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There is a time every summer when the day is bright and hot, but there is a crystalline quality to the air that lets you know this is it, the end of summer has arrived and the fall is going to start. The Dog has been having a similar kind of feeling about the GOP and the coming mid-term elections.

The Dog is a big believer in the underlying structure of elections as a major predictor of the outcome on Election Day. This cycle things tilt heavily towards the Republicans. There are 50% more Democratic Senators running for elections and the 2010 gerrymandering of Congressional seats have produced many districts designed to be safe for Republican.

Additionally there is the fact that mid-term voters tend to be older, whiter and more conservative. This is especially true for the dreaded “Year 6” midterms. As a rule (with only a couple of exceptions) the party that controls the White House in mid-term elections of its second term loses seats in both the House and Senate.

All in all it should be a pretty good year for Republican electoral ambitions. Or should it?

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The recent victories in marriage equality have been truly inspiring. It is great news that DOMA is dead and that with the addition of the Great State of California more than 30% of the population of our nation now lives where marriage equality is the law of the land.

However we are far from done in the fight for equal rights for our LGBT fellow citizens. While marriage equality is on the march, there is still a long way to do for housing and employment equality.

This combined with the fact that the Prop 8 decision was construed specifically so the High Court did not have to make a sweeping decision (at least not yet) does offer us some political opportunities.

Specifically it is time to try to get ballot initiatives overturning state bans on marriage equality. This is a really advantage for Democrats, in that we know the younger voters feel strongly that these kinds of bans are nonsense and will (probably) turn out to support it.

Taking advantage of this lets us replay the motivation and, hopefully, the electoral gains the Republicans made in the last decade, state by state. Even if we don’t win all of them (we won’t, there is no sense kidding ourselves) by energizing younger voters to turn out for Democratic causes, we cement their voting habits for most of the rest of their lives.

The way to build a more Liberal/Progressive nation is to get young folks voting for those causes.

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Sorry for the re-post on this article, but I originally put it up on Friday when everyone was (very reasonably) looking and thinking about the end of the Boston Marathon Bombing case. So without further adieu or comment (shocking from the Dog, I know) here is the post.  
I’ve been kind of a soft gun safety advocate, but that now has ended.  The stunning cowardice and lack of respect for the will of the American People that was shown in the U.S. Senate this week has spurred me to take on gun safety as a one of my primary political issues. Like most the issues I advocate for it is going to be a long up-hill fight, but that can’t be a consideration when 30,000 of my fellow citizens die every year from guns and another 100,000 are injured. Enough is enough.

But being an activist means taking action and for all that writing here is emotionally satisfying it is not going to actually change things in the meat-space of the real world; that require actual action and I have a plan I intend to follow.

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I’ve been kind of a soft gun safety advocate, but that now has ended.  The stunning cowardice and lack of respect for the will of the American People that was shown in the U.S. Senate this week has spurred me to take on gun safety as a one of my primary political issues. Like most the issues I advocate for it is going to be a long up-hill fight, but that can’t be a consideration when 30,000 of my fellow citizens die every year from guns and another 100,000 are injured. Enough is enough.

But being an activist means taking action and for all that writing here is emotionally satisfying it is not going to actually change things in the meat-space of the real world; that require actual action and I have a plan I intend to follow.

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I know feelings run high on the issue of new gun safety laws. It has been this way my entire life but it is coming to a peak as we try to address the problem of gun violence in our country. There are a Progressives/Liberals who are strongly opposed to all the new regulations proposed.

I’ve gone ‘round and ‘round with a few of them and have come to this bit of thinking on the issue. The big argument I keep hearing is that we are abridging their rights. I am willing to concede that fact, new regulations on background checks and limits on what kind of magazines and weapons one can purchase is an infringement. However no right is unlimited and the ability for Congress to enact laws that put boundaries on rights is long settled law.

This is especially true when the new laws address a major problem for our society. There is no doubt that when we have 100,000 people a year injured by guns and 30,000 who die from gun violence that there is a significant problem with the way that we deal with citizens access to weapons. It is a clear and compelling state interest to reduce this horrific toll.

Which is where the problem for the 2nd Amendment absolutists comes in; they vehemently resist any new gun regulation, but to date none of them have been able to give me a compelling reason why there should be no new regulations. I’ve been told that it is going to make criminals out of law abiding citizens, I’ve been told that it is an expansion of an already overbearing police state and ad infinitum been read the second part of the 2nd Amendment.

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There is a Lyle Lovett song that has a verse which is on my mind this morning. It goes like this:

“I understand too, too late
There are things that you do and say that you can never take back
But what would you be if you didn’t even try, you have to try
So, after a lot of thought, if it is not too late, can you make that a cheeseburger?
It’s funny, but I find myself in the “you have to try” state of mind. What has me spun up this morning? It is the whole “Black Friday” super-sale phenomenon.

Everybody likes a sale, why pay more for something when you don’t have to? But that logic has been taken to an extreme that is now harming ourselves but  the millions of workers in the retail sector.

This year it is not enough that stores are open in at a ridiculous hour on the Friday after the holiday, now we have major retailers like Sears, Target and Walmart all opening in the evening on Thanksgiving Day itself.

Sure the employees will get holiday pay, which is a good thing, but can any amount of money replace time with friends and family? There has to be more to life than just slaving away at a job that, for many who work them, doesn’t even provide a wage that allows them to feed their families or have any hope at saving for the future.

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It has now been almost a week since President Obama won re-election, the Democrats not only kept the Senate but increased their majority,  in the House we did very well given that we had lost most of the State Houses in a redistricting year, and many Liberal/Libertarian initiatives passed.

There is always a rush to say what it all means, if only to control the frame of the discussion, but for me it is always best to let things percolate for a while before trying to come to any understanding that one might be able to use as a yard stick for future campaigns (after all, politics is never “done” it is just at the start of a new cycle).

To that end I have been thinking about the totality of the election results. There are a lot of groups that can take credit for the president winning reelection, women, Latino and young voters, but it is this last group that I think is the most important the sign of things to come.

Young voters, despite predictions to the contrary, turned out in even greater numbers that they did in the seminal 2008 election. While it was only a single point increase, it signals what I think is an important trend.

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So, all the usual caveats apply, don’t spend too much time posting and reading today and tomorrow, there is GOTV to be done. That said, I while I was dialing for voters this weekend, I got to thinking about the way that some (though not all by any means) of the Republican mouth-pieces have been pushing the meme that Mitt is going to win and win in a landslide.

From a purely election point of view it makes a certain amount of sense. You don’t want to depress the front-line folks who are doing everything they can to get you elected, even if it looks like you are going to go down in flames. You never really know (though by this point you have a pretty damned good idea) what will happen on Election Day.

This is especially true for Presidential campaign since a win or loss by the top of the ticket candidate can have a coat-tail effect, and even if you lose the top spot there are down ballot races you want to pump up as much as possible in defeat.
Still the way that Dick Morris, Larry Kudlow and (until very recently) Karl Rove are touting a not just a Romney victory but a landslide by more than 100 Electoral College votes has the whiff of Old Baghdad Bob in the last week of the Iraq war. They are all very dismissive of the polling and the polling averages.

As the redoubtable Nate Silver is always careful to say, it is possible that the polls (nearly all of them) might be wrong, but it is pretty unlikely. After all we are only a day away from the actual election and even polling houses that have a strong bias one way or the other (think Rasmussen) tend to be closer to the end result than not.
Given that what does all this counter-factual prediction have as a return on investment for Republicans and Conservatives?  In a word, victimhood.

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So, how bad are things looking for Mitt Romney at this point? Well we all know about the polls and the labor numbers and the good press that President Obama has garnered from his appropriate handling of Super-Storm Sandy (sorry for the alliteration I didn’t name the storm) but you have got to really see the writing on the wall when the Washington Post Editorial Board post an article four days before election day under the title “Mitt Romney’s campaign insults voters”.

To quote Chris Farley in Tommy Boy,  that is gonna leave a mark!

But it doesn’t stop there, oh no, not by a long shot! Check this out:

How, other than an assumption that voters are too dim to remember what Mr. Romney has said across the years and months, to account for his breathtaking ideological shifts? He was a friend of immigrants, then a scourge of immigrants, then again a friend. He was a Kissingerian foreign policy realist, then a McCain-like hawk, then a purveyor of peace. He pioneered Obamacare, he detested Obamacare, then he found elements in it to cherish. Assault weapons were bad, then good. Abortion was okay, then bad. Climate change was an urgent problem; then, not so much. Hurricane cleanup was a job for the states, until it was once again a job for the feds.
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Okay, I have not been ‘round these parts for a while, and I know that heaping derision on George Will’s narrow shoulders is like adding both water and salt to the ocean, but after reading today’s tightly coiled and gently steaming offering from the Bow-Tied One in the Washington Post has pushed me over the edge.

I don’t know what is up with Mr. Will today but he has thrown another fifty-cent word laden air ball, this time about how the Obama Campaign has gone empty and strident in the closing days of the 2012 campaign.  Me thinks that perhaps he has finally succumbed to the total epistemological closure of the modern Republican Party because the campaign he describes is not one that I have  been seeing, and that is even applying the mental filter of trying to think like a Conservative (and yes, that stings all day when you do it!)

He starts out with a quote from Calvin Coolidge about humility. I am sure that this feels very smart to Mr. Will (he is clearly one of those people who has to show how smart they are at every turn), but it just sets the tone for a column that is ready to do anything it can to present a thinking-mans argument that the president is “other”. Really Mr. Will should be above this but I guess when the polling all shows that your guy is in big trouble, well anything goes.

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Happy Sunday Bread Heads!

This week we are going to make something a little more challenging, but don’t let that freak you out. There is nothing in this recipe that any of you can’t do. The big thing to remember is not to panic or despair, just follow the instructions and you will wind up with a truly fabulous dessert!

What is this wondrous and scary thing? A Chocolate Pastry Cake! This recipe is what inspired the glopy and sticky mess that is often served at chain restaurants under a title like Genocide by Chocolate. Unlike its mass produced lesser siblings the Pastry Cake has real differences in texture and chocolate presentation.

Basically this is a cake made up of a Genoise cake, a chocolate cookie and Ganache (a chocolate frosting). The difference in textures is what give make it the delight it should be rather than the half-assed thing you might have a Chili’s or Applebee’s.

There are a lot of steps, but I will walk you through them all and when you get the end, you will not believe what you have made.

But enough of this, let’s bake!

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheese Cake

Happy Sunday, Bread Heads!

This week we’re going to fulfill a recipe request. I’d never thought about mixing the ambrosia that is cheesecake with peanut butter, but when a friend of my wife’s asked if it were possible, the answer was, of course, why not?

Thinking it through I realized that no matter how dedicated a peanut butter fanatic one was, a whole cheesecake with only the peanut butter flavor was not going to work. It was (if it is possible) too much of a good thing. So, what to do? Well you add in another good thing, of course!

So, I decided that I’d make a chocolate crust. Unlike most folks that does not mean that I was going to buy some chocolate wafers and crumble them up! Come on folks! This is a baking series and there is almost nothing easier than a cookie crust for a cheesecake.

When I baked the test version of this recipe it was good, but there was still not enough chocolate flavor in compared to the amount of peanut butter. Luckily there were chocolate chips in the house! I used the mini ones because while I wanted to add more chocolate flavor I wanted it to be the counter point, and not overwhelm the luscious peanut butter flavored cake. The result was just right!

So, here you have it a new (at least to me) variant on an old favorite, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheese Cake! Now, let’s bake!

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