July 30, 2012 -- And so began the excellent adventures of “Mitt the Twit” in far off London town where the world gathered to engage in the Summer Olympics. It is the first step of our goodwill ambassador’s overseas tour which will take him from England to Israel to Poland.
His arrival in London certainly got the attention of his British hosts. “Mitt the Twit” is the label the Daily Sun has given him, followed by “Wannabe President in Games insult -- but Cam insists: We'll show you.”
The Times, “ ‘Nowhere man' Romney loses his way with gaffe about the Games.”
The Guardian, “Romney's diplomatic gaffe: Mitt falls at the first hurdle.”
The Daily Telegraph, “Hardly a ringing endorsement from the visiting presidential hopeful,” plus editorial cartoon of a grinning, cleft-chinned Mitt gluing a big "Romney for President" bumper sticker over the logo of the London Games.
Daily Mail, “Who invited party-pooper Romney?” with sidebar, “The gaffes of muddled Mitt.”
What turned out to be the first of several gaffes occurred when NBC’s Brian Williams asked his opinion of the games, which the Brits have been working on for 15 years and he replied: “The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials – that obviously is not something which is encouraging,” criticism of the way it was organized from a man who had himself been in charge of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday zinged him with “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,” the PM said, pointedly. “Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”
And then Romney made some comment about “looking out of the backside of 10 Downing Street” which also was widely reported as a gaffe since use of the term “backside” in England is reserved to refer to the “pelvic floor” of the human anatomy. Next he revealed a secret to widespread consternation when he said publicly he had just met the head of the MI6 or the British Secret Service. Bad form. It seems the British consider the fact that they even have a secret service a secret no one ever talks about, even though of course everyone knows they really do have one. You are just never to admit it.
All of this follows a statement coming out of his campaign earlier this year which referred to the “Shared Anglo-Saxon Heritage” of the two countries giving the perception of the U.S. as a nation of 309 million Anglo-Saxons.
The British view of Romney at this point was best summed up by London mayor, Boris Johnson to a large crowd in Hyde Park, “There are some people who are coming from around the world who don't yet know about all the preparations we've done to get London ready in the last seven years. I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready?”
As it turns out Mitt is getting beaten up over this in his own country on a pretty much bipartisan basis. Courtesy of Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, here is a sampling: “Conservatives on Fox News were dumbfounded. ‘You have to shake your head,’ Karl Rove said. Charles Krauthammer pronounced the faux pas ‘unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives.’ ”
He does seem to have a twisted tongue when it comes to foreign matters despite the years he spent in France ducking the Vietnam War. He keeps referring to Russia as the Soviet Union which it hasn’t been in many years, although that might give Putin an ego boost. When he gets to Israel somebody please keep him from ordering bacon and eggs, and when he gets to Poland I hope he is careful in his remarks lest they think he is mocking them with some version of a dumb Pollack joke. Jay Leno commented that on this trip Romney, as a job creator, would visit the jobs he created overseas by outsourcing.
On the one hand it is hard not to feel sorry for the man, but on the other hand you don’t want a man seen to be a representative of your country to be a blunder mouth.
The High Cost of Keeping an Inam-o-trata
I should apologize for trying to make the worst pun in history out of “Inamorata,” in reference to Refalca, the Ann Romney horse competing in dressage at the London Olympics. Not a kept woman, but a kept mare. Ann Romney only owns half of the horse, sharing her with her trainer and rider. The value of these rare and talented animals is given as from $100,000 to add another 0 to make a million, but that’s only part of the story.
Like any other contestant at the games the 15-year-old mare was flown to London by jet, her in-flight meal was said to be watermelon. Apparently the animal eats well; the Romney’s wrote off $77,731 as a loss on their 2010 tax returns for their share of Rafalca’s care, that being only the half of it.
Certainly the Romneys have the money and to keep the sport alive it takes people with money and a lot of it. But Mitt is skittish about this in interviews since he is running the risk of being tagged with the John Kerry person of being so elite, in Kerry’s case because he liked to wind surf. In interviews like the one with Brian Williams in which he got in so much trouble for saying the British did a poor job on organization, he claims to not know anything about the sport, it’s all Ann’s plaything and he won’t be present when the horse competes on August 3rd. It’s just so hard trying to be a “Man of the People.” We can forgive him his wealth, but it is hard to forgive the act. If Obama can eat arugula, you ought to be able to keep your little pony.
What Romney Could Observe Close At Hand
While he is in Europe one could hope Romney will observe how grim austerity programs are working out. But he is only visiting two other countries after he leaves England—Poland and Israel—and the purpose of the latter is to raise money and boost his standing with the Jewish vote in the U.S. Still, it would be nice to see the results of it since the Paul Ryan budget passed by the House and endorsed by him is the mirror image of the European approach. Will he see the dire shape England is now in? Is he paying any attention to a growing concern back home, finally of the prospect of such austerity?
The conclusion to be drawn from a survey of forty economists just out is, have Republicans taken leave of economic reality? What does he think of those “Nuns on the Bus” who toured on behalf of social welfare and expressing alarm about the impact that cuts in federal spending could have on struggling Americans?
More and more you see headlines about the “spectacular failure of austerity policies in Europe” or “Euro's Medicine May Be Making Greece's Symptoms Worse” followed by how the austerity targets that were set for Greece were unrealistic from the beginning and complying to them has further harmed the economy.
Perhaps if Paul Krugman, the economist most loathed by the conservative right, wasn’t being proved so correct they might see the way to promote education and infrastructure as investments in America’s future, without which, as Krugman sees it “we’ll eventually pay a large and completely gratuitous price for the way they’re being savaged.” While in Europe, Mitt, get off your horse and look around and see what’s happening.
Reading and Right-ing
The purveyors of strident right-wing ideology often like to take us back to the good old days when there was less government in our lives so of course our lives were so much better. One of those e-mails that came to me a day or two ago was the last column Charley Reese wrote for the Orlando Sentinel before retiring. It consisted of a long, long list of all of the taxes we pay along with this statement:
“Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.”
Oh, the joy of living 100 years ago without that tax burden and government intervention. So how were things a century ago, in 1912?
- The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
- The average U.S. wage was 22 cents per hour. Of course you could buy a dozen eggs for 14¢ so you only had to work about 45 minutes to buy them. Today if eggs are $3 a dozen someone earning $11 and hour could make enough to pay for them in about 16 minutes.
- Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school. There was no revenue to cover the cost of providing a decent education.
- Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores with no pesky regulations covering them.
- Ninety percent of all doctors had no college education. There were no government requirements otherwise.
- Mom stayed home with the kids alright because most women gave birth 11 or 12 times and six to eight of the infants lived, so women were like brood hens with no life of their own, no vote, little education until planned parenthood came to their rescue.
- There was no safety net since there were no tax revenue to pay for it , so those who did reach retirement age were in the care of their children, not really a big problem at a time when on average people did not live past 47.
Let’s hear it then for 1912, when the population was 95,335,000 and the income tax had been declared unconstitutional, a halcyon time conservatives would take us back to free of taxes and government intervention (and free of any benefits to protect or enhance the quality of life of Americans in general).
As opposed to this message from the right, most of the e-mails are caustic character assignations of President Obama. David Maraniss, an associate editor of the Washington Post and author, has given thought to why. As he sees it:
“What drives them? Some of it can be attributed to the give-and-take of today’s harsh ideological divide. Some of it can be explained by the way misinformation spreads virally to millions of like-minded people, reinforcing preconceptions. And some of it, I believe, arises out of fears of demographic changes in this country, and out of racism.”
My conspiracy theory is that there is a conspiracy to use conspiracy theories to change the course of the country, but the conspirators or so conspiratorial that they are too suspicious of each other to succeed at anything but creating mass paranoia.
Are You a Red or a Blue Shopper?
Dana Milbank in the Washington Post writes: “If you boycott all the targeted companies, you’d be wearing no clothing, eating compost and living in a tent made of hemp you planted yourself.” Boycotts are pretty big these days and indicate your political bent. Progressive? You won’t patronize Wal-Mart, Target, Bayer, Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy and United Parcel Service, Coors or Domino’s. Conservatives eschew AOL, Planet Hollywood, Nike, Southwest Airlines, General Mills, JCPenney, Whole Foods, Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s. It’s so hard to keep up. There ought to be a red or blue color coding system.
Now we will have to check our list to decide where we want to eat chicken. I believe I was among the first people to eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich. The Macys flagship store I was with in Atlanta in the mid-sixties had several places to eat, including a fast food location in the basement. As I remember it someone came up with a way to bone a chicken (chickens were very big in Georgia at the time, big trucks loaded with wire cages of live birds stacked high roamed the streets with feathers flying) to turn it into one thick piece of meat and put together a fast-food operation; we leased them the basement spot for what may have been their first location. It was just a chicken counter and I do not remember it being holier than thou.
Now a chain, it seems that in addition to the boned bird they serve up what one-time presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee calls “the Godly values.” The chicken purveyor’s CEO, Dan Cathy whose shops are closed on Sunday, in an interview spoke out against gay people which caught more national attention than speaking against divorced people, which he also did. This brought on cries for a boycott and Mike Huckabee to the CEO’s defense, calling for everyone to go to Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, August 1st and eat a chicken. Eat a chicken for Jesus? If I remember correctly, Huckabee is the guy who says while in college he would catch squirrels and cook them in a popcorn popper in his dorm room. Think of what he could do with poultry.
New York City Mike Bloomberg is against a boycott. I suppose the boycott is not Kosher, but the chicken is O.K.
Is there anyone left in the closet? Sally Ride, female astronaut and first woman in space died this week and her obituary revealed she was gay, in a committed relationship with a partner for 27 years. Her achievements, which were many, and that of others like, say, Annise Parker who is now mayor of Houston belie the claims of the likes of Michelle Bachmann, who believes “gay men and lesbians are dysfunctional products of abuse and agents of sexual anarchy.”
Frank Bruni in the New York Times wrote about the status of the conflict between the religious right and the religious left. He notes that gay marriage has been embraced in this country by both the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism, and the Episcopal Church in the United States has developed a special blessing for same sex couples.
Gay people are seeing a lot of progress in their quest for civil rights equality, but we shall wait to see what stand the Republican Party might take at their convention. Romney has been a switch hitter so to speak being both for and against gay marriage at one time or another. If it gets into their platform it will be a prickly plank.
Where Did You Get That Hat?
On a trip to Victoria Island some years ago I attended a performance of what was billed as an authentic English traditional musical hall show complete with a veteran cast imported from London and a collection of hoary old songs and skits. The one number I remember, for some reason, was called “Where did you get that hat?” in which the performer came on stage with a felt hat with a huge brim almost umbrella size that he could bend and fold in a variety of amusing shapes as he sang and cavorted about the stage. Someday we may all need hats with big brims like that to put on every time we step outside, which is what the children in a remote, sparsely populated part of Australia do now. Why? In that small area there is a hole in the ozone layer and they humans need protection to shield them from damaging ultraviolet rays that slip through the crack.
The ozone helps shield people, animals, and crops from damaging ultraviolet. Scientists are now reporting the layer has dangerously thinned out over much of the industrialized earth, chocked by gases we have let loose in the atmosphere like the refrigerants that are now banned. We can put on a hat, but our cauliflower can’t.
Going hand in hand with that jolly news is reports on what is the nation’s most widespread drought in 60 years, stretching across 29 states and threatening farmers, their crops and livestock. It is happening on what is not only our breadbasket, but is called the breadbasket of the world. It isn’t only crops. We are running out of water. Our energy system depends on water to cool power plants and if the drought holds long enough we will experience outages. Low water levels behind damns are affecting the production of energy.
Oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day. It takes water to remove natural gas from shale. Hydraulic fracturing requires more water for the energy sector than for agriculture.
Now about storms. They threaten the ozone layer over U.S. by sending water vapor miles into the stratosphere which is normally drier than a desert carrying that ozone-destroying reactions with chemicals that remain in the atmosphere from CFCs, refrigerant gases that are now banned.
In the North, permafrost is melting so the Alaskan highway is beginning to sink into the muck. Reporting this I feel like Al Gore on a roll here. But enough. Have a nice day. And be sure to wear a hat.
Random one-liners from here and there
Mitt Romney on NBC News, rejecting new gun control laws, said the answer to horrific acts of violence may be “changing the heart of the American people” (who and how, Mr. Romney?).
Romney ads feature small businesses built with government subsidies and contracts (but as they say in the ads they did it all alone).
Gun sales are up in Colorado (duh).
They seem to regard them as religious icons (the mania some people have for carrying fire arms).
The Dow Jones industrial average surpassed 13,000 on Friday (wonderful, but why, do you really mean it or are you just teasing me?)
It’s the Pits says Pitts
Outrage over the content of the Texas Republican Platform continues. Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts Jr. in the Miami Herald can’t believe it, particularly the part about education, teaching children how to think. Here is the most offensive part of the document:
“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
Pitts writes: “Never mind children to think, to weigh conflicting paradigms, analyze competing arguments, to reason, ruminate, question and reach a thoughtful conclusion. Never mind that this promises the loss of our ability to compete in an ever more complex and technology-driven world.”
What does this say about the Republican party? It has turned into “A toxic stew of faith-based politics, biased ‘news,’ and echo chamber punditry has reduced it to an anti-science, anti-reason, anti-intellect caricature of itself.”
As we learned last week that mind control segment is only one plank in the outrageous Texas GOP platform. The Republican National Convention is coming up in a few weeks at which a platform will be produced that will set the tone for the November election. Taking the Texas version as inspiration here are some suggestions the delegates might find helpful.
Twelve Proposed Planks For The G.O.P. Party Platform
Every young person has a right to the best education they can afford. We believe there is too much public money spent on education which properly belongs in the hands of parents and we urge that “critical thinking” which fosters challenges to authority be taught to be replaced by “behaviorism.”
Every citizen is entitled to the best health care he or she can afford. Citizens with no insurance in an emergency will simply go to volunteer charity clinics which will greatly reduce the percent to GDP, now above 18%, to less than the single percentage figures of other industrialized countries. While we will continue to lag well behind other countries in such things as longevity, infant mortality and the like those are aggregate figures encompassing the total population. All who can afford insurance will best the international statistics.
We believe taxes should be eliminated. Public service should be voluntary as it once was in the early days of our Republic when we had volunteer fire departments, local posses and militia, and neighborhood watch programs should be expanded. What little revenue needed to operate a volunteer government could come from large feeds collected from every citizen for a national ID card.
4. Foreign policy
The United States should build on the position it at the end of World War II as the most dominate nation on earth so we can direct and guide other countries in their internal affairs. The United Nations should be abolished as our one-time envoy, John Bolton, favored.
We must maintain the greatest military might in the world. With no tax revenue it will need to be paid for by the countries we invade and occupy, which was a mistake we made in the occupation of Iraq. Some of our most aggressive supporters of the invasion of Iraq assured us it would do so but were not given the opportunity to profit from that countries vast oil reserves.
The Free Market should be free, free of all regulations which impeded the acquirement of wealth to stockholders. We believe God created the earth for mankind’s own use as he sees fit. It is the responsibility of each citizen to read and understand all documents to which they are a party Such things as ingredients in a products content is a trade secret of its maker. The health of a business enterprise over rides the health of a citizen.
7. Global warming
We believe the outcries of fear of some kind of global warming is a hoax and does not deserve our attention. As James Inhofe, our Senator from Oklahoma says, “Only God Can Change the Global Climate.”
We believe the term “marriage” is sacrosanct and may be used only in the context of the union of one man and one woman. To ensure the sanctity of marriage is preserved there must be a test of X and Y chromosomes before a marriage license is issued.
Such things as interstate highways, damn like Hoover which was paid for by a loan from the U.S. Treasury Department are unconstitutional. As it was earlier in our history landowners should be responsible for upkeep of roads abutting their property, other than major which should be privatized as toll roads.
10. Social programs
It is not the role of government to provide social services to the needy such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, early childhood nutritional programs, which should be the province of faith-based charity organizations.
11. Strong military
To remain the world’s dominate nation we must maintain we must maintain a military force many times larger than any other country. With a stream of revenue from taxes, this shall be paid for by the countries we occupy, as was originally contemplated in our invasion of Iraq considering their vast oil reserves though never perused. We believe this is a small price for a nation to pay for the blessing of having our democratic system force-fed to them for their own good.
12. Constitutional amendment
We intend to pass a constitutional amendment that eliminates all 27 of the current amendments and replace them with the King James version of the Christian Bible.