Wednesday, October 17, 2012

That Debate Last Night

In case you missed the televised debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney last night, the NY Times has the full transcript  here.

Pundits told us to watch for possible gaffes (like Romney's not being able to maneuver sitting on a stool without practice--because, as one  hastened to remind us,  he's a Mormon and (therefore) doesn't frequent bars. File under Political Theatre.

So not only were viewers listening to what was said, they were analyzing the two candidates' facial expressions, tics and body language as well.   I found myself more interested in the evening's' actual words.  Even the 'oops's.'

Such as when moderator Candy Crowley called Mitt "Mr. Romley"  or when Romney twice used  an adjective that sounded very much like "champening".  

[N.B.  The transcriber, it appears, has corrected this to read "championing".  I could have sworn though that I distinctly heard him say 'champening', and being a professional transcriptionist myself, I have an 'ear' for these things.  Anyone else hear it?  (If so, shouldn't that've had a "(sic)"  or "(ph)" appended instead?)  [ph=phonetic].  Okay, this is unwarranted nitpicking, ha ha.  I like tracking the invention of new words, what can I say.]

 Not just the candidates' words but how they were said told me volumes about each speaker:

MR. ROMNEY: Candy, Candy, Candy, I don’t have a policy of — of stopping wind jobs in Iowa and that — they’re not phantom jobs. They’re real jobs.

 I hear:  Romney condescendingly lecturing the woman moderator, when the real intention of his interruption was to rebutt something Obama had said.  And why would he need to repeat her name THREE  times in that haughty, singsongy tone, as if speaking to a child?  Seemed to me a passive-aggressive-type reaction to having to confine his replies to 2 minutes (the nerve of 'these people'!) so Candy Crowley, as the CNN enforcer, gets a thinly disguised mini-lecture.  Talk about winning hearts and impressing voters, ha ha.  Okay, enough.  Let's try to be more objective.

Objective Observation #1:  In answering the questions, Obama six times prefaced his remarks with the words "what I've said is" or "what I've also said is", followed by a recitation of what he'd previously  said.  (As if to say, "Pay attention!") (Or maybe just reinforce what he'd said he said).  It didn't seem even remotely spontaneous.  The result of three gruelling days of pre-prep still lodged in the brain.  Use it or lose it, the brain says.  But it came across as practiced recitation, albeit flawlessly delivered.  I noted the expression in the eyes of the group of Undecideds.  No emotion whatsoever.  Images of a jury box came to mind.  ("Convince me.")  

Observation #2:  Neither candidate seemed comfortable with adhering to the (debate time-limit) rules, and each had to be reminded his allotted time was up.  (The rules don't apply to us.)  

SELECTED UNDECIDED VOTER: It seemed like a simple Yes or No question:  "Do you agree that it's not the job of the Energy Dept. to lower gas prices?" 

(quoted excerpts from the transcript):  We have to control our own energy ... We've increased oil production ... gas and coal production... We've doubled wind, solar and biofuel production ... We're going to drill more for gas.  Romney's plan has the oil and gas part but not the clean energy part....  I'm not going to cede future jobs to China and Germany....  Future energy sources are going to be built here.  That'll bring down gas prices in the future.

So, maybe I missed Obama's answer here.  Let's try again:   Is it or is it not the job of the Energy Dept. to lower gas prices?

Turning to Romney, the moderator, instead of repeating that specific question, as originally asked, instead suddenly generalizes it to "the subject of gas prices".   Goodbye further answer to that guy's specific question.  Your turn, Romney.

Since it's no longer being framed as an "answer", but more an invitation to just speak, ROMNEY gets to opine about "gas prices".  He begins by criticizing Obama's energy policy... he cites 25 birds being killed... tells the questioner "People grab my arms and say, 'Please save my job"... I'll do more drilling... bring that pipeline in from Canada ...that's what I'm going to do."

Hello?  These are all related to gas prices--twenty-five dead birds can't be wrong.  Okay, so neither candidate answered the question "Is it the Energy's Department's job to lower gas prices?"  But notice the pattern here.

Observation #3:  Both candidates, when asked a specific question, sometimes dance around it and distract, or bury it under a rehearsed repetition from campaign speeches, so sometimes the original question gets forgotten.

Maybe in the next and last debate, one of them will answer just how specifically they each plan to actually bring down the deficit (and give details, not vague promises).  Romney's as much as said  Big Bird and NPR will be given pink slips.  And more probably going to the military for perhaps yet another projected foreign civil war U.S. taxpayers  must bite the bullet to pay for our engagement in.   

Observation #4:  Romney interrogates Obama: (Never mind your  timed responses, I'm continuing, he pushes; "Let me give you some advice", his business persona intones...
Obama: (Yeah, yeah, whatever. I thought we were talking about immigration)
Narrator:  (Guys, please--the clock.  Keep it short, Governor.  Go sit down please Mr. President.)

From the transcript:
MR. ROMNEY: Mr. President, why don’t you let me finish? I’m going to — I’m going to continue. I’m going to continue. The president made a —
MS. CROWLEY: Go ahead and finish, Governor Romney. Governor Romney, if you could make it short. See all these people? They’ve been waiting for you. Could you make it short, and then —
MR. ROMNEY: Yeah. Just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in — in Chinese companies. Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Inaudible) — Candy —
MR. ROMNEY: Have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’ve got to say — (inaudible) —
MR. ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it — it doesn’t take as long. The —
MR. ROMNEY: Well, let me — let me give you — (laughter) — let me — let me give you some advice.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don’t check it that often. (Chuckles.)
MR. ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension.
MR. ROMNEY: You also investments in Chinese companies.
MR. ROMNEY: You also have investments outside the United States.
MR. ROMNEY: You also have investments through a Caymans trust, all right?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. (Inaudible) —
MS. CROWLEY: And we are way — we’re sort of way off topic here, Governor Romney. We are completely off immigration.
MR. ROMNEY: So — so Mr. President — so —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’re — we’re — we’re a little off topic here, yeah. Come on. The — I thought we were talking about immigration. I — I — I — I — I — I — I do want to — I do want to — I do want to make sure that —
MR. ROMNEY: I came — I came back to what you spoke about before.
MS. CROWLEY: And we were. So quickly, Mr. President — if I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you. 

To be honest, I am horribly conflicted with the choice this election cycle because as a registered Independent voter I don't feel that we were given much of a choice.  There was, from Day One, only one candidate ever even under consideration for the Democratic party--Barack Obama.  That always struck me as a bit odd.  The Republicans had a whole bag of them, some recycled from former elections.  I'd see these ever-expanding lists:  Repub candidates: 13.  Dems: 1.  Is it just me or does that strike anyone else as kind of unusual.  As if there were NO other possible choice to represent the Democratic Party.

Observation of  Debate Set-Up:  No Third Party allowed.  Third-party candidates are given one-tenth the media opportunity/exposure of the Big Two so voters don't get to hear much about these other candidates' policies, platforms or proposals, much less be reminded of their party's existence, unless they ferret out the information on their own.  Jill Stein  and Rocky Anderson of the Green and Justice parties, respectively--the system all but guarantees they remain unknown to millions of voters.  

Observation #5:  A growing number of citizens, unhappy with both proffered candidates, if considering voting for a third party, are told to hold their nose and vote for "the lesser of two (perceived) evils."  Said with the implied threat that if disaster ensues, it's  your fault (Dems will remind you of the wasted votes to Nadar in 2004, giving us Bush instead of Kerry).   

Well, the Democrats finally managed to get back in control and it was on with the usual Them/Us war again, and though some changes were made, significant others were very early on put on the back burner.

Disconnect #1:  Presidents get to pick their own advisors, put people in places of influence or power in important government departments, etc. But first a little widely reported true story.  The first lady, Michelle Obama, in 2009  planted an organic garden on the White House grounds, ""to both set an example of healthy eating and to grow tasty edibles for her daughters and husband."  But toxic sewage sludge was used for fertilizer. [1]  Well, shit happens.  We should get used to it.  But when the president went and appointed Michael Taylor, former top lobbyist for Monsanto, to a specially created post in 2010 as Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the Food and Drug Administration, I kind of scratched my head in disbelief.  Say what?!
A person who's made a living extolling the virtues of genetically modified food is now in charge of  decisions concerning the nation's food, which comes both from organic and GMO farming. A Monsanto -paid person at the FDA.  How convenient for Monsanto.   Wherever you stand on this GMO/organic divide, doesn't this kind of register as even the slightest disconnect between the White House publicly supporting organic food and then hiring an industry insider who vigorously works to insure the opposite?  Am just saying. 

Observation #6:  With each successive administration, I feel less and less opportunity for choice.
Choice to not have news filtered, censored (and sometimes  disappeared).  Choice to know what's in the food I eat. Choice to vote my real choice, not feel pressured to hold my nose and choose to install/re-install someone some of whose policies I'm cannot, in good conscience, support.

It is a proliferation of these little disconnects, unsummable, that've morphed into a kind of profound disappointment, that has me wondering if, as some revolutionary thinkers (like poet and writer Linh Dinh) suggest, that no matter who you vote for--the Republican, the Democrat, or those virtually invisible Third Party candidates,  the things that most need to be changed, likely aren't going to be any time soon: ("It's the economy, stupid!" might  be replaced by " It's the system, dummy.").   With the ability to manipulate votes, by intimidation, machine or local attempted prevention of, does our vote really even count, when even the counting thereof is suspect?    (Read the Brad Blog to find out why you should be worried.)

We're told to believe this or that leader will make the difference needed to stop the country's impending implosion and restore an equilibrium.   Here's my biggest concern.   Candidates come and go.  The system remains.  The divisiveness increases.

Herewith, an Fox News electoral map of the  "United" States.  A color graphic to show how  Red States/Blue State, (Conservative/Liberal) were predicted to vote this year.  Red State/Blue State maps are prepared every election cycle.  It helps candidates plan where next to campaign.  Where are the maps showing the 'others'?  The Independents, the Greens, the Undecideds, etc.  Can't we get identity colors assigned and inserted into the chart as well?   Are we so peripheral as to not warrant so much as a pinpoint in the election prediction map?  Alas, like most designated minorities,  we're forever destined to remain marginal--of interest only as possible poll-changers whose votes not going to the Red/Blue people could affect the outcome of either.
To be honest, I've reached a point where I[m beginning to believe it doesn't really matter.  One will win, the other will lose.  And life will go on.  What happens after will either be bad, or worse, than it now is.  I don't have high hopes that, for example, no matter which candidate wins, the entities responsible for the financial collapse/certain crimes/certain decisions will ever be sanctioned, much less held accountable.  Certain investigations into the truth of certain incidents will continue to be stonewalled or abandoned (if not forbidden altogether).   I can think of several 'investigations' that resulted in nada, not just that flawed, stragetically underfunded and deliberately obstructed one about what happened on September 11, 2001.   The Powers That Be just prefer that you simply stop asking.  That, too, I think, is endemic to 'the system', unfortunately.

And despite the lofty rhetoric calling for bi-partison cooperation or compromise, certain factions will continue to thwart/obstruct/delay/deny particular inquiries based on their own private agenda.  It's like a game, played by players we install to work the system for us, and hope our guy wins.  (Gals traditionally don't get to be top player here, sorry.  Some suspect Hillary may try again in 2016.  But traditions are hard to break.)  A game where every four years you get to choose a different top player.  Sort of.

Personal Conclusions:  I think a Romney win would be catastrophic.  Just my opinion, after apprising myself of as much information as could be humanly absorbed  (by me) about the guy. I think an Obama win would be more of the same.  Meaning we're sinking economically, we owe trillions of dollars, we've both new and  unending wars, declared and undeclared, a fleet of 7,000 (so far) surveillance and/or assassination drones, and the training of foreign troops, overseas bases, defensive armament and massive surveillance are devouring  the budget.  Recovery will take more time than anyone cares to admit, just to get back to where we once were.   And some things will never be recoverable.

People are going to have to adjust to this new reality.  I don't hear either candidate suggesting that should start preparing if things get worse.  How to prepare for when, for example, not just Big Bird or NPR won't be around anymore, but maybe post offices, daycare centers, fuel for our cars, heat for our homes,  functioning hospitals, or (if we don't stop messing with Mother Nature), food and water.  

Think of a normal little household as a microcosm of the country.  Drastically less (or no) money--how does that family survive?  The two most urgent considerations, it seems to me, are food and shelter.  Everything else depends on having those two needs met first.  There are statistical reports of how many individuals are currently incarcerated, what percentage are currently on food stamps, for instance, but none (that I know of) of how many people nationwide are homeless.  (Because how can you track someone with no known address?)  The two candidates talk frequently about the middle class;  sometimes about the billionaire class.  Rarely about the underclass(es).  The ones who work for minimum wage (when they can find work), the ones who sweep streets and wash dishes, change the diapers on your nursing-home-based grandparent, serve burgers, clean toilets.  The candidates want these peoples' votes, too.  But I don't hear either of them talking about raising the minimum wage.

 Such are my thoughts this day after the big debate.   I'm not alone in thinking perhaps  the only way to break the pattern and reform the system, is to simply not participate in the charade, to vote "None-of-the-Above" rather than vote for a party that has absolutely zero chance of winning (sorry, Greens) or not voting at all--and let the chips fall where they may.   Maybe that is what it will take to wake the current government, and people, up. Because I think too many have already given up.  Many more simply don't care anymore, it's all they can do to get out of bed in the morning, things have gotten that bad.  People are getting desperate.   I think the Powers That Be less fear the loss of votes from an apathetic or frustrated populace than if that populace were to suddenly rise up, en masse, and tell them in no uncertain terms that  "Enough is Enough!

Only in the movies would that happen here, though.  Occupy Wall Street occupied Wall Street; the 1% still call the shots.  News at 11. It's going to take more than just sporadic tent 'occupations' of city parks.

Wondering About #1.  I've heard rumors that there will be riots and massive unease if either candidate wins.   Maybe the great unraveling has already begun.  Does this make me a Doomsday person for voicing this possibility?  I think of myself as an optimist, with an inclination towards occasional (my kids will say chronic) worrywartism..  But why aren't either of these candidates ever mentioning what's being done to the planet.  Jobs, energy, taxes, abortion, health care, all get discussed..  Why are they not talking more about the environment?  The air we breathe, the land that produces the food we eat, the polluted waters?  The implications of Fukushima?  Instead, they talk about building more nuclear power plants.

Wondering About #2.  Will the oil being waiting to be Keystone-pipelined across the U.S. from Canada a solution to, as Romney insist, make us less oil-dependent on "the Arabs or Venezuelans"--or is it ultimately destined (as reportedly originally planned) to be an export product sold to China or Latin America? Because if so, that would bring in more money (you sell something, you get money for it) but we'd still have to buy oil from "the Arabs or Venezuelans", no?  Some undecided voter might've asked Romney this--a yes-or-no answer--"If the Keystone pipeline goes through, is that oil for us, or are we  just the designated transport route/ refinerer of said oil, and the resulting fuel product gets sold to some other country?" Yes or no answer, please.

[Source for initial wondering:  Keystone XL is an export pipeline. According to presentations to investors, Gulf Coast refiners plan to refine the cheap Canadian crude supplied by the pipeline into diesel and other products for export to Europe and Latin America. Proceeds from these exports are earned tax-free. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.]  Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed.

Whichever side wins, it's gonna be macaroni as usual, I'm afraid.  Barring something miraculous.   (No more lobster; who can afford lobster anymore, or find one that's not been Fukushima'd?).

So, what'll we do?    Stand up, speak up, make some collective effort to reach the attention of the maintainers of the system hoping it'll stop being  ALL about money, less about returned favors, control of  perception? -- or play along another four, eight, twelve, sixteen years till the players  at the top eventually give some serious thought to exactly what kind of world our grandchildren are going to be left with, and start making hard decisions for long-term solutions, not short-term political expediency.

I'm ready for change.  It's coming anyway, ready or not.  I think people should be talking more about how to deal with it, if recovery is not fast enough.  And re: the elections, I guess I qualify as one of those Undecideds.  Granted, Obama has had horrendous obstacles to overcome in keeping his campaign promises.  Who knew it'd be so hard?  But many of the decisions he's made these last four years, I find hard to accept. Assassination drones, of "suspected" militants, for example, aimed at buildings or groups  where at least 60 children have become "collateral damage."  It has been suggested that drone-targeting of suspected individuals is better than, say, bombing a whole country.  The lesser of two evils.  End justifies the means.

A part of me wants to vote "None of the Above", as a last resort, wake-up call to a government that does not seem to be listening to its citizens.  I fear a pre-emptive, or retaliatary nuclear war, on behalf of Israel.  And that scares the hell out of me.  The thing is, I feel it's a very real possibility now, with either of these candidates, our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president and the fiery, yet coldly business-like, "I-can't-be-controlled, the rules-don't-apply-to-me, I'm-going-to-continue .... " Republican contender, Mitt Romney.   Voting for Obama based on the fear that if I don't, a Romney win will hasten the demise of the country and bring on Armaggedon--means I'm hoping Obama will change, or the great unraveling will be somehow be slowed down, or Armaggedon delayed.  In other words, vote Obama to buy more time for things to possibly turn around, and hope that things will get better. That's what millions did in the last election. Their hopes were dashed when the promised changes didn't happen.  The thing is, maybe four more years won't make enough of a difference for it to matter, given the possibility of a pre-empted or retialatory nuclear strike.  The world's that volatile right now.