years.  I also point out there are thousands of people who have families living in assisted living centers and nursing homes all over the state.  Having a family didn’t help them when they got older; their kids might come and visit once or twice a year.  Counting on family to take care of you when you can older turns out to be a bitter fantasy for many.  

It’s okay to challenge the comfortable institutions we’ve been handed by society and tradition.  It’s okay to shape your beliefs around what you can see and measure rather than hope for the beneficence of a random and sometimes perverse deity.  You don’t have to do things just because your parents did them, you can pick and choose what works for you.  Our institutions aren’t failing, the modern world is just giving us better options.  

Discuss

The Republican Congress took over the reigns of the House and immediately started addressing the weighty needs of the country with abortion rights legislation that didn't have a chance of passing the Senate.  Since then GOP has continued to bungle their way through a government shutdown, the endless Benghazi nonsense, repeatedly insulted women and alienated minorities with a bizarrely bigoted stance on immigration.  

If the GOP has one salvation, one thing that's keeping them from being the laughing stock of political history, it's the equal ineptitude of the Democrats.  It would be hard to imagine a setup for a more lopsided election than what the GOP handed their opponent, yet Democrats have failed miserably at capitalizing on any of those mistakes and stubbornly stick to a strategy that's going to end in an epic ass kicking in November unless they get it together.  

You don't have to take my word for it, a recent CNN Poll shows the GOP with a 46%-45% but the real margin is likely closer to 48%, near the numbers Republicans were putting up in 2010.  How did Democrats get into such a precarious position against an opponent that raises incompetence to an art form?  Our local Democratic party offers some clues that point to bigger institutional and systemic problems.  

I signed up for the local Dems email list and I still can't articulate their position on any local, state or national issues.  I can't name any local Democratic officials and only one Democrat in a state race, Charlie Crist, who is running for governor.  The majority of emails I get are begging for money.  Being the poor party, I try to give them a little slack on that, but what turns up in my email box is a daily barrage of fundraising pitches, usually with a lead-in about the Republican scandal of the day. Most recently I received an invitation to a fundraiser for Governor Crist.  The email listed dollar amounts for suggested donations that started at $10,000 and ended at $500.  Because nothing says we support working class Americans quite like a $500 a ticket fundraiser just down the street from the Koch family home in Palm Beach.  

Other than being against Republicans, I can't figure out from the mailing list emails just what the Democrats are for.  Sure, I have a vague idea that Democrats support immigration reform, minimum wage and voter rights but I'm not getting that from the local party.  What I'm getting instead are requests to hold a party at my place; to open my home to a group of strangers and, you guessed it, try to get money from them.  It would be nice to get to know some of these people in other venues before they come trooping over.  In fairness there are social events for Democrats, one of which required dues to participate. The other frequent request I get it work the phones at the campaign office.  In between elections I hear very little from them.  

I'd be more impressed if I'd gotten an invitation to join Charlie Crist in front of McDonald's protesting sub-par wages, I might even have shown up for that one.  Or a job fair sponsored by Democrats, I'd definitely volunteer for that, or a show of public support for voting rights.  Maybe a volunteer day at a local food shelter or Habitat For Humanity.  I hear what the Democrats are saying about supporting the poor and working class, but I don't see them actually getting their hands dirty.  

So it's no surprise then that the Republican base is more energized than ever in 2014.  They have the money to run nearly non-stop TV ads that have started already.  They have the 24/7 conservative outrage propaganda channel providing a daily dose of vitriol, backed up by talk radio.  Democrats don't actually seem to fight very hard for their base, don't have any kind of messaging machine and it's hard to blame people for not being energized by a waterfall of fundraising emails.  

The polls show what most Democrats feel, that they're not really appreciated all that much and that's not tremendously motivating. If mid-term elections prove anything it's that Democrats can't win simply being Republican Lite. Unless Democrats boot Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and install someone with a better plan for messaging and activism as leader of the national party, the Dems are going to sleepwalk into another disaster in November.  

Discuss

Florida sets the standard when it comes to making it easy to shoot people.  If you feel threatened, even if you’re the one precipitating the the conflict, your chances of getting charged with a crime are very slim, especially if you’re white.  

For the record I’m white and a CCP holder and still think our state laws are absolutely insane. Nobody should be able to antagonize someone, shoot them and then claim self defense.  Sadly that’s how Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law is being interpreted.  

Until we can bring back sanity to our legislative process, the laws are what they are.  The reality is there are an unfortunate number of angry people down here with a concealed carry permit and a chip on their shoulder.  Their anger has been fueled by a steady stream of right wing propaganda blaming other people for their problems.  They’re mad, they’re armed and, at least temporarily, they have the law on their side.  

On the flip side I have personally witnessed three incidents that lead me to question the sanity of the people involved.  One was in a retirement village where I was doing interviews about seniors and insurance when a car sped by and the lady next to me yelled “Slow down!” at the driver who was clearly going faster than the park’s 15 mph speed limit.  The driver, an African American woman, jammed on the brakes, got out of her car and started berating the woman who yelled at her with a cascade of f-bombs.  They were inches from coming to blows when I stepped in and announced I was calling 911.  

Another incident I was in the turn lane of a big intersection when the light changed and the car in front of me didn’t move.  The car behind me laid on their horn and the passenger in the car that wasn’t moving got out of his vehicle and started yelling at me, waving a briefcase in broad daylight in the middle of a busy intersection.  Again, the gentleman doing the yelling was African American.  We live in a largely minority neighborhood, so the race of the individuals involved was probably more coincidence. I don't think he was yelling at me because I was white.    

Still another incident I was on my motorcycle when a young woman whipped around a truck in the next lane, probably not seeing me next to the truck.  She laid on the horn passing as if I had done something wrong.  By unfortunate coincidence we ended up next to each other at the light and this young African American woman rolled down her window and yelled, “You almost got hit, didn’t you?!”  I didn’t say anything back, not that my visceral, lizard brain didn’t feel like pulling her through the open window and beating the stupid out of her.  I didn’t say anything because I was in shock that anyone would go out of their way to taunt a complete stranger in such a confrontational manner.  

Now imagine, in any one of those incidents, that the person involved was someone like Michael Dunn.  Any of those could have turned into a deadly force incident or escalated into an exchange of gunfire that added to the sad casualty count of Stand Your Ground.  In all of those incidents the chances of the shooter being charged with a crime under the current laws would be almost zero.  

Forget race for a second, even though I do believe that’s a factor, let’s talk about sanity.  How smart is it to go out of your way to threaten, intimidate and antagonize complete strangers?  Do the people involved all have a right to say their piece?  Certainly. It’s a free country, right?  Is it smart?  That’s up to you to decide.  

I’m not trying to blame the victim here, only to recognize that if these are the incidents I witnessed, then incidents like those are being repeated by other people hundreds of times a day all across the state.  Most of them don’t amount to anything, just stressed out humanity venting frustration.  That’s all it is until the day it’s the next Michael Dunn or George Zimmerman.  

I’m not suggesting you should be deferential or a doormat and you don’t have to walk around in fear.  Merely be aware that you’re in a state where millions of poorly trained people have carry permits.  Even if only a fraction of a percent are extremist nutcases looking for an excuse to involve themselves in an altercation, that adds up to hundreds of people who will kill you if you get out of your car and confront them, throw popcorn or pick a fight over something stupid.  

Just be smart, it’s not worth it.  Walk away, drive away, move to another seat; no one will think less of you.  There are no winners in a train wreck and you’re not going to fix anyone with your car horn or by yelling at them.  Let it go.  

Discuss

There's a reason people like Ken Ham stick to the Bible so literally and inflexibly and that's because trying to mix Christianity and science produces an intellectual morass that does neither science nor faith any justice.  

Notice I didn't say science and religion are incompatible.  If you want to invent an invisible higher power, whether it looks like an elephant, a warrior god, your unshaven grandfather or a bowl of spaghetti that's your right and fine by me.  My personal belief is that I can't prove or disprove the existence of a higher power so, until that proof exists, I'm sticking with what we can see, measure and reproducibly test. That's the great thing about science, it changes with the proof. Science can tell you why the wind blows, the water flows and the grass grows.  The things science can't explain we can hold our head high when saying, "I don't know."  

For Christians it's a somewhat different problem.  If you accept evolution it undermines the entire basis of Christianity, which is founded on the belief that we were once unfallen beings of glorious stature. That's why true believers, especially the literalists, have to keep science at arm's length.  Evolution undermines the entirety of the creation story in Genesis.  If there was no creation, there was no Garden of Eden.  No Garden of Eden, no tree of the knowledge of good and evil and, without the tree, there was no original sin.  If you believe in evolution, none of that happened.  If there was no original sin then man does not need a redeemer and that is the entire basis of Christianity.  

If we evolved, then we were never unfallen beings.  Who we are was shaped by millions of years in the brutal crucible of survival.  The good, the bad, everything that we are as human beings represent the dominant traits that helped us claw our way to the top of the food chain and helped our ancestors survive long enough to reproduce.  We are who we are because our environment made us that way, so how is that wrong?  We don't need saving if we're the complex product of evolutionary forces.  

Christians who graduated science class are confronted with a limited number of options.  Either science is wrong or they have to concoct some compromise philosophy, like theistic evolution, to explain the discrepancy.  You don't have to think about it too long to realize there's no bottom to that slope.  Christians will be continually dreaming up new compromises for conflicting data until it completely reshapes their belief structure.  

Science, on the other hand, has no such conflict.  Certainly scientists disagree about a great deal and scientific theories, once prominent, seem laughable today.  But that's the difference between science and religion: science goes with the data and, eventually, the data wins out.  That's why you won't find a Phrenologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Science is not undermined by new information, science does not have to change its belief structure with every new advance.  Science can admit it was wrong.  Science can rewrite the textbooks and move on to the next great discovery.  

Christians can't rewrite the Bible and literalists have to maintain the position that science is wrong and that's very sad to me. Although it's funny that medical science is okay when they're sick, it's just those evolutionary biologists. Aeronautical engineers are okay too, especially when believers are flying. Christians want structural engineers designing their buildings and bridges; but those darn evolutionary biologists, somehow they got it all wrong! Well, evolutionary biologists and climate scientists.  Funny how that worked out, isn't it?  

In Florida, near the town of Estero, was a pseudo-Christian religious cult called the Koreshan Unity that believed the world was hollow and we all lived inside a giant sphere.  They hung on until the space program finally put them out of their misery in the late 60s.  But there was a time those people really believed and, in that time, they built a large and thriving community.  The problem they faced was they pinned their faith on something science eventually proved false.  The same problem Christians will face over and over when they try to rationalize science and scripture.  Faith and science just don't mix and they never will.  

Discuss
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