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No Apologies…

Newt Gingrich’s umbrage over Barack Obama’s apology for the burning of Qurans on a military base is not that surprising. I could point out that respect for a religious text is decidedly not the actions of a president who is hostile to religion, as Gingrich and his competitors for the GOP presidential nomination have accused Obama of being. However, that’s only a minor point. The larger one is that U.S. politicians have an issue with apologizing at all, for anything.

Mitt Romney likes to state (mostly falsely) that Obama spends all his time apologizing for his country — something Romney would never do. His proof of this is the title of his book, No Apology. Remorse is so… European, I guess.

It occurs to me that the vision the GOP candidates have for America is basically a nation that suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. The signs have always been there, quite frankly, including during George W. Bush’s presidency. He made it clear that our allies were either “for us or against us.” Practically borderline.

No kidding — here’s the list of symptoms from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Believing that you’re better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

Yep, that’s us (or rather the U.S.) all over. And the discourse during the primaries does not instill me with confidence regarding the country’s ability to change. What is advised if you’re involved with a narcissistic person or nation?

If you are currently emotionally involved with someone you think may suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, do not walk. Run! Get out. Get away. Emancipate yourself any way you can, and do not look back.

I leave you with the wise words of Belize from Angels in America.

 

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Bob Dole endorses Mitt Romney and proves he’s still alive…

The Atlantic on Mitt Romney’s growing collection of endorsements from failed GOP presidential candidates:

It’s amusing that Mitt Romney’s campaign would tout a warning from Bob Dole that Newt Gingrich’s nomination would lead to “an Obama landslide,” because not only did Dole himself lose to a young incumbent Democratic president, but also because Romney looks a lot like the Dole of the 2012 Republican primary.

According to the piece, Romney’s campaign sent The National Review a statement from Dole regarding Gingrich:

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.  If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices…

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad.  He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

Yes, Bob Dole does not like Newt Gingrich.

Dole gets around to endorsing Romney, sort of, toward the end of his statement, but his endorsement has far less enthusiasm and passion than his tirade against Gingrich.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney. 

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.

Romney’s campaign and its supporters keep saying that the Obama campaign is attacking Romney because it doesn’t want to face him in the general election. I don’t think Romney himself is that formidable a foe. Obama is going after him because he’s the likely nominee, and this will be a tough race for him no matter who his opponent is. So he’s not wasting any time.

Dole’s endorsement might help further raise concerns among primary voters about Gingrich — although some of those voters might like the fact that Gingrich was so contentious toward Democrats, especially Clinton. However, it doesn’t alter Gingrich’s depiction of Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate.”

There’s also an alarming sense of panic in Dole’s statement: Nominating Gingrich would result in an “Obama landslide”? Many Democrats believe that’s the case (I disagree), but a Republican arguing that it’s even conceivable for Obama to defeat a Republican nominee so soundly is simply not good politics. Gingrich himself has said that Romney would lose to Obama — for the historical reasons with which I’m inclined to agree — but he tends to downplay the loss. It would be a squeaker, perhaps, like 2000 and 2004. But the rout that Dole describes does not fit the GOP narrative of Obama as a failed president.

It doesn’t help the image of Romney as politician who’ll say anything, either. Yesterday, he claimed he’d consider Gingrich for the VP slot — clearly, a lie given that his campaign sent this hit job from Dole. Its whole point is that Gingrich would be poison at the ballot — most likely regardless of where his name was.

This makes me think that there’s a true disconnect in Romney’s campaign regarding the current Republican party. He’s trotting out an assortment of establishment politicians with mixed conservative credentials: John McCain, Nikki Haley, and now Bob Dole. He can’t seem to make headway with the usual suspects at FOX News (Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee). Even sending Dole’s endorsement to The National Review is very 1990s.

It’s probably the best Romney can do because the Tea Party branch of the GOP doesn’t think much of him. A competent campaign — having learned anything from South Carolina — would be courting Tea Party caucus leader Michele Bachmann’s endorsement, as she dislikes Gingrich so much you’d think she was one of his ex-wives.

The Gingrich/Romney battle is compelling to watch not just because of the almost Reality TV level snarkiness, but because it shows a GOP in disarray. Backbiting statements against other Republicans would never have happened even 10 years ago. This is normally the disciplined party, in sharp contrast to the Democrats. It makes Obama vs. Clinton look like a screwball comedy with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Political Theatre

 

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Why S.C. matters…

Reader over at Sullydish questioned the impact of a Gingrich win in South Carolina:

Maybe I’ll feel differently when the SC vote actually comes in, and Mitt loses badly, but I cannot shake the feeling that South Carolina is so different than the rest of the country.  You Lie, pride in treason, hit pieces using John McCain’s children, etc–these are things that play well there.  Surely, the rest of the country is more like Iowa and New Hampshire (where Newt placed fourth), than SC.  Right?  The South doesn’t vote again until Super Tuesday, March 6th.  Nine states take the stage in between.  Sure, Romney could lose, but let a little time pass after this SC politico blood frenzy, and I think Newt ends up a footnote in the Romney nomination story. Right?  Gingrich. Really?

Here’s why I think he’s wrong:

The reason the South Carolina Republican primary matters is because South Carolina represents the Republican base. Plain and simple. When John McCain lost to George W. Bush there in 2000, it was over for McCain. When McCain won the state in 2008, it was a symbolic (though tentative) embrace by the base.

Romney’s collapse is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s in 2008. A South Carolina rout set off a steady decline for her and I think it will for Romney. Clinton was not prepared for a long-game campaign. I’m not sure if Romney is, either. Clinton at least was able to slightly regroup and alter her “inevitability” campaign to one of “seasoned experience” vs “naive inexperience” (turning Barack Obama’s big selling point of “hope and change” against him). She started to play the underdog, the one that the media had turned on in favor of Obama. She also sank to coded speak about Obama’s chances in the general election (“Really, guys? You’re gonna put the black guy up against McCain? We have a chance to win this thing. Don’t squander it.”).

Romney can do none of this. His entire campaign was based on electability and his business background. The former is harder to push when you’re one for three, and the latter has turned into a source of embarrassment. A candidate no one really likes but sort of tolerates because he can beat their Kenyan Muslim Socialist Bogeyman is quickly abandoned if there are other options. And Iowa and South Carolina have been about those other options.

I’ve long believed that Gingrich would have a better chance of defeating Obama than Romney or any of the other sideshow candidates. Gingrich has a history of winning. Romney does not. You can point to Gingrich’s collapse as Speaker but what he accomplished in 1994 is still impressive. Gingrich is a far savvier campaigner and politician. His famous lack of shame allows him to co-opt the success of the 1990s. He can evoke that period, which voters remember with fondness, while Romney can only make vague proclamations about how his business acumen will help him get the economy running again.

I think conservative voters also realize that the United States is not a business. They also recognize the gridlock in Washington and know that a Republican president might have to deal with a Democratic Senate or possibly House. Success in politics requires a skilled politician. It’s better for the GOP that Gingrich remind voters of this now rather than have Obama do it later in the general election.

I’m not impressed by Romney’s “traditional” politics. Better organization is what allowed Obama to win Iowa, to close in on Clinton in New Hampshire and win South Carolina. It allowed him to outfight Clinton “rope-a-dope” style. Romney’s “organization” resulted in his losing Iowa to a guy with a “Google” problem and losing South Carolina to a guy with enough wives to form a rock band (“Newt & the Exes” will play at the 40 Watt Club in Athens next month).

The assertion that Romney is the most electable Republican makes me almost believe there’s a liberal media bias. This belief is based in the notion that independent swing voters will choose a moderate. It arrogantly presumes that independent voters are more inclined to vote for someone like the Democrat but with a different tie. History, of course, has yet to bear that out: McCain lost in 2008, Dole lost in 1996, and Bush lost in 1992. This is the fate of Republican candidates who Democrats “sort of” like — and Romney can’t even claim that.

No, Gingrich reminds me of George W. Bush: Someone most conservatives like and most on the left hate. Remember that U.S. voters elected Bush twice (well, at least once).

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Political Theatre

 

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Why Newt’s past is relevant…

I wrote yesterday about the GOP rush to defend the pretty much indefensible behavior of Newt Gingrich. The entertainment continues today and shows no signs of becoming less ridiculous.

Sarah Palin, who in Greek myth would be the physical embodiment of ridiculousness, made the claim on Sean Hannity’s radio show that ABC News aired the interview with Gingrich’s second ex-wife Marianne to “derail his campaign.” She then said in the most eloquent manner possible that these efforts would backfire.

PALIN: I call them dumbarses. They, thinking that by trotting out this old Gingrich divorce interview that’s old news — and it does feature a disgruntled ex, claiming that it would destroy his campaign — all it does, Sean, is incentive conservatives and independents who are so sick of the politics of personal destruction, because it’s played so selectively by media, that their target, in this case Newt, he’s now going to soar even more. Because we know the game now, and we just won’t put up with it.

Dumbarses? Palin is a grandmother but isn’t she a little young to be the “kooky grandmother” who says whatever pops into her head during Thanksgiving dinner? And how long does she plan on referring to the “media” as a separate entity from the media that pays her rent?

It’s not even logical that ABC News would go to the trouble of destroying Gingrich’s campaign when it would depend on the network knowing ahead of time about (former?) frontrunner Romney’s weak debate performances, Gingrich’s resulting surge, and Rick Perry’s exit from the race and endorsement of Newt. Any rational person knows that ABC’s time travel budget has been greatly slashed.

I’m not sure if Palin is aware that the phrase “politics of personal destruction” was first used by Richard Gephardt in a 1998 speech during the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings. Gingrich was a willing participant in this destruction. He has dismissed the apparent hypocrisy on what amounts to semantics, but it seems sufficient to appease most of his supporters.

When asked about his ex-wife’s allegations during Thursday’s GOP debate in South Carolina, Gingrich worked some spellbinding political sleight of hand.

“To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” Gingrich went on, calling the allegation “false” and provoking a standing ovation from the debate audience.

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s (David) Brody said that Gingrich’s response to the “open marriage” question “took a weakness and turned it into a strength.”

Bill Clinton himself is sufficient evidence that the media does not target candidates selectively. It goes where the stories are, and sex scandals sell. Arguably, an interview with a “disgruntled ex” of Gingrich is just as relevant as an interview with a disgruntled former employee of Mitt Romney. Gingrich’s Super PAC released the video “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” about his time with Bain Capital (again, really, “Bain” is the name you choose for your company). He later asked for it to be re-edited or removed from the Internet entirely due to inaccuracies. This is the “Eat Your Cake and Have It Too” approach to politics that Stephen Colbert is effectively skewering with his own Super PAC.

Romney is campaigning as a successful businessman who can turn around the economy. Gingrich seeks to puncture that image by illustrating the actual results of Romney’s form of “vulture capitalism.” However, Gingrich is campaigning as a “Reagan Conservative.” He still talks about “traditional values” and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

I realize the president is not the Pope because a woman could actually hold the former office. I don’t care if you have more ex-wives than Michael Mancini from Melrose Place and choose to run for president. I do care if you support Proposition 8 under the pretense of “protecting marriage” while perhaps legally qualifying as the worst husband since King Henry.

Gingrich supports Prop 8 on apparent belief that the majority can remove rights from the minority. What these “appointed lawyers” understand is that their job is to enforce the Constitution. Alabama can’t suddenly vote to stimulate the economy by reviving slavery. It would certainly be unfortunate for Gingrich if the nation had voted to “protect marriage” by banning divorce. He’d still be with his second wife… or even his first.

This is why I don’t buy the “I’ve made mistakes in my past, which I regret” line that Gingrich feeds his supporters. Marianne Gingrich is still alive. He could have ended his affair with Callista and returned to his wife. He instead not only divorced her but married his mistress. Everything came out Ethel Merman for him.

Rick Perry had no trouble telling a 14-year-old bisexual girl that homosexuality is a sin and that gays serving openly in the military is not “good public policy.” Yet, he takes a “no one’s perfect” attitude toward a man breaking the seventh commandment and then marrying his partner in crime. Callista Gingrich is not a “mistake” from the past or “old news.” She’s very much a part of the present.

This is the man that evangelicals would prefer to Barack Obama, who to my knowledge has had only one wife. Michelle Obama also has no history of “husband napping.”

“To a degree, [Gingrich's past] will give [evangelical voters] pause, but there’s a much more insatiable appetite to defeat President Obama,” said Brody… “Gingrich has never claimed to be a patron saint.. People have known for years about Gingrich’s marriage issues. In a way, his well-known history of troubled marriage works for him here.”

No, discussing Gingrich’s past is not “despicable” or the “politics of personal destruction.” Gingrich chose to make the personal political, and while that is despicable, it is appropriate to draw back the curtain on his own corruption.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Political Theatre, Pop Life

 

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Iowa, Newt & open marriages…

Not a dull day in the GOP primary race.

The results of the Iowa caucus appear to have reversed themselves. John Nichols of the Nation writes the following about that shameful circus.

Even before (Mitt Romney’s) New Hampshire win—which was always pretty much a given for the New England candidate who essentially lives in the Granite State—no less a GOP commentator than former White House political czar Karl Rove was suggesting that the Iowa caucus results represented a huge coup for the unloved front-runner. Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on January 5 about “A Big Win for Romney in Iowa.”

Some of us questioned at the time whether an eight-vote advantage (out of 123,503 cast) qualified for the “big win” title. But because of the way that the Iowa results produce a headline that tends to define the next stages of the nominating process, the fact that Romney came out on top—even by the narrowest of margins—was a big deal.

Or not.

Because, of course, Romney did not “win”Iowa.

He lost.

Or, at least, it looks like Romney lost.

The Iowa Republican Party has released the “final, certified totals of the January 3 Iowa Caucus presidential preference vote,” and they show Rick Santorum with 29,839 votes to 29,805 for Romney.

Now, some will say that a thirty-four-vote lead is not exactly a landslide.

But Santorum’s “certified”lead is four times as substantial as Romney’s preliminary “big win.”

I’m not your standard-issue tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy nut (my tin-foil hat was misplaced during my recent move), but I found Rove’s involvement in the caucus results suspicious. I was following the vote count on January 3. Santorum was consistently ahead with most precincts reporting until a “source” told Rove that Romney would win.

Oh well. Guess that wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately, due to the 24-hour-news cycle, these contests aren’t like a sporting event where the winner is whoever scored the most points. It’s a game of perception. Calling victory for a candidate prematurely can have a permanent impact on the direction of a primary, especially one in which the frontrunner’s entire campaign is based on “inevitability.” No one can claim Romney inspires passion in the electorate. He’s a bandwagon candidate. It’s believed he’s the best equipped to defeat Barack Obama in November so voters are jumping on that bandwagon. But if that isn’t the case — if he can’t even beat a former senator who lost his last election by 18 points — maybe he’s not the guy. Maybe it’s time to look at candidates you actually like.

I don’t think the Iowa screw-up affected the New Hampshire primary results all that much. However, if I were Santorum, I might think that my chances in South Carolina were derailed. Electability is often cited as a reason for voting for Romney. If Santorum had entered South Carolina with a win under his belt, it’s possible he could be in the position Newt Gingrich is in now.

Speaking of Newt Gingrich’s positions, his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich has gone public with information about their marriage that puts him in a bad light, and we’re talking about a guy who says this in public:

According to Mrs. Gingrich, Newt “offered (her) a choice of an open marriage or a divorce when he revealed to her he was having an affair with the woman (Callista Gingrich) he later made his third wife.”

A day after he told his wife about his affair with Callista Bisek in May 1999, the former House speaker delivered a speech titled “The Demise of American Culture” to a group of Republican women in Pennsylvania, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?” Marianne Gingrich said in her interview with the Post.

Pretty easily apparently. Maybe it tormented him as much as Reverend Dimmesdale’s hypocrisy ate at him in The Scarlet Letter. By the way, Marianne Gingrich is Newt’s second ex-wife, which reminds me of this exchange from Manhattan:

“I said to him ‘Newt, we’ve been married a long time,’ and he said ‘Yes, but you want me all to yourself. Callista doesn’t care what I do,’” Marianne Gingrich said in the clip released by ABC, describing the couple’s conversation near the end of their 18-year marriage.

Her husband, who had already left Congress, was asking “that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life,” Marianne Gingrich said.

“Oh, he was asking to have an open marriage and I refused,” she said.

Gingrich has already admitted to past adultery — apparently because he loves America so much. Conservative voters still embrace him because of his commitment to breaking up gay families as effectively as he did his own. Gingrich has criticized Obama for not enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. Gingrich insists that as president, he would not only enforce the law but pursue a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Given his background, his stance is hypocritical, but South Carolina primary voters have historical precedence for overlooking this sort of thing.  When he was 22, future South Carolina Governor and Senator Strom Thurmond had an affair with his 16-year-old black maid. The union produced a daughter, and Thurmond spent much of his career making every effort to ensure that the United States was as inhospitable for her as possible. Some fathers go with a trust fund, but parenting styles differ.

Romney has expressed his concern for Obama’s imaginary attempts to turn the United States into a “European welfare state,” but Gingrich is successfully turning it into a Swedish sex film — at least based on the conservative reaction to Marianne Gingrich’s statements.

Rush Limbaugh and then Tampa-based radio host Todd Schnitt spent much of their broadcasts dwelling on the Gingrich story, which is essentially old news except for two facts:

1) ex wife Marianne was on TV talking about it (she’ll dish all after the tonight’s CNN debate Nightline),

2) the word “open marriage” became part of the political lexicon.

The conservative hosts blamed the “liberal media” for talking about the smear, which they then promptly talked about all day on conservative radio in South Carolina.

Most of Schnitt’s callers seemed sympathetic to Gingrich.So did many of the callers earlier to Limbaugh.Limbaugh lauded Gingrich for having had the “decency” to ask his former wife if he could see another woman, rather than simply cheat on her without permission. He also suggested that affairs are common, noting that about half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce.‘There’s even a book on how open marriages can be good… I read it in the 70s,” Limbaugh said before dropping a reference to James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which ends with a cheater’s soliloquy by Molly Bloom.

OK.

Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race today after realizing he hadn’t been in it, endorsed Gingrich and subtly alluded to the allegations.

“Newt’s not perfect, but who among us is?” Perry said. He called the former House speaker a “conservative visionary” best suited to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

Exactly. Let he who has not cheated on his first wife and then left her when she was dying of cancer and then cheated on that wife with a Congressional intern and asked her for an “open marriage” just as she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis cast the first stone. Let’s focus on the true villain here — Barack Obama and his imaginary war on religion and Christmas.

If Gingrich does manage to win the South Carolina primary, it would also be a political black eye for Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Romney.

Onward to Saturday, huh?

 
 

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Selective Rational Self-Interest…

Charles M. Blow of the New York Times has an interesting piece about the “politics of envy.”

In his New Hampshire victory speech on Tuesday, Romney lambasted his Republican opponents (who have raised real issues about his role at the private equity firm Bain Capital) for following the lead of President Obama, whom he described as a leader who divides us “with the bitter politics of envy.”

The next day on “Today” on NBC, Romney defended the statement, rejecting the notion that there were questions about Wall Street behavior, saying the whole discussion was about class warfare. He even went so far as to suggest that such talk shouldn’t even be openly entertained. When the interviewer asked, “Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?” Romney responded, “I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like.”

Quiet rooms? This isn’t a discussion of Keats in the sumptuously furnished salon of the Earl of Stuffypants. This is a serious issue. As Blow points out, the problem is that we’ve been “too quiet for too long” and I agree with him that if the Occupy movement deserves any praise, it should be for making these issues public and making certain people very uncomfortable.

And it is these people’s “discomfort” that this is all about. They rail about “class warfare” when very real concerns regarding income disparity are raised but are quick to warn voters about the insidious spread of socialism. Please note that the former concern is based on the history of the past 30 years. The latter is based on science fiction.

It’s not that they don’t want to fight a class war. They just don’t want the other classes to defend themselves. Shut up and take it while wondering what the hell happened in the “your quiet room” — before your friends at the bank foreclose on it.

I’ve stated before that Republicans these days sound more like Randians than anything else. However, I’m struck by the level of inconsistency in their beliefs. They have no interest in sacrificing for you but believe you should sacrifice for them. Basically, “one for all and all for us.”

The issue people have with Mitt Romney and Bain Capital (really, who names a company “Bain”?) is not based in “envy” so much as the simple fact that the system didn’t work for them. Should the 1,750 people who lost their jobs at Georgetown Steel applaud Romney’s business acumen in simultaneously doubling Bain’s investment even though Georgetown Steel eventually went bankrupt? The commonly trotted out excuse that Romney and his supporters give is that Bain’s actions “saved” other jobs, but this doesn’t mean much for the people whose jobs weren’t saved. Isn’t that “cold comfort” closer to the “socialism” Republicans revile? Putting the interests of others and of the “corporate state” over their own? How is that in their “rational self-interest”?

I’ve been in the position of having to fire employees whose jobs were being sent elsewhere. The HR talking points I was given had a section regarding how this “decision was not taken lightly” and would “benefit the company as a whole, by allowing it to remain competitive.” I refused to repeat this nonsense — pointing out that even if these statements were true, why should the terminated employee care? The only reason to try to reassure him that the company doesn’t “like” firing people is to avoid negative PR and only serves the company’s interests — from the employee’s perspective, the motivation doesn’t change the end result. And why should he care about the health of the “corporate state” once he’s been expelled from it? It’s not like he has stock in the company that will generate revenue for him even if he no longer earns a salary.

Hostess pulled the same shenanigans when it announced its latest bankruptcy.

In a court document explaining how the company got into this mess, Hostess largely pins the blame on its labor costs, as well as increased competition, poor financial performance and excessive levels of debt. Hostess also says the company didn’t do enough to fix itself during a lengthy prior stint in bankruptcy protection less than a decade ago.

Hostess said it does not “have a competitive cost structure and cannot achieve viability on a long-term sustainable basis,” according to its court filing. ”The company obtained only modest concessions relating to health and welfare, as well as inflexible requirements under their collective bargaining agreements relating to work rules,” Hostess says in its court filing, which says the company and its employees have 372 separate labor agreements.

“Modest concessions” relating to “health and welfare”? So, apparently it’s the unionized labor’s fault for not allowing management to create a more efficient plantation-style model in which they sacrifice for the company’s long-term profit and benefit. Their employees’ well-being seems to mean little to the company so why should the employees be all that concerned about the company?

Why is rational self-interest so selective in this country? Millionaires paying more in taxes is an unfair burden. It’s wealth redistribution. But unionized labor — even teachers — must “sacrifice” for the sake of the nation.

Is this an example of “some animals are more equal than others”? Whatever the bill of good that’s been sold, Americans are slowly realizing it’s a con. We are either all in this together or we’re not. If “sacrifice” leads to “socialism,” then it’s in working-class people’s best interests to advocate for better pay and better benefits (by “better,” I refer to the distant past prior to the Reagan administration). If you’re one of the countless Americans who don’t have health insurance, you are under no obligation to continue to sacrifice for the corporations that need to deprive you of those benefits to “remain competitive.”

Newt Gingrich argues that raising the minimum wage would lead to unemployment. Suppose he’s right (and I don’t) and companies would have to get by with 10% less employees if working-class wages are increased. Isn’t Comrade Gingrich advocating for a socialist system where you take a pay cut for the benefit of your coworkers and the “state” (your company)? If this is a “merit” society, as Romney likes to say before adding more millions to his children and grandchildren’s trust funds, then the best employees would survive the resulting cuts and have more to show for it. Would the company’s profits suffer if the workforce decreased? Perhaps. But if you’re making minimum wage, the minimum you should care is whether the company keeps the doors open.

It does make you wonder who the real “socialists” are in this country. And why the average Americans fear the “public state” more than the “corporate state,” which as far more power over their lives these days.

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Capitalism, Pop Life

 

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How Mitt Romney defines “risk” and “entitlements”…

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently expressed his concern about what he perceives as a growing “entitlement” society:

“In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government. The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.”

“Entitlement” has become a dirty word, but the word “entitle” actually appears in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson argued that these rights were “self-evident” and granted by our “Creator,” but even if you aren’t religious, it seems clear that the American experiment is based on entitlement. If you’re not entitled to anything, then the world is essentially might makes right and Jefferson and his supporters would have had no moral position upon which to base their desired break with Britain.

But I digress — Romney’s statement also illustrates how distinctly differently he and I view the economic system in this country. His new stump speech has the typical conservative poor-bait: Poor people are stupid (“regardless of education”), lazy (“regardless of… effort”) and want to take what you have worked so hard to build (“same or similar rewards”).

I especially take issue with “willingness to take risk.” Who do you think Romney considers “risk takers”? I’d bet $10,000 of his money that he means entrepreneurs, small (and large) businessmen, and investors. That’s not an incorect description but it defines risk metaphorically — perhaps the loss of money or position — rather than literally — loss of life or limb.

What every fashion-forward factory worker will wear in a Mitt Romney administration.

The Daily Beast listed the 20 Deadliest Jobs in America. They include: Fisherman (Avg. Salary: $22,160), Firefighter (Avg. Salary: $47,760), Airplane Pilot (Avg. Salary: $53,990), Police Officer (Avg. Salary: $55,400), Logger (Avg. Salary: $35,360), Roofer (Avg. Salary: $41,200), Sanitation Worker (Avg. Salary:  $37,830), Bus Driver (Avg. Salary: $34,820), Animal Farmer (Avg. Salary: $24,930), Grain Farmer (Avg. Salary: $24,930), Industrial Machine Repairmen (Avg. Salary: $42,220), Warehouse Operator (Avg. Salary: $34,910), Truck Driver (Avg. Salary:  $40,860), Landscaper (Avg. Salary: $29,430), Carpenter (Avg. Salary: $42,750), Steel Worker (Avg. Salary:  $49,020), Construction Worker (Avg. Salary: $46,500), Cement Manufacturer (Avg. Salary:  $39,010).

We need all these people in order for our society to function. Yet most made about a tenth of the $300,000 Newt Gingrich earned for offering his advice as a historian to Freddie Mac. So, if Romney wants to talk about risk, perhaps our discussion should start here.

When Romney talks about “that which is earned by some is redistributed to the others,” I’m sure that gets his supporters’ blood boiling. Man, those poor people again — sitting at home watching their big-screen TVs and cashing their welfare checks while honest Americans are at work. They probably don’t consider how Romney made his fortune. It’s all through investments. His private equity firm Bain Capital had stakes in Domino’s Pizza, Staples, and The Sports Authority, among others. Here’s how it works: The employees at these companies create a product, which generates revenue, which goes into the pockets of the investors.  Sounds like wealth redistribution to me. The workers are paid upfront for their efforts but don’t share in the wealth if the company does well. They merely are the first to share in the misfortune if the company does poorly. That’s hardly equal “risk” to folks like Romney. It’s about as much risk as a plantation owner determining which slave is the largest and most likely to work the hardest and longest before dying of exhaustion. This also sounds like the same retirement plan that Romney would offer the average American worker.

Romney claims that the only people who would benefit from wealth redistribution is the government. Wealth redistribution already exists, as part of the rigged game in which the CEO of “Dangerous Construction Company Unlimited” makes millions while the people actually doing the work barely get by. Romney rightly would fear government regulation because the average person has a direct stake in government. They can vote and steer policy so that the good of everyone is considered as opposed to the good of a few. Why would the American aristocracy support that? Romney’s policies, especially regarding the estate tax, would ensure that the current entitlement culture continues — the one in which his children and grandchildren, who have a blind trust valued between $70 to $100 million, could choose to never work a day in their lives… “regardless of their education, effort, and willingness to take risk.”

Of course, the larger question is that if an entlitement society existed in which everyone had equal rewards and equal outcomes… would that be so bad? OK, I know your socialist sense is tingling, but if you were a lawyer and made $250,000 a year, would it really bother you if a firefighter or construction worker made the same? Even half would greatly alter their lifestyles for the better.

Romney does not seem to argue from the position that such “wealth redistribution” flatly won’t work but rather that we should be offended on the face of it. He says “everyone would be worse off.” Really? Is he honestly concerned about a scenario where a sanitation worker is going to be paid less? Or he is worried about the American aristrocracy of which he is gold-card carrying member? Countless CEOs make enough — even as part of exit packages when they almost ruin their companies — to secure a comfortable living not just for themselves but for their grandchildren who don’t even exist yet. This happens while the “rank and file” employees (I’ve worked someplace where that term was used daily, generally to describe why they weren’t receiving a benefit my colleagues and I were) get by on pre-chewed peanuts.

The fatuous response is to say that this is simply how the market works, and the government cannot legislate “fairness.” However, public companies represent the interests of their shareholders (most of whom don’t work at the company) rather than the interests of all their employees. The board of directors are like pirates who loot the futures of their employees and share their bounty with each other and their closest subordinates. This is not capitalism. It’s theft.

So, when Romney presents himself as the president who will prevent the creation of an entitlement society, he’s engaging in a pathetic and craven sleight-of-hand to distract you from the one that already exists, the one that has slowly destroyed the U.S. middle class over the past 30 years, and the one that he is desperate to protect.

 

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Newt Gingrich & The Sissy Gene…

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich — excuse me, DR. Newt Gingrich, M.D. — made the following comment about homosexuality on Thursday:

Asked if people can choose to be gay, Gingrich told the Des Moines Register editorial board that he does not “believe in genetic determinism, and I don’t think there is any great evidence of genetic determinism.”

He said that certain people may choose to be gay if they have certain genetic traits and are raised in a certain environment.

“I think people have a significant range of choice within a genetic pattern,” he said. “I believe it’s a combination of genetics and environment. I think that both are involved. I think people have many ranges of choices.”

Why is it that heterosexual GOP presidentidal candidates appear to have more to say about homosexuality (what causes it and its impact on society) than actual homosexuals? Congressman Barney Frank was in the closet compared to these guys.

Politicians stating that homosexuality is a choice is nothing new, and it’s both illogical and irrelevant. If you don’t believe heterosexuality is a choice, then it would follow that neither is homosexuality. However, if you are inclined to believe that heterosexuality is innate and that certain people choose to veer from that norm, it’s irrelevant. Shouldn’t we value freedom of choice in the United States? It certainly is less of a threat to me and my wife if my neighbor is gay than if he chooses to own an assault weapon.

Where Gingrich ventures into dangerous territory (not for him, of course, but for gays) is when he states that one is more inclined to choose the homosexual lifestyle if they have “certain genetic traits” and “are raised in a certain environment.” He tacitly acknowledges a “Sissy Gene” but implies that it would remain dormant in the “right” environment. Those of us who possessed the “Sissy Gene” – whether we were gay or not — know the hell it can be growing up around those who either want to mock you or “fix” you.

I was a black kid who hated sports and loved musical theatre in 1980s Greenville, South Carolina. It wasn’t pretty. The only women whose posters I had on my walls were gay icons (Marilyn, Judy, Liza) or androgynous (Annie Lennox in her “Sweet Dreams” video suit). I once came home from school and my mother had replaced my Annie Lennox poster with one of Whitney Houston from her “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” days.

I told my mother, “In 20 years, the world will remember Whitney Houston as a crackhead who married a bigger crackhead and will recognize the generations-spanning genius of Annie Lennox.” I didn’t really say that but it’s one of the many reasons I want a working time machine.

My father also tried to help me with sports. I appreciated that he wanted to spend time with me, but it was agonizing. After he took me to a basketball game, my mother asked for a status report. “Well, he fell asleep during the first quarter, but I think he was almost happy before he dozed off.”

My parents were well-meaning. They only wanted their son to be normal. No parent wants their child to be called “queer” or “fag” (as I was) if it can be avoided. Almost 25 years later, I’d like to think we’ve reached a point where we can support differences. As writer Peter David once said, “There’s no such thing as normal. Just varying degrees of abnormality.” But Gingrich and his ilk wish to use their own political time machine to take us even further back: “If your kid winds up gay and thus suffers through all the crap that people like me are going to hurl at her, then it’s your fault. You’re to blame.”

Of course, this is about as effective as black parents trying to make their child “more white” because life would be easier. All you’re going to wind up with is a tormented kid. Or Carlton Banks from “The Fresh Prince” (oh, I got compared to him a lot as well — the white kids thought I spoke “queer,” the black kids thought I spoke “white,” the white kids got offended with the black kids for implying that they spoke “queer,” I sneaked off in all the confusion.)

Fortunately, twenty years later, TV has progressed from telling black kids that their only options are “white-acting” and “thuggish.” Right?

Oh, yeah, well done, “30 Rock.”

What’s most sinister about Gingrich’s comments is how it turns a common retort from gay-rights supporters on its ear: “Why would anyone choose to be gay?” That’s because we make it too easy for them. We let them have too many rights. Our coddling culture is just enabling their degeneracy.

Ultimately, my parents loved me and most likely would have supported me if I had been gay. Too many gay kids out there don’t have that luxury. Their parents’ love is contingent on making them look good in society’s eyes and will not hesitate to make life miserable for their “sissy” sons and “butch” daughters. So, we’ll have another generation of sons who dread sinking airballs in front of their fathers because it means far more than just losing a game, and we’ll see more girls forced to try to walk in heels when they’re more comfortable in Chuck Taylors.

Gingrich might like that world, but to me, it’s a hell on earth, and as Ricky Roma said, “I won’t live in it.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Political Theatre, Social Commentary

 

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The Non-Passion of the Romney…

Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor with the alliterative Stan Lee-inspired name, made the following ringing endorsement of presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Iowa:

“If you’re looking for a candidate who agrees with you on everything, buy a mirror,” Christie told a crowd of about 150 at the headquarters of the Kum & Go convenience store chain. “I’m out here to tell you that I’m supporting him because I believe he’s the best qualified person to be president, and I believe he’s the only Republican who can win.”

The Romney campaign’s concern is that GOP primary voters’ passion is drifting toward Newt Gingrigh, who is surging in recent polls of early voting states. This is problematic as Gingrich is a trainwreck of a candidate — saddled with the baggage of an aging drag queen going on a two-month cruise to the Bahamas. A polarizing figure, he regulars ranks as “Republican Democrats Least Want to Have a Beer With Unless It Contained Arsenic” and that includes George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, whose “folksy” charm he lacks. Considering that defeating the incumbent president would involve persuading a good number of the people who voted for Obama in 2008 to switch camps, that’s an issue.

Although Christie trumpets Romney’s electability, GOP primary voters have consistently rejected it at the polls. And while it will serve as no consolation to the former Massachusetts governor, the reality is that as fickle as primary voters have been with their passions — initially playing footsie with Michele Bachmann, then flirting with Rick Perry before moving on to Herman Cain — they have been consistent in their lack of amor for Romney.

I never really got why Romney was dubbed the front runner in the race. Maybe he bought the title from the media at a silent auction. He’s never boasted the double digit lead and sense of inevitability that Hillary Clinton possessed prior to Obama’s Iowa upset in 2008. There was also a lot of passion among Clinton supporters for their establishment candidate. They didn’t just want to win. They believed in her. Does anyone really believe in Romney?

Romney can probably blame Obama for his current predicament. Christie is currently singing a similar tune to those Clinton supporters who warned that Obama would never win in the general election, especially against likely nominee John McCain. This advice was ignored and Obama eventually triumphed. So conservatives now might think there’s no need to settle. Their dream candidate, once they get around to settling on him or her, could actually win.

That’s insane, of course, because as everyone but the staunchest right-winger realizes is that Obama had appeal to the mainstream, independent voters who ultimately decide elections. They are the ones who candidates spend the general election trying to convince. They voted for Reagan. They voted for Clinton. They voted for Bush. And they voted for Obama. Meanwhile, primary voters are usually registered members of their respective parties who would not cross party lines even if the oppossing candidate were Jesus Christ. That’s your base, though, and you’ve got to win them over first before you can make it to the general election.

Romney’s hope all along has been that the GOP base’s hatred of Obama is so great that they will overlook their antipathy for him and put him forward because he’s the most electable candidate. The flaw in this thinking is that the candidate with the limp base has never sealed the deal. That was McCain’s problem. It was also John Kerry’s, which might also be a case study for GOP voters: Democrats turned from Howard Dean toward the more establishment and arguably more electable Kerry, and it didn’t get them anywhere.

Obama can also rely on a fairly solid base. The GOP primary has been one long horror movie in 3-D that will prove more effective in getting Obama supporters to the polls than his most soaring speech. Is there some disappointment among the liberal base regarding Obama? Yes, but disappointment is dfferent from dislike. The former is usually reserved for your son who keeps bringing home women who pop their gum when they speak. You’ll still support him in the end. Dislike is what McCain faced in 2008 and Romney might face in 2012.

Looking back at the Democrat’s 2008 primary race, you could argue that a protracted, bruising path to the nomination is not necessarily fatal. However, I think that fit the Obama narrative. Romney can never lay claim to being the underdog. Clinton vs. Obama was historic. Romney vs. Anyone But Romney is hardly that, but I am glad I have my free pair of 3-D glasses.

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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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How the Gingrich insults poor people…

Newt Gingrich has a curious hobby. No, not his semiannual weddings but his habit of insulting poor people.

Recently, Gingrich suggested “that American school systems should fire their unionized janitors and let underprivileged children do the work instead, according to a report in Politico.” It’s worth noting that he made these comments to the countless underprivileged kids at Harvard University.

This was rejected as more of Gingrich’s typical, “are there no prisons?” nonsense — similar to his statements about orphanages back in the early ’90s. Dave Jamieson at The Huffington Post dismantled Gingrich’s argument:

Despite its relatively modest pay, a janitor’s job isn’t as easy as Gingrich seems to think it is. According to the Labor Department, a janitor needs to be able to carry out a long list of duties and repairs during a typical day: Mop and polish floors, handle dangerous chemicals, even perform basic electrical and plumbing repairs. At schools, they also need to interact well with children and, at times, clean up their vomit.

A janitor’s job is also more dangerous than most American occupations — and hardly fit for children, according to the Labor Department’s description of the work. Janitors, it notes, “may suffer cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, handtools, and chemicals. They spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching.”

Gingrich did not skulk away quietly in the light of reason. He now claims his views were “spun out of control” by “the left” (yeah, those guys again).

“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,” the former House speaker told an audience at the headquarters for Nationwide Insurance.

Paris Hilton demonstrates the work ethic and value of a dollar her family fortune instilled in her.

This is demonstrably false and insulting. Poor children see their parents working sometimes multiple jobs in order to survive. He seems to have the poor confused with the idle rich, such as (Pick Your) Kardashian and ex-con Paris Hilton.

He then seemed to imply that a young, poor individual’s only likely source of possible income would be from breaking the law.

“They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’–unless it’s illegal.”

Again, I think he’s confused the poor with his buddies at Freddie Mac. True, no one has been arrested yet for bringing down the U.S. economy and quite a few people in poor neighborhoods are arrested because they live in poor neighborhoods.

Gingrich added that most successful businesspeople he knows started work “early” and made some kind of money when they were kids, whether it was by babysitting or mowing lawns.

He’s describing in a general sense what we call “chores” — a valuable, character-building concept but not technically “work.” I mowed the lawn myself (the backyard until my father trusted me near the front yard when I was in high school) but that was for comic book money. I never had to work to put food on the table. And I never had politicians suggesting that my father should lose his job and — if that wasn’t enough of a punch in the gut — his teenage son should replace him for a fraction of the cost.

“What if you paid them part time in the afternoon to sit in the clerical office and greet people as they came in? What if you paid them to work as the assistant librarian? And I’d pay them as early as is reasonable and practical,” he said Thursday.

What Gingrich isn’t addressing is that working-class jobs — be they clerical or janitorial — used to be something for which an adult could earn a living wage. Gingrich and his ilk have pretty much eliminated that. And, yes, technology has also done its part. However, if you wish to invest in children and their future, the key is education. After-school programs such as the Drama Club, yearbook, or orchestra instill responsibility, teamwork, and improve self-esteem. Let’s actually focus on putting these poor kids’ parents back to work. This doesn’t mean that after-school jobs for kids is a bad idea. I learned a lot working in a supermarket in high school. I was able to even open my first checking account. However, Gingrich does a disservice to everyone by insisting these “moral” lessons are exclusive to the poor. A rich kid can benefit from sweeping the floors of his school, as well.

Gingrich may be many things not printable in a family publication but he’s not stupid. The contempt he’s shown for the poor with these comments and also his comments about the Occupy movement implies that he believes a majority of U.S. voters think this way. We need to prove him decisively wrong.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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