Saturday, July 28, 2012

Romney never misses an opportunity - #2: Mitt is a self-righteous prig

Karl Rove has now weighed in on Romney's Olympic gaffe.   Rove says, in itself, it was not a big deal.  But he was dismayed that Romney had taken what was an almost infallible opportunity to say something positive and instead turned it into a major flap that had both the prime minster and the mayor of London slapping him back in public.

He, like Krauthammer in their amazement that Romney would be so inept, don't seem to realize that this is not at all surprising.   It is exactly what you can expect from someone with Romney's character, dating all the way back to his prep school days.

Mitt Romney is a self-righteous prig.    And all his entrepreneurial success and his vast wealth just reinforce his egoistic opinion of himself.

Newt Gingrich's "cosmic narcissism" is on full display and is unmistakable, even by those who don't know what to call it.   Romney's narcissism is harder to spot, because he is so buttoned up.  And then it slips out in moments like this.

We also shouldn't be surprised that he has so little capacity for empathy for people who don't share his wealth and life style of privilege.    And he says things like "I'm not concerned for the very poor."   Or "I'll bet you $10,000."   Or "Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs."

Character is underneath it all, and it will seep out.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney never misses an opportunity to put people down

I was going to refrain from piling on about Romney's major gaffe about the poor preparation for the London Olympics on the eve of his appearance there -- which prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to retort:
"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
His reference, of course, was to Romney's having been in charge of the Olympics in Utah.

And honestly, folks, what Romney said really wasn't that bad -- except when you consider the context.   He just said their problem with the private security firm not having enough guards "was not encouraging" as an indication of London's readiness;  and we'd just have to wait and see how it all turns out.

Consevative pundit Charles Krauthammer piled on for both of us, correctly pointing out that context is everything here.  Speaking on Fox News, here's what he had to say about it:
"It's unbelievable, it's beyond human understanding, it's incomprehensible. I'm out of adjectives."
Romney merely needed to express solidarity with our British allies and say nice things about them as hosts, he said.

"All Romney has to do, say nothing. . . . It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doesn’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it."
Well, I think I do get it.   Romney has this attitude lurking beneath the surface that impels him to flaunt his superiority and self-righteously put other people down.  He seems to have no empathy or even awareness of the effect of what he says.   He's just out to display how right he is.   Of course, the covert message in his gaffe was:  "I did it better."   And it didn't occur to him that he was insulting his hosts -- with the whole world watching.

Nobody can just be different;  they're wrong.   Remember when he led the pack of prep school boys in attacking another student who was different from their preppy look?  They held him down and cut off his long hair?   Same thing.  There's a streak of cruelty in it too.

Nine time gold medalist, American sprinter Carl Lewis put the icing on the cake.  "I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn't leave the country. Are you kidding me?  Stay home if you don't know what to say."

So true character does come out.    Voters should take this into account.  Such insensitivity can lead to wars being started, allies being lost, diplomatic delicacies being trampled on.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Anti-Muslim bigotry in AZ Tea Party

Wes Harris, an Arizona Tea Party leader, threatens to launch a recall effort against Senator John McCain because he defended Huma Abedin, the Muslim in the State Department named by Michele Bachmann et al, as one of the suspects they want investigated.

"Have you ever read the Koran?" Harris asks, saying that no faithful Muslim can be loyal to the United States government because their religion demands that they have "no other allegiance."  He also claims that there is "no such thing as a moderate Muslim."   So just being Muslim -- "that's all you need to know," he says.

And here's what I say:   "Have you ever read the Bible, Mr. Harris?"

How could a Christian who takes every word of the Bible literally be in government?   You swear to uphold the laws of the United States -- but the Bible, in various places, condones slavery, polygamy, ritual sacrifice, and condemns usury -- all outlawed or regulated by U. S. laws.

So let's don't have any Christians infiltrating government either.

And then there are Jesus' teachings that call upon us to "do unto these, the least of my brethren," meaning take care of the sick, feed the poor, look out for the widows and children. 

It all sounds to me a lot more like the Democratic agenda than the Republican one.   So, you five Republican bigoted cowards, who have brought shame to our whole country, know that we're on to you and your "unChristian" ways.


Crazy Bachmann does it again #3

Michele Bachmann has the highest profile of the five Republican members of Congress who signed the letter calling for an investigation of Muslim Brotherhood links in our government, with Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin being listed as one of their suspects.

Even Republican members -- most notably, John McCain -- have denounced the accusation.

Now it turns out that three of the five, including Bachmann, are members of the House Intelligence Committee.   That committee deals with sensitive, classified information related to national security.   So having three members make such allegations would ordinarily suggest that they had some insider knowledge.

Not so.   Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of the Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent, dismissed the allegations, saying "That kind of assertion certainly doesn't comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record."

Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the allegations by members of the committee were "deeply disturbing" and damaging to the work of the committee."  People for the American Way called for Bachmann to be removed from the committee, saying that
". . .  classified information that affects the safety and security of all Americans . . .  should not be in the hands of anyone with such a disregard for honesty, misunderstanding of national security, and lack of respect for her fellow public servants."

Amen to that.  It's good to see someone finally calling out Bachmann for her crazy and reckless accusations.   Unfortunately her constituents love her outlandishness and will very likely vote her in for another two years.   That's democracy -- often pretty messy.  But at least her destructive, say-anything nuttiness should no longer be ignored by her more responsible colleagues.


The "voter fraud" fraud

There's been much publicity about the Pennsylvania voter ID law that has been estimated to disenfranchise as many as 600,000 legitimate voters in the state.   Similar laws in other states will have the same effect, notably Florida, one of the most important swing states.

In PA, there is a lawsuit challenging the law.  Now news comes pf the pre-trial "stipulation agreement," which I think means something that both sides agree as fact so they don't have to spend time at trial proving it.

The significant thing in this agreement is that the state has stipulated that it has no evidence that in person voter fraud has in fact ever taken place in Pennsylvania nor is it likely to occur in the November election even without the voter ID law.

So what, please tell, is this law all about?    Proponents chirp about "protecting the sanctity" of the vote, how unAmerican it is for illegal aliens to try to vote, etc.

But with the terribly negative effect of the law on voter participation and the negligible, at best, improvement of voting purity with the law -- why are they pushing it?

Of course, there is no reason other than trying to suppress the number of people who are likely to vote Democratic.

It sounds like they're no longer even going to pretend otherwise.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bill Moyers takes on the NRA

In the aftermath of the horrible massacre in a Colorado movie theater, Bill Moyers has taped a video, excoriating the NRA as an "enabler" of death -- paranoid, delusional, and as venomous as a scorpion."
Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and 300,000 gun-related assaults in the U.S. . . .  Firearm violence may cost our country as much as $100 billion a year. Toys are regulated with greater care and safety concerns than guns ... we have become so gun loving, so blasé about home-grown violence that in my lifetime alone, far more Americans have been casualties of domestic gunfire than have died in all our wars combined."
Bill Moyers doesn't have to fear the NRA's power.   Politicians are another story, including President Obama.   Not that he has any love for the NRA or necessarily any financial benefit from them.

But it is a sad political reality that it would be an enormous distraction to take them on in an election season.   So Obama has opted for the safer focus on enforcing existing gun control laws rather than trying to pas new ones before the election..

I don't admire that position, but I understand the practicality of it.   What if he took them on, and then unleashing their vengeance tipped the election balance -- and he lost?   Then we would regret it.   Better to get re-elected and then do something about it.


The dilemma about Mitt for non-weathy Republicans and Independents

Republicans en masse do not love Mitt Romney.   They are motivated primarily by their hatred/fear of Barack Obama and what he represents.

Their dilemma just got worse.

They want a shrewd businessman who promises to do a better job fixing the economy.   But do they want one who has avoided paying taxes on his vast wealth by using every clearly legal loophole -- plus some that experts in the field of finding loopholes have doubts about?

The more we learn about Romney's wealth and his management of that wealth -- and his attitude toward paying taxes -- the less appealing he would seem to be to average Americans.

But have they so poisoned the minds of those same "average Americans" (meaning working class, mostly white people who struggle to make ends meet) with Obama hatred that they won't be able to vote for him either?


Can you believe it?

The audacity of it is staggering.

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor yesterday to criticize President Obama for talking about the middle class, "because it turns people against rich Americans, who should be embraced as the Michael Jordans of the U. S. economy."

As reported in the Huffington Post:
"Declaring that the use of the phrase "middle class" is "misguided and wrong and even dangerous," Kyl argued in a Senate floor speech that Obama is "spreading economic resentment [that] weakens American values" and ignoring "the uniquely meritocratic basis of our society. . . .

"Kyl said he sees the rich very differently -- more like sports heroes along the line of Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan.

"When Michael Jordan . . . was given an enormous, almost unheard of salary. Did the other players say, 'That's not fair?' No, actually all the other players got big salary increases, too, [and] the people selling popcorn, the people parking the cars ... made more money than they ever did."
In other words:   Trickle Down Economics 101.

Please tell me that the American people won't be fooled by this and vote for that failed promise . . . again.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Vatican at war with the world

My ongoing criticism of the Vatican hierarchy and some of its decisions rests primarily on a very different idea of religion.   And of course, the Roman Catholic Church has existed far longer than I have, and I have no illusions that I can tell it what to do.   That would be hubris of cosmic ego dimensions, and I'm no Newt Gingrich.

Nevertheless, most of the actions of the Vatican in recent years, and of Pope Benedict himself, reinforce -- in my thinking -- the rightness of my views.

The Vatican, of course, upholds the idea of immutable truths handed down by God, and they cannot simply be changed to suit the secular interests and knowledge of today.   Adherence to Catholic teachings and faithfulness to God's will are the measure of religious expression.  It is a theologically based world view.

I have a more secular, humanistic world view -- that is, man-centered, not god-centered.   I do not question the value for many people of a deep religious faith that sustains and comforts them and gives those who need it an answer to the question of what is man's ultimate fate?    Is this worldly life the end?   Or is there an afterlife?

I am comfortable with not knowing those answers.   I grew up in a family that stressed the literal truth of heaven and hell, with nothing quite so important as whether you would spend eternity in blissful reunion with God and family or in agony as you literally burned in hell.

That is no longer my belief.   Doing my part to make this world a better place than I found it, and treating others as I want to be treated are good enough principles for me.  I do not think whatever comes after death will include a literal, individual consciousness, although I'm comfortable with the idea of some sort of absorption of my essence back into some greater cosmic essence.

Now, with that background, what I see happening is the Vatican making all the wrong decisions to deal with the crisis of the Church.   Instead of letting church doctrine evolve in light of modern knowledge and experience on issues like contraception, sexual diversity, celibacy for priests, etc., the Vatican is cracking down, reinforcing the unbending tenets of old.

It is most self-defeating, I believe, when it now tries to deal with its internal problems -- insisting that the American nuns put less time into social service and more into protesting reproductive choice and gay marriage;  reinforcing priestly celibacy, continuing to condemn contraception, even to the endangerment of spouses of HIV individuals, etc.

It was in the news today that the Vatican has stripped the Catholic University of Peru of the right to call itself a Catholic university because of its progressive ways through the years.

It seems to me that the Vatican is choosing a course that will lead to a smaller and narrower and more isolated institution.

But . . . what do I know?   And no one is asking me.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dumbing down religious belief

It is always a struggle for me to keep clear in my mind that people who say really dumb things out of their (mis)guided religious beliefs are not representative of all religious believers -- and therefore I should not disparage religious belief per se based on the worst examples.

After all, I abhor it when conservatives use worst-case (and often false) anecdotes to disparage what they don't like ("welfare queens" to justify cutting welfare benefits;   "voter fraud" to justify voter ID laws that inhibit liberal voting).

This one today tests my resolve to keep an open mind about the overall effect of religion in our society.

In a Heritage Foundation radio interview, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) was asked why he thinks acts of senseless violence happen, such as the mass shooting at a Batman movie premier in a Denver suburb.

Gohmert had a ready answer, ready because it is a well-rehearsed, conservative talking point:   the weakening of Christian values in the country from the ongoing attacks on religious expression in our public life, like "threatening people with jail" if they say prayers at high school graduations.   "People say ... where was God in all of this? . . . What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."

But I thought they believed God was around all the time, whether we wanted Him or not, and that he knows everything, sees everything, and can do anything he chooses.  Well, see, that doesn't fit with the blame Gohmert's trying to place on those "bad, anti-Christian Americans" who "attack religion."

Then Gohmert morphed into gun control.   "It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?"

So his answer to why such massacres occur:
We need more God, and we need more guns.   
Two questions for Rep. Gohmert:   (1)   Then how do you explain bad things happening to good people -- like when the most pious, god-fearing Christians lose a child to illness?   (2) If God is all powerful, it means that he also is responsible for the senseless shooting.   So why not just as logically blame God for letting it happen -- or even, for making it happen?

If God is all powerful, then Judas was as much part of the crucifixion plan as was Jesus.   People want an all powerful god, but they want to select which acts they give him credit for.

Someone needs to tell God (or those who speak for him) that his puny creation, Man, has evolved and used his God-given brain to figure out that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement in shaping behavior.   If God wants us really to believe and be devoted, He should cause more miracles and fewer mass shootings.

Or would that spoil the plan?

As to gun control, my questions for Rep. Gohmert are:   (1)  If an armed citizenry is the answer to our violence, why is it that statistics show that, when a gun is present in the home, one of the family members is the most likely one to die from that gun?  (2)  Why is it that some countries (like England and Japan), where very few citizens own guns, have such a low rate of violent deaths in comparison to ours?

By the way, this same Rep. Gohmert was one of the signers, with Michele Bachmann, of the demand to investigate Muslims in our government, citing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top assistant, Huma Abedin.