Lewis Black absolutely destroys Romney’s “These Hands” ad campaign

A week or so ago, Barack Obama, in a speech delivered in Roanoke, Virginia, channelled a little bit of Elizabeth “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own” Warren, and said the following:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help… Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

It’s a wonderful sentiment, but, unfortunately, it’s also soundbite that can be easily manipulated. And, having been rocked by Obama’s incredible ad campaign of last week, that’s exactly what the Romney team chose to do. They isolated the phrase – “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that… Somebody else made that happen” – and they constructed a campaign around it.

Sure it’s deceptive as hell, in that it makes it sound like Obama is suggesting that business owners don’t deserve credit for launching enterprises and creating jobs, but it could have been effective… if done correctly. Unfortunately, however, the Romney team didn’t do their homework, and they built their campaign around a family-owned business by the name of Gilchrist Metal, that, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader, had been the recipient of, “$800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority ‘to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment’…” as well as “two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000, and a smaller, $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008…” And, now, as you might imagine, quite a few folks are pointing out how ridiculous it is to have an ad in which the recipient of several government programs, funded by U.S. taxpayers, talks indignantly about how he built his company without any help. The best commentary I’ve seen thus far came from Lewis Black, who tied in footage of Romney telling Olympic athletes, during the winter games in Utah, that they should keep in mind that they didn’t get to where they are without the help of others. (“You know that you didn’t get here solely on your own power,” he told them.) It’s devastatingly beautiful to watch.

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Ypsilanti City Council candidates to address voters tomorrow night in the Kresge Building

On Thursday evening, several candidates running for Ypsilanti City Council will be participating in a “meet and greet” sponsored by the Jaycees. The event, which I was initially led to believe would be formal a debate, is set to take place at the Mix Marketplace (200 W. Michigan Avenue). It’s scheduled to run from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, and it’s my understanding that a majority of the candidates running in the August 7th Democratic Primary, for both the Ward 1 and Ward 3 seats, will be in attendance. The candidates running are as follows.

Ward 1
– Tyrone Bridges
– Steve Pierce
– Lois Richardson

Ward 3
– Mike Eller
– Pete Murdock
– Ted Windish

In advance of the event, the Jaycees sent out a number of questions to each of these individuals. All but Pierce and Eller responded. You can find the collected responses here.

And, here, for those of you who are interested in such things, is an exchange that I just had with David Palmer, one of the organizers of the event. (It appears with his permission.)

MARK: As I understand it, Thursday evening’s event was originally promoted by the Jaycees as a debate. From what I’m seeing now, though, it looks as though it’s being referred to as a “meet and greet.” Why was it decided to change the format?

DAVID: I don’t recall the Jaycees ever promoting the event as a “debate”, in fact I’ve tried not to use that term. It’s been promoted as a forum, and a meet & greet. If debate slipped out in a post somewhere then it was more out of habit then out of intent. People generally like to refer to these events as debates.

“Debates” are never really debates, at least in my experience.They tend to be more like panel discussions where candidates bring their people and questions get submitted to try and torpedo the other candidates in front of the crowd. In my experience few unaffiliated members of the public show up to “debates”, and they take an extremely long time to complete, which helps keep attendance numbers low.

We (Jaycees) went with the meet & greet format because we think it is important for voters to actually meet the candidates, engage in conversation, and ask direct questions. Thus, the survey was compiled from questions submitted by actual voters, and there will be an opportunity to exchange questions and ideas at the event. I only edited out the obvious duplicate questions and made corrections for minor grammar issues.

Over 400 hundred likely voters in Ward 1 and Ward 3 received post card invitations to the event last week, and several hundred people have been contacted via Facebook. I am hopeful that there will be a nice crowd.

The event opens at 6:30 PM. Copies of the survey will be made available at the door. At around 7:00 PM the presentations will begin. The Jaycees will do a welcome and a quick presentation highlighting our 75 years of public service in this community. Next each candidate will be invited to take five minutes to address the crowd. We will be distributing cards to the attendees to submit additional questions, which I will review and present after the candidates speak. When the speaking stops, the intention is for the candidates to go to their literature tables and engage the voters in small groups, or one on one.

Ted Windish, Mike Eller, Steve Pierce and Tyrone Bridges have confirmed they will attend. Pete Murdock has only said that “maybe” he will attend.

Lois Richardson declined to attend the event in favor of going to a labor union convention instead. She did not complete the survey, but instead sent a letter, which I used to answer the first survey question.

MARK: Of the questions that were sent, by the Jaycees, to each of the candidates running for City Council in Wards 1 and 3, I notice that two individuals – Steve Pierce and Mike Eller – did not respond. Did they give you a reason as to why they refused to comply with your request?

DAVID Steve Pierce and Mike Eller did not give reasons for why they did not answer the questions. I took the liberty of inserting their contact info at the end of the survey. This info was obtained from the Washtenaw County Elections website.

As far as I am aware, this is the only public event scheduled for this election. I expect reporters from the Ypsilanti Courier and AnnArbor.com to be in attendance. I’m not aware of any candidate survey sent out by either publication, so this is also likely the only candidate survey for this election as well.

No other candidates from other political affiliations will appear on the November ballot, so this is the only chance voters have to decide who represents them unless a write-in candidate files for the November election. Given the prevalence of straight-ticket voting in this area, a write-in campaign would need to be incredibly well organized to have a shot at beating the winners of the Democratic Party Primary.

As I mentioned to David after this exchange, while I disagree with him on the value of debates, as well his assertion that people don’t attend them, I very much appreciate his efforts, as well as those of the Jaycees, to get these individuals in front of voters. In an election where, at least to me, it seems as though many of the candidates are hesitant to state what they actually believe publicly, in favor of addressing people one at a time, and giving them sometimes very different answers to the same questions, I think this is a big step forward. Still, though, I would have liked to have seen a little give and take between candidates.

Speaking of campaigning without publicly stating what you believe in, have you seen Steve Pierce’s campaign website? It just says “call me.”

It might be a great strategy for winning, but, as an inquisitive voter, I find it lacking. But, there are other things in this year’s City Council race that I find more worrisome… like a certain candidate’s apparent association with a John Birch Society front group… Hopefully all of this and more will come up tomorrow night.

Posted in Politics, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Are we watching the American labor movement die at Caterpillar?

While I don’t generally make it a practice to steal posts outright, in their entirety, from other sites, I just read something on Metafilter that I want to share with you. It concerns the busting of the machinists’ union at Caterpillar, and I really doubt whether I could say it any better. Here’s the post, entitled “Kicking Labor While You’re Up,” as written by someone calling herself moammargaret.

Caterpillar, after record profits, squeezes its union for a six-year wage and pension freeze and increased insurance contributions – not because it has to, but because it can. As the machinists’ union enters its fourth month on strike, the company says it’s getting along just fine with temps and union workers who have crossed the picket line. Private-sector union membership is now at an all-time low of 6.9%. Even as calls to remedy America’s income inequality grow from Occupy and other movements, nobody in power is helping. The Democratic Party’s ship has long since sailed. (previously)

As for the question that I posed in the title of this post, I don’t think that the American labor movement is truly at its end. I think labor will eventually reemerge as a force to be reckoned with. I just think it’s going to take a while. Eventually, though, all of the fights that our great grandparents lived though, and, in some cases, died as a result of, are going to be fought again. It’s unfortunate that we let it come to this, but I suppose that’s the way it goes. It’s the cyclical nature of human existence. I’m just hoping that we’re as successful against drones, and today’s high-tech security apparatus, as we were against the industrialists of old, and the Pinkertons that did their bidding.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Corporate Crime | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

I know we say that “bad guys will get guns anyway,” if gun control laws are enacted, but do we know that to be a fact?

A few days ago, after a man in body armor fatally shot a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater, I caught a snippet of someone official-looking being interviewed on television. (My sense was that he was with law enforcement, but he very well could have been an official with the National Rifle Association.) As I recall, he was standing in front of a gun shop that, outside its front door, had a sign proclaiming, “We Save Lives.” The reporter brought up the subject of gun control, and he responded by saying, somewhat definitively, that it doesn’t work. I can’t remember his exact quote, but it was something like, “Bad people are going to acquire guns, regardless of what we try to do legislatively. We know that to be true.” The reporter didn’t challenge him on this, but his statement got me wondering, “How do we really know that’s the case?” I mean, I’ve heard the argument before that, if we crack down, and make guns harder to acquire, it will only hurt the law-abiding citizens, desperate to protect their families, but how do we know that’s what would happen? Have we tried it? Is there really evidence that tighter gun control laws don’t lead to decreased gun violence? Or is this just another meaningless talking point that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny? Looking at the numbers of gun-related deaths in other countries, I have to think that, despite what people here might say, gun violence does drop when laws are put in place to insure that fewer guns are in circulation. The following graphic, which I think speaks to this, is from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Granted, our nations are different sizes, and these numbers were clearly cherry picked to illustrate the staggering disparity between the United States and theses other prosperous western countries, but how can you look at numbers like these and not wonder if maybe there aren’t alternatives to the status quo to consider? Or, are folks right when they say that legal intervention would be useless here? Are Americans just that much more blood thirsty and determined than those folks living in countries like England, Canada and Australia? Having met Australians in bars, I find that hard to believe, but is that the case?

In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States.

Personally, I don’t claim to know the answer, and I’m not saying definitely that we should outlaw guns. I’m just saying that it would seem to me, based on murder rates around the world, to be misleading at best to say, “Oh, you can’t stop bad people from acquiring guns.” While it’s true that some bad people will acquire weapons, regardless of what roadblocks are constructed to stop them from doing so, I don’t think anyone could look at the fact that, in this one year, there were 39 people murdered with firearms in England, while there were 9,484 to die as a result of gun violence in America, and not think that perhaps the widely differing policies in our two countries play a role. Amazingly, however, I think there are people who would look at the two numbers, side-by-side, and say, not that we have something to learn from England, but that what we need to do is to put more guns on the street, in hopes that, in the hands of honest Americans, they’ll deter crime, and drive that number further down.

Sadly, I don’t think this is a conversation that the people of America are willing to have. From what I can see, we seem more interested, in the wake of this tragedy, to determine whether or not James Holmes used his student aid money to buy the weapons that he used, than we do discuss whether or not he should have been able to buy them in the first place. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I think that if we see any legislation come about as a result of this shooting, it won’t be legislation to keep guns off the streets, but to further restrict student federal aid, using the argument that said funds could be used to acquire weapons. I know it sounds crazy, but nothing would surprise me at this point.

NOTE: Our last conversation on the constitutionality of gun control can be found here.

Posted in Civil Liberties | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Shadow Art Fair 2012 (part three)

The following comment was left on the site last night, by someone who attended the Shadow.

So… I gotta say, how fucking awesome was that science teacher-looking guy, with the tall socks and white hair, playing that face-melting punk??? I need to see them play again. Shadow was a great time, y’all never disappoint.

The science teacher-looking guy is my friend Andy, who, as you might recall, once stirred up a lot of shit on this site by saying, “I detest the bands of today. They have now raw power. They just noodle and stand there.” As you saw on Saturday, despite his advanced age, he’s still not one to just stand around and noodle.

Oh, and he doesn’t teach science. He does, however, as someone pointed out in the comments section, look a lot like a certain famous time-traveling scientist from America’s past/future.

I’ve known Andy, by they way, since the early 90’s, when we used to play shows together. His band, The Monarchs, would open for my band, Prehensile Monkey-tailed Skink, and vice versa. There were many good times had, but, unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s much documentary evidence, except for a few 45s released by Bulb Records… But here Andy is, some 20 years later, still going at it with the raw power of an angry teen.

The band, by the way, is Minus9, and I have it on good authority that they’ll be playing the soon-to-be-announced 10th anniversary party for this website, along with a number of other local music luminaries. So, if you missed them at the Shadow, stay tuned.

Oh, and it’s probably worth nothing that Ian Fulcher, the man who books the entertainment for the Shadow each summer, didn’t just limit himself to grindcore this year. The lineup was incredibly diverse, extending from folk to comedy. While I wasn’t able to make it outside very often, I did get to catch a few songs by the newly re-formed Saturday Looks Good to Me. Here’s one of their numbers, for those of you who don’t so much care for songs about being attacked with acid.

And thank you again to all of the bands who came out to play on Saturday, Ian for curating the whole damn thing, and the guys who volunteered to handle the sound. Without them, the Shadow wouldn’t be the truly magical event that it is today.

Posted in Art and Culture, Shadow Art Fair, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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