Friday, August 31, 2012

Republican Convention Day Three: Romney speaks!...or did he?

Tonight Mitt Romney had a chance to give the American people something new. Instead, he phoned in a performance whose only "new" moment was a bizarre and trivial myth about his dad.  He might as well have sent a robot in his place or sent a videotape.  His badly lit skull, pasty coloring, and wide grin made him look like a vampire. 

The beginning was a patriotic montage so over the top it sounded insincere.  One could accept when he said "Optimism is uniquely American" even though it was xenophobic and nonsensical on its face.  One could accept that he referred to a "nation of immigrants," like virtually all the other speakers, without acknowledging his anti-immigrant policies.  One could even accept the "special kinship of freedom," although it sounds vaguely racist.  We ain't kin, Mitt (cue the music from "Deliverance").  But when he remembered watching the moon landing without mentioning the death of an astronaut which put on people's minds,  and had the nerve to say with a smug cheshire grin "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I wanted America to succeed," something so emotionally insincere,  he completely lost the audience.  Note to Romney: when you talk of the pain of the people, you are supposed to look pained, not like you've put one over on them.  Perhaps that was intended to be the "humor" moment of the speech. There weren't any others.

He then began plugging his own horn, bragging about his own life story, because apparently the work done over the preceding hours by people who knew him and sang his praises wasn't enough.  We had to hear stories from his own lips!  One story was ridiculous,  namely that his father bought his mother a rose every single day and that's how she knew he was dead, because he didn't bring her a rose one day.  He couldn't resist the urge to make his father into an impoverished refugee from the Mexican revolution, "fed by the U.S. Government"  rather than a relation of the wealthy top Salt Lake Mormon hierarchy.  Like so much of what Romney says, it comes from that magical thinking cult context where if a story ought to be true, it is.  He then said he considered going into the auto business but decided not to in order to distinguish himself from Dad. Rich kids always say that, don't they?  It's never true.  His father did not have a history of getting him great auto jobs: the one he held in high school was security guard, about the only job in an auto plant with no relevance for learning how to run the business. 

Romney did say his mother was an actress, which might give him a genetic excuse for mythomania.  But when he tried to reinforce his convention's weird reach for women's votes by saying of his wife, "Her job as Mom was harder than mine and more important than mine," one could only ask, then why didn't she run for president instead of you? Sexism and Patriarchy have never done such a bad job of hiding behind women as at this convention, where the female business execs turned out to be working for their husbands, the politicians were mostly wives who fell into it, and there was hardly a pantsuit to be seen.

Nor could Romney leave Bain Capital alone.  By now, everybody knows that he originally turned it down when Bill Bain asked him to run it, and he only agreed to do it after B.B. told him he could return to Bain & Co if it didn't work out.  He did eventually return to Bain & Co. because Bain & Co. was failing, and he "saved" it by getting the government and some banks to write off their loans by threatening to spend all the remaining cash on bonuses if they didn't.  Nonetheless, Romney felt it necessary to pretend he started the whole thing and he "could have asked my church's pension fund to invest but I didn't."   He then said the Episcopalian pension fund did invest and profited wildly.   None of this alleged distance from the Mormons is remotely believable, since we know some early investors in Bain Capital knew his dad, and it is simply a non-starter to pretend the Mormons didn't create his whole career, such as his leadership of the Salt Lake Olympics.  There were no non-Mormons calling for his expertise.  There was no great market for Mitt Romney Olympic buttons other than among the Mormon faithful. It was another confusion (see Ann Romney speech) trying to associate him with that other church, the "normal" Episcopalian church, rather than with the Mormons many distrust.  He then reiterated the same list of  four companies he supposedly built and excused some failures because that's how business is (even though he has never excused Obama's one failure at Solyndra with a similar logic.  Obama clearly has a higher businesse success rate).  That was pretty telling too, that he didn't have any other companies he could mention besides the ones already brought up by Sternberg.  He didn't mention his standard business model for "helping" companies either.  Bain Capital would buy a controlling share and then tell the company to cut costs and borrow money.  Bain would typically take 30% of the cash the company borrowed as a "fee," and dump the company, leaving them to pay back the remaining cash, interest, and the money Bain took.  Now that's a seriously high usurious interest rate on a loan and it is hardly surprising many of them failed.

Romney said his whole focus as president would be JOBS JOBS JOBS although his actual plans don't have anything much to do with jobs, except the military buildup he promised.  He complained that Obama's military budget cuts, which his running mate Ryan agreed to, would cost "hundreds of thousands of jobs."   This was really a novel use of the military, as a make work project for the unemployed.  The military hasn't asked for more people, and at least if we had another stimulus we would get roads and bridges.  What will we get from more soldiers except more wars (money spent fighting abroad is an inefficient stimulus), or increased domestic surveillance!  Romney also promised more jobs on domestic energy production (independence by 2020!) and accused the president of an "assault on coal, oil, and gas" without revealing that to make that energy economically viable, energy prices would have to rise still more.

Specifically, Romney's plan to add "12 million jobs" is 1) energy independence (even though oil and gas are not labor intensive); 2) every parent be given school choice (how does this create jobs, if public schools are starved of cash?); 3) new free trade agreements with more countries but consequences when nations cheat (note how he never says exactly what he will do about China's mispriced currency.  He never says, oh we will ban imports from China unless they do this and that.  Because he won't.  Indeed, he will sign a free trade agreement with them.  More trade agreements means more job losses); 5) Concentrate on small business with no specifics other than a "jobs tour."   This is not a plan, this is just sticking a JOBS sticker on the "miscellaneous" file folder.  The only way it could create jobs is if Romney's CEO friends decided to do a lot of hiring stateside to help him.  In other words, only if the rich have artificially held down employment in order to hurt the government for political reasons, could Romney ever succeed with a "plan" like this.  But those CEOs wouldn't do it, because altruism is not their business, nor is Mitt Romney their brother.

The remaining five minute rant covering all other issues was a bunch of dog whistle buzz words.

"Repeal and replace Obamacare" was one, which probably offended the convention crowd because they don't want it replaced, just gone Another was "unlike Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class" (a blatant lie).  He also said he would "honor the sanctity of family life, protect the definition of marriage, and uphold freedom of religion."  These were code words for no porn, no gays, and billions of free money for preachers and religious schools.

He then sneered, "President Obama promised to start to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," as though Obama were playing God and the idea of stopping the rise in carbon dioxide insane,  but that he in contrast would "help you and your family."  He then falsely accused Obama of "allowing Iran to build nuclear arms, " "throwing Israel (and Poland) under the bus," etc.

With colloquial terms like "Throw under the bus" and "Obamacare," Romney essentially revealed he is without class, merely a Sloganeer.  Even George W. Bush was sensible enough to give the convention something new to work with.  Romney's speech was like a giant anticlimax, and his creepy personal presence undid much of the support he might have gotten from the dramatic loyalty shown him in the early hours of the evening by praiseful friends.  He really believes he can run on one fact: people are worse off now than four years ago, without any reference to what will fix it. Perhaps we are safer with the undead than with Romney.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Republican Convention Day Three: Angry Tears and the Mitt Mythomania

Tonight was the effort to put over the "Mitt Romney" story (mythomania refers to pathological lying).  Every convention does this, and every candidate is able to find people who claim the candidate selflessly saved them, generously helped them, and generally amazed them.  Even Richard Nixon, a paranoid spiteful person of limited personality and a mortal fear of the public, was able to create a night of tears and touching stories.

So unlikeable is Romney, so low were the expectations, that it was actually a profound surprise to everyone that he was able to find a few stories himself.   When you reflect on what was said however, and think about how much money Romney has to buy friends, the real surprise is that so few people vouched for his character in such an unimpressive way, that so few business success stories could be laid to his door, that his Olympics myth was actually damaged by the over the top presentation of Kim Rhode, Mike Eruzione, and Derek Parra; and that his Massachusetts record, indeed his whole presentation, was wounded by repeated pandering to women without any recognition that his proposed policies hurt them.  In fact, his presentation was a reaction to his popularity problems, and it defies his claim that he offers any kind of leadership.

Craig Romney carried the flag for the younger Romney generation, which was surprising because he was not an effective speaker.  He was followed by Jeb Bush, who was supposed to talk about education reform and school choice, but had a real dilemma. Republicans say they want school choice and maximum freedom for parents, but they don't.  You see, parents might like their kids to go to Exeter and Groton, which don't want their kids.  Freely choosing parents would direct their children into law and medicine, protected professions where people earn outsized rewards, but Republicans don't want more people going into either of those professions.  Bush and the Republicans say they want those kids studying science and engineering.  Bush said China and India graduate eight times as many engineers as the United States.  He didn't mention that they have more than eight times the population we do. Nor did he mention that while the United States has failed to provide jobs for all its college graduates, China and India have been unable to provide jobs for all their college graduates too.  But this is all smoke and mirrors.  What they really want are 1) tax money taken from public schools and given to private religious schools; and 2) opportunities for profits from online schools.  All of these are of low quality and not likely to fix America's science and engineering.  Many of them are not run by college graduates.  Romney and Bain Capital are big investors in such schemes.  It's really just another assault on public tax dollars by private corporations, which can then give to political campaigns.  Republican campaigns.   They are attempting to create a corrupt crony machine using private corporations where the big city mayors once used unions.  The Republican hate of unions is real, but in truth they would be for unions if they could get as much money from them as they could from corporations.  Romney will say he stamped out "cronyism and corruption" in Massachusetts, in the Olympics, and in business.  The facts say he embraces and encourages it.

Consider this.  It has now been twenty years since the Bushes began large-scale experiments in school choice.  According to Republican politicians, they have made huge fabulous wonderful gains all that time.  Yet when you look at those results comparing the USA to foreign countries, the USA's performance continues to decline, and somehow states like Florida and Texas still end up near the bottom of scholastic achievement.  They've spent twenty years wasting money on a failed social engineering experiment, and despite their false claims, things have not gotten better....except for the profits made by companies in the education field.

Next came the Mormon segment.  No other candidate has ever admitted that his church commitments were the leading time commitment of his life.  The presidential sphere is not the religious sphere.  Bishop Grant Bennett told us that Romney spent "10, 15, even 20 hours" a week on his religious duties for years and years and years.  Bennett did not have a stopwatch on Mitt, and his assertions about Mitt's work ethic were undercut when he said Mitt "didn't discuss questions of theology" and "seldom delivered the sermon himself." Since these were Mitt's main responsibilities as bishop where there is no mechanism for formal training of preachers, it amounts to shirking responsibility.  According to Bennett, what Mitt loved was private help to people in need, which we know from other sources extended to bullying a woman who needed an abortion and freezing out people who didn't share his political views.  Given this supposed need to help people, though, it was surprising what they trotted out as examples.

Pat and Ted Oparowski had a son with Hodgkins' lymphoma.  Mitt would visit him and bought him some fireworks.  He also helped the 14 year old kid make a will so his toys would go to the correct friends.  Mitt read the eulogy at his funeral.  The Oparowskis were overcome by this noblesse oblige.  They said "How many men do you know that would take time out from their busy schedules to help a 14 year-old order his affairs."  That was a mistake, because the obvious answer is, I don't know any men who wouldn't.  Even NBA stars with felony police records do things like this, as do atheists galore. I'm afraid this touching speech said more about the Oparowskis than about Romney. They were dazzled by hierarchy, that this rich important guy would stoop to comfort them.  And they share the common Mormon arrogance: the belief that only Mormons do this kind of thing.  In a way they are right, since only Mormons confine this kind of thing to their co-religionists.  Most people will help perfect strangers if asked.

The second example was even more telling. Pam Finlayson was stunned when Romney came to visit her. She was embarrassed that she had drying clothes all over her home, and Romney helped her take in her own laundry, which amazed her.  The Romneys used her as a babysitter, but it wasn't clear whether or not she was paid for it. She had a baby who was 3.5 months premature and struggled for life. The Romneys brought her a Thanksgiving dinner during that time, and both kids and Ann claimed it was all Mitt's idea, not theirs.  This last insistence was a curious note which suggested just the opposite. In a patriarchy where his son Tagg admits that Romney is served first at dinner, the likelihood is that he will be credited with all decisions by his loyal family no matter what the facts are.  When that child of Kate Finlayson eventually died at age 26, both Mitt and Ann called to offer condolences, which again amazed Pam.  She was shaking with sobs by the end of all this, as were many of the Republican audience.  Really? Is it that hard to believe someone would call a former domestic employee to comfort her?

So that was it.  Some fireworks, a fake will, a eulogy, helping take in the laundry, a Thanksgiving dinner for the babysitter, and a phone call when her child died.  For one of the richest men in America, those were the biggest stories they could come up with about his compassion.  And those were a result of his assigned church position. The same church that advanced his career and pulled the strings to put him in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics to launch his political career.  I could do better from my own life. I suspect most people could.

Next came a strident defense of Bain Capital.  Tom Sternberg told us that Bain Capital stood by one education company with five years of losses.  We know Mitt was involved with around 100 deals, but not if this was one of them.  The fact they only could point to this one shows it was the exception, and it wasn't clear from the description just how much influence Romney had on this decision.  We were also told that although Bain Capital sold out of Staples early, Mitt remained on the board of directors of 15 years.  Most businessmen would laugh, since directors rarely contribute to a company in any real way.  But Romney claims to, sometimes to his cost.  For example, he was on the board of Damon when it engaged in a massive Medicare fraud scheme.  He could have said he just didn't know about it, but instead he said he blew the whistle to the feds. The feds denied it.  And if the feds were lying about that and Romney was a whistleblower, then Romney defrauded the company he sold Damon to because he didn't tell them and he made lots of money off the deal, almost half a million for himself.  So either either Romney knew about the fraud and was guilty of scamming the buyers of Damon, or he didn't know and was guilty about lying about it as well as negligence in his director's role.

Sternberg did not discuss the failure rate of Romney's businesses.  Deutsche Bank found that Romney's companies lost money or went bankrupt almost half the time, yet the failure of exactly ONE investment of President Obama under his massive stimulus bill was enough to make Romney accuse the president of "cronyism and corruption."  Who would you like as a manager? A man who made $500 billion in investments in the stimulus and $50 billion in investments with the auto industry,  with only one screw up of half a billion, or a man who sent half of the companies he was "helping" down the tubes?  Romney wanted to let GM and Chrysler fail.  It appears Obama may be the better businessman.

Kerry Healey arrived to tell us of the wonders of Mitt Romney's governance of Massachusetts.  She said "we cut taxes 19 times" and "as a result" they only had 4.7% unemployment when Romney's term ended. Well , if as Romney claims, the president creates jobs, then those were Bush's jobs, not Romney's.

In truth he didn't cut taxes but raised them, raising 750 fees to raise revenue. He did cut aid to cities, which caused local government to raise taxes, so that during his term in office, even though Massachusetts had as big a deficit after he left as when started, the average tax burden per family was much higher.  She also told a misleading anecdote about how the first day in office, Romney insisted his staff serve breakfast to homeless vets.  Touching, but Romney cut aid to the poor throughout his administration, homelessness increased, and therefore there were more charitable opportunities.

It is true the Romney took no salary.  It is also true that various buddies of his got lucrative contracts with Massachusetts.  One of the big scandals of his administration was a partial collapse of the Big Dig Tunnel, killing a commuter, which happened when he was vacationing in New Hampshire.  She claimed he "didn't assign blame" but "fixed it" and "abolished cronyism and corruption."  In fact, it was all about blame assigning, since the Turnpike Authority had failed in its oversight of private contractors.  One reason? Massachusetts had such business friendly laws that when the contractor was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the punishment was the  maximum fine: $1,000.  That is to say, when you kill someone in Massachusetts, you go to jail.  Unless you're a corporation, in which case you only pay a $1,000 fine. Yet Romney brags about such a business friendly environment.

Then Jane Edmonds, a black democrat who served in Romney's cabinet in Massachusetts got up to say how wonderful he was to women.  She gave the most servile, unconvincing speech at the convention and frankly repulsed the audience.  She said her first impression of Romney was "his humility, his grace, his kind manner."  She said he was "honest, authentic, inclusive." that he was "not for himself, but for the people."  Her greatest love of him? He hired 42% women, when the previous Democratic administration only had 30%.  Fully half his cabinet were women, the most in the whole country.  In other words, he made a quota of nonentities like Edmonds.   This was all met with horror by the Republicans, who don't like this quota sort of thing.  And yet, it has long been practiced by business to maintain their sexism in a litigious world, that they hire weak people from the women and minorities.  To be fair, nobody can talk honestly of Romney's Massachusetts years without mentioning there was a 85% Democratic supermajority in the legislature and that with 13% Republican registration, there were essentially no Republicans with management experience.

If anyone thought Jane Edmonds had brought hagiography to an insincere, brown nosing low, they would soon seen it overtopped by the scene of Olympic athletes prostituting themselves for Romney. Kim Rhode started it off with a wild exaggeration, saying Mitt Romney saved the entire Olympic movement.  As we know from this blog, the Salt Lake Games were actually in good shape when Romney took them over.  Mike Eruzione then weighed in saying  that the Games were in a "desperate scandal" due to "bribery and mismanagement"   As we have seen before in this blog,  the Salt Lake Olympics was on track for success when Romney was hired, and far from eschewing those tainted in the bribery scandal, he hired some and helped others, being repaid over the years with millions in campaign contributions. We also know the CFO Mitt fired was right and Mitt wrong about the prospect for federal funds, the ostensible reason for the CFO's dismissal.  Eruzione said that thanks to Romney the "2002 Games would have the highest standards of ethics and integrity."  Instead there was a judging scandal.

All this was to be expected, but when the fanatical, lisping Romney devotee Derek Parra got up to speak, we got something macabre.  Parra claimed he once lived with the Romneys (they panned to the Romneys who looked as if he had slapped them; maybe he was sleeping with one of them).  He said that he was going to skip the Opening Ceremonies in 2002 to prepare for his competition the next day but the Romneys demanded he help carry the World Trade Center 9/11 flag into the ceremonies and he couldn't refuse.  That actually made them out as insensitive users.  He started crying thinking about that moment, and said "That all happened under Mitt Romney" as if Romney were a God from heaven.   He claimed Romney was responsible for America's record gold medal haul at that Games, which reminded us that Kim Rhode bragged about the record medal haul this year in London.  Will they allow Obama credit for that? I kind of doubt it.

It was so excessive, so very Jerry Sandusky creepy, that the crowd went slack-jawed. 

Next up was the old reprobate Clint Eastwood, who sounded like an old drunk in a nursing home, and looked it too with unbrushed hair and no makeup.  Why this embarrassing spectacle?  Last February, during the Super Bowl, Clint Eastwood did an ad praising the American car industry, saying it was "halftime in America."  Republicans seeing the ad were convinced he meant he was advocating a second term for Obama and referring to Romney's embarrassing instruction to let Detroit fail.  Eastwood denied any political intent, as did the car company.  The point of having Eastwood excoriate Obama's failed promises was to do a turnabout "gotcha" on the Democrats.  Except that the Democrats weren't behind the original ad, so the whole episode reeks of Romney paranoia, grudge holding, resentment, and mental illness. .

After this cascade of embarrassment, Senator Marco Rubio stepped to the fore.  Like most speakers, he wallowed in his immigrant background.  First he was bogged down in generalities and the swamp of American Exceptionalism (none of the Republicans seems to understand that most Americans don't have the faintest idea what they mean by that or why they push it so hard).

That part of his talk reached a grisly climax of nonsense when he said "If we do for our children what our parents did for us, America can be better than it ever was." He meant sacrifice, which is not something one says specifically out loud in politics except in the past tense, as something we all DID, not something we need to DO, but since most our parents raised us in a more liberal age, it necessarily conjured up a time when more progressive, government centered values prevailed to the confusion of his message.  He then went on the obligatory patriotic riff saying, "Dreams that are impossible anywhere else they come true here," an odd thing to say when almost every other country in the world has higher social mobility in the last thirty years than this one.  Let's put it this way: there are no billionaires in China who came from rich families, whereas most American billionaires came from rich families.  Rubio said that America's a place where it doesn't matter who your parents are, which is another huge lie from a party whose keenest most deeply cherished agenda item is to eliminate all inheritance tax so that the richest among us can shower money on their offspring for generations.

Rubio was supposed to be celebrating and introducing Mitt Romney.  But he tossed that off with a line or two about Romney's "success" and delivered his little political homily instead, with the danger of making Romney's own speech a repetition of its introduction.

Romney's speech I will cover in the next entry.  Of all the nights, this one had the most impact on the Republicans because the positive things that were said about Romney, lame and mythomanic though they were, made them feel much better about him.  It was not clear it had any effect on the public, since it had a ritualized aspect, derived from its Mormon source in hierarchy and deference. The peasants thrilled over the crumbs he gave them because they had been trained to expect nothing at all..  It might soothe some die-hard Republicans, but to the average person, it didn't sound like quite the amazing story it was made out to be.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Republican Convention Day Two: Paul Ryan rambles, lies

The nation got its first real look at Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's No. 2, who is apparently supposed to win the young over because of their dissatisfaction with Obama.  Ryan started with a self-deprecating "Hello everybody," indicating that he is every bit the demagogue with the fake bonhomie of  a Clinton or a Bush.
Indeed, when Ryan started speaking, one was reminded of that fast talking insincere kid who ran for student council in junior high school and would say anything to anyone.

Ryan proved that he understands what focus groups tell him about America's pain: 23 million underemployed, 1 in 6 in poverty, millions needing food aid, and half of all recent college grads unemployed.  He took Obama to task for not doing more about this, even though Republicans and Democratic conservatives in 2009 refused to consider another stimulus and the Republicans since 2009 have refused to do anything Obama wanted, with a record over 300 filibusters.  In short, Ryan knows America's pain because he had a big hand in creating it.

Scourged for his Medicare privatization plan, he slammed the president's health care plan for cutting $716 billion from Medicare. In truth, Obama did not touch Medicare but rescinded the special incentives given to private insurance companies to offer Medicare Advantage plans in competition with the government.  Core Medicare would still remain and would not be cut. Romney, however, has capped Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and to meet their fiscal goals, Romney and Ryan would have to deeply cut Medicare benefits, presumably through some voucher privatization scheme such as Ryan proposed.  For the purposes of the convention and rallying the faithful (who snickered during this segment), it was enough that Ryan proved he could lie without blinking.  He even repeated his charge that Obama promised to keep Janesville, Wisconsin's GM plant open even though the press revealed that it had closed during Bush's term.  Ryan had no problem repeating his false insinuation that Obama was to blame.

He was especially good in decrying the deficit, caused by the failure of Obama to get his promised and popular increased tax on the rich, a move blocked at every turn by the Republicans.  Ryan has already proved with his budget this year that he wants to add $4 trillion additional to the deficit and cares nothing at all about paying down debt.  

The rest of Ryan's interminable rambling involved trying to pluck at the emotions while lying about his plans. He even said, it is the duty of America for "the strong to protect the weak," implying an entitlement philosophy his Ayn Rand philosophy certainly rejects.  He also talked about college grads laying on their childhood beds staring up at fading Obama posters, although his smirking did not really seem sympathetic.

Romney got the best speaker the Republicans had today for his vp, a smarmy and obvious liar with undoubtedly more charm than Mitt himself.  But he did not get a game changer.

Republican Convention Day Two: The Crazy comes out

The Republicans were unable to keep a lid on the Crazy on Day Two of the convention.  Mitt Romney did not attend the session, distancing himself from what was said.  I can't recall any convention where the candidate has failed to listen to his running mate's acceptance speech before..

 The two most shocking of all were John McCain and Condoleezza Rice, the two old guard allowed to speak.  McCain sounded drunk and dangerous.  He accused the president of "drifting away" from global leadership, even though it was Barack Obama who ended the war in Iraq, caught Osama bin Laden, and kept our allies in Afghanistan until 2014. McCain said Obama gave Russia and China a "veto" over our middle east policy and demanded war against Iran and Syria, claiming that in the olden days, we would have gotten those wars, even though war with Syria would likely mean war with Russia.  The president assisted the revolution in Libya over Republican opposition, who were more comfortable with terrorist Moammar Qaddafi, who had used chemical weapons on his own people, launched terrorist attacks on Americans, and supported terrorism worldwide.  Republicans, however, said we would get "bogged down" in Libya.  Perhaps they were more inclined to think highly of Qaddafi because of his long-term relationship with some of their own, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Richard Perle.

Diplomatic ties to Perle, Rice, and Cheney

But the ties went deeper than that.  They actually used Qaddafi to torture people during their war on terror.

Halliburton, Dick Cheney's company, helped Qaddafi build his bunker.

McCain forgot that Obama helped get Qaddafi removed. All this is the usual "My gang is better than your gang" of Republican politics, but McCain wanted more than that.  He insisted that the president was WRONG WRONG WRONG to think of America as one nation among many and other people in the world as just like us. McCain said his touchstone is American Exceptionalism, meaning America is the one and only moral leader in the world and that we have a responsibility to rule the world.  He got violently angry at the idea that the military could ever be cut or other nations left without American military meddling, something that was suggested by his fellow Republican speaker Rand Paul.  McCain seemed out of his mind and unstable.

Condoleeza Rice, comically wearing what appeared to be poorly fitting, stained new dentures, and speaking in a ridiculous "posh" Brit-inspired accent through her nose with terms like "uh-LIZE" for "allies" and "ONjinuty" for "ingenuity," amazed, first by pretending she ever did anything to help AIDS in Uganda (the abstinence programs funded by the US there failed), stop sexual slavery in Southeast Asia, and other such Jesus-martyr type stuff; and then by making a bizarre foray into domestic politics by demanding school vouchers as the answer to disparities in local education funding, calling it "the civil rights issue of our time."  The real reason some Republicans support school vouchers is to divert tax money to existing private religious schools that have done without it for a hundred years, not to provide equal funding to the ghetto, still less to improve education..  It was bizarre to see her even try to interest her fellow Republicans in her schemes.  It also made it clear that she is fuzzy brained, and her failure during the Bush years to predict Boris Yeltsin's rise in her academic specialty, Soviet Russia, was no accident but an  intellectual deficiency.  She also indulged a rant about China, blaming Obama for only signing three new free trade pacts while China signed 15 and worked on 18, thus demonstrating she was out of sync with the other speakers who accused China of unfair trade.

These two were the most bizarre, but there were plenty of others taking the crazy train tonight.

Mitch McConnell attacked Europe, as I predicted the GOP would, telling us these prosperous free societies  had "elections where people vote if they should work or not."  To the people who didn't read my post on the subject, please be advised the European Union, all 500 million plus of them, employs as a high a percentage of its population as the United States does..

Rand Paul misrepresented the Founding Fathers, an old-timey republican trick.  In this case he insisted that James Madison, father of the Constitution, insisted on the limitations of the power of the federal government to tax.  This is a flat out lie. In the National Gazette in January 23, 1792, Madison actually called for the welfare state: taxing the rich "to mediocrity" and supporting the poor to a level of "comfort," in order to prevent factionalism from destroying the Republic.  He easily foresaw that without this, those who profit immoderately from government would fan  the flames of faction with issues (real and imagined) until the society could not be reconciled to compromise government.  Madison, in short, warned us against phonies like Rand Paul, and unfortunately the voters are ignorant of this history.

Rand Paul also promoted a historically inaccurate view of American infrastructure, saying America's roads and bridges only exist because of America's business success. He incredulously said that Obama believed that "roads creates business."  Historically, of course, they do.  The government subsidized canals, roads and railroads, the land transfers, and the banks and bond markets that brought settlers and business to Indiana.  There were no canals, railroads and roads before government subsidy.  There were no banks before government charters for them.  Rand Paul is simply a liar whenever the subject is history.

Rand Paul was so crazy he actually defended the rich (using that taboo word nobody else has used at the Convention) and Exxon-Mobil, to the consternation of the delegates, saying that Obama was "punishing" them by threatening to raise their taxes, while he blamed Obama for the high oil prices Exxon-Mobil has been extorting from the public at the same time.  The GOP didn't mind that so much, but there was disgruntlement in the hall when he said "Not every dollar spent on military is necessary or well-spent."  Candidate Romney eschews that position directly, calling for a huge increase in military spending to reach a magical 4% of GDP number for a military which already spends more than all other armies in the world combined.  There was a walkout of Ron Paul supporters, but I'm not clear if they heard Rand's speech or not.

Romney's goal in asking for more military spending is to win votes because he knows that the military has distributed its bases to win votes in Congress, and he can use make work military jobs to say he is doing something to provide employment ("stimulus" under fake cover) but it was actually kind of nice Rand Paul's rant raised some question about whether or not Romney was sincere in this plan or whether it was just a money for votes promise.

Attorneys General from two states, Pat Bondi and Sam something or other, then followed to say why they thought Obamacare unconstitutional, proving that not every lawyer is of average intelligence. Nor did they feel guilty they wasted taxpayer money pursuing an obviously meritless political vendetta against Obama in court.

Narcissist Mike Huckabee started with some false humility, claiming to have overheard backstage the remark "We sure can do better than Huckabee" and pretending to agree with it.  He then indulged a personal vendetta by claiming he had hotel room next to the evil Debbie Wasserman-Schultz who kept him awake.  He also lied about American history, saying our forefathers "left taxation" to "seek religious freedom."  Most Americans in the colonial exodus had no religion and they did not leave taxation, they rebelled against it.  He claimed that colonials in America "lived under the boot of big government," when in truth it was their own colonial governments which regulated prices, supported the poor, maintained roads, and forced people to donate time as well as money to government projects and militias.  Their rebellion against England was not a rebellion against local government.  His most serious complaint? Biden only gave 0.2% of his income to charity (as reported on his taxes), whereas Mitt Romney gave 16%.  There is no way to check these figures, which are certainly untrue. In addition, it must be faced that when Romney tithes to the Mormon church, he has gotten something in return, such as being appointed to run the Salt Lake Olympics.  Paying people who promote you to high office inside and outside the church and benefit your career is not usually what people think of when they think charity.  Romney also obtained funds for his companies from Mormon connected businesses.  This was marketing expense for Romney and support for the church's propaganda, not true charity. 

Senator John Thune made the most bizarre claim of the night, claiming that Obama had "proposed banning farm kids from doing basic chores."  He didn't explain what he meant by this, because of course it never happened.  He said health insurance premiums are up 19%, college tuition 23%, and food stamps 45% during Obama's presidency.  He didn't mention that Republicans had a direct hand in making all of this happen, refusing to cut subsidies to insurance companies get that they are not entitled to under original Medicare, making state colleges admit high performing students tuition-free under programs like Romneys in Massachusetts so tuition for everyone else goes up, and refusing to help the poor, middle class, and repeatedly trying to cut off long-term unemployment benefits, driving people to starvation.. His cynical presentation was a perfect example of the strategy laid out by McConnell in 2010: the Senate Republicans' plan was to prevent Obama from achieving anything so they could get rid of him.  They didn't care one whit for the country or any of its people, only for their own gang.

Senator Rob Portman made the false accusation that Obama never passed a budget and made the false charge that his Department of Commerce "hadn't even sought the export agreements" which are usually done with other countries.  Obama has never traveled overseas without promoting American exports, and this was pure demagoguery from the most arrogant rich fraud in the Senate. Portman also engaged in demagoguery in saying "China manipulated its currency" to sucker the U.S. in trade when they have been doing that since the 1990s and Obama is the only one who has called them on it, even getting them to to a partial revaluation during his term.  The Republicans in the Bush era tried to promote a China free trade agreement.  Portman said, "This will end under Mitt Romney."

Portman then introduced Steven Cohen, an unintelligent, inarticulate Ohio businessman who asked us to believe that his business is so clever that China steals its ideas. He made some big whoppers for such a short speech.  He claimed American business cannot compete because of health care costs.  True, but it's true because other countries make that the responsibility of the taxpayer, not the business. It was Republicans who insisted on giving that responsibility to business in the first place so as to avoid "socialized medicine." Those costs will not come down if Republicans are put in charge of them.  Second, he said that impossible emissions standards hurt American business, when in fact many other countries have higher standards than the U.S.

Tim Pawlenty,  the Minnesota governor, tried to tiptoe on the racism fence by calling Obama "The Tattoo President."   His big whopper was to say Mitt Romney wants to lower taxes on the middle class, when Romney's plan calls for increased taxes on the middle class.

Finally, to round out the field of crazy, they used New Mexico's Republican governor Susanna Martinez, who actually used an Eva Peron hand movement to end her talk.  Ms. Martinez claimed to be a former Democrat and said that little girls are always physically assaulting her in grocery stores because she is such a big celebrity.  She made the usual claims of bipartisan success in fixing New Mexico's problems, when really it was Obama's economic improvements which fixed her budget for her.

If there was a purpose in Romney letting all these people talk, most of them sounding  like mental or psychological defectives, it was probably to set up his v.p. nominee Paul Ryan, a competent lying demagogue who looked good by comparison to all of the people listed here.  Ryan's speech will the be subject of the next post.

Republican Convention Day One: Job One is to Mislead, Vaguely

Mitt Romney tried to the get the prime time he wanted by eliminating coverage of the delegate vote.  Although all the networks say he won, none of them so far are reporting the official vote totals.  Given the penchant for Republicans of saying shocking things, Romney tried to herd the speakers into a single theme, "We Built It."  This refers to a "gotcha" moment when President Obama fumblingly said business owners did not build their businesses by themselves.   The problem with the choice of this theme is that Obama has not done anything anti-business, so it left the speakers without a handy stock of false statistics to report  In 2004, when I reviewed the Republican speeches, I found hundreds of lies.  Tonight, there were certainly lies, but without the specificity and statistics one has come to expect.

The first speaker was Delaware lieutenant governor candidate Sheri Valenzuela, presumably chosen for her Hispanic name and business ownership.  However, it turned out her husband is the Hispanic, and it is not clear if Sheri is.  She shocked delegates when she said her husband started the business because they couldn't afford the best medical care for her autistic son, which reflects poorly on the American health care system Republicans are so quick to defend. Democrats looking into her background found that she had gotten government loans for her business, suggesting she exaggerates if she claims to have built it without help. She also admitted to having government contracts with Israel, and the fact that her current products are not those she and her husband set out to sell suggests she had some real struggles staying afloat.  Her big complaint with the president? She says he has instituted 106 new regulations (an infinitessimal percentage) that would cause 190 billion lost hours in paperwork (a nonsensical number capable of no possible factual support).   And that was it. That was all she had against President Obama in the way of "facts."  Her reception was lukewarm.

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire was next up.  She told the hurtful story of her husband the pilot returning from war to unemployment.  He started a landscaping and snow removal business, in which she apparently worked.  This was the second woman whose business turned out to be started by her husband, not herself.  Again, they had loans for their business, which makes them rare in the United States, since under Republican Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan banks stopped lending to small business, Bush cut the Small Business Administration budget multiple times, and instead the financial system was oriented towards real estate speculation.  When the Federal Reserve Act was passed last century, one of its instructions to the Federal Reserve Board was they not let commercial banks secure more than 25% of their assets in real estate.  Under Greenspan, 60% of banking assets became secured by real estate, a problem of misinvestment that continues today.  Ayotte survived and prospered, she said, and then she fabricated a story that a restaurant owner said he wanted to open a second restaurant in New Hampshire, but decided not to because Obamacare would penalize him if he did.  Her voice lowered, grew softer, and she looked to the side as she delivered this obvious fantasy.  She called Obamacare a "Success Tax."  Under the old system, small businesses already had a "success tax" where larger business had greater requirements, and the Obamacare program actually has a credit for small businesses that started in 2010, meaning small business have so far  saved money on health care under the new law and it cannot be said to have curtailed employment..

She then introduced Jack Gilchrist, a New Hampshire metal fabricator (his father's company), who was supposed to give scary examples about how Obama was preventing his success in business.  He did not give a single concrete example of how Obama hurt his business.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was the next speaker, the best speaker of the night, and he came prepared with the most lies.   He started with the usual puffery, claiming Ohio lost 400,000 jobs before he became Governor, and now it had a 100,000 jobs gain.  This is a dilemma for Romney, because if state governors are responsible for jobs, then Obama isn't. And if Obama is responsible, then Kasich isn't.  Kasich claimed he went from 48th worst in jobs to 2nd best, but the statistics don't seem to bear this out.   It turns out jobs gains and losses in Ohio don't seem to be related to who is governor. Kasich did his part to slam Obama by claiming the president "doubled" the national debt, which isn't true.  Reagan tripled the national debt, and Bush almost doubled the national debt, both Republicans.  Obama's contribution has been more modest despite the more challenging economic conditions he inherited, and only so large as it is because it continues Bush tax cuts. The only scenario where Obama "doubles" the national debt is the one where Obama wins a second term and Republicans keep the Bush tax cuts.

Kasich then claimed he converted an $8 billion prospective deficit (these are always exaggerated) into a $500 million surplus by attacking public sector unions and pensions.  In fact, he gained most of his surplus from privatizing state functions, one offs that will not continue, leaving the state in a structural deficit.  Meanwhile, his budget cuts to local governments caused them to have to raise taxes so that the Ohio citizen's tax burden increased.

He then went on to float lies of a similar character about Mitt Romney. Romney raised taxes as Massachusetts governor, cut programs, and left the state with the same size structural deficit he inherited of around $1 billion annually.  That was not the case in Kasich's speech, where Romney miraculously turned a $3 billion deficit to a surplus and turned job losses to job gains, even though Mass.  ranked among the worst in the country.  In truth, little could be blamed or praised for Romney because he faced a Democratic supermajority the entire time that overrode hundreds of his vetoes.  Kasich then went on to tell how Romney "Fixed" the Olympics, a story we've already debunked on this blog.  Kasich then sort of admitted he was lying by saying Joe Biden took issue with his facts, but that Joe Biden lied about being a good golfer, and so no doubt lied about everything else too.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell then threw in the usual Republican insults toward the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, or Employment Prevention Agency, he said), Entitlement Society, and claimed that states with GOP governors had unemployment rates fully 1% less than states with Democratic governors.  This was interesting to me because I actually did a study of states with Republicans and Democratic governors in the 1980s and 1990s and found that states with Republican governors increased public payrolls more than states with Democratic governors.  I didn't try to check McDonnell's math, but I did take a straight average of the average life expectancy from birth in states with Democratic governors (20) and Republican governors (29).  I did not bother weighting them for population, just an average.  The result? States with Democratic governors had an average life expectancy of 78.9 years, and those with Republican governors 78.1 years.  In other words, every person can expect to live more than nine months longer in states with Democratic governors. How can Republicans claim to be "pro-life" with this record?  Of course this is silly: there is no direct causation in either case, but one could argue that Republican budget cuts have typically been in the area of nursing homes or reduced medical care, and so there is a certain logic to it and it makes as much sense as Kasich's claims about unemployment, even if they turn out to be true..

They were followed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who got the biggest cheer of the evening for his antiunion struggles.  He had little to say except to reiterate the supposedly greater probity of republican governors that the others had already asserted with greater specificity.  The fact that Republicans have such a violent attitude towards public sector unions should not surprise: of course union pay and pensions seem high when the private sector gave up its unions and pensions long ago.  But this is a race to the bottom and harmful to the economy, to cut the pay and pensions of millions of workers to preserve tax cuts for the rich.

"The rich" was a term that was very conspicuous by its absence tonight.

Rick Santorum weighed in, asserting that marriage is under attack and that people who graduate from high school, marry, and work have only a 2% chance of being in poverty.  Well, obviously if you exclude the unemployed, you are going to have good numbers for whatever group you describe. What any of this has to do with defending marriage against gays is not clear.  Married gays probably have lower poverty rates than single gays, for that matter.  Santorum accused the president of mounting an "assault" on marriage and family, and attempting to "nationalize" educational curriculum and student loans.  Odd, I thought it was George Bush who boasted of his education funding and his education standards under No Child Left Behind.  This would hardly be the first time Republicans blamed Obama for something Bush (and they) did.  No speaker mentioned Bush by name.  Santorum actually made a very serious charge, accusing the president of ignoring the laws passed by Congress regarding immigration and welfare to work.  If so, they should have impeached him, but then it would be hard to do since they let George Bush get away with a "signing statements," "interpreting" bills as he liked without reference to what Congress wanted in 2001-2009.  On his first day on the job in 2001, President Bush said he would no longer comply with the Presidential Records Act, which would have required him to start declassifying papers from the George H.W. Bush administration. Congress did nothing. If Obama can get away with this, said Santorum, we have no Republic.  Since Bush got away with it for eight years, I'd say the facts have already established that there is no Republic.  Santorum then went into an antiabortion tirade, after falsely implying doctors recommended infanticide for his special needs daughter. This got him a standing ovation and demonstrated that the GOP was more interested in this issue than the night's theme.  Anyone watching would know that the Republicans do not intend to make the economy Job One next year.

Ted Cruz and Artur Davis then gave the token minority speeches, and Davis represented as well the Democratic apostate of the night, following in the footsteps of Joe Lieberman in 2008 and Zell Miller in 2004. Neither speech had any specifics at all although Davis alone of the speakers sniped at the health insurance mandate of Obamacare.

Finally we got to the two main speakers, Ann Romney and Chris Christie.  Ann Romney said her speech was about "love."  She said women care just a little more about the problems of the family, and women work just a little harder than men.  This sexist rant was probably supposed to deliver women for her candidate, but it just highlighted the fact that she isn't running for president, and her husband is.  She also undercut it by saying women "don't want easy."   That was intended to compliment women on their work ethic, but she exposed her belief in the laziness of women at the very end of the speech when she promised that nobody would work harder as president than Mitt, "so we can work just a little less hard," essentially promising a reduction in work if Mitt were elected president, about as pure a case of demagoguery as you will ever see.  She also mentioned his great achievement in giving out scholarships to high performing students in Massachusetts, a new entitlement that was neither his idea nor unique to Massachusetts, while ludicrously claiming Massachusetts had the best schools in the country.  The message of educational entitlement directly undercut the message Kasich and Santorum had established that Republicans would get the federal government out of education and reduce entitlements in general.

That was hardly her only attempt to mislead.  In speaking of her marriage she said there were obstacles because "I was Episcopalian, he was Mormon."  Later she mentioned "our church" but did not indicate what it was.  In other words, she was encouraging people not to see her as Mormon, when she actually converted to Romney's Mormon faith long before marrying him.   This was likely a shameless, slimy attempt to fish for voters who were uncomfortable with Romney's Mormonism by adjusting her personal story.  Her father, we know, was actually an atheist that they baptized Mormon after he died.

She laughably claimed "Mitt was not handed success,"  "Mitt doesn't like to talk about how he helps others," and "You can trust Mitt."  In truth, when Romney took over Bain Capital, Bill Bain promised he could go back to Bain Consulting if it failed, and he was guaranteed salary for a certain period too. He didn't take over the Salt Lake Olympics until they were on track for success. Mitt is always talking about how charitable he is, and also about how honest and trustworthy.  Your mother warned you about trusting such people, and she was right. The convention was positive about her speech, but I don't think they were comfortable with the love theme.

Then, to the amazement of all, the keynote speaker Governor Chris Christie attacked love as a theme. After reminding everyone of his Sicilian heritage, he said his mother told him to value being respected over being loved, directly insulting Ann Romney's just concluded speech about love and managing to sound like a mafia don wannabe.  Christie accused the president of seeking such love overseas instead of demanding respect, but there were no specifics. Indeed, Christie's speech was rambling, repetitive, and obsessed with parochial issues like teachers' unions.  His anger at unions won him his only standing applause from the candidate, who otherwise looked disgusted with his keynoter.  Christie also said Romney was someone who would tell the truth and not duck the hard questions, a laughable claim about a man noted for his flip flops and telling people what they want to hear.  It may well be that Christie wants Romney to lose so he can run for president in 2016.  His performance was not good enough to justify such a hope.  If Romney picked Christie to keynote as a "moderate" voice, Christie's anger and bombast defeated the purpose.  If Romney picked Christie to rouse the rabble, the rabble was uncomfortable with the trashy ethnic style.  Kasich would have been a far better choice.

In summation, it was striking that all the speeches were more about attacking Obama than promoting Romney, but they were all unspecific and lacking substance and with a much reduced battery of false statistics. It was rather telling that the last two speakers concentrated on telling us to trust Romney and believe him, an apparent problem with his poll numbers. Ann Romney's attempt to corral the female vote did not seem very exciting.  It would have been better if she could have promised them something, anything, other than the patently ridiculous "just a little less" work.  The speeches were probably intended not to offend people as the number one goal, and to paper over differences over things like education, but Romney will not get a bump if speeches over the next few days do not improve.  In the meantime, the tendency of speakers to undercut each other did not speak too highly of Romney's control over the process, theme or no theme, Bush or no Bush, rich or no rich.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republicans: Plotting violence, misrepresenting Europe

Can the Republicans top 2008, when one of their pages later spent $87,000 compiling guns and bombs in an army plot to assassinate Obama?

They will certainly try.  We have already seen they have tried to sabotage the economy and organize a capital strike against the American economy (inspired no doubt by "Atlas Shrugged") to get Obama out of the White House.

We have seen a campaign based entirely on mendacity where they have tried to hide their agenda from the public, not because they are ashamed of it, but because the people are nobodies who wouldn't understand and can't be trusted.  It is highly probable that it is the Republicans who have asked the networks to limit convention press coverage this year, because Republicans speaking at the convention have a history of saying embarrassing things, plus they want to minimize the Democratic convention coverage, where the president might be able to make up for some of his campaign's  financial deficit with free publicity.

Their most effective tool so far has been misleading emails sent out, blaming the Bush 's administration's failures on the weak Democratic Congress of his last two years, faking the statistics which actually show the worst came before the Democrats won a tenuous victory.  They have not done a similar analysis for the Republican Congress elected in 2010.  This has been effective because it was sent out on private email trees and therefore beyond the reach of fact correction by the opposing campaign.

It has really come to this.  They can only succeed when an opposing point of view is suppressed. The convention, in contrast, promises to pull out all the stops in telling lies about Europe in an orgy of Faux-Patriotism that will nonetheless fail to obscure the fact that these people view their fellow Americans as their biggest enemy, not any foreign power.

Romney told a series of huge whoppers when he claimed to have experienced hardship on his mission in France, not having toilets or showers and baths (in Paris, in the mid 1960s!).,0,1406233.story

In truth the contraption he describes was a toilet.  And he lived in a mansion furnished with stained glass and crystal chandeliers worth approximately $12 million

Like his charitable giving example that was just a business deal, Romney's attempts to seem like a regular guy are so ill-chosen they just reinforce the notion that he is not.

But in this case, he is counting on more than that.  He was counting on American ignorance of Europe.
Since 1945 France has experienced a greater percent of economic growth than the US.  Only 20% of Americans own passports, and probably fewer than 10% have ever been to Europe.  If they had been to Europe, they would see that the French live well.  Their unemployment is no worse than ours, they get lots of vacation, good medical care, and retire at 60, all without bankrupting their country or harming their private sector.  This year they elected a socialist government that wants a 75% marginal tax rate on the rich.

Romney thinks it is imperative he prevent the U.S. from doing even half as much for its people.  Yet if the people ever saw France, they would demand the same rights and privileges because the French way has worked better for more people than the way promoted by American conservatives.  Indeed, the European Union as a whole, including all its poor countries and Greece, employs as high percentage of its population as the United States does, while Canada employs considerably more.  In none of these countries other than Greece is a quarter of the population in need of food aid during a typical year as is happening now in the USA.  In none of these countries do annual layoffs total anything like the 10-20 million the United States has been experiencing every year.  43% of Americans have gone a week without cash, which does not reflect their plastic so much as their lack of income.

Americans have been bamboozled by Romney's class,  yet the Republicans are counting on the Democrats not being so stupid as to try to defend Europe by enlightening the ignorant.  That would be unpatriotic.  That would mean the liberals are being "led" by Europe if we dare to copy some of their ideas which have proved to work.

It's not clear to me why the Republicans think these arguments play with the public, except that they think the public are  stupid and worthless.   I don't think the public is, but they have seemed to miss one thing: they have not understood the contempt in which Romney and the Republican hierarchy hold them.

Will the Republican party ever stop creating terrorists and become the home of actual patriots?  One thing is sure.  Not in 2012.  Not in Tampa. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Romney's tax issues expose his gullibility

By now everybody knows the Romney is filthy rich and refuses to release his tax returns.  By now everybody knows that Romney has parked money in offshore tax havens and a wild diversity of investments.

We are now also aware that Marriott had tax problems when he sat on its board on the Audit Committee for its highly creative tax accounting.  It was essentially the opposite of Bush's maneuver to inflate Harkness Energy's profits.  In that  case they created a dummy corp. to buy assets and get a loss off their books. In this case they bought assets from another of their companies at a highly inflated price so that when they sold that company they could recognize a loss to offset their taxes.  Companies use schemes like this primarily to transfer gains and losses between countries with different tax rates in order to put profits in countries with low tax rates and losses in countries with high tax rates by coming up with fictitious prices for transfers between companies they own in different countries.

This was probably not Romney's scheme personally.  As we look at how he manages his personal finances, however, we see that he seems to have tried every maneuver out there to reduce his taxes, using not one tax haven, but every tax haven; packing $100 million into an IRA, and buying funds that play with derivatives.

That points to something that gets too little attention in the evaluation of the candidate: his gullibility.  He seems to have latched on to any and every scheme out there.

In part this may reflect Mormon culture.  For forty years, the Latter-day Saints have been grappling with claims that Salt Lake City is the "stock fraud" capital of the nation, and high up on the list of other fraud schemes.

Twenty-five years later, Utah continues to be seen as a fraud capital.

Sometimes, they have even been reduced to presenting omnipresent fraud as "good news" or the result of presumed superior enforcement action, as in this story about Utah's higher level of Medicaid fraud than other states:

Today, Utah is the national capital of "multilevel marketing" companies, which sell by getting people to earn money by recruiting friends and neighbors as salesmen instead of running ads or opening stores. That reduces selling overhead, but when the rewards are disproportionately for recruiting salespeople rather than moving product, these programs can become almost like pyramid schemes.

Is this because Mormons are uniquely gullible, willing to believe anything from within their network?  Yes and no.  There are religious people all over the country who are scammed by people introduced to them through church.   The Mormons cultivate a sense of apartness from others that can make them vulnerable to this, as also happens with other religious groups.

 What makes the Mormons different is that first of all, they dominate a state, which isn't true of any other single group.   Second, and most importantly, church offices are unpaid volunteer positions that are handed out to members without any application process or professional screening of candidates.

Thus, a good way to campaign for an office and social status is to help one of the existing officials make money.

This gives a boost to schemes based on the community.   It also means that someone like Romney, a wealthy man who has been told all his life he is the fulfillment of divine prophecies,  and who occupied a high position in the church from a young age, would be the target of many people with ideas to sell.

When it comes to avoiding taxes, Romney appears to have tried all these schemes, from oil wells and S&L mortgages in the eighties to credit default swaps, derivatives schemes, and overseas tax haven funds today.  That means Romney is not a financial mastermind shaving hairs from the tax code, but a gullible guy who will believe anybody who promises to save him taxes.

A Romney White House would likely be filled with all kinds of salesmen promoting odd and dangerous policy schemes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Romney-Nice Campaign: Misrepresenting Business as Charity

This week all the broadcast media have run "feel good" articles on Mormons, and now on the eve of the GOP convention, they have turned their "feel goodery" on Mitt Romney.  Apparently, this free publicity is all part of the campaign's strategy to handle the "negatives" of Romney seeming aloof and distant.  Thus, in my weekend edition of the  Chicago Tribune, the front page title article is by a propagandist (pretend journalist) from the Tribune-owned L.A. Times named Maeve Reston who tried to sell the idea of a privately generous and caring Romney.  The evidence of this generosity? When Staples hired an executive from a competitor, and that company wanted him to repay the loan they gave him for a house, Romney wrote him a check - as a loan, demanding he sell the house to repay Romney.  It apparently never occurred to Reston that this would have been something the exec worked out in his compensation package in moving to Staples, that Romney probably did not use his personal money to pay it but Bain's, that either way Staples picked up the ultimate tab, that Romney no doubt charged interest on the money loaned, and that the guy had to sell the house to repay Romney so he had to move from his home anyway.  Romney didn't know the man, and this was a business transaction with an already privileged individual whose previous employer had bought him a $250,000 house.  She also didn't discuss the ethics of poaching talent from the competition, and using Romney as an intermediary to prevent Staples itself from appearing to do it.  In short, the reporter mistook a business deal for a charitable contribution.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Impotence Confirmed: Akin ignores Romney's call to step down

If you have been following the national news, you know that the Tea Party's Missouri Senate campaign is under fire for saying that women who are raped can prevent pregnancy by willing it.  The implication is that any woman who is raped and pregnant was not really raped, since otherwise her body would have rejected the baby.  They got into this pickle because they foresaw that if an exception to an abortion ban is allowed for rape and incest, all a woman would have to do to get an abortion is claim to be raped.  Since these gentlemen are misogynists, they think women would all do this, claiming to be raped, and abortions would continue, essentially on demand. The other argument, that the babies of rape have an independent right and are not tainted by the father or the involuntary treatment of the mother, is the argument the more "genteel" Republicans would like to rely on, but such hairsplitting only points out that to the woman who is the victim of rape and pregnant, she has no rights.

After all the Republican bigwigs and commentators asked Akin to step down, and he appeared to be wavering (or asking for a handout to step down), Romney weighed in and asked him to drop out.

Akin rejected this request and told Romney to butt out.,0,3005061.story

Democrats eagerly pointed to the fact that Akin's position has been strongly held by most of the leading republicans, including v.p. candidate Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored a bill about this with Akin.

The real loser here is Romney, because it is clear that the Republican party is not answering to him, despite letting him run the convention.  That means, should he be elected, he cannot count on the cooperation of any Republicans in Congress, so whatever "moderate" positions he uses to win the general election do not reflect what a Republican Congress would do, and he would be just as impotent as Obama in dealing with his own party in Congress.  It also reinforces the notion that he put Ryan on the ticket to remove him from Congress, not to compliment him.

What's more, Romney only called for Akin to step down when it appeared the problem could be solved by a payoff.  When that didn't happen, it showed the limitations of the Richy Rich approach to governance.
Romney may be able to buy off the media and a segment of the voters. He has no chance in buying off Congress, who have their own sources of payola.

Any imputation that Romney knows how to conduct a trade war with China; that Romney knows how to keep bankers and CEO's from cheating; and that Romney is just the man to reform America's corrupt business dead on arrival.

Romney is a fool who is only as popular as he can find desperate people willing to defer to him for money.
And that's even if he holds views more moderate than those expressed by Akin.  Chances are, he does not.

The whole episode points out, rather starkly, why women would be stupid to vote Republican.  Here it is necessary to point out that no church has been as dedicated to opposing feminism and women's rights as the one Romney has served as Bishop of, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which have maintained their nineteenth century regard for women as a separate species to be removed from power and influence.

While Catholics are just as firmly against women priests, it was the LDS church that blocked the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and harassed and excommunicated a pro-ERA Mormon, Sonia Johnson. In Mormondom, excommunication doesn't mean you are merely kicked out of services, you are actively shunned.  
Sonia Johnson

Sonia Johnson's speech on women and Mormonism:

Having successfully stopped ERA by hiding their involvement, using front groups and proxies, the Mormons have replicated this in the fight against gays, providing a large majority of all money and volunteers against gay rights in the last twenty years.  In a way, I suppose the Democrats should thank them because from 1940 to 1976 Republicans supported equal rights for women and were no worse than Democrats on gays.  By making the Republican war on women more stark and effective, the Mormon obsessiveness has actually helped the Democrats more than the Republicans, who could never dream of being a majority party as they once did.

Those who think Romney will not act to promote the views of his religion are not paying attention to the fact that Mormons have become more a political than a religious organization over the last forty years and that their right-wing views on these issues accord well with the violent rhetoric of Akin.  Romney wanted him to step down for political reasons, but there is no doubt they are on the same side in practice.  The only fakery is that Romney is "leading" any of it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Brown-Noser Bears start their tour

When Paul Ryan was selected for vice-president, Romney's elves immediately began to scrub Ryan's Wikipedia page.  The very first thing to go was his high school election as "Biggest Brown-Noser," which was scrubbed from his entry.

Those high school kids knew their man.  In just one week as presumed running mate, Paul Ryan has proved he is every bit the manic liar and suck up that Romney is, doing his best to prove the claim made on this blog last week, that he was chosen to get him out of  a leadership role in Congress, not into the vice-presidency.

Rachel Maddow immediately slammed Ryan over his false reputation as fiscal conservative.  She found that during the Bush years he voted without concern for deficits, including a very big vote for Medicare Part D prescription benefit, an expansion of entitlements that should have gone against Ryan's self-proclaimed devotion to Ayn Rand, whose cult of selfishness and hate of altruism  has always been a big hit on Wall Street.  Ryan disavowed his commitment to Ayn Rand even though it was on tape.   When it was discovered he said that the President's stimulus was bad and wouldn't work, but requested  (and got) money for his district to create much needed jobs under that stimulus, Ryan lied about that too. Indeed, there were even stories that he failed to disclose to the Romney team as part of his financial vetting, that he and his wife just received a large inheritance from her parents.

The only thing that seemed to hurt the team, politically, was Ryan's proposal to privatize Social Security and Medicare.  Romney has tiptoed around the Medicare issue while loudly blaming the president for getting rid of Medicare Advantage subsidies in his health care plan.  What the president did, was eliminate the special subsidies paid to private companies to create Medicare Advantage plans. In 1997, Congress passed Medicare Advantage, giving seniors the option of using privately run plans instead of traditional government Medicare.  To get insurers to offer plans, Congress granted them an extra subsidy in 2003 and slowly over time, a quarter of seniors have migrated to these plans.   The result is that the government has been paying more per capita to Medicare Advantage insurers than it does for original Medicare.  Without the subsidy, the private insurers will likely leave the field to the government, and the people who have Medicare Advantage plans will be back to original Medicare.  That will hardly be a loss to them, however, since MA providers were not providing better coverage than original Medicare.  That is where Romney gets his large numbers that Obama is cutting from Medicare. He's not cutting it from Medicare but from Medicare Advantage's extra subsidy to private providers.

Meanwhile, Romney has gone so far as to disavow his protege's budget, apparently without any objection from Ryan.

Since Romney is clearly using Ryan, then, what does Ryan get out of this arrangement?  Well, for one thing, he only has one butt to brown nose, whereas in Congress there are Boehner and Cantor at the very least.
Second, if Romney wins, Ryan establishes himself as the heir apparent.  Well, maybe. That has not always worked out for vice-presidents (see Gore).  Even when they win the mantle, winning elections is hard when your job is inessential.  It hardly seems likely Romney will include him in the inner circle of advisers.

If Romney loses, however, there is more room for maneuver.  There is no "leader" in the Republican party right now, as the free for all of the primary indicated.  The money men don't like that, and Ryan, who was until last week relatively undamaged by scrutiny, may have seemed to fit the bill.  Ryan won't be able to sit around as vice-president and make that work. He would have to have additional roles like party leader.  But it could be done.

In the meantime, the Brown-Noser Bears Romney and Ryan will be out deceiving the public, trying to persuade people they stand for anything other than the looting of the nation by the rich.  And they even managed to find hairy shirtless pix of Ryan, because in today's world, the Bear look sells.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Romney's Wimp Move: Paul Ryan for VP

Mitt Romney wants to avoid comparison with George W. Bush, but he might not be worried about comparison with George H.W. Bush.  Newsweek made this comparison inevitable by questioning Romney's manhood, which was also an issue for George H.W. Bush.

Newsweek is owned by the IAC, the internet company of Barry Diller, and so outside the small crony network of corporations who own most American media, although Diller cannot be described as a liberal.

Romney laughed it off, but it may have actually pleased him by letting him frame himself as media victim, as George H.W. Bush also did in his 1988 victory.

However, Romney may have been more affected than he let on, because like Bush, he did the insecure middle age wimp thing: he secured a younger, better looking man as his running mate.

In the case of George H.W. Bush, the running mate was Dan Quayle, who was spelling-challenged and brought nothing to the ticket but a reputation for loyalty and dirty tricks, the perfect accompaniment to a masculinity challenged man. 

In the case of Romney, the choice of Paul Ryan looks even more insecure than George H.W. Bush looked.

Paul Ryan offers some advantages.  First of all, as a Congressman and Washington insider with a policy bent, he will be able to hold his own in debate with the gaffe-prone Joe Biden, unlike Sarah Palin, unless Ryan starts spouting the views of Ayn Rand, his personal heroine, which would shock the public.  Although Rob Portman is also an insider, he is a poor debater and would look old and ill compared to Biden. Condoleezza Rice would have been a better choice if debate performance were the only criterion,  but there is no telling how many people were offered the role and declined.  Romney is counting on Ryan's insider status not hurting him, as Biden didn't hurt Obama.  Given the unpopularity of Congress, that's a real concern.

However, there are other pluses Ryan brings to the ticket than his debate performance.  Ryan is a Richy Rich, as one would expect from Romney, as his family owns one of the nation's leading excavation and grading contractors, but it is a real business, not a paper one like Romney's . Ryan is young, which is a demographic Romney badly needs. Another plus is that Ryan's anti-government views are in line with the Koch Brothers, other CEOs and Wall Street, which should keep the money rolling in (July's fundraising of $101 million was below June's $106 million).  The biggest benefit of a Ryan candidacy, though, is his removal from Congress.  If Romney wins and gets a Republican Congress, that Congress will be run by the Tea Party, and Ryan would likely set the agenda.  Romney would look like second fiddle on Capitol Hill.  The rest of the Republican talent pool, like McConnell, Portman and Boehner, are subnormal and disengaged, nor is the Tea Party capable of constructive leadership, so there is little chance they would interfere in any effective way with a Romney presidency.  Ryan might interfere to the perpetual embarrassment of the outsider Romney.  Romney essentially had to remove him in order to establish himself as the sole leader of the Republicans.

By giving Ryan the job of vice-president, kicking him upstairs in the parlance of olden times, Romney therefore takes away the Congressional Republicans' ability to organize an effective opposition to President Romney's agenda.  Ryan wrote their budget, and they would likely to defer to him if the writes Romney's. That's how Eisenhower took the Republican right off the table, by promoting Nixon to vice-president, but in Romney's case it has a more desperate feel in the sense that Ryan would still be writing the budget, but Romney would get the credit for it.

The negatives of the Ryan choice are legion.  First of all, Ryan is a Congressman, so brings no electoral votes with him.  Ryan is not especially popular in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin's electoral votes are not a great prize, particularly with Romney facing an enthusiasm gap in the South. Ryan has had very little real campaign experience, and his Washington world is very removed from the mood of the electorate.  Ryan has also repeatedly attempted to privatize Social Security and Medicare, which are popular programs the public doesn't want touched. The Republicans think this will be a non-issue for Obama because Obama's health care reform does away with Medicare Advantage, a $500 billion previous attempt to partially privatize Medicare, but that assumes that the public cannot be taught what that was all about in a sound byte or two, that the Medicare Advantage customers would switch to original Medicare rather than be stripped of insurance.  Obama hasn't done it, but I find it difficult to believe he couldn't.   It is typical of the Republicans at all levels that they think a one sentence rejoinder can solve any political problem they have.  The Republicans also believe a black could never win traction with the older public, regardless of what he has given them, like enhanced prescription coverage, but the polls on this aren't entirely clear.  Obviously, if the elderly abandon Romney, he would have no winning strategy, which is why he is careful to avoid embracing the Ryan schemes, and continues to pretend he will not touch Medicare and Social Security for some years, so that the elderly will not panic and go to Obama.

The Ryan choice suggests Romney is lying about this, and Social Security and Medicare would be attacked on Day One of a Romney administration, as practically all Republican politicos want.  Ryan also voted for financial deregulation,  which implicates him partially in the 2008 economic meltdown.  Ryan has repeatedly blocked unemployment extentions and jobs focus in Congress.  In short, Ryan is far enough right that he cannot help Romney with independents.  He can help Romney with the base, but that is playing with fire. If they are empowered, they can perhaps back Romney into a corner.  Then Newsweek will not have to modify its Wimp stories with a question mark.  In short, Romney's VP choice looks less like an effort to win the election, than an effort to shore up his weak influence in the Republican party.

Romney's Poppycock Moment

Mitt Romney's ability to shift positions is dramatic, but seldom more so than his attacks on Obama are from this 2004 speech when he says Bush should not be held responsible for the economic slowdown and job losses that occurred in his first term, and the public knows such blame assigning is "poppycock."!

The reasons Romney gives for the 2004 slowdown: internet bubble, cyclical downturn, terrorist attack, are all chicken feed compared to the real estate bubble and derivatives meltdown of 2008-9. In what sense did the terrorist attack cause a recession? There were fewer airline flights and tourism, but the home improvement sector picked up.  There were losses in people and buildings, but a war buildup.  Wall Street recouped something like  $33 billion in business interruption insurance claims, mainly from Swiss companies, effectively offshoring a large chunk of its losses.

Romney is simply lying about the economy making a strong comeback in 2004 - it never made a strong comeback before collapsing in 2008, and the jobs numbers he touts are worse than what Obama has been delivering.  President Bush's tax cuts failed to create any jobs, and the fact Romney doesn't know this in 2012 means that Romney would be a disastrous president.

Obviously, Romney was just being a partisan hack in defending Bush, just as he is being a mindless partisan hack in attacking Obama. Our side is good, no matter what happens, and your side is bad, no matter what happens.   That's  his entire campaign message, and that is the entire Republican electoral strategy.  "Vote to show you are Superior to your Fellow Americans."  That's the whole  Republican message, and it is astonishing that it works so well when so few profit from it.  America used to be known for its pragmatism in economic issues, but the Republican party has destroyed that by its continual redefinition of itself as the Gang of Winners, nothing more, and nobody represents that absence of principle better than Mormon bishop Mitt Romney.

The country is presently in a state of civilian Cold War because one side, the Republicans, simply refuse to admit they have any common ground with the other, and they interpret everything that happens as the work of their domestic enemies.  As long as this violent and irresponsible party continues to be one of America's two parties, the United States will decline.  There are signs that the public is no longer buying the GOP story, despite their stranglehold on the media.

Yes, Virginia, the Romney campaign is in trouble.   Polls are finally showing movement, and it is all against Romney.

This in itself is a bit odd.  One would have expected negatives from Obama's anti-Bain ad campaign, but little from concerns about Romney's tax returns.  The media have done their best to heap scorn on Harry Reid for saying Romney paid no taxes, but Romney's hysterical attempt to respond, calling Reid a liar and acting  the victim, has not taken hold, and that's a dark cloud for the campaign, since making Romney seem the victim of dirty attacks is no doubt scheduled to be their main theme in the fall.

They really believe that if they prove Romney paid any taxes, no matter how little, they can make the Democrats the villains.  Meanwhile, the public see despite the verbiage screen that Romney has not released his tax returns, and that this is not based on principle but on political considerations.  The idea that his business career should be off-limits to discussion is also a laughable bit of humor since his entire justification for running for president was that his business experience would help him create jobs.  Romney's angry response to an Obama ad about a man who lost his health insurance due to Bain Capital and whose wife died from untreated cancer, did more damage by showing that to Romney, business is just a game and not something real where people get hurt, which he thinks is a separate issue entirely.

 The poll declines could be a bit of theater so Romney could get a "bump" from his convention and selection of Ryan, if the polls are being faked.  But if real, it is probably just the public getting better acquainted with Romney, his arrogance, and his sense of entitlement.

For the third month in a row, the Romneyites  have "raised more funds" than Obama, but now we find out they have been likely been creating phoney accounts to boost their twitter followers, and the same could well be true in fundraising.

Romney has so much money he can immediately plug any holes in the campaign performance from his personal accounts.  And with an average donation size of over $600 in March compared to Obama's $50, he will never likely suffer a true deficit.

However, his campaign receipts announced by his campaign have a curious flat, bloated look.  It is quite likely the numbers are false and inflated in order to create dismay in the president's camp.  If they are willing to do it with Twitter, it would hardly be a surprise for them to do it on fundraising.   Romney's main source of election strength will be PACs, and so will never be reported as part of the campaign.

So what will Romney use his money for, if PACs place all the ads? Well, maybe there isn't as much money as they say.  And perhaps they plan to use it to buy reporters and buy votes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still further Association between Romney and Child Abuse Camps

Readers of this blog will be aware that a Romney 2008 campaign Utah finance chairman was involved with children's camps accused of child abuse, and that when that man's partner was convicted of some charges, Robert Lichfield resigned from the Romney campaign.  They will also be aware of the association of another disgraced Romney campaign official in Arizona, Sheriff Babeu, with child discipline camps that were also accused of abusing children.  These were the subject of previous posts in this blog

Now we have a third example, a story about still another chain of these camps, Aspen Education, these owned by Romney's company Bain Capital, again accused of child abuse.

What this seems to suggest, is that Romney himself has some kind of perverse interest in this obscure and always controversial corner of American child development, camps which try to save wayward kids with discipline and "tough love." Given Romney's history of forcibly cutting a boy's hair in high school, it may represent an enduring character trait.

Meanwhile, those of you looking for graphic representations of Mitt Romney's narcissism will be interested in Romney Olympic pins, made up and sold by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.  They said he only "reluctantly" approved these pins because they earned money for the Committee, but now that we've seen Romney in action for awhile, it seems probable he cared more about the pins  than about the Olympics.

We've had some self-involved people running for president before, but surely nobody but Romney has risen to the level of Mao Tse-tung's cult of personality before.