My Top 10 2011 Year In Review

1. Stayed employed

With the unemployment rate at 8.6%, 7% in MA where I live, I feel lucky to have a job.

2. Daughter loves college

My youngest daughter has had a successful year and a half at college. I can’t take credit for her academic achievements, but I encouraged her to apply to the small liberal arts college she attends.  It was her top choice and it has been a terrific fit.  Speaking of college, in the summer of 2011, I wrote a post on how to select the right college.

3. Blogged Alot

For my 2010 New Year’s pledge, I vowed to post 7 times a month, and on average did so in 2011, even when I thought I had nothing to say, or was too tired to write what I did have to say.

4. Loyal Up With Chris Hayes Viewer

This is a terrific early morning weekend political show hosted by one of the best young journalists in the country.  I have even been tweeting with other #uppers every Saturday and Sunday morning.  The show has only been on the air for a few months, but I hope it catches on and eventually gets a better time slot.

5. Bucket List Vacation

Took a family vacation to visit my mom and sister in Chicago.  En route, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and on the way back, spent a few days in Niagara Falls and Toronto.

6. Read First E-Book

William Dean Howell’s A Hazard of New Fortunes.  I don’t have a Kindle or a Nook so I read it on my HTC Evo.  However, my eyesight seems to have deteriorated, so I ended up with new, more powerful reading glasses.  Notwithstanding my eyesight, the portable e-book reading experience was pleasurable, partly because the book was such an entertaining and informative historical read and partly because it was free.

7. Became a Spotify Addict

I’m a huge Spotify fan and when my free trial runs out, I will buy a monthly subscription.  I can’t tell you how satisfying it has been to have virtually every song and artist at my fingertips.  I’m listening to a playlist I created as I’m writing this, a playlist I shared to ShareMyPlaylists.com.

8. ShareMyPlaylists.com

I’ve shared something like 20 playlists I created on Spotify in 2011.  What good is a playlist if you can’t share it?  Some of my playlists include:  Stereolab Mix, The Worst 40 Songs Ever, Kool Keys, Songs About Places and in a nod to my youth, the Mix of ’76.

9. Went to My 30th High School Reunion

Another bucket list activity.  My wife and I had a lot of fun at the reunion and driving around Little Rock.  We went to the Clinton Presidential Museum and caught up with some of my college friends for dinner at a spot along the banks of the Arkansas River.  At my high school reunion, I was one of the few who most had not seen in 30 years and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some didn’t recognize me or even remember me, as was the case with a few folks I should have recognized and remembered, but did not.

10. Went to a Handel & Haydn Society Concert

My oldest daughter invited me to see Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Haydn’s Clock Symphony on the evening of the show.  I was so tired I almost didn’t go, but I am glad I did.  We had a great time listening to some fantastic music.  My review of the concert can be found here.

2011 was a good year for me.  I hope 2012 will be as good or better.

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Gov. Perry D.C. Debate Breakdown

In the November 2011 Republican debate in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, Rick Perry expressed some of his views on national security and foreign policy to which I have responded.

On the TSA                                                                                                                                 “Well, here’s what I would do with the TSA; I would privatize it as soon as I could and get rid of those unions.”

The Governor was asked about his proposed legislation to criminalize TSA pat-downs in certain cases and to comment on whether he felt they were necessary for national security.   Instead of answering directly, he took the opportunity to union bash, suggesting that a private operation would somehow protect civil liberties and provide adequate airport security for the traveling public.

On Intelligence Gathering
“And this administration in particular has been an absolute failure when it comes to expending the dollars and supporting the CIA and the military intelligence around the world, to be able to draw in that intelligence that is going to truly be able to allow us to keep the next terrorist attack from happening on American soil.”

Governor Perry conveniently left out the fact that because of its intelligence gathering, the Obama Administration took out Osama Bin Laden in a bold raid on a compound in Pakistan.

On the Failed Supercommittee 
“I don’t think anybody is particularly surprised that a supercommittee failed. It was a super-failure. And I think we expected that. We had a president of the United States who is not a leader. He pitched this over to them and said, here, you all figure this out.”

If Congress had done it’s job, the supercommittee would not have been necessary.  It took Presidential leadership to form a bipartisan debt reduction committee that would be responsible for automatic across the board spending cuts if they could not reach a deal.  And that they ultimately did not  reach a deal, proves the Republicans are the party of NO compromise.   The Democrats put everything on the table, but the Republicans refused to consider raising revenues, even on billionaires, because most had signed the silly Grover Norquist  no tax pledge.

On the border
“And we have to put the boots on the ground and the aviation assets in place, and secure that border once and for all, and be committed to it.”  Perry also mentioned the need for “strategic fencing.”

How would the Governor strategically fence the boarder?  This suggests that some parts of the border would have no fencing.  If I were trying to cross the boarder, I’d go to the parts that had no fence.  Anyway, has Mr. Perry forgotten that we have two borders?  Oh, but he would have boots on the ground – and they would have to cover a lot of ground and that would be a lot of boot power.  I guess this would be good for the boot industry.  And last, the Governor would mobilize aviation assets, but it’s not clear to me what those are.  Drones?  Bottle Rockets? Missiles? Helicopters? The Space Shuttle? A Boeing 787 Dreamliner?  Wouldn’t it just be cheaper and more practical to work for comprehensive immigration reform? Really, wouldn’t it?

What Happened to Governor Rick Perry?

It wasn’t so long ago that Governor Rick Perry was on top of the world.  From 8/29/-9/1, 36% of Republican voters in polling done by Politico/GWU/Battleground compiled by Real Clear Politics favored Rick Perry.  He led Mitt Romney, his closest opponent, by 19%.  As of December 25, 2011, he trails the front runner Newt Gingrich by 21%, and Romney by nearly 18%. So what happened to Perry, anyway?

His fall has been the result of a string of horrific debate performances and a series of embarrassing gaffes. When off script, he tends to ramble and use folksy, colloquial language.  In the South Carolina National Security and Foreign policy debate, he said: “…I don’t trust ’em…I’m tellin’ you, no dollar’s goin’ into those countries…” He said there is a perception that with China’s rise, “we have had our day in the sunshine”. In the California debate, Perry opined that “when you get a balanced budget amendment in Washington, D.C., you will finally start getting the snake’s head cut off”.  Later in the debate, asked to name one of the many scientists he claims are coming forth daily to question that climate change is attributed to man, Perry danced awkwardly around the question: “Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”  In the Florida debate, becoming  a little flustered, he said he’d put the “aviation assets on the ground” to help secure the border.  In the Michigan debate, he made one of his most embarrassing gaffes: “And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone, Commerce, Education and — what’s the third one there?  Lets see…third one, sorry, I can’t.  Oops”. To Perry’s credit, later in the debate he said, “by the way, that was the department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago.”  The fact of the matter is, to use one of Perry’s favorite catch phrases, the Guv. from Texas is just not a good debater.

Ironically, Texas is home to some of the best high school and college debate programs in the country.  Governor Perry’s campaign team should consult the debate coaching staff from UT Austin, University of North Texas, Baylor, Trinity University or U T Arlington.

It’s not just the folksy lingo and poor debate performances that account for Perry’s decline; he seems to be lacking in the knowledge department.  He struggled to name one of Obama’s SCOTUS picks in Sonia Sotomayor, calling her Motomayor and thought there were only 8 members on the court.  He suggested to a group of college students that the voting age was 21 and referenced a voting date that was not accurate.  So given these gaps in knowledge, I was surprised to learn that in college, he made a C in American History.

In reviewing the Governor’s college transcript, I am not at all surprised however that the pre-veterinary major made a D in Economics given his disastrous economic plan which calls for privatizing social security, lowering income taxes, eliminating capital gains taxes and incentivizing profiteering  American companies who do business abroad to return home and create jobs.

Governor Perry may make a late surge, but not getting on the ballot in Virginia will make the task all the more difficult.  As a write-in candidate, he’s not likely to get many votes.  If he debates better in the 10 or so Republican debates scheduled for 2012, he may have a shot at the nomination in August…but it will be a long shot.  The Guv. better go git him some debate trainin.

Rich Grinch Gingrich

The Republican candidates have been scrutinized from almost every angle. So what’s left to analyze?  Their names, I guess. So what’s in a name, anyway?  Let’s start with the leader of the pack, Newt Gingrich, who despite declining numbers, is still about 3 points up on the field according to the latest compilation of polls by Real Clear Politics.

Newt Gingrich.  Newt would no doubt compare himself to Newton in intellect.   But Newt is no Sir Isaac, no, more like a fig Newton.  You know, I never liked Fig Newtons much because  they look little mini Beef Wellingtons. Newt rhymes with lots of silly things like poot, toot, brute, boot, hoot, loot, mute, root, suit.  Newt Suit – for the arrogant  conservative delusional Mister know it all in your life.  I didn’t realize there was so much to say about a first name!

Now on to Newt’s last name.  Gin.  What a horrible,bitter tasting liquor.  Ging, as in Ginseng – vitality, energy, concentration, something his campaign seems to be lacking lately.  I sometimes think of Newt as the grinch who shut the government down as Speaker of the House and as the rich, GingRICH, who fleeced the fleecing Freddie Mac, or was it Fanny Mae, of millions, as a lobbyist.  It was a real hoot to hear Noot describe his role with Fannie Mae as little more than an advising historian.

Stay tuned for the next feature on Williard Mitt, protector of the Mittle Class, Romney.

Voter Suppression and Apathy

There’s a lot wrong with the voting process here in the U.S.  Low voter turnout, bad candidates, the difficulty and hassle of registering to vote every time you move.  Things have been worse though.  It wasn’t very long ago that women, blacks, native Americans and poor people couldn’t vote.  Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, things have improved, but unfortunately, voter suppression techniques designed to keep minority voters and people from low income areas away from the polls are all too common.  Why, because they are more likely to vote for Democrats.  Yes, I am saying that Republicans are behind this.  You ask, is this really happening?  Sure it is.  Robo calls giving the wrong dates to would be voters, stricter ID requirements – for example, a student ID in Texas might not be enough, but a gun license would be fine as proof of identity along with another form of ID.  In Florida, a law passed that makes it harder to register to vote and restricts  early voting.  Maine no longer permits registration on the day of an election and places new restrictions on absentee voting.  And there was a reason a band of reactionary merry pranksters went after ACORN, and it wasn’t to expose fraud.  For a complete list and description of voter suppression legislation by state, see this ACLU Map.

Suppression is one problem, but not the only.  Even among registered voters who are not suppressed, voter turnout is embarrassingly low and even lower in local elections, in the country thought to be a model for democracy.     Voting is a civic responsibility, like jury duty, but so many U.S. citizens do not exercise their right to vote, something like 30-40% from the looks of the data, don’t bother to vote in Presidential elections.  For historic voting patterns, see the United States Elections Project.

Thinking of the 99% who believe that if all 99% would vote, there’d be real change,  I have news for you – that sort of turnout is unprecedented.  And I think the OWS movement has forgotten that a good many Republican voters are also in the 99%, who, were they to vote, would certainly not vote for a candidate sympathetic to OWS objectives.  It is a fact that a good number of Republicans do not vote for candidates who have their best interests in mind.  And forgive me for being cynical, but if history is any indication, a good chunk of the OWS crowd will not register to vote, or bother to go to the polls and vote the bastages out and the good ones in.  I hope I am wrong – I really do.

Cain, Down and Out

I watched Herman Cain’s dramatic farewell speech.  He portrayed himself as a victim of dirty politics.  He denied all the allegations of infidelity and sexual harassment that had  plagued his campaign for months.  He said he had gotten into the race because he loved this country and that Washington wasn’t doing its job.

His said his main priorities been been economic growth, energy independence and deficit reduction.  Really?  I don’t remember hearing him or any of the candidates talk much about energy independence.  That doesn’t even sound very Republican, unless what it means is “drill baby drill”, or in the case of natural gas, “frack it,  frack it good”.

He made some joke about being 99.9% certain that people knew the name Cain.  In typical pizza guy businessman fashion, brand recognition is his crowning achievement.  But now that he has suspended his campaign, he may go down in history, as Chris Hayes put it,  as just a footnote or an answer to a trivia question.   I think that in ten years, he’ll be as obscure a figure as he was when he briefly ran for the Presidency in 2000.

So who will his supporters support?  It appears a great many have already defected to the Grinch camp.  The rest, the “loyal” 8%, and maybe some scattered curiosity seekers who attended the farewell gathering, perhaps in the hopes of a free slice of pizza, might head on over to the wild-eyed Michelle Bachmann camp.   Michelle Bachmann – imagine if she wins the nomination and selects Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell as her running mate.  What a Tea Party that’d be.  Oh, and SNL would have a field day!

Now that Herman is out, RNC, why not let Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson play? They’ve been on the sidelines waiting patiently to get in the game.  Or is Newt really the chosen one?