28 October 2012

Liberal GOTV–Celebutard Stip Teases and Like a Virgin Appeals

Madonna shows off her pro-Obama temporary tattoo in Washington, DC [photo: Splash News]

When contemplating Madonna’s almost thirty year pop music career, esteemed music critic Robert M. Grant, has observed that Madonna’s success: "certainly not [from] outstanding natural talent. As a vocalist, musician, dancer, songwriter, or actress, Madonna's talents seem modest." But the Material Girl is adept at exploiting the talents of others to further her career.  This is quite evident in Madonna’s current MDNA tour where she has generated publicity by pushing outrageous antics supposedly inspired by others.

When Madonna recently played the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the 54 year old singer did a strip tease supposedly in support of Malala Yousafzai, the courageous young Pakistani girl who was brutally attacked for pursuing her education.  While it was wonderful to make the critically injured Pashtun teen into a cause celebre, it is dubious as to whether a strip tease with a Malala tattoo on the singer’s back was honoring or exploiting Ms. Yousafzai.

During her tour visit to the District of Calamity (sic) in September, Madonna made offered some interesting opinions in support of  President Obama.  Of course, the “Girl” Gone Wild had a temporary tramp stamp proclaiming Obama on her lower back.

When Madonna observed  “For better or for worse, we have a black Muslim in the White House...That’s some amazing sh*t”, maybe she was still dizzy from her dance number.

New Orleans was not as fertile ground for Madonna’s pro-Obama shock shtick.  When Madonna launched into her de rigeur political rant for this tour, it was anticipated and had more than a mixed reception.

 Madonna polled the crowd “'Who's registered to vote?'... I don't care who you vote for as long as you vote for Obama.  That was greeted with a chorus of boos from the crowd at the New Orleans Arena.  Taking that cue, Madonna retorted: “Seriously, I don't care who you vote for ... Do not take this privilege for granted. Go vote..”  Some supporter of Obama she is, but then again Madonna usually casts off some supporters as she works the stage.  The Daily Mail (UK) reported that some walked out after Madonna’s political rant.  Considering the price of tickets for the show, it is dubious that they were rushing to the ballot box.

It is interesting that liberal supporters of President Barack Obama engage in Get Out the Vote efforts based in outrageous sexuality.  While it may be impossible to shut celebutards up while on tour, it was an official Obama campaign to pair up with Lena Dunham, the star of HBO’s Girls, in the “First Time” appeal which insinuating losing one’s virginity with having your first time (voting) with Barack Obama.

With the way the end of the campaign is going, those gathered in McCormick Center in Chicago may have to hum “Like a Prayer.”

h/t: Splash News
h/t: Daily Mail

27 October 2012

Prepubescent Zombie Agiprop Allegedly for Obama

The Goodly, Silverstein and Partners ad agency from San Francisco has launched and campaign "The Future Children Project" to re-elect President Barack Obama. The public relations positioning claims: Re-electing President Obama is a momentous decision that will require every single voter. What would the children of the future say if we let them down this November? 

 Considering the aforementioned objective, one wonders why Goodly, Silverstein & Partners would release a starkly filmed, épater la bourgeoisie ad out of the mouths of babes at this time.


 The lyrics of this somber song sung by kids are both trite and trying:

Imagine an America Where strip mines are fun and free Where gays can be fixed And sick people just die And oil fills the sea.
                    We don’t have to pay for freeways! 
                    Our schools are good enough
                    Give us endless wars
                    On foreign shores
                    And lots of Chinese stuff.

         We're the children of the future.
American through and through.But something happened to our country.And we're kinda blaming you. 
We haven’t killed all the polar bears But it’s not for lack of trying Big Bird is sacked The Earth is cracked And the atmosphere is frying
Congress went home early They did their best we know You can’t cut spending With elections pending Unless it’s welfare dough.
We’re the children of the future American through and through But something happened to our country And we’re kinda blaming you.
Find a park that is still open And take a breath of poison air They foreclosed your place To build a weapon in space But you can write off your au pair.
It’s a little awkward to tell you But you left us holding the bag When we look around The place is all dumbed down And the long term’s kind of a drag.
We’re the children of the future American through and through But something happened to our country And yeah, we’re blaming you.
You did your best You failed the test.
Mom and Dad We’re blaming you!
However the delivery is zombie-like. When the lyrics mention "au pairs" and "foreclosures", it gives an impression that the innocent singers were given agiprop to mouth.  It reminds observers of the shameless way that socialist dictatorships shamelessly exploit children to sell their workers paradise. Moreover, it calls to mind many instances during the Obama reign when youths are mobilized by teachers to spout Obamaisms. 

 Some have liked "The Future Children Project" to be the Obama equivalent of President Lyndon Johnson's Daisy ad. 

There are three problems with that interpretation. Firstly, the Daisy ad had shock value in 1964 and President Johnson asked for it be withdrawn. So much so, it only ran once. The Children of the Future seems internet oriented so it reflects the Obama weltanschaaung and can spread virally. 

 Secondly, Johnson's Daisy ad plays off the innocence of a child while juxtaposing it to the horrible possibility of thermonuclear war. The "Children of the Future" inserts invectives about things which have already occurred from clueless kids. It is disgusting to exploit children by putting pernicious phrases in their mouths. But Lena Dunham's recent "First Time" ad for Obama was more shocking and revolting. 

 Thirdly, the Daisy ad ran on September 7th, 1964, which was then the kick off time for campaigning. The Children of the Future is entering the political fray in the last ten days of a campaign, when candidates typically are making their closing arguments. Clearly, it is an attack ad against GOP Presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Republicans without highlighting any Obama virtues. 

 Some casual political observers are put off by negative advertising, even though such comparative appeals can be effective in shaping public opinion. But this is the re-election of an incumbent, which is a referendum. In the end, people want to vote for someone. If an incumbent has not made the sale in nearly four years, trying to scare undecided voters with airy-fairy agi-prop does not seem very effective.

 Goodly, Silverstein and Partners is an award winning agency that conceived both the "Got Milk" campaign as well as the Budweiser frogs, so they have strong commercial credits. Why would they embark on this negative campaign now? Perhaps they are true believers who are making a last ditch, last minute effort. Information that is not readily available are the costs associated with the "Future Children Project".

Recently, I heard Democrat pollster Pat Caddell being interviewed by Jay Severin on Blaze Radio  railing against Washington insiders who offer ill advice to campaigns and then pocket the profits. Caddell was indicting Republican strategists, but this might be a similar situation for liberals. The Obama campaign has been obsessed with ad hominem attacks against Romney and negative campaigning rather than running on his own record. By feeding the beast with "The Children of the Future", the client is pleased, the agency attracts attention for an edgy ad and the agency pockets the profits. 

 During the summer, Obama 2012 spent $100 million in negative ads against Mitt Romney. All of those efforts were obviated by Romney's stellar first debate performance. Between the 3.2 million glossy color magazines pitching Obama's alleged second term agenda, the "First Time" ad and the "Children of the Future" ad, others are profiting from the campaign stupidity Obama 2012 other than GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  

25 October 2012

Obama's Puerile Politics Epitomized

Of late, the Obama 2012 campaign has been seizing on puerile political memes.  The killing Big Bird soundbite from the first debate.  When threats of a Million Muppet March proved to have no political legs, the Obama Ad Hominem Express shifted to the “Binders of Women” meme from the townhall debate.  Little good that did, as Republican Presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) erased the previous 16% gap with women.

How could the wunderkind braintrust from the Chicago office top this? They did not want to wait for the “horse and bayonets” trope from the third debate to play out.  So they released: “The First Time” with performance artist Lena Dunham waxing poetically about her first time...voting for Barack Obama.

The sad part of this “First Time” campaign is that it isn’t even original.  Barack’s boys copied ads for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  So once again, Obama copies European lefies.

Aside from the unabashedly adolescently vulgar appeal for the youth vote, it is astounding how Obama’s campaign seeks the female vote by consistently degrading women.  The Binders of Women memo probably produced Beavis and Butthead chortles, as if it was President Bill Jefferson Clinton’s little black book.  In reality, the “Binders of Women” referred to outreach that Romney had to qualified female candidates to be part of his gubernatorial administration in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Then there was the Tumblr posting “Vote like your Lady Parts depend on it (because they do)".  It was quickly withdrawn after public hue and cry.  Consider the objectification involved in the “Lady Parts” appeal.   To use the parlance to make a point, I believe that wise women vote with their lady smarts rather than just their lady parts.

Now in its final days, the Obama Campaign comes up with an innuendo ad prompting women to make their first time a good one.

No wonder why the Obamas have been urging everyone to vote early, including your knucklehead friends, per First Lady Michelle Obama.

 The puerile politics displayed in their outreach, as well as the Dear Leader labeling his opponent a bullsh**ter in Rolling Stone are signs of serious presidential campaign imploding.

Slow Political Poison Passively Given at Boca Raton

[L] Gov. Mitt Romney [C] moderator Bob Schieffer  [R] President Barack Obama

This year’s cycle of Presidential debates have all been influential and informative, but in different ways that one would expect.  This is especially true about the slow poison that was passively administered in Boca Raton, Florida.

During the first debate in Denver, unanimous opinion was that Republican Presidential Nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) won a decisive victory against Democrat Nominee President Barack Obama (D-IL).  Focus groups dramatically swung towards the challenger.  It seemed that the distorted image of Romney which the Obama 2012 campaign spent $100 million in early television advertising went to waste compared to many voters first unfiltered view of candidate Romney

After being buoyed by Vice President Joe Biden’s (D-DE) brash performance in the Vice Presidential debate against GOP VP Nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st), it seems that Obama advisors wanted the President to seem less somnolent.  So the Presidential Townhall debate in Richmond was a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em affair. Alas, it seemed like Mr. Romney was fighting tag team against both Mr. Obama and moderator Candy Crowley, as the “moderator” interrupted Romney 28 times and the President only nine times, yet Obama spoke for three additional minutes.

In addition, Crowley chose to violate her agreed upon position as moderator and played real time (and wrong) instant fact checker.   At a key moment, when Mr. Romney pressed Mr. Obama about his Rose Garden statements regarding not calling the action in Libya an act of terrorism, Crowley verbally pushed her way in and insisted that the President had called it an act of terror.

Yet during post debate interviews, the CNN journalist admitted that she was wrong and that Governor Romney was right on the point.

Everyone expected that the Foreign Policy debate in Boca Raton, Florida would concentrate on the Benghazi blunder and candidates trading barbs.  In fact, Boca Raton debate Moderator Bob Schieffer started the candidate forum with a couple of wide open questions about Benghazi seemingly  begging for blood to be drawn.  But Mitt Romney did not take the bait.  In fact, he pretty much deferred that issue.  Later in the forum, Romney expressed support for some of Obama’s foreign policy as he differentiated is own vision to defend democracy and pursue peace through strength.

Many conservatives stomachs churned, suspecting that their standard bearer was blowing it.  But after a few rounds of questioning, it dawned on many right-leaning political observers that Romney’s deferential debate performance was what Bill Sammon would call Strategery .  Saturday Night Live mocked Republican Presidential candidate then Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) for being a bumkin and a Bush who was prone to mispronounce words, despite Ivy League educations.  The “43" Administration used Strategery as an inside joke for meetings, taking the press misestimation of their skills to their advantage.

Foreign policy is the domain of Presidents and not challengers.  So when going toe-to-toe with President Obama, Romney was likely to be diminished by a reply by the President “Well, I was in the situation room” as well as “This deals with classified matters” and “We can not comment on a matter in which we are still investigating.”  None of those potential retorts would do the challenger any good.

The tag team phenomenon of moderator Crowley just so happening to have the Rose Garden transcript and master debater Obama suggesting to Crowley to read the transcript leads some cynics to conclude that it was a convenient set up.  So Bob Schieffer’s begging for blows about Benghazi might have been a trap. Had Romney engaged about Libya, he would have muddied the waters and partisans would claim “He’s playing politics with a tragedy.”   So to use a football analogy, it was wise to play prevent football and punt on such challenges.

Partisan Democrats would declare President Obama the winner no matter what in the third debate. So the surrogates in the spin room were anxious to say that Obama had won on points with all of his jabs.  Perhaps.  But that missed the point of Romney’s strategery.  Although politics is my favorite contact sport, it is not won or lost on the best out of three debate scores.

During the first debate, Romney was iconoclastic, shattering the false image that the Obama campaign had peddled against him during the summer.  At the second debate, Romney demonstrated that he could go toe-to-toe arguing with his opponent.  That is important, as the incumbent was fighting on a level playing field with the challenger, mooting many inherent advantages of incumbency.  For the third debate, Romney’s mission was to not make unforced errors and appear statesman-like.

I likened the debate to a slow political poison given in Boca Raton because Romney’s subtle strategy was not to win the debate but to win votes.  By appearing reasonable and giving credit to good parts of Obama’s foreign policy, he burnished his credentials of being bipartisan and reasonable. By not engaging in pointed attacks while standing for what Dennis Prager would call Americanism as well as echoing President Ronald Reagan’s peace through strength, he appealed to undecided voters (many of whom could be called Reagan Democrats) as well as women who recoil from too much conflict.  And then there was Mr. Obama’s debate demeanor.

President Obama relished taking the fight to Mr. Romney by interrupting him numerous times, using sneering condescension in addressing his opponents issues and demonizing his challenger.  Of course, this is indicative of the Obama 2012 campaign, which has been all about ad hominem attacks rather than presenting a real second term agenda.  The negative message constantly coming from Obama 2012 materials is in marked contrast to the Hopey Changey meme from 2008.  Even if that is the Democrat’s Presidential Re-Election strategy, it is a mistake for Obama to be that messenger, particularly in an event when he is side-by-side to his opponent.  The dirty work is typically left to Vice Presidents, who’s essential qualities typically  include breathing, carrying his home state and doing dirty work on the stump for his boss.

Obama’s punchy performance might have rallied the base (again) but did not expand his supporters. Obamatons, and seemingly the Boca Raton Press Corps, cheered when Mr. Obama hit back on charges that the Obama Administration has been rapidly cutting the US Naval Fleet.  Candidate Obama snarkily retorted about horses and bayonets.

Politically, this was acting stupidly on electoral college politics.  Virginia is a swing state and the Virginia Tidewaters have lots of military voters.  Even if the military votes are waylaid this cycle, there are lots of veterans and military spouses that will still be going to the polls who would neither appreciate dramatically cutting the fleet nor the derisive tone of the reply.

While it can not readily be proven, I believe that Romney’s reticence to get down and dirty during the Boca Raton debate threw Obama’s briefing binder out the window.  It is reasonable to think that Obama was ready to smack down his opponent on nuances of Benghazi and then sell the narrative that Republican Romney was a warmonger. When Romney did not use the anticipated playbook, Obama had to improvise, which deprived him of much (but not all) of his practiced retorts.

Although Romney projected less aggression in Boca Raton, he was not acquiescent to Obama. The Apology Tour jab was a good example.  While Mr. Obama denied that he went on an Apology Tour in 2009 and basically to check the transcript that sorry was the hardest word, the public understood it as such.  This allowed Romney to springboard by noting that we did not dictate to the world but that we freed the world from dictators. This was done in a genteel and not overwrought manner while still scoring points.

 Romney’s strategic passivity and bipartisanship made Romney appear statesman-like and almost the incumbent whereas Obama’s flailing aggression looked desperate and had the vibe of a challenger rather than the incumbent. Focus groups on various networks came to the surprising conclusion that Obama scored on points but Romney tended to win over undecided voters by being a statesman.  Polling coming out after the debate shows some narrowing in the horse race, but the big gap (16%) that Romney had amongst female voters has evaporated.  So much for the War on Women meme.

What would really be instructive is likeability factor.  Even though President Obama’s national overall approval rate hovers at 47% no matter how they tweak the survey sample, Mr. Obama has consistently topped 50% on likeability.   That may be an extension of the Hope and Change phenomenon that sounded nice and people inserted whatever they wanted.  In the last month, the Obama 2012 campaign has capitalized on killing Big Bird attack and the puerile Binders Full of Women gimmick to besmirch Romney.  Most of that snark was by surrogates or on the campaign hustings.

 As the third debate went on, Obama fed upon the bile building up in his antagonistic answers.  So the first part of his “In the Navy” answer sounded like a reasonable (but mistaken point) about horses and bayonets and newer technologies.  But then Obama went further and sarcastically noted: There are these things called aircraft carriers.”  That sort of condescension only sells with the truly convicted.  It impeaches the aura of the good graces of likeability which remained with him from the prior campaign.  The sarcastic “Aircraft Carrier” trope probably made Obama feel pretty good and rang well in his ears but to females watching it made Obama sound petty and petulant.

It is ironic that by Romney not engaging in the muck about Benghazi, it was spoken about more after the debate.  Now that journalists from CBS News and Fox News Channel have the real time communications during the Benghazi attack, the media who chose not to be Obama stenographers can report on the horrific response without denouncing it as a partisan Republican attack.

So by being somewhat passive, classy seeming informed and giving approval to his opponent’s foreign policy successes, Romney seemed bipartisan, statesmanlike and positive while protecting his political position.  This change in tactics causes the real Obama to come out once he ran out of scripted one liners.  So a haughty, petulant and unscripted Obama was on display for voters to see vis-a-vis Romney.

I watched the debate with a bunch of right minded partisans gathered for the Battleground State Talkers Tour event.  Assuredly, the audience would have preferred seeing a pugilistic performance from Romney.  But in my estimation, Romney’s Boca Raton debate performance was a slow poison for his opposition. It was not satisfying for someone who’s favorite contact sport is politics, but I think that is was a successful tactic to take.   In less than two weeks, it should become clear if the “strategery” was successful in electing the 45th President of the United States.

h/t: A.F. Branco
     Gary McCoy

21 October 2012

Billy Graham on Character

 On October 11th, 2012, GOP Presidential Nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) visited Billy Graham in his home in western North Carolina.

During the 30 minute meeting with the 94 year old Reverend Graham and his son Franklin Graham, Mr. Romney asked for their prayers while the elder Graham recognized the Governor's values and high moral convictions.

Billy Graham  Mitt Romney
[L] Gov. Mitt Romney meets with [R] Rev. Billy Graham

Shortly after the meeting, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association dropped language on its website referring to Mormonism as a cult.


19 October 2012

Whoopsie--The View on Whoopi's Failed Mormon Smear

Ann Romney taped an appearance on ABC's The View. When the visit got serious (4:14 mark of video), panelist Whoopie Goldberg posed a poignant question to the prospective First Lady:

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: As first lady, if you get the job, it’s going to entail a lot of things, and one of those things is going to be talking to the mothers whose children are coming home in bags, you know, from wars. Now, I know -- I believe that your religion doesn’t allow you to go fight.
ANN ROMNEY: No, that's not correct. We have many, many members of our faith that are serving in armed services.
GOLDBERG: Okay, um, I say that because when I read about your husband, what I had read, and maybe you can correct this is that the reason that he didn’t serve in Vietnam was because it was against the religion. That’s what I read.
 ROMNEY: No, that's not correct. He was serving his mission and you know my five sons have also served missions. None served in the military.
It seems that Ms. Goldberg confused the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons) with Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists or other small American Christian pacifist oriented denominations.

 Mrs. Romney was astute to highlight all of her sons being called to mission (through their church) which helped mature them and them better citizens. It tacitly acknowledged Mormon culture while accentuating the virtues from the practice.

 Perhaps Goldberg was not at all ignorant about Latter Day Saint practice of faith.  Her query gave credence to the chicken hawk charge (never served in uniform) as well as implying strange religious practices while conjuring notions of body bags from future American "aggression".

Whoopi's whoopsie strikes me as a ham-handed attempt to play the Mormon card.  This sort of ad hominem attack seems like a desperate ploy to bolster a faltering incumbent by scaring unconvicted low-information voters with borderline religious bigotry.  It could also have been foray to bog the Romney campaign to explain subtleties of Mormon theology, which can differ with most traditional Christian creeds.

Of course, First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama got comparative softball questions when they were last on the View on September 25th, rather than meet with any world leaders after addressing the United Nations.   That was when "Barack" said that he was just eye candy. Yet that fluff View interview still made some important news because Mr. Obama's careful statement about the attack on the Benghazi consulate contradicts the supposed Rose Garden "Act of Terrorism" claim at the Hofstra debate.

Obviously the producers of "The View" were remiss at doing background briefs for their coterie of star chatters.  But progressive minds also seemed to have missed the memo from Chicago about now eschewing negative advertising.  Karl Rove observed that the Obama campaign has pulled negative ads in swing states and now is only showing positive pieces touting Obama's accomplishments.  It seems that the debates have wrecked $100 million negative advertising blitz on opponent Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).   Maybe the Obama campaign is relying upon their media surrogates to continue doing the dirty work as well as the puerile social media Binders of Women meme.

h/t: Real Clear Politics

14 October 2012

Autumn Around the Oval Office: 2012 White House Fall Garden Tour

White House Fall Garden Tour 2012

White House as seen from South Lawn
Visitors queued up at the White House Fall Garden Tour

White House Fountain on the South Lawn
Fountain on the White House South Lawn
Flower pot  near the Oval Office brings a splash of color to the White House South Lawn

White House East Wing Floral
Flash of purple adjacent to the White House East Wing
White House Truman Balcony upclose
Closeup of the Truman Balcony at the South Entrance to the White House
White House flowers near Oval Office
Flowers near the Oval Office

White House Flora near Trellises
Colorful florals near the White House Rose Garden

White House Betwixt Littleleaf Lindens
Flower bed between two Littleleaf Lindens planted by [L] Bill Clinton (1993) and [R] George W Bush (2001)

White House Magnolia by Oval Office closeup
Closeup of Southern Magnolia planted during Andrew Jackson's Administration (1830)

White House First Dog Bo with fan
Obama's First Dog Bo knows animal lovers as he poses with a fan

White House dog Bo waters the South Lawn
First Dog Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog, does his thing on the South Lawn

A monumental view from the White House South Lawn

White House Playground
Park Police vigilantly guards the White House Playground 

The Playset was erected in March 2009 for President Obama's daughters, Sasha (then 7) and Malia (then 10)  who squealed with joy at the surprise.   The swing set is dubbed "Sasha and Malia's Castle", was manufactured by Rainbow Play Systems from Brookings, South Dakota for an estimated $7,000.  The Playset is billed to be "green friendly" although it is made from both cedar and redwood as it was made with "certified" green energy and using "certified" green lumber. Several years ago, the White House Play area hosted a meeting between President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In mid March  2009, First Lady Michelle Obama established the largest and most expansive White House Kitchen Garden to date on the  South Lawn. The 1,110 square foot garden produces 55 varieties of vegetables including arugula.  Mrs. Obama had never planted a garden before but she was motivated to help her daughters as well as all Americans to eat healthy. The project  was started with just $200 seed money.   

White House Kitchen Garden
The White House Kitchen Garden, planted at the initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama in March 2009
Here is Mrs. Obama sharing her teaching moments about her garden, while promoting her book American Grown.  All profits from the book go to the National Parks Service, which has been tasked with managing the White House grounds since 1961.

White House Kitchen Garden Lettuce alone
Lettuce alone in the White House Vegetable Garden, South Lawn

As many modern Presidents have been avid golfers, there has been a putting greens on the South Lawn of the White House since President Dwight Eisenhower established one in 1954, although that one was taken out in the 1970s.  The current putting green is a 1,500 square foot space  put in at the behest of President Bill Clinton in 1995 with southshore creeping bendgrass.  The recreational oasis is just 30 feet from the Oval Office near the Hoover Oak (1931).

White House South Lawn Putting Green
Current White House Putting Green

White House South Lawn Magnolia by the OEOB
Saucer Magnolia planted by John Kennedy with Eisenhower (Old) Executive Office Building in background.

Please note that despite the slanted appearance of the OEOB in the photo, not everything in Washington is crooked, although people not from Between-the-Beltways may be inclined to think that's the case. 

13 October 2012

Religious Breakdown Among Democrats

This Pew Research Poll highlights several interesting facets of the Democrat coalition.  Less than 6 in 10 Democrats seem to belong to belong to Christian Churches.  When the White Evangelical sliver is factored out, less than half of Democrats self-identify as traditional main-line Protestants and Catholics. Amongst people that Pew surveyed, just 29% thought that Democrats were more friendly towards religion. This reaction may have reflected the  vehement reaction among Democrat delegates against inclusion of the last minute face saving God and Jerusalem plank in the party platform in Charlotte.

Another remarkable feature is the size of the “Nones”.  USA Today reports in the general survey (not by party breakdown) the unaffiliated account for 19.6%.  This is misleading because it groups together atheists (2.4%) and agnostics (3.2%) as well as the religiously unaffiliated (13.9%).  While they may be overlap in affinities, the religiously unaffiliated label themselves believing in God (68%), claim a deep connection with earth and nature 58% and consider themselves “spiritual but not religious (37%).

Putting on the partisan filter, more than 60% of the religiously unaffiliated consider themselves as Democrats or leaning Democrat.   When considered by party breakdown 24% of all registered Democrats surveyed were “Nones”.   The survey says that the unaffiliated skew overwhelmingly liberal on social issues like abortion in which 73% religiously unaffiliated prefer unfettered abortion “rights”. But religiously unaffiliated are not are clear cut liberal on economic issues, as 52% say that they prefer smaller government.

It would seem that religiously unaffiliated are chary about  authoritarianism stemming from the Church yet they claim to keep a personal spiritual element.  Perhaps this can be explained as the ethic underpinning of  "ecumenical niceness" that Charles Murray describes in his recent sociological study "Coming Apart" (2012)
As their liberal social inclinations are delineated, this can be understood as favoring “social justice” which would track the social gospel message that progressive Protestants championed in the early 20th Century but without all of the “churchy” stuff.  Since sine qua non the religiously unaffiliated do not belong to a church, these good deeds can be accomplished by civic organizations as well as through government programs.

To give a cautionary note to the trend of Nones, it is important to remember how often in the 20th century that secularized societies concerned about social justice devolved into fascistic and communist spheres.  And as the recent University of Chicago survey indicates, countries experienced with that atheistic  path do not have robust blossoming of believers once the socialist behemoth is eradicated.  It is logical to deduce that once the inculcation and inculturations of believers is effectively vanquished, these societies lack the believers as well as the ecclesiastical infrastructure to do social works apart from the state.

11 October 2012

Celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Vatican II

Pope John XXIII at Vatican II
Fifty years ago today, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).  It surprised many that this “caretaker” papacy would launch such a sweeping endeavor as Vatican II.  In fact, Pope Blessed John XIII died on third of the way into the conclave, but he believed that the Roman Catholic Church required aggiornamento or “updating”.

Having been born towards the conclusion on Vatican II, I have no personal recollections of the way the Church was prior to Vatican II.  My cursory knowledge as a child caused me to conclude that Vatican II translated the mass into the local languages (vernacular) and stopped the use of High Altars with the priest's back to the congregation. I was aware of people who were put off by the Novus Ordo liturgy and longed for the Tridentine  rituals, but that just seemed like an old translation.  It was only when I started to study Vatican II that I had a better appreciation for the fruits of the council and how strongly disappointment remains from the right and the left today.

Bishops meeting in Plenary Session of Vatican II
Over three years, some 2800 bishops from 116 countries met, debated (in Latin) and produced 16 documents.  Instead of automatically taking the preparation work from a cautious curia, the Council regrouped in geographical zones and requested a thorough re-thinking of the Council’s agenda.  But regional politics was serendipitously curtailed by seating, which was by seniority rather than delegations.

Unlike other councils, Vatican II did not define any dogma or pronounce anything anathematic.  The documents used word of persuasion and inclusion, like People of God or “brothers and sisters” rather than top down neo-scholastic theological statements.

 While keeping true to the essence of the Church in scripture, holy tradition and the Magisterium, Vatican II renewed the vision of what it means to be Church.

 Lumen Gentium calls the church to be the light of the world and source of salvation.  Lumen Gentium recognized the importance off family as the “domestic church” which provides the strong foundation of faith for sharing with the world.

Sacrosantum Concilium recognized the Eucharist as being the foundation of the Church, for in Holy Communion Catholics encounter the person of Christ and it is the main source of God’s grace.  

The Second Vatican Council spurred liturgical reforms which had been brewing in the church for years. This involved more than just worshiping in the vernacular.  It involved a whole new calendar and lectionary which refocused Sundays as “little Easters” telling salvific history through scriptural readings throughout the year rather than focusing on myriad Saintly feast days.  The scriptural readings read significantly more scripture over three year cycles.  Moreover, Vatican II desired the active participation of the People of God.

In fact, the entire emphasize shifted from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (re-creating Calvary) to re-creating the Last Supper (convivium).  While Vatican II did not espouse new theological doctrine per se, this reflects the “spirit of Vatican II” which shifted in focus in faith from the Messiah’s suffering on the cross and dying for our sins to understanding Eucharist as the perfect sacrifice of free will to our Father’s plan  which is made perpetual through the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection as embodied in Communion.

While the sung Tridentine High Mass has its beauty when it has an inspired choir and a priest who does liturgy well. I recently was blessed to worship in an Extraordinary Form  Requiem Mass for March For Life founder Nellie Gray. It sounded heavenly but  I experienced how it was a challenge for  much of the congregation to follow along in Latin, and there were few, if any, moments of participation from the Congregation.   But the Novus Ordo liturgy involved the faithful in their common tongue with expanded hymnals and wider selections of readings. The People of God are now lectors as well as communion ministers and the dialogue within the mass encourages eager and active  worship in communion, thereby being another manifestation of Christ.

Vatican II also revolutionized how the Catholic Church interacted with others in the world. Gaudium et Spes dealing with the Church and the modern world, recognizes that the Church shares the same joys and the same suffering with the world.

Pope Paul VI & Orthodox Metropolitan Meliton of Heliopolis (1965)
 Voices from other faiths were heard and heeded during the Second Vatican Council, particularly on the Lectionary.  It was a wonderful fruit of ecumenism that many mainline Protestant faiths revised their lectionary to roughly parallel the Roman liturgical calendar so the divided brothers and sisters in Christ  were nearly worshiping off the same page.

It is inconceivable to a Vatican II baby that prior to the aggiornamento, but per John O'Malley, S.J. Catholics were not only forbidden to pray with those of other faiths but were also inculcated with contempt. Vatican II fostered friendly relations with our divided brothers and sisters from Orthodox and Protestant Christianity.  Moreover, Vatican II condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and demanded respect for all from Abrahamic faiths, like Islam as well as Judaism.

So why is there still controversy a half century after Vatican II?  One can reasonably understand why traditionalist would bristle at all of the change. While sedevacantists may not be pleased unless we all travel back in time to January 1959 when Pope Blessed John XXIII announced his intention to hold the Second Vatican Council.  But Pope Saint Pius V did not bind his successors to never change the 1570 Tridentine Rite liturgy, as Popes have supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary powers.  While Pope Paul VI did promulgate the Missa Romanum in 1969, several other Popes had modified the Tridentine Rite before without controversy. Aside from the changes in language and  emphasis in worship, the changes in the Lectionary took away from the tried and true rhythm of the Tridentine worship year and deemphasized Saints day in general Sunday worship.

Scott Hahn’s scholarship on Episcopal Attitudes to Liturgical Change on the Eve of Vatican II indicates that the impetus to change was not the majority opinion immediately prior to the Second Vatican Council.  Hahn suggest that only 29% of the bishops wanted extensive change to the liturgy.  Most of those advocates for change came from Protestant dominanted regions, or as Father Ralph Wiltgen, S.V.D titled his book on Vatican II “The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber”.  It should be noted that Pope Benedict XVI (nee Joseph Ratzinger) was a theological consultant (peritus) who was a proponent of the Nouvelle Théologie.

But it is puzzling to discover discordant voices from the left at the notion of Vatican II.  A parish study group considering Vatican II documents that leaned left sounded more like Catholic version of Anger Management.  Nearly all of the two score of participants could vividly remember the innovations of Vatican II, but this group felt that the Church had not changed enough.  In addition, they were worried about retrenchment from current Pope Benedict XVI.  What was more surprising were some vitriolic voices against the legacy of Pope Blessed John Paul II.

Part of this can be attributed to the governance of Second Vatican Council. The published documents were the work of many hands and the resulting consensus language rarely sounds poetic.  While the rules governing Vatican II required 2/3rds super-majority for passage.  But Pope Blessed John XXIII’s successor Pope Paul VI wanted Vatican II documents to have an appearance of near unanimity, so the published documents are full of concessions and sometimes contradictions in short proximity to each other.

Although the Second Vatican Council did not strictly espouse a new theology, the Nouvelle Théologie hermaneutic which opened the church was embued throughout the documents, but not a systematic theology.  Consequently, when liturgical changes to Vatican II were introduced, there was some ambiguity in its implementation. This is certainly seen in the English translation of the Novus Ordo Mass (1969).  The translation methodology of Comme le prévoit (1969) uses the principle of dynamic equivalence  to convey the overall sense and meaning of the text in idiomatic English.  A sense of casual colloquialness can be associated with the “And also with you” response to the invocation of the Holy Spirit five times within the liturgy.  But the 1973 approved ICEL English translation allowed for many equivalents at the discretion of the Presider.  This flexibility bothered even a staunch liberal liturgical innovator like former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembrand Cardinal Weakland who decried injecting so many ideosyncratic mannerisms into the liturgy that becomes so colloquial that it is unbefitting of the liturgical movement.

The English Speaking Liturgical translators (ICEL) had prepared a new translation in 1998 which sought to redress shortcomings in the 1973 translation, but was a marriage of both dynamic and static translation.  The new missal required the blessing from Rome, but the Vatican sat on approving the text for four years before rejecting it in favor of the more static translation embraced in Liturgicum Authenticum (2001).   Aside from the unfamiliar language as part of the new translation (e.g. consubstantial, incarnate), the 2011 missal does not allow for Presiders to improvise.  So traditionalists, who take umbrage at the Novus Ordo and any translation continue to be upset, but Pope John Paul II’s requirements for a new Lectionary displeased liturgical liberals too.  After nearly a year has passed, the People of God seem to have made peace with the new translation, though fewer people can recite by rote memory and some get stuck on the new words. Although the new missal is an internal church conflict a half century after the council, it has its roots in “the spirit of Vatican II”.

Another challenge for the faithful with appreciating the legacy of Vatican II is understanding the theology which purportedly underlies the documents.  It is said that the importance of salvation history is the resurrection instead of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary.  That much I appreciate although I wonder if it minimizes the sacrificial hermanuetic, particularly of the bloodless lamb sacrifice for the salvation for God’s people.  But former Georgetown University Theology Chair Anthony Tambasco goes further in asserting that is was Christ’s perfect submission to God’s will which redeemed humanity, not the replacement expiation of sin.  In fact, Tambasco recently asserted that had Jesus died a married man in bed, he still would have redeemed humanity by his perfect submission to His Father’s plan.

When challenged to show chapter and verse from the Second Vatican Council documents, the answer was that it is all throughout them, without pointing to anything in particular. This kind of reminds a political junkie about campaigning on "Hope" and "Change" and people insert whatever they want into those broad bromides. Such an airy fairy answer was not pleasing to those schooled in neo-scholastic theology ala the Baltimore Catechism.  Nor did this take jibe with my reading of excerpts of Vatican II documents.

Perhaps this is why Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged Catholics during this Year of Faith to review reading Vatican II documents. For the faithful who take up this challenge, the Church offers a plenary indulgence for those who do so in a prayerful manner.


 We should appreciate the Golden Anniversary of Vatican II for breathing new life in updating the Catholic Church. But we should not ignore traditions which have sustained the faithful, like the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) Mass as well as Anglican patrimony.  The Second Vatican Council shaped by the passionate pleas of Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV, who urged reconciliation with our Orthodox brothers while retaining the Eastern lung of Christianity’s culture, language and traditions.  Furthermore, we should continue to embrace the call for all Catholics to be priests, prophets and king by actively participating in the liturgy and spreading God’s transforming love into the world via the New Evangelization.

05 October 2012

Laboring to Take the "L" Out of the BLS Jobs Numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that the September unemployment rate dropped from 8.2% to 7.8%. This occurred even though only a paltry 114, 000 jobs were estimated to have occurred during this period as figures for July and August have been revised upwards. Still the U-3 rate dropped below the magic 8.0% which will allow President Obama to trumpet this achievement in the last month of his re-election campaign.

There are a couple of remarkable things about this BLS report. Firstly, if the labor force participation rate was the same as when Mr. Obama took office, the rate would be reported as 10% percent. The U-6 number which counts underemployment and people who have given up looking for work is still around 14%. President Obama promised that if the $847 Billion stimulus was passed in 2009 that unemployment would never rise above 8%. Moreover Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s former Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors claimed after the stimulus passed the unemployment rate in September 2012 would be 5.8%. This irrational exuberance was used to pass Porkulous.

But most people are not going to delve into the green eyeshade numbers. They will hear the Obama 2012 campaign proclaim that these are the best unemployment figures since 2009! These numbers do not add up. Economists presume that the American economy needs to create 175,000 jobs a month to decrease the unemployment rate a 0.1% downward. The September jobs report only indicated 114,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate drops 0.4% –amazing! If we are to believe it, this is the highest monthly job rates gain in 29 years.

However, it is typical in the Obama Administration to proclaim a rosy initial number and then quietly revise them upward when out of the limelight. This time, the prior numbers were tweaked to make the September number shine. Moreover, the upward revision come in government jobs. The monthly average in 2011 was 153,000 jobs but in 2012 that average is 146,000 jobs. So the number of employed decreases by 7,000 jobs a month yet the unemployment rate keeps dropping.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric reacted via Twitter: “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers.” For those who doubt that politics are not engaged in how unemployment numbers are calculated, consider the case of Lockheed Martin.

 The impending Sequestration cross the board cuts should require government defense contractors to obey the law and WARN their workers 60 days prior to the layoff. Since sequestration takes effect on January 2nd 2013, that would have required pink slips to be sent just before the election. But per Jack Tapper at ABC News, the White House requested that Lockheed Martin did not follow the law and send these WARN notices. The OMB urged contractors to avoid waste and disruption due to these layoff notices. The guidance told contractors that the government would cover certain liability costs associated with not complying with the WARN law but only if the contractor abides by the Obama Administration wish not to send out notices now.

This circumventing of WARN is troubling for several reasons. It shows the leviathan government dictating to business on how to operate for the government’s benefit. Some might call that shades of fascism. It also is another flagrant violation of the rule of law by the Obama Administration. When a law is inconvenient or the Obama Administration agrees, the rule is ignored and contractors are forced to follow, lest future contracting be endangered. Thirdly, the WARN work around bribes businesses to do Obama Administration bidding on the taxpayers dime. Congress had clear intent when they passed it in 1988. And the last time I read the Constitution, Congress makes budgetary decisions, not the Executive Branch. But then again, Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrat controlled Senate have failed to do their jobs and pass a budget in over 1200 days. Lastly, the WARN Act was supposed to give a heads up to lowly workers being laid off. So why is Obama against giving the little guy a heads up when they are losing their jobs.

While the nation is hungry for economic improvement, these reports are a mirage that make the Obama 2012 campaign messaging easier but does not reflect reality. Maybe the BLS can revise their moniker and take the superfluous “L” away.

h/t: R.J. Matson 

04 October 2012

Using Our Brains When Voting

A couple of days ago, the Obama 2012 Campaign posted a plucky piece on Tumblr urging its youthful users to vote with their “Lady Parts."

After this unorthodox "Lady Parts" appeal for support drew outraged criticism, the post was quickly withdrawn and the campaign maintained that it was not properly vetted. But considering the emphasis that the DNC convention put on protecting “Women’s Health Services” (read abortion on demand), even so far as to give Georgetown Law School graduate Sandra Fluke a prime time speaking spot to tout free contraception in Obamacare.

 This was not an unexpected bundle of joy. The Lady Parts campaign was trying to be hip and capitalize on a wedge issue on social media site. When it became inconvenient, it was aborted. Sound familiar?

 While the Obama “Lady Parts” campaign is gone, it is not forgotten. Social media sharing sites also posted this retort:

 Maybe after Obama’s disastrous debate performance in Denver, it is reasonable to expect the endangered incumbent to come out swinging and try to rally the base by trumpeting these comfortable liberal social policy memes which worked so well in the past.

 But now that Romney and Obama share a stage which gives them equal stature, it is not as easy to demonize an opponent who can not make a timely response. Now that people are paying attention to the Presidential race in earnest, I expect that voters will use their brains when exercising their franchise.

03 October 2012

Preparing for the First Presidential Debate in Denver

Tonight is the first of the three scheduled head-to-head debates between incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA).  These debates are the only times that voters are able to see both candidates on the same stage.  So it is not just the candidate’s articulation of the issues, but also how they comport themselves.

Depending upon the debate rules, these encounters can sometimes seem more like side-by-side press conferences.  This is less likely when there are only two candidates on stage.  Moderator Jim Lehrer who formerly anchored PBS’s NewsHour before retiring  have promised that the first three segments will touch on the economy, with the remaining questions to center on health care, governance and the role of government. 

Both candidates have been engaged in several days of intense debate preparation and have tried to lower expectations.  Governor Romney engaged in twenty debates among Republican Presidential nominee challengers during the primaries, whereas President Obama has not needed to verbally spar since October 2008.  Still the public believes that Mr. Obama’s oratory abilities will outshine the GOP challenger.  

Both White House and Obama 2012 campaign spokesmen have strived to lower expectations for incumbent candidate Obama.  Aside from being rusty in the practice of debating, the Obama camp has also floated the idea that the President is too busy handling pressing situations in the Middle East to concentrate on debate preparation. Maybe Obama PR flack Jen Psaki meant the Maghreb, where an Ambassador and three special operations soldiers were assassinated in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/2012.  Well, Mr. Obama has been spending several days at the Westin Lake Las Vegas resort, which has both a Mid East theme AND a golf course–perfect!  

Alas, Mr. Obama revealed that he found debate preparation to be a drag.   Barack Obama’s debate preparations has been aided by former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, who as also aided with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Campaign.  So perhaps if the President goes off script, Mr. Obama may refer to Ms. Dunn’s favorite political philosopher–Mao Tse Tung

People often do not remember many policy points from debates, but impressions drawn from debates influence their outlooks.  The Lamestream Media has spent the better part of September trumpeting perceived flaws by candidate Romney, including the old footage of the 47% and parroting Obama talking points that Romney shoots first and aims later on the violence in Egypt and Libya.  Even though all of the Presidential debates are chocked full of liberal questioners, history has shown that Mr. Romney’s appearance on the same stage as the President will elevate his stature among the electorate. 

[L] John Kennedy  [R] Richard Nixon during 1960 debate
Appearance can definitely matter.  Although those who listened to the 1960 Presidential debates on the radio thought that then Vice President Richard Nixon bested then Senator John Kennedy (D-MA).  But Nixon’s pasty pallor (he had been hospitalized) along with his five-o’clock shadow and grey suit did not look good on black-and-white television.  Hence TV viewers thought that Kennedy won.  

[L] George HW Bush, [C] Ross Perot [R] Bill Clinton in '92 debate 
During the 1992 Richmond Virginia Townhall Presidential Debate, viewers took note of President George Herbert Walker Bush looking down at his watch during the debate.  This gesture was intended to remind the moderator that then Governor Bill Clinton (D-AK) had exceeded his allotted time.  But the public interpreted this as detachment and reflected poorly upon the incumbent’s re-election candidacy.  

And who can forget Vice President Al Gore’s bizarre  behavior during debates, crowding his opponent then Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) during town hall forums exchanges and giving audible sighs during his opponents answers.  Viewers did not put their disdain in a “lock box”.  In fact, it was so laughable that Saturday Night Live mocked it.

SNL Parody of 2000 Debate [L] fake Al Gore [R] Fake George W. Bush 

There is a theory which postulates that likability is a key factor for people on choosing Presidents.  After all, once elected, the President of the United States is in our homes every day through television appearances.  Thus  low-information voters want someone who will not be too irritating to see every day. 

1976 Debate [L] Jimmy Carter [R] Gerald Ford
Another thing that people take away from debates are flubs.  During the 1976 Presidential Debates, incumbent President Gerald R. Ford claimed that “Poland was free”.  What he meant to say is that the Polish peoples’ spirit of freedom could never be taken away.  But that bad quote was out there and did not help Ford win.  

1988 Debate [L] George H.W. Bush [R] Michael Dukakis
Then there are gaffes which may contain the right answer but are instances that the candidate does not successfully sell himself.  In 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis gave a straight but dispassionate answer on the Death Penalty when he was asked how he would feel if his wife was raped. Later, Dukakis gave a legalese reply to a question about a proposed Flag Burning Amendment which some pundits claimed won the hearts and minds of fourteen lawyers while losing three million votes.  

Viewers tend to remember zingers in debates, which often are prescripted but a candidate needs to be able to sell it.  In 1984, the 73 year old incumbent President Ronald Reagan had a shaky appearance in the first Presidential debate, which raised concerns among the media that the old man may not have been up to continue the job.  So as the second debate began, Mr. Reagan famously promised not to exploit former Vice President Walter Mondale’s youthfulness and inexperience in the campaign.

1984 Presidential Debate  [L] Ronald Reagan jokes with [R] Walter Mondale

That bon mot caused even Mr Mondale to crack up, which allayed any concerns and sealed the deal with the electorate. 

For those of you who consider politics to be just infotainment, you might consider the drinking game for the Presidential debates

As fun as that sounds, that won't be the way that I watch the Denver Debate.  I will be covering the debate by live blogging it under the  CalamityDC alias on Twitter using the #DenverDebate hashtag.  

I encourage people interested in public affairs to join in the live comments.  It used to be that political junkies would wait to watch the spin-rooms after the main event to listen to pundits tell you what to think.  Now with the advent of social media, parroting the pontification of pundits is unnecessary and your real time opinions can be shared.