Thursday, September 20, 2012

Taking a break

I'll be out of town for a couple of days.


Bullying the nuns

Noted writer and practicing Roman Catholic, Gary Wills, has written an essay in the New York Review of Books (June 7, 2012) about the Vatican's "bullying of the American nuns."   Long critical of them for putting too much time on "the social Gospel" and not enough on the party line from Rome (opposing abortion and gay marriage), the Vatican earlier this year stripped the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of its right to self-governance and appointed a bishop to take charge.  This organization represents about 80% of American nuns.

Wills is scathing in his siding with the nuns and against this take-over.
     "In the Vatican's mind, woman are not capable of governing others or even themselves.  Is it any wonder that so many nuns have left the order . . .  Who wants to be bullied by lofty old men?
     "It is typical of the pope's sense of priorities that, at the very time when he is quashing an independent spirit in the church's women, he is negotiating a welcome back to priests who left the church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council [which introduced some modernity)] . . . . .
     "All these things , you see, are the work solely of male hierarchs, distrustful of the People of God -- who are the church, as defined by the Second Vatican Council. . . .  The real Gospel must be quashed in the name of the pseudo-Gospel of papal monarchs.   Poor Anne O'Connor [one of Will's beloved nuns] -- she thought caring for the poor was what Jesus wanted.  She did not live to see that what Rome wants is all that matters."
I am not a Roman Catholic but I have long admired the dedicated, unpretentious life of service and humility exhibited by nuns, in contrast to the pomp and riches and arrogance of the bishops and the Vatican.  So I am in complete agreement with Gary Wills, who sees if from inside the Church.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Peggy Noonan says it best

Damn, I hate to admit admiration for the opposition.   But, when she is at her best, Peggy Noonan is the best wordsmith in the political world.  She first became known as a speech writer for Ronald Reagen, including his response to the explosion of the Challenger space ship.  That speech was deemed one of the 10 best political speeches of the 20th century by a group of professors who compile such lists.  She later wrote some of George H. W. Bush's best lines:  "a kinder, gentler nation," " a thousand points of light," and "read my lips;  no new taxes."   Now a Wall Street Journal editorial columnist, she is a frequent guest on Sunday morning news shows.

She has weighted in -- quite heavily, I would say -- on the Romney debacle in her WSJ column.   Headlined "Time for an Intervention," she hits hard but offers a solution.  Saying that he needs to look "deep into the abyss [of] a Republican defeat in a year the Republican presidential candidate almost couldn't lose."
"And then he needs to snap out of it, and move. 

"He has got seven weeks.  He’s just had two big flubs. On the Mideast he seemed like a political opportunist, not big and wise but small and tinny. It mattered because the crisis was one of those moments when people look at you and imagine you as president."
 Then concerning his comments released last night from the secret video made months ago at the private fundraiser . . .
"This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. . ."
Noonan continues:
"Romney’s theory of the case is all wrong. . . . That’s not how Republicans emerge victorious—”I can’t win these guys.” You have to have more respect than that, and more affection, you don’t write anyone off, you invite everyone in. . . You know what Romney sounded like? Like a kid new to politics who thinks he got the inside lowdown on how it works. . . . 

"I think there is a broad and growing feeling now, among Republicans, that this thing is slipping out of Romney’s hands. . . .  Republicans are going to have to right this thing. They have to stabilize it.

"It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. . . .
And then:
An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working" . . .

"Time for the party to step up. Romney should go out there every day surrounded with the most persuasive, interesting and articulate members of his party . . .  I mean he should be surrounded by a posse of them every day. Their presence will say, “This isn’t about one man, this is about a whole world of meaning, this is about a conservative political philosophy that can turn things around and make our country better” . . .

"Party elders, to the extent you exist this is why you exist:  Right this ship."
I've left out about half her column, much of it having to do with advice that Romney probably won't take.  But damn if she's not persuasive -- and I'm sure she wrote this intending to be, not just persuasive of Romney, but of those party elders who respect her and know she knows what she's talking about.

Let's hope they don't follow her advice.  It's the only way they call pull Romney out of this sure defeat.


Why this is the end of the road for Romney

Dear Reader,
     If you've had enough of my Romney rant, just skip this.   However if, as I do, you savor every morsel of the Romney-bashing (it has a wonderful German name for it:   Schadenfreude) as the just payback for all the Obama-bashing, birtherism, and false accusations thrown at him -- then read and enjoy this death knell.

     Oh, I don't mean that Romney is going to drop out.   That would be too drastic and would likely result in a loss for Republicans anyway.  Let him stay in and damage other Republicans down the ticket.  And let Paul Ryan damage his future reputation as a national candidate along with the sinking ship.

     The following is an essay by Peter Goodman, business editor for the Huffington Post.
The reason the Romney campaign is now curtains is not the tone of those disdainful things he said about struggling Americans when he was behind closed doors with campaign contributors in Florida. We already knew that Romney views less fortunate people as losers and parasites.

The reason the video kills what remains of his bid for the White House is because of what it tells us about his understanding of the basic facts of the American situation: He thinks there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy, and there are plenty of lucrative opportunities out there for anyone willing to work for them. . . .

But what Romney just got caught saying on video is that everything is pretty much fine. If it's not fine for you and your family, that's your own whiny fault. . . .

Given how many are not doing well -- 80 percent of the workforce has seen their wages decline in real terms over the last quarter-century, and the average household has seen 40 percent of its wealth disappear during the Great Recession -- this is politically incendiary stuff. It lumps together people who have never missed a day of work in their lives with the worst stereotypical version of a welfare queen living on the public dole. Goodbye, Mitt. Go and pursue your own opportunities in the private sector. 

Ezra Klein has adroitly handled the factual vacuity of Romney's claim that roughly half the country pays no taxes, noting that almost two-thirds of these people were working last year and handed over payroll taxes, making their effective tax burden -- 15.3 percent -- higher than Romney's 13.9 percent.

But forget those facts for a second and focus on the implications of Romney's message. In an America where nearly half the population is content to mooch off the government -- paying no taxes while using their food stamps for caviar and their Section 8 vouchers for suites at the Four Seasons -- the policy solution is straightforward: Yank the safety net and make those parasites go get one of those fabulous jobs just lying around for the taking. . . . 

Romney has already let us know that he regards the poor as deadbeats. These toxic comments at the fundraiser in Florida tell us that he sees the middle class in similar terms.

He simply does not grasp that tens of millions of Americans make so little from their jobs that they pay no federal income taxes. He does not get that many people are saturated in debt and require help to get housing, health care and groceries -- not because they are lazy or morally degenerate or carry a sense of entitlement, but because their paychecks are inadequate. . . .

We just got a glimpse of the America that Mitt Romney sees from his privileged perch, one where anyone unable to attend a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser simply hasn't tried hard enough
That's too much of a contrast from the America in which most people live. It's going to be hard to explain to regular people.

Which is why this is the end of the Romney candidacy.


And then there's this

Here's a juicy addition to all the Romney secret video fallout.

According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, some 3,000 individuals in that 47% who paid no federal income tax in 2011 were in the top 0.1% of income along with Romney.   Another 24,000 were in the top 1% of income.

That's 27,000 people who make at least $500,000 per year who pay no federal income taxes.

Oh, dear.  What a dilemma.  Romney wants to be president of the rich people but not of those who don't pay taxes.

Oops !


Mitt, thanks for letting us know.

I just signed a petition to Mitt Romney:
"Thanks for letting us know that you only want to be president of the rich."
This, of course, is a reference to his saying, on the secret video to his rich friends, that "It's not my job to worry about these people -- the 47% who pay no (federal income) taxes."


Romney's true character exposed on secret video

Romney wanted to dismiss it all as simply "inelegantly stated" but what he really believes:  that the majority of Obama's supporters will never be attracted to his tax plan, because they don't pay taxes.

Republicans know that most people don't distinguish between "income taxes" and "taxes," so they assume he's talking about those deadbeats that are simple free-loaders.  But in fact the 47% who pay no "federal income tax" includes all those who pay a pretty good part of their income in Social Security taxes and sales tax -- a much higher percentage of their income than Romney does, with all the tax advantages given to wealthy people.

But that's not the main point.   Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, says that this is not a simple gaffe but Romney's true character coming out, and it reveals him to be "a sneering plutocrat."

Instead the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party. He believes that market incomes in the United States are a perfect reflection of merit. Far from seeing his own privileged upbringing as the private-school educated son of an auto executive-turned-governor as an obvious refutation of that belief, Romney cites his own life, preposterously, as a confirmation of it. (“I have inherited nothing. Everything I earned I earned the old fashioned way.”)
 Romney has explained, at another time, that all the money that he and Ann inherited, they gave away to charity.  So he has "earned it the old fashioned way" in one sense.  Chait scoffs at this making him just like everybody else, what with all his advantages.
It is possible to cling to some version of this dogma and still believe, or to convince yourself, that cutting taxes for the rich or reducing benefits for the poor will eventually help the latter, by teaching them personal responsibility or freeing up Job Creators to favor them with opportunity. Instead Romney regards them as something akin to a permanent enemy class – “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” . . .

The revelations in this video come to me as a genuine shock. I have never hated Romney. I presumed his ideological makeover since he set out to run for president was largely phony, even if he was now committed to carry through with it, and to whatever extent he’d come to believe his own lines, he was oblivious or na├»ve about the damage he would inflict upon the poor, sick and vulnerableIt seems unavoidable now to conclude that Romney’s embrace of Paul Ryanism is born of actual contempt for the looters and moochers, a class war on behalf of his own class.
This is strong stuff -- and I think Chait is directly on target.   My only difference with him is that I saw this long ago, as I keep saying, it was there when he was 17 leading the mob to cut off the non-conforming boy's long hair.

Glad to know others are catching on.  I've called him a self-righteous prig.   I like Chait's "sneering plutocrat" too.


Monday, September 17, 2012

An avalanche

The bad news for the Republican presidential race is beginning to feel like an avalanche, with more bad news coming out every day.

With news leaking about disarray within the campaign staff, as well as the increasing pressure from without for some details of the plan, any plan . . . taxes reform, immigration reform, tax loopholes to close, the budget . . . something other than:  "We have a plan but we won't tell you the details."

It was already seeming like a campaign, not only in crisis, but in freefall.  Then the latest hit today.  Bloomberg News' Josh Barro writes:
You can mark my prediction now:  A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney's campaign for president.

On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmovable Obama voters.  As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans "believe that they are victims."   He laments:  "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

". . .  My job is not to worry about those people. . . . These are people who pay no income tax.  Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax."

This is an utter disaster for Romney . . . [who] already has trouble relating to the public and convincing people he cares about them.  Now, he's been caught on video saying that nearly half the country consists of hopeless losers. . . .  

It's not an answer that wins elections.
 You know what?   This is totally unsurprising.  It is completely in character with the 17 year old Romney who led a mob force to cut off another prep school boy's long hair because he wasn't conforming to the dress code.


Time to have the debate

"Supply side" and "trickle down" are tossed about by conservative politicians as if they were engraved in the Ten Commandments handed down by God.   And progressive economists have been saying it for years:
 it just doesn't work.

Now, the latest study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has found that, over the past 65 years, tax cuts for the rich have not led to economic growth and instead have led to income inequality in the U. S.

So now, how will Republicans deal with this authoritative source that has done an actual study of the effects?

They will say that the study is wrong.  And what evidence will they offer?   None.

Why do people keep believing them?


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Some notable quotes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:  "Supporters of the policy of 'containing' Iran and its nuclear ambitions set a new standard for human stupidity."

Meir Dagon, former head of Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service: "An attack on Iran "would be the stupidest idea I've ever heard."

I think I'll go with the Mossad guy.

Rick Santorum at the Values Voter Summit:  "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side, because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do."

Well, we can't have that.  How could Rick exercise his right to tell us what to do if all those smart people were trying to impose their values on us?

Nancy Pelosi on CNN:  "Oh, Mitt Romney is not going to be President of the United States.  I think everybody knows that."



Both the amateurish film that insulted Mohammed and riled the Muslim world -- and the Islamic extremists' violent, murderous response -- are to be condemned.

The film-maker's right to make the film are protected by the First Amendment.  I don't dispute his right to do it;  but not everything that is permitted should be done.   This is an example of bigotry and stupidity, and it should be condemned for its poor judgment and insensitivity.

Religious fervor is of course at the bottom of this, as it has been for many of the wars and atrocities throughout history.   But the film is no more a representation of Christianity or U. S. foreign policy than is the violence part of Islam or even of the governments of those countries.

But all this is compounded -- and becomes an international tragedy and a threat to the survival of civilization as we know it -- when extremists on both sides behave as if we are still in a medieval world of kill or be killed.

Having said all that, and despite our U.N. Representative Susan Rice's word to the contrary on tv this morning, there is a huge amount of anti-American feeling throughout that region.  And, more than anything else, I believe we are responsible for much of that.   We invaded Iraq unnecessarily.  We are still in Afghanistan 11 years later, killing too many of their civilians accidentally, and our support tilts toward Israel in the unending struggle for land in Palestine/Israel.   And now, we're being told by the war-mongers that we should help Israel bomb Iran.

What we don't need is more bellicosity and cowboy braggadocio thrust into that explosive tinder box.   Obama is right to stay steady and diplomatic.

It's frightening to think what will happen if Romney wins and appoints John Bolton as Secretary of State or Defense.  He already has neo-conservatives as his foreign policy advisers.   So far, they've bombed, figuratively, and probably would bomb literally if given the power.