Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. It's been awhile, but don't think I have Forgotten my Fans. I have just been Waiting for this Election business to be Over. It was all Too Much for Me.

I am just Glad that it turned out the Way it did and that we didn't have another Big Mess like back in 2000, as some were worried we would. Of course, I knew a Cool Cat like President Obama would know the right way to get back in the White House for four more years!

He sure didn't have much of a Second Honeymoon, though, did he?

Boom, right after the Election came the News that General Petraeus, the Director of the CIA, had been Fooling Around with his Biographer, Paula Broadwell - and then came all kinds of other Stories about these hot Twin Sisters, Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam, who were hanging around all the Generals.

Amusingly to Me, these stories always refer to the Twins as "Socialites,"  a rather Quaint Term. Reminds My Humans of a Tom Waits song called Invitation to the Blues.  "He probably left her for a socialite, didn't love her 'cept at night, and then he's drunk and didn't even tell her that he cared..."
But I digress... sorry...

Apparently the former head of the CIA is spending his Days "grovelling" to his wife of 38 years, Holly, according to an Article in the UK's Daily Mail. My Female Human doesn't blame his Wife for being Furious, which is how her Mood is described by Those in the Know.

Even though it was Broadwell that had the Affair with the General, the Involvement of the Twin Socialites also seemed Rather Suspicious... something my Female Human felt was particularly Obvious in this Picture which has been Published far and wide, of the two Women, Petraeus (second from left) and Holly (far right) along with Jill's husband, in the center.

Two of these things are Not Like the Others, wouldn't you say?

In Fact, it has all Become so Convoluted and Involved so Many People in the Cast of Characters that the Borowitz Report posted an Article saying the CIA has come out with a Pamphlet to help you know whether YOU may be part of the Petraeus Scandal without even knowing it!

It is also being Reported that Paula Broadwell, who is married with two Children, is "devastated" by the Harm caused by the Fling between her and the General.

Ah, Humans... what is that Old Saying? "What a tangled Web we Weave, when First we Practice to Deceive."

Just goes to Show that perhaps Male Humans should be Neutered, just like Tomcats are, so they won't be Getting Into Trouble when they are past their Prime and vulnerable to Younger Women's wiles.

Or, per the Cartoon that Some have been Posting over on Facebook, maybe this is what Happens when you Allow Heterosexuals to Serve Openly in the Military?

At Any Rate, this Scandal is finally moving Off the front pages since it's been a Couple of Weeks and we're Off to the Races again with the Fiscal Cliff looming.

My Female Human says if she hears the words "Fiscal Cliff" one more time, she Won't Be Responsible For Her Actions.

President Obama Won the Election. I Hope he will use his "Political Capital" as They call it, to Stand Firm and not let the Republicans walk all Over Him during negotations. So Far So Good, as far as I can tell. For all the Latest News about the Fiscal Cliff, here's a Good Article. A few Choice Quotes to follow. The first, from GOP House Majority Leader Boehner:

"Mr. Boehner said that the White House needs to get serious about offering specific spending cuts they would put on the table towards a potential deal. 'All eyes are on the White House, the country doesn’t need a victory lap, it needs leadership,' Mr. Boehner said at a press conference in the Capitol."
This was countered by a Response from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
"Mr. Reid said it was incumbent on House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) to put forward a realistic offer in response to Democrats’ plan to allow tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to increase at the end of the year. Mr. Reid said that Mr. Geithner has not made a new offer to Republicans as both sides try to broker a tax and spending deal before the end of the year. 'The president’s made the offer–there’s no offer to be made,' Mr. Reid told a handful of reporters as he walked into his offices. 'There’s no offer to be made.'"
Ah, Humans. They continue to Spar like a bunch of Tomcats Yowling in a Circle, hoping One will finally get the Upper Hand and get a Good Grip on the back of their Opponent's Neck.

The Good News I see is that at least President Obama apparently hasn't already Given Away the Farm up Front, as he was wont to do in the Beginning of his first Term. There is No Sense in him Offering ANY cuts in Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid. Let the Republicans make that Suggestion. Otherwise the Republicans will take Whatever the President Offers in Cuts and then want MORE. Plus this way, it is Obvious that it would be the Republicans who want to Cut these Programs that are Very Popular with the people!

In Other Good News, Senator Dick Durbin said that Social Security should NOT be part of the Fiscal Cliff talks as it does not contribute to the Deficit.

Let's Hope that the fact that some Republicans are finally Rejecting their Pledge to Grover Norquist to Never Raise Taxes may Actually lead to Progress in the Talks. But I'm not Holding My Breath. So far I don't see a Lot of Compromising going on on the GOP side. It may Take Awhile for the Fact they Lost to really Sink In. If it ever does.

With that, I will Bid you Farewell for Now. I think we will All need a Lot of Catnip to get through the End of the Year. Hopefully January 1 won't Find us at the Bottom of the Fiscal Cliff!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Money Alone Can't Buy You Love

With President Obama's decisive reelection on Tuesday night, the American people said "no" to the many millions of dollars spent by GOP Super PACs and people like Sheldon Adelson, who donated a small fortune of his own money to support Republican candidates, ending up with nothing to show for it.

After the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, many on the left feared that the practically unlimited amount of money that would pour into these surrogate organizations for the Republican candidates would leave the Democrats in the dust.

As it turned out, all that money was not enough to buy the election. President Obama was declared the winner a little after 11 p.m., with over 300 electoral college votes already in and possibly more to come, if Florida goes his way, as is expected. Nate Silver was right, and Unskewed Polls and Karl Rove were wrong. It's all over but the spin.

So why didn't all that money and advertising help the GOP? Maybe the answer isn't that the money couldn't help, but that it was used inefficiently.

In market research, there are models that can analyze and predict the effectiveness and the efficiency of advertising. There is a certain point at which advertising no longer influences the viewer. There is a certain point when the amount of money spent is no longer efficient and additional spending adds diminishing return on investment.


That saturation point is probably reached even sooner for negative advertising than for other kinds of advertising. The voters just start wishing it was all over, and become cynical about whichever candidate continues to push these ads on them. And it doesn't help that some of Romney's last ads, in Ohio, were full of lies that the voters knew better than to believe in the first place.

Of course, the Obama campaign also had plenty of money from donations. They raised a billion dollars themselves and had plenty of advertising. But the difference was in the way they used it. Their advertising started earlier, before Romney's campaign really took off, and defined him to the American voters before he had a chance to.

In addition, they targeted individual voters and identified a whole database full of potential supporters who fit the profile of Obama supporters - but hadn't yet become supporters.

In market research, this is called identifying your "Strategic Value" stakeholder or consumer - the target person who is most likely to respond to you or to your product and help you achieve your objectives. The next trick is to gain insight into that person and understand what makes them tick. Apparently the President's campaign was able to do this and to motivate those stakeholders to go out and stand in line for hours to vote for President Obama.

But it came down to a lot more than just good marketing principles for the President and his supporters.

It also came down to changing demographics - and a new coalition of diverse citizens who came together to reject the old viewpoints offered by the GOP, to reject hate and bigotry, and to support the President's vision of moving "Forward!" rather than backward.

Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans were all key voting blocs in the Democratic victory. Obama won among Hispanics 71% to 27% for Romney; among Asians by 73-26%, and among African-Americans by 93%. These population groups are all growing, while white Americans, who were more apt to vote for Romney, are declining as a portion of the electorate, a trend that is expected to continue.

President Obama did better among women than his opponent, with 55% of women voting for him vs. Romney. And, showing the importance of women's issues, candidates Akin and Mourdock, both of whom were castigated by their remarks about rape, lost their Senate races.

In addition, many women were elected, including Elizabeth Warren, who took back the late Senator Edward Kennedy's seat from Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the first female senator from the state. Other firsts: Tammy Baldwin, from Wisconsin, will be the first openly gay Senator. In Hawaii, Mazie Hirono will be the first Asian American woman there, while Hawaiian Tulsi Gabbard will be the first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives.

Young people came out to support President Obama again, as they did in 2008. He captured 60% of the vote for people 18-29, compared to only 36% for Romney. This age group represented 19% of the electorate, up a point from four years ago.

In addition, gay marriage was approved by voters in Maryland and Maine, and will likely be approved in Washington State as well, the first time same-sex marriage has been approved by the voters themselves. Other states allow gay marriage, but the decision was made by the state courts or legislatures. And in Minnesota, a referendum to amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage failed, another victory against bigotry.

Washington State and Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana; Massachusetts approved medical marijuana use. The times truly are a-changin'.

And as Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, if the Republicans don't start changing and join the reality-based world, they will be a footnote in history. Now they have to figure out whether to continue to double down on their far right wing positions and become less and less relevant to the population, or whether they will do some sincere soul-searching and try to come into the 21st century.

I'm hoping for the latter, because we need at least two viable parties in this country to keep a real dialogue going and to work together to solve problems. There are too many issues that need to be addressed; we can't afford another four years of gridlock and partisanship. But it takes two to tango and the GOP needs to step onto the dance floor.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Down to the Wire

Well, here it is, finally - the last day before the 2012 election. And things are looking relatively good for President Obama, thanks to the October Surprise that turned out to be Hurricane Sandy.

According to Nate Silver, the President now has an 86% chance of winning reelection, thanks to leads in the battleground states and a growing lead in the polls for the popular vote (now at 50.6 vs. 48.5). Although Silver says there are plenty of other reasons that Obama has rebounded since his performance at the first debate, I have no doubt that the hurricane and its aftermath did play a part in Romney's recent slippage.

I live in New Jersey, which, along with New York City, suffered the worst damage in the storm. Thankfully for us here in Northern New Jersey, the worst we got was a lot of downed trees and power lines. Since the rain wasn't that bad, we were spared the flooding we got last year during Hurricane Irene. But as everyone knows by now, the Jersey Shore was virtually destroyed and will take a long time to rebuild.

The destruction in New York City and New Jersey brought an endorsement for President Obama from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent former Republican, who said he thought the president is best equipped to do something about climate change, which he said the storm made clear was an important issue.

And, even more importantly, Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who gave the keynote speech at Romney's convention, praised the President's response to the hurricane and accompanied him on a tour of the devastation at the Jersey Shore.
"Christie told news outlets that the president’s response had been 'outstanding,' said that coordinating with the administration had been 'wonderful,' and remarked that 'the president has been all over this and he deserves great credit.' He even told Fox News the president had done a 'great job for New Jersey' while staying above the fray about politics: 'I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff.'" 
After receiving criticism from the Romney camp for his embrace of President Obama during the crisis, Christie reiterated his support for Romney but refused to back down on his praise for the President.
"'I'm a Republican, I've endorsed Mitt Romney and I support him. I intend to vote for him on Tuesday,'" Christie said. 'But the fact of the matter is that if the President of the United States comes here and he is willing to help my people, and he does it, then I'm going to say nice things about him because he's earned it.'"
In the meantime, Romney didn't do himself any favors by cynically calling an already-planned campaign rally a "storm relief rally" and actually buying some of the "donations" that supporters then picked up to "donate" to hurricane victims. It also doesn't help that he ignored the fact that the Red Cross discourages physical donations and prefers monetary aid, as sorting and shipping actual goods just takes more time, when it is usually faster to use the money to buy goods from locations closer to the center of the crisis. (You can go here to donate to the Red Cross, by the way!)

Romney's campaign also shot itself in the foot by airing deceptive commercials in Ohio during this same time period that warned Jeep and General Motors were sending jobs to China. Both Chrysler (which owns Jeep) and GM emphatically denied the accuracy of the ads.

So the general public saw President Obama acting presidential, suspending his campaign to look at storm damage, putting politics aside and joining a Republican governor in commiserating over his state's losses, while his opponent was holding a storm disaster campaign photo op and airing commercials that people knew were lies. Romney supporters shouldn't wonder why their candidate has lost his momentum and President Obama is pulling ahead.

But nothing is certain yet, as Republican governors in Florida and Ohio are doing their darnedest to suppress the vote in their states by limiting early voting, making sure there are horrendously long lines to vote in the (mostly) Democratic areas of their states, and any other strategies they can come up with.

In contrast, Christie has tried to make it easier for those displaced by the storm in New Jersey to vote, by adding early voting opportunities at county clerks' offices, extending the ability to vote by email to all citizens of the state, and allowing people to vote using provisional ballots if they are currently staying in a location outside of their usual voting area.

I am no fan of Christie, but I am very impressed with his fairness and bipartisanship during this crisis. There are certainly a lot worse Republican governors - and the ones in Ohio and Florida come to mind.

This is a very close election and every vote counts. Be sure your voice is heard and go to the polls tomorrow, if you haven't already voted early or with an absentee ballot!