What The Italians Know About Mittens

I suggest that if you are still not convinced that Mitt Romney’s past bidness life is unlike anything we have seen on the resume of a candidate in modern politics—that is, his practice of “vulture capitalism,” as Rick Perry would have it—then you should read the Bloomberg article,

Romney Persona Non Grata In Italy For Bain’s Deal Skirting Taxes

I will only quote an economics professor at Turin University about the sale of Italy’s government-owned telephone directory company to Bain Capital and Bain’s subsequent and relatively quick unloading of the same company for 25 times what it paid:

It was a mistake from the start, damaged by a lack of transparency and the use of offshore funds.

Lack of transparency? Offshore funds? Who, me? says Mittens.

The World Economy: A Sickness Unto Death?

The fundamentals of the world economy aren’t, in themselves, all that scary; it’s the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread.”

—Paul Krugman

here has long been a great divide among those who seek to explain both the cause and the duration of the Great Depression. What side you are on almost always says something about your politics: liberals have one view, conservatives tend to have another.

Brad DeLong and Barry Eichengreen have written an interesting new preface to the 40-year anniversary edition of Charles Kindleberger’s The World in Depression 1929-1939. The  book, as Wikipedia deftly summarizes it,

advances an idiosyncratic, internationalist view of the causes and nature of the Great Depression. Blaming the peculiar length and depth of the Depression on the hesitancy of the US in taking over leadership of the world economy when Britain was no longer up to the role after WWI, he concludes that ‘for the world economy to be stabilized, there has to be a stabilizer—one stabilizer’, by which, in the context of the interwar years at least, he means the United States.

In a column yesterday, Paul Krugman—whose latest book is titled, End This Depression Now!—worries that policy makers both in Europe and here in the U.S. are repeating past mistakes and failing to act decisively to rescue the world’s economy from the mess that financial recklessness created.

He took a swipe at the European leaders, who have failed to take meaningful action to bail out Spanish banks (“Forget about Greece, which is pretty much a lost cause; Spain is where the fate of Europe will be decided“), and he jabbed domestic Republicans, “who often seem as if they are deliberately trying to sabotage the economy.”

But since Krugman, like all of us should be, is most concerned about the crippling effects of long-term unemployment, he directed his latest attack squarely at the Federal Reserve:

The Fed has a so-called dual mandate: it’s supposed to seek both price stability and full employment. And last week the Fed released its latest set of economic projections, showing that it expects to fail on both parts of its mandate, with inflation below target and unemployment far above target for years to come.

This is a terrible prospect, and the Fed knows it. Ben Bernanke, the Fed’s chairman, has warned in particular about the damage being done to America by the unprecedented level of long-term unemployment.

So what does the Fed propose doing about the situation? Almost nothing. True, last week the Fed announced some actions that would supposedly boost the economy. But I think it’s fair to say that everyone at all familiar with the situation regards these actions as pathetically inadequate — the bare minimum the Fed could do to deflect accusations that it is doing nothing at all.

Why won’t the Fed act? My guess is that it’s intimidated by those Congressional Republicans, that it’s afraid to do anything that might be seen as providing political aid to President Obama, that is, anything that might help the economy.

That’s a fairly serious charge, but recall that GOP candidate for president Rick Perry said this about Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

That stupidity and attempt at intimidation was endorsed by the likes of Tea Party spokesman Sarah Palin and represents the sentiments of many right-wingers. But no one on that side seems to be concerned at all about the Fed’s lack of aggressiveness in addressing unemployment (not to mention the failure of conservatives in Congress to do anything at all), particularly long-term unemployment.

Look at this graph Krugman has previously presented:

We ignore this at our peril, both here and in Europe. The world economy is sick and trying to heal it with budget austerity is making it sicker. That is the equivalent of prescribing lots of calisthenics for a bedridden patient, and it may, as Krugman and others continue to argue, prove economically lethal.

“Whoops!” Said The Priest

You know it was a bad day in Christendom when a paper reported this:

A PRIEST has denied knowing how gay porn images appeared on a screen during a presentation he was giving to parents of children preparing for First Communion.

That’s a big-time Rick Perry “whoops!”

The story continues:

One of those present said the pictures appeared on the screen after the priest put a USB memory stick into the computer at St Mary’s School…

Now, just because Catholic priests these days are pretty good at inserting their memory sticks into unauthorized outlets, that doesn’t mean this particular priest was guilty of a crime. In fact, this priest insisted that the porn-images could be “legitimately explained.”

And, look, I believe him. He may have confused this presentation with the one he would give later in the day: “Why Homosexual Behavior Is a Sin,” or something like that.

(My thanks to “Beneath the Tin Foil Hat” for this one.)

“A Seat In The Shaming Room”

Amazingly, some people are shocked over a Doonesbury cartoon, but not as shocked at the underlying policies that led to it.

From the Associated Press:

KANSAS CITY, MO. – A national syndicate will offer replacement “Doonesbury” comic strips to newspapers that don’t want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said Friday.

Here’s the problem some folks have with the cartoon:

The comic strips feature a woman who goes to an abortion clinic and is confronted by several people who suggest she should be ashamed. Among them is a doctor who reads a script on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcoming her to a “compulsory transvaginal exam,” and a middle-aged legislator who calls her a “slut.”

One panel equates the invasive procedure to rape and describes the device used to perform it as a “10-inch shaming wand.”

Here are a couple of panels, reprinted in The Guardian:

Now, I can understand why this stuff upsets people, but what I can’t understand is why more folks aren’t upset over the reality behind the cartoon: Republicans in places like Texas have decided that women ought to be shamed and bombarded with guilt while exercising their reproductive rights, and in some cases they want the government to violate their bodies by forcing women seeking abortions to get invasive sonograms.

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau defended his cartoon, saying,

In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity.

And one would think that such insanity would be the controversy, not a cartoon designed to call attention to it.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Scavenging Capitalist

What is going on in the Republican Party is, well, unbelievable.

On one side is Gingrich, Perry, and Palin.  On the other is the GOP establishment, featuring Rush Limbaugh, for God’s sake.  On trial is what John McCain calls, “the essence of what we Republicans believe,” a nasty and brutish brand of capitalism manifested through what are known as venture capital and private equity firms like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital.

Or here is how Rick Perry, famously now, expressed his affection for Bain:

They’re vultures. They’re sittin’ out there on the, on the tree limb, waitin’ for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

Those ominous birds, it must be said, aren’t all bad, as a blogger named Cameron McCormick, in a piece titled, “On the Importance of Vultures,” made clear:

Our anthropocentric stigma against scavengers is totally underserved and in fact, carrion consumption is a valuable ecological “service.”

Obviously, consuming the rotting flesh of dead animals is valuable in terms of the ecology, and Republicans defending Romney are trying to assert the same thing about private equity firms vis-à-vis the economy: they contribute to overall economic efficiency by feeding on weak companies.

But who grows up thinking, “I want to be a scavenging capitalist”?

A piece posted on the far-right Tea Party site, Red State, asked about the character of a man who made millions upon millions scavenging:

We know that Bain killed American jobs when it meant profit for the shareholders and investors. When political profit is at stake, will Mitt do what is right for America, or will he serve his own best interests?[...]

Whether Bain Capital is good, or evil, necessary or sleazy, is beside the point. They do what they do (though some specific deals may be questionable), and it’s all apparently legal. It is also irrelevant. What is relevant is what his Bain days say about Mitt Romney’s character, and for that reason alone the discussion is both necessary and appropriate.

In his defense, Romney says:

There are some businesses that are growing and thriving … [and] there’s some businesses that have to be cut back in order to survive.

At least he is a polite scavenger.

I will end with a quote from Rick Perry, who must be bewildered at the criticism he is receiving for pointing out what is obvious to anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh:

There is nothing wrong with being successful and making money. But getting rich off failure and sticking someone else with the bill is indefensible.

Well, apparently it is not indefensible these days in the Republican Party. In fact, again as John McCain helpfully observed,  it is “the essence of what we Republicans believe.”

Here’s a nice graph that Ed Schultz uses on his show now:

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Mitt Romney And “Vultures”

UPDATE: Newt Gingrich offered more help in defining Romney today, and in defining the kind of capitalism that Americans can live with, on Fox “News” of all places:

Real capitalism implies that there is some partnership between capital and labor to develop better futures. And that somehow the joint effort ought to produce a better future for everybody. That doesn’t mean you’re always going to succeed. I don’t attack guys who do their best and happen to fail. But I do think if somebody goes in and the rich guy takes all the money and the poor guys gets all the unemployment, there’s something wrong with that picture.

And again, if they make an investment and the investment doesn’t work out,and they take a bath, as long as they are suffering along with the workers, that is just free enterprise. And I think we have to be honest about this. One of the reasons people who like free enterprise do not like Wall Street is that they see very rich financiers who rig the game, so the taxpayer loses, the worker loses, and somehow the rich guy does okay…

There has to be some sense of “everybody’s in the same boat…” He’s gonna have to explain why would Bain have taken $180 million out of the company and then have it go bankrupt. And to what extent that they have some obligation to the workers. Remember there were a lot of people who made that $180 million, it wasn’t just six rich guys at the top. And yet somehow they walked off from their fiduciary obligation to the people who had made the money for them…

If we identify capitalism with rich guys looting companies, we’re gonna have a very hard time protecting it. I am totally committed to capitalism, I am totally committed to Main Street, I am totally committed to people’s right to start companies. I’m committed to their right to fail. But I think it has to be fair, it has to be out in the open. This is why you have this underlying anger about the financial class. Because people look over and say, “Wait a second. How come I lost my mortgage and you stayed a millionaire? How come I lost my savings and you stayed a millionaire?” [...]

Is it fair to have a system, is it right, is it the kind of country you want to live in to have a system where somebody can come in, take over your company, take out all the cash and leave behind a wreck? And they go off to a country club having a great time and you go off to the unemployment line.

Now, this is not anti-capitalist. I’m not for socialism. I’m not for government stopping risk-taking. But I’m for some sense of fairness that the entrepreneur and the worker have a joint investment in something succeeding.

I never thought I’d say this: Thanks, Newt. You got it just about right.

____________________________

Rick Perry is hanging around the GOP primary long enough to help define Mitt Romney and to help define what companies like Romney’s cash cow, Bain Capital, do.

Perry said this morning:

I will suggest, they’re just vultures. They’re vultures. They’re sittin’ out there on the, on the tree limb, waitin’ for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Rick! Thanks for not dropping out of the race!

Beyond A Doubt?

I want to connect two issues, recently in the news, that may not seem related. 

In a piece in Tuesday’s USA Today, “When will USA get over breastfeeding hang-ups?,” Katherine Chretien hopes that one day, “breastfeeding in public will be seen as nothing out of the ordinary”: 

Let’s face it, we live in a society that has sexualized breasts so much that any display (even in its primary, all-business function) is seen as indecent, allowing the hardy vestiges of American Puritanism to place shame-hexes on nursing moms.

Now, I have never understood the hang-up about breastfeeding, in public or private, but I do understand “the hardy vestiges of American Puritanism,” the unrelenting bigotry of which is able to survive in our otherwise permissive culture.

There is another form of puritanical bigotry increasing in this country, almost unnoticed by the mainstream press, that also has to do with women: the harsh, inflexible anti-choice movement. Here is a story from CNN that illustrates the point:

(CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry revealed a hardening in his stance on abortion Tuesday, telling a crowd in Iowa that he opposed abortions in all cases, including when a woman had been raped or the victim of incest.

Previously, Perry had not opposed the procedure in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life was threatened.

Perry claims that his just-in-time-for-the-Iowa-caucuses “transformation” happened after watching a propaganda film produced by Southern Baptist preacher and Fox “News” host Mike Huckabee, who was the former governor of Arkansas and a former presidential candidate who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

From the CNN story:

“…I really started giving some thought about the issue of rape and incest. And some powerful, some powerful stories in that DVD.”

Perry said a woman who appeared in the movie who said she was a product of rape moved him to change his mind about abortion.

“She said, ‘My life has worth.’ It was a powerful moment for me,” Perry said.

I find it interesting that men like Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee and many leaders in the anti-choice movement, a movement that has been very effective in limiting the choices women can make, will never be victims of rape or incest, but feel comfortable forcing women to have children under such circumstances. More than interesting, I find it appalling.

But Rick Perry—who earlier this year signed a bill in Texas forcing women seeking abortions to undergo sonograms and forcing doctors to tell those women the size of their fetuses’ body parts—isn’t the only GOP candidate/extremist against abortion rights. Oddly, the man most people identify as a libertarian, Ron Paul, is staunchly anti-choice. He said in 2005:

I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society.

“Beyond a doubt?” That man is expected to finish first or second in Iowa next week. He also said that,

Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law…the new regime has enlisted the assistance of millions of people to act as its agents in carrying out a program of mass murder.

Again, that is a so-called libertarian running for the GOP nomination speaking.

Mitt Romney, whom the mainstream media treat as a “moderate” and whose evolving-devolving position on abortion is legendary, has essentially confessed—to none other than Mike Huckabee himself—that he is an extremist on the “life begins at conception” issue. The two former governors were discussing Romney’s now-controversial health care plan in Massachusetts, which Romney claimed the courts determined must provide the right to an abortion:

Mike Huckabee: “Was there any way that you could have blocked [Romney's health care plan paying for abortion] administratively or through forcing the legislature to have created enabling legislation before it went into effect?”

Romney: “This was something which existed exactly even before our bill was passed. They said people who are receiving care in that was in any way subsidized by government had the right to get abortions as part of that care. And they said that was constitutionally required. So the only way to we could have changed that would be to carry out a constitutional amendment to block the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Mike Huckabee: “Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?”

Mitt Romney: “Absolutely.”

It is true that the Romney campaign disputes the claim that he is in favor of so-called “personhood amendments,” which would grant political rights to minutes-old fertilized eggs, but even in the context of Massachusetts politics, how can a man say he would be in favor of a constitutional amendment that would establish “life at conception,” if that didn’t also mean granting that “life” political rights, most notably the right to be born? If it doesn’t mean that, then just what does it mean?

And remember, Romney made his statement about the constitutional amendment establishing life at conception in the context of restricting “the right to get abortions.” Clearly, he is willing to support measures that would prohibit women from controlling their reproductive decisions.

When Romney vetoed a bill in Massachusetts in 2005 that would have expanded access to emergency contraception, known as the “morning after” pill, he explained his veto by saying this:

The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception: The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception…I have spoken with medical professionals to determine whether the drug contemplated under the bill would simply prevent conception or whether it would also terminate a living embryo after conception. Once it became clear that the latter was the case, my decision was straightforward.

Romney tried to hide his extremist position by saying that his decision was based on the “promise” he made to “the citizens of Massachusetts” that he would “not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it.” Similarly, he tries to hide his extremism by claiming that such things should be left in state hands. His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho said,

Mitt Romney is pro-life, and as he has said previously, he is supportive of efforts to ensure recognition that life begins at conception. He believes these matters should be left up to states to decide.

That, in perfect Romney style, is trying to have it both ways. He wants to send the message to the anti-choice community that he is committed to their extremist views, while sending the message to the rest of America that he will not change, as a federal official, the status quo. He wants to send Rick Perry’s and Ron Paul’s message without actually sounding like Rick Perry and Ron Paul.

But who can believe a man who has been a true-believing bishop in the ultra-conservative Mormon church and who once was thrown out of the house of a man who lived in a Boston suburb for insisting that the man not allow his daughter to have an abortion. According to a  report, the man was “appalled at the arrogance of Romney.

Bigotry is a form of arrogance, of course. And whether it is the comparatively trivial impulse to stop women from breastfeeding in public or whether it is the profoundly important matter of trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose to become a mother, the bigotry that goes with the  “hardy vestiges of American Puritanism” is evident, particularly in the politics surrounding abortion in the Republican Party.

Even if the mainstream media largely ignore it.

Remarks And Asides

Rick Perry has a new ad out that exhumes the freshly-buried issue of gays in the military and says, “As president, I will end Obama’s war on religion.”  Obama, being a clever fellow, is conducting his war in the privacy of his prayer closet.

____________________________

Not only are blacks brainwashed to vote for Democrats, but according to Fox Bidness Channel, the Muppets are brainwashing our children against corporations and capitalism. Not true, not true. I happen to know that one important Muppet, Gonzo the Great, has been revamped to appear as a tribute to free-market lover Newt Gingrich. Can you guess who said this:

I shall now defuse this highly explosive bomb while simultaneously, and at the same time, reciting from the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Yep, you guessed right. Oh, yeah. Gonzo has been in hot pursuit of Camilla the Chicken, whom he began courting while Speaker of the House.  Or something like that.

____________________________

Speaking of Newt Gingrich, Wonkette says Newt should be “a forgotten nightmare that not even a bad acid trip can rouse from the depths of half-memory.”  She was commenting on an old story that revealed Mr. Gingrich, who obviously cares about children or else he wouldn’t be a Muppet, used a children’s literacy charity he set up to pay an old friend more than 90% of the money raised one year.

That’s one way to teach the kids Republican values.

____________________________

Speaking of Republican values toilets, according to Politico, when Newt went to Missouri Western last year, he requested a couple of fancy thunder mugs to deposit his waste. I, for one, don’t find it all that unusual that a man so obviously full of Georgia mud might need two potties to park it.

____________________________

Until Congress passes a bill to extend the payroll tax cut, Senate Majority Honcho Harry Reid said:

We are not going to go home to vacations. Does this mean embarrassing Republicans, humiliating them? Probably—as it should.

Is he kidding? Embarrass Republicans? Has Mr. Reid been on vacation for the last three years?

____________________________

Romney and his team are now dropping negative nukes on Newt, calling him not a conservative but a Gingrichite.  The unforgivable sin, according to the Romneyites, is that Gingrich is, get this, not conservative enough because he does not, get this, support the Ryan plan that, get this, destroys the current Medicare system.  And that is coming from, get this, the “moderate” Mitt Romney.  What a party!

______________________________

Speaking of Mitt Romney, he and other Republicans have been attacking President Obama for his “appeasement” foreign policy. The President, not one to brag, responded this way:

Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaida leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that.

Governor Rick Perry, who thinks we are at war with Iran, heard about this controversy and allegedly responded: “Gahhhly, why doesn’t someone just ask bin Laden about it and settle the matter?

________________________________

Hillary Clinton has not only been annoying the Russians, she  told the world on International Human Rights Day that gay rights are also human rights and that the Administration is undertaking a “comprehensive human rights policy” to defend the rights of LGBT folks.  She said in Geneva:

Progress starts with honest discussion. Now, there are some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay.

Republicans have yet to respond to that vicious attack.

________________________________

Speaking of homophobic Republicans, Tony Perkins of the ultra-ungodly Family Research Council, is very upset over a repeal of an unconstitutional sodomy provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

Now, in its rush to accommodate the left, Congress may have inadvertently opened the door to even more perversion. As part of the defense authorization bill, liberals are pushing to make sodomy a legal activity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In its haste to make gay sex an official part of military life, the left could be unintentionally repealing the ban on bestiality too.

Hillary has a lot of work to do.

________________________________

Another sterling example of Republican logic, also known as hypocrisy:  North Dakota’s attorney general is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the Commerce Clause doesn’t allow the government to force folks to purchase insurance they don’t want.  A very principled stand, right? The same guy is also suing the state of Minnesota over lignite coal, arguing that the Commerce Clause permits the federal government to force Minnesota folks to purchase North Dakota’s lignite coal-fired energy, even if they don’t want to.

And that, my friends, is how the GOP philosophy works: They hate big government except when they don’t.

________________________________

Finally, in case you missed it, Dan Quayle has taken all the fun and suspense out of the GOP primary by endorsing Mitt Romney, which gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to the former vice president by presenting a few of his famous nuggets of wisdom that just never get old:

I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy—but that could change.

The future will be better tomorrow.

What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

By the way, has anyone ever seen Dan Quayle and Rick Perry together?

Obama: A Man Of Privilege, Says White Guy From Texas

Rick Perry is an even bigger bundle of malicious glop than I imagined. He told another Fox glop, Sean Hannity, the following about President Obama:

It reveals to me that he grew up in a privileged way. He never had to really work for anything. He never had to go through what Americans are going through. There’s 14-plus million Americans sitting out there, some of them watching this program tonight, that don’t have a job. This president has never felt that angst that they have in their heart…

And we need a president who has been through their ups and downs in life and understand what it’s like to have to deal with the issues of our economy that we have today in America. And that’s what this election is going to be about, Sean…

We have a white man from Texas, intimating to another white man on a white man’s television network that our black president was a man of privilege, a man who never had to work for what he achieved, a man who knows nothing of American angst, who, really, when it comes down to it is not one of “us.”

Now, that tells you everything you need to know about the state of today’s Republican Party and its public relations department, Fox “News.”

“The Dumb Spake”

And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.”

—Luke 11:14

 

We now have two stunning episodes in which a Republican presidential candidate was unable to articulate what should have been for them the obvious: Rick Perry’s blanking out on the three agencies he would eliminate and Herman Cain’s stuttering search through his obviously spacious mental warehouse of world knowledge for a response to an easy question on Obama’s Libya policy.

Let’s face it: Rick Perry and Herman Cain have about the same chance of becoming president as a fried turkey leg has of surviving an encounter with Newt Gingrich, so it’s not what those two couldn’t say that scares me about this crop of GOP candidates.

It’s what actually escapes, with varying degrees of fluency, from the mouths of some of the rest of them:

In March, Newt Gingrich, who is now the Republican front-runner in some national polls and in all campaign-trail buffets, said this:

I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American. 

Newt was 67 when he made that statement. You do the math as to how long we have before the “radical Islamists” dominate a “secular atheist” America, and then wonder why Newt didn’t bother to explain how the country could be secular and atheist if it were dominated by folks who adhere to a very radical and non-secular and non-atheist version of Islam.

Gingrich’s reputation for brilliance, as you can see, is well-deserved.

Then there’s Michele Bachmann, who said last Saturday:

I think, really, what I would want to do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society … The Great Society has not worked and it’s put us into the modern welfare state.

If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situation. They don’t have AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children]. They save for their own retirement security. They don’t have the modern welfare state. And China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with the Great Society and they’d be gone.

I can’t remember the last candidate from one of the two major parties who used China as a model for American domestic policy, can you? Reagan? Bush?

And by the way, we don’t even have AFDC anymore, thanks to the 1996 welfare reform bill that changed it into a block grant program. So take that you wonderful Chinese! We’re catching up!

And here’s don’t-Google-me-please Rick Santorum, who said last month

I’ll repeal all funding for abortions…We’ll repeal Obamacare and get rid of any kind of idea that you have to have abortion coverage or contraceptive coverage. And one of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is that I think the dangers of contraception in this country—the whole sexual libertine idea. And many in the Christian faith say, “Well, that’s okay, you know, contraception’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be…

Let me see. Besides putting restrictions on our sex licenses, Santorum is opposed to contraception, abortion, and has bragged about killing the federal entitlement program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, that Michele Bachmann thinks still exists.  It all makes sense to me.

Then there is the “sensible” and “adult” Jon Huntsman, who said during last Saturday’s debate, in response to a question from Tea Party kingpin Sen. Jim DeMint on “federal spending and debt”:

My speech was a very short one on debt and spending. It’s three words: The Ryan Plan. I think The Ryan Plan sets out a template that puts– everything on the table.

I’ve got three words for Mr. Huntsman: Find another job. The Ryan plan, besides morphing Medicare out of existence, did not put “everything on the table.” His plan was advertised as revenue neutral and all the deficit reduction pain would be felt by—guess who?

Finally, there’s the eventual Republican nominee, Mitt. This one is short and sweet and easy to remember:

Corporations are people, my friend.

“And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.”

The Department Of Um

I took several pages of notes while I was watching the Republican debate last night on CNBC.  Fortunately, Rick Perry’s cringe-inducing performance made them all useless.  As soon as he had his moment of discomfiture, I stopped writing. 

It was just too sad and pathetic.  It’s as if the groom had passed a boisterous blast of noxious gas during the “I do” part of the wedding. Sure, it was unforgivable, obviously it was funny, but at the same time it was kind of like, “Hasn’t the guy suffered enough, God? Send down the angels and put him out of his misery.”

Of all the words I might have expected to hear at a GOP primary debate, “oops” wasn’t one of them.  But there it was, out of the mouth of Rick Perry, which may have been the most honest thing he has ever uttered in one of those silly debates.  Indeed, it may have been the most honest thing any of them have ever uttered.

I don’t know, but if you are talking about what you would do if people were dumb enough to elect you president, and you then begin a sentence—in your most authoritative and emphatic voice—with the words,

It’s three government agencies when I get there that are gone…

you might make sure that you had the names of those three agencies written on the palm of your hand, like Sarah Palin would. You don’t want to mess this one up. It’s your moment. It’s your chance to prove how decisive you are, how much you have thought about the subject, how committed you are to your small-gov’mint principles.

But, alas, Perry wasn’t even smart enough to come up with a Palin-palm cheat sheet. So, he continued:

Commerce, Education and the, um, what’s the third one there…Let’s see…So Commerce, Education, and, uh, the uh, um, um…The third agency of government…I would do away with the education, the, um, Commerce, and let’s see. I can’t think of the third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

There it is in one word.  The one word that any fair-minded observer of the Republican primary process would use to describe the past few months, as these candidates have revealed themselves to the public:

Oops!

Everything’s Big In Texas, Including The Socialism

Even though Rick Perry will never be president, and even though Republicans will never admit that they love them some socialism, this segment from last night’s The Last Word is very entertaining:


Vote For Romney In The Name Of Jesus

At the falsely-named Values Voter Summit today, a former Reagan official, Gambling Bill Bennett,  labeled as “bigotry” the recent comments by Dallas mega-church pastor, Robert Jeffress, who with Texas-sized cojones managed to shout what other evangelicals only whisper:

Mitt Romney is a cultist!

Well, that’s not literally what he said, but it is what he meant.  Here’s how The New York Times reported it:

WASHINGTON — A Texas pastor introduced Rick Perry at a major conference of Christian conservatives here on Friday as “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ” and then walked outside and attacked Mitt Romney’s religion, calling the Mormon Church a cult and stating that Mr. Romney “is not a Christian.”

The Times reported that the value-less Southern Baptist Jeffress believes Romney is a “good, moral person” and that he will vote for him over Obama:

I’m going to instruct, I’m going to advise people that it is much better to vote for a non-Christian who embraces biblical values than to vote for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces un-biblical values.

Mr. Obama, by all accounts, and I mean by all accounts, is also a “good, moral person” in the sense Jeffress means it.  There isn’t the slightest bit of scandal in his past or in his present life.  And Jeffress even admits that Obama is a Christian, a real one, as opposed to Romney who is a deceived follower of a cult.  That leaves us with those “un-biblical values” that Obama supposedly embraces.  I wonder what those are?

Well, we know what those are: Obama believes in abortion rights and homosexual rights and Romney believes in whatever it is that will get him elected to whatever office he happens to be seeking. (You can look it up.)  Pastor Jeffress told The Christian Post that,

I think it is a spiritual imperative that we unseat Barack Obama. He is the most pro-abortion, most pro-homosexuality [president] in history.

Forget for a moment that Republicans all over the country are hacking away at abortion rights, with little or no resistance from Obama and with little or no notice in the mainstream press.  And forget for a moment that Obama’s views on gay marriage are essentially the same as Romney’s.  But do think about that phrase Jeffress used: “spiritual imperative.”  It is a spiritual imperative to support Romney over Obama? What a pickled phony.

I saw Mr. Jeffress this morning on MSNBC and he used essentially the same language . During the interview he not only questioned Mitt Romney’s Christianity, he also criticized his last-minute conversion to conservatism. Jeffress also affirmed Obama’s standing as a Christian. Thus, he was asked just who evangelicals should vote for, given that Mr. Romney was a non-Christian cultist pretending to be a conservative and that Barack Obama was, as Jeffress admitted, a bona fide Christian. 

His answer is instructive and demonstrates why Mitt Romney, for all the doubts about his Christianity among evangelicals, is the only challenger in the GOP race capable of beating Barack Obama:

Personally, I would certainly vote for Mitt Romney instead of Barack Obama. I think we must unseat Barack Obama, for me as a pastor, not for political reasons but for spiritual reasons…

Now, the interviewer didn’t follow up on the meaning of that statement—”for spiritual reasons“—as she should have, but the hypocrisy of Mr. Jeffress and other evangelicals is overwhelming.  Let me put it in this form:

♦ Mitt Romney is a non-Christian cultist who is pretending to be a conservative in order to get elected.

♦ Barack Obama is a professing Christian, who lives his life very conservatively, but who holds some positions on abortion and homosexual rights that Mitt Romney used to hold but says he doesn’t hold anymore.

♦ Therefore, the so-called “spiritual” thing to do is vote for the deceived, non-Christian cultist pretending to be a conservative.

Get that? Vote for the hell-bound man pretending to be both a conservative and a Christian and you can rest assured that you are safe in the arms of Jesus.

Oh, I know Mr. Jeffress talks like a bunch of evangelicals will simply sit home and not vote, should Romney—as I have always predicted he would—get the GOP nomination.  But that won’t happen next year.

You see, I was an evangelical Christian for somewhere around 20 years.  I know these folks.  And I know how much they want to, in the kind words of pastor Jeffress, “unseat” The Scary Negro from the White’s House.

And most of them will, in November of 2012, forget the fact that Mitt Romney is so deluded as to believe in the false and un-biblical teachings of cultic Mormonism, and they will forget the fact that Romney has taken both sides of nearly every issue, including abortion and gay rights.

There is one thing they will remember: Mr. Romney cannot unseat the President without their support, and, thus, hating Mr. Obama and what he stands for more than loving their own personal and spiritual integrity, they will give the duplicitous, non-Christian cultist their votes.

And they will do it in the name of Jesus.

Southern Style

Southerners are different from you and me.

In the news the past few days has been the revelation of Rick Perry’s happy hunting ground, known in West Texas/Southern-hospitality-speak as Niggerhead.*

Classy.

Then there was a weird appearance this morning on Fox “News” by country music star Hank Williams, Jr., who has toyed with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate in, where else, Tennessee.  For the most part and unfortunately, country music performers have become the Republican Party Tabernacle Choir, and Hank has become a Tea Party Pavarotti.

Well, sort of.

In what may be the dumbest and most offensive appearance in the history of television—which, it is hard to believe, made even the discomforting Fox and Friends hosts uncomfortable—Ol’ Hank made himself quite a fool, fool enough to get himself fired from Monday Night Football’s opening act.

If you haven’t seen it, here is Bocephus—his famous pop prophetically nicknamed him after a ventriloquist’s dummy—in rare form:

_____________________________

 * Don’t even think about telling me West Texas isn’t in the “South.”

Jethro, Get The Truck!

Joe Scarborough said this morning that Rick Perry looked “lost” in last night’s debate.

That’s one way to put it, I suppose. Most of the time Perry reminded me of Jethro Bodine, nephew of Jed Clampett.  You may remember that with his sixth grade education Jethro had a wide-ranging aptitude: he could have been a brain surgeon or a double-naught spy or a famous Hollywood producer.

Or, in the case of Rick Perry, the President of the United States. 

Watching Perry last night was like watching Jethro do his “cyphering” routine:  “Three-goze-inta-nine-three-times… ”  Uncle Jed once said of Jethro—or was it Rick Perry?—”If brains were lard, his wouldn’t grease too big a pan.”

That’s not really fair, though. Perry was smart enough to throw yet another entitlement program under the bus last night: George W’s Medicare Part D.  That pretty much takes care of the welfare state as far as Perry is concerned.

But to illustrate just why Rick Perry’s Jethro-esque grasp of the issues would be no match for Obama in the general election, follow this:

BRET BAIER: Governor Perry, if you were president, and you get a call at 3 am telling you that Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons, at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?

PERRY: Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with — and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.

For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16′s, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

Today, we don’t have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.

Now, obviously Perry had studied a couple of 3 x 5 index cards with a few facts about the region on them, but he didn’t have the slightest idea of how to answer Baier’s question.  And as for Bret Baier, despite the fact that the Fox questioners ask several follow-up questions throughout the night, and despite the fact that Baier had no trouble interrupting President Obama when he interviewed him sometime back, Mr. Baier did not follow up and ask Perry just what the hell he was talking about.

And that’s how journalism works at Fox.  In fact, the whole night, with a couple of exceptions, was a tribute to right-wing extremism, both in the choice of questions and in the responses.

Fox did stray from the Tea Party reservation, though, when it played a clip of Stephen Hill, a soldier serving in Iraq.  Hill asked:

HILL: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?

There were boos from the audience. Boos, for God’s sake!  An American soldier was booed by a few folks in a Republican audience and not one—not one—candidate on that stage could manage to condemn the booing. 

Santorum went on to stutter something about how he would reinstitute the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, policy, but I ask yet again: Why is there such a thing as a gay Republican?

As for Mitt Romney, by default he was the clear winner of whatever that was last night.  It’s not hard to look presidential among so many unpresidential contenders.  He lied about Obama several times, but he did refrain from calling the President a socialist, and even though Romney demagogued the immigration issue to death—good luck in the general with that one, Mitt—he managed once again to favorably contrast himself to Perry.

For me, the worst moment of the night was one that involved a discussion of what “fair and balanced” journalist Chris Wallace called “Obamacare,” as if that were the official name of the program:

WALLACE: Mr. Cain, you are a survivor of stage 4 colon and liver cancer. And you say, if Obamacare had been…(APPLAUSE)…and we all share in the happiness about your situation. But, you say if Obamacare had been in effect when you were first being treated, you would dead now. Why?

Now, Herman Cain, given the pale-faced candidates and the pale-faced crowd, looked like a member of The Lonely Negro Society in that huge room, but he did manage to shamelessly exploit his unfortunate bout with cancer this way:

CAIN: The reason I said that I would be dead under Obamacare is because my cancer was detected in March of 2006. From March 2006 all the way to the end of 2006, for that number of months, I was able to get the necessary CAT scan tests, go to the necessary doctors, get a second opinion, get chemotherapy, go — get surgery, recuperate from surgery, get more chemotherapy in a span of nine months. If we had been under Obamacare and a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan that would have delayed by treatment.

My surgeons and doctors have told me that because I was able get the treatment as fast as I could, based upon my timetable and not the government’s timetable that’s what saved my life, because I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. And now I’m here five years cancer free, because I could do it on my timetable and not a bureaucrat’s timetable.

This is one of the reasons I believe a lot of people are objecting to Obamacare, because we need get bureaucrats out of the business of trying to micromanage health care in this nation. (APPLAUSE)

Never mind that profit-minded bureaucrats are at this very moment micromanaging the health care system. The truth is that Herman Cain is fabulously wealthy—and thus has nothing to fear from any insurance program, good or bad—and if it were up to him and those on the stage, nearly 50 million Americans would not have insurance at all. 

Every single Republican wants  to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—the real name of Obamacare.  And yet Mr. Wallace never bothered to ask Herman Cain what would happen to any American without insurance, if they were afflicted with the kind of cancer he had.

That seemed like an obvious question to me, but then I’m not a Fox journalist.

Deliberate Subversion

No one who has watched our politics since January of 2009 can deny that Republicans have done everything possible to see to it that Barack Hussein Obama is a failure as a president.  That’s not even arguable at this point.

What may be arguable is the language one uses to describe this reality.  I have called it sabotage. You may call it something different.  But what do you call what Rick Perry did yesterday in New York? 

I mentioned it in my piece on the Palestinian state dilemma.  Perry, in front of foreign nationals, fanatical right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset, accused President Obama of siding with terrorists against Israelis and betraying our long-term ally. 

It’s not just that Rick Perry is, as Democrats argued back, dangerously naive and misinformed on the Israeli-Palestinian issue—he is that, for sure—it’s that he is so willing to sabotage the President at a time when the stakes are so high, when there is so much to lose, and in the company of foreigners.

As NBC’s Chuck Todd remarked this morning, what would have happened in 2004 if John Kerry or Howard Dean, while campaigning in a primary and running to unseat  George W. Bush, had done what Perry did yesterday?  Well, we know what would have happened. As it was, without any such thing, John Kerry, war hero, was made out to be a traitor to his country.

But we have another example of the continuing sabotage.  On Monday, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and Jon Kyl all signed a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke—who, you remember, was the subject of Rick Perry’s treason invective—urging the Fed to “resist further extraordinary interventions in the U.S. economy.”

Now, just why might Republicans be interested in telling another Republican—Ben Bernanke—not to do anything that might help the economy?  Remember what Rick Perry said in August:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous in my opinion.

So, I don’t know what some folks call this kind of behavior on the part of Republicans, but I call it sabotage: deliberate subversion.

Remarks And Asides

An amazing coincidence in the news, or is it?

♦ House Speaker John Boehner says that Republicans are from a different planet.

♦ Scientists have discovered a new planet orbiting two stars. The planet is quite frigid—too cold for life—and is about 200 light years away from earth-bound reality.

That pretty much describes the Republican Party.

___________________________

Speaking of John Boehner, not only has he rejected Mr. Obama’s call for taxes on the rich to pay for the new jobs program, Boehner has presented a jobs program of his own: No new taxes, reform the tax code, and end excessive government regulations.

Why didn’t the rest of us think of that?

Oh, I know why.  See the item above.

___________________________

And Boehner says, “Hell no, I’m not having any fun!”  That makes 300 million of us, John.

___________________________

Rick Perry has been hammered by Michele Bachmann for indulging in crony capitalism. Alas, it is true. Former staffers and appointees of Perry have cashed in on their relationship with the government-hating governor. But doggone it! Crony capitalism is the only reason why government-hating Republicans run for office in the first place! They’re not socialists, for God’s sake.

___________________________

Speaking of God, who, when he isn’t busy keeping the universe from collapsing into the Big Crunch, occasionally wrestles with GOP presidential candidates.

One of his past opponents was Rick Perry, who spoke recently at the University of Iron Age Thinking, also known as Liberty University, and said:

…what I learned as I wrestled with God was I didn’t have to have all the answers, that would be revealed to me in due time, and that I needed to trust him.

At some point during the wrestling match, Perry got impatient and dropped God to the canvas with a flying clothesline and pinned him down until God told Perry all the answers to the nation’s problems.

Then Perry got up and ran for president.

___________________________

Speaking of Rick Perry and running for president, the wrestler’s Ponzi scheme comments about Social Security don’t seem to bother Republicans all that much, at least right now (36% say they “don’t know enough to say”). 

But 32% of independents are “less likely” to support him against 12% who are “more likely” to support him.

For his part, Perry is not backing down (if you’d wrestled God and survived to tell Jerry Falwell’s kids about it, would you back down? ).  Stone Cold Rick Perry from Austin told a fawning Time magazine:

If you want to call it a Ponzi scheme, if you want to say it’s a criminal enterprise, if you just want to say it’s broken –they all get to the same point.

Well, not exactly. Unless you’re Dick Cheney, normally criminal enterprises land you in jail. That’s sort of why they call them “criminal.” And Ponzi schemes and other such criminal enterprises aren’t “broken” such that they can be fixed. So, no, they all don’t “get to the same point.”

Boy, where’s God when you need him? Oh, yeah. He’s still on the canvas.

Ronald Reagan’s Broken Heart

Last night, I watched Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, on MSNBC.

Ms. Davis had movingly wrote of her father last February, discussing especially his “journey down the narrowing road of Alzheimer’s“:

I already knew his memory of being President had been extinguished. He remembered ice skating as a boy and swimming in the Rock River in summer but not his impact on the country and the world.

Alzheimer’s didn’t kill Reagan’s “graciousness, his kindness towards others, his gratitude and his humility,” she wrote.

Ms. Davis, who didn’t exactly share her father’s politics, wished she could have asked him about his amazing confidence, his utter trust in his faith that gave fear no place. And:

I want to tell him I remember the nights when I was a child and he traced the constellations for me, showing me Pegasus and Orion. I want to tell him that even though light-years came between us later on, I never stopped believing he hung the moon.

He lives in me on the edge of dreams,” she confessed. “He lives in the regrets that burden me and the sweet memories that keep me afloat.”  And a deeper confession:

There was a moment, midway through the Alzheimer’s years, when I was leaving my parents’ house and I said to him, “Bye. I love you.” His eyes opened wide in surprise and he said, “Well, thank you. Thank you so much.” He had no idea who I was. He was startled and typically gracious about another human being’s telling him she loved him. I don’t know if I will ever reach that level of grace, but I’m grateful for having been born to a man who did.

Grace.  Whatever you want to say about Ronald Reagan, whatever one thinks of his policies, he did have a certain grace, which may have been the secret to his electoral success, despite policies that did damage to much of the electorate that helped elect him.

All of which leads us to something Patti Davis wrote last week about the Republican debate held in her father’s presidential library:

If you walked out of the hangar-like building and turned left, went up a path past a wide grassy area with a canyon below and miles of sky above, you would reach my father’s burial site. On the stone tomb you would read these words: “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

There is purpose and worth to each and every life,” Reagan’s tombstone inscription reads.  Which moves us to the critique of that disturbing part of last week’s Republican debate, when moderator Brian Williams asked Governor Rick Perry if he ever “struggled to sleep at night with the idea” that one of those 234 death-row inmates Texas has executed just might have been innocent.  If you remember, I asked readers to,

…forget for a moment, if you can, that a room full of Republicans thought it appropriate to applaud the record-setting government execution of 234 people…

Rick Perry’s strange and disturbing response was:

No, sir.  I’ve never struggled with that at all…

Patti Davis, the daughter of conservatism’s number one icon, said she remembered the first time her father, governor of California, had to order a state execution:

He and a minister went into a room, got down on their knees and prayed.

No bravado.  No shying away from admitting that taking a man’s or woman’s life, even if the state sanctions it, is necessarily fraught with fear and trembling, at least amounting to a “struggle” that perhaps out of those 234 people—just perhaps—one may have been innocent.  

Davis wrote:

The moment that would have broken my father’s heart was the moment when applause broke out at the mention of more than 200 executions ordered by Rick Perry in Texas. It was stunning and brought tears to my eyes. This is what we’ve come to? That we applaud at executions?

Yes, that’s exactly what some of us—those who call themselves conservative Republicans—have come to.

The Kate Plus 8 Debate Or How Rick Perry Lost The Nomination

I had a choice on Wednesday night.  I could have watched the Republican debate, or I could have stuck a screwdriver in my eye.

After some difficult deliberation, I opted for watching the debate.  About 30 minutes into it, though, I started looking for that screwdriver.

Here was my impression: Kate Gosselin, of Kate Plus 8 fame, needed to be on the stage supervising the eight kids.  We had a couple of Ricks, a Mitt, a Newt, a Herman, a crazy Aunt Michele, a crazy Uncle Ron, and a John who spells his name J-O-N, all determined to, at one time or another, poop in the sandbox and ruin it for the other children.

By the way, the over-under on when Obama would be called a socialist was 20 minutes.  If you had the under, you’re a winner.  At 7:19, Newt said the President was committed to “class warfare and bureaucratic socialism.” 

Ding, ding, ding.

The next socialism reference was seven minutes later when Michelle Bachmann labeled Obama’s health care reform law “socialized medicine.”

Ding, ding, ding.

The Big Loser of the night: Rick Perry, unfortunately.

Here is Perry’s response to a question he was asked about the nasty things he wrote in his recent—recent!—book about Social Security:

JOHN HARRIS:  In the book, you call Social Security the best example of a program that “violently tossed aside any respect for states’ rights.” We understand your position that it’s got funding problems now. I’d like you to explain your view that Social Security was wrong right from the beginning.

PERRY: Well, I think any of us that want to go back and change 70 years of what’s been going on in this country is probably going to have a difficult time. And rather than spending a lot of time talking about what those folks were doing back in the ’30s and the ’40s, it’s a nice intellectual conversation, but the fact is we have got to be focused on how we’re going to change this program…

But I think the Republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program, and it is a monstrous lie.

It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there. Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it’s not right. 

There you have it.  Rick Perry tripled down on his assertion that Social Security, which has lifted millions of Americans out of end-of-life poverty, is essentially a criminal enterprise.  I’m sort of all goose-pimply that I witnessed the end of Rick Perry’s Jesus-endorsed quest for the presidency.  It’s sort of like being in the Garden of Eden at that pivotal moment when God asked,

Who told thee that thou wast naked?

But not only did Perry eat the forbidden fruit of speaking ill of Social Security—and lying to young people about the program— he actually spoke ill of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, suggesting they might be liars.

Well, at least he didn’t call Barack Obama a liar.  He called him an “abject liar.” 

And Perry was also at the center of one of the most disturbing moments of the night.  He was asked this question by Brian Williams:

Governor Perry…your state has executed 234 death-row inmates, more than any governor in modern times.  Have you—[interrupted by raucous, if not bloodthirsty, applause]—have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?

Now, forget for a moment, if you can, that a room full of Republicans thought it appropriate to applaud the record-setting government execution of 234 people (which Brian Williams noted a moment later).  Think about Perry’s answer:

No, sir.  I’ve never struggled with that at all…

Never struggled with approving the death warrant of 234 people?  Never?  He’s been accused in one prominent case of possibly executing an innocent man. And following that execution, Perry then removed members of a state-authorized panel who were looking into the case. Never struggled?  What kind of man is that?

A dangerous man.

In any case, even though Perry tried to bring all “the Republican candidates” onto the kill-Social Security train, which will leave the station at the same time as the kill-Medicare train, Mitt Romney had the good sense to stay on the station platform, for now. He took the opportunity to challenge Perry’s position:

Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.

Thus, the big winner of the night: Mitt Romney, unfortunately.    

Mitt, as I have said all along, is the only candidate in this Kate Plus 8 field who has a chance of beating Obama.  Romney challenged Perry’s dissing of Social Security, even though Romney himself has at various times been in favor of privatizing the program and raising the eligibility age.  With friends like Mitt Romney, Social Security doesn’t need any enemies.

But the truth is that despite Romney’s lack of affection for historical Social Security, there simply isn’t any other Republican capable of beating Obama in a general election and at some point Republican kingmakers, like Karl Rove, will broadcast that reality to the GOP establishment, and Rick Perry will go back to hell or west Texas, the distinction not all that important for my purposes here.

Mitt did have a Tea Party moment, despite the fact that he failed to enthusiastically embrace the movement when given a chance. He said:

We need to have an individual lead this country, who not only loves America, but has the experience to get us back on track of being competitive globally.

Not only loves America…” Let me see.  Who doesn’t love America?  Oh, yeah. The black guy in the White’s House.  That ought to make happy those who doubted Romney’s ability to exploit to white angst.

Finally, before I end this eye-witness report on the debate, I want to mention a couple of the other kids in the Reagan Library sandbox:

Ron Paul:

I don’t know what kind of doctor Ron Paul is or was or hopes to be, but I wouldn’t let him trim the nails on my faithful dachshund, after I heard his criticism of Rick Perry’s sensible policy on the virus that causes cervical cancer, HPV.   That policy was one of the things Rick Perry got right in Texas, even though he may have got it right for the wrong reason.  Paul said it wasn’t “good medicine.”

And besides insisting that private industry could and should simply regulate itself, crazy Uncle Ron suggested that the U.S.-Mexico border fence, a favorite solution of conservatives to stop those hungry Mexicans from ordering off the dollar menu at El Paso area McDonald’s, might actually be a way for our government to “keep us in” the country.   Gee, I never thought of that.

Oh, yeah.  Ron said he could fix it where we could buy gas for a dime, a silver dime.  How many of those do you have in your pocket? 

I do want to mention, though, Ron Paul’s one stunningly brilliant contribution of the night.  Since the event was held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, naturally there was a lot of talk about Reagan.  Paul said about the Reagan presidency:

We have to be honest…It was not all that great.

Ding, ding, ding.

Michele Bachmann:

Ms. Bachmann, true to herself, mentioned that she sits on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence—thanks, John Boehner—and that because she is privy to “classified secrets,” she “firmly believes” that President Obama “has weakened us militarily and put us more at risk than at any time.”  Man, I’d like to see those intel documents.  Where’s WikiLeaks when you need it?

Jon Huntsman:

Mr. Huntsman, who took a lot of unfriendly shots at his former boss, Mr. Obama, failed to aggressively attack his fellow Republicans for being stuck in the 8th century, when it comes to science.  He had his Tim Pawlenty moment—a chance to say face-to-face what he had been saying on the campaign trail—and like Tim Pawlenty, he shriveled up like a fat man at an Arctic nudist camp.

Herman Cain:

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO presented his 9-9-9 plan, which, as my nephew texted me, means 9 pizzas with 9 toppings for 9 bucks.  I’ll vote for that!

Apathy Is Not An Option

I lifted some graphics from My Budget 360 and from MSNBC to encourage folks—scare, really—who may be frustrated with President Obama or Washington politics, and are a little indifferent to next year’s election or who may be thinking about sitting it out and not voting at all.

Bottom line: There’s too much at stake to simply do nothing. The income gap between the rich and everyone else is—for a democratic and capitalist society—dangerouslywide and widening.

The first graphic shows the distribution of household income in 2009:

The next one shows just how much of 2009 income went to the top 1% compared with nearly 50% of the lower-income earners:

Next, let’s look at the inflation-adjusted mean household income since the 1960s and see what’s been happening over time:

As Melissa Harris-Perry pointed out last night on MSNBC, those two flat lines at the bottom of the graphic essentially represent constituents of the Democratic Party. And that’s just it. That’s the source of much of the frustration among Democrats. While those in the upper income brackets have seen their fortunes rise and rise, the working class has pretty much been treading water.

That frustration, however, cannot lead to apathy.  Because look what has happened to the Republican Party:

Notice not only that Rick Perry—who has branded Social Security a Ponzi scheme and badmouthed both Social Security and Medicare as unconstitutional—is leading this frightening pack of politicians, but look at the support for some of the other candidates. Palin? Bachmann? Ron Paul? Cain?

Are you kidding?

As for Mitt Romney, his famous flip-flopping always serves to put him on the side of many of the extremists in his party, so I see little difference between him and them, except that he may be more electable in the general election.

And speaking of more electable, if Romney doesn’t come out swinging soon against Rick Perry and distance himself in some way from the Texan’s tall extremism, instead of a Romney-Obama battle, we may have the following matchup, which should guarantee that every Democrat in the country, disaffected or not, will run not walk into the voting booth in November of 2012:

If that scary, too-close-for-comfort graphic doesn’t scare the apathy and frustration out of Democrats, I don’t know if anything will.

Cheer Up, Dems

Some nervous Democratic partisans are a little anxious by Gallup’s latest polling regarding President Obama’s chances against four “leading” GOP candidates.

First, here’s the bad news for those who tend to take these kinds of polls seriously this far out:

Now, does anyone believe that Mr. Obama would only beat Michele Bachmann by 4 points? That he and Medicare-is-an-unconstitutional-Ponzi-scheme-failure Rick Perry would split the vote?

How about Mr. Obama only beating Ron Paul (!) by 2 points? Or, God help us, Obama losing to my-3000-square-foot-beach-house-is-too-small-so-I’m-gonna-bulldoze-it-and-build-a-11000-square-foot-mansion Mitt Romney?

Come on peeps, cheer up.

Here’s the good-news skinny, thankfully, on just how inaccurate these types of long-distance Gallup polls can be, thanks to Steven Shepard of the National Journal:

♦ In August 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush led Vice President Al Gore by 14 points. Gore ended up narrowly winning the popular vote.

 ♦ In August 1995, then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., had a two-point lead over President Bill Clinton. Dole lost by eight.

 ♦ In August 1983, Ronald Reagan had a slender, one-point lead over former Vice President Walter Mondale. Reagan would be re-elected by 18 points the following November, after economic growth spiked in the second half of Reagan’s first term.

♦ In August 1979, President Jimmy Carter and Reagan were tied at 45 percent. Reagan won by 10 points in 1980.

Look, no one is saying the road to reelection for Mr. Obama is an easy one.  But if Big O takes E. J. Dionne’s recent advice—”Go big, go long, and go global“—he’s got a very good chance of keeping his government housing, despite the angst among pale-faced teapartiers who want to throw him out of the White’s House.

Dionne says:

♦ Keep the current proposals to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, as well as patent reform.

Add to them:

♦ Aid to state and local governments, which are cutting budgets and killing jobs.

♦ Boost spending “on roads, bridges, transit and other building projects,” including rehabilitating “the nation’s dilapidated schools.”

♦ And a biggie: “Do far more to resolve the mortgage mess.”  Amen.

Dionne claims that “big investors and business leaders“—the “heart of capitalism“—are panicking and asking for “the world’s governments to step up to the challenge of avoiding a second recession by spending more money.”  Apparently, drunken overnight flirting with the Tea Party has succumbed to the sobering morning of economic reality, at least for now.

As far as the long-term deficit problem we have, Mr. Dionne has that covered too:

♦ “Obama should not be shy about urging eventual tax increases, particularly on the wealthy. And let’s be clear: these would not be immediate tax hikes; they’d kick in a year or two from now.”

♦ “A carbon tax, partly offset by tax cuts or rebates for middle-income and poorer taxpayers, could provide additional revenue.”

♦ “And we need to do still more to contain health care costs without hurting those who can’t afford insurance, and without voucherizing Medicare.”

Other Democrats, including former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, have even more ideas to help, including Medicare-for-all.

All of this stuff is easier said than done, obviously, but Big O has to think outside the Boehner box and start to channel Mitt Romney: A $12 million 3000-square-foot beach house in La Jolla is simply not good enough, what with all the children and grandchildren to consider.

Think big, Mr. President, think big.

Break ground on an economic-recovery plan that Mitt Romney’s kids and grandkids would be proud of.  Go for that 11,000-square-foot economic-policy.

The Most Revealing Question Of All: How Old Is The Earth?

Last year, the Joplin Globe had a pre-election feature it called the 100 Words Project.  It presented questions to the candidates for our 7th District congressional seat—eventually won by Ozark Billy Long—and they were all required to answer with 100 words or less.

I suggested at the time that one of the questions should have been:

How old is the earth?

A nice discussion ensued and I endured some criticism for wanting to ask such a question, but my point was that the answer to it would be quite revealing.

Now comes news that during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Thursday Governor Rick Perry was actually asked my question by nine-year-old Sam Beane, who was (unfortunately) prodded by his mother:

SAM BEANE: How old do you think the earth is?

PERRY:  How old do I think the earth is? You know what? I don’t have any idea. I know it’s pretty old, so it goes back a long, long way. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long, how old the earth is. I hear your mom was asking about evolution. You know, it’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figured you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.

Now, there is a lot of ignorance woven into that statement, but the ignorance is willful, not accidental. 

Of course we know how old the earth is, although it would be technically correct to say we don’t know with absolute certainty, that is, to the minute, how old it is.

And of course evolution is a theory, but it is a theory in the scientific sense: it accurately describes and explains a large set of observations of nature and makes falsifiable predictions about future observations.  Such scientific theories can never be ultimately proven, only ultimately disproven. 

Science doesn’t make God-like pronouncements about the nature of the universe; it only offers theories that can be tested over time, and when they have been tested over time and found reliable, they become more probable as reliable explanations of how things work.

Evolution theory is thus the foundation—rock solid—of modern biology.  There simply is no dispute about it among biologists.

Which leads to Perry’s phony claim that “we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”  Even in God-crazed Texas they don’t teach creationism in government schools, particularly since the Supreme Court—before it was controlled by conservatives—put the kibosh on such nonsense in 1987.

But  the most dishonest thing Governor Perry said was what he said last, looking nine-year-old Sam Beane in the eye:

I figured you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.

No, Governor, he doesn’t know what’s right at the age of nine.  He needs to be taught what is right. In this case he needs to be taught what science understands about the universe.  And he needs to be taught it no matter how much it conflicts with fundamentalist religion, no matter how much it might shake up Iron Age conceptions of the nature of life.

Sam Beane did ask a damned important question and he got a damned disturbing answer from a damned disturbing presidential candidate.

Which is why the question should be asked of all candidates who want to represent us. It tells us something about each one’s state of mind and the quality of analysis each will bring to the table in order to find solutions to our nation’s problems.

Remarks And Asides, Part II

Tom Coburn, our U.S. Senator neighbor, called his congressional colleagues “cowards,” and said:

It’s just a good thing I can’t pack a gun on the Senate floor.

You see?  The conservative solution to nearly every problem in America is to cut spending and kill people.  While it’s not clear what the extremist Mr. Coburn would do with the gun on the Senate floor,  if he’s pining for suggestions on where to start, I have a couple.

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Speaking of Tom Coburn, who is supposed to be a great friend of President Obama, the Tulsa World reported that while in Pryor the extremist said this about his friend:

Responding to a man in Langley who asked if Obama “wants to destroy America,” Coburn said the president is “very bright” and loves his country but has a political philosophy that is “goofy and wrong.”

Obama’s “intent is not to destroy, his intent is to create dependency because it worked so well for him,” he said.

“As an African-American male,” Coburn said, Obama received “tremendous advantage from a lot of these programs.”

Man, with friends like that, who needs the Tea Party and the Taliban?

___________________________________

Speaking of African-American males and taking the easy road of dependency, as amnesia-laden conservatives grumble over The Lazy Negro’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, we learn from CBS News that President Obama, compared to Republican presidents, actually needs to take more time off:

George W. Bush, after 31 months in office:  180 days of vacation

Ronald Reagan, after 31 months in office: 112 days of vacation

Barack Obama, after 31 months in office: 61 days of vacation

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In today’s Jesus Is Weeping section, Huff Po informs us that Rick Perry, who in his book “Fed Up!” attacked Washington types who get their jollies from spending other people’s money, actually hired Washington types to get other Washington types to spend other people’s money in Texas.

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Speaking of hypocrisy, a Texas Republican and Ron Paul supporter has taken out the following ad in a weekly newspaper, the Austin Chronicle:

Now, the man who took out the ad, Robert Morrow, is clearly nuts. Among other things, he believes that Bush The Older was involved in killing JFK and tried to kill Ross Perot; he also believes that Barack Obama is CIA and gay. 

Apparently, though, he doesn’t think Obama hates America, which is progress for Tea Party types.

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Speaking of Ron Paul and Rick Perry, when Ron Paul thinks you’re an extremist, maybe it’s time to go back to Houston and do some more prayin’. 

This time, Rick, ask for a little modesty.

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Speaking of extremists, not only has Congress’ disapproval rating soared to new heights (82%), the Tea Party is finally getting only part of its due. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows that :

The public’s opinion of the Tea Party movement has soured in the wake of the debt-ceiling debate. The Tea Party is now viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of the public and favorably by just 20 percent…

I won’t rest easy until 99.9% of Americans view the Tea Party unfavorably.  I have little hope, however, that Anson Burlingame will ever see the light.

Remarks And Asides

Like President Obama, who cut Rick Perry some slack for “almost” rhetorically executing Ben Bernanke for treason, I am willing to cut Michelle Bachmann some slack for getting all mixed up about Elvis. 

After all, it’s hard for some folks to tell the difference between being born and being dead, just as it’s hard for some folks to tell the difference between God telling you to run for president and God telling Rick Perry to run for president.

It’s all very confusing sometimes.

 _________________________________

Speaking of Michele Bachmann, she will never, ever be president. Not even in 2102:

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Governor Chris Christie has once again found it necessary to beat back rumors that he is considering running for president next year.  Among others, Karl Rove hinted on Monday that Home Depot co-founder and Obama-hater Ken Langone told Christie that he needed “to think seriously” about a run.

I have it on good authority, though, that Christie told Langone this:

Look, I appreciate the nice orange Home Depot apron you gave me, Ken, but I’m not running.  And since I’ve already missed the deep-fried butter on a stick at the Iowa State Fair, nothing could get me to run now.

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Fox Bidness Network’s Lou Dobbs—who has a hit-and-miss relationship with reality—learned from Texas congressman Louis Gohmert—who has a miss-and-miss relationship with reality—that President Obama was “out there acting like the evil emperor” in his “Darth Vader bus.”

The evil emperor, of course, was Palpatine, who as a Galactic Republic politician rose to Chancellor and began to reveal his true identity as Darth Sidious, a Dark Lord of the evil Sith.

Now, you can tell by looking at Darth Sidious that Obama is no Darth Sidious. He doesn’t have the complexion or the temperament.  But Louis Gohmert does.  Let’s compare (hint: Gohmert is on the right):

You can see now that Gohmert, in a clear case of deflection, was trying to hide his true identity.

Meanwhile, far from a Dark Lord, Obama has the complexion and temperament of a Jedi Master, perhaps Mace Windu:

By the way, anyone remember how Star Wars ended?

Heads Perry Wins, Tails Obama Loses

Responding to critics of his dumb remarks about a potentially treasonous Ben Bernanke, Republican Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Rick Perry said this today:

Yesterday, the president said I needed to watch what I say. I just want to respond back to say, ‘Mr. President, actions speak louder than words.’  My actions helped create jobs in Texas. The president’s actions are killing jobs in America.

Okay, let me see here.  Rick Perry, whose campaign mantra appears to be,  I’m-the-most-pro-business-politician-in-the-history-of-the-universe, says his actions “helped create jobs in Texas,” while Mr. Obama’s “are killing jobs in America.”

How can this be?  Either the President is responsible for the economy or he isn’t.  Republicans need to make up their minds.  They can’t credit one state’s job creation, however ambiguous the claim, to their economic and political philosophy—as Rick Perry does every day—and then credit unemployment elsewhere to Mr. Obama. 

In other words, if Mr. Obama is “killing jobs in America,” then he is killing jobs in Texas, too.  And if he is not killing jobs in Texas, then he is not killing jobs in America.

The truth, of course, is that under President Obama’s watch, almost two and a half million new private sector jobs have been created—17 straight months of private-sector job growth—a stunning reversal of the hemorrhaging of jobs caused by the other Texas governor’s Great Recession.  And this is not to mention the millions of jobs saved by the stimulus bill and the auto rescue.

So, the fact that Rick Perry has helped Texas, along with Republican Haley Barbour’s Mississippi,  become the minimum-wage job capital of the United States is not all that much to brag about, especially since not too many minimum wage jobs come with benefits.

But it is fair to say that some well-paying jobs have been added in Texas, even some that are not associated with the drain-Americans-of-every-last-cent energy bidness.  But many of those jobs have been added by subtracting them from other states. Is it fair to say you “created” a job when you stole it from another state because of the short-sighted economic ideology of weak government regulation and low or no taxes?  Is it fair to brag about that kind of job creation?

Nope. But if Perry wants to brag, perhaps he can brag about the fact that Texas is NUMBER ONE in the number of folks without health insurance (1 in 4).  It is also NUMBER ONE in the number of children without health insurance (1.5 million kids*).  And if one compares the June unemployment rate in health care-challenged Texas with Massachusetts, where ObamneyCare lives on, one finds this:

MASSACHUSETTS: 7.6%           TEXAS: 8.2%

Hmm.

And by the way, there does seem to be plenty of jobs for executioners in Texas. The state kills more criminals than any other state, and some of them are even guilty of their crimes.

Congratulations, guv’nor.

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* According to a faith-based Texas group, “Texas Impact,”

About 750,000 Texas children, half of our uninsured youth, are eligible for—but not enrolled in—the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Children’s Medicaid. Our strained enrollment system cannot support the task of connecting these children with the insurance they need and that the state has promised them.

In other words, stingy Texas government won’t hire enough staff and purchase up-to-date computer systems to process the high number of claims for the uninsured kids.  That is what small government means to some vulnerable folks.

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