Author Archives: bennylee

Why I’m voting for Obama

Heading to the polls to cast my vote for President Obama. There are many reasons I’ve chosen him, but here are the top 5.  Agree or disagree, but please vote!!!!!  

1. I believe that people like me with pre-existing conditions deserve high quality and affordable healthcare that can’t be taken away if we get sick. I believe the Affordable Care Act is the only way to do that without bankrupting the insurance industry. 
 
2. I believe that my female friends deserve to make their own decisions about their body and am disgusted by the Republican Party’s attempts, this cycle to redefine rape and, in the official party platform, to ban abortions with no exceptions. 
 
3. After watching the debates, countless speeches and interviews and reading the economic plans of both Obama and Romney I, quite simply, trust Obama more to keep us on a path to recovery in a balanced and thoughtful way that is fair.  In addition, I believe that Obama has tried to do more but has been faced with a Congress with no interest in compromise and more focused on getting rid of Obama than making the Country better. 
 
4. I believe my gay and lesbian friends deserve to marry who they love and deserve to serve their country honestly. I believe women deserve equal pay for equal work. I believe these are basic rights and I can’t vote for someone who disagrees with me on that. 
 
5. I believe it’s hard to know what a person will actually do when elected. Therefore I believe in voting based on a candidate’s integrity, your ability to trust they are working for you and on their core convictions. I have absolutely no idea who the real Mitt Romney is and it worries me how easily he changes positions to suit his ambitions. 
 
Bonus: I believe that Chris Christie and Mayor Bloomberg are telling the truth when they say the President has done a great job after Sandy. How you respond under pressure says something about you and I believe the President is a thoughtful leader who doesn’t allow knee-jerk reactions to determine policy. 
I believe this has made a difference in allowing him to bring our troops home responsibly and be more deliberate in our foreign policy. 
 
I believe President Obama is not a perfect President. But I believe he is significantly more honest than Governor Romney and, for the reasons outlined above, he will have my vote today. I don’t believe  this s choice between the lesser of two evils. I believe in this President, appreciate what he has done, appreciate his willingness to talk about the details of his plans, and trust in his vision for the country. 
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Let’s learn something

I was watching Meet the Press at the gym yesterday (yeah, I’m that guy) and heard something that gave me pause.  Moderator David Gregory had top surrogates from the Romney and Obama campaigns – NH Senator Kelly Ayotte and MA Governor Deval Patrick respectively – on the show and closed the interview by asking about education.  Specifically, in regards to education, he wanted to know if the panelists believe that we have “moved beyond this union– pro-union, anti-union debate in this political discourse?”  Governor Patrick chose to respond by touting the achievements of students in Massachusetts, while commenting that MA is the most unionized state in the country.  Senator Ayotte responded by saying “…obviously Governor Romney believes kids first, unions last.”   And that comment is what caused me to pause my elliptical machine pedaling.

Education comments

Kids first, unions last.  It’s a line that, if delivered in front of the right audience at a political rally, would bring raucous applause and an extended ovation.   Unions.  It’s a dirty word in America today and that breaks my heart.  You know what she is actually saying?  She’s actually saying that Governor Romney believes kids come first and teachers come last.  Teachers come last.  Not investors.  Not reporters.  Not politicians or policy makers.  Nope.  For Romney and Ayotte all of those people, and anyone else I may have left out, come before teachers.  That attitude is, at best, ignorant and, at worst, a pathetic attempt to demonize some of the most important people in our society.

Her comments imply that, in education policy, teachers should have the least important voice.   She couldn’t be more wrong.  Teachers are the ones in the classroom every day, working with our nation’s children.  They are the ones who inspire, who educate, who support students in their formative years.  And they are the ones who are constantly asked to do more – educating more students, teaching more information – with declining resources.  They are the ones who KNOW what they need in order to be successful and, yet, somehow Senator Ayotte and, according to her, Governor Romney don’t value their voices.   Students, teachers, parents, educational experts.  Those are the groups that should have the most important voice at the table – not ignorant politicians who think teachers are the problem.  Not ignorant politicians who are fine with more tax cuts, even if it means less revenue for our schools.  That’s viewpoint is not only short-sighted, but detrimental to America’s ability to compete on the world stage.

Teacher’s voices aren’t valued because they are a part of the dreaded union.  Those on the right are so quick to assume unions are the problem and, I submit, that attitude betrays a remarkable lack of appreciation for the history of this great nation.  Let’s not forget that unions were formed to protect the rights of individual workers against business owners and governmental whims.  Unions are responsible for things like the weekend, ending child labor in America, fairer wages and more.  So why is a teacher’s union so important?  That particular union plays a crucial role in ensuring, despite all the tax cuts and increased defense spending, there is still money for education. That particular union plays a crucial role in ensuring people aren’t forced to choose between making a living wage and helping prepare the next generation for success.  That particular union has a remarkable wealth of knowledge about best practices when it comes to education – knowledge that should be embraced, listened to and respected.

Looking back on my educational experience, I know how fortunate I was.  I remember  classrooms that weren’t overcrowded.  I remember having my own text books and not having to share a desk.  I remember my school being clean, safe and I remember not having to learn hungry.  And I remember teachers who cared – who went above and beyond to help me, to inspire me to succeed.  But not all educational experiences are like mine.  All districts across this country have teachers who care.  But not all have the resources to do the things we know are critical for student success.  Rather than attack those teachers who are trying to do more with less, let’s honor them.  Let’s respect them.  Let’s listen to them and let’s give them the resources they need.  Money isn’t the only answer but it shouldn’t be that, just because I grew up in a wealthy suburb, my educational experience should be so vastly different from my peers in other areas.

To the teachers who have made such a difference in my life, I say thank you.  To my friends who have chosen to spend their career in education, I say thank you.  To the millions of teachers around the country who constantly find new ways to inspire, I say thank you.  To Senator Ayotte and Governor Romney, I suggest you stop talking and start listening.  Listen to those who have dedicated their career to building the future American workforce.  Listen to the parents who have seen, first-hand, the lasting impact a teacher can have.  Listen to the students who have become inspired by a teacher and, as a result, are now pursuing a career in engineering or math.    You just might learn something.

Thank you, Steve Sabol

Slow motion replay.  Mic’ed up players and coaches.  Close-ups of players on the sidelines.  Steve Sabol, the President of NFL Films, helped us see the NFL in a different way.  He helped us learn more about the game we love.  He helped us love the game even more.  Sabol died this week at 69 years old, but his innovations will live on as long as professional football exists and even longer.

NFL Films was founded by Steve’s dad, Ed and became successful pretty quickly.  This despite the fact that Ed’s only previous film experience was Steve’s high school football games and a movie about whales, which flopped when he couldn’t find any whales.   From 1962, when Ed convinced Commissioner Pete Rozelle to let him film the NFL Championship game, NFL Films became as much a part of the game as tackles, touchdowns and bemoaning the calls of the referees.   ESPN, HBO, ABC, NBC – anyone who broadcasts football games uses their images, their shots and their discoveries.   Even Hollywood got into the act with directors like Ron Howard crediting NFL Films for inspiring aspects of their movies.  Ed may have been the founder but, in a 2008 interview, he said about his son ““I may have started it, but he has been the engineer behind it…he comes up with these great ideas and is a great student of the game.”

To honor his memory, the NFL has created an extremely powerful video, which is going to be shown at stadiums across the country, prior to games this weekend.  Perhaps one of the most important things that can be said about a person after they pass, is that they made a difference.  Sabol did that and more.  He helped millions of people understand the game a bit better, created phrases we’ll never forget (Frozen Tundra, for example) and helped propel the NFL to the height of popularity.  Here is the video and I know I speak for all football fans when I say “Thank you, Mr. Sabol.  You’ll be missed!”

Funny, I don’t feel like a victim

I don’t feel like one but, according to Mitt Romney, I am.  By now you have, no doubt, heard about the infamous video that’s all over the internet of Republican Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney.  Apparently the Governor was secretly recorded while speaking at a fundraising event in Florida on May 17th and his comments have raised a lot of eyebrows.

Here is the video from the fundraiser as released by the website Mother Jones.

The key quote I want to focus on from the Governor is the following:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Since the video has been made public, the Romney campaign has made a number of statements in response.  Here are a sampling:

“Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.” – Romney Campaign Statement

“I think he has to not apologize. … What he said is probably what he thinks.” – Donald Trump

“I am sure I can state it more clearly and effectively than I did in a setting like that…I am talking about a political process of drawing people in my campaign. … My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility…This is ultimately a question about the direction of the country. Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits? Or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”  – Mitt Romney

Lots of explaining away the remarks, but no backing down.  Romney also added this his remarks were “off the cuff” which, rather than help explain, makes it even more clear these statements reflect his true and honest view of the country.  Trump is right.   Based on the response to the video being made public, it’s clear that the only regret on the part of Romney is that his statements were not as “eloquent” as they could have been.   That, my friends, is a good thing.

Too often we are forced to analyze candidates based on what we think they believe based on carefully scripted public statements and, of course, their actions – actions which, too often, are explained away by a spokesperson.  Here we have a candidate who has clearly articulated how he views the country and those who may not vote for him.  But it goes beyond that – it’s impactful because it doesn’t introduce a new idea.  We have always suspected this is how Romney views  the electorate, so these statements are serve as more of a confirmation than anything else

Beyond that, however, there are 3 reasons this gaffe (if one can even call it that) won’t be going away.

1. He’s wrong

In the video, Romney says that those who don’t pay any income tax won’t support him.  But a quick look at the map, below, shows just how wrong that is.  Look at the 10 states with the highest percentage of people not paying income tax – almost all Republican states (8 of the 10 have Republican Governors).  On the flip side, those with the lowest percentages tend to skew Democratic.

 

2. Who is Romney counting in the 47%?  Who is he leaving out?

The other point here is that, while it is true about 47% of Americans don’t pay income tax, the majority of those do pay other taxes (state, federal payroll etc…).   The percentage of Americans, according to the Tax Policy Center, that really don’t pay any Federal taxes is closer to 18%.   Most of those are elderly living on social security or extremely low-income families.  If you remove the elderly from the math, you are left with about 8% of the population – the majority of whom don’t have jobs and are living on other income (alimony,  child support etc…)  So, according to the non-partisan tax policy center, the percentage of the population not paying Federal taxes, and making more than $20K annually, but below the threshold for tax liability based on household size and other factors, is closer to 1%.  Of course, some of what makes up that 1% may well be the roughly 3,000 people who, despite making $2,178,866+ in 2011 – some of whom may have been in the room when Romney made his pronouncement – pay no federal income taxes.  Are they victims and irredeemable?

3. What does being reliant on the Government actually mean?

This is the crux of the issue with what Romney said.  He is deriding a significant portion of the population for being reliant on Government support.  But does that mean?  Is it reliance to take advantage of tax breaks to purchase a home?  Is it reliance for a Veteran take advantage of the GI Bill to get education?  Is it reliance to have student loans?  Is it reliance to use roads the Government paid for paving?  Is it reliance to expect a tax deduction for making a contribution to charity?  Is it reliance to deduct childcare expenses?  Is it reliance to call 911 in an emergency?

These questions are relevant because, so far, we don’t know what Mitt Romney would cut in order to balance out the giant tax cut he is proposing.  He has said time and time again that any tax cuts would be “revenue neutral” and offset by closing loopholes and ending certain tax breaks.  What he hasn’t said is which ones he is eyeing.  Given these comments, it is safe to assume that the loopholes he would close are the ones that “moochers” like me use.  That would be things like the aforementioned student loans, the mortgage interest tax break and others.  It might be cutting even more from Medicare and, while repealing the Affordable Care Act, it might mean the promised replacement (which he also refuses to talk about) would be something more akin to a privatized system.

So what does this all mean?  Well, to Governor Romney, it appears that tax breaks for the wealthy are right and proper, but “loopholes” that allow middle and lower class people to have an opportunity to succeed leads to entitlement.  Governor Romney’s assertion that those lower income people think they are entitled to things like food and housing suggests a society that has no responsibility for helping those less fortunate.  His callous writing off of these people as folks who he will never be able to reach suggest this is a man who should not be running for President.  It suggests a society where it is truly every person for themselves.  That’s not the country Ronald Reagan imagined and it’s not the America I believe in.  Reagan’s 1986 tax reforms, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit, took an estimated (according to his administration) 6 million low income people off the tax rolls – to him that wasn’t a problem, but the right thing to do.  In today’s Republican party that idea would seem to be a non-starter.  Romney called the EITC a “sweeping victory for fairness…perhaps the biggest anti-poverty program in our history.”  Quite the difference from how Romney sees the low-income population.  Reagan clearly cared.  Romney said “My job is not to worry about those people. ”

I’ll let conservative columnist David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, have the final word.  While he acknowledges Romney’s points about an “entitlement state growing at an unsustainable rate” he takes great issue with what Romney said and how he said it.  He lists several misconceptions that Romney must hold given the comments and says:

“The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.”

I’m absolutely furious today.

An American Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens is dead.  Three other Diplomats – Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and another whose name has not been released – are dead.  They were killed in a raid on the American Consulate in Libya after a pastor in Florida posted a insensitive and inappropriate video mocking the prophet Mohammed.  This raid was an attack on America by disgusting and deplorable people and, at a time like this, it is critical that Americans, and our allies, stand united.  But that’s not how Mitt Romney and RNC chair Reince Priebus saw it.  They saw it as an opportunity to criticize the President in a political attack that was, at best, dishonest and ignorant.

Courtesy of the Talking Points Memo blog, here’s what happened.  On September 9, a scene from the anti-Muslim film “The Innocence of Muslims” was shown on Egyptian television.  Given the timing to the 9/11 anniversary and the absolutely offensive material contained in the video, the United States Embassy in Cairo posted the following statement at 6:17 AM EST on September 11:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Note the time here.  6:17 AM.  Well before any attack and, in my opinion, a completely appropriate, balanced and important statement.  It’s not apologizing for America.  It’s making a statement about what America believes and taking the stand that tearing down the beliefs of others is not who we are.  Around the same time peaceful protesters were gathering outside the Embassy in Cairo and the statement, it was hoped, would help to ensure there would not be violence.  Hours later some protesters scale the walls of the Embassy and burn an American flag.  The invasion is quickly contained the Embassy sends out a statement condemning the breach.   Later, at 5:41 PM EST, and shortly after pastor Terry Jones announced he would be showing the film that evening, an attack begins on the US Consulate in Libya.  We learn in the subsequent hours that several Americans have been killed in that attack.

Romney’s response is to release the following statement at 10:25 EST on 9/11 (violating the embargo on campaign attacks on that date):

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

Preibus follows with a tweet at 12:01 AM on 9/12 (at least it wasn’t on 9/11) that reads “”Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

Here’s the problem – the attack happened AFTER the Embassy released their statement and, in fact, after the attacks occurred, new statements were released condemning them in no uncertain terms.  The Romney campaign saw this as an opportunity to further their “Obama likes to apologize for America” narrative and, rather than stand with the President and those who were attacked, chose to make it political.  It is shameful.  It is disgusting.  It is dishonest.  It is wrong.  But don’t take my word for it.  Congressional Republicans have refused, almost to a person, to back up Romney’s attack and many foreign policy experts, conservative ones, have criticized his response.  And, the decisions he made, are markedly different from the choices made in time of crisis by two former Republican Presidents.  If Romney wants to join them as Presidents, he better get a handle on when to attack and when to show unity.  That judgement is something this man is severely lacking.

However, let’s assume, for a moment, that everything Romney and Priebus said was actually the truth.  How much more powerful would it have been if, instead of  releasing a negative statement or holding a press conference in the moments before Obama was scheduled to speak on the issue, he had done something different.  Imagine if he had called the President and said something like “I’m with you today and will do whatever I can help us show a unified front.  Would you like me to come to your press conference so we can stand together and say that, no matter our political differences, we mourn the loss of these courageous Americans and stand united in our condemnation of those who seek to do us harm.”  If Obama declined the offer, he would come off as playing politics.  And, if he accepted, Romney would be seen as a thoughtful and honorable leader who puts his country first.  Instead he chose to lie and, in so doing, came across as someone truly unfit to lead.

Just another thought-filled Monday…

Happy Monday all!  Random thoughts from the weekend:

Politics:

  • It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention.  According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday.  We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments.  So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
  • For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.”  In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning.  That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls.  And therein lies the advantage for the President.   The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means.  If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
  • The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being.   Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once.  In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies.  Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed?  That, ultimately, will decide this election.

Sports:

Football is back and I could not be more excited!  All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning.  And I was among them!  After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:

Winners:

  • New York Jets

I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that.  Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below).  And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1.  Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong.  How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me.  This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996.  Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!

  • Peyton Manning

In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning.  After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win.  Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not.  He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.

  • Replacement Officials

Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right.  Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win.  Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game.  Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport.  Way to go!

Losers

  • Preseason footbal

It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many.  It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change.  Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.

  • Rookie QBs

It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it.  All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place.  Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.

  • New Orleans Saints

After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders.  Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side.  That didn’t happen.  They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds.  They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late.  Let’s see which team shows up next week.

3 Nights in Charlotte

Oh, the benefits of going second.  It’s not hard to imagine, after the Republican Convention last week in Tampa, Democratic leaders huddling somewhere to rewrite speeches, redo videos and shift the lineup to more effectively respond to the various charges and claims made by their opponents.  I’m here to tell you that, whatever they did, it worked.  Besides putting on a very entertaining show, the Democratic National Committee effectively made the case for President Obama’s re-election while, at the same time, energizing their base.  My prediction is that the President gets a 7-9 point bump out of this, but we’ll see once the new polls come out.

Before I get to the winners and losers of the convention, I want to share the best moment to come out of either event, by far.  On January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords held an event in Tucson, Arizona.  Her “Congress on Your Corner” events were a great way for constituents to meet their Representative and have their voices heard.  On this particular day, however, the meeting ended in tragedy with six people (including a 9 year old girl) dead and Giffords critically wounded.   As anyone who has ever had or cared for someone with a serious brain injury knows, the path to recovery is long and extremely challenging.   She has made very few public appearances since the shooting and none have had the power and emotion of what she did last night.  Just watch.

Sure beats an empty chair as a lead-in to the party nominee!  Ok, without further ado, here are my winners and losers from the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Winners:

  • Bill Clinton

President Clinton has been delivering speeches for many many years and he is a master storyteller.  When Clinton takes the stage, people listen and hang on every word.  Love him or hate him, you have to admire his ability to captivate an audience and deliver key messages in an engaging and exciting way.  The speech he gave on Wednesday night, nominating President Obama was, in my humble opinion, one of the best he has ever given.  He was forceful, he was funny and he left no doubt about how he has seen the past 4 years and why he believes Barack Obama should be re-elected.   As CNN Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said following the speech, “If Barack Obama gets re-elected, I think tonight will be a good reason why.”  Hard to do better than that.

  • Barack Obama

Watching the Republican Convention, one couldn’t help but wonder how much the party elite is really excited about the prospect of a President Romney.  Many of the speakers seemed to be more focused on building themselves up for a future run, rather than making the case for Romney.  By contrast, the Democrats are clearly excited about their ticket and that passion shone through in speech after speech.   In addition, I thought Obama’s speech was very impressive.  I left his speech thinking that this is a serious guy who has learned from his mistakes, but whose commitment to doing what he believes is right hasn’t wavered.  I really liked the reframing of the “hope and change” arguement from 4 years ago and found it quite effective.  Was it a soaring speech that Obama 2004 or Clinton 2012?  No.  But I don’t think it needed to be or, quite frankly, should have been.  He needed to let the others do that, and come across as a leader we can trust.  Which I think he did.

The other thing about the convention is President Obama came across as much tougher and stronger than I have seen before.  We heard from Vice-President Biden about how he goes about making decisions and what a strong character he has.  Biden told us that Obama “has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel” and we saw that in Obama’s speech.  All of those traits were there and, when combined with his messages, Obama very much came across as someone who we can trust to work for all Americans and continue to make a difference.

  • Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Jennifer Granholm

Aside from Clinton and Obama, these three leaders delivered the best speeches of the convention.  Each focused on different issues, but all three were extremely effective in their defense of the President and convincing in their support for him.  All three are going to play a critical role in the campaign between now and November 6 and all three delivered stirring and memorable speeches.   Patrick (Romney’s record in Massachusetts), Kerry (Foreign Policy) and Granholm (Auto bailout) all made the point that Americans are better off today because of the leadership of President Obama and all made the the point that Governor Romney would be the wrong choice.

  • Michelle Obama

Wow.  Just, wow.  Michelle Obama delivered an incredible speech that was beyond a simple endorsement of her husband.  She told us more about the man, what drives him and, most importantly, connected his ideas and beliefs to their family and the future they imagine for their daughters.  It was powerful, it was compelling, it was funny and it was effective.

Losers

  • George W. Bush

It’s clear that Obama’s team see winning Michigan and Ohio as crucial to their chances in November.  That’s why they focused so heavily on the Auto bailout and how many jobs that effort saved.  What no one mentioned, however, is that President Bush was the one who first began to lay the groundwork for the bailout and, in fact, authorized the first loan to Detroit.  The fact is that the bailout worked, but the facts are, also, that Bush deserves some of the credit.

  • Martin O’Malley

The Governor of Maryland is often mentioned as a potential 2016 Presidential candidate.  However, he did not do himself any favors with his convention speech.  The Republicans want to make this election a referendum on the past 4 years and, as such, are making the argument that Americans are worse off than they were when President Obama took office.   Leading into this convention, the Democrats had primarily tried to counter that argument by attempting to make the election a choice election – that is, putting the Obama/Biden plan alongside the Romney/Ryan plan and asking Americans which one works best for them.  However, in Charlotte, there was a much more forceful argument that we are, in fact, better off than we were 4 years ago.  It’s important because if they can defend both their record and promote their future plans effectively, there is no way Romney can win.

However, in a pre-convention interview on Face the Nation,  Governor O’Malley undercut that message when asked by host Bob Schieffer if he could ” honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?”  In response,  O’Malley said “No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit cards.”  It may have been honest and it may have been an attempt to link Romney to Bush.  But, as a result, O’Malley had to spend the convention backtracking and that’s not a position a 2016 candidate wants to be in.

  • Charlie Crist

Party changers are rarely well received at conventions, but Crist’s speech was embarrassingly bad.  It was such a transparent attempt to further his own political ambitions and those in the hall saw right through it.  I have no idea if Crist will help Obama win Florida by appealing to moderates but his speech last night didn’t do the President any favors.  As bad as Artur Davis was last week at the RNC, Crist was worse because he was clearly only speaking to help set himself up for a Gubernatorial run as a Democrat.   Not good.  Not good at all.

  • Platform Committee

The party platforms are rarely read and the news media, generally, only spends time talking about them if there is something controversial or different.  The fact that the RNC platform is anti-abortion, with no exceptions, was newsworthy and will become an issue in the campaign.  The Democrats made the decision to not mention God, and to not endorse Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Then, after some backlash from both inside and outside the party, the committee made the decision to add that back in.  This resulted in some awkward moments where, when the change was announced, there was scattered booing in the hall.  Likely the delegates were booing the fact that a change was being made, but it gave the appearance (as hyped up on Fox) that they were booing God.  Whatever the truth, it was not a good image for the party.

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Before I let you go (and kudos if you’ve read this all the way through) I want to leave you with two videos. I think it is ENORMOUSLY important that all Americans, regardless of where you may stand, see the speeches from both Presidential candidates.  Please set aside some time to watch – it’s important to know where they stand and what their vision is for the country.

Joan Lovely for MA State Senate

So I know most of you don’t live in Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Topsfield or Peabody, MA.  From you, I beg your indulgence while I share with the rest why I am voting for Joan Lovely in the Democratic Primary today.  If you do live in Massachusetts, PLEASE be sure to vote today!!

There are several candidates running to be the Democratic nominee in the race to replace the retiring Senate Majority Leader, Fred Berry.  Before I talk about why Lovely is my choice, I want to take a minute to thank our outgoing Senator.  Senator Berry was, quite simply, one of the hardest working members of the State Senate who always impressed me with his intellectual curiosity and ability to bring people together to do the right thing.  Berry was born with cerebral palsy and has been a steadfast advocate for the rights of the disabled members of our community.  But, he was so much than that one issue.  He was a courageous and steadfast supporter of women’s rights, before many in his party, and wasn’t never afraid to stand up for what he believed in.  Hed was dedicated to support the most vulnerable among us, both through legislation and through rolling up his sleeves to raise money and conduct drives for essential community organizations.  Finally, Berry was a team player who knew how to compromise on issues without compromising his morals.  He will be missed!

But, fortunately, we have a very exciting candidate to replace him.    Joan Lovely has been a City Councilor since 1998 and is one of the few who can match Berry’s addiction to working hard and making a difference.   She has demonstrated, through her career, a dedication to improving the lives of all those in the community and always puts doing what is right ahead of doing what is politically expedient.   But, beyond all of that, what has impressed me most about Councilor Lovely, as I’ve followed the race, is how pragmatic she is.  Unlike many who run for office, both locally and nationally, she isn’t spending her time on grandiose things that we all know will never happen.  Instead, she demonstrates a clear understanding of what is actually realistic and what will actually make a difference.  That ability is rare in politics and is something that truly excites me about Lovely.  While we don’t agree on every issue, I have the confidence that, as Senator, Lovely will go about making decisions in a manner I can trust.  To me that is the most important thing to know about the person representing you and is, ultimately, why I’m so excited to support her.

Please vote today and, if you are in the 2nd Essex District, please vote for Joan Lovely.

For more information on Joan Lovely, please click here.

NFL Predictions

For the record, here are my predictions:

AFC East – New England Patriots (terrible division, except Buffalo, and Brady and co. are just too good)

AFC West – Denver Broncos (Peyton Manning is a winner and, if he stays healthy, this team will be good)

AFC South –  Houston Texans (Would have won the AFC last year if Schaub hadn’t gotten hurt.)

AFC North – Baltimore Ravens (The offense has finally caught up to the defense)

Wild Cards – Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders

 

NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles (No more dream team talk.  Just good, solid football and a healthy? Vick)

NFC West – San Francisco 49ers (No, not because of Randy Moss.  Smith is a good QB and it’s the best defense in football)

NFC South – Carolina Panthers (I believe in Cam Newton.  And I think the defense is going to be sneaky good.  Plus, I think the Saints are going to start fast, but then fade)

NFC North – Green Bay Packers (Can’t pick against the best QB in football)

Wild Cards – New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions

 

AFC Champion – Head says Texans, heart says Patriots.  Head wins.

NFC Champion – Head and heart both say Packers.  That was easy.

 

Super Bowl Champion – Green Bay Packers

Happy Opening Day!!

Well it is finally here and we are all ready.  The stadiums are ready, the crowds are getting fired up, the players have memorized the playbook and the officials…well, they are at home.  But we have replacement officials and I’m so excited about the NFL returning that I almost don’t care.   Hey, it’ll just make us all think we are watching the actual NBA officials.  What’s a penalty?  No one knows!

To celebrate the first game of the NFL season tonight (Cowboys 27 Giants 24 in case you were wondering) I give you my newly updated rules for watching football with friends.  Earlier versions of this list have been blown up and hung next to TVs, been posted in a college bar in Madison, NJ and emailed to literally dozens of people.  I believe in these rules, and I stand by them.  If you disagree, please don’t invite me over and just go back to rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs.  No, it’s not going to be your year!

1. Don’t talk communicate with a non-football fan significant other.

If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, more power to you. If they want to watch the game with you and your friends, that is more than acceptable (see rule 7). However, you must not spend valuable game-viewing time talking to them on the phone, tweeting them, emailing them, texting them, instagraming them (is that a thing?), facebooking them etc… You can wait a few hours.  I don’t care how hot they are or how excited you are about what they are promising you for after the game.   If you must check in with your love, do NOT ever do it during game action, replays or between play commentary.  And, seriously, for the sake of all of us, leave the room.

2. Don’t gloat too much if your team is winning.

You are watching the game with friends. Friends. It is important to stay friends after the game is over. In order for that to happen you must not gloat if your team is beating your friend’s team. It is fine, even expected, to cheer and be happy. Some needling is perfectly acceptable, but there is a line. You must find that line for yourself, but there is a line. It is important to note that the line will change if, earlier in the game or season, your friend crossed the line in his or her behavior toward you. If that has occurred, all bets are off.  I’m looking at you Jets fans.  You may start strong…oh, who am I kidding, no you won’t.

3. Don’t come late.

This should be a no-brainer. The game starts at 1 p.m., not 1:20. Show up on time or, better yet, show up early and get yourself emotionally prepared for the game.  I had a theater director who once said to me “If you are early, you are on time.  If you are on time, you are late.  If you are late, you’re fired.”  Showing up late without a valid reason is simply uncalled for, selfish and distracting. Just don’t do it.

4. Don’t block the TV for any reason.

The TV is the most important object in the room. It must be treated as such. If you must get up, do not cross in front of the TV. If you must and, by must, I mean there is absolutely no other option, get down on your belly and crawl. DO NOT BLOCK THE GAME! EVER! It is never funny, never amusing and always upsetting.

5. Go to the bathroom during commercials. You have two minutes. Use them wisely.

On that same subject, you should not be leaving your seat until there is an appropriate break in the action. Commercial breaks are two minutes long. This is plenty of time to take care of any business. If the game has begun before you make it back to your seat, stand by the door. Do not try to crawl over your friends or make them move. You have been neglectful and you must wait.  Or, better yet, make up for it by getting us all a beer.

6. Do not discuss other subjects.

You may need to plan a study group. You may want to tell all about the fabulous time you had the night before or that hot date you have tonight. Great! We want to hear it! (Well, maybe not the study group part.) But, for all of our sakes, wait until after the game! Don’t make us choose between your story and the game. I promise, you will lose out every time.  Wait until after the game. If it must be told, it can be told during halftime.

7. No PDA!

I would think this goes without saying, but, more often than you’d think, it doesn’t. As I said earlier, if your significant other, or really close friend, wants to watch the game with you and your friends, that is fine. But there will be no cuddling. No massages. No hand holding. Nothing. You are here to watch the game, and you must never allow something to take you out of that state. Hugging after a great play is OK (chest bumping is preferred). But sustained cuddling has no place in the viewing room.

8. Switching to other games is fine…anything else is a no-no.

Commercials are becoming more and more insipid and harder to watch. Therefore, I am revising my NFL Red Zone rule. I used to think that NFL Red Zone should not be watched while your team is playing.  It’s a perfect way to spend the other non-home team game hours, but that’s it.  Now, however, I have decided to allow it during commercials of the chosen game.  But there are consequences to this shift.  The remote control holder has enormous responsibility to ensure you don’t miss a moment of your game.  That means having your finger on the “last” button and timing things to the minute.  Some of us have perfected that skill and I implore you to not underestimate that power of the remote control timing.

9. If someone has a lucky seat, respect that.

I rode the left seat on my friend’s couch all the way to a Super Bowl Championship for the Patriots in 2004.   During this entire period my hold on that seat was respected and, while I would never claim the Pats won because of that respect, it sure didn’t hurt.  Now, the lucky seat does not carry over into the new season but, for a playoff run, it is crucial.

10. Fantasy players may not be cheered for when they’re against your team.

Look, we all have fantasy teams, and we all want them to win. Checking the box scores to see how your players do is fine. But cheering for a play against your team because it was made by a player on your fantasy team is inexcusable. DO NOT DO IT! Let’s say I am watching an Panthers-Patriots game, and I have Cam Newton on my fantasy team. When Newton throws for his second TD pass of the game or makes a ridiculous run, I will be upset, and nothing but upset. I have been known to bench players who will be playing the Patriots in the upcoming week, thus avoiding any temptation.  But, even if you don’t bench them, make sure you are not being pulled to root for them.

And the most important rule of watching football?

Enjoy the game.  Let’s have a great season!!