Archives for: September 2012
Introduction, Traditional Service,
9:00 AM, September 30, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
When what is unfair seems overpowering
and what is right seems weak,
when life gets hard:
Our faith carries us.
Our vision unites us.
Jesus walks with us.
We know the promise of a new dawn,
when darkness and shadows will be overcome
by the bright, clean sunshine of God’s love.
We are part of that healing.
We are part of that love.
Every hour brings new hope.
Each new day brings joy.
Introduction for "There is a Joy" by Robert Leaf
Sung as special music
at St. Mark's UMC
At News Corpse, Mark reports that Fox News personalities are increasingly skeptical of measurements of voter intentions, deriding what they insist is biased polling, including Fox News polling that shows President Obama ahead. Who could have predicted Fox research would be so horribly unfair to conservative sensibilities?
I can see why Fox News pundits are pumping up the dismal Romney polling of late. They serve a conservative public by mulching the news and serving it in palatable form. For those not twisting themselves into painful contortions for a demanding audience, I don't really see the point. It's not as if polls determine votes rather than simply predict results. It's like arguing with your thermometer.
The Heathen Republican talks about how mainstream media skews their results against Republicans by oversampling Democrats. It occurs to me that an alternate theory might be that fewer folks each day want to call themselves Republicans. Heathen points us to a site that corrects for the results by everyone but Rasmussen, who relies on auto dialing machines. Did I mention that one of the leftward biased polls is by Fox News? Oh, yeah, I did, didn't I?
Still, I'll play along. Yeah, Mitt Romney is actually 7.8 percent ahead. And if the election was today, we'd all be surprised because 1) Governor Romney would win big and 2) the election would be six and a half weeks earlier than we all think it will be.
Dave Dubya posts a two sentence quote from the leader of what is left of the party of Lincoln, telling us what major event will follow an Obama victory.
Wisconsin Conservative James Wigderson quotes a respected poll and concludes that Republicans are not faring well in his state and elsewhere. He speculates that more conservative candidates would be doing better for the GOP. As a liberal Democrat, I recommend his point of view to my conservative friends. I also suggest James read The Heathen Republican and relax. All is well.
Remember Jennifer Granholm? The most boisterous, animated speaker at the Democratic Convention? As in "I'll have what she's having!" Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame brings us the latest wrinkle of pre-debate spin. President Obama will definitely lose the first debate. Gasp.
Politico's Roger Simon suggests that Mitt Romney show his fun loving comedic side at the coming debates. YAFB at Rumproast considers the advice and contributes a few suggestions that will make Mitt a hit. For sure.
- Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, debunks Marxism, then wonders about the future of a capitalism that has been severely wounded by capitalists.
Jesse Unruh had a lot to do with California history. As a member of the state assembly, he wrote California's Civil Rights law that made racial discrimination illegal. Other reforms were later credited to him as he progressed in politics. He was an early backer of Bobby Kennedy and happened to be there when Kennedy was killed. He kept the assassin safe until police arrived. He later became state treasurer, but his influence went way beyond that before he died 25 years ago.
For all that, he is probably most famous for a cynical remark. "Money is the mother's milk of politics." Since recent Supreme Court rulings, free speech turns out to offer a lot more of the first amendment to those who can buy the public microphone.
Michael Grimm is a US Congressional representative from New York. He is a Republican. Like a lot of politicians, he spends an impressive amount of effort trying to raise campaign cash so he can get reelected. It is described by many legislators as a distasteful task. The temptation must be to sometimes take shortcuts.
Congressman Grimm is under a grand jury investigation for receiving more than the legal limit for direct contributions from a lot of friends of a local Rabbi. The Rabbi reportedly says he was threatened. An aide and close friend to the Rabbi was in danger of being deported. The allegation is that the Congressman said he could make those problems go away if the Rabbi and enough of his friends donated large, very large, amounts to the Grimm campaign. If not enough money was donated, well ... people do get deported, now don't they? And the legal limits? The Rabbi is said to have been told he'd better not worry about that. The Rabbi's friend had more pressing legal issues.
Michael Grimm got awfully irritated at press coverage of the investigation. It was not the first press coverage that irritated him. Before he was elected to office, he was said to have pulled a gun on the husband of a woman he was attracted to. He was quoted as saying he could make the guy disappear. When the story appeared in the press last year, Mr. Grimm accused the reporter of a witch hunt. The story had been investigated and no charges were filed.
Besides, Grimm was ex-military. He had served in the Marines. He was also ex-FBI. He had been undercover at the center of successful efforts to put crime bosses in jail. To many of us, this would put him in a Rudy Giuliani class of hero. Higher, actually, since Rudy is a hero for taking down a series of organized crime organizations but never went undercover himself. Grimm did.
Still, heroism does not protect anyone from temptation. Duke Cunningham, whose real life story inspired the movie "Top Gun" is still in prison for accepting bribes. Marvin Mandel, who took political risks to start the Shock Trauma program is out. So the investigation into the Rabbi extortion allegation continues.
A seemingly unrelated story appeared in the press recently. It seems the campaign office of the Congressman was attacked last week. Windows were broken. Nothing was stolen, but the hard drive of the main computer was the subject of interest. It seems the thieves, who didn't carry off any of the valuable equipment that pretty much any important office will have, just performed that one little bit of vandalism. What also made it weird is that the holes in the broken window did not appear large enough for anyone to actually get into the campaign office. The only evidence that anyone did was the erased computer drive.
Congressman Grimm announced that the attack was politically motivated, obviously sponsored by the opposition.
Police caught a pair of eighth graders. They admitted throwing stones. The campaign office is in an abandoned car dealership and the teens say they had no idea it was there. They were just out to break some windows because nobody was around to catch them and they thought it would be fun.
The Congressman is trying to get ahead of the story. He made a grand gesture of forgiveness. He does not want to press charges against the two vandals. Anyone can make a mistake. He is even thinking of hiring them as interns. Might be a good experience for them.
The computer drive?
Well, heh heh. Funny story there. Turns out it was just an inexperienced volunteer who erased it entirely by accident. Why the initial connection with the break in? Well, the inexperienced staffer was sort of covering up. Took him a while to admit his mistake.
Who was the staffer? Oh, no need to go into that.
The Congressman from New York sets an example for us all with his numerous gestures of generosity and forgiveness.
The Grand Jury investigation continues despite the loss of the computer drive.
It began long before the 1965 expansion of voting rights. When literacy tests, poll taxes and other methods used to prevent "unqualified" voters from casting ballots all became illegal, the effort did not stop.
The brief itself is available in pdf form here.
Leafing through the legal papers filed two years ago, you get only a glimpse of the long, long effort by conservative activists to suppress minority voting. In 1981, it became blatant enough, and illegal enough, to make it to court.
In New Jersey, the Republican National Committee targeted minority areas with a "caging" scheme. They sent sample ballots and postcards to voters, focusing only on minority sections of low income areas. It's not an accurate way of determining occupancy. Particularly in low income areas, the rate of delivery tends to produce a remarkably high percentage of error. Republicans compiled a list of "ineligible" voters. The hired tough guys to stand guard at voting precincts to tell people they had better not vote. They augmented the toughs with off duty police officers and deputy sheriffs. Some of the unofficial Republican militia brandished firearms at voters. They wore armbands labeled "National Ballot Security Task Force."
You see, it was all an effort to prevent voter fraud, even though actual voter fraud was, and remains, virtually non-existent.
One of the "ineligible" voters they tried to intimidate sued. Republicans signed a consent decree promising never to do that sort of thing again.
That was 1981. Lower grade efforts, just under the radar, continued.
In 1986 in Louisiana, it came to the surface again. Republicans were doing the same sort of caging: Sending mail to minority voters and then telling them they couldn't vote. This time several actual voters sued.
Republicans said the only purpose was to prevent voter fraud, even though actual voter fraud was, and remains, virtually non-existent. It really, really, really, had no other purpose, they insisted, certainly not to keep black people from voting.
The voters who were suing got their hands on some Republican documents. One political director had boasted in writing that "this program will eliminate at least 60,000–80,000 folks from the rolls." He felt that the effect could be decisive. In a close race, "which I’m assuming it is, this could keep the black vote down considerably."
Republicans signed papers promising not to do it again. The definitions of the original consent decree were tightened up. One of the provisions of the new agreement said Republicans would no longer violate any laws. But low grade efforts went on, without widespread publicity.
In 1990, in North Carolina, it erupted into view. Republicans were at it again. This time they sent postcards to 15,000 households. In addition to the caging, the information they sent said that voters could go to jail if they violated certain laws that did not exist, like voting if they had moved from one part of the state to another.
Republicans said they wanted to prevent voter fraud, even though actual voter fraud was, and remains, virtually non-existent.
The court said there was not enough evidence they had actually broken federal law, but ruled they had violated the written promises they had made not to intimidate voters in a suppression effort. Republicans promised this was the very last time they would do anything like that. They said they really meant it this time. But efforts went on behind the scenes.
In 2004 in Ohio, it came into view once more. Republicans used caging, directing test mail to minority areas, to accumulate 35,000 names of voters they then ordered not to vote when those voters showed up at the polls. One of them sued, demanding a temporary injunction.
Republicans insisted it was all an effort to prevent voter fraud, even though actual voter fraud was, and remains, virtually non-existent.
The Ohio Republican Party argued that the consent decree didn't apply to them because only the national party had signed it. But email messages showed the local folks were acting under instructions from the national Republican Party. A Supreme Court Justice, wouldn't you know it, said the whole thing was moot because the single voter bringing the suit was eventually allowed to vote.
No harm no foul. Other voters? Well they didn't hire lawyers and sue, now did they?
Voter suppression erupted into plain view again in 2008 in New Mexico. This time the court said there was no technical violation of criminal law, but turned down a Republican motion to vacate the entire consent decree. You signed it, the court ruled, now live up to it.
This year, Republican majorities in 18 state legislatures have enacted measures to make it tougher, sometimes a lot tougher, for lower income voters to vote. Registration offices are closed in minority areas or moved to out of the way locations. Photo IDs are required and alternate proof of identity is rejected. Voters who persist in going after new IDs often have to take off work and wait in various lines for hours.
It's the same game, with the same objective. It is a "program to eliminate" tens of thousands "of folks from the rolls" in order to "keep the black vote down..." Those, by the way, are not my words. They were captured from messages sent and received by conspirators.
Laws and courts have made literacy tests and poll taxes illegal. So other means will be found.
In response to the Heathen Republican: On denying jobs and training to combat veterans.
I think this is bullsh*t, Ryan*. Of course I can be motivated by principle.
- The Heathen Republican, September 24, 2012
Not hostile at all! I'm sure that there was no other way to say it that would have been effective and concise.
However, it is a little strange that you would say so without further argument. This is hardly the first time that you have been exposed to the idea that desires (but not principles) motivate intentional action. It's not even the first time that I have brought it up on a blog that you read.
It is true that principles do not motivate. A person who has no desire to adhere to your principle, to be considered a "principled man," or any other desire that would be fulfilled by adhering to it is not going to adhere to it. Without a reason for action, one will not act.
I'm sure that you have reasons to care about this principle as you understand it. Perhaps you think that it promotes happiness, perhaps you don't like the idea that someone else is getting special treatment, perhaps you believe that it is an important principle to have for the sake of order. I brought the point up because Burr has his own reasons to care for his side of the argument--reasons that, in the absence of any examination, are no better or worse than yours, despite your attempt to sum up the debate as "principles" vs. "feelings." The distinction is only meaningful when one side is being consistent with his own philosophy while the other is not, but that is not the case here.
I don't understand why the principle of equal protection under the law can be tossed out so easily in the name of a new group of individuals whom we want to call favored.
- The Heathen Republican
We do it all the time. What matters is why we do it. Our reasons to do it ought to outweigh the reasons to not do it: treating people differently under the law because of their race, for example, is unjustified; compensating people for their actions or for something unfair that has happened to them may not be.
It is fair enough that we are willing to help anyone who chooses to serve in the military. The option is available to you. I don't see why or how you differentiate between the compensation that servicemen already receive and the proposed employment opportunities described in this post. It is just another reward for their behavior and an incentive for others to follow. You can admit either that it is not a special status or that they already have an acceptable special status.
Again, the first question to address is: Should we do more? Only when we agree that we should do more is it appropriate to proceed to debate how. If you are so opposed to giving servicemen employment preference for even public sector work, perhaps you would prefer to just give them money for no further effort.
Ryan is a frequent contributor. He also writes for his own site, where logic is prized and the special debt we owe to combat veterans is not lightly forgotten.
Please visit Secular Ethics.
The Coachella Valley in California is where Palm Springs provides a home to the rich and famous. It's a conservative bastion of wealth. It's also a tolerant sort of area. One former mayor of Palm Springs is black and openly gay, and was possibly the only such mayor in America. One day, perhaps, such a distinction will be no distinction at all.
The eastern half of Coachella Valley is mostly Spanish speaking. It is a low income area, one of the lowest income area in California. The area has gotten a lot of local attention because of poverty and gang related activity. But actual statistics point to a very low crime rate. It was a central point for protests by farm workers. César Chávez was often there. The valley is mostly Republican, but the eastern part of Coachella Valley is quite Democratic.
Local media personalities occasionally demonstrate their courage by going the politically incorrect route, going out of their way to insult Hispanic people directly. Sometimes they will go in a slightly more coded direction, attacking the eastern valley itself. The fact that the population is Latino is kind of incidental, you see. So anyone who takes offense is just overly sensitive.
A few years ago a Limbaugh clone, Gary Stone, was conducting a daily diatribe, attacking a local councilman from the area. He described eastern Coachella Valley as a "third world toilet." See what I mean? Politically incorrect. Kind of courageous is you look at it just right, slamming all those low income Hispanic residents like that.
Not much to cover there. One more conservative blowhard going after those without the economic power to fight back. No Koch brothers there.
Except one listener made the story a bit more noteworthy. Congressional Representative Mary Bono Mack happened to be listening in. She heard the diatribe. So she swung into action.
If you think her protest had an effect, you'll have to speculate. She didn't protest. She thought it was pretty funny.
From: Mary Bono
Date: Tue,2 May 2006 02:35:46 +0000 GMT
Thank you!!!! I heard some of your remarks with the councliman from Coachella. You were great!!!!!! Unbelievably great!!! Third World Toilet? That was too funny. I have eyewuitnesses who saw Roth protesting. He probably wants to be all things to all people and not act like he was there. I hear there wer 1500 people. That's smaller than the Desert Aids Walk! And they bussed in 8 bus loads. You rock and are so damn funny and smart! Hey, how come you don't send me poems and Shakdespeare anymore? I miss that!
Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless.
Thanks to The Daily Kos, the story had a day or so of publicity, then died away. Nobody was all that interested.
Sometimes these things acquire a life when they become part of a narrative. The Mitt Romney discussion of the 47% who pay no federal income tax was the start of just such a narrative.
Of course, approximately 60 percent of those deadbeats are the working poor. Those are the ones you'll see on street corners way early in the morning in workclothes waiting for buses to take them to hard labor low pay jobs. They have federal payroll taxes deducted from every paycheck. They pay local and state taxes. They pay sales tax. Another 20 percent are retirees living off pensions and Social Security. Social Security is also there for those who have become disabled. Military veterans are also part of the 47 percent. Mitt Romney tried to explain later that he was merely providing to his audience of appreciative country club wealth a political analysis.
The part of that analysis that should have been more offensive than it was can be heard in a single sentence. Quite apart from those folks feeling they are entitled to "you name it," completely aside from "My job is not to, to, worry about those people," was this: "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Ezra Klein spells out some of the collision between lazy prejudice and harsh reality:
The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can’t pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can’t necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That’s what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier.
He goes into some detail of the life people born to wealth do not experience.
The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it.
When Melissa Harris-Perry recently exhibited eloquent anger, pointing out that the working poor take greater risks every day than anyone else, she was talking about the daily burden of juggling meager resources, investment of time, and often physical danger in a struggle to survive.
The role of government is a debatable topic. One whose life of wealth has known no interruption should be ashamed at even thinking that "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
The laughter at poverty that Congressional Representative Mary Bono Mack expressed is hard to take back, even six years later. A representative of her campaign says she didn't mean it. "I think she regrets using the word funny and thinks there is a better way to say it."
As Mitt Romney would put it, it was not elegantly stated.
Four years after Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of "hope and change," he now is admitting that a president isn't able to change Washington "from the inside" -- an admission that rival Mitt Romney promptly blasted as "the white flag of surrender."
That was the first paragraph of Fox News coverage of President Obama's recent speech to an audience hosted by Univision, a Spanish language television outlet. The point, of course, has been a consistent theme in Obama's public career. Real change is not initiated by politicians as much as it is imposed on politicians by involved citizens.
The "admission" was indeed the subject of a Romney attack, an attack that was the focus of the Republican campaign for an hour or so. The half-life of Romney campaign themes seems to be getting steadily shorter, tracking roughly in proportion to the shrinking hours of daylight as November approaches.
There used to be some consistent set of ideas common to conservatism. The ideas varied with the beholder. "Cultural" conservatives were once active against integration and voting rights. Eventually it became opposition just to voting rights. Ideological conservatives were opposed to big government. Eventually that got to be an inconsistent mishmash of don't-get-government-into-Medicare type protests, government for me but not for those people. In the old days, there were occasional conservative clashes. William F. Buckley famously defeated the John Birch Society. But even the looniest strain had some sort of consistent set of ideas.
In the current Republican campaign, conservatism seems to have been reduced below mere ideas to a daily misrepresentation of anything Obama has said since he entered the Illinois State Senate. The Obama campaign had a good time breitbarting Mitt Romney in return, sending out a humorous stringing together of little snippets of Romney talk, illustrating the definition of context.
I have to confess that occasional struggles by national conservatives to put forth some reasonable sounding Romney representation kind of make me smile. Well... it's a sort of confession. Mea minima culpa: it is momentary diversion from the serious side of life.
Each week a self-assigned duty involves getting advance notice of what scripture will be read at Sunday service. Some of our liturgists are elderly and need help. I print the reading in large font, and translate some hard-to-pronounce words to their phonetic equivalents. Sometime during the week, I try to make it to the church and put the hard copy on the alter. When I can't get there on a weekday, I attend early worship, the traditional service. I arrive ahead of time with the scripture.
This week I made it to the church Wednesday evening, so yesterday I got to attend the contemporary service. I enjoy the more modern songs, less bound to obscure Elizabethan English. It seems less like ritual, more like something real, something that is a genuine expression of spirituality. It seems more like Jesus is there with us.
Contemporary worship begins a half hour after the traditional service ends, so I was able to catch bits and pieces of NBC's Meet the Press while I got ready. I don't much care for host David Gregory. That's because he doesn't much care for fact checking. "People can fact-check Meet the Press every week on their own terms." He lets folks get away with huge whoppers while catching them on minutia. It's a lazy approach that seems to infect most of modern journalism, but it does have the advantage of saving him the hard work of preparatory research.
This week had Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) as a guest. Naturally, she was asked about Governor Romney's diatribe against the 47% of Americans who believe everything should be handed to them and who refuse to accept any personal responsibility for their own lives. She rambled delightfully. At one point, she protested that it was President Obama, not Governor Romney, who was divisive, putting Americans against each other. The example I caught was the President's change-from-the-outside remark. I smiled at the idea that criticizing politicians was divisive.
If there is one thing that unites Americans, it is a contempt for politicians. Always has been. "Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” That was Mark Twain. The unity of Americans has gotten to new heights of late. The current popularity of Congress parallels that of toothache.
Three facts contribute to President Obama not being blamed for a retched economy. He inherited the gawdawful mess. He has been blocked at every turn by an oppose-everything Congress. Things are improving anyway. So Americans have memories. Americans have minds. And Americans have eyes.
The panel discussion part of Meet the Press was especially enlightening, at least the parts I caught.
Joe Scarborough brought the best news Republicans have heard all week. The election is not until November. HA! There is still time for Mitt Romney to get it right. HA! As we know about Morning Joe is that right means far right. Mitt will win if he stops trying to be a moderate and presents a strong, strong conservative case. Instead of dumping on those who are hurting in today's economy, Mitt should point out that the Republican program will help them. And he should get passionate about it. HA!
Well, I thought, it worked for George Bush.
David Brooks was next at bat. He pointed out that Mitt was not a naturally passionate guy. He's a technocrat, a problem solver, a power point candidate. He should conduct a power point campaign. Here are the 4 ways I'll save American. And you don't have to like me.
I shaved and couldn't nod without stopping. Not liking Mitt would be something most voters seemed to agree on. His not being liked had gotten to the 50% mark, making him the most unlikable candidate since polling on the question had begun.
Bay Buchanan was there to represent the Romney campaign, which meant that her mind already had to have gone into a pretzel shape. She insisted the 47% remark had been taken out of context. So what was the context? "This is a man who has spent a life in serving others." It was a dirty trick. I almost swallowed my mouthwash.
I did miss some of what she was saying. It may have been quite cogent. On the other hand, Mitt Romney's missing two minutes, the time the hidden cell phone was off, would have the same chance of explaining everything he said in a way that would not be repulsive. One website has sponsored an essay contest. What would be the best content of that missing two minutes? What would it take to make the Romney judgment of the other half less severely conservative?
But her attempts to make her own piece with the man who has spent a life in serving those layabouts who refuse to take responsibility failed to win much support from other guests.
At one point she protested that the discussion was becoming a four to one contest, as other conservatives declined to join her fantasies. Joe Scarborough became indignant that he was being grouped with the rest. Well, that's the Joe pretense, isn't it? Standing apart, seeing the truth that leaves others blind.
Driving to worship, I thought about the isolation Bay Buchanan seemed to feel. It occurs to me her lonely defense of Mitt Romney's compassion for the poor, for the middle class, for those not sharing in a life of wealth, was not the unfair four to one contest that frustrated her. It's more like five to one.
Mitt Romney is on the other side.
Obama's people send a spoof of the Romney tactic -
Introduction, Traditional Service,
9:00 AM, September 23, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
We do what is wrong
because we are still growing.
We do what is right out of love.
When we are caught in the snares
of a material world,
we still walk the extra mile
because the extra mile is freedom.
We are not the sum of what we have.
We are not the sum of what we do.
God sees in us more than we can see.
And we are part of a plan
that is greater than our vision.
Found on Line:
Walk an Extra Mile
by Jayne Southwick Cool
Children at Dulin United Methodist Church
Falls Church, VA
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot brings an extraordinary planned space journey, the first of 12 regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. In this case, the fact that it will soon be routine is what makes it extraordinary.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, goes a few months back to what was the primary thrust of the Romney candidacy. As one talking point after another dissolved like the wicked witch of the east encountering water, the Republican candidate is becoming no more than his clothing. Jack counts the ways.
Chuck Thinks Right apparently interprets those recent Romney remarks. "From where I am sitting typing right now, white privilege means working my ass off for the privilege of struggling to pay my bills." You see, in certain circles, white folks are sure minorities don't work.
At News Corpse, Mark tells of the latest instance of the Romney campaign seizing random Obama sentences and twisting them out of context. He chronicles what has become a pattern of breitbarting Obama. It used to be a tactic. Now it seems to be all that is left of Republican strategy.
For example, YAFB at Rumproast tells us of the newest Romney attack on his opponent for saying that Washington can't be changed from the inside, but rather must be changed from the outside. The Romney opponent turns out to be the 2008 version of Mitt Romney, which Rumproast brings to us on video.
And the editing does go on. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame watches Governor Romney slam President Obama for an old tape circa the 1990s in which he talks about redistribution. Tommy tells us about the independent discovery of the rest of the tape. Turns out Republicans weren't quite truthful. I try to control my surprise.
It will get worse. S.W. Anderson at Oh!pinion predicts the Romney campaign will be throwing sludge like crazy. It's not speculative. The basis is what a Romney strategist says the candidate is planning. Republicans won't win in a landslide, but they hope to squeak by, winning in a mudslide.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster brings us polls that show independent voters are the key to New Hampshire, Governor Romney is winning independents nationwide, but President Obama is winning voters in general.
Actually, it's all the fault of a hopelessly biased press. My conservative friend, T. Paine at Saving Common Sense, posts a story about a US Marine to show how the anti-Republican anti-conservative anti-Romney, extremely biased mainstream press makes things up to show that conservative Republicans are evil. He does tell us his illustration is a made up story to show the press is ... you know. Mr. Paine is a talented fellow and manages to keep any knowledge of the irony of his observation from slipping out.
Ryan at Secular Ethics expresses a degree of impatience with the casual, lazy, tough talk type of verbal attack on a President who just might know what he's doing, putting American military lives at risk when it's necessary, not as a first blustery resort.
I'm still getting my head wrapped around a top Mitt Romney foreign policy advisor cautioning us about the dangers posed by the USSR, which country hasn't existed for over two decades. Erin Nanasi of Mad Mike's America not only avoids pounding her head against the table as Liz Cheney accuses President Obama of "abandoning" Czechoslovakia, which became non-existent soon after the USSR. She offers a list of six other countries Liz Cheney can add to her list. My own suggestion would be Lilliput, the country to which Gulliver traveled. Imagine, President Obama abandoning all those Lilliputians and Czechoslovakians.
James Wigderson brings us an entertaining, well mildly entertaining, okay at least somewhat interesting, story of a public works organization that does a number of good things, has a significant budget, and doesn't actually exist.
The Heathen Republican walks us through a personal journey from religious upbringing to atheism. The primary thrust of his interesting narrative is his protest that the knowledge he received in college did not change his religious outlook, but his openness to knowledge did. Sounds quite believable to me. Heathen more typically writes based on his own contemplative conservative approach to extensive research. Just a thought. It occurs to me that occasional autobiography would provide an additional avenue. He did quite well with this instructive piece.
At Why do we have to do this, Sir? our aspiring spiritual leader explores the identity of Jesus and finds in scripture, not a biblical answer given to us, but a biblical question asked of us. Our friend will give blogging a rest for a while. We will welcome him back when he is ready.
Unemployment is high. The recovery is steady but slow. Good people are suffering. A high proportion of working Americans have become not-currently-working Americans. Even higher is the proportion of American war veterans who are out of work. Military people who fought for us, lived in peril for us, and survived to come back, are without work.
Earlier this week, the United States Senate took up consideration of a jobs bill for veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Pretty much all sides agreed it was a desperately needed measure. Democrats and Republicans, in a rare instance of bipartisanship, worked together in crafting the measure. At the last minute, key Republicans changed their minds and voted against allowing it to come to a vote.
The filibuster is the favored method in these modern times, which is to say the years following the last Presidential election, to keep popular legislation from going into effect. So the vote was not on the bill itself. 50 votes would have passed that and there were more than 50 votes. The filibuster vote was a vote on whether to vote. It takes 60 votes to get to a vote, if a minority of Senators choose to oppose it. There were only 58 Senators who wanted a chance to vote for jobs for veterans. 40 Senators voted against voting. All 40 who voted against voting were Republicans.
The proposal was to create a Veterans Job Corps. Veterans would be put to work right away on public lands projects. Training centers would be set up to streamline a path into the private sector. It would have cost a billion dollars over 5 years. That would come out to 200 million dollars a year. The Obama administration came up with a way to pay for it.
It seems a number of corporations owe taxes they haven't paid. A lot of those are health care providers and suppliers. A program of collecting those corporate taxes, along with penalties for not paying those taxes to begin with, would have covered the cost.
Republicans, at the last minute, said they objected to the cost, and also objected to making those corporations pay the taxes they owe.
Most everyone agrees the real reason was politics. They didn't want the President of the United States to get any appreciation from veterans and those who support veterans. So they voted no. Nothing personal against veterans, but politics is politics, for Pete sake.
When he isn't behind closed doors with wealthy folks, Mitt Romney expresses impressive empathy for those who are unemployed. In public, when he knows he's on camera, all talk is absent about workers refusing to receive Romney instruction in personal responsibility.
In fact, ads appeared this week, the same week the Senate voted no on jobs for war veterans, showing Governor Romney speaking before an audience of coal miners. The rally was filmed in August in Beallsville, Ohio. The miners don't look happy. That is understandable. Natural gas is getting very inexpensive and utility companies are switching away from coal. That puts a lot of miners out of work. In the ad, Governor Romney accuses the Obama administration of a war on coal. EPA anti-pollution regulations are the campaign target.
The Romney message is complicated by the fact that President Obama has been pushing hard to get technology developed for clean coal, and by the fact that Mitt Romney conducted his own effort against coal mining in Massachusetts when he was governor. "I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people," said Governor Romney, pointing at a coal plant. "And that plant, that plant kills people."
Well, folks do sometimes change positions in politics.
A bigger problem with the Romney coal ads is that the miners have another reason to be unhappy. They were not with Romney voluntarily. They were ordered to show up at the Romney rally, and they lost a day's pay while they were there. Local miners called a radio station to complain, and the station contacted the employer, the Pepper Pike company. Pepper Pike owns Century Coal mines, where the miners work. A company official confirmed that attendance at the Romney rally was mandatory, and that the miners would not be paid.
As with veterans, the unintended message this week carries more truth than what is presented on purpose. Working men and women, veterans, those without jobs, as well as those afraid of losing the jobs they have, are regarded less as human beings to be respected than as advertising objects.
Republicans are playing to a larger audience and their political play has need of theatrical props. Workers and veterans will do just fine.
. . . the Bain partner I was with turned to me and said, "You know, 95 percent of life is settled if you're born in America." This is an amazing land. And what we have is unique, and fortunately it is so special we're sharing it with the world.
Not bad. Not bad at all. Kind of makes me feel even luckier to be an American. The comment was the best thing on the tape. But there was more, and it wasn't as attractive at all. Some of it was downright horrible. It was not only hard to believe a national candidate could say such things, it was almost impossible.
The brief video came out months ago. It was grainy. It was indistinct. It was a second cousin to the original, a video of another video. Cheap, amateurish. The fellow on screen might have been Mitt Romney. The quality was bad and it was hard to know. Voice sounded like him, but who could say? The video was posted by someone going by the name Rachel Maddow. Ever heard of her?
The video was taken down after a few days. Turns out it wasn't put online by the Rachel Maddow, the one with the television show. In fact, when the television Maddow found out about it, she demanded the video falsely attributed to her be taken off.
Andrew Breitbart, when he was among the living, demonstrated the technology that makes it possible to dice, slice, and splice videos to make it appear someone is saying something completely divorced from anything actually spoken. The graininess, the indistinct image, the short length, the over-the-top content, and the fake Maddow all spoke one word: bogus.
Now, months later, it turns out the video of another video was not bogus at all. The original is online. It is not pretty. It is verified by a negative. The lack of a denial from the Romney campaign pretty much makes the possibility of breitbarting remote to the vanishing point.
In a press conference this week, Governor Romney tried to say the words on video didn't mean what they clearly mean. He plaintively wished the original question to his 47-percent-of-Americans-are-too-lazy-and-irresponsive-too-achieve-success answer had been included. It was. He wanted the entire video released. The next day it was. Additional context didn't make it any better.
There was a gap in the recording. Conservatives, at least some, seized on that gap as the missing context that would have made everything okay, had it been included. But the explanation for that gap was more plausible than any conspiracy theory. The cell phone had an energy saving feature, according to the explanation, that turned itself off after a lack of user input over a period of time. It was turned back on by the user.
It is hard to imagine what sort of context would have made the Romney comments less cartoonish.
As I read the transcript of the video, also published here, I looked for the no-longer-bogus section from months ago. Sure enough, the new video, the one we know is valid, included Governor Romney's patriotic description of America: a country offering freedom and opportunity. And it contained a story that led up to, and illustrated, just why Americans are truly fortunate to live in this country.
The illustration involved a Romney search in China, where he was looking for an opportunity to send American jobs to a slave-labor country.
Romney: And I remember going to—sorry just to bore you with stories—but I was, when I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there, employed about 20,000 people, and they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married, and they worked in these huge factories, they made various small appliances, and as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with little bathrooms at the end with maybe ten rooms. And the rooms, they had 12 girls per room, three bunk beds on top of each other. You've seen them.
Audience member: Oh, yeah.
Romney: And around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire, and guard towers. And we said, "Gosh, I can't believe that you, you know, you keep these girls in." They said, "No, no, no—this is to keep other people from coming in. Because people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out, or they'll just come in here and start working and try and get compensated. So, we—this is to keep people out."
Whether you believe, like the Governor, the story of barbed wire and guard towers to keep peasants out of the workers' paradise he wanted to purchase, what is more striking than the story of exploitation and outsourcing is Mitt Romney's lack of reaction to his own rendition.
Absent is any empathy or even any acknowledgement of the grinding poverty such a story would necessitate in order to be true. Those who lack his success, his wealth, the wealth of the others in that room, can serve as a hook on which to attach a good story about how good we have it.
In another context, separate from this video, Mitt Romney can chuckle at a different story, calling it humorous, about how his father was embarrassed about closing a factory and putting thousands out of work.
It is hard to know the source of this personal coldness. It may be a cocoon-like upbringing of privilege and wealthy entitlement. It may be a post-college adult life devoted to spreadsheets and contracts. It may be some congenital personal characteristic.
But somewhere along the line, ordinary people who do not share his lifestyle have become nothing more than outsourced units of production.
Chinese production workers have become nothing more more than a story about opportunities they will not share.
Embassy personnel have become, in death, nothing more than an opportunity for scoring political points.
The point of political life becomes the targeting of those masses of unwilling pupils too stubborn or unintelligent to be instructed by his virtuous message, too lazy to take responsibility for their own lives.
How do we find an adjective to describe the individual capable of such utterance?
What are we to think of Governor Romney?
Apologists, including Romney himself, are defending his easy dismissal of "the other half" as unreachable. He was, they say, merely providing to his audience the political analysis of the difficulties a conservative faces in these times. Romney does admit the presentation of his assessment was "not elegantly stated."
The Romney campaign has issued an appendix of sorts to the candidate's punditry:
Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.
Ah yes. An election analysis delivered inelegantly but intended to express concern about those struggling in poverty, struggling to find work.
Or as he described them on video: dependent upon government, believing that they are victims, insisting they are entitled to ...well... you-name-it. Those who cannot be convinced to take personal responsibility and to care for their lives.
I dunno. I can't quite get how that is an expression of concern, a sincere desire to help. In fact, he made poverty a moral issue. Those who are not well off are not unfortunate. They are moral inferiors, having a value system that is deeply flawed. In some country clubs, getting tough with the servant class is viewed as a demonstration of virtue. It's for their own good, you know.
Governor Romney challenged Mother Jones, the magazine that had put portions of the video online, to release the entire hour. They did, and the rest of the Boca Raton speech did not get any better. There turned out to be no mitigating context. He had not been breitbarted. This was the real deal, the actual Mitt Romney free and himself.
Why did Mitt Romney do it, this impression of Thurston Howell, laughing at his inferiors? My speculation is simply a best guess, a combination of intuition and observation.
Candidates for election, particularly those running for higher office for the first time, sometimes get self-destructive after primaries are over and general elections are in the offing. Policy positions that might prove popular, or at least salable with some explanation, get lost amid verbal offenses. Candidates get used to sure fire applause lines that had worked every time with partisan audiences, but now turn off a wider electorate. Habits become their own prison, hard to escape.
In 2000, Hillary Clinton was running as a first time candidate for the US Senate. She was asked during a debate about marital problems with Bill Clinton. She gave a heartfelt answer that seemed to touch the audience. When it was her opponent's turn, he offered a cold, harsh, judgment. "What's so troubling is that somehow it only matters what you say when you get caught." He turned to the cameras. "Unfortunately, that's become a pattern, I think, for my opponent." It was a line that had, just a few weeks before, generated appreciative hoots and loud applause from partisan Republican Clinton haters. But the debate with the target of that hostility became a turning point as the more general audience was stunned.
Six years later, running for reelection, she was confronted by an opponent who made his case on the basis of insult. He wondered why Bill Clinton had married someone so ugly. Perhaps she had had cosmetic surgery since then. Hillary haters may have loved it. Nobody else did. She won in a landslide that became legend in its proportions.
Candidates become, over time, a lot like their audiences. They receive feedback. They learn what is appreciated and what leaves folks a little cold. During primaries, their audiences are party voters and are unrepresentative of a larger public. The lessons learned can be false and self-destructive.
Mitt Romney grew to adulthood in an environment most of us cannot imagine. Wealthy country club dwellers may chuckle appreciatively about liking to fire someone. When, in an attempt to illustrate a point about insurance and the marketplace, Mitt Romney utters those words, it becomes emblematic. Quoted out of context, it reinforces an image no candidate wants.
With Mitt Romney, it seems to go a little deeper.
Devoting himself for years to contract minutia, rewarded beyond the hopes of most of humanity, he brings an unfortunate sensibility to the world outside.
In the corporate universe, employees have a legal status with which key executives are often familiar. While performing their duties, while acting in the role of employee, each one is a legal agent of the company. Corporations are legally liable for their actions, even if those actions are not condoned.
When an embassy employee in the Middle East in some potential physical danger tweets a message criticizing an inflammatory video while defending free speech, a connection clicks in, and the candidate recognizes a business career's basic lesson. He condemns the President for what the employee has done. After all, liability doesn't depend on the preexisting knowledge of higher ups. In fact, a responsible executive would not accept the exposure of a corporation to the liability of unauthorized statements. An employee would not only have been fired, but an executive might have felt justified in taking some glee in administering the dismissal. "I like firing people, especially when they don't perform."
The President is to be blamed for sympathizing with those terrorists who killed Americans.
It is all so logical, so businesslike, so contractual. The simple prediction, the easily foreseen fact that the non-corporate world, which is to say the voting world, would take it as a calculated and dishonest attempt to manipulate a group of deaths for political advantage would have occurred to anyone thinking in human terms. Death is not a typical risk in most boardrooms.
Much of his presentation to audiences has been that of hidden clauses and sub-paragraphs. Many of what we see as bald lies can make more sense if we prepend to every Romney sentence the world "Technically." As in "technically, corporations are people, my friend." As indeed they are. Corporations are, by legal definition, entities that function as fictitious people. The clauses and paragraphs say so.
By all accounts, Romney behaved fairly toward associates. It was in negotiations that contractual craftiness became the dwelling place of the mind. A hidden loophole here, an obscure tax benefit there, artful language hiding intent.
Mitt Romney may view his campaign contributors as associates. He regards voters, at least the responsible non-leeches who can be convinced to support him, as seated on the other side of the table, to be bested in the grand negotiation called a national election. Those who do not know to watch out for hidden clauses, who have not learned to beware of flexible meanings, may find later what it means to under-perform.
It is only speculation, but it is the best explanation I can devise as to why he seems so unfeeling, so cold, so contractual. He is a modern corporate miracle, a modern marvel.
His movements are so real. Unless you pay attention for a while, he seems almost human.