Vice President Biden Came Loaded for Bear and with Facts

I found the Vice Presidential debates to be far more to my liking than the Presidential back-and-forth. I loved that Joe Biden was fearless, and that finally, finally someone called both Ryan and Romney on their bold-faced lies and wishful thinking. Okay, I could have lived without Biden's grinning, gloating, and grimacing while Ryan was painting himself into corner after corner. It made me wonder what part of Al Gore's grinning-gloating-grimacing or the fall-out from it (thanks to the rabid press and talking heads), he had missed. He fared better than Gore when it came to the press, though I must admit I never turn on FOX or right wing radio. I listened to Rush once, but I'm too delicate a creature to subject myself to that kind of abuse more than once.

I think that he pretty much made up for President Obama's semi-comatose performance. He even confronted Ryan on things that were left to float in the air after the Presidential debate. There was a moment that stands out in my memory: the Malarkey Moment. Martha Raddatz of ABC News was the Moderator. She was centered, grounded, and very good at keeping things moving in a timely manner. She hit the ground running with question one, which was about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. She shot to Ryan, who had won the coin toss. He launched into a spiel about how it was all the fault of the administration and repeated Romney's ill-timed, ill-mannered and ill-considered attack on the President--which came before anyone really knew what had happened--to which, after a kind of palsey walsey exchange between the two candidates about the word, Biden simply called what Ryan had said, "with all due respect, a bunch of malarkey..." and then proceeded to shred Ryan's every lie and every word. He may have taken a liberty or two with himself in the process, but it was service to a good cause. I'll quote him here so in case you missed the debate, you'll get the idea:
“Number one, I will be very specific, number one, this lecture on embassy security -- ­­ the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece.
“Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement which was panned by the media around the world. And this talk about this, ­­this weakness. I don't understand what my friend's talking about here.”
Also, he brought up what the President had failed to: that great old 47 percent remark that Romney made to a group of fellow rich guys that was secretly recorded for posterity. Vice President Biden had no kind words for Romney's excuses and flashed a genuine smile at Ryan as he looked him in the eyes and said, "The idea,­­ if you heard that ­­little soliloquy on 47 percent and you think he just made a mistake, then I think you're ­­--­­ I think ­­I got a bridge to sell you.” And so it went, point for point.

Debate, or Debacle?

Normally, I would just launch into a piece exploring specifics of Wednesday night’s debate, grudgingly giving Romney a thumbs up for what appeared to be a winning performance, but was later determined to be a bunch of half truths and lies mixed with a smattering of reality. But the thing that plagued and intrigued me most was: what was President Obama thinking while he was behaving in such a, for lack of a better way of putting it, unpresidential manner. Once the thought appeared in my head it became the gift that kept on giving. Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s still my President. One bad performance doesn’t change that for me, and nothing could turn Mitt Romney into someone who should, in my opinion, in any way be trusted to run the country I love, nor should his party of “me first, me first, me first” be given an opportunity to drag us back to a time best forgotten. So:

What was Obama Thinking?
  • Looking at Mitt’s perky pink face is the last thing on my list of “how I want to spend my anniversary!”
  • Is he reading my mind? Did I just hear him open with: “And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — here with me, so I — (laughter) — congratulations.
  • Michelle really does look so beautiful.
  • Wait a minute! What’s that he just said about protecting the middle class? That’s not what he’s been saying! I don’t think I can call him a liar. Damn!
  • Is it me, or are Mitt’s eyes blinking like a broken traffic light?
  • Wait another minute! Now he’s shifted his position on Healthcare and Medicare and using my words to do it. What’s with this guy?
  • Wow there he goes again, pretending he’s smart, when he’s clearly swallowed Mitch McConnell’s Kool-Aid:
  • I gotta get in a remark about the 47 percent, but wait a minute; did he just say Big Bird?
  • Am I hallucinating? ‘Cause I thought I just heard him put down Big Bird.
  • Aw, come on Mitt, leave Jim Lehrer alone!
  • There he goes with that shit-eating, eye batting grin again...
  • Phew, only fifteen minutes to go. What could happen now?
  • Oh, hey that was an outright lie!
  • And another! Can I call him on it or will that sound uppity?
  • Liar, liar pants on…
  • Oh, shit. What’s the point?

Why Obama Lost

On a more serious note, I’m posting an article by George Lakoff, whom I greatly admire. He is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute. 

Why Obama Lost the First Debate 
by George Lakoff (Photo: Reuters)
Published on Thursday, by Common Dreams

You don’t win a presidential debate by being a policy wonk. Obama violated all the basics of presidential debating. The best defense is a good offense. You have to set the terms of the debate and press those terms. Obama failed. Here are those:
  • State your moral values. Contrast them with your opponent’s.
  • Project empathy and enthusiasm. Connect.
  • Communicate clearly and simply.
  • Be authentic. Say just what you believe.
  • Project trust.
  • Present an authentic view of yourself that the public can identify with and be proud of.
Obama did none of this. Instead he talked about policy details. 
He needed to come on strong from the first sentence. 
Democracy is based on citizens caring about and taking responsibility for both themselves and for the well-being of all. Government is the instrument that citizens use to guarantee protection and empowerment for all. We all, together, provide what is needed for a decent life. Individual accomplishment rests on what other Americans have provided and keep providing. 
Building the economy requires public investment — in public infrastructure, education, research, and much more. 
Success is much more than money. It is your contribution to America as a whole — whether it is teaching, raising children, providing food, healing the sick, making useful products, guaranteeing our rights and our safety, or running businesses that make life better. America needs us all. And we all depend on each other. Personal responsibility is necessary. But it doesn’t. 
Obama made a lame attempt to correct Jim Lehrer’s use of “entitlements.” He should have pointed out that such money is earned through a life. People have worked for, and contributed earnings. 
All policies rest on morality — upon being the right thing to do. Obama needed to make the case that it is right, as well as to support women’s rights, and gay rights, safe food, education, basic research, and on and on.
Obama believes this. To win, he needs to say what he believes, and press Romney. 
George Lakoff is the author of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (co-authored with Elizabeth Wehling). His previous books include Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom? and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

I would recommend one other article, which was sent to me by my friend Blake Franklin. It is an editorial titled, Obama for President: A Second Term for a Serious Man. It ran in from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the newspaper that I read every day for the two years I spent as a student at Washington University.

What We Do Pays Off

I thought it would be a good idea to let you know that thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet Activism reaches across borders, cultures, communities and issues to make significant change, to influence, to raise awareness, and raise funds for projects, organization, ideas and individuals. The following are examples of the things we the people have influenced and accomplished with our participation, our keyboards, our letters and our passion.

Earlier this year, you helped us by asking retailers to remove Paseo toilet paper from their grocery store shelves because it was known to be made from fiber supplied by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a company causing devastating rain forest destruction in Sumatra.

We have great news: Paseo has been discontinued and soon will no longer be found on store shelves across the U.S.!

More recently, Dollar General, one of the largest buyers of private label tissue in the U.S., also confirmed to WWF that it has made a commitment to stop sourcing both paper towels and tissue from Sumatra's forests for its private label brands, recognizing that they can have a positive impact in saving this critical tiger, elephant and orangutan habitat through their purchasing decisions.

There is more to do, and WWF continues work to protect the lush rain forests of Sumatra that suffer from what may be the world's fastest rate of deforestation.

Nate C. Hindman wrote an article about the iconic St. Marks Books for Huffington Post. “At a rally last fall in New York’s East Village celebrating the end of a long battle between the 35-year old St. Mark’s Bookshop and its landlord, Cooper Union, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer praised the school's decision to reduce the store’s rent, allowing St. Mark's to fend off foreclosure. He told crowds that he was confident the deal would help keep the beloved shop open for “another 35 years!” 

Stringer was wrong. For St. Mark’s the rent once again became too high and though they had good clientele which ranged over time from Susan Sontag, Annie Leibovitz, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, and William Burroughs, to college students to tourists, to neighbors who popped in to browse and spend what they could. They tried one thing after another and landed on crowdfunding, a fundraising tool that allows entrepreneurs to collect small sums of money from many people over the Internet to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowdfunding has been a boon to St. Marks Books. Their current location is 31 Third Avenue, still in the same wonderful, very New York neighborhood. I received the following from them when I signed and circulated a petition and wrote a letter to friends asking them to go there and shop, shop, shop. We can always help.

Dear Friends of the Bookshop,
We wanted to take a second to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity, but more importantly for your support. By pledging on our project you have not only helped us financially, but have shown the world that bookstores still matter. As of this afternoon we have surpassed our goal of $23,000 on our Lucky Ant campaign! [note: the campaign has since ended]. This is not the end of the road for us. The move could cost upwards of $100,000 in total, but this first big chunk at least guarantees that we will keep fighting because you have shown everyone that there is a reason to.
On Lucky Ant, we can surpass our goal. We know we probably won't hit $100,000, but with a little more than 3 days left we'd like to see how far we can get. Every little bit helps (we don't ever want to have to do this again)! So, if you've procrastinated on pledging, the campaign is still active . If you have already pledged or can't, thank you again and please take a second to share the link one last time. Thank you again for your amazing support - you guys are awesome!...

Bob Contant, partner/owner said “Amazon didn’t suddenly appear in 2008,” and Mr. McCoy, 67, said, “but our sales fell off then. The store is a great browsing experience. It’s a curated thing. I don’t think you can get that online.” 

Thomas Haynesworth addressed an overflow crowd, at the Petersburg Virginia Good Shepherd Baptist Church’s Re-entry Forum, sponsored by the Petersburg Sheriff’s office. Haynesworth has devoted his life to the emotional health and well-being of others who face the kind of issues he faced. He explains how serving 27 years for a wrongful conviction and his faith fueled his passion to help others. 

Left: In 1984, at 18; Right: In 2011, at 46
On a Sunday morning in February 1984, Thomas Haynesworth’s mother asked her 18 year old son to go to the Trio Supermarket to pick up some bread and sweet potatoes for their Sunday dinner, but he never completed his errand. As he walked along he was stopped by the police for no apparent reason, who then proceeded to arrest him on suspicion of rape. There had been a series of five assaults and rapes in his neighborhood, his color was alleged to be that of the perpetrator, and he was falsely accused by the victim who miss-identified him. He was tried for four of the rapes, convicted of three of them and sentenced to 84 years in prison.

At no time did Mr. Haynesworth ever admit to the rapes though the evidence and witness statements argued with his protestations No one believed him, though a man named Leon Davis, a known serial rapist aka the Black Ninja, had been charged for other rapes along the same time line. Haynesworth’s fight for freedom finally took a turn in 2009, when the state’s department of forensic evidence tested the DNA from the first rape as part of a broad review of old case files. Mr. Haynesworth was paroled, but had limitations. At that point the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system stepped up for Haynesworth. The case became a public affair, circulating petitions and raising an outcry as the Innocence Project worked until the now 46-year-old Haynesworth was completely exonerated all charges.

Haynesworth said “There are a lot of people behind the scenes who believed in me. Twenty-seven years, I never gave up. I kept pushing. I ain’t give up hope. I am very happy. Me and my family can finally put this behind us, and I can go on with my life. And I can finally vote.”