All posts for the month August, 2012
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 31, 2012
I saw a Tweet last night from Eric Cantor, who, along with Mitch McConnell, is one of the Chief Obstructors of the Republican Party, obstructors who have helped keep economic growth sluggish under President Obama and thereby hurt folks who haven’t achieved the dream that, say, Mitt Romney has achieved.
Cantor’s message is one, ironically, that pretty much sums up the purpose of the Republican Party and the reason Mittens wants to be prez:
Mitt Romney is the candidate for people…who dream big dreams and achieve them, he said. “And achieve them.”
Hmm. If you are a person who dreams big dreams but doesn’t quite achieve them, Mitt Romney’s not your guy.
I think Cantor got that just about right.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 31, 2012
I guess Donald Trump wasn’t available.
But they got the next best thing.
I don’t know who the Republican genius was that thought it would be a good idea to have Clint Eastwood address the convention in prime time, but, as a Democrat, I’d like to personally thank him or her.
Unfortunately, by now the Republicans have offered their thanks to the genius by giving him or her a much less dignified, but certainly much more challenging, job: getting the chili sauce stains out of Newt Gingrich’s shirt, after that disappointed Romney surrogate got a little sloppy last night while pulling an all-you-can-eat all-nighter at the Golden Corral in Tampa.
That’s how Newt drowns his sorrows, and Republicans had reason to be especially sorrowful, after they quickly figured out that this year’s Republican National Convention will now be remembered, fittingly, as the night Clint Eastwood gave his greatest performance, at least in terms of representing today’s GOP.
His utter disrespect for President Obama, though cringe-inducing for most normal folks, was quite enjoyable for those lucky enough to be in the house for such buffoonery. The only thing that could have topped it would have been a Cheech and Chong routine performed by Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with that zany Republican duo smoking dope, talking trash about Obama’s phony birth certificate, and doing an updated Obama-version of “Basketball Jones.”
Our own Ozark Billy Long was in attendance and said this about Eastwood’s performance:
The crowd ate it up. They loved Clint Eastwood and loved his speech and my tip off was when all the liberals, including David Axelrod, was one of the first to chime in on Twitter, and, uh, some of the media folks down here started tweetin’ about how terrible it was, how egregious it was, and I thought, well, if we’ve ticked those people off, he probably did what he was suppose to do out there…talkin’ to the president, who wasn’t there, I thought that that was pretty entertaining…
And thus I leave you with that wonderful assessment from my congressman, our representative from Missouri’s 7th District. I am damned proud to be from such a place that would put such a man in Washington, D.C.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 31, 2012
Just before Mittens takes the stage tonight—a stage that has been moved “closer to the people” just to help him connect with the people—I am thinking about that connection problem with common folks who don’t send their under-the-mattress money to European banks for tender loving care.
I found the Romney’s “Costco” interview with Chris Wallace highly entertaining, what with Mrs. Romney desperately trying to convince us that her husband could relate to the ordinary Joe who is forced to wear shirts from a big box discount store.
That’s okay by me. I don’t want to hate Mitt Romney. And although I think his lifestyle and his mannerisms and his jokes and his lying are creepy, I don’t want to think he is, outside of politics, a bad human being who may or may not routinely wear shirts from Costco.
In her convention speech the other night, Ann Romney shared, for public consumption, this tidbit:
When Mitt and I met and fell in love, we were determined not to let anything stand in the way of our life together. I was an Episcopalian. He was a Mormon.
We were very young. Both still in college. There were many reasons to delay marriage, and you know? We just didn’t care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold-down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days.
The idea here, of course, is to portray the beginning of the Mitt and Ann Romney family as fairly typical of the way most American couples start out, having little but loving each other much.
But even if those young Romneys did eat “a lot of pasta and tuna fish,” the attempt at “we know what life is like for folks who don’t have much” sounded totally artificial to me.
You see, there is a difference between young folks starting out and walking the high wire of life 50 feet up, without a net and only the hard concrete of reality below, and folks walking that high wire only about five feet up with a feather bed to land on, should they, God forbid, fall.
And the young Romneys certainly had the comfort of knowing that their landing, should it have been necessary, would mean they would live to take another walk, comfortably and without a limp.
That obviously makes a lot of difference in terms of one’s security and well-being. And thus I think the Romneys would have to work hard to ever understand, even incompletely, what it is like to be on that 50-foot high wire knowing that one slip means a hard fall.
Melissa Harris Perry, commenting on Romney’s “disconnect” from the average voter, made a point today that I have not heard another soul make during all the incessant chatter about Mittens:
It’s not a sympathy question. It’s not a question of whether Mitt Romney can be sympathetic. It’s a question of whether or not he has empathy, in other words, a kind of first-hand knowledge and understanding of what the kinds of struggles ordinary Americans are facing right now…
Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person.
That’s it. That’s what needs to be understood about Romney and why his awkwardness in connecting with folks is not as important as what guides him as he fashions the policies he will pursue, should his campaign of lies be successful.
I have no doubt that Romney is a charitable man, who has done many good things for others in his personal life. In fact, in my experience sympathy often produces personal charity. But let’s don’t pretend that such charity is purely an act of unselfishness.
Mrs. Romney said this in her speech:
Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point. And we’re no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don’t do it so that others will think more of them.
They do it because there is no greater joy. “Give and it shall be given unto you.”
Get that? “They do it because there is no greater joy,” which means they do it because it brings them joy. They get something out of the giving. It is, paradoxically, a form of selfishness. That quote from scripture, Luke 6:38, makes this point even more clear:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
Give because it feels good, is what Ann Romney actually said. And Jesus said it will actually bring good things your way to boot.
In my reckoning, empathy—in Melissa Harris Perry’s words,”a kind of first-hand knowledge and understanding of what the kinds of struggles ordinary Americans are facing“—is a different thing. It may produce charitable acts, certainly, but in a political context it also should produce public policies designed not as handouts based on our feeling sorry for folks who are down and out, or folks who are struggling to make a living or get an education, or folks who have grown old and insecure, but because we, as a people, know the struggles that some people face.
And unlike the personal reward for charitable giving, “no greater joy,” the reward for advancing and supporting policies that provide funds for food or health care or education or retirement is civilization, the comfort of knowing that we live and breathe in a land where people don’t have to go hungry or go without health care or miss out on an education or worry about the insecurity of old age. In a word, empathy creates the net that should be below everyone, not just the Romneys of the world.
I am not saying that rich people like Mitt and Ann Romney can’t empathize with others, nor support public policies that ensure the well-being of all. There have been plenty of wealthy people, including George Romney, who supported such policies.
I just know that Mitt Romney has had a hard time demonstrating such empathy during this campaign, but, more important because it is more telling, many of the policies he champions as a presidential candidate certainly don’t give us the slightest bit of confidence that he understands the struggles of ordinary Americans.
In fact, those policies demonstrate just the opposite, and buttoning up a Costco shirt each morning has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 30, 2012
Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace? And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou has said, “My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in Thine eyes.”
But, oh, that God would speak and open His lips against thee…
—The Book of Job
Lying in politics mostly comes in the art form of spinning the facts to one’s advantage. Every politician does that and it is part of the profession. But sometimes there comes along a practitioner of the political arts who goes beyond spin, beyond the normal bounds of the business.
Paul Ryan essentially began his journey toward a new national political career and conservative stardom by denying his philosophical mentor, Ayn Rand, three times before the Romney-cock crowed with the news that he wanted Ryan to be his partner in a new limited liability company, Romney-Ryan.
And once he shamelessly denied his undeniable teacher, once Ryan said, “I reject her philosophy,” it was easy for this good Catholic boy to become part of a campaign that is brazenly attempting to elect Romney-Ryan, LLC, on a platform of secrecy, subterfuge, and slander.
Wednesday night’s convention speech was Ryan’s introduction to low-information voters, those folks who don’t much follow the news or pay attention to politics until it is forced upon them by the networks.
Thus, the temptation to tell the most audacious lies possible to that audience was irresistible, because first impressions are important, especially when a campaign has enough Koch and other billionaire money to keep impressing, to keep the lies going, fact-checkers be damned.
Ryan has lied about a GM plant closing in his hometown of Janesville, saying on August 16 of this year:
I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open. One more broken promise.
During his convention speech last night, he lawyered up that claim and put it this way:
A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.
Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.
You see the serpent’s subtlety here? The sophist’s sophistication? In this version of things, Ryan is not now claiming Obama broke his promise to keep the plant open—because he never made such a promise—but he is connecting Obama with the plant’s closing in a way that makes it appear Mr. Obama was responsible for it.
The problem is the plant closed just before Christmas in 2008, a month before the newly-elected president took office.
Ryan also lied during his speech about the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson:
He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
Notice the “they” in that sentence construction. “They came back with an urgent report.” But Mr. Ryan was part of that debt commission, part of that “they.” And he voted to kill the effectiveness of that “urgent report.” He did that. He voted to kill that report, which fell three votes short of being adopted and sent to Congress for an up or down vote.
And then Ryan claimed that Obama did “exactly nothing.” Hardly. As CNN pointed out:
Obama never fully embraced the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. But he incorporated some of the recommendations the co-chairs made in a plan he sent to Congress the following April, one that called for a mix of spending reductions and tax hikes.
All that and more is bad enough. But the most brazen of lies Ryan told on Wednesday, the one that should have literally brought the building down upon him if God were paying attention, was this one:
…the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.
Now, not only is that a lie, it is one of those lies that the liar knows is a lie, as opposed to a simple friendly spin of the facts. Because there are no facts here to spin. This is an utter lie and it has time and again been exposed as one by fact checkers. But Romney-Ryan, LLC, are not in the fact business. That’s not their trade, not their expertise.
What they are good at is taking an admittedly effective lie and simply repeating it, again and again and again, against the wind of truth, as if the wind blows right through them—no, as if there is no wind.
“Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly,” he said. He actually said that. He stood there in front of millions of people, his Catholic Christian credentials on his sleeve, and told older Americans that Mr. Obama, using “the biggest, coldest power play of all,” was using them—folks on Medicare, for God’s sake— for his scheme of “government-controlled health care.”
How does such wicked hubris get born? Where does such dark audacity come from? From the same place this comes from:
So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it.
Never mind that Mr. Ryan’s famous budget, which Mitt Romney enthusiastically embraced, included the same smart reductions in spending—not a penny of which “came at the expense of the elderly“; and never mind that Obamacare makes Medicare more solvent and offers older folks free preventive services and closes the prescription drug donut hole; and never mind that when Romney-Ryan, LLC, get finished with Medicare, “raiding it” may be impossible because there may not be an it to raid.
I know some Democrats today are a little nervous. Ryan’s speech, replete as it was with falsehoods, was a powerful one. Lies can be quite seductive. And I know some on the left are worried that successfully combating such a blatant and well-funded disregard for the truth may be impossible.
But of course it is not impossible. There is plenty of time. We will have our turn in the spotlight. We have our message. But part of that message must include a new offensive against the devilish disdain for facts that characterizes the brand of Republican politics that Romney-Ryan, LLC, are trying to sell to that razor-thin slice of the electorate who remain open to persuasion.
Democrats must, they simply must, begin today to call both Mr. Ryan, a former altar boy, and Mr. Romney, a fiercely loyal Mormon, what they are: liars of a rare breed who simply continue to lie despite being shouted down by the facts.
A rare breed of liars with a treasure chest of riches that can buy enough 30-second ads to shout down those shouting facts and smother the fact checkers. A breed so rare that we may never—must never—see their likes again.
And if Democrats fail to push back and win against such brazenness, if the dark partnership of Romney-Ryan is successful with its strategy of deceit, if they walk into the White’s House on a red carpet of fiction and fraud, then that rare breed of liars will no longer be so rare. They will beget a legion of imitators.
And our politics, our democracy, will never be the same.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 30, 2012
“I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
—Rick Santorum, January 1, 2012
kay, it took about a twelve pack, but I made it through the night watching the evening speeches at the Republican National Convention.
Hopefully, you all had better things to do than spend an evening gazing at a sea of white conservatives, listening to sometimes angry white speakers tell us that the Scary Negro in the White’s House is robbing all the nice, hard-working whites and giving the booty to other lazy, scary Negroes.
That, my friends, was the one coherent theme of the night, once you cleared away the fog.
I will offer up a few observations on what I saw, after John Boehner declared that President Obama should be tossed out of the White’s House Bar and Grill for, uh, offering health insurance to those who don’t have it, or something like that. It was that kind of night.
Chris Christie‘s delivery of the keynote speech was, I think a fair-minded observer would say, at best angry and at worst pissed off. As was noted by many a commentator, he spoke mostly about himself, which is probably why he was in such a foul mood.
He said, less than lovingly,
We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down…
He said that just before he started tearing down Democrats.
Christie also said,
Our seniors are not selfish.
He better hope they are if he wants Republicans to win in November, since his party is selling its Medicare overhaul to them by assuring the geezers they won’t have to suffer its effects but their children and grandchildren will.
Ann Romney, God love her, did her best to tell us why Mittens was fit to be president and why he will work harder than any human being in the history of the planet to ensure that, well, that, uh, uh….I’ll have to go check the transcript on that one. I’m not exactly sure why she thinks Mittens ought to be president.
The various governors who spoke spent most of their time noting their personal economic achievements, which is funny since those achievements came under a president they claim is asphyxiating economic achievement. More tortuous Republican logic I suppose.
Rick Santorum‘s speech was very special. It was special in this sense: If an atheist wanted to advance incontrovertible evidence that there was no God, it might be the fact that Santorum managed to tell that fact-checked lie about Obama gutting welfare reform without being struck by a rather large and deadly bolt of heavenly lightning straight from the hand of the being who reportedly said,
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
But—I am now speculating—that since Santorum was not fried by divine outrage, there must have been some Talmudic technicality employed here, like, say, that Barack Obama, not being born in America, is not really a “neighbor.” God, as we all know, is a stickler for technicalities like that.
In any case, my favorite, and I assert most representative speaker of the night, was someone named Janine Turner, an actress and “talk show host” I confess I had never heard of. Her presentation pretty much set the tone for this night at the convention, and it nicely sums up what most Republicans actually think about government and the president who leads it.
She began my evening of beer-enhanced entertainment with what can only be described as a call to arms, delivered in a very creepy manner. When a Republican begins an address with, “Hello my fellow patriots!” then you know Democrats are about to be assaulted with both barrels.
Ms. Turner commenced her attack on Democrats with a lie, the substance of which was repeated in some form or another by nearly every subsequent speaker and a lie that deserves some space to refute. First the lie:
Our Constitution guarantees us a republican form of government in Article 4, Section 4, but our liberal brethren, they don’t feel constrained by our Constitution—that’s convenient for them—by ignoring constitutional limits they do what ever they like, don’t they? Yes! Like grow the government to unbelievable and unsustainable heights and accumulate historic and catastrophic debt.
Now, I’m not exactly sure how high liberals would like to see government grow. It is entirely conceivable that they would like to see it grow to “unbelievable and unsustainable heights,” although Republicans have set a standard that Democrats will have a hard time surpassing.
But the problem for Ms. Turner’s thesis that liberals have accumulated “historic and catastrophic debt” and that they want a very tall and unsustainable government is that it so happens the very right-wing Washington Times, which I am sure is part of Janine Turner’s bathroom reading regimen, began a story in October of 2008 with this wonderful paragraph:
George W. Bush rode into Washington almost eight years ago astride the horse of smaller government. He will leave it this winter having overseen the biggest federal budget expansion since Franklin Delano Roosevelt seven decades ago.
The story goes on to note,
Mr. Bush already is the first president in history to implement budgets that crossed the $2 trillion a year and $3 trillion a year marks. His final budget, which comes to an end Sept. 30, conceivably could near $4 trillion, depending on the final tab for the financial rescue.
The Washington Times article also included this:
…federal budget numbers show spending under the Bush administration rose from 18.4 percent of GDP to 22.5 percent – a 4.1-point increase – and could end up even higher.
The only presidents to approach that level of growth were President Carter, who grew spending as a percentage of GDP by 1.5 points, and President Ford, who grew it by 1 point. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all decreased spending relative to the overall economy.
Measured in dollars, “Federal spending has grown twice as fast under President Bush as under President Clinton,” said Mr. Riedl of the Heritage Foundation.
Hmm. But there’s more:
As a result of all this spending, the country has gone from a $128 billion budget surplus when Mr. Bush took office to a deficit of at least $732 billion in fiscal 2009, according to OMB. The final 2009 deficit likely will be even higher.
Of course the deficit was higher—much higher—and it is that trillion-dollar-plus deficit that Mr. Obama inherited and with which we still live today, thanks largely to Republicans, who cut taxes and went on a spending binge.
So, that’s that.
But Ms. Turner’s real point—and the subtextual theme for the night—was yet to come:
Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Yes. But today Obama enabled an entitlement society that says, “Give me liberty and gimme gimme.” Why? Because Democrats depend on dependence. America was not born with a gimme-gimme mentality and American liberty cannot survive with a gimme-gimme mentality. America was built with her hands at work, not with her hands out…
Free enterprise has paved the way for Americans to earn their own success and it has created an America that has yielded an unprecedented level of progress. This progress has lifted up humanity to greater heights of living and a greater level of dignity. Mitt Romney will preserve this exceptional American legacy.
Barack Obama? Barack Obama will destroy it. Obama is stifling the American Dream primarily because it isn’t his dream. His dream is not of an independent people. His dream is of a dependent people based on the failed principles of antiquated government.
You see? Obama, the “food stamp president,” doesn’t dream the same kind of dream those white folks in that Tampa convention center dream. In fact, he not only doesn’t dream their dream—the American Dream—he is actively seeking to “destroy” their dream, to take what they have worked so hard for and give it to those lazy folks with their “gimme, gimme” hands out, their greedy, undeserving—and pigmented—hands.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 29, 2012
You may not know it—I know I didn’t—but in this age of austerity, 18 states “have cancelled Medicaid funding for circumcisions,” according to Newser.
And the circumcision rate in the U.S. is “down to 55% from 79% three decades ago,” with one study claiming,
that the US health care system could face an additional $4 billion in costs over the next decade if rates continue to fall.
Now, I think that is a small price to pay to cover budget shortfalls resulting from widespread Republican resistance to tax increases. So what, if in the long run, such resistance results in greater costs:
The health benefits of newborn circumcision—including reduced chances of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and the transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV—outweigh the risks, according to a policy statement published today by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In an update to its 13-year-old policy, reports the AP, the leading pediatricians group stops just short of endorsing the procedure, but does recommend that insurance companies pay for it.
One way or another, all of us must have some skin in the game if America is to survive.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 28, 2012
Southwest Missouri congressman Ozark Billy, who recently and stupidly said, “We’re not the land of the free anymore,” has now thrown his considerable weight—that’s not really a metaphor—behind the embattled Todd Akin, according to Politico:
First-term Rep. Billy Long, who represents the conservative southwestern portion of the state, said Akin was the party’s candidate, whom he planned to support.
“The people of Missouri voted for him, and he’s our guy,” Long told POLITICO. “And either you’re for Todd Akin and I’m not for Claire McCaskill. … He’s been an underdog his whole life, he won a lot of races he wasn’t supposed to win, so I think he can win.”
Yep, against the stream of establishment sentiment, our own Ozark Billy is making a gallant stand for ignorance and bigotry, but he’s not the only local embracing Todd Akin’s “gaffe,” which, of course was not a gaffe but a rare moment of honesty and clarity.
Jasper County pooh-bah and resident Christian moralist-slash-Glenn Beck fan, John Putnam, said Mittens “needs to rescind” his demand that Akin give up the fight, and he offered this:
I think Reince Priebus and Roy Blunt and all the people need to support the candidate that the folks from Missouri nominated and picked in the primary. I think the GOP party bosses that are trying to drum him out are creating a bigger split in the party than Todd Akin is.
We’ll see whether Romney, true to form, or Priebus or Blunt waffles on Akin and accepts the Jasper County Republican’s godly counsel, but I have to admit that, for once, I agree with John Putnam. Party bosses—and right now there ain’t no bigger boss than Mittens—are creating a “split” in the party between evangelicals, who actually believe the nutty stuff they say, and regular party guys—characters who wouldn’t know Jesus if he jolted them with a bolt of overdue lightning—who use those evangelicals to obtain political power.
But my guess is that the evangelicals who are being used will, despite their Akin-induced dissatisfaction with the party honchos, nevertheless come to GOP Jesus and work hard to get their superiors elected, what with that Black Devil, Barack What’s-His-Unholy Name, lurking in the electoral shadows.
Meanwhile, the Black Devil’s Missouri handmaiden, Claire McCaskill, will likely save her job, despite the fact that the faithful, led by conservative crusader and buffet king Billy Long, will try their best to exorcise her evil self from the United States Senate.
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 27, 2012
Rarely, if ever, has a Repubican bigwig like Reince Priebus, the nasty Chairman of the Republican National Committee who daily slanders President Obama on TV, faced what he faced this morning on Morning Joe, as Chris Matthews executed a tilt-a-whirl mat slam on his lying ass, then when Priebus tried to get up, Matthews finished him off with a perfect spinning headlock elbow drop.
This is damned good television:
Posted by R. Duane Graham on August 27, 2012