Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Windows 8 Can Wait

"The tales of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

                                                                  --The PC

As more and more mobile devices based on Apple and Android are sold, Microsoft feels it has to get in the action to remain relevant.  Some of the sales numbers point toward a trend moving away from desktop PC sales and toward mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.  Bill Gates became the richest man in the world by monopolizing the desktop PC market.  If you wanted to run a program and have maximum compatibility with other users, Microsoft Windows was the way to go.

Windows XP was a major step forward in operating systems.  It was simple, easy to use, and has remained relatively decent for the last 11 years.  Many enterprise users, such as large corporations and many small businesses, still rely on Windows XP for their computing needs.  This is because making change is expensive for businesses.  Many custom made programs and other software are designed to work with a particular operating system.  Upgrading can cost time and money.  Therefore, enterprise users typically wait to change operating systems.  When Windows Vista was released, it was a disaster. It was buggy, resource hungry, and difficult to use.  Even Microsoft admitted that Vista sucked.  Everyone began to wonder if Microsoft had lost its edge.  Perhaps the software giant was finished.  Microsoft, however, came through and produced Windows 7, which is the best operating system they have ever created.  Windows 7 proved to be the anti-Vista:  it was light on resources, relatively stable, and easy to use.  The interface was beautiful and intuitive.  Microsoft had redeemed itself.  

But now the market seems to be changing.  Microsoft feels the heat to get into mobile.  So it is working on Windows 8, which is a complete redesign.  The look and feel of Windows has been radically changed.  Instead of a start button and the typical layout we are used to, Windows 8 has done away with the start button and moved to a tile system for the desktop, one that is more compatible with touch screens.  Initial reports are that the new operating system is difficult to use, counterintuitive, and plagued with other problems.  Some feel it has been too rushed and will take several service pack updates to remedy.  Enterprise users are feeling nervous and likely won't jump on the bandwagon.  Consumers, looking for something new and fresh, might bite.  The stakes aren't as high for them.

I believe the whole post-PC prediction is wrong.  Desktop PCs are still useful for power users.  The keyboard is larger and more amenable to getting real work done.  Serious gamers and video editing enthusiasts still rely on the desktop and laptop PC.  Tablets and mobile phones are great for surfing the web, but taking notes, writing school papers, editing photos, editing video, and other important tasks are unwieldy and awkward on these devices.  For serious work, you need a serious computer.  And this isn't going to change anytime soon.

As for me, I never upgrade to the newest operating system when it comes out.  I always wait a few years until the bugs have been worked out.  I don't feel like being a guinea pig for the latest untested code.  If Windows 8 sucks, I may even skip it.  After all, I can do everything I need with Windows 7.  Why change?  

The other factor is GNU/Linux.  I am having fun with my installation of Zorin OS 6 Lite, a lightweight distribution based on Lubuntu, a lightweight version of Ubuntu.  It is light on system resources and stable as can be.  It never crashes.  It was free to download, and installation only took 20 minutes.  I almost felt guilty it was so easy.  Updates are smooth and carefree.  Plus I am immune to Windows viruses and don't have to run antispyware and antivirus programs which slow down my computer.  My six year old laptop has been resurrected (mostly from a deep cleaning that was causing it to overheat) by GNU/Linux.  I can even play HD video on it now, something I couldn't do before.  

I have my hard drive partitioned so I can dual boot Windows 7 and Zorin.  This allows me the best of both worlds.  I can still use my specialized Windows programs, but for surfing the web, I prefer my Chromium (open source version of Google Chrome) browser.  I can also use Firefox.  For office software, I use LibreOffice, which is an open source version of Microsoft Office.  It works the same way and allows me to save in Microsoft Word doc format and in open source text document formats.  Using WINE, a Windows emulator, I can run Windows software in Zorin.  It's pretty amazing.  

A few years from now I may change to Windows 8.  I am in no hurry, though.  If I had to, I could even survive on Windows XP for the next few years.  It's hard to get excited about shelling out cash for an operating system.  Maybe that's why I'll just stick with GNU/Linux--it's free.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Ohioans May Decide The Fate Of The World

I've had my differences with Obama over the years.  In 2008, I worked for his campaign.  I believed in him. And I felt let down when he gave up on the public option during the health care debate.  I felt let down when he failed to close Gitmo.  I continue to oppose his use of drone strikes and the unfair treatment of whistle blower Bradley Manning.  And I felt let down when he allowed the Bush tax cuts to be renewed.  I saw a group of Republicans who were willing to hold the country hostage for political gains.  I saw them reject the jobs bill so they could use the difficult economy against the president during the election.  It angered me that Obama hadn't been more forceful against them.  I wish he had been more like Franklin D. Roosevelt, a president who was willing to challenge the status quo to stand up for the majority of Americans, not just the rich and powerful.

But just because Obama hasn't completely met my expectations, it isn't rational to assume that any other choice is the right one.  It is definitely not true that Mitt Romney is a better choice.  Obama isn't moving fast enough, but at least he isn't moving backwards.  Mitt Romney wants to take this country backwards to the policies of George W. Bush.  He wants to be overly aggressive on foreign policy.  We already saw how this kind of hawkish behavior led to two wars which have nearly bankrupted this country.  It has led to thousands of killed and disabled veterans who paid the ultimate cost of Bush's cowboy attitudes.  Obama has a greater respect for human life because he only sends troops into combat when he feels it is absolutely necessary.  He got us out of Iraq and is planning to allow the citizens of Afghanistan to police their own country.

Romney says he plans on repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Ironically, this legislation was modeled after Romney's health care reforms when he was governor.  The Affordable Care Act opens up health care to millions of uninsured Americans who previously who have had to use the emergency room as their only means of receiving health care.  This meant they were free riding off the system because they didn't have to pay health care benefits as emergency rooms cannot turn people away.  The Affordable Care Act provides health care to all while demanding that everyone pay their fair share to the best of their ability.  Independent figures have shown that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the U.S. deficit by almost a trillion dollars over ten years.  It has reduced inefficiencies as well.  The Affordable Care Act demands that 85% of policy premium payments be used to provide health care, not line the pockets of private investors.  Before, there was no policy like this.  It also ensures that people with pre-exising conditions like diabetes and cancer will not be denied coverage.  It provides health screenings for women.  It allows college aged children to stay on their parents' insurance until the age of 26.  Romney says he plans on increasing "competition" to bring down health care costs.  This idea is laughable.  Health insurers are not going to "compete" for the business of paying out money for AIDS, cancer, and heart disease patients.  They would go bankrupt if they did.  Romney simply has no plan to reform health care.

Obama supported the rescue of the auto industry.  Mitt Romney said he preferred to let it go bankrupt.  The implications of this are serious.  The auto industry helps keep Americans working.  It helps lead to innovation.  Many thousands of manufacturing jobs rely on the domestic auto industry for survival.  Many of the middle class jobs that provide health care, retirement, and a living wage come from these types of jobs.  Many members of my own family have worked in the auto industry.  Obama is a friend of the auto industry.  Mitt Romney has spent his career outsourcing jobs to China.  He made money bankrupting companies like KB Toy store.  He has no sympathy for ordinary workers or blue collar jobs.  He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He bullied gay teens in high school--which he has admitted.  Then, he went to Harvard and was able to get into Wall Street playing financial shell games and becoming a millionaire as a vulture capitalist.  Instead of creating jobs, Romney spent his career in "business" killing jobs, liquidating companies and tearing apart the remains, all while acting like a parasite and personally profiting on the misery of others.  I simply cannot imagine finding someone more qualified to dismantle this country than Mitt Romney.  He would be terribly efficient--at creating 1 million new jobs in China.  If you look at the bumper stickers of the Communist Chinese Leaders, most of them probably have Romney-Ryan signs on their cars.  It's the only political bumper sticker in China that won't get you tossed in a dungeon for seven years.

Even though the Bush tax cuts led to record deficits, Romney still claims that tax cuts for the rich and increased military spending is going to lead to a balanced budget.  Under Bush, we instead had record deficits, a loss of jobs, and a financial meltdown.  Under Reagan, we had huge deficits because of unfunded tax cuts.  To think that somehow Romney is going to grow the economy with this lame sort of plan makes absolutely no sense.  History has already proven him wrong again and again.  Basic arithmetic doesn't allow you to decrease revenue and increase spending while still balancing the budget.

The other issue is Iran.  Obama has already stated he won't let them get a nuclear weapon.  He has monitored the situation and knows that they are nowhere near being able to construct a nuclear weapon.  Romney, after having accepted millions in campaign donations from hawks like Sheldon Adelson, have taken an overly aggressive stance on the issue of Iran.  The last thing we need is another major war in the Middle East.  Too many Americans have died in war already.  We must be calm and rational on this issue.  Obama has been a strong and steady hand.  Romney and his aggressiveness will only lead to foreign policy disasters.  His foot-in-mouth tour of Europe and the Middle East a few months ago was proof positive of that.  He is completely tone deaf when it comes to dealing with people that are unlike him.  The problem is that foreign policy is exactly that--foreign.  Mitt Romney doesn't trust 47% of our own people and has said this very candidly.  On the issues of foreign policy, he is a mess.

Obama may not be my ideal candidate, but he is far better than Romney.  The decisions of the United States have a massive impact on the world because of our large economy and our large military.  Millions of people live or die based on the smallest decisions made by our president.  This election matters big time.  Ohioans may be the decision makers in this election.  That is why each of us must be personally committed to go vote against Mitt Romney and vote for President Obama.  Drive a friend to the polls, too.  Assist those whom you know to get there on election day.

America may elect Romney.  After all, we did elect Bush.  That turned out to be a complete horror show.  We may be close to making the same mistake once again.  I pray this doesn't happen.

 I plan on voting for Barack Obama because he is a smart, intelligent leader who will move us forward.  I hope you do the same.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Someone Call A Medic, Ryan's Out Cold!

Tonight we got to witness a great debate between two Irishmen looking to be the Vice President.  Not shying away from a good fight, Biden came out swinging, and didn't disappoint.  Aside from Biden's authenticity and passion, his 30 years of experience made the sophomoric Paul Ryan look like a schoolboy.  When Ryan offered his opinions du jour handed down from Romney's pollsters, Biden came back with real, substantive answers.  Paul Ryan knows the myth of Ronald Reagan and bipartisanship.  Joe Biden was actually a participant in the negotiations back in the early 1980's that saved Social Security.  Whereas Ryan would utter vague notions about how to deal with the war in Afghanistan, Biden shared his experiences actually travelling dozens of times through the war torn area, meeting with troops and the people.  The entire thing was frankly uncomfortable to watch, given the beating Ryan was taking.  It must have been uncomfortable to see him slither away at the end.

The strength of Biden here was that he exposed Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney for what they truly are--puppets for the ultra rich and the corporations. He called out their lies and their bullshit. He hammered Ryan for not being specific about his "tax plan" that is nothing more than a massive subsidy to the rich.  Ryan is considered a fiscal policy wonk by many on the Right.  Biden challenged him and exposed Romney and his "plan" for what it is--nothing more than hot air.  The formula is transparent--first they describe how bad things are--this part is true, and gives them perceived credibility.  Then, they move in for a massive criticism of Obama, refusing to accept their share of the responsibility for the problem (Ryan voted to block Obama's jobs bill, tax reforms for the middle class, etc.).  They finish up without offering any real solutions, other than the tired old mantra of trickle down economics, the same policies of George W. Bush that tripled the deficit and caused the meltdown of the economy.

Everyone knows where Paul Ryan's heart lies when it comes to Medicare and programs for the poor--he is hell bent on ending them.  His proposed voucher program for Medicare would utterly destroy the program.  His proposed budget makes massive cuts to programs that keep poor children from going hungry.  This is consistent with Ryan's Ayn Rand worldview.  His budget proposals are so savage, so heartless, that a group of nuns actually commissioned a bus to travel around America to describe the real impacts his proposals would have for the poor.  These nuns should know--Catholic social programs help many poor and disadvantaged Americans, and some of these funds come from federal spending.

Ryan's only strength was his answer on the pro-life issue at the very end.  Biden said that he believed that life begins at conception but was opposed to the law being changed.  If you believe that life begins at conception, it isn't morally consistent to advocate laws which go against this principle.  Ryan was right to challenge Biden on this, and held him to task for not standing by his principles.  The truth is, a Catholic voter has nowhere to turn in good conscience.  Democrats support legalized abortion.  Republicans support cutting vital heating, food, and other assistance to the poor and needy.  Millions of children will go hungry if food stamp programs are further reduced by the Republicans.  So there is no easy answer for the Catholic voter.  I believe the Democratic policy of providing everyone a fair shake, and assistance for those most in need.  I believe this will lead to more options for poor, young women, rather than abortion.  That's why the rate of actual abortions go down during Democratic presidencies and go up during Republican ones.  Just telling a woman she cannot get an abortion doesn't help her be a good mother.  It doesn't help her feed her children or care for them.  We need to do more than just make abortion illegal.  We need to build a pro-life culture in all areas.

Words are great.  They can inspire, leads us to imagine, and bring us hope.  But looking at the records of the two men, we see some stark differences.  Joe Biden has spent his career standing up for middle class people and supporting working people.  He has not voted to destroy Medicare and Social Security.  Paul Ryan, on the other hand, is a true believer in the philosophy of "every man for himself."  His budget proposals were so merciless, so heartless, that the Romney campaign won't even talk about them now.  His voucher program for Medicare would end the program by privatizing it, based on a ridiculous notion that insurance companies are going to compete for seniors and disabled people.  Why they would compete to pay out huge amounts for medical care defies all logic.  No company competes to lose money.  For someone supposedly gifted in the area of economics, Ryan falls flat on this one.  The truth is that he just wants Medicare to be wiped out and that's it.

Biden has proven his worth as a Vice President.  His vast years of experience in the Senate has proven to be a great asset to President Obama.  He has been a source of wise counsel to him.  Is he gaffe prone?  You bet.  But we also know his heart, which is good.  He is trustworthy and competent.  If something were to happen, I believe we would be safe with him at the helm.  I greatly fear for the poor and impoverished if Paul Ryan were to become President.  Listening to him, I don't get the impression that he has true compassion for others.  He comes across to me as being heartless.  Romney's choice in Paul Ryan speaks to his character as well--Romney is fundamentally a man who doesn't give a damn about the poor.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is "Obamacare" Racist?

In literary theory, there's the concept of subtext.  Subtext is a hidden concept, idea, or implication veiled beneath a narrative.  It is veiled by more neutral language, but the "hidden" understanding is clear to anyone who isn't suffering from autism or some other form of mental disability.  So, for example, when Ronald Reagan told his story about the "welfare queens" driving their Cadillacs and living off society, the hidden subtext was not of white soccer moms from the suburbs of Connecticut driving their children to practices.  It was a reference to the stereotype of the lazy, black welfare mother receiving food stamps, free housing, and refusing to work while receiving more and more benefits while having more and more children.  In reality, most welfare recipients are in fact, white.  Reagan didn't need to use the term "black" to make his point very clearly.

The health care reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in 2010 is called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Since that time, Republicans have referred to it pejoratively as "Obamacare."  "Obamacare" is an interesting term, considering the general narrative about Obama shared by many in the Republican community.  The name speaks volumes:  "Obama"--a Muslim sounding name--i.e. foreign, scary, threatening, combined ironically with "care."  It implies that a foreign, scary, threatening dabbler has intervened in the most intimate and invasive of relations--that of one's medical care.  In fact, Republicans often refer to health care reform being "shoved down our throats."  Not surprisingly, this term has seemed to stick.  Why?  Because it implies that Obama, "the Other," who is considered by many Birthers to be not even an American citizen, has put his uppity hands where they shouldn't belong.  The entire "Birther" movement is dedicated to the notion that the President is so un-American, so foreign, so different from us that he cannot even be a legitimate citizen of the United States, even though this objective fact has been proven countless times and verified by all objective standards by the state of Hawaii.

It has been shown in studies that over 60% of conservative Republicans still believe that Obama is a Muslim, despite the whole Rev. Wright controversy during the campaign of 2008.  Somehow it was lost on these people that Rev. Wright was a Christian pastor in Chicago.  "Muslim" in America, thanks to the propaganda from the "War on Terror" now means foreign born, dangerous, scary guys who surely cannot be one of us that are hell bent on secretly planning to kill us every chance they get.

So is the demonizing of Obama caused by racism?  This becomes harder to clearly pin down.  History is instructive.  As you may remember from the Clinton presidency, he also faced charges by the Right of being "the other."  He was accused of being a communist, of murdering Vince Foster, and accused of financial fraud concerning the Whitewater Scandal.  Hell, the Republicans impeached him for fibbing about an affair when Ronald Reagan got away with selling weapons to the Contras and George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction which led to two illegitimate wars that cost thousands of American lives and nearly bankrupted the nation.

The interesting thing about Clinton, however, is that he was never considered un-American.  Birthers won't even grant that Obama is the most basic of Americans--a natural born citizen.  He is so different, so alien, that we cannot relate to him in any way, so he must be a Kenyan, and probably a Muslim, too.  Despite Clinton's failings, he isn't considered the Antichrist like Obama is.  Why is that?  Perhaps it has something to do with Obama's background--America is a notoriously anti-intellectual place.  It hates what it perceives to be effete, wonkish, liberal snobs.  Obama, as a Harvard educated lawyer, former instructor of Constitutional law, and community organizer, certainly fits this description.  He is also a city dweller, as opposed to coming from the "real America" as described by Sarah Palin--i.e. the country.  But Clinton had the similar "problematic" credentials--he was a Rhodes Scholar, lived abroad, protested the Vietnam War, was considered wonkish because he understood policy at something beyond a sophomoric level, etc.  So what is the difference?  Could it possibly be that Obama doesn't look like a majority of the population?  I will leave this for you to decide.  I can't say for certain that it is racism, but it very well may be.

Granted, there are some who dislike Obama for actual, genuine reasons on both sides of the political aisle.  There are liberals who feel betrayed by Obama's reversal on important policies--such as indefinite detention, drone killings, closing GITMO, the environment, etc.  There are conservatives who disagree with Obama on a variety of issues from social to economic that have nothing to do with his race or other personal characteristics.  These would be protests which come from reason, not fear.  And fear is the key difference.  Political disagreements based on reason and not fear of the unknown are legitimate.  The problems this country faces are too serious to be grounded in raw emotion.  Manipulation of public fear by greedy politicians leads to the destruction of our rights and the surrendering of our democracy.  The Bush inspired "War on Terror" is a prime example of fear mongering to boost the profits of the defense industry, strip away civil rights, and spy on ordinary Americans.

Someone can be conservative and opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  There are legitimate reasons to be opposed to it on ideological grounds.  These would have nothing to do with racism.  Some have disagreements about the role of government and health care.  Others may have concerns about how health care is distributed.  These are all fine.  I don't agree with them, but these reasons have nothing to do with racism, and that is perfectly acceptable.  People can agree to disagree.

Finishing up, what we call something influences how we think about it.  A name has subconscious meanings embedded with it.  These affect how we mentally frame an issue.  So when I say "Don't think of an elephant," you can't help but imagine an elephant.  It's part of our cognitive structure to interact with language in this way.  In a similar manner, the words we use influence our ideas.  And these ideas have very real consequences.  Calling health care reform "Obamacare" isn't helpful because of the potential associations embedded within its subtext.  For this reason, I prefer to use "Affordable Care Act" or "health care reform act."

An excellent example of this is the attempt by the software industry to refer to file sharers as "pirates."  As RMS says, piracy is attacking ships.  You storm a ship, murder the entire crew, and then steal their loot.  People sharing Lady Ga Ga songs certainly aren't murdering anyone.  To equate the two is propaganda used to impose a false equivalency.  This serves the recording industry well, but for normal folks, not at all.  If you are looking to demonize people who share files by imposing a propagandized mental frame, this works quite well.

Regardless of how you feel about the health care issue, it would be helpful if people stopped saying "Obamacare."  It doesn't help anyone on either side.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Defense of Big Bird

At last night's debates, Mitt Romney said that despite his affection for Big Bird, he would cut funding for  PBS.  The question becomes, "Should the government fund Big Bird?"

TV didn't have to become a "vast wasteland", as described 50 years ago by Newton Minow, head of the FCC (and this was before Jersey Shore):

"When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it."

And this was said 50 years ago.  TV has become far, far more banal since that time.  But the moronification of television wasn't an inevitability when the technology was invented.  TV, as a technology, is neutral.  It can be used for educational purposes, civic purposes (such as the airing of public meetings), and for socially redeeming purposes.  It is only because the television industry was turned over to the private market and the advertising industry that it has become so horrendous.  

Television has to appeal to the lowest common denominator to vie for advertising dollars.  Your average person isn't an intellectual.  He or she is tired after work and wants to be amused and veg out.  Few people are interested in doing more mental work about serious issues after they get home from work.  And so television programming has become a race to the bottom, all in a mad grab for the almighty dollar.

The point of the the public, through government subsidizing of PBS, is to provide at least one channel that isn't dependent upon advertising and traditional market forces so as to provide content which is of a higher quality and not subject to the lowest common denominator.  That is why high quality programs like Sesame Street, Frontline, the MacNeil/ Lehrer News Hour, and Nova are on public television.  They couldn't survive in the traditional marketplace because they are simply too good.

Folks like Mitt Romney hate public television because they see it as being too liberal.  Because they don't agree with the political views of the program, they want to kill it.  This means bye bye to Big Bird and friends. While PBS would likely survive by virtue of donations from the public, this is beside the point.  

Why shouldn't the public support the arts, literature, and public programming?  After all, the public supposedly owns the airwaves and allows private television channels to make billions of dollars in advertising. Commercial broadcasting has an oligopoly on the market.  Private broadcasters are using the public commons--the airwaves--to make a killing.  The government funding one or two channels reserved for quality programming for the public isn't too much to ask.  It is too much to ask, apparently, for the Republicans, who see PBS as being run by effete, wonkish, Eastern liberals.  We need every channel beaming Jersey Shore, reality TV, and ads for Viagra and Cialis to every home in America, no exceptions.

This is a business run society.  The needs of business go before all else, particulary the public itself, which is considered secondary.  That's the same reason why a door to door used Bible salesman like Mitt Romney is so close to becoming President of the United States.  Instead of despising what he represents--vulture capitalism, outsourcing, selfish greed and feckless ambition, he is damn close to becoming elected.

After public television is wrecked, private power can go after the Internet and make it look more like television.  This battle comes in the form of "Net Neutrality."  If they succeed in that quest, the future of free speech and prosperity hangs in the balance.

God bless America.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obama vs Romney: Who Won? Presidential Debate No. 1

Tonight we had the well-coiffed, white-toothed American hustler versus the embattled President.  This debate was similar to the famous Kennedy Nixon debate of the 1960's.  If you listened to that debate on the radio, you would have clearly thought that Nixon won.  If you watched the debate on TV, you would have given the victory to Kennedy.  Looks and body language make a big difference.  In this case, we had Romney standing tall and looking strong.  He was aggressive and didn't mind looking at Obama while attacking him.  Obama, uncomfortable in the attack role, appeared more hunched over and defensive.  He didn't look at Romney while answering him, which appeared to give him a more submissive posture, not a good thing when you are a sitting President.

This is bad news for Obama, because Romney is an empty suited, principle-bereft goddamn liar.  He is little more than a good looking con man who deserves to be in jail for his financial misdeeds instead of running for President. Obama was living in the real world during the debate, using facts and arithmetic to defend his positions and expose the consistent lies vomiting forth by Romney.  But the American people don't care about facts or arithmetic.  They want to believe the myth that cutting taxes for the rich will lead to increased revenue, even though this hasn't worked for Reagan or Bush Jr., and in fact increased the national debt. Tonight Romney managed to flip flop once again.  Like his stand on abortion, he moves according to what works.  So before tonight, he was all for reducing taxes on the rich and fully repealing Obamacare, good parts and all.  Now, all of a sudden, he wants to keep the taxes on the rich the same and keep the good parts of Obamacare.  It's amazing what being down in the polls and 5 weeks before an election can do for your platform.

Despite the tensions, the policies of the two men on many areas are unfortunately too close.  On education, both want to continue programs which lead to students taking more mindless, fact-driven standardized tests.  Both want to continue drone attacks and stomp on the civil rights that leads to more terrorism.  These facts aren't highlighted, however, because it's more comfortable for us to believe that we have a real choice in this election.

We do have a real choice, but not the one we need.  This election is only important because the United States is so powerful.  The little choices we make have a big impact.  So if we give Israel the go ahead to start World War III in the Middle East, this means hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.  Or if we decide to elect Romney and have him choose another crypto-fascist like Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court, then indefinite detention, extrajudicial killings, torture, and all the other civil rights violations are on the table.  And this has very real consequences for our freedoms.

The only reason the Republican Party even has any chance at winning is because it holds a trump card--abortion.  There are millions of decent, God-fearing, religious people in this country who are horrified by legalized abortion.  They believe that life begins at conception and this issue is very important to them.  As such, they put their faith in the Republican Party, hoping they will make abortion illegal.  The problem is that the Republicans know this, and they aren't going to give up their trump card by making abortion illegal.  Ronald Reagan and both Bushes were able to essentially do whatever they wanted during their terms, but somehow they expended almost no effort to end legalized abortion.  Other than discussing the issue at election time and banning stem cell research, they did nothing.  They appointed most of the current Supreme Court justices, and yet they still haven't gotten abortion overturned.  This is no accident.  This is amazing considering the fact that Ronald Reagan managed to get away with funding illegal arms sales to the Contras, illegally bombing whoever he wanted, and nearly bankrupting the country with debt by giving tax breaks to the rich and spending like Kim Kardashian on speed.  George W. Bush got away with lying about weapons of mass destruction to start two major wars that tripled the deficit.  His financial policies led to the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.  He got away torture, indefinite detention, and illegal spying.  Yet we are somehow to believe that he couldn't pull off ending abortiont?  Please.

Regarding the debate--this sure wasn't the intellectual equivalent of the Lincoln Douglas debates.  That is for damn sure.  In an age of television, marketing, and the public relations industry running campaigns, it's all about sound bites, appearances, and manipulation.

We're all the losers in this election, regardless of who wins.  If it's Romney, however, we can add to our losses the increased demise of the middle class as well.  At the end of the day, abortion is still going to be legal and we will still be arguing about gay marriage while our jobs are outsourced, college becomes more unaffordable, and we can all work three shitty paying jobs to pay for our increased gas and food bills while Mitt Romney's friends on Wall Street look down from their penthouses and from their gated communities, laugh, and tell the remaining 99% to eat cake.  After all, "we can't worry about them."

God bless America.