Friday, October 26, 2012


As we approach the end of October and the spectacle of Halloween, it’s time for me to offer my annual condensed primer on high holidays which this year will include Halloween and Dia de los Muertos – the Mexican Day of The Dead. Since they happen to coincide in the same time period, some folks, especially many of Western European descent, think they are one and the same. Reality does reflect that while they do not remotely resemble each other and have completely different purposes, they do share a common element (more later).  

This is a stream of consciousness post so I really don’t want to engage a comprehensive history of the two events except to say that we have choices this time of year.  They are light and life or dark and death.  While Halloween now conjures up macabre demons, spirits and all things that go bump in the night, Dia de los Muertos (DDLM) is a celebration of life and remembrance. The skeleton for DDLM celebrants represents the dead playfully mimicking the living while for Halloween it’s a ghoulish icon. Halloween and all that it invokes ultimately communicates that death is something to be feared while DDLM is a festive occasion which reinforces that death is a part of life prompting a reverence and respect for those who have gone before.  It allows us to connect with the past and while paying homage to our ancestors, giving us a sense of continuity and belonging. 

Halloween didn’t start the way it is “celebrated” today.  Though several theories abound it’s clear to this writer that Halloween had its origins in the ancient harvest/herding festivals, particularly the Celtic Samhain (sow-wane).  Since early societies had a mostly oral history tradition we can only speculate how long it had been celebrated.  It would appear that Samhain or a variant was celebrated centuries before “civilization” arrived.

For the ancient Celts as with most other “primitive” societies, everything revolved around the change of seasons, the forces of nature and the phases of the sun and moon. Samhain was loosely associated with that period from on or around October First to November First of each year – with the timing (as any decent TV meteorologist can tell you today) depending on the first frost and the location and passage of the jet stream.  The passage from the warmth of summer and fall to the cold of winter meant going from the light to the dark side.  So, it was the grand incentive to get ready for the winter – that old ant and grasshopper thing

Well, along come Christian missionaries who, in the fashion of the magnanimous and conversion-minded Pope Gregory the Great (540 CE–604 CE), didn’t want to irk, rather mollify and convert the “Pagans” by incorporating those celebrations into Christian high holidays.  While the Roman Catholics were the new and meanest kids on the block they had been formally celebrating the holy day of All Saints (aka All Hallows) since 609.  However, it took Pope Louis the Pious on or around 835 CE to move the day from May 13 to November 1.  That move formalized and made official what had already been taking place for quite some time and acknowledged Samhain, opening the door to what we now know as Halloween.

Samhain was perceived by the Celts as not only the time of preparation but also that time when the veil between the living and dead (the Otherworld) was closest even to the extent that the souls of the dead, both friendly and not, would be able to come into their realm.  The Friendlies (my term) were treated with respect even to having a place at the dinner table while their living descendants told, we assume, polite and reverential tales about them.  Why?  Probably they didn’t pose a threat and were ultimately empowered to bestow blessings on the house. From that perspective alone Samhain was sometimes characterized as a Festival of the Dead. As we have already mentioned, it was much, much more.

Now to the malevolent spirits, the Unfriendlies (again, my term), who were a completely different story - apparently there to exact revenge for some previous despicable act against their person.  So guilty or not of any offense, many folk stayed inside while others who had to go out turned their clothes inside out, painted their faces or wore costumes and masks in order to confuse and ward off their spiritual adversaries.  That evolved (if we can call it that) into what would become known as “guising” and ultimately the “trick or treat” custom. Initially guisers would offer entertainment (song, dance, poetry, etc.) for a treat or money (“souling”), but that seems to have been supplanted by the “do or die” demand of current celebrants.  So, the modern tradition of trick-or-treating parallels the medieval practice of souling though with a lot edgier potential response to non-participants.  I hesitate to offer that Halloween in Scotland and Ireland was characterized by a strong tradition of pranks (sorry). On the bright side, the substantial immigration of Scots and Irish in the 18th and 19th centuries allowed the popularization of Halloween in North America.  They did bring us the jack-o-lantern which for them was usually a carved turnip which was quickly supplanted by our native pumpkin. Ah progress

Halloween today is far from being a time of preparation and ancient festival of the dead no matter how many horror films you see on October 31st. Halloween’s predecessors have been “touched” and modified by many cultures (and retailers) from the dawn of civilization.  While the ancient Celts contributed their beliefs and practices to a lot of the macabre tradition of Halloween, Christians influenced mightily as well.  Christians believed that the souls of the dead wandered Earth until All Saints' Day, when as one source cites, “All Hallows' Eve gave them one last chance to get vengeance on their enemies before moving onto the next world.” So folks in those days wore costumes in order to prevent those unforgiving spirits from recognizing them and taking their revenge.  All that vengeance stuff sounds a bit UnChristian and a heck of a lot like Samhain to us.  Indeed, it was.  The question then begs, who borrowed from whom?

While it’s certainly appropriate to acknowledge ancient rites, how sad an excuse it is for those perverted few to engage violence. Reality is that Halloween today is 1) mostly a secular folk tradition-inspired spectacular where retail gains additional billions of dollars in sales, 2) an innocent costume dress-up for young kids and 3) an excuse for many adults to party hearty. Yes, it can be a positive time to share time with Family and Friends.  

So now comes All Souls Day on November 2 which is dedicated to prayers for the dead a ritual in so-called primitive societies long before Christianity came into vogue.  Christians believed and understood that souls of the faithful departed could not enter Heaven unless substantial numbers of people prayed for them.  And, yes, that was a substantial income stream for many less than destitute and prayerful/powerful clergy of the middle ages… Though primarily a Roman Catholic observance, many western churches annually observe All Souls’ Day on November 2 including the Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

This is our segue to the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos - DDLM) which is a bona fide religious and civic holiday celebrated by the people of Latin America, particularly in Mexico and Central America on November 1st and 2nd.  If we think that Christians of western European origins have an unapproachable pedigree not to be equaled on earth, then we need to go back to school.  The origins of Día de los Muertos  celebrations can be traced back to various Mesoamerican native cultures including the Olmecs - as far back as 3000 years ago - long before Spain existed as a country and gave any thought to the Americas. Other cultures including the Toltecs, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztecs adopted the tradition and have carried it forward to the present day.

In Mexico DDLM starts on November 1st as the Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") or also as Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") and is intended to honor deceased children and infants, while adults who have passed are honored on November 2nd. In some parts of Central America the observance is referred to as Dia de los Difuntos or “Day of the Deceased” as the word “muertos” in that culture and in that context is considered impolite, even offensive.

These are not solemn celebrations, rather festive events that border on carnival. The question begs - why grieve when you can party? Families gather in their homes and even at the gravesites of their beloved departed where they remember Friends and Family by praying and telling stories about their loved ones.  Family members bring presents for the Dead including Food, photos and other memorabilia – all intended to welcome them back with assurance that they are remembered and their company cherished.  The continuity of life is assured.

Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the 16th century and in an intentional carbon copy replication of Western Europe in the 9th century, a strong effort was made by the Spanish to forcibly convert the indigenous populations to Catholicism. The native cultures in Mesoamerica were not a cooperative lot so like the Romans, local traditions were blended with the tenets and practices of the Catholic faith. While the Spanish succeeded in varying degrees, the Mesoamericans still incorporate aspects of their original religious practices into their current faith. The Maya are probably the best example as they to this day retain some degree of paganism as the core of their religion. An example would be the association of many figures in Christianity with the Mesoamerican pantheon of gods.
And, yes, we have Hanal Pixán when the Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula celebrate the return to earth on October 31st (Children's Day), November 1st (the adults) and November 2nd (All Saints) – literally all those departed souls who now occupy another realm and enjoy a better life.  They are received by their relatives with respect and love. As in DDLM families set up alters in their homes and decorate their departed’s graves with offerings of food and candy. We could go on and on though it’s apparent that many different cultures around the world from the Celts to the Olmecs and beyond have shared ritual and beliefs that continue to this day even in our own communities.

So, take your pick and observe one or the other or both in the same spirit of those who created these celebrations. We hope that they continue forever – and a day. Yes, we are all connected.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, October 20, 2012


As Jacquielyn Floyd of the Dallas Morning News offered this morning, “Vaya con Dios, Big Tex.”  You see, after 60 years as the official greeter at the Texas State Fair in Dallas, Big Tex, as we know him, is no more.  As a result of an electrical short in his size 70 right boot and ensuing fire which in stovepipe fashion roared up to his head, our 52-foot-tall animated cowboy statue literally, “joined that roundup in the sky.”  It was in spectacular though gruesome, surreal fashion with the scene epitomized by a crown of fire engulfing his head and 75 gallon cowboy hat even as he continued his iconic smile. Many in the crowd at the Fair stood in disbelief and tears while others in 21st century form were conscientiously documenting Big Tex’s demise.

Bill Bragg, the very talented basso profundo voice of Big Tex for the last eleven years was reading a script and with head down didn’t notice the fire.  Yes, Big Tex went down talking.  Bragg with tears running down his cheeks turned quickly to optimism and assurances that Big Tex will be back next year, bigger and better than ever.    

Word spread quickly from Friends and Family all over the state aided by Twitter and texts that Big Tex had been consumed by fire.  On the job we watched as fellow workers gasped and moaned at the horror and shock of the news with this writer admittedly harboring a lump in his throat.  Work came to a halt and in disbelief, we shared photos and live video from the scene in Dallas.  The mourning process started with several folks choking back tears with the realization that that the symbol of Texas Hospitality and a meeting place we had all grown up with and embraced was now gone.  Many reminisced and shared memories about their first encounter with the Texas State Fair mascot who first arrived at Fair Park in 1952.  This long-in-the-tooth writer remembers when the original Big Tex was unveiled to proper Texas pomp and circumstance.

However difficult, we can gain some solace that the Big Tex of 1952 and today are very different entities.  Over the last sixty years (yes, he has his AARP card) he has been tweaked and we think improved especially with the gray added to his sideburns.    

We know that with the significant improvements in animatronics the last few years (just look at Disney), Big Tex’s basic movements to include head, mouth and arm will, no doubt, be substantially enhanced.  We note that in the last sixty years he appropriately learned to speak Spanish as well. We see nothing but a bright future and reincarnation of the first order.  Can’t you just see the potential for political ops? Maybe Romney will embrace Big Tex even while discarding Big Bird?

Workers have already removed Big Tex’s charred remains on the back of a flatbed trailer – all covered with a piece of canvas that reminded many of a body bag.  As the trailer slowly exited the park in funereal fashion, people stopped in reverence, many crying while clapping, saluting and/or waving goodbye to Big Tex. Fairgoers and staff have started leaving flowers where Big Tex once stood.

Lest we get too melancholy, our reflection on Big Tex’s demise prompts the assurance that the emotion of his recent exit will be matched and no doubt eclipsed when he is resurrected on the occasion of the 2013 Texas State Fair.  We hope that we will not see snippets of his rebuild during the process, rather a single majestic unveiling where we can all bask in the return of this Texas icon.

Indeed, the sense of loss we all feel now flows from the strong sense of not only our own memories but also the heritage and sincere hospitality the State of Texas offers all those who can embrace Big Tex in that context.  In the meantime, we can continue to cordially welcome those who want to find holiday and home in the Lone Star State.  No fire can put out that sense of “Texas” in us all.  As Sam Cooke once sang, “A Change is Gonna Come” and one that will knock your seven by seven foot boots off… when we once again hear, “Hoooowdy Foooolks! This is Big Tex…”


Ned Buxton

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Someone recently asked me to recreate my tried and true pesto recipe prompting this post. I find this writing a refreshing break from my take on the political shenanigans being perpetrated all around us. No malarkey here…

First of all, what the heck is Pesto?  Pesto, as we mostly know it today, is a sauce that originated in Genoa in northern Italy that traditionally consists of basil, crushed garlic, pine nuts blended with olive oil, one-half Parmigiano Reggiano (cow) cheese and one-half Pecorino Sardo (sheep) cheese and you have Pesto Genovese.   The word Pesto is key here – derived from the Genoese word pestâ which literally means to crush, referring to the original method of preparation, i.e. with mortar and wooden pestle.  That has always been my preferred method of preparation though mostly stems from my manual pre-Cuisinart days. We are reminded that you grind the ingredients with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. Yes, this whole process is where we got the word pestle. By the way, the Romans ate a distant cousin of Pesto (moretum) in ancient times so the Italian pedigree is legitimate…

My Mother was a great cook though I only remember her making Pesto a few times and that was probably under the influence of my Foodie Godmother Charlotte Von Breton.  The key to this and probably any recipe is to use only fresh ingredients and serve as soon as it’s made.  You can keep pesto in your frig for a few days and even freeze it, but fresh is always preferred.  I have used this recipe on pasta of all species or even just to slather on some great freshly baked focaccia bread.
Admittedly, I have never really measured my ingredients, just eyeballed them on the fly until I got the consistency and taste I wanted.  This is so incredibly easy I fear that even putting this on paper might muck up the whole adventure.  This is a casual, on the fly, Family celebration where children of all ages can participate and then enjoy. It’s good and (Gads!) probably even healthy for you… My timing and attention to detail all depended on how many glasses of wine consumed and timing of the meal (ah, reality!).   

You are going to need the following ingredients.

·         Bunches of fresh and preferably young, freshly picked basil leaves - washed and dried – no stems please.  Get Genovese (aka Lemon) Basil if possible. The amount you can comfortably stuff in a gallon Glad bag is about right.

·         Garlic, probably about two cloves… finely chopped

·         Pine nuts (raw) and about a handful (1/4 cup or more of Mediterranean, not Asian)

·         Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) – from several large tablespoons to ? – do not overdo!

·         Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. No need to add much salt b/c of the cheese.

·         Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Sardo Cheese (say half to three-quarters of a cup or more)

I rarely process the ingredients together or all at once though I take the basil and pine nuts and chop them up first with my prized mezzaluna.  In smaller amounts I then put them in the pestle in stages and with a teaspoon of the extra virgin olive oil (seems to stop the basil from oxidizing) start a moderate but not too aggressive grind adding more ingredients when I am approaching the desired texture and color.  The grinding seems to enhance and release more of the natural flavors of the ingredients.  Now, I don’t overdo this step as I want a coarser texture, not a slick paste, so a caution - don’t get too energetic here. When I have the right texture I add a little more EVOO.  Put all that into one of my cherished Brant Barnes batter bowls, mix in the coarsely chopped cheese, salt and pepper and add more oil all to my taste and desired consistency and then - consume. 

I like to spread pesto on a good focaccia bread and also serve over pasta, even on pizza and on freshly sliced tomatoes.  I’ve used a dollop along with some red onion in soups like pasta e fagioli or minestrone. This mixture can be stuffed into tortellini, ravioli - whatever.   Now having said all this, if I’m pressed for time then I throw everything into the food processor and pulse until it looks OK. Otherwise, it takes about an hour to put it all together manually.

There are many different variations on this recipe where you can use other favorite herbs to create interesting alternatives.  Try mint, cilantro, sage, parsley and even roasted red peppers or a mild pepper like poblano as a base. Of course, with the peppers you will have to use your blender or food processor. 

Now, can you add this mixture to hamburgers, meatballs or even add to tacos or burritos? You bet, after all we are in the Lone Star State!  You can play around with this recipe as your imagination, taste buds and allergies allow.  I have heard some who have substituted cashew, pecan or even macadamia or pistachio nuts for the pine nuts which can be pricey.

For me and other adults (thank you for that concession) the total experience is punctuated by a red Italian wine preferably a no-miss, sure-bet Chianti Classico Riserva (medium priced Ruffino or Santa Margherita) or any other Super Tuscan. Whether it’s the “earthy, acidic, black cherry character” of the Chianti or a cultural sensitivity to and appreciation of northern Italy (could be), it just tastes good (mouth feel and finish) and makes good sense to pair an Italian dish with an Italian wine.

When all’s said and done, just do what feels and tastes good to you and share with your Family and Friends.  Take pride that you did it yourself and in control of yet another aspect of your culinary life. Last evening, for the first time in about ten years, I did just that with good Friends and a 2007 Ruffino Riserva Ducale from Tuscany.  There’s good reason why folks gather in the kitchen…

Ciao, Aye

Ned Buxton

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


In a day and age where cultural diversity is our daily reality, it’s surprising, no absolutely stunning, to find some folks still entrenched in an archaic and bigoted past.   John Donne’s oft quoted, “No man is an island” seems appropriate here for it remains obvious that, like it or not, we are all connected.

I know a successful company where in one small work area employees not only from the US and North America but also Africa, Europe, Asia and beyond have toiled together in harmony. That company, you see, believes in mutual respect in a collaborative, diverse work environment.  They embrace a philosophy that values and appreciates each individual, their uniqueness and their contribution to the whole.  In short, it works.

If we listen to the bigoted ethnocentrics in our society who feel that their reality should be everybody’s life model –then we would be back in the dark ages.  That philosophy now known as, “My way or the highway” has been adopted by some to the far right of center and especially those in that fittingly obsolete pachyderm order.   They are all digging in and in this modern trench warfare of spin and non-collaboration are trying to stave off the inevitable.

The pending reality is that non-Hispanic Whites are fast becoming the minority.  2011 saw “minority” births exceed all others.  The tipping point and redefinition of what will constitute the new minority is expected to be reached by 2040. There are many who will only relinquish their negative chorus when they pass to the great beyond. In the meantime we are dealing with the cruel rhetoric of those who only have twisted words left.

Lest we be construed as some open door liberals, we are far from that perspective.  We support strong immigration controls and, yes, profiling when it comes to the fight against terrorism. We need to control our borders at whatever the cost though we also support leniency for young immigrants who came to America as children, lived their lives as Americans and even served in the US Military. Nothing is black and white anymore. Every situation needs to be judged on its own merits.

Now, to the point of this post.  Facebook and Twitter have become the vehicle by which many in the world share their thoughts, perspectives and events of the day.  Out of those now one billion Facebook users a relative few use it as a forum to forward their bigoted rants understanding (or not) that they now have a worldwide audience. While Facebook especially seems to be trying to raise the bar and limit this abuse, they can’t always do it except in obvious, blatant vulgar outbursts.  That responsibility then falls to us.

The recent proliferation of anti-Muslim/anti-Black hate posts in blogs, e-mail blasts and on Facebook (seemingly tied to the upcoming presidential election) remind us that there are those who would occupy that ignorant dark side of any debate.  I recently “liked” an article in the Huff Post Taste about Mexican chefs and voila, it appeared on my Facebook page where one individual offered remarks as follows, “that's the one thing I've have been wanting to it will be 10 ways to cook camel and sand as a condiment."

After years of enduring glib, confrontational and in your face remarks, I had finally had it and “Defriended” him on the spot (“defriend” is the term preferred by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes). 

Now, had the opportunity presented itself, the subject of our “defriend” would probably try and spin this one as a joke gone sour.  But I’m not having any of it.  Folks will probably tell me, well that’s just him.   I say that if we don’t stand up and tell these jerks that these behaviors are not acceptable, then they will repeat them over and over…  We cannot encourage, advocate or tolerate any form of discrimination in any arena.

Now, I really don’t think that the loss of any friend is a concern to this party since you’re required to first have soul and/or give a damn.  So, if any out there who read this blog and are currently my “Friends” on Facebook and you take offense with my “Defriending”, I encourage you to please, please Defriend me… I will consider it a favor… Thanks, in advance…

We exit this week with a thought from Emma Lazarus, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

So, there’s our charge and responsibility and the real strength of our Country… Walk the Walk…


Ned Buxton

Monday, October 8, 2012


While watching the debate last Wednesday night I was initially struck by the failure of President Obama to confront what turned out to be another Romney “Pants on Fire” rant where the truth was more elusive than ever (more later). Despite the fact that many of Romney’s statements have been debunked and catalogued as pure fabrication, even by members of his own party, he continues to use them.   We conjectured that with no one willing to challenge Romney face to face on his lies with the exception of Saturday Night Live and the fact-checkers, he will take that as license to continue to use them.

Romney was polished and appeared to follow a well-rehearsed path and script.  He used a lot of the same rapid-fire verbiage over and over prompting some to think he was using crib notes.  He would not be denied, seemingly a manic “one man truth squad” who in bully fashion broke the debate rules time and time again, much to the exasperation of the highly respected panel moderator, Jim Lehrer, who early on lost total control over the debate.  Romney rudely interrupted Lehrer and Obama many times and showed absolutely no respect for protocol to the point that while Lehrer may have kept things moving, he appeared extraneous to the whole spectacle.

Romney acted like he was going 100 in a 45 and without a strong moderator, no one seemed willing to pull him over, rein him in or confront his lies.  Romney ran roughshod over Lehrer and Obama to the point that it appeared that Obama had carried a knife to a gun fight.  Solution – cut off their mikes at the time limit much like they do at the Academy Awards or the Emmy presentation ceremonies or with debate protocols impossible, just turn them loose in a free-for-all. And wow, did Lehrer look old and a long way from KERA-TV and the Dallas Times Herald.    

Romney seemed almost crazed at times knowing he had to perform or his campaign would be lost.  Having said that, by his estimation of “winning” the debate he may have lost it.  Many opine that his lies in the face of continued rebuttal condemn him as not fit for The Presidency. One day after the debate we learned that Romney now states that he was, “completely wrong” in his characterization of the, “47 Percent.” Here is yet another Romney flip-flop as he tries to reinvent himself on the fly to be all things for all people. 

Folks we know reported raucous comments from Romney supporters following the debate characterizing Romney as having, “Kicked Obama’s ass.”  One very giddy, euphoric and pedestrian Romney supporter was seen waving around his smart phone while saying, Even the Washington Times says it’s so…apparently unaware that this paper is the conservative propaganda rag owned by the Unification Church and the late Dr. Moon.  But we all have our sources and he probably wouldn’t care.

Some of Romney’s continuing debate spin follows with some of our observations.

The accusation that Obama will raid Medicare of $716 billion continues to be a star in the Romney crown of lies. First of all, no president can take money out of the Medicare trust fund.  Medicare holds those assets in Treasury bonds which are there when needed.  The money Romney is talking about is the savings mostly realized by reductions in the future growth of payments to hospitals - literally incentives to healthcare providers to deliver higher quality care. This figure also reduces the extra Medicare payments to hospitals that treat indigent patients.  Why? They would already be insured under the Affordable Care Act. In reality, the spending cuts realized in the Affordable Care Act will actually prolong the life of the Medicare trust fund.

Romney stated, "We've got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country." The U.S. Labor Department puts the figure at 12.8 million people – pretty bad – but far from Romney’s 23 million figure. Romney, Eastwood, et al cook their figures by adding in those who have stopped looking (we agree) but also include the more than 8 million wage earners who hold part-time jobs as also being "out of work." While we understand that many who hold part-time positions would like to transition to full-time, they are gainfully employed. 

The recent dramatic drop in the unemployment figure to 7.8 percent has been mostly warmly received though some Republicans have actually accused Obama and the Bureau of Labor Statistics of cooking the books. That absolutely ridiculous assertion characterizes the current environment especially given that Obama inherited this whole mess.  It seems that if the truth conflicts with your agenda you merely deflect and spin away…

Romney stated, "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut." Inexplicably Obama let Romney repeat this lie several times during the debate.  Romney has stated that he will cut middle class income-tax rates across the board by another 20 percent to incent the economy. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) reflects that the price tag for those cuts would be $360 billion annually and $5 trillion over a decade.  Bloomberg Government reflects, however, that there would be winners and losers under Romney’s so called cap for deductions and as yet no real clarification where the money would come from to replace these lost revenues.  It’s all spin…

Cutting taxes has been perceived by many as the avenue to incent individuals and businesses to invest thereby resulting in higher revenues to the Fed. While Obama has cut more taxes on the Federal level since Dwight Eisenhower, there is little evidence that cutting taxes by itself promotes economic growth.

Economists (and politicians) are well aware that the ever changing business model in the US is one of the major factors.  There is no debate that we are fast going from manufacturing to what would be a disastrous service economy.  Whether this situation is recoverable or not, it’s obvious that we all can’t be just consumers…

We have to recover outsourced jobs whatever or wherever they are.  We need to enhance, expand and protect our manufacturing base and continue to be more “creative” and responsive.  Given what happened in the last debate we don’t think the Undecideds can really tell whether the candidates (especially Romney) have meaningful, substantive plans to successfully address our challenges.
As Bill Bonner co-author of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving The Soft Depression of The 21st Century and Empire of Debt reflects that the moment of reckoning  which he calls the Great Correction is, “like a hurricane sitting just off the coast…now, it’s back out at sea; its winds are picking up speed. It’s getting larger…stronger… It’s intensifying.”

Romney stated, "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."  That sure doesn’t appear to be his intent.  Of course, Romney has indicated that he won’t raise the taxes on the wealthy either.  Romney didn’t provide any details save that his tax cuts are “revenue neutral” countered by closing a variety of as yet identified loopholes and deductions?  The Baltimore Sun opined about Romney’s tax cut proposal reflecting that even by the most generous of interpretations, it just doesn't add up.

As stated above it appears that some of that shortfall is going to be made up on the backs of the middle-class, the so-called beneficiaries of the Romney tax cuts.  The nonpartisan, pro-business Tax Policy Center is again weighing in on this issue and concluded that Romney's proposal isn’t revenue neutral and would create a "net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower and or middle-income taxpayers." While the conservative, Republican centric Heritage Foundation countered TPC with some “what ifs,” they made some unrealistic assumptions admitting that anything less than a 1 percent pre-tax income growth rate would result in a decrease in after-tax income for low-and-middle-income groups. That’s called a tax increase.
Romney stated that Obamacare "puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have." Romney knows this isn’t true and is reviving the oft-debunked Sarah Palin death panel lie. As President Obama countered in the debate, the Affordable Care Act establishes an Independent Payment Advisory Board (made up of experts subject to Senate confirmation) to help constrain the growth of Medicare spending and has no authority to dictate medical treatment.  In fact, the law explicitly bans the board from limiting medical benefits to anybody, including seniors.

Romney states that, "Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan." Well, not really as this statement comes with the clarifier, “Only if...”  Romney again would defer to the individual states and according to one aide, “The governor believes that those who have continuous coverage should not be dropped, if they change plans and have a pre-existing condition.” This is not a magnanimous gesture by Romney since this is already current law. Ultimately, it would all be up to the states to enact health care legislation similar to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and according to Romney he’s not going to direct them to do anything.  If states do not act then we do not see any guarantees of coverage for those who are denied insurance or reach coverage limits.  So, if you have a pre-existing condition and for whatever reason you have been unable to obtain insurance coverage or even had to drop coverage for over ninety days because you lost your job and couldn’t afford COBRA, then there is no safety net for you. Romney’s blowing smoke…

Romney states, “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird, but...” Romney shows his ignorance here again since the federal funding Romney was referencing doesn’t go directly to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The funding actually flows to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) created by Congress well before PBS existed.  The board of CPB is bipartisan consisting of three Democrats and three Republicans.  The mission of CPB is all about education, communication and minority empowerment and providing support not only to PBS but also National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), American Public Media, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) as well as promoting the growth and development of public media in communities throughout America.  If you say, well, we have to start somewhere, please note that it’s more than a debate about Big Bird especially when you consider that CPB supports more than 21,000 American jobs which contribute more than $1 billion to the national economy. That’s a bargain when you consider all that for fiscal year 2012, its appropriation was US $445.2 million or 1/100th of ONE PERCENT of the federal budget.  Cutting Big Bird would actually add to the deficit and cut funding that also empowers diversity in public broadcasting. 

Can Romney really do that unilaterally as President?  No, he can’t though with his election and a Republican Congress he might just try to save face given this absurd promise.  If the American Public sees Congress spending time trying to defund PBS, when they need to be debating other more substantive issues, then we need to see this as yet another red flag of a potential Romney presidency.
We could go on and on with Romney lies and, yes, even include some obtuse remarks by Obama though they pale beside the Romney spin.  We were disappointed with the Obama demeanor during the debate though concede it might have been far better to just open Romney’s mike and let him talk.  He has demonstrated a penchant for inserting foot in mouth, a malady that will surely continue to plague him.  We think that Obama and his advisors anticipated what Romney would say and do and that his unfettered actions and lies would expose him for what he is.  In what would have resulted in more of a “He said/he said” exchange, no real good could have been accomplished.

We think the proof of that pudding is that Romney had been looking for an opportunity to reverse his “47 Percent” fund raising rant and hoped that opportunity would come up in the debate.  It never did prompting his reversal following the debate on FOX TV.  

If you’ve forgotten Romney’s statement, “…there are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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.”  Romney added that as a candidate for the White House, "My job is not to worry about those people."

In the justifiably dark days that followed, Romney tried to soften the blow in various ways by saying his remarks were "not elegantly stated," but still embraced their "substance" none the less. One day after the first Presidential debate, however, in what appears to be a carefully choreographed interview, conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity asked how he (Romney) would have responded had President Obama brought up his controversial comments in the debate. Romney did a complete 180, calling the "47 percent" assertion "just completely wrong."

Case closed, washed my hands, counted to three – time to move on.  We need to understand the significance of his statements, reversal and put them into perspective.

While Obama has apparently taken the high road in their first meeting he will have to bring more to the rest of the debate.  And do I think that Biden will fare well against Ryan?  We have no clue but suspect that he will be more assertive than Obama was.

We feel that those already in the Romney camp will stay there as will the Obama supporters.  Nothing will change with the candidates and politicos looking to the vast majority of the undecided independents who will ultimately determine where this election goes – and in just a couple of states. It is for you that this post was written.

We boil the difference between the two candidates down to character/substance or the lack thereof.  One blogger noted following the first debate that there now appears to be, “such a thing as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ math.”  We are much more inclusive and offer that there surely appears to be Republican and Democratic math in 2012.  Then we have the numbers as verified by bipartisan sources with no dog in the fight.  We believe them.  We are all reminded of the old IT saying, “Garbage in, Garbage out” (GIGO) where computers with no heart or soul will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical input data (Garbage in) and based on that data produce equally nonsensical output (Garbage out).  Sounds familiar…

As Jay Bookman, columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution commented on Romney recently, “Believe him at your peril.”


Ned Buxton