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Romney Disqualified to Be President

The Romney scowl. (Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty)

Presidential Debate #1: Mitt Romney looks presidential while running roughshod over sleepy Barack Obama. Debate #2: The President wakes up and punches him out.

Result: Obama retook the momentum, but Romney gained more the first time than Obama gained back last night.

The election, just three weeks from now, will be close – a lot closer than it needed to be, because at the time of the first debate, the President was pulling away in all the swing states and Romney was fading into irrelevance, just like John McCain did in 2008.

Obama allowed Romney to roll him like a drunk in the gutter. I count that as an epic moral failure, because as Obama well knows, this election isn’t about him, it’s about us.

With America still recovering from a terrible recession, our future depends on who wins this election. If Romney wins, rule by the rich will replace rule by the people. If Obama wins, we still have a chance to create our own destiny, as individuals and as a nation. And as we go, so goes the world.

It’s a world in which the Taliban shoots a girl in the face for advocating female education.

May God forgive Barack Obama for that first debate. Jesus is our Savior, but the Lord depends on us today to get his message out about Love Thy Neighbor.

Obama let Jesus down, and billions of us mortals. He let down Malala, now in the hospital in London trying to recover from her wounds.

Romney of course is no friend of the Taliban – but he’s also no friend of Malala.

He’s “qualified” to be president as a former governor and businessman, but his positions (to the extent anyone can say what they are), his values and his personality disqualify him. Two weeks ago Obama was well on his way to proving that.

Romney believes in patriarchy. Why would he not, being a Mormon? Patriarchy is the basis of his religion.

He’s a nice guy; I’ve never met a Mormon who wasn’t. But the foundation of the “latter-day saints” is one man, lots of wives, lots of kids, and eventually the man will end up as a god on a distant star.

It’s unbelievable in every way. Mormons think sex is the way to salvation – heterosexual sex, that is. It’s why they give millions to defeat same-sex marriage.

As Romney said last night, he’s got “binders full of women.” That’s a Mormon man’s goal. (Plus getting rich.)

I don’t believe in a religious test for public office, and Mormons who are Democrats are free to run with me. Maybe I’ll vote for a Mormon someday – but I won’t vote for Romney, whose Catholic running-mate wants to ban all abortions, no matter what, and whose Republican platform declares that a fertilized egg is a human being with 14th Amendment rights to life, liberty and, as Chris Matthews loves to point out, property. (What, they’re doing real estate deals in the womb now?)

Romney says he supports exceptions to the abortion ban in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. How many abortions do these exceptions account for, 5%?

What happens to the other 95% of women who feel they need an abortion?

I oppose abortion in principle, as an undesirable thing. But I completely believe in a woman’s right to choose. If she needs an abortion, I want her to be able to get one safely.

A lot of times, ethics and morality do not depend on good vs. evil, but on figuring out which is the lesser of two evils. Safe, legal abortion is the lesser of the two, because God didn’t put women on earth to be baby machines, for Mitt Romney or anyone else.

The Pope and the LDS church love to cite “natural law,” which states that women’s purpose is motherhood. But we’ve learned an awful lot of laws of nature since Aquinas popularized his notions of Plato’s philosophy in the 13th century.

We’ve learned what women can do, that they’re full human beings entitled to the same freedom as the penis-proud.

Abortion would be a lot less necessary is everyone had access to contraception. Yet Romney’s first order of business is de-funding Planned Parenthood.

To me that disqualifies him from being president. He’s a sexist pig, and these are the United States of America. We don’t do prejudice here, or take political contributions from bigots.

Romney takes them every day and says Thank You.

He politicized the death last month of the American ambassador to Libya – before his death was even confirmed. That disqualifies Mitt Romney.

I loved how Obama put him in his place about it last night. I’ve never seen a political staredown quite like that before.

This is the moment when Romney was certain he’d nailed Obama to the wall over the terrorist attack on Benghazi. Obama told him he had said the words “act of terror” the next day, and Romney wanted to get him “on the record” for what the governor thought was an outlandish claim. He stared at the President, then raised his eyebrows, like “Did I really catch you saying that?” When moderator Candy Crowley shot him down, Romney was left sputtering in disbelief. He clearly never bothered to learn the facts – after politicizing the assassination of a U.S. ambassador. (screen capture via MSNBC)

Romney wants the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer – and lies about it. That disqualifies him.

He says 47% of Americans “regard themselves as victims and refuse to take responsibility and care for their lives.” His running mate calls 30% of Americans “takers.” That disqualifies them both.

They’re anti-Gay bigots too, both of them. Maybe that’s why Romney won’t release his tax returns, afraid we’d see how much he gave to pass Proposition 8 in California. You know he didn’t sit on the sidelines; he gave money. He raised money for it from all his Mormon businessman friends. He’s a former bishop; they’re all such conformists they can’t say no to anything that will turn them into gods on a star.

(I must say I’m proud that Democrats have not raised the Mormon issue against the man. Let there be no religious test for public office. I only comment about it because it seems relevant in understanding Mitt Romney; Harry Reed is also a Mormon, and he favors same-sex marriage.)

Romney’s tax “plan” involves cutting Medicaid and shifting it to the states, which we all know will underfund it, thus harming the poor, disabled and elderly. It’s immoral; he disqualifies himself. He isn’t fit to be president.

He should try reading the actual Bible, not the Mormon counterfeit version. Jesus said, “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” The entire prophetic tradition of the Hebrews demands justice for the poor – but Romney wants to make the poor poorer and then blame them for it.

He will run up the deficit and the national debt, after portraying himself as a savior who will cut the deficit and debt. Republicans always do this – while running up the national debt!

He’s a good salesman; he’s got nearly half the country believing him. But why on earth would we elect a financier, four short years after getting screwed by financiers?

Not only are they screwed, they smile about it. (Paul Fell/Artizans)

Romney enjoys threatening war with Iran. But no Romney has ever gone to war; his sons and grandsons won’t either. Going to war is something the “little people” do to indulge the fantasies and greed of the rich.

Romney wants more coal mining, and arranges photo-ops with miners ordered by their bosses to appear without pay. We’ve seen a remarkable increase in employer intimidation this election, but Romney has no problem whatever in cozying up to the dirtiest industry on earth. If it will get him elected, he favors lopping the tops off every mountain in Appalachia.

I guess he figures that when global warming renders God’s green earth uninhabitable, he’ll already be a god himself on a star somewhere.

Pollution is immoral, Mitt; you’ve disqualified yourself.

You’re a liar. God doesn’t think much of that either. Your campaign “isn’t going to be dictated to by fact-checkers.”

Steven Colbert predicted that truth will be replaced by “truthiness,” which George W. Bush was fond of too, and if you win, no one will ever be sure what the truth is again.

America’s existence depends on voting for what is moral, based on what is true. If you replace truth and morality with lies and immorality, we’ll never be the same.

That was the risk Obama – and his strategists – ran when he slept through the first debate. Thank God he woke up in time for the one last night.

We need America to be better than it is today, not worse, and that’s ultimately not a function of the employment rate; instead it’s a result of moral decisions by our leaders and our citizens.

Romney chooses immorality, and is disqualified.++

Government of the Rich, by the Rich, for the Rich

Unlike his predecessor, the sphinx Alan Greenspan, the current Fed chairman actually speaks to the public.

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was on the “60 Minutes” teevee show last night, explaining why the Fed is spending $600 billion to buy U.S. debt, an untried strategy he hopes will prevent deflation – falling prices and wages like Japan experienced in its “lost decade” of the ’90s, and the U.S. went through as the 1929 stock market crash deepened into the Great Depression.

Economies spiral up and they spiral down; growth that’s too fast means that prices keep rising while wages don’t keep up. That’s called inflation and it’s bad, because a worker’s dollar doesn’t buy what it used to. Growth that’s slow or non-existent puts pressure on prices, including labor; employers cut paychecks, and even though a loaf of bread might turn a few cents cheaper, workers have less money to buy bread. That’s called deflation and it’s every bit as bad.

Steady growth that balances out prices and wages is the ideal, and that’s what Bernanke and the Fed are trying to achieve. However, his TV interview indicates this is a very tricky time for the world economy. Fed chiefs never go on TV; the last guy, Alan Greenspan, perfected the low art of using long words to say absolutely nothing in public. He didn’t have to; he was the chairman of the Federal Reserve, one of the most powerful men in the world.

So Bernanke’s appearance was fairly remarkable – less because of his immediate message about the $600 billion ploy, than because he also had to answer other questions from his interviewer, Scott Pelley of CBS News.

Bottom line:

• Unemployment is going to stay sky-high for years. (This cannot be good news for President Obama’s re-election plans.)

• The recent recession is over according to the economists, but another one, a double-dipper, can’t be ruled out.

• Education is key to an individual worker’s employment prospects; college grads have a 5% unemployment rate, while high school graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed. (Meanwhile states are cutting education funding and school districts nationwide are laying off teachers.)

• The Federal government’s budget deficit must be brought down – but not this year while so many people are suffering and deflation is the real scare.

Pelley couldn’t get Bernanke to condemn the Republican plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires – but the Fed chief did sound a mild alarm about the destruction of the middle class. To me, that was the most important part of the interview.

Excerpt from The New York Times:

When asked about rising inequality in the United States, Mr. Bernanke offered a response that was likely to be embraced by liberals.

“It’s a very bad development,” he said. “It’s creating two societies.”

One rich, one poor.

The Times chose to couch this inappropriately, in my view, as a call for revamping U.S. tax policy to eliminate what Bernanke called “inefficiency” (and the rest of us know as deductions, tax breaks, subsidies and giveaways), so that overall rates can be lowered and more money can be raised. The Times’ analysis is Beltway-speak, as Bernanke appeared to endorse parts of the regressive platform of Obama’s own Blue Ribbon Panel in Charge of Screwing Americans, featuring such winning proposals as raising the retirement age Till You’re Dead.

It’s entirely possible to eliminate the deficit without screwing the middle class, but you’ll never hear that out of a Blue Ribbon Panel, because rational solutions don’t conform to the current media blare.

Still, Bernanke went on about the widening gap between rich and poor, now the largest inequality in the developed world and the worst in U.S. history:

Mr. Bernanke added: “It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”

That to me is the point; we’re losing our middle class, and even the Fed chairman knows that’s a grave danger to America and the entire world.

So sort the wheat from the chaff; I wouldn’t give you a copper penny for the Simpson-Bowles blue ribboneering, for Beltway obsessions or faulty Villager-speak. The chairman of the Federal Reserve has admitted we’re destroying our country.

And we’re doing it under Barack Obama just as we did under George W. Bush. The incompetence of the Current Occupant is astonishing to me; I’m sorry I ever promoted him, but that’s water under the bridge now. What shall we do? Where do we go from here?

It leads to an unequal society.

I’d happily blame all the usual suspects, not just Obama but McConnell, Murdoch and Limbaugh, if not for the fact that both parties and a majority of voters have arranged all this exactly to their liking.

We’re now governed by the same corporations whose TV commercials we lap up like dogs at the feed trough.

The USA is no longer a democracy, it’s a plutocracy. The Fortune 500 runs everything, having bought the entire Congress.

And why not? It was there for the plucking, since Americans decided 30 years ago (shortly after the Watergate scandal) that we wouldn’t be caught dead financing political campaigns with tax dollars.

Who does that leave to pick up the tab? The people with money.

Democrats are as eager to spread their legs for campaign cash as Republicans are. So this is the result, government by Halliburton, Exxon and Archer Daniels Midland.

It’s simply “the free market at work” – the same people who’ve screwed you over and over and taught you to like it.

Nor is this a new phenomenon; the basic alignment of political parties today in the United States actually dates to 1896, when William McKinley sold the Republican Party’s soul to Wall Street while William Jennings Bryan pleaded with voters not to crucify workers on a “cross of gold.” It’s ancient dusty stuff from the history books, and if you’ve never heard of it no one can blame you all these years later.

But the die was cast, the storm was unleashed, and now we are inheriting the wind.

It’s December 2010 and Mitch McConnell effortlessly jumps through mental hoops to argue for extending tax cuts for millionaires, while middle class people are losing their homes by the millions.

Obama and the Democrats will go along with this, to get unemployment benefits of $250 a week extended yet again for the New Poor. It’s already been, what, two years since we shed ten million jobs?

Campaigning for the House and Senate is expensive work; D’s are as eager as R’s to sell their souls. There’s only one political party in America now, the Corporate Suckups; the libs and the cons may caucus separately, but for the most part they agree that whatever Murdoch says goes.

On the margins of political life – say, if you’re Gay or Hispanic, Native or Muslim or Black, military or female, sick or disabled – it matters very much whether the D’s or the R’s control Congress and the White House. But it doesn’t matter much to anyone else. So what if 80 House seats changed hands? So what?

The Voters are parked on their couches watching Unreality TV and soaking up corporate propaganda, thinking it’s entertaining. They don’t care that rich people are making big bucks selling them worthless products and inedible, dangerous food, as long as it all looks glamorous, numbs their brain cells and makes them smile.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin said we chose not a monarchy but a republic – “if we can keep it.”

We still have the outward form, but it looks to me like the republic is lost.

Americans are resilient, and in extraordinary times we’ve achieved amazing things. I hope we never lose that capacity. But I don’t see anyone leading us in any direction but corporate hell.

I hate to say it, but as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this is the middle class’s own fault. They’re afraid of change (Gays in the military! Same-sex marriage!) and easily seduced to vote against their own best interest, thus enriching the wealthy to exploit them every damn time.

It leads to an unequal society.

And Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.++

We invented this character; now we get to live with the results.

Bishop Eddie Goes Down Flaming

Clue #1: that's him up there on TV, not Jesus. (Jessica McGowan/The New York Times)

You may have heard that self-proclaimed Bishop Eddie Long, of a megachurch in suburban Atlanta called New Birth Missionary Baptist, has been sued by four young men who claim he sexually molested them.

You may not know that Bishop Eddie Long is an outspoken opponent of Gay people who: a) has a cure-the-homos ministry at his church; b) once led an angry march against same-sex marriage; and c) is so wealthy and politically prominent in north Georgia that Coretta Scott King’s funeral was held at his church.

You may not be shocked by much of this; who can be shocked anymore, when so many anti-Gay pols are caught tapping their toes in the men’s room or hiring rentboys to “carry their luggage” across Europe?

Still, The New York Times tells the whole sordid story of what is being alleged.

As just another sex scandal, this isn’t worth my time or yours, except that if The Times story is correct, everything about this man has screamed scandal for years. And still he has a congregation of 25,000, including MLK’s widow!

His message that God wants people to prosper has attracted celebrities, professional athletes and socialites

Ah, the good ol’ prosperity Gospel; “come to my church and get rich!”

Millions of people fall for this all over the world. It is a staple of life in third world countries, but you’d think educated, sophisticated people in Atlanta would see through it.

But they don’t.

When you come to my church to get rich, the only person who gets rich is me!

The rapid expansion of the church — often called “Club New Birth” because it attracts so many young black singles — has also made Bishop Long a powerful political player, especially in DeKalb County, home to one of the wealthiest black communities in the country. The church has become a mandatory stop for many politicians — local, state and national — and Bishop Long supports candidates of both parties.

Thus a sexual undercurrent has been running in Bishop Eddie’s church for quite some time; no one’s ever called my parish “Club St. John’s.”

Picture all the young, affluent Black professionals in Atlanta joining the church so they could cruise the opposite sex. Not even MCC at its worst was ever that bad – and in MCC’s early days some people did treat it as if it were a Gay bar, since there were so few Gay places to go.

Four former members of a youth group he runs have accused him of repeatedly coercing them into homosexual sex acts, and of abusing his considerable moral authority over them while plying them with cash, new cars, lodging and lavish trips.

Well, who paid for the cash, new cars, lodging and trips, but 25,000 greedy professionals at the church?

Bishop Long has denied the accusations in a letter sent to a local radio station and has promised to address them from the pulpit on Sunday. He declined, through his lawyer, to comment for this article.

A local radio station? When the story’s on the front page of The New York Times?

CNN headquarters is 30 miles away, but he’s denying this in a letter to a radio station?

If you were aggrieved and internationally famous, would you write a letter to a radio station to protest your innocence?

I’d load up my black SUV with bodyguards and entourage and storm the world media citadel, I wouldn’t write a letter. (And if you think newspapers are hurting these days, you should see how bad radio’s doing.)

The accusations are all the more explosive because Bishop Long styles himself a social conservative, rails against homosexuality and calls for a ban on same-sex marriage. His church even holds seminars promising to “cure” homosexuals.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Wm. Shakespeare

(By this measure half of Viagraville must be downloading pictures of guys in Speedos when they’re not trying to destroy the Episcopal Church.)

The accusations center on the LongFellows Youth Academy, an exclusive group of teenage boys handpicked by Bishop Long for spiritual mentoring.

The boys went through a bonding ritual, known as a “covenant ceremony,” in which Bishop Long gave them jewelry and exchanged vows with them while quoting from Scripture as ceremonial candles burned, according to court complaints filed against the pastor. Reciting Bible verses, the pastor promised to protect them from harm and called them “spiritual sons.”

But four former members of the group now say the real purpose of the academy was to provide Bishop Long with young men whom he could lure into sex.

This is what greed’ll getcha, fellas. While you had bling on the brain, he allegedly had something else on his mind.

Bishop Long cuts a flashy figure in Lithonia, the Atlanta suburb where he lives and has built his church. He is often seen in a Bentley attended by bodyguards. He tends to wear clothes that show off his muscular physique. He favors Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches.

Oh yeah, I want to contribute to that guy’s church!

The man drives a Bentley and even Coretta couldn’t see what was going on?

His lavish display of wealth is in keeping with his theology. In his sermons, he often tells his congregation that God wants them to be wealthy and asserts that Jesus was not a poor man.

That isn’t theology, it’s ripoff-ology.

That quote is what pissed me off so much I wrote this post. Because here’s what Jesus actually said (Matthew 25:34):

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'”

And these “missionary Baptists” never heard of that? Coretta Scott King never heard of it?

Puh-lease. There wasn’t a bit of “missionary Baptist” about Bishop Eddie until he started getting bad press.

So what did he do? He hired a PR guy.

The Times again:

In 2005, for instance, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published tax records showing that from 1997 to 2000 Bishop Long had accepted $3 million in salary, housing, a car and other perks from a charity he controlled.

(snip)

After the article about his compensation, Bishop Long hired a public relations firm and went on a campaign to improve his image, Mr. McDonald said. He began charitable programs to feed the poor, help struggling people with mortgages and even offer haircuts to the homeless.

From there The Times explores Bishop Eddie’s background.

He studied business at North Carolina Central University, then went to work as a sales representative for the Ford Motor Company, but was fired over inaccuracies in his expense accounts.

From here on Bishop Eddie’s story turns banal. Thieves aren’t interesting, they’re common. Yes, Christians believe in forgiveness, but we still keep an eye on our wallets.

These “missionary Baptists,” though, kept hoping that Bishop Eddie would miraculously make their wallets fat while he was emptying them right in front of their eyes.

Christians believe in miracles, too, but those mostly happen with loaves of bread, not wads of cash. Prayer cloth, anyone? Reverend Ike used to send you one if you gave him a “sacrificial gift.”

Now back to Bishop Eddie’s ideas about sex:

He also adopted what has become known as “muscular Christianity,” a male-dominated view that emphasizes a warriorlike man who serves as the spiritual authority and protector in a family. His books on relationships suggest that men get in touch with their inner “wild man” and channel their fighting instincts into taking responsibility for their lives. Women are to submit to their husbands, he says.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was not a “wild, warriorlike” man. He wasn’t a milquetoast, he wasn’t a fool, and he broke every religious law on the books talking things over with a Samaritan woman. Indeed, women were (and still are) his most faithful followers.

B. J. Bernstein, a lawyer for the four young men who claim to have been coerced into sexual affairs with Bishop Long, said the pastor exerted a paternalistic and, at times, autocratic influence over young men.

The four complaints filed in court describe how Bishop Long arranged for the church to provide cars to the young men and put them on the church payroll. Two of them also said they received free lodging in church-owned houses, where, they said, Bishop Long visited them for sessions of kissing, oral sex or masturbation. He also took them on trips to other cities and abroad, sharing rooms with them, with the knowledge of several church officials, the complaints say.

“There are biblical and spiritual passages that were given to them to make them comfortable and make them believe that they were not gay,” Ms. Bernstein said.

He must be quite the salesman, if he can make you believe you’re not Gay even when you’re sucking his d—.

I admit, he must have gifts that leave me in the dust. I could never convince any guy of that when his mouth was full.

Finally there was this, which just made me livid.

“We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation,” he told the newspaper in justifying his compensation. “We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.”

An “international corporation.” Yes, let’s entrust our souls and bodies to one of those. Say, British Petroleum or Halliburton or Blackwater USA. Let’s all worship at the international corporation.

I’m not shocked that Laura Bush might be induced to do it, but I never expected it out of Coretta Scott King.

(Alan S. Weiner/The New York Times)

“We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk…”

Apparently the gift of gab is all this guy’s got. Apparently that’s all it takes and there’s a sucker born every minute.

“…and all we’re doing is baptizing babies.

Baptism is the single most important thing that will ever happen in your life. But here this guy is, trashing it as unimportant. I suppose it’s not the way to get ahead as he has done.

While Bishop Eddie is going down flaming, he’s taking 25,000 affluent, educated professionals down with him, all so he could drive a Bentley, flash his Rolex and suck some d—.

I’m appalled at the Biblical illiteracy of his wealthy and educated congregation. I presume none of them went to Morehouse, Spelman, Georgia Tech or Harvard to study the Bible; I guess they all majored in Rolex.++

Bishop Eddie in an arena, with a Hooters ad over his shoulder.

Time to Move to Canada. Again.

Martha Coakley lost the Senate seat in Massachusetts. The “tea partiers” are seemingly on the rise. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) says Democrats need to move to the right—after they’ve spent all year moving right, right, right, failing to close Gitmo, upping the troops in Afghanistan, leaving all the troops in Iraq, doing nothing about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and selling out health insurance reform to Big Pharma and Big Insurance.

None of this has been sufficient to provoke a northern migration; Canucks have rested easy so far. But a Supreme Court decision today should make conservatives and liberals alike dust off their passports and get out their maps.

The New York Times:

By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: January 21, 2010

WASHINGTON — Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

Now Evan Bayh, whose wife sits on the board of several large insurance companies, need never worry about re-election again. Maybe he’ll introduce a bill giving Eli Lilly & Company the naming rights to the Capitol dome.

Big business already dominates American life; now it gets to buy all the candidates it wants. Why spend all that money on lobbyists when you can simply buy the politicians and eliminate the middlemen?

In the guise of upholding free speech rights, the Supreme Court has swung a crowbar to the knees of the middle class. Archer Daniels Midland won’t just write the farm bill, they’ll vote on it. Doubtless Halliburton can find another country to invade and put its logo on all our tanks. I’m sure Mickey Mouse can’t wait to ride the space shuttle. Who will bring us relief efforts in Haiti, Kellogg’s Sugar Pops?

In the 1960’s young men fled to Canada to escape the Vietnam War, and liberals have often been tempted to run north since. We managed to avoid putting Gay men in concentration camps to stop the spread of AIDS; but old people in northern states ride buses into Canada to get their prescriptions filled. Now we’re about to watch America test whether it’s still governable.

Many of the news reports on this awful Supreme Court decision will say “corporations and unions” will now get to run their own campaign ads. But labor unions have been decimated in the last 30 years, with only 9% of adults covered by collective bargaining, according to a Gallup poll. No doubt a few unions will run TV ads for the midterm elections, but they’ll likely be swamped by Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

Evan Bayh’s not stupid—and it’s not just about campaign contributions. Lilly has 14,700 employees in Indiana and its economic impact of $8.03 billion represents 3.3% of Indiana’s gross state product. Wherever there’s a dominant industry, the politicians come running behind. Connecticut has lots of insurance companies, so Sen. Joe Lieberman is dead set against expanding Medicare to cover more people.

Nothing ever changes—and that’s what the voters of Massachusetts rejected on Tuesday. Everywhere there’s a tone-deaf Democrat, out they go.

Martha Coakley might as well have been Helen Keller. Two weekends before the special election, she wasn’t out shaking hands of Bay State voters, she was in Washington, D.C. at a fundraiser held by her friends at Big Pharma.

We can’t even get a Consumer Financial Protection Agency out of this Congress; the credit card companies object. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd’s about to lose his seat for getting a sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide Financial. He was a “Friend of Angelo,” y’see. Dodd’s the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee!

If you've got something to show, you show it; if not…

Scott Brown, the former Cosmo centerfold, waltzed to victory over Coakley. We haven’t seen much in the way of talent or brains out of him yet; he’s an unknown, pickup-driving state senator now headed to Washington to vote no, no, no on everything that’s put before him. Do I think Massachusetts voters will eventually regret their choice? Yes, but not today. They’re too busy being pissed off today—and I don’t blame them.

A significant number of Brown supporters voted for Barack Obama in 2008. The vast majority of those Brown/Obama supporters back a public option for health insurance, and they are sick to death of double-talking politicians.

Let the “tea partiers” and the Faux News demagogues have their moment in the sun; I suspect the electorate could turn on them as fast as it’s turned on the Democrats. This isn’t a Republican year, it’s an anti-incumbent year—and they’re not the same thing.

President Obama had better clean out the White House as fast as he can get his vacuum fired up. He’s received miserable advice and made terrible appointments—Tim Geithner? Ben Bernanke?—and if he doesn’t institute wholesale firings soon he’s going to get fired himself.

He can go back to Chicago (or Hawai’i in the wintertime; we’re getting freezing rain right now) and write a new book, “The Stupidity of Hope.”

The health care debate was never going to be easy and it certainly hasn’t proved to be. But it’s mostly theoretical to people, a distant future plan, when people are worried about jobs and keeping their houses. Tone deaf? Obama’s been a deaf-mute.

I’ve frankly been surprised that we’ve not seen public violence this past year. You know the potential was there, with crackpots taking guns to “tea parties” and Faux News doing everything it could to whip up frenzy (and ratings). But there were other interesting signs of powder being loaded into the keg; buses showing up at the homes of Wall Street bankers, and their wives complaining that they couldn’t be seen carrying their Bergdorf bags after their latest shopping spree.

These girls do like showing their tits, don't they.

But the public mood hasn’t boiled over; Americans have waited for a shot at the ballot box instead. Now Massachusetts has given us that, and there’s much more to come.

I hope security is good at the Supreme Court building, because what the justices have just unleashed threatens to bring the whole country down. Corporate political advertising is surely the world’s worst idea.

Let’s say the Dems lose big this year and Obama’s voted out in 2012; neither of those would be a catastrophe. The Republicans would take over and promptly run their ship aground. They haven’t had a new idea since George W. Bush was a fratboy, and they’re not getting new ideas anytime soon from Scott Brown.

Instead, imagine this: what goes around nationally will surely go around locally. The XYZ Corp., the biggest employer in your town, threatens to pack up and move unless Mayor Smith is defeated. Smith has already given them tax breaks and training grants, but now XYZ wants more. XYZ floods the airwaves with blackmail, “We will impoverish you unless you give us what we want.” A job’s a job, buddyboy; what are you going to do?

After all, the Supreme Court has declared XYZ a “person” with free speech rights, including the right to lie, cheat and steal on TV. The First Amendment, remember?

The minute one XYZ gets away with it, they’ll all do it. If you think we’ve got gridlock now in Washington, D.C., wait till it hits your town.

Zoning. Taxes. Pollution controls, not to mention global warming. Your air, your water, your schools. “If we don’t get what we want we’re moving to Mexico (China, Haiti).”

Life’s one big Monopoly game, bucko, and you’re about to lose your last little house on Mediterranean.

But I don’t want to go to Canada. It’s even colder there than it is here, and Smart Gay Boys Move South.++

At least they've got maple trees up there.

Teaching Children to Lie for TV

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Larimer County, Colorado Sheriff Jim Alderden, announcing charges in the “balloon boy” caper. (Will Powers/Associated Press)

Give the “balloon boy” credit. He managed to spill the beans despite being coached by his parents to lie about the “flying saucer” incident on live TV. Speaking of his parents, six-year-old Falcon Heene told Wolf Blitzer on CNN Thursday night, “You guys said that, um, we did this for the show.”

We did this for the show.

Dad was so desperate to have his own reality TV show he taught Falcon and his two older brothers to lie to the entire nation.

And Mom went along with it. Donna Reed, you’re dead, honey. As a doornail.

DonnaReedShow_S1

I guess we should all be glad the kid’s alive and well. I feel sorry, though, for the sheriff and other emergency workers who tried to save a child who was never in danger. “We were very worried that the life of a small child, a 6-year-old child may indeed be in jeopardy,” said Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden.

It was all one big stunt for a TV show, complete with corrupting one’s own children.

The New York Times’ coverage includes these details:

Mr. Heene and his wife have been enmeshed for years in the culture of reality television and self-promotional Web postings. The family appeared twice on the ABC show “Wife Swap,” including as recently as last March. Mr. Heene wanted his own show about his family, and he worked with at least one production company on a proposal. On Friday the cable channel TLC said it had turned down the proposal months ago. He has posted YouTube videos claiming to show proof of life on Mars and asking whether Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “reptilian.”

Last month Mr. Heene signed up for an account on RealityWanted.com, a Web site that connects reality television casting agents and aspiring contestants, according to Mark Yawitz, a co-founder of the site. Mr. Heene had made his profile private, making it impossible to view whether he had submitted his information to agents.

I didn’t know there was a “culture of reality television.” I was unaware of websites that “connect reality television casting agents and aspiring contestants.” Heck, I didn’t even know there were casting agents that promote these people. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given what happened to Jamie Oliver recently.

Another Times article on a more serious subject, American obesity, followed Oliver, the young British TV chef, who’s gone to one of the fattest cities in the country, Huntington, West Virginia, to try to teach people that simple cooking for one’s family at home is more nutritious and healthful.

The local delicacies in Huntington include a 15-pound hamburger (10 pounds of meat, 5 pounds of bread) and a 1-pound hot dog called the Home Wrecker, at an eatery called Hillbilly Hot Dogs. Here’s what that burger looks like in the kitchen:

(Mark Peterson/The New York Times)

(Mark Peterson/The New York Times)

Oliver learned how to prepare these things, and also found out about infants nursing on Coca-Cola and toddlers with Kool-Aid in their sippy cups. The results of Huntington’s atrocious diet are, of course, epidemic rates of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Oliver’s apparently a fairly serious food reformer who doesn’t judge people’s current habits, but tries to educate them in a fun way to expand their current repertoire so they can live longer and better. Of course, he needs TV to reach a mass audience with his “good news.”

Along the way he meets people in Huntington who don’t hear that his topic is food, but “reality TV.” The Times reports:

Oliver arrived at City Hall and disappeared backstage. The auditorium was less than half full, and the front rows were filled with local reporters. Mothers brought young children with an eye toward the camera. One even armed her daughter with an oversize school menu as a visual aid. Another woman seemed to have mistaken scratch cooking for “American Idol” — she raced back and forth, trying to persuade someone, anyone, to ask Oliver to listen to her daughter sing.

As a right-wing columnist used to say when I was growing up, “I fear for the future of the Republic.”

What has gotten into people, that the only thing they care about anymore is being on TV?

Do they lead such meaningless lives that the only solution they can fathom is being rich and famous?

We all know now that you don’t have to be accomplished or talented to be on TV; you can be famous just for being famous. But then what? How can Paris Hilton have a second act in life when she never had a first one? Or substitute Perez Hilton for Paris, it’s the same dif.

I once had a co-worker, a schoolteacher by day and (lazy) social worker by night, who spent most of her spare time reading gossip magazines and websites. She could tell all the latest doings by all these people I’d never heard of. I asked her why celebrity gossip matters to her. Her answer: “It’s fun.” She claimed she didn’t buy all the trashy magazines or devote every waking minute to them, anticipating what normal people would think of this, but the evidence was otherwise. She too is “enmeshed in the culture of reality TV.”

I suppose it’s better than heroin, but no less a waste of time and life. What sort of an education do you suppose she teaches her pupils? She’s not a stupid person, but ugliness like beauty is only skin-deep.

She reminded me of old women I’ve heard about who were so hooked on the Home Shopping Network that when they died, their survivors were faced with mountains of unopened merchandise that “Mom thought she wanted.” How many dozen Veg-a-Matics do you need, lady? I can see buying one Salad Spinner, but not 14 of them.

They were hooked on TV.

My spiritual director says, “We’re all addicted to something,” and I’m sure that’s right. She helps me with my addictions, including reminders not to judge others or myself. The cure really is spiritual, which is why God invented AA. (I maintain it was because God was sick of having another hundred thousand drunks bawling at him every day and night. God came up with AA and told Bill W. about it, because the angels were threatening to go on strike.)

I’m lucky; I haven’t watched television since 1986, when Jack got sick. Coping with major illness in the family means you don’t have time for what you used to do. TV was the easiest thing for me to dump, and I’ve never regretted it. I thank my lucky stars for it, including the $600 I save every year in cable bills. I still own a TV, but I’m thinking of putting it out on the curb.

Now here is this self-proclaimed scientist and inventor, this storm-chaser, so hooked on the idea of being on TV that he teaches his kids to lie for him. I mean, why shouldn’t they be famous? Everyone else is, it’s all anyone aspires to anymore.

O Jesus, come and help us!

Suppose the Heenes’ stunt had worked and they’d gotten a show, become rich and famous instead of infamous? I suppose they’d have laughed all the way to the bank; and yet I don’t like thinking about the pressure that would have put on little Falcon.

What’s on him right now is plenty. What happens when he goes to school tomorrow? What will the other kids say? How will he answer them? Will anyone play with him anymore?

How his teacher handles this will be pretty important; he’s six years old. I’m glad he’s not in the classroom of my former co-worker; she’d probably take his picture and try to sell it to People magazine.

We need to ask ourselves what fame is supposed to cure. It doesn’t seem to make movie stars happy; they simultaneously want to be publicly loved and want to be left alone. (“Oh, those dastardly paparazzi! Be sure to get me from my good side!”)

Serial killers want to be famous; if they can’t be famous for something good, then be famous for something bad. Politicians and pundits want to be famous, and they seem not to care whether they speak the truth or lie through their teeth. (Death panels, Chuck Grassley? You voted for them yourself five years ago!) Would Ann Coulter, Greta Van Susteren and Michelle Malkin be famous if they were ugly? A plain face doesn’t stop male gasbags, but it’s death on females.

If we can’t as a society see through these circuses, we’ll never create a just civilization.

I guess I’m losing my optimism, a year after we elected our Last Best Hope. American culture, though it’s still vibrant and diverse, is now dominated by lying, thieving corporations determined to melt the planet – and they all advertise on TV. The oligarchs are hoping they can make their money, then make their getaway before the whole place blows up. Did you hear, Goldman Sachs is giving out billions in bonuses again, thanks to your tax money?

I’m so glad I don’t have TV. As for Huntington, maybe Jamie Oliver can save a few people. If not, Big Pharma is waiting in the wings. Their lobbyists will be happy to hear your child sing for the cameras, as long as you agree to let them tell you why you can’t live without this nice purple pill.++

A diner at Hillbilly Hot Dog. (Mark Peterson/The New York Times)

A diner at Hillbilly Hot Dog. (Mark Peterson/The New York Times)