Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shooting the shooting

So yesterday, Fox News apparently broadcast a live suicide during the course of covering a car chase. It's sad that the man felt a need to kill himself. And I thought Shepard Smith handled it well in the immediate aftermath.

But I think if anything, Fox should apologize for covering the chase live. Things like that generally aren't the province of national cable news, where it smacks of sensationalism. At best, it should have been a story after the fact, when the details of the chase and its perpetrator, as well as its relevance, are known. This would also allow the network to alert sensitive viewers to the content of the story.

Which is another thing. Smith said the problem was that Fox didn't delay its live coverage properly. They should apologize for that too; in my opinion, there's no proper way to delay live coverage. Live events should bring with them the understanding that anything could happen. I'm hardly a crass sensationalist, but I object to the idea of censoring news as it happens. I understand sensitivity concerns, but that's no more reason for censorship than unpopular views.

The solution is simple enough: if networks focus less on cheap exploitation, the less likely they are to slam into outcomes such as this. R. Budd Dwyer moments are rare, but high-speed car chases tend to have bad endings. No one — journalist or viewer — should be surprised when an event ends as it might.

There's also the question of how graphic news coverage should be, with its balance between exploitation and keeping people in the dark. But that's another discussion entirely.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The first draft of Goodell's apology

(Read the final draft here)

To NFL Fans (who may or may not be dear):

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations. (Indeed, I can’t think of anything I can’t stand worse than anyone focusing on labor negotiations. Look! Cheerleaders!)

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. (As for the officials? Eh.) That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. (Flag, stoic, self-refereeing and available only on pay-per-view.) The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do. (Especially when it comes to saving money, because those new concussion-resistant helmets aren’t cheap.)

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment (or in the non-passion of thinking about them for an extended period of time), but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next (in the sense that the Times-Picayune is improving itself by cutting back on everything).

I believe in accountability, not excuses. (Honest!) And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. (Actually, what I said was, give the replacement officials time to get better.) You deserve better. (But not better than me, Roger Goodell.)

As a lifelong fan (of money), this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved (though it totally could have been). I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task (being the living, breathing scapegoat of corporate greed) and doing it with focus and dedication (sort of) in the most adverse of circumstances (woefully inadequate training, fans).

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating (you’re welcome). More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run (and by that I’m essentially conceding that we were willing to compromise the quality of the game to make a selfish point, albeit not in those exact words). While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms (though probably not in the front office, where it’s most desperately needed). For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field (as unpopular an idea as that is). In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. (We hope that structure works as well as our new four-day football week, which is motivated by profit. Just like the new Times-Pic print schedule. It’s nice to know we’re not the only New York-based entity shoveling mounds of questionably merited hate at New Orleans. At least we’re around more days per week!)

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. (Which, again, is totally weren’t what we were saying during the lockout, but whatever.) It's time to put the focus where it belongs -- on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion. (So please, please, PLEASE stop focusing on me and my terrible leadership!)

(Sincerely, maybe)
Roger Goodell

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Also, who would I give the finger to?

Decades from now, this blog could very well rank on a par with the "Bah! Man will never fly, harrumph!" predictions of the early 20th century. I'll take that chance.

Driverless cars? Apparently that could be a thing soon. 

I have at least one friend who loves this idea. He's legally blind. I understand his enthusiasm, as I would of anyone for whom mobility is an issue of dependence. I did a lot of walking around Lafayette in my high school days, so I get it. And studies show that not having to undertake the rigors of driving during transit leaves people calmer and happier. "Arrive human," as one activist put it in a book I read once. (I'm nothing if not thorough with my citations.)

Still, I'm not sure if I like the idea of driverless cars. Why?

1) I like to drive. The Wall Street Journal insists that the American love affair with cars is fueled (literally) by an aggressive petroleum industry. It's an intriguing argument, but one that doesn't explain my interest at all. For me, driving is about being in control of my mobility and about strengthening my reflexes and intuition, which in turn help in other aspects of my life. While many motorists speak fetishistically about the roar of the engine, the squeal of the tires and how fast they can get it up, that isn't the attraction for me. If my car was a hover vehicle powered by Pine Sol, the thrill would be the same for me. Also, I keep weird hours and tend to live in places where public transportation is referred to as euphemistically as Barack Obama and consequently funded as such.

2) I like vehicles. As a child, I had hundreds of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. Later, I had cars I could sit on and push up and down the sidewalk with my feet. After that, a bicycle. Then, way after that, real automobiles. No matter what age I was, I treated them right. I pretended to fix my toy cars. I got a maintenance manual for my bike when I was 10 years old and kept my wheels in tip-top shape. I've done the same for both motor vehicles I've had, as well as for most things I own. I keep appliances for a very long time and running as smoothly as possible. And it started because I liked cars all those years ago.

3) I'm a good driver. In the 14 years I've had a driver's license, I've never been in an accident or even a passenger in an accident (knock on wood). I've gotten one traffic and one parking ticket each, but the defensive driving course I took as a result of the traffic ticket taught me tricks I still use today. What I've learned in all this time is that being a smart driver requires a lot of human intellect and savvy. Which is why I wonder:

4) Can drone cars be trusted? I get that we use unmanned drones in Libya (as my fellow liberal friends are always quick to point out, whenever they're worried they come off as liking the president) and that cars can indeed be programmed to safely drive an exact route. My question is, what if it glitches up like computers tend to do? Can an automatic car take me to Walgreen's on an impulse trip at midnight if I need Alka-Seltzer? Can it parallel park on Carondelet Street in New Orleans at lunchtime? Even if they do have fallback driver controls — which some say they might not have — doesn't that imply that I'll have to sideseat-drive anyway? I fail to see how having to pay attention like a driver, without actually being able to drive, is an improvement. And that's a best-case scenario. At worst, I picture a Robocop-vs.-ED-209-type battle on the freeways. Brains vs. Bots as fostered by technological arrogance. And now here's Michael Bay with the traffic report!

5) Does this address our traffic and pollution issues? I don't see how it could in a notable fashion, aside from more efficient public transportation as a result of programmed routes. If that isn't going on already. Knight Rider may drive itself, but it still has to go to the gas station. And no doubt looks forward to it.

6) What happens when vandals strike? Cars today are complicated enough without the potential for full-on hackery. Could a prankster reprogram a car's route in the same way they can rig autocorrect on a word-processing program to change every word to "bitch"? On the other hand, it is hilarious to imagine a carjacker forced to endure a ride to Hobby Lobby because that's where the car has to go.

7) You still have to own and maintain the car. While a lot of drivers don't know jack about their cars, even the most illiterate motorists can identify problems through driving. We stand the potential of losing that intuition at a time when car trouble could become a lot more troublesome.

Despite all this, the auto-driving concept could be useful for certain situations, including for the blind, children, emergency enforcement and military, if the technology catches up to the potential pitfalls. In that respect, it's a worthwhile pursuit. 

Just don't sell it as the golden ticket to toss our licenses forever. That's a non-starter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The (real) official NFL official statement

Dear You People,

Last night, NFL football fans witnessed one of the most thrilling conclusions that any game can muster — the Hail Mary pass. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a desperation attempt into a crowd, with wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings ultimately fighting for the ball.

While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Packers cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. But it wasn’t called, so it didn’t happen and thus nothing to regret. Screw it.

When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined, hilariously, that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. Under the rule that actually applied, the one where the defender decisively had charge of the ball from air to ground, the ball belongs to Jennings. But eh, his name was too long.

The call on the field was a touchdown. Or touchback. Or incomplete pass. Depending on which official you were facing.

"OK, we've got the X and F ... who's got L?"
We chose touchdown because, under official replacement rules, the official with the highest hands crosses the plane of correctness. At least, I think. Guys? Let’s huddle up and figure this out real quick.

The play was reviewable via instant replay because it took place in the end zone. We could determine who, if anyone, had possession. The instant replay booth is really neat. You don’t see this spiffy stuff in D-III or in the Lingerie League.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field that we chose, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. See, to overturn an on-field call, you have to have indisputable evidence. And at the time, we didn’t have the photo that’s become a meme on Facebook and Twitter. Or, apparently, eyes.

You'd think there'd be at least one nuclear-green glove on the ball at any point.
The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the horribly incorrect on-field ruling following the instant replay review. The result of the game is final. As if you didn’t see that coming.

Have we overturned a game, ever? I think not. That would be un-American! And if there’s one thing America never does, it’s overturn past decisions, no matter how awfully they reflect upon us.

The NFL has a long and proud tradition of integrity, one that would only be besmirched by reversing the verdict of the play. Think of the precedent that would set. Fans would be furious! You’d accuse us of harming the integrity of the game. And here at the NFL, integrity is our hallmark. We know you won’t stand for controversy. Neither will we.

Applicable rules of the play are as follows: (Take notes, replacements)

A player must catch the ball to catch the ball.

Book of Goodell 8:1: Definition of catch. A catch is when the ball falls into a receiver’s hands and the player, when legally inbounds, maintains possession. A catch is not when any of that doesn’t happen.

Book of Goodell 8:3: Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. If the defender catches the ball in a decisive manner to where there is no doubt, like last night, but the call is stupid, too bad. Because:

Book of Goodell 8:4: Infallibility. Even when we’re wrong, we’re not wrong.

Amen.

Love,
Your NFL Superiors

(Read the real thing here)

It's just a game ... a crumbling game

I know I'm not the most rational football fan. Unlike some people, it takes me time to recover from a bad loss or a call I perceive as a travesty. I am fully aware of this and am trying harder to put it in perspective. Part of my problem, if you can call it that, is that I see too much of what's wrong in American politics and business in the NFL these days.

That's why I'm bristling at those who suggest that "it's just a game" or that Roger Goodell won't change anything because "fans are still watching and going to the games." Both sentiments are correct, to a degree. But on another level, both are wrong.

I get that it's just a game. But it should still be the best game it can be. It isn't, and it's deliberately so because the league wants to cheat officials of their pension plans — a small fraction of the overall labor agreement that can be attributed to greed. I've heard talk that this could technically count as consumer fraud. In spirit at least, it absolutely is.

As for the bottom-line argument, this is also hard to argue. At least as far as this season is concerned, since ticket holders have mostly already put their cash down. But as Goodell himself has shown us with his Saints actions, future fallout can be a bitch. And unlike with Bountyhate, there's no reasonable doubt as to the catalyst in this case.

The game sucks and it sucks because the moneybags at the top don't care that it sucks. 

In the late '90s, I conceived a story about a football team in a low-budget league run by a greedy old man whose philosophy was, "I like winning. But I don't care if we win as long as we get asses in the seats. These morons will be dazzled just to be at a game of some sort. What the hell else is there to do here? Get talent if you can afford it, but don't try too hard." 

Should've written my crappy, derivative story before it became crappy, derivative nonfiction.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Saints-Chiefs postmortem

• This is the first Saints game analysis in 2012 that I can call a postmortem, because "postmortem" translates into "after death" and it's the first week there's been any life in the team to kill.

• I was lucky to score a free ticket from a longtime friend during Rising Tide 7. His invitation was such an unexpected thrill that I wasn't even that bothered when I discovered a few minutes later that my car battery had died — or that my cell phone battery died too right after letting my mom know I was stranded in New Orleans without a working car or home charger.

Both of these items were near-casualties of my ritual post-game fit.
• It's well known among the Ian Saints Syndicate that, with one exception each, I cannot wear a Saints T-shirt or jersey during game time and expect a win, a custom that dates back to 2006. Because I brought no extra clothes to New Orleans this weekend, I had no Saints gear, lucky or unlucky; instead, I wore a dark polo shirt and jeans (perfect clothing for strolling the Big Easy on a sunny day, if you want to smell like a taco). This went a long way toward my plan to jinx all of my clothing.

• We tailgated at a corner right next to a place where I've applied for a job. The building's beauty and proximity to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome piqued my interest even more. 

• Boy Scouts handed out promotional penlights that shoot out an image of the Saints helmet that I nicknamed the "Dat Signal." We joked, as I'm sure tens of thousands of others did yesterday afternoon, that we could use these to call Sean Payton in the inevitable time of distress.

NANANANANANANANANANA ... PAY-TON! PAY-TON!
• This was only my second in-person Saints game ever. The previous one was on Dec. 1, 2002, when the Saints topped the Super Bowl-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 23-20, in prime time on ESPN. It's a game distinguishable in every Michael Lewis, Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister highlight video by its then-rare throwback uniforms. Even when things started going south for the Saints yesterday, I didn't lose much hope, because it wasn't the first time I'd been there when the Saints squandered a double-digit lead and suffered a safety.

• The game was a blast for the three of five quarters that the Saints showed up. Though few will argue that they played anything like the powerhouse they've been in recent years, the team looked a lot tighter than they have so far in 2012 on both sides of the ball. And they did so despite consistently sucking in most individual aspects. 

• The karma-killing 91-yard TD run by Jamaal Charles wasn't a turning point; it was an about-face. It was like watching "From Dusk Till Dawn" — as if someone changed the channel, until you realize, no, it's just a bizarre continuation of the same thing.

• Let's get this straight: the Saints are playing far below even the lowered expectations set by Bountyhate and the official lockout that has rendered 2012 an exhibition season. But DAMN. THIS GAME WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER WITH NO OFFICIALS. It's not just that they took back at least two key Saints touchdowns (because at least one reversal was correct) or that they reversed nearly every one of the 227 calls that they reviewed at their merry leisure — it's that their own mistakes possibly directly affected the outcome of the game. In the case of the Saints' fumble recovery for a touchdown, for example, the refs blew the whistle too early. They ruled that the fumble recovery was good, but the TD didn't count. Because they incorrectly blew the whistle, which kills the live ball. There's no way CBS could accurately broadcast the cascade of boos. It felt therapeutic to join in. But that play was simply indicative of the bigger picture, which is the naked falsehood of Roger Goodell's insistence that the scab officials are going to get better. At this point, he sounds no more plausible than George W. Bush did about staying the course in Iraq. When officials aren't trained and experienced in the nuances of the pro game, the game ceases to be pro-level. Every big play becomes an "I believe it when I see it on SportsCenter" moment, an insecurity that could scar the NFL experience for years to come. One silver lining of the tedious officiating was that they initially called a Saints fumble recovery and touchdown in OT, which for a few minutes prior to its reversal allowed us to celebrate as if the Saints had won.

• The Cadillac Superdome also dropped the clichéd ball once by showing no replay of Garrett Hartley's missed field goal, which to those in my section looked good. With all of our uncertainty over official integrity, and with every point counting, we at least deserve a reverse angle of the missed kick.

• As upset as I was that the Saints turned a would-be rout into an overtime decision, and as much as I oppose the end of sudden death, overtime turned out to be gripping. The Saints defense finally showed up, albeit with zero help from the stalled offense. 

• Trying to figure out why the Saints folded so sharply is like trying to figure out why nearly my entire extended family got sick after Hurricane Isaac. You can focus on what everyone ate, what they were doing and what they brought with them to the house — but in the end, it's the close proximity that let the toxins truly reign free.

• That walk out of the BMW Superdome after the game was the ultimate walk of shame. I remarked to my friend how much more fun it had been back in 2002. The group I was with regularly attends home games, with occasional guests when regulars free up their tickets. One of the regulars, a guy I've known since high school, said to me, "I hope you don't come back." That was funny. I think.

• On the ride to Xavier University, where my car had sat uncrankable for the past day and a half, we heard the unbelievable Saints statistics — four first downs after the half and other things I can't remember now. We started talking about gorgeous women in the Superdome, New Orleans restaurants, what it's like to interview losing coaches, the perils of financial uncertainty — anything to keep our moods lighter in the wake of the loss. 

• In avoiding the interstate, my friend drove the scenic way through Loyola, Tulane and Audubon Park, which gave me the added benefit of charging my phone. I was able to reassure my mom and brother that I was still alive and had gone to the game. My mom had missed the game due to work, so I was the one who broke to her the outcome. Always fun.

• In case you're wondering, yes, we got my car working again. It held up through the bottlenecked traffic on I-10 and I got home with no problem. Near the airport, a car with a Louisiana plate and adorned with Steelers flags pulled alongside me. It had five guys in it. They'd seen my Saints license plate and were all looking at me. I nodded and mouthed, "I know," and they all laughed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm sure that it's in no way racist

A Republican in Austin, Texas, is making national headlines for hanging a folding chair from a rope in his front yard. But I'm sure it's been grossly misinterpreted, as so many of these statements are. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of statements this yard display could be making that are in no way implying that he'd like to see President Obama be the victim of a highly racist method of mob justice:


• It's not racist, it's anti-chair, because chairs promote sitting, which promotes laziness.

• It isn't about hatred for chairs so much as love for couches.

• Poorly built tree swings are part of his proud heritage.

• The political statement here is that, like the chair, he leans to the right.

• It's not anti-Obama, it's pro-Romney, because like the chair, Romney doesn't fold.

• The chair represents America, you see, and it's holding on by a thread (the rope).

• The chair represents a piñata, but if you swing at it expecting free candy, all you'll get is a whack in the face from the metal — and thus your lesson about American bootstrappery!

• The four legs represent our forefathers, the seat represents the seat of power in White House and the backrest symbolizes how we will take our country back and other Glenn Beck crap.

• It's a sundial — when you don't see a shadow, it's Get-A-Job o'clock.

• He's saying the president is well-hung. So, it's a compliment!

• It's a monument to Clint Eastwood's historic RNC speech that just happens to be hanging from a tree.

• It's this man's way of telling people to get off his lawn. Especially if they're Obama canvassers.

• It's a sign for his rope business, showing how well his rope holds weight from a tree branch, if ever you need that for some reason.

• He's saying Obama is the president he'd most like to hang ... with.

• It's a political-climate weathervane — if there's a hurricane, a looter will steal it.

• Whatever it means, tax cuts are probably involved.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One issue that IS black-and-white

As bitter as I am about the effect of the bounty scandal on my New Orleans Saints, you may be surprised that I'm actually angrier about the league's lockout of its top-tier officials. The Saints still stand a chance of rallying — they are, after all, a largely intact nucleus that's succeeded together for years. The same can't be said for these overwhelmed small-college officials.

If the Saints screw up, they can only blame the bounty to a point, and ultimately their standing will affect only themselves. But consistently terrible play-calling affects not just multiple teams, but could harm the entire season and the integrity of the game itself.

It's interesting how this dispute falls so clearly along political lines. In a way, it even mirrors the current presidential cycle.

On one hand, you have officials fighting for a fair compensation package and pension. Fans upset about the slowed pace of the game and questionable calls and non-calls. Retired officials and players confirming the deterioration. Most of whom aren't blaming the officials themselves, but the conditions that led to this situation.

On the other side are Roger Goodell, Jerry Jones and the rest of the plutocrats, along with their defenders who insist the problem is union thuggery. They insist the officials will get better so we should just put up with it.

It's not difficult for me to pick a side.

Ultimately, the NFL brass is going to lose. All the money and misinformation in the world can't counter the fact that everyone — defenders included — is angry over the prospect of putting up with this drop-off in quality much longer. It's a lot like politics — easy to side with the big boys until you see for yourself how badly their policies ruin things.

This is the NFL's Mitt Romney moment.

Just PAC it in already

Remember when the McCain campaign saw Hillary Clinton's appeal, and tried to woo her disaffected voters with Sarah Palin?

Remember when Republicans saw Barack Obama's appeal, and tried to replicate it with Herman Cain?

And how the religious right tries to disprove some micro-aspect of evolution, thinking doing so will validate the entire Creation story?

Well, a Koch-run, pro-Romney super PAC is making an equally intelligent call.

For weeks, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has run ads in which former Obama voters explain why they’ve given up on the guy.

To be fair, we've all heard Obama supporters express disappointment at something or another throughout his administration. It's inevitable, given the fickle nature of progressive supporters and the GOP opposition hindering the Democratic president.

But I have yet to hear anyone sincerely say this: "I'm disillusioned with Obama, so I'll be voting for Mitt Romney." Indeed, as the campaign intensifies, I've heard many of these skeptics come around to the president again. Just as I said they would last year. Because in a presidential election, the prevailing question becomes, "Who is the most competent and qualified candidate for president among those running?" That is the question this super PAC campaign dodges to its detriment.

However, as the ads show, apparently there are former Obama voters who are sufficiently miffed to join Team Romney. Just who are these swinging cats?

It took much of a year for Bannon to find them, aided by pollsters Pat Caddell and Kendra Stewart. They held focus groups with over 1,000 participants, in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio. The best subjects made it into the movie. 

It took a year for a Breitbart hack and two pollsters to find these people? Does Roger Goodell need a year to find a handful of NFL fans who despise him? To say nothing of the fact that, a year ago, it was probably way easier to find a hyperbolic Democrat who might conceivably align with an undetermined GOP candidate. How hard could it have been? After all, isn't the message that these people reflect a massive tidal wave of shifting support too gigantic to ignore?

“These people still like Obama ... ”

And I'll bet that, barring any hopey-changey conservative plants, every one of these people will ultimately vote for Obama. Disappointment is a complex emotion, one that will not send any serious Obama voter beelining for the polar opposition that is Mitt Romney. I suspect the brains and pockets behind this ad campaign are fully aware of this, and hope that the bandwagon approach works. But just as they misunderstand why people vote Democrat, they also misunderstand why they won't vote Republican.

Maybe try a palatable platform next time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rich words from an unemployed man

The recently unearthed video of Mitt Romney dismissing nearly half of Americans as freeloaders interests me for numerous reasons. Not so much for how bad it makes him look (because he's been in that territory long enough for statehood by now), but for how devoted one man and one party can be to an odd talking point.


Both Republicans and Democrats often repeat themselves incessantly, which is why I'm grateful that Facebook has a feature that lumps common posts together (such as, "Jim J. James and 12 other friends posted about Mitt Romney") so I can open or close it by choice. The best of these are perspectives on a news story; the worst are when people (usually conservatives) begin spouting off some seemingly random talking point like a chorus.

Lately, even before the above video surfaced, I've been treated to a fresh round of anti-tax rhetoric by the usual Facebook suspects (not to mention everywhere else). Specifically, that income tax is the primary barometer of personal responsibility.

This is both wrong and stupid.

Wrong because while everyone might not pay income taxes, everyone does pay sales taxes. The main reason people don't pay income taxes is because 1) they lived on fixed income such as Social Security or 2) they don't earn enough money to do so. And if you're living on a four-digit income, sales tax feels like a bone-marrow donation. (To say nothing of payroll taxes that are capped and thus disproportionally eat up meager paychecks.) Also, there's a difference between 47 percent of the work force and 47 percent of all Americans Mitt fails to make that's kind of important here.

Stupid because the real "freeloaders" on income tax are wealthy evaders and corporations with deep-pocketed accountants — in other words, Romney's favorite people (and "people"). Pretty much the only group he hasn't yet completely alienated (aside from those whose whiteness guarantees their vote). For someone so apparently concerned about how many people he needs to win over to be president, Romney sure has no problem writing off half of Americans. His tactic of dismissing the 47 percent to gain 10 percent of the independent vote is true one-percenter thinking.

I'd say this is why Romney has a 1 percent chance of being president, but I'm not sure it's even that high anymore.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saints rant

Supporting a sports team is like being an American.

You have those who wave the pennant and tolerate no criticism of their team.

You have others who are undyingly loyal but willing to admit to flaws and criticize when appropriate.

Others say they want to like the team, but can’t until it returns to its sepia-toned glory days.

And still others insist that, even in its best days, the team is doomed to failure.

Of the four, I’m the second type. I love the Saints and always have. But sometimes I get pissed at them. Sometimes I go overboard with it.

Apparently I’m supposed to post a fleur-de-lis along with some platitude about how it doesn’t matter, yay boys, blah blah blah. Anything less is to be less of a fan.

Yes, I’m a fan. But I don’t cheer for the Saints just to be a fan. I want to see them win. Short of that, I want to see a team I can be proud of that has its stuff together, win or lose.

I get that we’re only two weeks into the 2012 season and that it’s too soon to write anyone off. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m mad at the Saints. I call it like I see it, and right now, they’re playing like crap. I’ve watched two games now where the Saints have performed in a manner that suggests far more has punched them than Roger Goodell’s iron fist. It’s a lackluster effort I abhor precisely because I know they’re capable of so much better.

Also, I don’t want Goodell’s neutering of the Saints to succeed exactly like all the haters said it would do. I want the New Orleans Saints to be the first team to win a Super Bowl in its own place. I want to see the look on Goodell’s flustered face when he awkwardly hands the Lombardi Trophy to the interim head coach of the franchise that he made the scapegoat of a wide-ranging problem based on dubious evidence. I want the Saints to overcome obstacles and silence the naysayers, because that’s what they do. And should be doing now more than ever.

Is that asking too much? Perhaps. But you know what isn’t the opposite of that? The fans who act like nothing is ever wrong. To a degree, optimism and perspective is fine, desirable even. But if the Saints have seemed unrecognizable, with an aimless defense and impotent offense, and those things don’t seem to be improving, then yes, I’m going to be pissed about that. And I’m going to say so.

I don’t say “I love you boys, no matter what,” because I would hope that’s implied. I don’t waste my time on lost causes. I think they can do better and if they can’t, they’ll regroup until that time comes back around again.

And I’m not just talking about Saints — I’m talking about America too. Ultimately, I feel the same way about both.

Because I like to think both have their best days ahead of them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mitt and the Childlike Economic Dreamcoat

Like most kids, I had a skewed view of money. I idolized million-dollar athletes and knew the MDA telethon made at least $50 million every year, so I figured I'd grow to earn $52 million a year as a pro baseball player. That seemed to be the boundary of wealth. I didn't want to replicate the financial struggles my parents and grandparents faced, making (as I assumed) a mere million a year.

One day I told my grandfather about my dream, probably asking him point-blank how much he'd made as an independent TV repairman. He said, "I've never made more than $100,000 in my entire life." In retrospect, I realize he never made anything close to that, but the exaggeration flew over my head at the time. To me, $100,000 seemed like a poverty wage. No wonder he sometimes received government peanut butter. That, combined with my parents' constant concerns about affording things, made me settle on the idea that I should be comfortable with $52 million a year.

Of course, I was 10 years old when in this frame of mind. I grew out of it. Mitt Romney never has.

BOSTON (AP) — Mitt Romney is promising to reduce taxes on middle-income Americans.

But how does he define “middle-income”? The Republican presidential nominee defined it as income of $200,000 to $250,000 a year.

Romney commented during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The Census Bureau reported this week that the median household income — the midpoint for the nation — is just over $50,000.

Well, of course middle class is $200,000 to $250,000 a year! No wonder it's shrinking — one raise or inflation bump and you're out of that narrow bracket!

It also explains the Republican argument that Obama has been hard on the middle class: the president vowed in 2009 to cut taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. That's mostly not the middle class! Those are poor welfare cheats! Isn't this fun?

For all the dismissal of the vast majority of Americans Mitt's distinction makes, it also raises another question — does this mean everyone making more than $250,000 is considered rich now? If so, that's a surprising revelation for the GOP. See, I've met very few people in my life of any income level who consider themselves wealthy, even if there's no doubt. It's an inversion of how people view their weight — they could always lose more weight and make more money. Few people ever say, "I make enough money" or, "I don't pay enough in taxes." When they do, they make the news. 

The Republican Party, with its mythos of anyone can be rich if they hustle a bit so to hell with the little people, is hesitant to define wealth. Doing so risks all sorts of rhetorical gymnastics later. This is why conservatives will so often preface economic arguments with, "Well, who are 'the rich?'" They want to quibble with your definition as a means to derail the conversation. So good on Romney for setting some parameters. Ridiculous, astoundingly out-of-touch parameters, sure, but parameters nonetheless.

I might have voted for Mitt Romney when I was 10. 

I'm sure my lack of photo ID wouldn't have been a problem.

Obama's night in metaphorical Bangkok

One of the biggest liberal criticisms of President Obama is that he's been lax, if not resistant, in rolling back the most egregious offenses of the Patriot Act. Although I don't conflate that with the Bush administration's aggressiveness in signing it into law, I've otherwise agreed with the criticism. But I realize the president has to compromise and prioritize, and that legislation with so many regulatory tentacles can't just vanish overnight. So being an overall supporter of Obama, I don't consider that a deal-breaker — just something I wish he'd handle differently.

Indefinite detention in particular is one of those things I didn't care to see the administration defend — but as this article from Addicting Info argues, said defense is actually a ploy to discard it for good, so maybe he shouldn't handle it differently:

What we are looking at here is a strategic maneuver by the President to strip away these provisions. The USA PATRIOT act put them where the courts could not easily touch them, so he worked hard to make sure that they were attached to the NDAA in just the right way to open up the door. He cut a deal to get certain judges in on certain dates, which put a judge he selected in to the correct court at just the right time for the NDAA signature. Then, he gave a strong enough defense to make sure that Congress could not go after him for failing to do his job as President, but not strong enough to drag out the case. Then the administration prematurely executed their appeal, ensuring that getting another appeal opportunity would be more difficult, and even then it would not be in the hands of any successor. 

This is playing political chess. Without ever exposing himself to liability, the President, a constitutional lawyer before entering into politics, used the system in order to overturn one of the most easily abusive and abhorrent provisions which has ever been signed into law, the suspension of Habeas Corpus.

If this is accurate, then President Obama might be the greatest genius ever to hold the presidency. His approach — which we've seen before — is to make any changes as permanent as possible, in a way that appeals both politically and in practice. In the short term, it makes him appear to some that he isn't sufficiently flexing his executive muscles, or that he isn't acting fast enough. But in the end, by going through the system rather than via executive order or another expedient route, he makes it harder for the next leader to overturn his accomplishments. He helps employ, and set, legal precedents. Even when it seems like he's on the wrong side of an issue, he ultimately sets all the pieces to play out as it should.

Calling it chess is an understatement. This is 3-D, blind, simultaneous chess played underwater in Morse Code. And Barack Obama is the Bobby Fischer of presidents (minus the anti-Semitism and overall lunacy).

We're lucky to have this man in the White House. We're lucky to have him, period.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thoughts on the Libyan embassy killings

Here's what I gather from the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others that was confirmed this morning:

• Someone, apparently Egyptian Coptic immigrants living in the U.S., made a video that mocks the Muslim prophet Muhammed — which was subsequently promoted by American and anti-Muslim bigot Terry Jones;

• After a commentator on a right-wing Libyan channel played the video and stirred up fury, a mob descended on the U.S. Embassy. 

• Prior to the violence, the embassy issued a statement condemning the video.

• Both the U.S. and Libya condemned the killings, with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf saying both nations "stand on the same side against outlaws."

• One protester admitted he hadn't even seen the video, and that many came just because they heard something vague about the U.S. disparaging Islam.

• The political party leading the protest insists that their protest was peaceful and that they had accepted the apology from the embassy.

• The U.S. State Department said the attack on the embassy was the result of a "relatively modest group of people" that overwhelmed what was apparently inadequate security.

Given all that, it sounds like a small faction of the protest took their anger to violent extremes — and that's all it took to kill four people. I'm not surprised at the hostility many Libyans hold toward the U.S., nor am I surprised that religious extremists took (willingly or not) a single YouTube video out of context and demanded blood over it. (I can't shake a parallel to the shooting death of George Tiller by anti-abortion fanatic Scott Roeder here in the U.S.) In response, many Americans — most likely the same ones who insisted that Roeder didn't represent all anti-abortion activists — will adopt the same ignorant mindset and insist that we are now at war with Libya. 

Roeder didn't represent all anti-abortion activists, and I doubt that the murderers in Libya were any different. No people of any one sect, let alone an entire country, think exactly the same. Unfortunately, one trait too many people share is the reinforcing of prejudices, which keeps the cycle of hatred running in perpetual motion. 

This incident highlights the futility of condemning of an entire nation for the acts of a small group. By all involved. For all his questionable calls on Libya, President Obama at least gives me hope that he won't react in the justifying-resentment manner George W. Bush might have.

There's enough violence already.

Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11 goes to 11

I'm officially retired from talking about the anniversary of 9/11. I can't imagine having anything new to say about it, serious or snarky, ever again.

Last year, in a hotel room in New Orleans, I wrote a 10-year retrospective that is likely to stand for all time as my opinion on so-called Patriot Day, titled "Obligatory anniversary post":

A remembrance of that tragic day seems to imply that we haven’t been thinking about it or otherwise feel its effects every second since it happened. But we have. Should it make a difference that today is the 10th anniversary? Maybe. But I imagine it’s like reliving a molestation, a devastating fire or particularly traumatizing combat. It’s a horrible event to which a statistic adds very little. And it’s certainly not something I would want to watch on TV in real time again.

From the start, 9/11 retrospectives have done nothing for me. I only needed to see the World Trade Center buildings fall once before it was so burned in my brain that my memory could be admissible as evidence. Where I was didn’t seem important because my insignificant story added no insight to the magnitude of the day. I wasn’t there. What I remember is what I felt for the victims, and I’m not sure I possess the constitution to relive such heartbreak.

I've been blogging since 2004. If you're keeping score, that's nine 9/11s. In that time, I've had other things to say on that day, all of which explore vastly different frames of mind. Some years, I didn't commemorate the tragedy at all; that too says something, I think.

You know how Republicans are always warning about the next Sept. 11 being just around the corner? Well, today, it happened!

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Within days of the attacks, UL planned a campus-wide vigil. I was running late, and got there right as it started. As I walked toward the site, I found myself walking alongside a large contingent of foreign students. Turns out I had walked straight into a march of some kind. Bystanders flanked the procession, a mixture of other international students and gawking Caucasians. 

The silence was eerie, especially considering I couldn't see the sign that the lead marchers were carrying. There had been anecdotal evidence of racial clashes at school over the past few days, so for all I knew it could have been a protest against the vigil. All I knew was that I was walking alongside a silent group of people who either stood for everything I did, or who diametrically opposed all of it. And I wouldn't know the answer until I reached the vigil and gauged the general population's reaction.

I made a video. Not a great one, but I was still learning the craft. Interesting comments section.


As high as the possibility is that these words will be perversely twisted by stupid people as a reason to stay Dubya's course, I still appreciate the candor of our military brass. Hopefully, we aren't too battered as a nation to rectify our mistakes, or dumb enough to continue eight years of politically charged disaster.

2009: No blog. My laptop broke on Sept. 8 and I couldn't buy a new one until Oct. 19, and blogged infrequently at the local library in the meantime. Because what's more American and terrorists-not-winning than a public library?

2010: No blog on 9/11 — I was working on a lengthy NFL preview because nothing's more American than football — but Earl "Clem" Bob alluded to the anniversary in his guest blog two days earlier:

As a side note, 9/11 was tragic, but it did bring out the best in America in its aftermath. I know it made me into a better person. Before, I had to pretend that certain things and people didn't bother me — political correctness and all that. But after 9/11, we were united and I was finally free to be who I really am. And there’s nothing more patriotic than that!

As you strain from the weight of the tributes today, keep calm and carry on.

Treasonous teachers?

It must be nice to take the Mitt Romney/Bobby Jindal stance on education: 

Blame the teachers and their unions. If they strike, then they're the villains — not because they're protesting low pay or increasingly anti-teacher school policies, but because they clearly don't care about THE CHILDREN. How dare you fight for decent work conditions? Think of THE CHILDREN! How can you be against THE CHILDREN? Your job is to teach THE CHILDREN every day, no matter how hard we make that for you! Don't be so selfish!

Republicans pit students and parents against teachers, instead of the budget cuts, unfunded mandates, unrealistic standards and religious indoctrination against which all three groups should band together.

This is how Romney can say President Obama sides with the teachers, and mean it as an accusation.

What genius. What sickness.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

About that Saints scalping...

This was the speech they gave before the game. I'm sure of it now:




As for you, RGIII, I didn't mean all the terrible things I shouted at your image on TV. Just some of them. The ones not relating to snakes, bear traps, your ligaments and how expensive Subway can be on a budget. I still wish JaMarcus Russell's ghost upon you.


It could very well be a long season. I hope not.

Promoting (some) general welfare

A huge bloc of Americans are outraged over unemployed people who pay no income tax and use food stamps while owning smart phones, gold teeth and spinning rims.

As a result, they will vote for an unemployed man who took several million dollars from the federal government this year, allegedly pays little to no income tax, undoubtedly has a both smart phone and extensive dental work, and who owns a car elevator.

Because he's white.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Dear Chris Kluwe,

I like you. And not just because I’m a lifelong Saints fan who always likes to see the Vikings punt.

No, I like you for the fearless way in which you express yourself. I laughed and cheered over your letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. Having read your opinions before, I knew you’d do a great job of taking Burns to task for his idiotic comments about Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (who responded awesomely, I must say). The way in which you broke down, point by point, everything that was wrong with Burns’ actions, was so funny and on-target that there’s little more I could add. I was planning to write my own blog about the whole affair, but you beat me to it in a way that might make me jealous if it wasn’t such sheer awesomeness.

One thing you no doubt noticed in Burns’ letter was that he insisted football players shouldn’t “try to sway public opinion one way or the other.” I’m sure that as a pro football player, you hear that a lot. Don’t you get the feeling, though, that if Ayanbadejo had said something along the lines of, “gays should be stoned, not married,” Burns wouldn’t have batted an eye? Either he wouldn’t have written the Ravens at all, or he would have praised Brendon for being an upstanding, “tell it like it is” kind of guy.

I’ve noticed that about politicians and closed-minded people in general — bloviate all you want about “traditional values” or “taking America back” or whatever, and not a peep. Defend civil rights such as gay rights, and suddenly you’re a “distraction.” Rocking the boat with your evil liberal ideas. Apparently we NFL fans like our players docile and silent, which is why they don’t put names on your jerseys or market your likenesses in any way. “Shut up and punt!”

Well, dammit, I’ve long said that no job should ever suppress anyone from speaking out when they feel it’s appropriate — especially when standing up for someone (from a rival team, no less) whose stance is the correct and compassionate one.

Living in the South, I know what it’s like to be criticized for standing up for the wronged. It can mean your reputation or being the target of desperate, homophobic hate (the latter’s happened to me, and I’m not even gay). So, bravo Brendon and bravo to you; you’re both assets to the NFL. I respect the hell out of your stand and I hope more of your brethren speak up as well. Like you said, speaking out is how change happens, both in sports and in life. And contrary to what naysayers might claim, you will have a whole lot of fans backing you up. Fans like me, who can see through a rival helmet to the smart mind underneath.

Have a great season, man. And keep fighting for what’s right.

Sincerely, 
Ian McGibboney

cc: Brendon Ayanbadejo

Convention observations

(Based on live Twitter impressions, with a few new, spontaneous notes thrown in)

Republican National Convention:

• I was cooped up at my parents’ house, along with eight other people and four dogs, for the entirety of the convention. We watched the Saints-Titans game and weather reports. The only RNC event I saw live was Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, after everyone had gone to bed.

• A man proposed to his girlfriend at the RNC. I saw this as one of those “awww, cute” segments on the news. My immediate thought was, “glad they don’t want to deny this happiness to gays.”

• Clint Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” spot during the Super Bowl is a genuine classic. But the effort he gave in his weird empty-chair convention speech was more of a “Preseason in America” performance.

• Romney’s acceptance speech was the rich-guy equivalent of giving phat shout-outs to his peeps. I guess he meant the ones who, as their “We Believe in America” backdrop suggested, are the real Americans. Because, really, that was their whole point: THEY believe in America, and are the only ones who do.

• The RNC followed the empty chair with the empty suit. Ba-zing.

• I got the same vibe watching the RNC that I got watching the 1988 DNC as a child: a feeling of impending success that faded about two seconds into the commercial break.

• Somewhere, an American poring over bills and stressing about the future looked up during the Romney speech and shed a quiet tear of joy over the hope they suddenly felt. Oh, wait. No they didn’t.

• Republicans think anything plus Obama equals laughter. Romney got big laughs with his Obama-wants-to-save-the-planet line. HAW!!!!

• Mitt reminds me at times of the disguised squids from “Galaxy Quest,” who struggle awkwardly (and hilariously) to convey human emotions, but usually get it wrong.

• The GOP wants to return to Reagan’s America, with its 50 percent top tax rate and inability to comprehend irony.

• After watching Romney speak, it’s no wonder France is a Mormon country.

• A typical Republican pundit reaction: "Romney's speech killed and belongs on Mount Rushmore and oh my God and Jesus am I aroused to be an American tonight!"

• The Washington Redskins beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in preseason action the same night. That’s twice in one night for poor Tampa.

Democratic National Convention:

• I watched pretty much every moment of this convention. It made for an inspiring diversion while I packed boxes and moved furniture. But that’s a whole other blog.

• Pretty much every speech of every night was mind-blowing. I’ll miss that someday. But I’m glad to have not missed it this year. It’s telling when you can point to one speech every night and say, “That one’s the dud.” And even then said dud is still well above anything the RNC (or even past DNCs) offered.

• After Michelle Obama’s speech, I’m sure at least one conservative had to say, “for the first time in my life, I’m proud of this first lady.” What an exemplary human being in every aspect.

• Apparently, there is a way to ridicule the Democrats’ embracing of women’s issues. And it’s mostly the terrible female right-wing pundits who rationalize the worst. Can one suffer from Stockholm Syndrome on Twitter?

• Over on Facebook, many conservative friends who couldn’t get enough of last week’s hot RNC action called this week for an end to political posts and to rise above it all. How high-minded. And they said the DNC couldn’t change minds.

• Twice, about 12 hours apart, some loser yelled “BABA BOOEY HOWARD STERN’S PENIS” during Chris Matthews’ MSNBC segments. Seriously? Someone still finds this funny? Even “I’mma let you finish” seems stale nowadays.

• Bill Clinton’s entrance employed the use of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” the same song with which he made his big, extended entrance in 1992. I remember that moment well, and will forever associate the song with it. Glad they referenced that moment — and that momentum. I could have listened to him speak for hours. Which, pretty much, was the case. His speeches should count as health care for how delightful they feel.

• I likened the concurrent Cowboys-Giants game to how the Republicans are cowboys and the Democrats are giants. But the Cowboys won, which always sucks but especially that night because it ruined my analogy.

• Both conventions felt like family reunions: the RNC where everyone was bitter from fighting over the inheritance, and the DNC where everyone had put past bygones aside and converged in genuine love.

• If John Kerry had that fire in 2004, he’d have spent his 2012 speech making a case for Obama’s first term. “Change” might never have needed to be a thing.

• Jennifer Granholm, Gabrielle Giffords, Sandra Fluke and even Eva Longoria all killed. I want to meet all of them.

• Caroline Kennedy was, frankly, flat. She was reading the way I do when I’m hungry. Still like what she said, though.

• I’ll admit to judging anyone who tweeted or had as their Facebook status anything alluding to the MTV Video Awards.

• Joe Biden said the younger generations were all right. I appreciate that. The X and Millennial generations get a lot of crap from their elders, who weren’t exactly perfect themselves. So again, thank you, Mr. Vice President. Let’s work together in good faith.

• Biden’s speech channeled Nirvana with its quiet verses and loud refrains.

• Just before the president’s speech, an MSNBC pundit expressed concern about not knowing the real Obama. What, was he expecting him to transmogrify into a cthulhu and spew Wesson? Would we finally know the real Obama then? Seems like nearly a full term as president would provide some clue by now.

• By comparison, Obama’s speech wasn’t as mind-blowing as it could have been. But it was still pretty damn good. On paper especially, it was devastating. And you can’t fault Obama for competently following up numerous historically moving speeches from his wife, the former president and other relevant figures. It’s like chiding Drew Brees for not breaking an old record or winning the Super Bowl every week. Solid is solid.

• I’m disappointed that Obama didn’t pull a Key & Peele and drop the mic at the end of his speech. But that was about the only thing that disappointed me about the DNC.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

This is the worst convention in the history of ever

By Cort Rory
Reality-based non-sheep here to expose the TRUTH

Are you watching this convention? Worst. One. Ever.

Man.

I don’t see what the hoopla is all about. Conventions are pathetic. In addition to being outdated, they’re just big love-fests wherein political parties put their best faces on and their best feet forward. Watching this Democratic convention, with speaker after speaker spewing puff speech after puff speech, I wonder what the hell the point is.

Seriously, why have these things at all? All they do is trot out people who mention all the positive things going on and nominate their candidate and stuff. And we get to meet future party stars who are just going to let us down as soon as they get big, sell out and become the latest whores of betrayal.

It’s such a train wreck to watch for hours on end.

I expected as much of the Republican National Convention. Those guys are fanatical leviathans. But the Democrats. Man. Not only are they not better, they’re infinity times worse. The Democrats are an awful, awful party, and Barack Obama is doing terrible, terrible things. Indeed, he may be the worst POS ever to sit in the Oval Office. Much worse than Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Buchanan. Hell, King George too. Combined!

If these donkeys (asses?) had any integrity, they’d spend these three days in Charlotte flagellating themselves with whips, apologizing to voters and resigning. Every last turncoat one of them. Though it’d look like the Republicans bent them over if they did that. And that would just be pathetic.

As it is, the saccharine content of these speeches is giving me mind cancer. All I could think of during Michelle Obama’s speech last night was, “What about those unmanned drones or that kill list? Or the Patriot Act? Or the indefinite detentions?” Is it too much to ask that the first lady acknowledge these topics?

This stuff is important to me. You guys work for me! Hello? Over here!

I hope Bill Clinton focuses his speech tonight on how sorry he is for bombing that aspirin factory. If not, he has even less integrity than he already has. Which is none. Just like Obama.

Ugh, Obama. I swear, if he doesn’t give a shout-out to my friend’s sustainable-energy project in rural Oregon tomorrow night, that’s it for me. I’m going to hold my nose extra hard when I vote for him in November.

I pity you people and your rose-colored eyes. That’s got to be a terrible way to go through life.

Cort Rory is a guest blogger. He gets what the rest of us don't, man.

Why I'm (not) a Democrat

I’m not a Democrat because someone was one 25, 50 or 100 years ago.

I’m not a Democrat because I read one book once, or heard one politician speak once.

I’m not a Democrat because of fanatical devotion to a singular wedge issue.

I’m not a Democrat because I worship government and enjoy being dependent.

I’m not a Democrat because my parents or anyone else told me I was one.

I’m not a Democrat because adults told me I’d someday understand the “virtue” of self-interest.

I’m not a Democrat because I felt I had to take sides.

I’m not a Democrat because I believe they’re the only “American” party.

I’m not a Democrat because I’m under any delusion that the party is perfect.

I’m not a Democrat because of 9/11, taxes, a mugging or any other trauma.

I’m not a Democrat because I feel I’m a specific type of person (whether I actually am or not) and thus more worthy of what America offers than others.

In fact, for the first 13 years of my voting life, I wasn’t a Democrat at all; I didn’t align with any political party. Yes, I’ve always been liberal-leaning, but I never felt comfortable committing to a party. I’ve always believed that the individual candidate, the person, matters more than a straight ticket.

But in 2011, I officially registered as a Democrat because something funny happened in my quest to vote for individuals — I realized that not all, but most, of those I felt had the best interests of the country in mind were Democrats. The Republicans — a party with once I held simple and not-irreconcilable ideological differences — was increasingly a playground for far-right religious, anti-government and anti-tax zealots. The GOP let the tea party, a parade of ill-informed racists, misogynists and scary wannabe-revolutionaries, hijack its mantle. And instead of reverting to its mainstream face for the 2012 election, the Republicans doubled down on its assault on women’s rights, minority rights, health care and even voting rights — all of which should have been settled decades ago. It’s sad not just for the GOP, but for any American who wants real choices in this election. But for me, right now, there’s no doubt.

I’m a Democrat because I believe helping the poor doesn’t mean starving them until they spontaneously develop bootstraps.

I’m a Democrat because I believe all of us must invest in this country, and no one should be able to buy themselves out of those obligations.

I’m a Democrat because the party is the consolidated force fighting for women, minorities and the LGBT community in America.

I’m a Democrat because I realize I understand only a fraction of the struggle that many groups face as Americans, and that my freedom is only as strong as their freedom.

I’m a Democrat because I think everyone deserves a decent standard of living, not just those at the top.

I’m a Democrat because religion should be a personal, not political, thing.

I’m a Democrat because I believe government is a useful tool. I don’t use its worst qualities as a call to get rid of it, nor do I pretend that everyone finds it as intrusive as our greediest brethren find it.

I’m a Democrat because I believe when the profit motive conflicts with the public interest, the latter must always win out.

I’m a Democrat because the timetable for environmental solutions shouldn’t be whenever energy companies can make money off of them.

I’m a Democrat because I respect educators, civil servants, labor unions, minimum-wage workers and any other constantly scapegoated entity or profession that must serve the public despite the pressures.

I’m a Democrat because I respect life, not just birth. I want for the needy what Republicans want for embryos and corporations — personhood.

I’m a Democrat because every registered citizen deserves to vote, whether or not they’ll vote my way.

I’m a Democrat because I believe the purpose of an education is to instill critical thinking and broaden horizons, not to just make money or reinforce ignorance.

I’m a Democrat because I don’t consider changing one’s mind in the face of evidence a weakness.

I’m a Democrat because I don’t stay awake at night wondering what others are doing in their bedroom, doctor’s office or house of worship, or what’s on their bookshelves.

I’m a Democrat because their leaders exhibit family values, success and patriotism in deeds, not just words.

I’m a Democrat because they don’t have to cloak their true intentions in dog-whistle rhetoric.

I’m a Democrat in 2012 because I care.