Tuesday, September 18, 2012


      Mitt Romney certainly isn’t the Wizard of Oz, but like the bumbling character revealed behind the Wizard’s curtain, he turned out to be just as human and flawed and plutocratic as we always suspected.
       Suddenly through the lens and microphone of a hidden camera, we get to experience a Mitt Romney who sounds more real, more comfortable in his skin and, not surprisingly, more like the spoiled, pampered millionaire’s son who attended expensive prep schools and enjoyed a privileged upbringing, than the automaton candidate who repeatedly shifts his position to suit prevailing political winds.
       Thanks to the wonders of micro video technology we’ve been given a glimpse of a Romney we’ve never seen before—Romney in the raw—the Romney who lets down his hair and loosens his tongue when he’s with other millionaires and CEO’s.
       Wizard-behind-the-curtain-Romney is the real Romney—exactly what you’ll get if you’re foolish or wealthy enough to justify voting for him. This is the Romney who’s been hiding behind the curtain. This Romney has nothing but disdain for Americans unfortunate enough to be out of work, or those too poor to pay taxes. This Romney believes America has a moocher class made up of 47% of the nation’s population who regularly turn their backs on good jobs so they can live off the largesse of our government. More to the point, to live off the largesse of multi-billionaires like himself who pay millions in taxes—when they’re not offshoring their income to avoid taxes—only to have you and I sucking the cream from the top of the milk bottle. You, because you probably used a Pell grant to help pursue your college education, me because I’m old enough to collect social security and qualify for medicare.
       Up till now, when asked to list my profession on some form, I usually put down “writer.” But going forward I intend to identify myself as an American parasite. Or maybe I’ll just enigmatically jot down “47” and let some overpaid government employee figure it out.
       So, here he is America, on video and clearly superior and richer than 99% of you—Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for President of the United States. The fact that he’s deriding half the American population shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed Republican politics. They’ve done their best to hobble any Obama initiative to help middle class Americans find jobs or free themselves from dependency on government assistance.  As for what Mitt and crew hope to do to some of our most important entitlement programs…
       Let’s just say, you might want to cash your social security check sooner rather than later.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


About two days after the Democratic Convention I was feeling pretty good about the upcoming presidential election. Americans, I realized, had many good reasons for putting their support behind Barack Obama.

After all, when you came to think about Obama’s accomplishments, in light of the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives for the second half of his term, they were pretty impressive.

Health Care Reform, to repeat Joe Biden’s trenchant description, was a “Big f**king deal!” More so when you realized that presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt had attempted to provide health care protection for Americans without any success, every one of them finding the impediments too large, the battle too politically exhausting. Every one until Obama!

Sure, it was an imperfect bill that became a goody bag for far too many vested interests, but at the end of the day, or more accurately by the end of its implementation delay, 30 million Americans—many of them minorities, most of them poor—would be guaranteed decent affordable health care for the first time in American history.

It was a big f**king deal!

Name one comparable accomplishment by the last Republican Administration, my inner voice challenged potential naysayers. What would you list? “No Child Left Behind,” an education initiative proven woefully ineffective? “The War In Iraq,” which drained America’s wealth and dangerously distracted us from properly pursuing the War in Afghanistan? “The Bush Tax Cuts,” which in light of two ongoing wars, helped break the bank and left us in deepest doo-doo, not to mention deeply in debt to China?

But Health Care Reform was only the first of many accomplishments, some of them of massive import by themselves. And then, like an army platoon hurrying into formation, Obama’s achievements started to assemble in my mind.

Front and center was Obama’s heroic prevention of America’s Second Great Depression. Make no mistake, we were headed for the cliff when Obama pushed past John McCain and Sarah Palin to grab hold of the wheel and bring our economic freefall to a stop.  

Next in formation, the rescue of the American automobile industry. Something like a million jobs and America’s self-esteem had been at stake when Obama stepped in and propped up General Motors and Chrysler. On top of that, even though many ridiculed “Cash for Clunkers” as an unnecessary giveaway, the program had the desired effect of clearing out Detroit’s unmovable inventory and kickstarting its recovery.

Romney, of course, had something to say about the auto industry crisis, as was headlined in the NY Daily News: “Mitt To Detroit: Drop Dead!”

Then there was Obama’s tenacious pursuit of the War on Terror, the means of which honorable people can argue about, but which chased down and destroyed much of Al Quaeda’s leadership, including Osama Bin Laden.

The rest of Obama’s major accomplishments rattled themselves off in my mind like recruits answering their drill sergeant, “Student Loan Reform—put in place, sir!”, “Equal Pay for Equal Work Act—signed and ready for action, sir!”, “Consumer Protection Bureau—in place and ready to protect consumers, sir!”, “Wall Street Reform—enacted, sir!” “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—put in place, sir!” “Pell Grants—expanded for more students, sir!” “Deferred Action—already protecting immigrant students, sir!” “NATO action against Libya—regime change effected, sir!”

Suddenly there was a mob scene in my head, with a crowded chorus declaring all the executive actions and presidential decisions Obama made to help protect our planet, tighten oversight of banks, ensure quality care for wounded vets, reduce middle class taxes, offer relief for those struggling with unaffordable mortgages, and many many more.

Yes, I thought, compared to any American president, but especially to his Republican predecessor whose illegal and unconstitutional use of torture Obama ended on his first day in office, Barack Obama has a record that should easily catapult him into a second term as President of the United States.

After considering all that, I felt confident that Mitt Romney had a hard row to hoe if he hoped to effectively belittle Obama’s record. But still something nagged at me, something I had misplaced, or forgot, or had meant to include in the list above.

And then it hit me, the Gulf Oil Spill! Holy Hannah, I had forgotten the oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting unstoppable plumes of oil spewing out for three and a half months. All those millions of gallons of crude BP oil gushing out into the Gulf waters and wetlands while Barack Obama, America’s new president barely in his second year on the job, stood his watch, putting his science-wonk Energy Secretary in charge of the crisis team, squeezing $20 billion out of BP to ensure the availability of crisis funds for those who lived and worked in the Gulf, repeatedly visiting the region and monitoring the crisis up until the containment cap was set and black crude no longer leaked voluminously into the gulf waters.

Thinking back to the DNC convention it seemed remarkable that the Gulf Oil Spill hadn’t been mentioned by anyone that I could recall. If ever there was a proven example of Obama’s executive leadership, there it was!

For some reason, perhaps a right-wing conspiracy of unimaginable sophistication and effectiveness, America had totally forgotten The Gulf Oil Spill.

I could picture Joe Biden at the podium of the Charlotte convention center proclaiming, “Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!” as testament to all that the Obama administration had achieved in their four years at the helm. And I wanted to shout to him across the chasm of passing time, above the din of the Republican mud-slinging apparatus, out to all those Americans who, like me, had forgotten one of our nation’s gravest threats of the last few years, almost Katrina-like in its potential for devastation…and cry out, “Remember The Gulf Oil Spill!”

It made me wonder what else we’ve forgotten.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Republican Job Plan: Put Jim Crow To Work

       Shame on you.
       You no longer deserve to be a major political party in the United States.
       You no longer deserve to wear the mantle of moral legitimacy that comes with being “The Party of Abraham Lincoln.”
       I’ll say it again, just in case you’re as stone deaf to my words as you are to the values of democracy, fair play and decency.
       Shame on you.
       And shame on your totally transparent, thoroughly dishonorable and unforgivably crude attempt to steal the votes of millions of Americans, most of them poor, most of them black or hispanic, many of them students, but all of them more likely to vote for Democrats than for members of your amoral and illegitimate party.
       Yes, amoral and illegitimate!
       Illegitimate because after all your efforts to disenfranchise the poor and the marginalized there isn’t an outcome in your party’s favor that any sensible citizen would trust to be valid and untainted.
       Illegitimate because your party members repeatedly lie to defend these corrupt practices. They lie to the courts, to their constituents, to the voting public. Maybe even to themselves.
       Illegitimate because by dressing up voter suppression in the cloak of fraud prevention, you not only perpetrate a lie, you show equal disdain for both the democratic system and the people you pretend to serve.
       Illegitimate because you teamed up with a president, whose legitimacy will always be in doubt, to spend hundreds of billions of dollars bringing American-type democracy to Iraq.
       Is this how you see American democracy working? By purging eligible voters from the voter rolls? By requiring photo ID’s so that people unlikely to have driver’s licenses, like old people or the poor, will be turned away? By making it so difficult to register to vote that students or the elderly will eventually give up? Or by sending thugs out to intimidate voter registration drives?
       And how stupid you must be to think we’re so blind we can’t see what you’re doing? Or recognize the cynicism behind your protestations? Even if you spend all of the Koch brothers’ billions of dollars you can’t buy enough bleach to remove this indelible stain upon your party.
       There are banana republics where democracy gets a fairer shake than in some Republican controlled states.
       Shame on you.
       Shame on your being so weak that you rely on Jim Crow rather than your policies or politicians to win elections.
       You remember Jim Crow. He used to live in the Old South. He’s the guy that instituted a poll tax to keep black people from voting, the guy who used police clubs and fire hoses to keep blacks in their place, the guy who lynched blacks and forced them to ride in the back of buses and to drink from separate water fountains.
       And now he works for you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rip Van Winkle In the 21st Century (or waking up at the Republican convention)

When I met Rip Van Winkle he was coming out of an Apple store with the newest iPhone. He held up the phone and explained, “Just trying to catch up. When you’ve been asleep for twelve years you tend to miss out on things.”

He looked at me and smiled, “I don’t know what was in that beer I had at the bowling alley last night, but I woke up this morning feeling like I was wearing a swimming cap two sizes too small.

“And that was just the start of the strangeness. Walking back to my home on Brattle Street I noticed things seemed familiar yet very different. The few people I passed were wearing strange clothes, which for Cambridge isn’t all that unusual. But the cars on the street looked futuristic and alien, more like armored vehicles than the friendly boxlike structures I fondly recalled.

       “But the strangest changes were the ones that had overtaken this country during my 12 year siesta. In my unrelenting grogginess, I made the mistake of turning on the TV to watch the Republican National Convention. Once I got my bearings and saw the forces now at play in America, I was in shock. It seemed like I had woken up in a foreign land. How could I fall asleep one night in a country that prided itself as the land of the brave and the free? And wake up a dozen years later in a country ruled by barbarous impulses and totally selfish compulsions? America’s bravery, I soon discovered, was now defined by unprovoked wars on weaker nations and acts of torture against helpless prisoners. Its cherished freedoms now seemingly reserved for those who could financially afford them.

       “To my shock I discovered America had become a nation that no longer gave any thought or care to the environment—or the planet—she’d be leaving for future generations; not if it would inconvenience business interests or negatively affect their profits. Even when scientists shouted dire warnings about the consequences of Americans’ selfish and self-enriching lifestyle, an entire segment of our population chose to doubt the science rather than adjust the behavior. The way Republicans scoffed at protecting the environment for future generations you might have thought FDR created the EPA rather than Richard M. Nixon.

       “But the worst thing I witnessed was all the hate and resentment. With little concern for its weakest citizens, America’s angriest and most selfish political party was rising up in fanatical revolt against the passage of universal healthcare. And conservative political demagogues, under the guise of strengthening the country’s safety net, were attacking and threatening the social contract that for 70 years had stood like a shield, protecting the nation’s poor, elderly and infirm.

       “What was going on?” I wondered, half in shock, half in anxiety that I had somehow lost hold on my sanity.

       “Strangest of all, my country—the richest nation on Earth—was now broke! When I sipped that last beer in the bowling alley, America was heading into a new millennium with a budgetary surplus. Bill Clinton might have been a sorry philanderer but he’d also been a good steward of the country’s pocketbook. We not only had money in the bank, we had lots of it! Now I awoke to discover the little money we possess is dedicated to programs we can no longer afford or, truth be told, owed outright to the People’s Republic of China!

       “Hey, where’d all the money go!

       “You can imagine how appalling this all seemed, waking up in an America where people were losing their homes to the predatory banks that had suckered them into unaffordable mortgages. An America where the government had thrown money at those same predatory banks to keep them afloat, who had then refused to loan anything—not a penny!—to anybody! For fear it might interfere with the outsized bonuses they felt obligated to pay their highest and most incompetent executives and managers.

       I kept waiting for someone to talk about whoever was responsible for America’s sudden slide into mediocrity, pennilessness, and criminal behavior. But no one ever mentioned the man who was president for the first eight of my 12 lost years. Nor his accomplices, none of whom will ever be charged for all the lives they ruined, the deaths they caused, or the tragedy they fecklessly made of the American Dream.

       “Also, before I fell asleep for 12 years, America had been a democracy that believed in democracy, believed in spreading democracy. That was before I slept through two presidential elections that had been stolen by that same unmentionable Republican president. And before I woke to find this latest batch of Republicans doing their damnedest to deprive blacks, students, Hispanics, prisoners—anyone from the bottom of the economic ladder—their voting rights.

       “Jim Crow wasn’t dead, I discovered, he had merely joined the Republican party!

       “And, strangest of all, rather than protect the rights of these marginalized American citizens, the courts were complicit in this outrage, deaf to any arguments about the real motivation behind voter fraud regulations in Republican-controlled states. Even though everyone knew, and vote-suppressing politicians freely admitted, there was never any voter fraud to prevent.

       “To think of the party of Lincoln actively working to deny voting rights to blacks, as well as the poor and the marginalized! It was enough to send me back to the bowling alley for one more beer.

       “And, hopefully, a dozen years more sleep.”

       "Well just wait," I told Rip Van Winkle, "With any luck, you'll wake up to find this was all a dream."