“His Poor Father Must Be So Embarrassed About His Son”

 

The headline at HuffPo said it all:

Harry Reid: Bain Investor Told Me That Mitt Romney ‘Didn’t Pay Any Taxes For 10 Years’

Now, that kind of speculation about what Romney is hiding is inevitable and will only get worse, despite the fact that Mittens is standing strong against transparency.  The HuffPo story relates:

“His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid said, in reference to George Romney’s standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.

Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?

How it looks now is increasingly becoming a problem for Romney, who is still running strong on the idea that he was a “sterling” bidnessman—his latest ad quotes Bill Clinton as saying so—but refuses to let the light shine on the whole of his business career and how he benefited from it and from America’s skewed tax system.

In any case, Harry Reid, who at times is frustratingly kind to his Republican colleagues, also said some other stunning things about money and politics. Although he said he is optimistic about the Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate, he accurately summed up what’s wrong:

We feel comfortable in the Senate. Where the problem is, is this: Because of the Citizens United decision, Karl Rove and the Republicans are looking forward to a breakfast the day after the election. They are going to assemble 17 angry old white men for breakfast, some of them will slobber in their food, some will have scrambled eggs, some will have oatmeal, their teeth are gone. But these 17 angry old white men will say, ‘Hey, we just bought America. Wasn’t so bad. We still have a whole lot of money left.’

Give ’em hell, Harry!

 

Foreskin Hunting

Sometimes, as we fight the culture war battles, it seems as if we are wasting our time, at least those of us who are fighting Iron Age thinking developed from biblical precepts. Here is just one of those precepts:

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. — Leviticus 20:13

Lest ye say that is just the Old Testament and we are living under the New, Paul the Apostle called homosexuality “shameful” and said such folks who practice it were due a “penalty for their error,” which, of course, means “death.”

Today, twenty centuries later, things are finally—finally—starting to change:

As you can see from the graphic, things are changing rapidly among Democrats, whose party may include in its platform a marriage equality plank. But things are not so rapidly changing among Republicans, whose ranks include a horde of Iron Age thinkers called evangelicals, folks who enthusiastically endorse the Bible’s view of homosexuality expressed in Leviticus and by Paul, if not the penalty associated with it. These days even the zealots don’t believe gay bashing includes the electric chair.

My point, though, is that it matters greatly what message gets transmitted by culture-war infantrymen, whose job it is to engage bigotry and senseless discrimination, especially that brand brought to us by ancient texts, the kind that approved of murderous deeds like David perpetrated in the Old Testament, especially when he had a hankering to become part of the king’s family:

David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

You see, when conservatives in either party tell us the Bible has the last word on the propriety of homosexuality, we have to object and object loudly, we have to engage in that battle. We have to win that fight. Because the same ancient culture that produced a book that pronounced God’s wrath on gay people also had no problem condoning ritual slaughter like the kind David committed, or any number of slaughterous episodes one can find in the Bible.

It goes without saying that today even the most committed, Bible-laden Christian would not endorse foreskin hunting, and the message has to be continually sent out to all that it is simply past time to put away all antiquated thinking derived from the Bible, and those who refuse to do so should be aggressively challenged in the public square until such time as hating on homosexuals is as unacceptable as cutting off the foreskins of Philistines.

Thankfully, recent polling shows that at least on the gay marriage issue the cultural tide is turning.

Romney’s “Hand Of Providence” Madness

Romney’s foreign policy trip is quite a success so far, if pissing off the British and the Palestinians was on the agenda.

The latest comes from The Guardian:

Palestinian leaders expressed offence and outrage at comments by Mitt Romney during his lightning visit to Israel, in which he said the Jewish state’s economic success compared with its Palestinian neighbours was due to “cultural” differences and the “hand of providence”, and declared Jerusalem to be “the capital of Israel”.

Now, I know not many folks here in Southwest Missouri don’t give a damn about offended and outraged Palestinian leaders, since many of my fellow citizens in these parts believe Jesus is going to rain down hell on all of Israel’s enemies some sweet day, when God finally stops dithering and starts killing.

But  if there is ever to be peace between Jews and Arabs in the real world, it might behoove folks like Romney to stop suggesting God is on Israel’s side—and by extension ours—even if Romney’s home-cooked religion tells him so. It was a stupid thing to say, given what is at stake, and particularly stupid if Romney becomes our Theologian-in-Chief.

The Guardian continues:

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, condemned Romney’s comments. “It is a racist statement, and this man doesn’t realise that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” he said.

“It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”

Romney, who did not visit the West Bank while in the Holy Land, made no mention of either Israel’s 45-year occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, nor its continuing blockade of Gaza, both of which have had a catastrophic impact on the Palestinian economy.

The consensus of international economists, including the IMF and the World Bank, is that the Palestinian economy will fail to develop firm foundations and sustained growth until Israeli restrictions on imports, exports and the movement of goods are lifted.

So, not only does Romney not understand American economics—he is a supply-sider, after all—in one 30-hour stay in Israel he has thrust his ignorance into the middle of a long, long feud in the Middle East.

Can’t wait for his remarks in Poland today. Have you heard the one about the Polish firing squad?

Is Romney A Decent Guy?

Responding to my post, “Romney: Champion Of Ugly Americans Everywhere!a thoughtful commenter named Treeske wrote:

…one feels almost sorry for this, probably very decent guy’s clumsiness, or is it truly arrogant ignorance (like you mentioned) the elite so often fall victim to?

Tree,

You know, I hear the description of Romney as a “decent” or “nice” guy all the time—mostly from Democrats who then go on to bash his brains out!—but I’m not so sure what kind of guy he is in terms of being decent or nice.

I mean, is Romney’s decency defined by his willingness to say literally anything to achieve the presidency?

Is Romney being a nice guy when he tells lies constantly about Mr. Obama and suggests he is less than an American, helping to legitimize the weird fantasies of amateur and professional right-wing Obama-haters?

Is his decency indicated by an unseemly eagerness to carve up his belief system so as to make it compatible with the extremists in the Republican Party, extremists who seek to alienate large swaths of society?

Is Romney’s niceness defined by a willingness to custom-make his principles in order to get the approval of creeps like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter?

Does a nice guy do the things that Romney has done, like the the dog incident or the haircutting incident or the haircuts he gave workers and their pensions when Bain took companies over and loaded them with debt in order to make a profit? Do good guys do that stuff?

Was Romney being nice when he brought health care reform to Massachusetts but now is being doubly nice when he opportunistically attacks the same reform when Obama fought to bring it to all Americans? Huh?

Is it decent of a guy to store some of his dough overseas in order to shield it from taxes that help support our country? How many roads weren’t built because Romney’s beer money is resting in Bermuda?

Does a nice guy have offshore companies the financial and moral significance of which are kept secret from potential voters?

Does a decent guy keep his tax returns hidden from the millions of taxpayers he seeks to govern?

Look, obviously I don’t know Mitt Romney personally. And I admit to some prejudice in the matter, being a drinker, a Democrat, and an opponent of fundamentalist religion, especially the kind of freakish fundamentalism at the center of Romney’s life that keeps him clothed in special skivvies and away from alcohol.

I can only know Romney by what comes out of his mouth, like the many lies he has told and keeps telling about Mr. Obama, or by what kind of policies he says he will pursue should, God forbid, Americans make the mistake of putting him in charge.

And while judging his personal decency by his religious aversion to the drink or by what comes out of his mouth might sound like I’m swimming at the shallow end of the pool, I do have some Romney-approved company:

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.

Romney: Champion Of Ugly Americans Everywhere!

Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

—”Nowhere Man,” John Lennon

he Times of London headlined—now famously— an article on Romney’s visit there:

”Nowhere man” Romney loses his way with gaffe about the Games

Nowhere man? Romney? Who could believe that?

I, for one, find it refreshing that Mittens has finally found his political footing and is abroad competently representing the interests of Ugly Americans. I mean, pompous Americans need a champion too!

And who is better qualified than Romney to look down his nose at what other folks are doing around the world, like, say, putting on the Olympics in London? Does your wife have a tax-deductible horse competing in the dressage competition at the Games? Huh?

And who better than Romney can represent the boorish businessman from America whose in-your-face superiority has been pissing off inferior people for a century! And by God the second bananas need to know who they are!

And some people think Romney forgot or never knew the name of Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, but it is obvious that Romney was sending  a coded but distinct message from Ugly America which I will gladly interpret: We don’t give a dog’s egg about that left-wing bloke!

And so what if Romney let it be known that he had a meeting with the hyper-secretive British intelligence agency MI6, which normally likes to keep folks in the dark, it being peopled by a bunch of spies and all. But how dare they try to put limitations on Americans! We kill people with invisible drones for God’s sake! Don’t they know who we are?

Yep, they do now!

By the way, The Times was not the first to label Mittens the “nowhere man.” Suspicious conservatives did that  in 2007:

Lazy Journalism

Nothing angers me more than lazy journalists, like the kind I heard on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning discussing the state of our national politics.

The easiest thing in the world is to say about what is happening what Mike Barnicle said this morning:

There’s no certainty in this country as to what’s gonna happen to my children. We are now living in a country, where—because of the way this campaign is being waged on both sides—where too many people no longer can afford to dream, and that’s a huge hole in the American fabric. A huge hole.

The huge hole, of course, is in Barnicle’s careless, almost comatose, analysis. If he built his journalistic career on such sloppy, inattentive thinking he has been one lucky guy.

The uncertainty in the country belongs squarely on the Republican Party, whose leaders from the beginning of Obama’s term decided that the best political course for them to follow was to create as much uncertainty and cultural angst as possible. There is simply no disputing that.

And the Romney presidential campaign is following that myopic political script written after the 2008 election by trying to capitalize on the almost complete Republican obstruction of the Democrat’s attempt to fix the massive economic problems left to them by years of governance according to Republican Party principles.

On that note, today’s Joplin Globe editorial played the same kind of game that Mike Barnicle was playing on television this morning. Oh, the piece, titled, “Stop pointing fingers,” started out just fine:

In 2001, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the federal government would collect surplus funds in the amount of $5.6 trillion during the period 2002 through 2011.

Instead, we incurred a deficit of $6.1 trillion resulting in a gross loss in federal revenues during that period of time in the amount of $11.7 trillion. The question, of course, is why such a miscalculation occurred.

Well, that is certainly one question. But another one would be, who was responsible for the reversal from surpluses to deficits? Huh?

On the way to answering its question, the Globe cited some studies by the CBO, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Government, and the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative, all of which came up “with the same answers”:

 • The overall weakened economy was the primary cause. Growth for the entire period was predicted to be 3 percent. But from 2002 through 2007, growth was only 2.6 percent. Then during the period 2008 through 2011, growth was only an average of 0.2 percent. This overall lower-than-expected growth caused a 27 percent drop in federal revenue expectations during those years.

• The second highest cause was a 13 percent drop in federal revenues caused by enactment and continuation of all the Bush-era tax cuts, amounting to a 13 percent drop in federal revenues. Other smaller contributors were the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, increases in discretionary spending, defense spending increases not related to wars, the Obama stimulus, and the 2010 tax cuts.

Now, a fair-minded person, upon discovering that the Republican Party was in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House during most of the time the country’s economy was in decline and collapsing and when the path toward massive deficits was first being cleared of surplus brush, would naturally blame the Republicans for most of the mess. Right?

Except that the Joplin Globe editorialist, shielding Republicans from the blame they deserve, had a better idea:

It seems rather naive to be arguing about which party alone caused today’s American economic problems. Again, they both did so big time by cutting federal revenues as shown above, yet continuing to spend at historically high levels.

“Both sides” are apparently equally responsible, it turns out, despite the facts cited in the piece and despite what is plainly clear to anyone paying attention.

All of this, from Mike Barnicle’s dumb statements this morning to the Joplin Globe’s dumb editorial conclusion, serves the right-wing reactionary Republican Party very well, as it requires very little thought to simply assert that both parties are equally guilty, that both parties are equally to blame for the mess we’re in, and therefore the economic philosophy that brought us to our knees can be tried again.

General Motors: Political Ingrate

If you don’t find the following not only offensive but damned depressing, you have thicker skin than I do:

Members of Congress who voted against the auto bailout are getting campaign money from an unlikely source — General Motors, the biggest recipient of auto bailout money.

GM’s political action committee has donated $43,000 to House members who voted against the bailout in 2008, according to OpenSecrets.org. That’s roughly the same amount it’s given to House members who voted in favor of the bill…

The automaker’s political fund has also given $2,000 to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was a vocal opponent of the bailout and prevented a bailout bill from passing in the Senate. Corker said he thought the United Auto Workers union had too much bargaining power during the bailout. Union workers booed Corker during an appearance at GM’s Tennessee plant.

GM has made three separate $10,000 donations to individual candidates this year. Two of those candidates, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), voted against the bailout. The third, Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) voted in favor. Camp is the chairman of the Ways and Means committee.

GM said its donations are consistent with its business strategy.

Apparently it is lost on the brilliant honchos at GM that if it were up to Republicans, they wouldn’t have a business to strategize about. Man, oh man.

The final blow:

GM’s campaign donations are heavily weighted in favor of Republicans. During this campaign cycle, it has donated $62,500 to Republicans and $34,300 to Democrats.

The NRA: “Defenders Of Movie Theater Mass Murderers”

 

If you didn’t see Tuesday night’s “Rewrite” segment by Lawrence O’Donnell, then you must. It is by far the best bionic elbow strike ever landed on the NRA and its $1,000,000-a-year  leader and “blood-drenched lobbyist” Wayne LaPierre. This is one of O’Donnell’s best:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Muslim Internment

Recently I read an essay written by one of my favorite thinkers, Sam Harris (author of bestsellers The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, And the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation, among others). The essay is titled, “In Defense of Profiling,” and its basic argument is that at our nation’s airports,

We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

Harris claims that all the unnecessary screening procedures at airports amount to a “tyranny of fairness” because they are wasted on “people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists.”  While I recommend reading Harris’s post, I also recommend reading a thoughtful rebuttal of it written by security expert Bruce Schneier, who argues that Harris’ profiling idea is a bad one because,

It doesn’t make us any safer—and it actually puts us all at risk.

Schneier offers several good arguments against profiling Muslims at airports and the one I find most convincing is this one:

Beyond the societal harms of deliberately harassing a minority group, singling out Muslims alienates the very people who are in the best position to discover and alert authorities about Muslim plots before the terrorists even get to the airport. This alone is reason enough not to profile.

This deliberate harassment and resulting alienation is not something to ignore just because “we” are not the ones being harassed or alienated. As with most important policy issues, it comes down to this: What kind of country do we all want to live in?

I bring up all this because of the shameful nonsense in the news about right-wing legislators, including Michele Bachmann, and their conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, being nefariously connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even John McCain found what these legislators did—and continue to do— shameful and he, along with a handful of Republicans, denounced it. But other prominent conservatives, including Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, have defended Bachmann and her colleagues, claiming she was only asking questions and not making allegations.

Gingrich suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood may have influence over the Obama administration and he asked Bachmann’s critics,

What is it they are afraid of learning?

Gingrich’s and Limbaugh’s and Bachmann’s curiosity would be admirable if, say, it was applied to Mitt Romney’s tax returns, but it is disgusting in this case because there is no evidence—exactly no evidence—that the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Muslim group has “infiltrated” our government. The only “evidence” is that there are folks working in the government who happen to be Muslims.

And that is why people like Sam Harris are wrong to endorse profiling at airports. Once such profiling is widely accepted, the public can easily slither into dangerous reasoning like the following, from the founder of an Arizona Tea Party group:

Have you ever read the Quran? I suggest you do so, because anyone that is a Muslim is a threat to this country, and that’s a fact. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If they are Muslim they have to follow the Quran. That’s their religion and that’s their doctrine.

As the AzCapitolTimes reported, the Tea Party honcho is planning on recalling John McCain for criticizing Michele Bachmann’s smearing of a government official and he also endorsed an email from an extremist website (which used to be hosted by WordPress, by the way) that accused McCain of defending “Islamic enemies of America.”

You see? If you are a Muslim you are ipso facto a threat to the country and if you dare to oppose such specious and culturally-damaging reasoning you are defending our “Islamic enemies.” Such hysteria characterizes reactionary politics these days, and Sam Harris, a man whose mind I admire greatly, contributes to it with his advocacy of profiling Muslims at airports.

I share with Harris a deep aversion to fundamentalist Islam, which is similar to my deep aversion to all fundamentalist religions. But I ask again: What kind of country do we want to live in? Isn’t taking your shoes off at an airport and undergoing a brief screening better than pushing a whole group of people into metaphorical internment camps?

The Good, The Bad, And The Morally Ugly

Last Friday, President Obama had the unmitigated gall to say of the horrific shooting in Colorado:

My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children. But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.

Sunday evening at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, our President said the following:

Scripture says that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.  Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  And when you have an opportunity to visit with families who have lost their loved ones — as I described to them, I come to them not so much as President as I do as a father and as a husband.  And I think that the reason stories like this have such an impact on us is because we can all understand what it would be to have somebody that we love taken from us in this fashion — what it would be like and how it would impact us.

Now, if you, a normal person, saw or heard or now read Mr. Obama’s remarks, the last thing you would think was that they were motivated by a selfish person, by someone trying to take political advantage of a murderous tragedy. Mr. Obama has two daughters, and naturally he relates the senseless death of murdered, mostly young people to the landmarks in his life, Sasha and Malia.

But, I said, a “normal person” would not think a thing about those remarks in political or diabolical terms. Rush Limbaugh, however, is not a normal person. He is a certifiably disturbing human being, who profits from publicly hating Democrats, those profits coming from sycophants who hang on his every wretched word.

I quote the following at length because it is important to understand that Limbaugh, and the millions of people who continue to make him rich, are morally ugly—goddamned ugly—people. He said of Mr. Obama’s remarks:

Look, I’m mayor of Realville.  I deal in the literal.  First off, did he say, “My two daughters go to the movies, what if they had been in that theater that night?”  Did he say, “I wonder if”?  Even if he said, “I wonder if my two daughters had been,” trying to relate to average, ordinary peons just as they might be asking, “Gee, what if my daughters had been there?”  Well, without those daughters, would he have a different reaction?  What’s the deal here?  If his daughters weren’t there, would he have a different reaction?  If Trayvon Martin hadn’t been black, would he have had a different reaction to a son that he didn’t have looking like Trayvon Martin?  When I read that, when I read that note, I thought, well, this is very typical, this is an egomaniac who really thinks that the people of this country think he is more important than any other human being alive in this country.

And then I said, can he only relate to this through his own flesh and blood?  Can he not relate to this with simply the loss that people in that theater have experienced?  Folks, I don’t know about you.  When I first heard about this, and I don’t have kids, so I didn’t think, “Well, what if my kids had been there?”  But I also didn’t think, “Gee, what if my brother had been there?  What if my nieces had been?” I’ve got nieces and nephews, I did not think, “Gee, what if they’d been in there?”  It wasn’t about me, I guess is my point.  Why does everything have to be about this guy, and why does he have to turn everything of noteworthy consequence in this country around so that it’s about him?  “My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids are each day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate to hug our kids.”  I don’t know.  I just don’t know how many people made this about them.  That’s my only point.

And my only point is that if you think Rush Limbaugh’s remarks above are appropriate, then you too are one disturbed and disturbing human specimen.

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