July 23, 2012 -- Harkin back (at my age I harkin back a lot) to the 1960s, and “What’s It All About, Alfie?” That theme song of the movie has everything to do with the present, the election in November, and how we want to live our lives.
What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give.
An unfettered free market system?
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it's wise to be cruel.
Cut government services to the needy?
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?
Tax cuts for the wealthiest among us?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there's something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie.
Love of your fellow man?
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way.
And you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.
Well, it didn’t do much for the Michael Caine character in the movie, so what are its chances in the fall?
Thoughtful commentators across the spectrum cut through the hype, the hand wringing, the SuperPAC character assignation ads, the over ripe rhetoric, the personal quirks of the candidates to point out that as far as this presidential election is concerned, what it’s all about as columnist David Brooks from the right says is the free market system, American Capitalism. And how that works determines how we live, and work, and prosper or not at our various income levels.
Fareed Zakaria, opinion writer for the Washington Post sums it up as follows:
Romney: America needs tax and regulatory relief. The country is overburdened by government mandates, taxes and rules that make it difficult for businesses to function, grow and prosper. Cut taxes for all, reduce regulations and streamline government. Unleash America’s entrepreneurial energy.
Obama: Economy needs investment — in infrastructure, education, training, basic sciences, and technologies of the future. Those investments, in the president’s telling, have been the key drivers of American growth and have enabled people to build businesses, create jobs and invent.
Zakaria writes: “America is worse off than it was 30 years ago — in infrastructure, education and research. The country spends much less on infrastructure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).”
“The United States spends only 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure, the Congressional Budget Office noted in 2010. Europe spends 5 percent; China, 9 percent.”
In the “1970s, America led the world in the number of college graduates; as of 2009, we were 14th.” On Research and Development: U.S. “5.6%, South Korea was 9.6 percent; in Singapore, 14.5 percent; in China, 21.9 percent.” This is a “decline in investment in human and physical capital.”
Will an unfettered Free Market reverse our decline, or will it take government investment? From my point of view this is a “No Bain-er,” oops a “No-Brainer.”
A Couple of Possible Reasons Romney Won’t Release Tax Returns
So far despite being hounded by people of both parties Romney still will not release those returns, just leading to more speculation of why? What’s in them? With tongue in cheek, NYT columnist David Brooks says he “donated a million dollars to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Not because he partook. He just put in the wrong routing number when he was trying to tithe late one night.”
Romney may not now like mandates, but the Mormon church has one he must live up to, tithing. Every Mormon must tithe or he is out of the club. My theory is that if he exposes those tax returns they will show he did not tithe on all of that income he stashed in the Caymans which would cause a Mormon version of “hell to pay” for the righteous Mr. Romney.
And why don’t the Romney people quite trying to come off as just regular folks? They are not, they are so bad at it, and who cares? Except they keep branding Obama with the Sarah Palin tag “he is not like you and me.” But you aren’t either, Mitt.
They sent Ann Romney off to make the rounds defending their refusal to show their returns, and she said in a TV appearance “we’ve given all you people asked for.” You people? That separates the wheat from the chaff, the we from you. Who do you think I am, a nail lady?
Shoot ‘Em Up America
“We live in shoot-’em-up America now” writes The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky. It does seem so. “Stand Your Ground” laws encourage the Zimmermans of the country to blow away unarmed kids because they look dangerous. With due regularity some crazed gunman like the most recent one in Colorado opens fire and kills a dozen or more innocent people. And there is hand wringing, outcry, petitions signed and nothing happens.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounded off after this latest one. “Romney passed a ban on assault weapons back when he was governor and now he says he’s against it. Of course, he’s done that on almost everything. Obama, when he was elected, said I want to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and he’s never done it.”
As NYT columnist Gail Collins put it “a rich, fierce, loopy lobby on one side, and, on the other, people with petitions, slogging along.” It seems to me the national attitude on this is beyond the realm of reason. Like almost all Americans I do not want to forbid the ownership of all fire arms. I won some but I don’ carry one around with me, they are kept safely under lock and key. But assault weapons? Weapons that as Collins says are “capable of firing 100 bullets without reloading.” And what is wrong with doing better background checks, and registration? Of course, even so there will still be the crazed killer now and then, but must we make it so easy for them?
You hear it said we won’t be safe until everyone carries a gun. I grew up in the John Dillinger era when only gangsters had machine guns. Would I have been safer had I had a machine gun too? What would it have been like in that movie theatre in Colorado if everyone in there was carrying an assault weapon and fired back under attack? I would rather it were like that old Mae West quote which she actually never said, “no, I’m just glad to see you.”
A News Flash From The London Olympics
“A record 150,000 condoms are to be handed out to athletes for the London Games” (games indeed). That works out to be 15 each. How many days are the athletes there? There should be time for them to compete on the field and in the water, too. Someone must have done some research to come up with that number. It’s like the 88-year old friend of mine who asked his doctor for a prescription for Viagra. No problem, the doctor said. And wrote him one for a month’s supply …two!
Too bad that the horse Ann Romney took to compete in dressage is a mare and won’t need them.
“Let me tell you about the very rich.”
That could have been the headline of a column written by Joe Conason but actually is another quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Conason was fleshing out the story of the billionaires $75,000 lunch for two given last week in the Hamptons to benefit the Romney campaign. We shouldn’t bash the rich just for being rich, but it should not be unreasonable to take a look at how they got that way.
Ronald O. Perelman, at one time or another considered the fifth wealthiest man in the U.S., threw that little party and according to Conason’s account has a long, long history of throwing big money at the campaigns of politicians of both parties. He is the poster boy for “crony capitalism,” a term the Romney campaign has been trying to pin on the Obama Administration based on no facts I have yet to see. Perelman “thrived in a financial sector that has always relied heavily on tax advantages, pension bailouts, state investments, and a panoply of other benefits conferred by elected officials expecting campaign contributions.” Remember the savings and loan scandal, the “speculation and thievery that followed deregulation?” He and his associates are said to have made an ungodly amount of money off of the cleanup of that mess due to legislative cronyism. This election all his big money seems to be down on Romney. One wonders what plum he has his eye on, or whether he is just betting on the come? When it comes to cronies, this guy makes Rick Perry look like a penny anti player.
The funny thing is that in private business such networking between provider and customer is a good thing, relationships building good businesses. But in the public sector add those campaign money contributions and call it what you will, it’s bribery.
His Not What Cha Do Hits The Way Ats Cha Do It
What’s wrong with a national ID?, asks my conservative friends. Well, the lyric above from that old song is the answer. It is why it is being done (voter suppression) and the way it is being done. Leonard Pitts tells us about this in the Miami Herald.
No matter what Republicans say there is no voter fraud, so we are solving a problem we do not have. But the Republican Party has a growing problem; “Within the next few decades,” says a report by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate “White Americans, the only demographic sub-group from which the GOP draws significant numbers of voters, will be in the minority.” To hold on to their power, the GOP wants to suppress the number of voters who favor the opposition; hence states where Republicans are in control of the legislatures cry fraud and passing strict voter ID laws.
Texas has a dandy coming up.
One out of ten Americans do not have a drivers license, and these in general are the poor, the minorities, the elderly who are apt to vote Democratic. To try to get around this requirement being considered an unconstitutional poll tax, the states are offering the ID free but make it hard to get one. Put offices in obscure locations, hard to get to by bus, open limited hours. To get one as Pitts writes someone has to “catch a bus down to some office, fill out forms and wait in line to get a card for which they will otherwise have zero use.” Sometimes they may have to figure out how to get documentation, like a birth certificate, and pay for them which borders on being a poll tax. If enough of this group finds this too difficult to go through this to get a card it can make a difference in voter turnout.
Curtis Gans, director of the CSAE, believes the United States should adopt Mexico’s system, wherein the government automatically issues every citizen a biometric ID card. I keep saying conservative policies are going to lead us into being a country like Mexico and there’s your proof.
Pass This Along To Everyone You Know …
That, or words to that effect, are at the bottom of all of the conspiracy theory e-mails that come rolling in every day. And as the campaign gets closer to November we are sure to snowball, like an avalanche rolling down a steep hill.
You have to give them an “A” for creativity. I stand in awe. A couple I got within minutes of each other a day or two ago are typical. “I Wrote a Book” by “Dr.” Eowyn of the ‘Fellowship of Minds.” It narrates a story of a life that appears to be Obama’s until you get to the end and discover he has been talking about Hitler.
Then there was “Kill The Jews” by Frank Gaffney about the secret effort to advance the fortunes of the Muslim Brotherhood World Wide. You have to give Gaffney his due. He wrote the very same things about the Bush Administration a half dozen years ago. He has made a career of bashing Muslims and all who have an Islamic heritage at home and abroad, although he hasn’t so far as I have seen been given proper credit for the outbreak of this theory in the last few days.
When our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her visit to Egypt a few days ago she was pelted with tomatoes and shoes by an angry crowd at one point. Reporters on the scene questioned members of the crowd to find out why. Because she and the Obama Administration were advancing the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood was the universal answer. They were asked where they got that information. Why, off the Internet from Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and former FOX TV’s Glen Beck! Gaffmey, you didn’t make the cut.
Bachmann has created quite a stir by attacking Huma Abedin as part of this conspiracy using her Near-East heritage as proof. You may remember her as the wife of Anthony Weiner, the look-at-my-underwear congressman who lost his seat due to the scandal, and a key and respected aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She and her Jewish husband survived the scandal, had a baby, and seemed well until brilliant thinker Bachmann turned up the volume. And stirred things up in Egypt.
This was too much for a lot of people including long time political operative Ed Rollins who had worked on Bachmann’s campaign for the presidency. “I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the level of the late Sen. Joe McCarthy”, Rollins wrote in an op-ed for Fox News.
Then there is Cliff Kincaid, author, frequent guest on the FOX shows, strong supporter of Glen Beck, and all round mega-right extremist who just hosted his annual conference at the National Press Club for conspiracy-minded conservatives. Kincaid, and other speakers on the program, informed the audience of such things as 1. Obama’s real father was the late author Frank Marshall Davis, said to be a communist and pedophile. 2. There are “a whole host of other communists and Marxists around Obama,” including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. 3. Obama is making it possible for Russia and China to attack the United States and that “Latin American states would be invited in for looting rights.”
When John Sununu, a Romney campaign spokesmen, says, as he did this week before a semi-retraction, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” or Romney says as he did this week Obama lacks “an understanding of what it is that makes America such a unique nation,” we are supposed to know about the conspiracies and fill in the blanks.
When it comes to this sort of stuff, though, you have to hand it to a master who managed to come out with the most ludicrous conspiracy of the week. Rabid Rush suddenly threw one of his tantrums over the movie “Dark Knight Rises.” He discovered the name of the vicious villain is “Bane,” which is close to and sounds like Bain, as in Bain Capital, the equity company that Romney is taking so much heat over at present. “Coincidence? I think not”, voiced the hoary radio host. Under that theory, decades ago when the originators of the comic strip devised it they were predicting a day long in the future when there would be a Republican candidate who had once formed a company called “Bain” who would run for the presidency on the Republican ticket and if they had a vicious villain with a similar name the Democrats could use it against him. Word association. When this silliness was pointed out to Limbaugh he claimed that he really didn’t say that but what he said was that Democrats would use it against Romney. Except that’s not true, as there are clips out there anybody can see. Actual facts have no place in hate broadcasting.
Thinking about Limbaugh and other mega-nasties reminded me of another old song, this one from seventy or so years ago sung by country singer Tex Ritter, father of the late actor John Ritter. It had to do with four consecutive stops trains made at little communities in East Texas (for those of you under fifty years old, there was a time when people rode on trains), “Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair.” I always liked that song, it had a rollicking rhythm that has stayed with me through the years. It’s better if you know the melody, but it now rattles around in my mind substituting a quartet of right-wing personalities rather than hamlets.
“Limbaugh, Hannity, Romney, and Rove.” Fits the melody and rhythm to a tee. Sing out a quartet of mean-spirited rouges: “Limbaugh, Hannity, Romney, and Rove.”
Trav’s Big Conspiracy Theory
Note: this is not an attack on the Mormon religion, it’s just that it offers some good meat for a far-out conspiracy theory in the spirit of all of the others out there in the Internet.
As we have already mentioned, to be a Mormon you have to tithe or you can’t get in the doors of the church. This generates a lot of money, over the years a great deal amount of money. The church then takes this money and invests it in for-profit enterprises all over the world which generates even more money to invest in more for-profit operations. As Business Week Magazine reported in a recent issue the church is a “Global Business Empire.”
What are we talking about here? A new $2 billion mega-mall they just opened in Salt Lake City. A holding company operating a billion-dollar media and insurance conglomerate, and running a Polynesian theme park. DMC, which reaps estimated annual revenue of $1.2 billion from newspapers, 11 radio stations, a TV station, a publishing and distribution company, a digital media company, a hospitality business, and an insurance business with assets worth $3.3 billion. The church owns a million acres of land in the United States for farms, hunting preserves, orchards, and ranches. They seem to be busier with the temporal than with the spiritual. Money changers in the temple? The temple seems to be the money changers.
Nobody knows what they do with all of that money and of course the Church will not say, being very unhappy that Business Week brought it the public’s attention. They say the article is inaccurate, but like their favorite son, Mitt Romney does under similar circumstances, they don’t say what they are. Which brings me to my conspiracy theory.
Years ago they identified a bright young member, descendant of several generations of Mormons, and carefully groomed him for bigger things, ultimately to be the President of the United States. In that position under the guise of downsizing government would set in motion a wave of privatizing government programs and assets which the church as favored customer would acquire at rock-bottom prices, kind of like the savings and loan bailout, buildings, national parks, wetlands, dams, waterways, everything. It would become the dominate force in the U.S. and a major force in the world, accomplishing by economic pressure what it never could have accomplished just by sending its missionaries door to door. This is ominous. We must be vigilant. Pass this on to all you know.