F And F Is F’uped

Fox and Friends, the morning show on Republican Party Television, has long been the place where IQs go to die, but what it did on Wednesday set a new low it won’t soon surpass, unless, of course, it one day calls the President a nigger during one of its fair and balanced segments.

As you watch the following, keep in mind that in the lower left corner of all Fox programming is that little, slowly spinning Fox “News” box, which makes a mockery of journalism 24-7:

Romney For Rent

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

—Jesus

esterday, as I wrote about Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, I made a somewhat reluctant distinction between Romney the (“detestable”) politician and Romney the man.

I can no longer do that.

On a day when Romney and Trump were raising money together in Las Vegas, on a very special day when Romney finally found himself the Republican nominee, we find that the Romney campaign did this:

Now, because campaigns are nothing if they are not a series of scripted events, with little left to chance, it is impossible not to believe that Mr. Romney’s timing in releasing his birth certificate was designed to validate, in the minds of those possessed by intense hatred for Barack Hussein Obama, Donald Trump’s birther lunacy.

There just isn’t any question about it. Mitt Romney has endorsed Trump’s race-bating conspiracy about Obama’s legitimacy as our president.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. The Romney endorsement of Trump’s racist delusion was intended to be a bit more subtle than simply saying it straight:

Get that illegitimate nigga out of the White’s House.

But to those distracted and disturbed Obama-haters out there who Romney is trying to reach—remember he said, “I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people“—he got his message across: he is endorsing their derangement.

Let the record show that I don’t believe for a moment that Romney, the good Mormon he is, believes he is actually selling his soul by doing this and other ungodly things—like, say, lying beyond political norms—in his quest to become president.

I believe that deep down, way down under all the years of political shellac that has been applied to make him attractive to the various constituencies he needs, Romney thinks he is not selling his soul but merely pawning it.

He will, he believes, go get it back some day. After he has served his two terms, after he has finally retired with all his money and his place in history, he will repent of his un-Christian, un-Mormon behavior and go to that mephistophelian pawnbroker and get his soul out of hock.

But perhaps Mephistopheles will have the last word:

Vainly he’ll seek refreshment, anguish-tost,
And were he not the devil’s by his bond,
Yet must his soul infallibly be lost!

Romney’s One Principle

You know, I find Mitt Romney a most detestable politician, whatever are his personal qualities. And I find Donald Trump to be, as I have related many times, a cretinous buffoon who continues to hold, for reasons I cannot comprehend, a grievous grip on a segment of the Republican Party that either fears him or worships him, or both.

So, because I find both men abominable as public figures, it’s not surprising that I am gnashing-my-teeth annoyed by what Romney told reporters:

(CNN) – Mitt Romney said Monday he wasn’t concerned about Donald Trump’s commitment to the “birther” conspiracy, one day before the GOP presidential candidate hosts a fund-raiser alongside the celebrity business magnate.

Asked on his charter plane whether Trump’s questioning of President Barack Obama’s birthplace gave him pause, Romney simply said he was grateful for all his supporters.

“You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said. “But I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

Now, we have here a situation in which a man, who on Tuesday in Las Vegas may wear sacred skivvies to a high-priced campaign fundraiser with Trump and Newt Gingrich, has admitted to the world that he will keep the company of anyone, so long as it might bring him a vote or two.

Romney’s entire political life has been organized around that one principle, which is why, throughout his various campaigns, his position has traveled from one end of an issue to the other, in search of that moment’s electorate. And which is why there are still more than a few conservatives out there who simply don’t trust him.

But for me the issue goes deeper. There is something stunningly insensitive about the way Mitt Romney conducts himself, beyond the simple political reluctance to not offend even the tiniest pocket of voters. When given a chance to publicly correct Rush Limbaugh for calling a Georgetown student a “slut” and a “prostitute,” Romney said with cowardice aforethought:

I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.

Apparently there is a nicer, more Mormon way of calling a girl a whore.

Earlier this month a supporter prefaced a question to Romney with the suggestion that Mr. Obama “should be tried for treason,” a comment that provoked not even the slightest moral twitch in Mitt’s Mormon flesh.

So, given what we have seen, who would expect Romney to paddle away from Donald Trump?

Yet, if Trump were selling, say, radical Islam instead of his asinine birther conspiracy, would Mitt Romney and his campaign sell chances—three bucks a pop—to have dinner with him? Well, no, and that is the point: Romney just doesn’t find Trump’s creepy fascination with birther fanaticism all that creepy. He’s “appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people,” he told us.

Except that Donald Trump is not “good people.” Nobody can be who is trying to do to President Obama what Donald Trump is trying to do to him. Through his promotion of birtherism and his assertion that Obama wasn’t good enough to get into Harvard Law School on his own merits, Trump is using racism in a wretched attempt to stigmatize the President, to do to him what was done to the black man at the time of our founding: regard him as a being “of an inferior order,” who has “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

That’s it, you see. Our black president, sitting in the White’s House, has no rights which palefaced people like Donald Trump—and now by extension, Mitt Romney—are bound to respect.

It is a sad state of contemporary American politics that we find the soon-to-be head of the Republican Party sharing a campaign bed with such a man as Donald Trump, cuddling up with his conspiracies.

But given who Mitt Romney is as a politician—and I am beginning to think who he is as a man—it by now surprises no one.

Keeping An Eye On The Rush Bust

Perhaps you have heard:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House has spent more than $1,100 in taxpayer money on a security camera to keep watch over a new bronze bust of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, the House clerk said Thursday.

Now, I have not written much about the embarrassing fact that Rush Limbaugh, whose colossal intolerance is robust enough to give bigotry a bad name, is now firmly ensconced in the Hall of Famous Missourians, thanks to Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Limbaugh’s part of Missouri.

Recently calling a college student a “slut” and “prostitute” for daring to speak her mind on the availability of contraception, Rush apparently upgraded his credentials for admission into what we will now definitely have to call the Hall of Both Infamous and Famous Missourians.

When Rush was officially inducted this week, the event, which traditionally is open to the public, was a secret affair attended only by Republicans—because only Republicans were invited! That’s some honor! Congratulations, Rush! You’re such a special Missourian that only other special Missourians understand what you mean to the state. The rest of us just understand that you’re mean.

In any case, as police stood guard to make sure the orgy of  adoration was not interrupted by reality, Limbaugh, never missing an opportunity to show off his Missouri humility and humanity, said of his critics:

They’re deranged. They’re literally deranged.

Ah, a proud moment in Missouri history!

Finally, I learned today that not only will taxpayers foot the bill to keep Rush’s marble head under surveillance every minute of every day, it is the only marble head in the place that actually needs a security camera! Kudos, Rush!

House Clerk Adam Crumbliss told the Associated Press:

We recognize that there was a level of controversy around it, and we want to make sure that property is protected.

No, no, no. That’s not what the camera is for. It has nothing to do with “controversy.” As everyone knows, marble is susceptible to acidic substances, and I have it on good authority that the real reason for the camera is to keep adoring Republicans from making love to Rush’s mug when the lights go out.

Smoooooch!

Bonehead

Congressman Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, said some nice things about President Obama yesterday:

I believe President Obama loves this country and wakes up every morning trying to do what is best for our nation, even if I disagree with his approach.

Ah, what a great American is this Mr. Coffman. How diplomatic he was to express such cordiality toward the President of the United States, a man who is often accused of not loving America and, heck, of not even being an American.

With civilized Republicans like Mr. Coffman in Congress, there is hope of getting things done—What? What is it you say? Congressman Coffman said what? Oh, my:

I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America, I don’t know that. But I do know this: that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.

Damn, I thought we had a decent Republican in our midst for a second. But nope, what we have is a man who received so much criticism for his Obama-is-not-an-American routine, that he was forced to write a column apologizing for his shtick, even calling his comment “boneheaded.”

You see, Congressman Coffman’s previously safe district (he has demolished his Democratic opponents) has been, uh, made unsafe through redistricting. As CBS Denver put it:

Coffman’s turf now is divided roughly evenly among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

So, that explains the newly-found cordiality, the admission of boneheadedness. And the constituents of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District should reward Coffman’s boneheadedness by giving him a permanent vacation from Washington.

If you want to see Coffman’s boneheadedness on full display, watch this report from 9News in Denver, which includes a weird interview he did with a reporter:

________________________________

All of which reminds me of a local Obama-hater named Mark D. Edmonson, who has been a “guest columnist” for the Joplin Globe. He has written things like this:

No one poses a greater threat to America and to our way of life than the man who currently occupies the Oval Office… All one needs to do is look at the people with whom Obama has surrounded himself. They are among the most radical people on Earth who have no great love for this country.

And, prophesying what Congressman Coffman would say about a year later, he wrote:

Barack Obama may have been born in Hawaii, but he is no American.

That sort of has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But you have to have the right kind of ears to really enjoy it.

In any case, we know that whatever it is that makes right-wingers say such boneheaded things, it’s a disease that infects across state lines.

The “Long Consensus”

E. J. Dionne was on Morning Joe this morning discussing his new book, Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent. The book’s argument is:

from the very beginning, our country has been characterized by a deep but healthy tension between our love of individual liberty and our devotion to community. Yet we seem to have forgotten our own rich history of balance, one reason for our poisoned political atmosphere.

This morning Dionne said:

In the U.S. we have been governing under a kind of a long consensus that we really established at the beginning of the progressive era. It was a consensus that saw a strong role for the market and a strong role for government. And I think now politics is roiled because one side of our debate wants to end that long consensus.

Now, that’s a legitimate position for them to hold, but I think it’s untrue to what made us succeed as Americans, which is a sense of balance: public-private, individual-community, national-local. We’ve always kept things in balance and I think there’s an attempt right now to push everything over on one side.

E. J. Dionne is one of my favorite left-leaning pundits, but he said something here I don’t agree with. He said that someone who wants to end the “long consensus” that “made us succeed as Americans” is holding a “legitimate position.

I don’t think so, and I think we need to metaphorically pound it into the heads of Americans that it is not legitimate.

Okay, let me backtrack just a bit: it is legitimate in the sense that it is completely legal to argue for a return to the era of the robber barons, this being a free country. But it is not legitimate in the sense of it being a reasonable position to hold. Scuttling that long-held consensus—which is the product of numerous ideological compromises—would bring ruin to the America we know and therefore is not a legitimate argument to make.

And, as I said, we need to keep reminding Americans that compromise and consensus are good things, and that the radicals in our midst who abhor them are not to be respected as holding “legitimate” positions.

Obama: A Little League Socialist

Here was the headline on HuffPo on Wednesday afternoon:

Jay Carney: Don’t ‘Buy Into The B.S.’ From GOP About Obama’s Spending Record

That story began:

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had some advice for reporters on Wednesday when it comes to covering President Barack Obama’s record on spending: “Don’t buy into the B.S.” 

And then there was this headline from ABC News on Wednesday evening:

President Obama Denounces Republican ‘Wild Debts’: I’m Not an Over-Spender

Obama was quoted in the story:

I’m running to pay down our debt in a way that’s balanced and responsible. After inheriting a $1 trillion deficit, I signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law. My opponent won’t admit it, but it’s starting to appear in places, like real liberal outlets, like the Wall Street Journal: Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace  in nearly 60 years. Think about that.

What was all the fuss about? What was Obama referencing? It was the following, from The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch early Wednesday morning:

Obama spending binge never happened

Commentary: Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s

Here’s how the story began:

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”

Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.

But it didn’t happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.

Now, we have discussed all this several times, but here is yet another graph from the WSJ piece to refresh your memory:

As you can plainly see, Obama is in the Little League of federal spending growth (and, by the way, so was Bill Clinton; the Big Leaguers, Reagan and both Bushes should all be in the spending Hall of Fame).

Let’s face it, being a Little League spender ain’t good for a President who is night and day labeled by right-wingers as at least a socialist, if not a secret Communist who will, if given a second term, unleash his diabolical European fury on the country.

Joe Scarborough blathered on this morning about how “government keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger” and referenced “the explosive size of government.”

Well, if that is true—and don’t forget that federal revenues as a percentage of our GDP in the Obama years is lower than any time since 1950 and state and local revenues have been fairly consistent since 1990—it is not Barack Obama who has made it so.

He is simply the dubious beneficiary of policies the basis of which relied on voodoo economics: cut taxes and, voilà, the economy and government revenues will grow, grow, grow enough to pay for two protracted wars, a brand new—ever growing—Homeland Security bureaucracy, a new prescription drug entitlement program, as well as the rest of what government does.

Let’s quickly look at federal spending since 2002, also from the WSJ article:

Clearly those blue lines were dictated by the red lines that came before and not some devilish creation of that wicked, big-spending socialist in the White’s House.

So, as Jay Carney said, don’t “buy into the B.S.” because, as the President said himself:

Creepy Always Comes In Threes

Perhaps this past week you have seen or heard about three strange stories related to preserving Iron Age dogmatism, which is the root of much mischief, if not evil.

First, we have Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, who is upset that Catholic employers might be required to follow the law and provide to their employees access to birth control. He metaphorically gave Jesus a divine dope-slap by uttering this rather ungodly threat:

If these mandates click in, we’re going to find ourselves faced with a terribly difficult decision as to whether or not we can continue to operate…As part of our religion, it’s part of our faith that we feed the hungry, that we educate the kids, that we take care of the sick…We’d have to give it up because we’re unable to fit the description and the definition of a church by, guess who? The federal government.

Ah, that evil federal government, from which the Cardinal and his Catholic Charities and its affiliates received nearly $3 billion dollars from taxpayers in 2010.  But how weird is it that Dolan would hold “the hungry, ” the kids,” and “the sick” hostage in order to retain unsullied the Church’s rather creepy dogmatism on contraception?

Second, and speaking of creepy dogmatism, there is the story of yet another nutty North Carolina pastor, Charles Worley, who a few weeks ago in a well-received sermon (lots of amens and other affirmations) offered a Bible-supported Final Solution to nature’s tendency to produce non-heterosexual folks:

Build a great, big, large fence—150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out, feed ‘em,  and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can’t reproduce!

At least Pastor Worley offered to “feed ‘em,” which is more than Cardinal Dolan offered to do for the hungry his Church is supposed to be serving.

Finally, since creepy dogmatism always comes in threes, there is the following story, courtesy of our Missouri legislature:

Disturbing a worship service could become a crime in Missouri under legislation headed to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The House gave final approval Friday to a bill making it a misdemeanor to intentionally disturb or interrupt a “house of worship” with profanity, rude or indecent behavior or noise that breaks the solemnity of the service. The Senate passed the bill in March…

Violators could face fines of up to $500 and six months in jail. Repeat offenders would face increasingly harsher penalties of up to five years in state prison.

Now, I don’t know whether this law would cover profane preaching, like Pastor Worley is guilty of, or rude or indecent preaching, like Cardinal Dolan is guilty of, but if it does, I’m all for it.

SpaceX Launch Proves Obama Is A Socialist, Right?

In February of 2010, I sarcastically wrote:

More evidence is in that President Obama, oozing with socialism, hates the private sector of our economy and wants to destroy it.

He is turning over NASA’s manned spaceflight program to private companies for commercialization.

That was then, and here’s this morning’s news:

CAPE CANAVERAL – A private company sent its unmanned capsule off to theInternational Space Station early Tuesday, heading for what could be the first nongovernmental docking there.

John Holdren, assistant to our socialist president, said:

Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight.

NASA honcho Charles Bolden remarked:

The significance of this day cannot be overstated. A private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time. And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we’re certainly off to a good start and I hope you all would agree on that.

But we all can’t agree because some of us still think Mr. Obama is, well, I’ll just tell ya via a HuffPo report yesterday:

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) held another lively town hall meeting this weekend, playing host to a constituent who accused President Barack Obama of “sedition” because he had allegedly lied to voters about his true political allegiances to “socialism, communism and Nazism.”

Another Fox-educated voter.

In any case, Walsh didn’t exactly set his constituent straight, perhaps because the congressman can see how turning over manned spaceflight to private companies makes Mr. Obama a raving socialist, communist, and, uh, Nazi.

St. John’s Witness

“And I, John, saw these things, and heard them.”

—Revelation 22:8

In case some locals haven’t seen it, here is recently released footage from the emergency waiting room inside Joplin’s St. John’s Hospital on May 22, 2011:

And here is a photo I took this morning, 5-22-12, showing the slow demolition of the iconic hospital:

Obama: “You Are From Joplin And You Are From America.”

After listening to our president deliver a number of speeches, I don’t know why I am still surprised, but President Obama’s address at the Joplin High School graduation ceremony on Monday night astonished me, not just for its comely detail, but for the empathy with which it was delivered.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Mr. Obama had been living in Joplin this past year.

About the damage done by last May’s tornado, I recently lamented:

I will never again walk the track just east of St. John’s listening to the dogs bark in the neighborhood where Sarah and Bill Anderson were killed, he being a fellow coach in the Joplin South Little League years ago.

Bill Anderson’s motivation for coaching was his son, Quinton, who was a part of this year’s Joplin High School varsity baseball team. And, fittingly, President Obama ended his speech with this:

In a city with countless stories of unthinkable courage and resilience over the last year, there are some that still stand out – especially on this day. By now, most of you know Joplin High senior Quinton Anderson, who’s probably embarrassed that someone’s talking about him again. But I’m going to talk about him anyways, because in a lot of ways, Quinton’s journey has been Joplin’s journey.

When the tornado struck, Quinton was thrown across the street from his house. The young man who found him couldn’t imagine that Quinton would survive such injuries. Quinton woke up in a hospital bed three days later. It was then that his sister Grace told him that both their parents had been lost to the storm.

Quinton went on to face over five weeks of treatment, including emergency surgery. But he left that hospital determined to carry on; to live his life, and to be there for his sister. Over the past year, he’s been a football captain who cheered from the sidelines when he wasn’t able to play. He worked that much harder so he could be ready for baseball in the spring. He won a national scholarship as a finalist for the High School Football Rudy Awards, and he plans to study molecular biology at Harding University this fall.

Quinton has said that his motto in life is “Always take that extra step.” Today, after a long and improbable journey for Quinton, for Joplin, and for the entire class of 2012, that extra step is about to take you towards whatever future you hope for; toward whatever dreams you hold in your hearts.

Yes, you will encounter obstacles along the way. Yes, you will face setbacks and disappointments.

But you are from Joplin. And you are from America. No matter how tough times get, you will be tougher. No matter what life throws at you, you will be ready. You will not be defined by the difficulties you face, but how you respond – with strength, and grace, and a commitment to others.

Langston Hughes, the poet and civil rights activist who knew some tough times, was born here in Joplin. In a poem called “Youth,” he wrote,

We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.

Yesterday
A night-gone thing,
A sun-down name.

And dawn-today
Broad arch above the road we came.

We march!!

To the people of Joplin, and the class of 2012: The road has been hard. The day has been long. But we have tomorrow, and so we march. We march, together, and you are leading the way. Congratulations. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Bittersweet

First published in The Joplin Globe on Sunday, May 20, 2012:

 never saw a discontented tree,” said the great naturalist John Muir. Well, I have seen a lot of discontented trees in Joplin this past year, as I have moved through the still-healing disruption that tracks across our town, a lesion the entirety of which is only visible from a heavenly perch.

And perhaps it is fitting that only God—who some dare argue is the author of people-killing storms like our life- and city-changing tornado—can sit on his celestial roost and marvel daily at the totality of his 5-22-11 handiwork: folks still mourning their dead, blocks and blocks of emptiness, trees struggling courageously to provide shade so as to perhaps entice the return of the dispossessed.

Oh, it’s not as if there hasn’t been plenty of progress. There have been uncountable efforts to right Nature’s wrong, told and untold heroic sacrifices by strangers and friends to mend the many wounds and The Wound. All of which reveals not just Ozarkian doggedness and diligence, but authentically American vigor, the kind that did both good and evil while cutting a civilization from the wilderness of North America so long ago.

But despite that American heartiness, a quartet of seasons has nearly come and gone and the city is still unrecognizable from certain places on the ground. I still—still—get geographically confused as I walk through what those with official responsibilities call—perhaps out of emotional necessity—the “expedited debris removal area.”

Driving south from 20th and Main is to drive in a strange and unfamiliar town. Driving east from 20th and Main toward Duquesne is, well, even more strange and unfamiliar. And depressing. Looking north from 32nd and McClelland to the hill where St. John’s thrived will always remind me of what was lost. I will never again walk the track just east of St. John’s listening to the dogs bark in the neighborhood where Sarah and Bill Anderson were killed, he being a fellow coach in the Joplin South Little League years ago.

It is more than unnerving to think that despite all the money poured into Joplin from public and private sources, despite all the volunteers who have provided countless hours of rehabilitation labor, despite all the best plans of city leaders, both official and not, a person my age will not live long enough to see the mostly endearing Joplin I saw before the homicidal rampage of last year.

And while so much was irretrievably lost, so much is slowly becoming new again.  But that’s just it: the landscape for many years won’t have the gratifying familiarity or eye-pleasing value that can come only with time—and with lots of trees. Big trees, trees of all shapes and brands. Trees that keep you from seeing all the way from Duquesne Road to Maiden Lane, a spectacularly disheartening reality.

“The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky,” a French poet once said. Trees of the kind I speak can’t be shipped in here from folks who earnestly want to help us recover. Trees, like communities, require time to grow and become indispensably part of our experience, part of what makes a city like ours familiar—and welcoming.

That and much more is what the heart of Joplin is missing, what it will be missing for years to come. Beyond the utter sadness of the death and destruction that visited us a year ago, is the gloomy idea that haunts some of us daily: that no matter how much good work is done, whether planting homes or trees in the quasi-barren neighborhoods, we will never again see the Joplin we knew.

Booker, Bain, Bull

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and high-profile surrogate for the Obama campaign, opened his mouth on Sunday’s Meet the Press and showed why he’s not quite ready for national prime time.

Although he has since crawdadded on his comments, Booker said the following about the Obama campaign’s strategy of highlighting Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital:

This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.

Of firms like Bain Capital, Booker offered this:

As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity…To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses [and] to grow businesses. And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.

Hmm. Let’s, uh, gently, parse his nauseating discomfort.

First, there is no comparison between Romney’s job as honcho of Bain Capital and Barack Obama relationship with Jeremiah Wright. That’s just a dumb way to frame the two issues, but it does sound good to those who buy into the “both sides do it” bullshit.

And, by the way, that stuff sounds like it was hatched inside the polyped bowels of the Romney campaign, which is still smarting from vicious attacks on Romney’s Bain days from fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

Second, the Obama campaign has not indicted “private equity” per se. What it has done is point out some of the job-killing in Bain’s biography. Is that not fair? If Mittens runs on his business savvy, on his job-creator pedigree, is it not fair to mention he has some skeletons—skeletons that used to have jobs and pensions—in his closet?

Third, just because “pension funds, unions, and other people” invest in something doesn’t make it right, does it? I mean if that were true, Nelson Mandela would still be in prison in South Africa and not enjoying retirement as the country’s former president.

“Pension funds, unions, and other people” were at one time invested in various enterprises in that authoritarian apartheid state, and the racist regime’s fall was largely due to a widespread disinvestment campaign that strongly urged “pension funds, unions, and other people” to stop doing business with the racists.

Finally, let’s get to the heart of the issue. Bob Drogin, a big-time reporter for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a story—way back in ancient times, December of 2007—in which he said:

From 1984 until 1999, Romney led Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity group that earned jaw-dropping profits through leveraged buyouts, debt hedge funds, offshore tax havens and other financial strategies. In some cases, Romney’s team closed U.S. factories, causing hundreds of layoffs, or pocketed huge fees shortly before companies collapsed.

Closing factories and laying off workers—is that what Cory Booker means by extolling the virtues of “private equity”? Huh?

Drogin also quoted a former managing director at Bain Capital, Marc B. Wolpow:

They’re whitewashing his career now. We had a scheme where the rich got richer. I did it, and I feel good about it. But I’m not planning to run for office.

The old rich get richer scheme—is that what Cory Booker means by “stop attacking private equity”? Huh?

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! asked Bob Drogin to “lay out Mitt Romney’s business background.” I will quote Drogin at length just to show how dumb (however self-serving they may be) Cory Booker’s original statements were:

…the first thing is, it’s not an investment firm, as someone just said. An investment firm is something where you make an investment. It’s a buyout firm. In 1984, he was tapped to set up a — what began as a venture capital spin-off of a management consulting firm in Boston called Bain & Company. And Bain Capital began with these small investments in what were then startup companies, but very quickly, within a year or two, it became what’s known as a leveraged buyout company. They would put up a million dollars or so and borrow ten or twenty or fifty more and buy into troubled companies and then strip assets and lay off workers and close factories and do whatever they needed to do, charge enormous fees and sell it as quickly as possible.

Over the years, by the time he took a leave of absence in 1999, they had bought and sold more than a hundred companies. And it’s a little difficult to figure out how many jobs were lost or how many jobs were created, and I’m sure that overall there was probably a net gain in jobs in that period, but there are a number of cases that I was able to track where they did close companies, close factories, where they made staggering profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars, shortly before companies crashed off into bankruptcy.

You know, this was the so-called decade of greed, and these were guys who were very much in the model of the Gordon Gekko. I mean, these were — and it’s not illegal, it’s not improper; it’s — you know, it’s the way the system works. They went in, they bought up troubled companies. In some cases, they made them better; in some cases, they just, you know, shredded them and took the money and ran. So, that’s the broad background.

And that is why Cory Booker—who is somewhat compromised by his relationship with Wall Street—was wrong to go on Meet the Press and say dumb  and dumbfounding things like, “Stop attacking private equity,” and, “This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides.”

His gastrointestinal distress should come as he contemplates the trickle-down damage that a Mitt Romney presidency can do to folks who aren’t living the life of Gordon Gekko.

A Tired, If Not Weary, Obama Comes To Joplin Today

Later today, after finishing the NATO summit in Chicago, Mr. Obama will touch down at the Joplin airport and soon thereafter speak to graduates of Joplin High School.

But he will no doubt arrive here tired, what with urging NATO on Sunday that there are still “great challenges ahead” in Afghanistan and,

Just as we’ve sacrificed together for our common security, we will stand united in our determination to complete this mission.

Yeah, well, France’s new president says he will get his troops out by the end of this year, almost two years ahead of time, and other NATO honchos are feeling the domestic pressure to get out, too.

As for Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, he said he can’t wait until his nation is “no longer a burden” to those nations who still care.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan:

Earlier this month, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive. On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people, a number of them children, at a checkpoint in the eastern province of Khost.

And so it goes.

On Saturday at the Camp David G8 summit, President Obama tried to be the pro-growth wind beneath the wings of world leaders, many of whom have advocated austerity or have had it thrust upon them.

Here’s the lede and more from the Associated Press on the gathering of the planet’s economic elite:

Confronting an economic crisis that threatens them all, President Barack Obama and leaders of other world powers on Saturday declared that their governments must both spark growth and cut the debt that has crippled the European continent and put investors worldwide on edge.

There’s now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now,” Obama proclaimed after hosting unprecedented economic talks at Camp David, his secluded and highly secure mountaintop retreat.

That “emerging consensus” of promoting growth and job creation “right now” doesn’t include, of course, the Republicans in Congress, who are hell-bent on starving the economy of much-needed stimulus, just when it would be relatively cheap to borrow the money (interest rates are low) and when the money would do the most good (there are signs of life nearly everywhere).

Republicans have an election to win, you know.

And so it goes.

Mr. Obama, after a weekend of prodding world leaders to focus on economic growth and to keep NATO’s eyes on whatever the prize is in Afghanistan, will, when he arrives in Joplin later today, have a much easier task: tell high school graduates in a tornado-ravaged town why they are lucky to be FEMA-blessed Americans.

Robin Gibb, R.I.P.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Robin Gibb, a singer and songwriter who joined two of his brothers in forming the Bee Gees pop group that helped define the sound of the disco era with the best-selling 1977 soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever,” has died. He was 62.

Gibb died Sunday after battling cancer and while recuperating from intestinal surgery, family spokesman Doug Wright announced.

To hell with the disco era, there is the following 1968 song, which, with a voice that one astute fan said “sounded unhappy,” Robin Gibb could have written, sung, and then died a happy man 44 years ago:

And finally, listen to Robin Gibb sing the first verse to the great 1971 song,  How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, and then be thankful that Andy Williams turned the song down:

Republicans Want America To Follow Europe’s “Unethical Human Experiment”

I can’t think of one issue more important for Americans to consider this fall than whether the country will follow Europe by voting for severe and crippling budget austerity—via Mitt Romney and a Republican Congress—and thus retard what economic growth there is.

I find it ironic that Romney and the Republicans, who have falsely accused Obama of wanting to Europeanize America, themselves want to follow the drastic European austerity plan to deal with accumulated debt. It turns out it is the GOP that wants to re-create America in Europe’s image.

On Thursday’s The Ed Show, Paul Krugman answered the following question posed by Ed Schultz:

So, we ought to be very aware and somewhat scared of the austerity measures based on what’s happening across the globe?

KRUGMAN: Oh, gosh! We’ve just done a massive—I would say massive—unethical human experiment in Europe. People said, “Slash government spending, good things will happen, confidence will come, it will grow the economy.” What’s actually happening is what’s happening in Greece and in Spain and in Ireland: Unemployment of more than 20%, unemployment among youth at more than 50%, collapsing political system in Greece, Spain probably next down that road. So, we’ve just seen that the type of policy that the current Republican majority in the House wants, we’ve just seen what they lead to in Europe and the answer is that they lead to catastrophe.

Here is the annualized first quarter grown rate for some notable countries. Japan’s growth rate is significantly attributable to the post-tsunami spending:

Here is the whole segment:

Reverend Wright Stuff Exposes What Romney Is Really Worried About

Rich guy Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade and whose family owns most of the North Siders, also known as the Chicago Cubs, funds a right-wing Super PAC (what self-respecting rich bloke doesn’t these days? I mean, America is for sale and, all in all, it’s going fairly cheaply).

His Super PAC was considering a proposal to do what John McCain wouldn’t do in 2008: dramatically stir up more white angst than was already a part of that campaign season.

The title of the proposal was “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good.”  The appeal:

Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed. And why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.”

Romney, who didn’t exactly “repudiate” any of his friendly Super PACS that were making mincemeat of his primary opponents, did “repudiate” this latest effort to rehash the Jeremiah Wright stuff.

Of course, that is because it is obvious these attacks will only help Obama with independent voters, who knew all about Wright and his sermons last time and were not moved by them.

But beyond that, Mittens used the opportunity today to do two things. First, he is trying to force the Obama campaign to pivot away from attacking his Bain days, saying during a short news conference this afternoon that doing so amounted to Obama attacking him personally, as suggesting he is “not a good person or not a good guy“:

My own view is that we can talk about a lot of things but the center piece of his campaign is quite clearly character assassination. And the center piece of my campaign is gonna be my vision to get America working again and provide a brighter future for our kids…it’s about jobs and kids.

Yes, jobs and kids. That’s what it’s about. Except in February, when Mittens was under the dark influence of Sean Hannity, it was about something else:

I think again that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard, not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like America to be more secular. And I’m not sure which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we must be a less than Christian nation.

I suppose one could twist that statement into it being about “jobs and kids,” but it would take an Etch-A-Romney effort to do so.

Finally, Romney is trying to get his story straight about Bain. Throughout the primary, when he was being relentlessly attacked by Gingrich and Perry for being a vulture capitalist, Mittens couldn’t quite figure out how to respond effectively, except to attack them for attacking a fellow Republican capitalist.

Now, though, we see his general campaign defense for pre-political life shaping up:

My effort at Bain Capital, as you know, was in every case designed to try and make the enterprises we invested in more successful, to grow them. There’s this  fiction that somehow you can be highly successful by stripping assets from enterprise and walking away with lots of money and killing the enterprise. There may be some people who know how to do that, I sure don’t. Our approach was to always make try and make the enterprise more successful.

The statements Romney made today suggest that the exposing Romney’s Bain past has been effective, or is expected to be effective, and Mittens wants to shut it down.

The response from Democrats should be: double down and keep talking about it.

America, The Owned

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

—Jesus 

t’s time to face some uncomfortable facts about America, as yet more banking malfeasance makes the news:

WASHINGTON — Shareholders of JPMorgan Chase filed two lawsuits Wednesday against the biggest U.S. bank, accusing it and its leaders of taking excessive risk and causing the recently disclosed $2 billion trading loss.

The provision in the Banking Act of 1933 (Glass-Steagall) that prohibited commercial banks from gambling investing gambling using depositors’ money (and vice versa) had been gradually weakened over time, apparently starting in the 1970s, through permissive interpretations of the law by federal banking regulators and the courts.

As the Congressional Research Service put it:

Facing lower profits and stiffer competition from securities firms, banks began seeking approval from regulators to engage in a greater universe of securities activities.

Facing lower profits,” you see, can justify nearly anything in an increasingly corporatized America. And if there is enough campaign money spread around (this, before Citizens United), well, things can get fixed and profits can rise again like Jesus on Easter!

Seeking to stick a fork into and finish off Glass-Steagall, in 1999 a Republican-controlled Congress (you know, the same one that impeached and tried Bill Clinton), with a shameful assist from, uh, Bill Clinton (and too many Democrats to contemplate), passed the Financial Services Modernization Act, which finally allowed commercial and investment banks and securities and insurance companies to stop slyly shacking up with each other and unite in unholy but legal matrimony.

Now, to be fair to Clinton and his conservative-minded pals, they argue that their legislative efforts to finally kill Glass-Steagall actually “softened” the Great Recession. Gulp.

Clinton actually stated:

I have really thought about this a lot. I don’t see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis…On the Glass-Steagall thing, like I said, if you could demonstrate to me that it was a mistake, I’d be glad to look at the evidence. But I can’t blame [the Republicans]. This wasn’t something they forced me into. I really believed that given the level of oversight of banks and their ability to have more patient capital, if you made it possible for [commercial banks] to go into the investment banking business as Continental European investment banks could always do, that it might give us a more stable source of long-term investment.

It’s nice to know that Mr. Clinton hasn’t lost his unparalleled ability to rationalize.

Fortunately, around at the time of the repeal of Glass-Steagall was Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan. Unfortunately, not many listened to him.

Dorgan was one of only seven—seven!—Democrats in the Senate who voted against finishing off Glass-Steagall (Missouri’s two senators at the time, Messrs. Ashcroft and Bond were Ya-Ya sisters). He warned us in 1999:

I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010…We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.

Fortunately, once again Dorgan the Prophet is here to present a way to fix things. Unfortunately, once again not enough people are listening to him. But you can for half a minute:

Get that? Restore Glass-Steagall, prohibit naked credit default swaps, and break up too-big-to-fail companies. By the way, here is the way the Financial Times described naked default swaps:

A naked CDS purchase means that you take out insurance on bonds without actually owning them. It is a purely speculative gamble. There is not one social or economic benefit. Even hardened speculators agree on this point. Especially because naked CDSs constitute a large part of all CDS transactions, the case for banning them is about as a strong as that for banning bank robberies.

Pretty simple, no? So why won’t any of it happen? Oh, that’s pretty simple, too. Senator Bernie Sanders blurted it out Wednesday night in a beatified bit of truth-telling:

Let me tell you what many others might not tell you. Some people think, well, gee, the Congress regulates Wall Street. I think the truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress.

Yikes. He restated the truth a little bit later:

Let me just say again what many people will not be happy to hear. Wall Street is extraordinarily powerful. Congress doesn’t regulate them, the big banks regulate what Congress does.

Another Senator, Dick Durbin, said three years ago:

…hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.

Well, at least we still get free checking! What? Oh my God.

________________________

Here is the entire 7-minute segment from The Ed Show, featuring Sanders:

1963

Why’d it take so long to see the light? Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right.”

—The Four Seasons, December 1963 

s a presidential candidate, he has changed his mind on an important social issue, one that continues to divide America. And those who fervently hold the view he now holds see him as their champion, despite his past feelings on the issue.  Those newly energized and enthusiastic believers are donating a lot of money to his campaign, expressing an eagerness to work to get him elected, and generally feel good about how his change of heart has helped their cause.

But I’m not talking about Barack Obama and the same-sex marriage issue.

In the late 1950s, Ann Keenan’s older brother married Mitt Romney’s older sister, making her a part of the Romney family.  A few years later, in 1963, Ann Keenan died a victim. Her death certificate explained:

Subarachnoid hemorrhage following septic criminal recent abortion with septic thromboembolism pneumonia and hepatitis with focal necrosis of liver

Criminal recent abortion.”  Keenan had died of an infection following a then-illegal abortion, the infection possibly caused by unsanitary instruments often used in such abortions. Whether she was actually victimized by a careless abortionist or whether she, as Salon put it, “tried to self-induce,” she most certainly was a victim of an as-yet-to-evolve society—Roe v. Wade was still a decade away.

The cause of Ann Keenan’s death was not known even by her friends, due, it is suspected, to the fact that George Romney had become governor of Michigan just a year earlier. In the Detroit News appeared a short notice of her death, described only as “suddenly,” but with this line:

Memorial tributes may be sent to the Planned Parenthood Association.

As Salon pointed out,

Planned Parenthood was at that time an organization focused exclusively on birth control and family planning; abortions, of course, were not yet legal. But the group had sponsored a conference several years earlier supporting liberalization of abortion laws.

Apparently, the Keenan family believed it was important, by their suggestion to pay tribute to their daughter by giving to Planned Parenthood, to show that their daughter’s death could at least call attention to an organization whose position on legal abortions could have saved her life.

It is doubtful that any of us would have ever heard of Ann Keenan if it weren’t for Mitt Romney, who was 16 when she died.   Seeking to win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, Romney said the following during a 1994 debate, in response to Kennedy—prophetically, it turns out—calling him “multiple choice” on abortion rights:

On the idea of ‘multiple-choice,’ I have to respond. I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people. Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time that my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that.

When Etch-A-Romney says we won’t see him wavering, we can count on a waver coming.  But keep in mind that he said the woman “who passed away from an illegal abortion” was a “close family relative that was very close to me.”

Salon supplied some additional details:

After the debate, the Romney campaign wouldn’t identify the woman Romney had referred to, saying only that she was the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law, and that she had been engaged when she became pregnant. The candidate himself said, “I hadn’t thought much about” abortion until the relative’s death, but that it “obviously makes one see that regardless of one’s beliefs about choice, that you would hope it would be safe and legal.”

That last phrase, “safe and legal,” is where the unwavering Mr. Etch not only wavered, he outright devolved. From his campaign website:

Mitt Romney is pro-life… Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view. But while the nation remains so divided, he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade – a case of blatant judicial activism that took a decision that should be left to the people and placed it in the hands of unelected judges. With Roe overturned, states will be empowered through the democratic process to determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.

In other words, Mitt Romney would have us return to 1963, when his “close family relative” who was “very close” to him, Ann Keenan, fell victim to the anti-choice mentality that dominated the political and legal landscape at the time. That, my friends, is the mother of all wavers, and someone, somewhere, should specifically ask him about it.

And as if Romney hadn’t done enough damage to the memory of the Keenans, who so long ago urged friends and family to give to Planned Parenthood in memory of their daughter, Romney said in March:

Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.

Someone should ask him about that, too.

So, there you have it. A man who said in 1994 that Ann Keenan’s unnecessary death made him “see that regardless of one’s beliefs about choice, that you would hope it would be safe and legal,” and who insisted, I do not impose my beliefs on other people,” now says that we should return to the days before Roe v. Wade; that he would as president defund Planned Parenthood.

And to make it as worse as can be, Romney was asked in 2007 if he supported the 2004 Republican platform, which stated:

We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.

Such a position, should it become law, could criminalize many forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. And His Etchiness was all for it:

I do support the Republican platform and I support that being part of the Republican platform and I’m pro-life.

This Mitt Romney guy, whoever he was, is, or will become, is, as I have said before, one strange and creepy cat.

How Conservatives Subvert Self-Government

The entire modern conservative movement consists of an ongoing attempt to sever the relationship of a self-governing people to their government, to break down the concept of a political commonwealth.”

—Charles Pierce

n Sunday’s Joplin Globe appeared a column from a local college professor (of finance) named Richard La Near. Suffice it to say that, although I have lately ignored him, I have previously taken on this union-hating, learned man—God, how I wish I could put “learned” in quotation marks.

But this shouldn’t be ignored: Arguing for “partially and slowly” privatizing Social Security, the “Honorary Chairholder of Free Enterprise at Missouri Southern State University” butted in a long line of melodramatic conservatives by falsely calling the wildly popular social insurance program a “legalized Ponzi scheme.”

And while that should have been dreadfully ditsy enough, he wrote the following, presumably in reference to “Obamacare”:

The passage of one more entitlement program will prove that too much democracy can be devastating to a great nation. Again, the takers will outnumber—and outvote—the makers, and more people will vote for a living rather than work for a living.

Ah, how clever. And how cynical.

Now, I’m not one to extol the virtues of ignorance and bigotry that sometime (okay, often) accompany the exercise of our democratic heritage, but we are what we are. Abraham Lincoln called the American people his “rightful masters.” If La Near’s “too much democracy” brings about our national extinction, if we find that self-government by America’s rightful masters will one day lead to our ruin, then so be it.

As a bona fide member of the rightful masters class, I’d rather go down as the victim of people in welfare hammocks than of conservative capitalist carnivores like Mitt Romney, a man who has successfully preyed upon the working class such that he can bulldoze a $12 million, 3,000-square-foot beachfront house only to replace it with an 11,000-square-foot beachfront house.

Charles Pierce wrote recently:

In modern conservative thought…and in the mindset it seeks to ingrain on the people of the country, the government is the ultimate Other.

In doing so, the corporate masters of the conservative movement are good with all of this because they seek a wary, frightened and insecure people.

Yes, Amen! Yes! Conservatives seek a “wary, frightened and insecure people.” People suspicious and afraid of too much democracy, afraid, for God’s sake, of their own government! That’s the message Dr. La Near is trying to send.

Thomas Frank, in his book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared The Nation, essentially documents the attempts by right-wingers to take over government only to undermine it, to subvert it, to, as Charles Pierce so aptly described it, break down the concept of a political commonwealth.”

You see, conservatives talk of a “commonwealth“—”a group of persons united by some common interest“—mainly in terms of war, of fighting terrorism or some other common enemy. There isn’t much of a sense of political commonwealth worth preserving here at home, beyond the small commonwealth of the wealthy.

Conservatives these days, for instance, see no pressing domestic need to provide an affordable college education to our kids or to keep sick folks from going bankrupt, but they do see a pressing need to keep taxes low on the rich.

John Dean, whose book, Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, is a must read, said of contemporary conservatives:

they are radicals more interested in power for themselves and other Republicans instead of serving the general public interest.

There simply is no “general public interest“—no national commonwealth—that a conservative can love, so long as it is tied up with an effective, domestically-interested government. But we have to ask ourselves just what the Constitution means by its splendidly pithy preamble:

We the People  of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Clearly this government—our government—was established as an instrument of the People that would go about the sometimes messy business of forming a “more perfect Union” and creating fairness and peace at home, protecting ourselves from external enemies, promoting “the general Welfare,” and fortifying our Liberty.

It’s not possible to neatly separate the domestic duties of our constitutional government from its duty to defend us, as so many on the right are wont to do. The two are tightly bound together and Americans should also be tightly bound together around the idea that we are all-in on a we-the-people government.

And by using language like “legalized Ponzi scheme,” in reference to the old age fear-killer we call Social Security, or saying that too much democracy can be devastating” to, uh, a democratic nation, Richard La Near, and others like him, are sadly pulling apart the bonds that hold us—we the people—together.

In La Near’s final paragraph, he wrote:

In conclusion, I would note that every great nation must periodically deflate to remain competitive. Those with flexible economic and political systems can do so…

America must “deflate to remain competitive”? I wonder just what segment of our society he has in mind that will have to do all the deflating? The deflated poor? The deflated sick? The deflating middle class? You will search La Near’s “financial Armageddon is coming” writings in vain for any kind of sign that he believes the wealthiest Americans should get in on the deflating, at least by paying a little more in taxes.

But you will find much wariness, much fear, and much insecurity about our democracy, about self-government, about America’s rightful masters. In short, you will find the philosophy of contemporary conservatism.

Romney’s Assault On Fellow Student Just Not That Big A Deal Compared To Barack Obama’s “Sordid High School Past”

The right-wing lying machine is an amazing thing to behold.

The ink was still damp on the Washington Post story about Romney assaulting a fellow high school student with a pair of scissors (even if it was only to cut his hair), when the fun began:

That story called the assault on John Lauber a “relatively innocent” high school prank. You know, sort of like giving someone a wedgy or something.

Breitbard also featured these “stories”:

My favorite of those was the “Does WaPo Know Obama Shoved a Little Girl?” You sort of have to read it to understand how stupid it is, but suffice it to say that a very young Obama giving a girl a “slight shove” on the playground because other kids were teasing him about being her boyfriend is not even remotely the same thing as an 18-year-old Romney forcibly cutting the hair of a boy suspected of being gay.

But we are talking about some serious Obama-haters at Breitbart, so this is not a surprising take.

Some Things You Just Don’t Forget

Mittens was a bully in high school? Who could have guessed that?

And now he’s lying about it? Who could have guessed that?

The Washington Post story of a preppy high schooler named Mitt Romney unable to tolerate the nonconformist behavior of a “presumed homosexual” was verified “by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another.”

John Lauber made the mistake of coming to the elite, all-boys prep school one day, “with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye.” Little did he know that the son of the Michigan governor would take it upon himself to make the world safe for tie-wearing and briefcase-carrying future vulture capitalists everywhere.

The young Romney demonstrated his fledgling leadership skills by leading his prepped posse in an assault against Lauber, tackling him and pinning him to the ground:

As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

Oh, but the story was fifty years ago, says the Romney campaign today. These and other stories “seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”

No memory? You don’t remember that you held a kid down and forcibly cut his insubordinate hair?  John Lauber doesn’t remember the incident either. But that’s because he’s dead. Is Romney dead, or is it just his sense of decency that has passed on to the Mormon version of heaven?

Yesterday on The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, I heard Ed Gillespie, senior adviser for the Romney campaign, say this:

Governor Romney doesn’t remember that incident at all. It’s understandable, it was in high school.

You know, come to think of it, I don’t remember all the times I bullied people in high school either. But maybe that’s because I didn’t bully anyone in high school.  I didn’t assault anyone with scissors during a hysterical, homophobic manhunt for my own manhood.

But Gillespie has it exactly wrong. You see, because the incident happened in high school is exactly why it is not understandable that Romney doesn’t remember it. High school has a way of staying with you, for good or for ill.

When I was in Fort Scott Senior High School, most decidedly not a fancy prep school, I had a horrendous case of acne and hair down to my shoulders, curly and fuzzy and culturally defiant, which, of course, was the point. Naturally, with hair like mine, going to school in a rural town of 9,000 folks earned me a lot of attention, almost all of it negative. And I remember, vividly, the few times that I was actually threatened by bullies, amid the normal day-to-day ridicule.

To be fair, I suppose it is possible that bullying has become so commonplace for Romney that the incident involving John Lauber simply blends in with all the rest. I mean, maybe he really doesn’t remember that first, early assault. Romney said yesterday on Romney-friendly Fox radio:

I had no idea that this person might have been gay.

This person.” Is it too much to ask of Romney to give John Lauber a name? But keep that statement, as well as his campaign’s statement that he had “no memory” of the incident, in mind as we go on.

Romney continued:

As the article points out, I participated in a lot of high jinks and pranks during high school, and, uh, some may have gone too far, and for that I apologize.

Okay. So he acknowledges the substance of the Washington Post story and he is sorry that some high jinks and pranks “may have gone too far.” Now, let’s move on to a later interview he did with Neil Cavuto on Fox TV:

I don’t recall the incident myself, but I’ve seen the reports and [I'm] not gonna argue with that. There’s no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school.

Clearly, Romney says he doesn’t “recall” the incident involving John Lauber. He doesn’t remember it. If it happened, he’s not going to “argue with that.” Now, the problem with all that is earlier in the day, remember he said,

I had no idea that his person might have been gay.

So, how does Romney not recall the hair-cutting assault but does definitely recall that he “had no idea” that John Lauber “might have been gay”? Huh?

There is little if any doubt that Romney did what the sources for the WaPo story said he did way back in high school.  And there isn’t much doubt that what Romney is really more defensive about today is the reason he did what he did.

He doesn’t really mind all that much that we think of him as some kind of rules enforcer at an elite, leader-making school in Michigan. But he doesn’t want us to think of him as singling out someone who was perceived to be gay, who dared to be different in an environment where rigidity and conformity and ties and briefcases were the norm.

And while I don’t blame him for wanting to hide that dark truth about his high school days, wouldn’t it have served him—and all of us—better if he had just admitted the incident, apologized to the memory of John Lauber, and then used this moment to tell homophobic Americans that, like that young Mitt Romney, they have some growing up to do?

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Jim Wheeler wrote, as part of a comment on my Ideology, Reason, And the Brain:

In this country, as in the fictional Lake Woebegone, we insist that all children are above average. Not only that, we insist that they all learn the same things at the same pace, which when you think about it is absurd.

Jim has expressed that sentiment before, but it struck me as particularly true, after an event I was fortunate enough to attend last Saturday.

During “Senior Day” at Joplin High School’s last home baseball game, a school teacher introduced each of the senior players, along with their parents, as they walked to home plate for a photograph. During the introduction, the teacher related the after-high-school desires of each of the seniors. Most, of course, expressed the desire to go to college.

Except one. He said he wanted to be a “welder.”

Now, I had never heard anything like that before, despite sitting through several of those kinds of ceremonies. Granted, I only know this young man and his parents from the baseball team, but I like them very much, and I can tell you that I was not in the least bit surprised about his post-secondary education wishes.

This teenager is not the college type, and I’m guessing neither were his parents.  These folks were just raised with different interests and preferences, and advanced education means something different to them than perhaps to most people these days.

But guess what? We need welders to make this country work. We need folks who can do those sorts of things, and it was refreshing to hear that a kid, who has no doubt endured much you-need-to-go-to-college-programming from the system, could earnestly and honestly say, “No thanks, I want to be a welder.”

That high school graduate may not end up finding a cure for cancer or doing some other “great” deed, but he will be doing his part to keep America running, to keep civilization from falling apart.  And that ain’t nothing.

And my guess is that he will be damned happy doing it.

Obamalution

The most important civil rights issue of our time is whether gay folks will continue to be treated like freaks.

And now, at last, we have Barack Obama on the side of the angels of liberty, as he declared his evolution complete:

I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

Coming on the heels of the anti-gay vote in North Carolina, I particularly admire—in fact I’m all gushy about it—the President’s admission that his evolving thinking has culminated in an affirmation of complete same-sex rights, which is essentially an affirmation of American constitutional liberty.

Would that he had made such a statement before that horrendous, last-cultural-gasp vote, in North Carolina, so we could see how it might have altered the numbers a bit.

Yet there it was, a historic and courageous statement that many critics didn’t think Mr. Obama would make at this time. Many thought he wouldn’t dare come out for homosexual equality before the election. Too much was at stake. The country isn’t quite ready for it.

But he did it, and “it” is not without political danger.  It will most certainly energize the Iron Age blowhards on the religious right, who will triple their efforts to unseat the homo-loving reprobate in the White’s House.Sign - gay-rights photo

However, no matter what happens this November, even if Barack Obama is burned by the last flickering embers of white religious angst, even if conservative Christians rage against the dying of the white light and muster one final victory on behalf of bigotry, make no mistake about it: homosexuals will one day become—in every state in this union—equal citizens under the law.

And Barack Obama’s decision to fully embrace homosexuals as free and equal citizens has advanced that eventuation.  Not only that, it will have an immediate definite cultural impact: it will, no doubt, exacerbate the cultural piety-anxiety that many white conservative Christians already suffer from, but, more important, it will have a positive effect on the black community, many of whom have resisted the idea that all people—even those compelled by nature to love and desire other folks of the same sex—deserve to be treated as, well, Americans.

Ideology, Reason, And The Brain

My friend and Joplin blogger Jim Wheeler recently wrote a short review of Edward O. Wilson’s book, The Social Conquest of Earth. Jim commented:

…I often find myself amazed at the depth of ignorance about science in the modern general public. It is almost as if we were two species, one cognizant and rational and the other, larger one, superstitious, primal, tribal, and bellicose. There is some evidence that groups of humanity may be evolving apart in those regards.

That’s interesting because on “Up with Chris Hayes” this past weekend, we were treated to an absolutely fascinating discussion about ideology and brains, featuring Chris Mooney, author of The Republican Brain, and Jonathan Haidt, who wrote The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Hayes introduced the two authors  by stating that an “insidious” feature of our current political polarization is that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to relate to people at the other end of the spectrum. They seem irrational, detached from reality, outright crazy.” He then posed this question:

If through evolution we’ve all inherited the same moral intuitions, then how do we end up so far apart on so many basic political issues?

Given the nature of our modern life, this question is one of the most important we can ask. Just what makes some of us seem, as Jim Wheeler suggests, “cognizant and rational,” and others seemsuperstitious, primal, tribal, and bellicose“?

Now, anyone interested in this topic should follow the link above and watch the segment (I can’t post it here at the moment), but the answer to that crucial question seems to be pretty much how Hayes summarized the current “social-psychological research” on the subject:

“Reason” is essentially constructed ex post to come up with reasons to justify things that we already arrive at viscerally and through intuition.

In other words, all, or at least most, of us are led around by our emotions, by our gut, and we essentially adopt some form of reasoning after the fact to support our emotional preferences. If that is true, it has profound implications, no? It would mean, for instance, that in order to change someone’s mind, the appeal should be an emotional one rather than a logical, rational one.

Consider this story on NPR this morning:

When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can’t.

But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president’s control.

The flipped perceptions on gas prices isn’t an aberration, said Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan. On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.

Nyhan suggested that,

partisans reject facts because they produce cognitive dissonance — the psychological experience of having to hold inconsistent ideas in one’s head. When Democrats hear the argument that the president can do something about high gas prices, that produces dissonance because it clashes with the loyalties these voters feel toward Obama. The same thing happens when Republicans hear that Obama cannot be held responsible for high gas prices — the information challenges their dislike of the president.

In other words, Nyhan continues, “partisans reject such information not because they’re against the facts, but because it’s painful.”  Now we can see why it is so hard to change someone’s mind with “the facts.”

All of which has now compelled me (!) to soon post a piece I have withheld due to its personally disturbing implications. The tease:

In his latest book, philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris tackles the issue of free will. He says,

Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.  We do not have the freedom we think we have.

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