Saturday, December 22, 2012

Barack Obama's Christmas Wish

Or John Boehner's gift to Barack

Or the fiscal cliff is coming and you better be nice. Or we're all getting coal for Christmas. Or the Senate wants in on what may end up a Christmas with no gifts, at all. Or the Senate doesn't really want any part of Christmas. Or something.

To recap. Obama told Boehner that he is willing to settle for tax increases on households earning $400,000 or more, and might be willing to adjust cost-of-living increases for Social Security, maybe.

Boehner, thinking that he couldn't sell such an agreement to House Republicans, decided to test his own leadership by proposing legislation that would maintain most of the Bush tax cuts and increase taxes only for households making one million dollars or more. Feedback from his caucus persuaded Boehner that he would suffer legislative defeat on the proposal, a definite embarrassment for the speaker. So, he decided to humiliate himself by pulling his proposal without a vote and go home to Ohio. His last words were something like "let Harry (Senate Majority Leader Reid) do it."

Maybe that is Reid's Christmas wish, but it didn't sound like it when his Democratic colleague, Sen. Charles Schumer, said, "we're not going to want to come to a deal if we know Boehner isn't going to move it in the House."

Anyway, Senate Republicans have the filibuster to use against any deal. And, in comments reported by the Washington Post on Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sounded like he agreed with Schumer's statement. No enthusiasm for leadership there.

Still, though it seems improbable, there might be enough Republican votes in the Senate to shut down a filibuster. It would take seven Republicans to do so and, probably, a fiscal cliff deal that doesn't protect the wealthy as much as Boehner has sought to do, reduces some scheduled cuts to the Pentagon budget, and cuts Social Security COLA increases a bit (maybe including protection for low-income recipients). To complete the deal would then take support from all House Democrats and 17 House Republicans, or some mix of the two caucuses that adds up to 218 votes in the House.

Not only does such a deal seem improbable, it would leave larger budget cuts, stimulus spending, further revenue increases, and an increase in the authorized national debt to be negotiated by the same parties in January. Failure to address everything on the table in a satisfactory way means reduced unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed, tax increases for low- and middle-income earners and steep cuts for social programs. The Obama administration can take certain steps to put off the impact of some tax increases and spending cuts, but those steps likely will not do much to keep the stock market from tanking, or to prevent business investment and hiring from dropping significantly, or to avoid dropping back into recession.

So what seems likely to be the outcome of all of this? One of the following, I think:


1. Obama turns out to have been more clever than most people thought. Polls show that a significant majority of Americans will blame Republicans more than Democrats for failure on the fiscal cliff. This may well be a large part of Obama's willingness to hold out for a deal that protects low- and middle-income households, extends unemployment benefits and includes new stimulus spending. He gets some of this stuff in a proposal that passes the House and Senate between Christmas and New Year's and enters 2013 looking like a leader with an ability to get more of what he wants from demoralized Republicans.


2. Obama turns out to have been more of a compromiser than Democrats want and gets Republican votes in the House and Senate for a deal that gives up too much on entitlements and leaves extreme right-wingers in Congress feeling like they can still wag the dog. He enters 2013 with little chance of protecting social spending from further cuts and having to give in further to get congressional Republicans to raise the debt ceiling.


3. Obama holds the line and we dive over the cliff, causing a certain amount of economic panic as we enter 2013. Republicans will get the lion's share of the blame for the damage, but will be consoled by the ability to vote for tax cuts as part of any eventual agreement. It will be too late to prevent the collateral damage that will fall primarily on working folks and communities of color in the first quarter of the year.


4. Right-wing Republicans continue their zealous campaign to cripple the federal government throughout 2013 and turn the legislative session into trench warfare, insuring deeper recession and, likely, the longest mid-term election campaign in history. Even a shockingly large Democratic victory in the 2014 elections will do little to immediately relieve the longest and deepest economic downturn in American history. European and Asian economies will suffer even worse.


5. Mutated combinations of some or all of the above are possible. The actual outcome could be an either more or less disastrous hybrid and almost certainly a sterile one.

Merry Christmas, or something.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Journalistic malpractice on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Recent Washington Post report editorializes in obvious way

I wrote the Post again yesterday. Just a quickie to note that whatever the paper and its reporter intended,  a recent U.S. criticism of Israeli settlement plans was not also an expression of skepticism about Palestinians' willingness to negotiate peace. But it was gratuitous to say so, and a good example, at the very least, of sloppy thinking about the Israeli-Palesinian conflict.

Taken out of context, the mistake proves little. But it nevertheless fits nicely in the American media's decades long failure to grasp the fact that however much Zionism may express the legitimate longing of the Jewish people for a safe and secure homeland, it does not justify the creation of a Jewish state on territory belonging to others, nor does it place the creation of the state of Israel outside the judgement of international law.

Of course, Israel is not going anywhere. However much Palestinians may wish for a different outcome, there will always be an Israel. But it may one day negotiate compensation with Palestinians for the taking of their territory and the continued occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza; and it may also one day compromise its character as a Jewish theocratic state in the interest of a more democratic outcome.

In any case, here is the letter that I sent to the Post yesterday:

The third paragraph in Anne Gearan's Wednesday story, "U.S. condemns Israeli settlement plan," contains the observation that a U.S. criticism of Israeli settlement plans "reveals profound skepticism about whether the leadership of both Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank has the will to return to substantive talks," but it's hard to see how that statement can be correct. There is no mention anyplace else in the 12-graph story of U.S. suspicions about the "will" of Palestinians. Indeed, the entire story is about the negative effect that new and existing Israeli settlements have on peace prospects. Perhaps, Gearan wished to characterize Palestinians as equally guilty in an effort to maintain some sort of journalistic "balance," but the statement looks much more like bias and should have been edited out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gun control the hard way

There is no easy way

As a member of the Ann Arbor City Council in the 1980s, I pushed a gun control measure that basically banned just about anything with a trigger. I didn't write the proposed ordinance. Advocates brought it to the Democratic council caucus looking for legislative sponsors.

None of the liberals in the caucus wanted to touch it, which surprised me. I thought it was a no-brainer, but, as it turned out, they were in some ways wiser than I, or at least clearer about what would happen once the ordinance actually hit our legislative agenda.

In any case, always looking for ways to rile up the unriled, I volunteered to lead the legislative fight. I've written briefly about what happened in an earlier post, "Gun control according to Harvey Wasserman," but it's worth repeating here that though the ordinance failed to pass, the public debate on the issue was both exciting and educational.

During public hearings, a good number of people on both sides found inflammatory and insulting ways to describe individuals and groups whose position they opposed. Speakers frequently claimed the moral high ground in the debate and the right to flat out dismiss both the personal character and the political positions of those on the other side. The fairly common and very human tendency to do such things made a calm public discussion difficult, at times impossible.

Now, after the killings at Sandy Hook, readers can see that form of near self-righteous indignation manifesting itself in a Washington Post column calling for renewed effort to pass gun control legislation by the normally reserved and diplomatic E.J. Dionne. "It is time to insist that such craven propaganda [opposing gun control] will no longer be taken seriously," he wrote. "If Congress does not act this time, we can deem it as totally bought and paid for by the representatives of gun manufacturers, gun dealers and their very well-compensated apologists."

Dionne may well be right, and he is not alone in saying so, but if a new debate about gun control is to begin, perhaps a delay in smearing the other side is in order. Certainly, opponents of new measures to ban automatic weapons, or register guns, or raise the rather minimal bar for gun ownership, in general, will wish to change the subject, or broaden it. "Guns," we have heard many times before, "don't kill people. People kill people."

We will hear that again, and more. But "we will have to avoid the paralysis induced by those who cast every mass shooting as the work of one deranged individual and never ever the result of flawed policies. We must beware of those who invoke complexity not to further understanding but to encourage passivity and resignation," Dionne insisted in his column.

Yes, well, but how will we know if someone raises the possibility that deranged individuals, not guns, are the problem because they really believe that to be true or, instead, because they wish to paralyze the rest of us with self-doubt? Perhaps, we will have to assume good intentions and, on the way to stricter laws, consider that there are, indeed, complexities.

The day after the shootings at Sandy Hook, the Post ran a sidebar that listed a baker's dozen incidents this year in which gunmen killed at least two people. In those 13 incidents, 90 people were killed, including seven shooters who shot themselves and one killed by police. The incident at Sandy Hook was the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The July killing of 12 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado would have tied for seventh deadliest (with four previous shootings) if the shooter himself had also been killed.

It does make sense to act as quickly as possible to better control the sale of automatic weapons to private individuals and to pass other restrictions as well, but how we proceed to consider the matter might affect the conclusion at which we arrive.

Dionne wants quick action. "After mass shootings, its always said we must improve our mental-health system and the treatment of those who may be prone to violence," he wrote, but "...this noble sentiment is too often part of a strategy to evade any action on guns themselves".

"Not this time. Americans are not the only people in the world who confront mental-health problems. We are the only country that regularly experiences horrors of this sort. The difference, as the writer Garry Wills has said, is that the United States treats the gun as a secular god, immune to rational analysis and human intervention.

"We must depose the false deity. We must act now to curb gun violence, or we never will," he concluded.

I'm sorry to be the one arguing against that notion. But mental illness is certainly part of the problem. And for many years gun control advocates have helped polarize the debate over gun control, retarding progress, by sending the message that the people who own guns are the problem. I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that many gun owners are opposed to all sorts of reasonable efforts to regulate gun ownership. But I learned in the rowdy debate over gun control in Ann Arbor that if one can't hear the objections of those who oppose gun control, one can't very easily change the conditions of the debate.

Dionne's concluding sentiment to the contrary, we will one day curb gun violence when we acknowledge that guns and mental illness and the availability of treatment are all part of the problem. We will one day curb gun violence when our rhetoric ceases to divide us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Medicare reform

What it should look like

Ezra Klein's column in the print edition of today's Washington Post is headlined "Republicans missing central issue on Medicare." On the Post's website, the column is headed "A smarter Republican agenda on Medicare." I like the head on the print version better, though near as I can tell, the content in print and on the web is nearly identical.

I like the print head better because Klein's column makes the point that "raising the Medicare age [of eligibility] is a particularly dumb cut, and his elaboration of that point is simple and clear. The move wouldn't save anything. "It merely shifts costs to employers, consumers and other public entities, including Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and the states." The move would not reduce the deficit or preserve the program.

Some Republicans and conservatives are pushing "beneficiary engagement," Klein writes, but nothing in his column makes the case that there is "a smarter Republican agenda" out there. It's just that some Republicans are not interested in pursuing the "trophy" win (as Nancy Pelosi calls it) that John Boehner and the House Republican caucus appear to be seeking.

In the meantime, a smarter agenda for Medicare reform, "A Systemic Approach to Containing Health Care Spending" is posted on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine. And in "The Senior
Protection Program," the Center for American Progress (CAP) proposes a series of reforms that should save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years. Despite all the fiscal cliff hoopla, the CAP proposal hasn't gotten much media attention. Other than a Republican interest in preserving profits for insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers, it's hard to say why.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We do have a dog in the Michigan fight

The union movement built prosperity and solidarity

Membership in organized labor has been declining for years. The largest industrial unions have gone the way of rustbelt industries, declining and nearly disappearing. The public sector unions that held the line through the last part of the 20th century have suffered significant losses during the Great Recession and its aftermath, and teachers' unions in particular have suffered from right-wing attacks that have accompanied the education reform movement. The passage this week of a right-to-work law in Michigan may be part of the continuing decline, but ought to raise new alarms on the American left.

There are plenty of critiques of unions in the mainstream press, so none of those will be linked here. Readers can hunt them down easily enough. Yes, union leaders are sometimes too cozy with power, especially in states and cities. And, yes, union leaders sometimes get too comfortable with the perks of their own power.

But so do progressives who get elected to public office or settle into tenure track positions at major universities. But they do not stop being politically progressive simply because they compromise or, even, overindulge. Neither do unions. The point is that regardless of what unions and their leaderships sometimes do to deserve criticism, progressives need to recognize that to err in some of these familiar ways is both all too human and ought not be an obstacle to progressive solidarity with labor.

I've written before about the need for the left to completely embrace the union movement; twice when I was working for In These Times ("Labor's Future is Ours" and "When Mainstream Media Tells Labor Stories"), and several posts on this blog (many of which can be found here).

Now, Harold Meyerson, one of the few mainstream media columnists with a true appreciation of the value of organized labor, has written an instructive column in the Washington Post, "The Lansing-Beijing connection," on how right-to-work laws undermine prosperity and increase inequality. "[A]n exhaustive study by economist Lonnie K. Stevens of Hofstra University found states that have enacted such laws reported no increase in business start-ups or rates of employment. Wages and personal income are lower in those states...Stevens concluded, though proprietors' incomes are higher," Meyerson wrote.

Everyone who embraces the goals of reducing income and wealth inequality in the United States and globally ought to be embracing labor organizing, as well. Jobs with Justice, a national organization founded to be a bridge between non-union progressives and the labor movement, is one way to get moving on this. Also, check out labor writer David Moberg's interview with Larry Cohen, organizing director for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and a founder of Jobs with Justice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wishing for peace in the Middle East

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel may not bring peace, but so far, nothing else is either

"Alanis Morissette, the Canadian American pop singer, is an unlikely ambassador to the Middle East, but in some ways, she is a good one," wrote Washington Post religion columnist Lisa Miller in her column, "Morissette did more good by not boycotting Israel," last Saturday (Dec. 8). This is so, Miller said, because "perhaps Morissette is a foreign policy savant and understands, as the British peace activist Hannah Weisfield explained in Haaretz in March, that a broad boycott of Israel conflates too much: its politicians with its people; its current policies with its legitimate history; its business in the occupied territories with those inside its 1949 borders."

So we are to understand that the only boycotts people like Morissette should honor are the ones that don't conflate people and their politicians, that focus exclusively on Israel's current policies and not the unfortunate circumstances of its unilateral creation on Palestinian territory, that focus on the occupied territories and not the longing of Palestinians for the parts of their homeland they likely will never retrieve. This matters especially, Miller wrote in her column, because the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement doesn't have any real plan to achieve a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis.

But if having a negotiated plan for peace between Israel and Palestinian was actually a precondition for action in this case, then Israelis ought to be barred from any action aimed at maintaining the Occupation or from establishing any more settlements on Palestinian territory. Likewise, Palestinians would be barred from launching rockets or suicide attacks. Miller, no doubt, is shocked that neither side is showing the kind of restraint she appears to prefer.

Oddly, Morissette,, the "foreign policy savant," apparently has no plan, either. Otherwise, why would Miller suggest that "Morissette might have served the cause of peace...better by clearly articulating her reasons for going to Israel." Since Morissette did not do so, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Miller isn't really writing about the pop singer, at all, but is taking the opportunity to applaud her for not cooperating with the BDS movement. Miller very likely has no plans for peace, either, beyond a kind of Rodney King, can't-we-all-just-get-along plea.

Indeed, BDS, conceived on the model of the boycott of South African goods in the 1980s, which certainly helped in isolating South Africa and speeding the fall of apartheid in that country, may not be the key to building an enduring peace between Palestine and Israel. But it is an acknowledgement of the suffering of Palestinians since the Jewish state was created on Palestinian territory and of the fact that more than half a century later, Palestinians continue to suffer from the persistent application of Israeli power in the portion of Palestine that theoretically still belongs to them. The BDS initiative also reflects the opinion of many people that however much Jews might have suffered during the Holocaust, that experience did not confer on them the right to take land occupied by another people.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Best Case Scenario

or the silver lining at the end of the world

Stephen King says this:
at the end of all rationalism
the mass grave.

biology, physics, he says,
the deathtrip.
At the end of it all

the bomb, the plague--
climate change
at the the end of it all.

The final genius
of our everloving, overstriding
He also holds this:

Technological collapse will reduce
the ambient noise that shrouds
our magic selves and
we will see

our dormant gifts awakened.
Manifest in all survivors
a certain wizardry more or less.
Hallelujah, anyway.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cliff diving

Fiscally speaking, Obama's position only gets stronger

Why shouldn't President Obama demand Republican support for ending Bush-era tax cuts for the rich? Because if he doesn't find a way to compromise with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, we will all go over the fiscal cliff?

The truth is Republicans have stronger reasons to avoid the cliff than Obama does and, surprisingly, many more reasons to go over it, as well. Either way, they face political damnation.

If we do take a dive, Boehner and McConnell know that Republicans will get the major portion of the blame. Their refusal to compromise will be portrayed as protecting lower tax rates for the rich. No amount of explaining will change that perception.

Obama will be criticized, too, but not as harshly, and he doesn't have 2014 election worries, either. Republican incumbents (House or Senate) planning on running for reelection will begin their campaigns fearing that intransigence on the fiscal cliff (and the debt ceiling, if it comes to that) will cost them politically.

Theoretically, going over the cliff will position Republicans to reach a "grand bargain" in January that includes tax cuts. The new year will create incentives for both sides to reach a compromise that restores some of the Bush-era tax cuts (except for high-income earners) and maintains the payroll tax exemption that will disappear at year's end.

A January compromise will allow Republicans to claim that they remain the party of tax cuts. Unfortunately for them, to get the cuts that will help maintain their brand (even though Democrats will want them, too), Republicans will likely have to agree with healthcare reforms that they have always opposed, like allowing the government to require competitive bidding for medical equipment and other items purchased by federal health-care programs.

Medicare and Medicaid reforms outlined by the Center for American Progress and generally supported by Democrats are projected to save $385 billion over 10 years, without affecting eligibility or benefit levels. Republicans have their own proposals for saving billions more in healthcare spending, but most of them come from delaying eligibility and raising costs for recipients. The credit for such reforms will go to Obama, not to Boehner, Ryan, Cantor, McConnell, et al.

That same Republican leadership will want to restore some of the cuts to the military budget that will result from going over the fiscal cliff and Democrats will want to do some of that, also. But they won't want it worse than the Republicans will and will be able to bargain for other things they want more, like a little bit more stimulus spending and reduced cuts in education and human service spending.

All of that compromising is going to make Republicans look weak to their core constituencies. It's a painful prospect; agree to tax increases to avoid going over the fiscal cliff and tarnish their anti-tax, anti-government brand, or strengthen the perception that they are defending tax cuts for the rich and agree to a compromise afterward that makes them look like a junior partner in supporting handouts to Democratic constituencies.

The only possible basis for Democrats to oppose going over the cliff is the possibility that doing so will result in instant and significant damage to the economy. (Just three weeks ago in Compromise or Betrayal, I did advocate compromising with Republicans before going over the fiscal cliff. What can I say? Like Obama on gay marriage, my thinking has evolved.)But there are all sorts of ways the government can blunt the immediate effects of tax increases and sequestration, delaying the pain for long enough to pass a fix in January. Obama has lots of cards to play now. After the cliff dive is done, his hand will be even stronger.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Calamity Jeff speaks

The time for justice and peace is going up in a cloud of warming gasses

There is a notion—the idea of an ethical human race, a human race for which justice comes first—that I wish was understood and widely embraced. Further, I wish that we all lived by that ideal.

If we did there would be a whole laundry list of very important outcomes that would be realized in such a world. Indeed, where to start itemizing?

Here, in the United States, we would have an economy in which wealth, income and healthcare were more fairly distributed. People would be able to find jobs close to home that were satisfying, or perhaps a little further away, maybe a reasonable commute on public transportation, say, if they wished a particular job in their area of expertise or one that paid a bit more than those available closer to home. People would live in decent housing located in safe neighborhoods with good public schools. And college educations would be more affordable.

U.S. domestic policy would require that investments in communities be generally equal except where historic injustices required reparations in the form of additional investment in Native American and African American communities.

U.S. foreign policy, too, would be different, and the country would back off from its historic insistence that global resources be divided in the interests of Americans. The United States and China—by an overwhelming margin the biggest producers of carbon pollution—would join with other countries to vigorously pursue reductions in the emission of carbon dioxide, methane and other climate change gasses, and invest in climate change mitigation projects domestically and internationally.

Elsewhere, Israelis would recognize the ongoing injuries suffered by Palestinians first as the state of Israel was established and later as the Occupation began and new settlements were established. In pursuit of a productive and just Israel-Palestinian peace process, Israelis would support both land and reparations for peace, and Palestinians would relinquish their justifiable claims in exchange for a viable homeland.

Israelis would also recognize that no theocracy, Muslim, Christian or Jewish, can guarantee equal rights and would take further steps toward true democracy. In such a world, terrorism, both the Middle Eastern kind and every other variant, the frequent recourse of the raging wounded, would wither away.

The list could be much longer, of course, and, regardless of the depth of commitment to equality and justice and a sustainable future, the devil would truly be in the details of how we get to such a utopian place. Even the process of defining the place would itself be devilish, but no matter. The real question is what might motivate us all to invest our hearts and minds into doing so much good.

The answer would have to lie in the fact that failing to do so, at this point in human history will result in a train wreck of apocalyptic proportions. Humans, after all, have become, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution (or, even, since Columbus sailed into the Carrribean), so much more efficient at laying waste to populations and to planet.

Never in the previous ten thousand years of history could we kill or destroy so quickly and so epically. Our production of death and misery and desperation is at historic highs these last 150 years or so, outpacing production in previous centuries and millennia by orders of magnitude. The degree of that increase of destructive power could be hypothesized and investigated using scientific tools; we need no Mayan calendar to predict the famines and super storms and holocausts to come.

If Howard Zinn were alive, and were willing to read this essay, I can guess how he might respond to my thesis. Zinn, of course, was no Pollyanna. He was a historical revisionist who would gaze unflinchingly on the truth of American and world history in order to name the policies and people who have inflicted so much damage on working people and people of color and women and sexual minorities, in order to name the names and crimes of people, generals and corporate heads, celebrated by more conventional versions of history.

But in the face of such painful stories and depressing outcomes, Zinn insisted on fighting back. No matter the power that might be arrayed against activists, power organized in defense of the status quo, Zinn believed in the efficacy of collective human action.

“Surely history does not start anew with each decade. The roots of one era branch and flower in subsequent eras. Human beings, writings, invisible transmitters of all kinds, carry messages across the generations,” Zinn wrote in his essay, Failure to Quit (collected in a book by the same title).

“I try to be pessimistic, to keep up with some of my friends. But I think back over the decades, and look around. And then it seems to me that the future is not certain, but it is possible,” he concluded.

Zinn would not have argued that the future we are looking at now is anything but grim. “The word ‘optimism’ used [in The Optimism of Uncertainty], and in the subtitle of [Failure to Quit], makes me a little uneasy, because it suggests a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time,” he wrote. “But I use it anyway, not because I am totally confident that the world will get better, but because I am certain that only such confidence can prevent people from giving up the game before all the cards have been played.”

The point I am making here is based on my assumption that there are now so few cards remaining in the deck that a loss of all our fortunes seems almost inexorably close. Nevertheless, this essay of mine is no call to action. It is instead a call to agreement on certain truths that seem to me to be almost self-evident. Effective action requires such agreement.

We are on the cusp of a global catastrophe that will wound us all and kill many, and even that wounding and killing will fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable. The coming changes are the outcome of centuries of human activity and policies that encourage and result in the grievously unequal distribution of resources.  What we do in the near future depends on widespread agreement that what we have been doing for millennia brought us to this point, and must not be the model for what we do henceforward.

In the absence of such an understanding, some people will still forge ahead in the effort to change what can still be changed in the interests of greater justice. I do not believe that collective action on less than a global scale will win the future that Howard Zinn believed in, but perhaps it will and we will all of us reap the benefits of the fight that remains in stouter hearts.

But we must surely ask ourselves why it is pestilence, war, famine and death in the saddle, rather than justice, peace, equality and sustainability.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Compromise or Betrayal

The Politics of Gridlock

So, I wrote the Washington Post, again. Something like Letter to the Editor number lebenty-leben, I’m guessing. They didn’t get around to publishing it (quelle surprise!), but here it is:


Obama did not lead a U.S. retreat from the world,” Jackson Diehl writes in “Foreign policy red flags “(Post, Nov. 12). “Instead he sought to pursue the same interests without the same means.”

Obama has withdrawn ground troops from war zones, cut the defense budget, and backed away from nation-building projects and from U.S.-led interventions, Diehl tells us. That sounds to me like a decision to pursue distinctly different interests around the world and, more specifically, to make it clear that the U.S. will no longer police the world to secure all the advantages that once accrued under Pax America.

If my understanding is correct it might mean that U.S. corporations can no longer invest and operate globally backed by the threat of force. If my understanding is correct it might also mean that groups with historic grievances against the U.S. (real or imagined) will unfortunately have more space and freedom to plot anti-American violence. Indeed, that might make Americans a bit more vulnerable, a risk that we will have to figure out how to manage and reduce by other means. But if we can do this through a “lighter footprint” globally, we might become one of the principal architects of a more peaceful world.

Or is Diehl suggesting that a heavier footprint might get better results? Are we talking, say, the Bush footprint, which resulted in upwards of one million Iraqis and Afghanis dead or displaced, thousands of American fatalities, and a military budget that roughly doubled from the first Bush-year to the last? Is that the footprint Diehl is recommending?

Jeff Epton

That’s the letter, but there’s more to say, of course. Obama’s “lighter footprint” still includes drone attacks, Guantanamo and anything but a get-tough-with-Israel element, but at this time in history, and after almost 50 years of disappointment with American foreign policy, I’m more than willing to settle for half a loaf.

And, speaking of compromise, disgruntled leftist though I may be, I’m ready for more of it. If Barack Obama wants to trim a little around the edges of programs I support, including Medicare, in exchange for Republican votes for higher taxes on the wealthy, other revenue increases of various kinds, closing tax code loopholes or ending subsidies that supplement the profits of oil companies and hedge funds and other corporate actors, and continuing reductions in the military budget, I’m ready to sign on.

Some of those cuts likely will harm individuals and communities that need more, not less, government assistance or protection. But without Republican support for revenue increases the country will continue to be pummeled by the effects of political gridlock.

Of course, there are lots of possible compromises that will provide no long-term benefit. Any worthwhile deal with Republicans in Congress must be part of a strategic assessment that suggests that the Republicans who do compromise will be willing to do so more than once.

I don’t know what criteria to apply in reaching such a conclusion, but I’m fairly certain that there are Republican senators and representatives who believe that a deal of some sort would be better for the country than falling off the fiscal cliff and also believe that Republicans who continue on their present reactionary path might well be overwhelmed by an approaching demographic tsunami.

There will be plenty of folks who wish to argue with this approach. People who believe that compromise can easily convert to betrayal. Robert Borosage lays out that perspective in persuasive detail in “A ‘grand bargain’ on the fiscal cliff could be a grand betrayal.”

Borosage’s main argument is that going over the fiscal cliff will not immediately do the kind of damage that so many observers are predicting. Further, he says, the nation does not have a debt or deficit problem, but a jobs problem that needs to be addressed first. And, finally, that there is plenty of time next year, after going over the cliff that is not a cliff, to address the problems created by lapsed tax cuts and automatic budget cuts.

But I’m not persuaded. I agree with the proposition that getting more people back to work is more important than addressing the deficit. But what Borosage and I believe is not going to compel action. The end of the payroll tax cut is going to reduce household income for even the poorest working families by a meaningful amount. That’s not going to get anybody back to work. There are more layoffs coming, as well, as the fiscal cliff approaches.

Sorry I am that compromise is necessary, but January will not create a more flexible Congress or present new opportunities to pass another sorely needed stimulus bill. Stimulus items like spending for infrastructure, extending unemployment benefits, and preserving the payroll tax cut are going to take compromise, now or later. Election victories notwithstanding, coaxing the right number of Republicans to vote with Democrats is going to take giving up something.

Though Jackson Diehl’s Nov. 12 piece left something to be desired, two Post columnists wrote rather more interesting columns that ran on Nov. 14. Dana Milbank’s “The Confederacyof Takers” points out in substantial detail how well most red states do feeding at the public trough. “Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. It is the opposite in blue states,” Milbank wrote.

Also, check out Harold Meyerson’s “The GOP’s gerrymandered advantages,” which points out that in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania congressional races, Republicans won 30 more seats in the House of Representatives than Democrats, despite the fact that Obama won the popular vote in those states by margins that should have led to a 30-seat Democratic advantage. That did not happen, Meyerson wrote, because Republican gubernatorial and legislative control of those states after the 2010 census permitted significant gerrymandering of House districts. “…by suppressing competition, and crafting uncompetitive districts, [Republicans] maintained their hold on the House last week.”

 Obviously, it will take a while before the full effects of the coming demographic change will swamp intransigent Republicans. In some cases, it will take Democratic victories in tight elections in state legislative districts over the next six years before redistricting will permit Democrats to once more exercise all the prerogatives of the majority party in Congress. But legislative victories for working people and minorities should come a little easier in the future than they have over the last four years.

In the meantime, we should all keep in mind that working people in the red states are suffering, too. After all, capital and organized commercial interests in the south, like weapons manufacturers, oil companies and agribusiness, are siphoning off a huge share of the federal largess that heads that way.

Ordinary folks in the red states are pretty much getting the same shaft as working people elsewhere. They may even have been getting it longer. The fact that they don’t seem to vote their own interests is a measure of how long they’ve been exploited and of the absence of unions to organize and message an alternative. While we are compromising, and strategizing our way to future victories, we ought to figure out a way to talk plainly and supportively to folks in the red states. They are Americans and they are our sisters and brothers.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A meditation on the Romneys

comes to an improbable conclusion

Walking the dog a bit ago and musing, I came across something of a meditation about Ann Romney and about Mitt. I'm feeling pretty well-disposed right now (it turns out the defense of Obamacare is pretty damn good medicine), but I'm still not intending to write anything nice about the Romneys.

The meditation began with a focus on Ann's horse, which, we have been told, has been an important element in the treatment of Ann's multiple sclerosis. Really? And, so, are we to understand that we are to pay no attention to the wealth piled up in the corner, but focus instead on Ann's self, mortal like the rest of us?

I can manage a very little of that, but then the thought comes to mind: How incredibly privileged the Romney's are that they can afford such treatment. Yes, we will all shuffle off this mortal coil, but along the way some of us will suffer more.

None of this means that the Romney's are bad people (though wealth and cluelessness and the desire to lower taxes on the rich is the dangerous wish of a powerful person), but they do not a First Family make. According to media reports, Republicans are doing some serious investigation of their strategies and commitments and exploring options for the future. Let me suggest that they never run a person this rich for the presidency, again.

That wasn't a viable choice this time, and isn't going to be again, I'd wager (though I'm not willing to bet a Romney-style $10,000 on the proposition). Certainly, wealthy men and women are going to be the ones occupying the presidency for as far into the future as we can see, and will capitalize on their stature and our celebrity culture after they serve, but Romney was very likely a zero too far. His $250+ million fortune was less transparent than the fifty-times smaller fortune of the man he ran against and substantially larger than that of the Bush family.

But Obama made what he has on fame and book royalties, both things that have come to him fairly recently in life. And George W. Bush had a goofiness about him that persuaded lots of ordinary folks that Bush was a pretty ordinary guy, too. Lots of voters were okay with a goofy, rich man for president when times were good, but this time around, a rich man who has the same vibe as Thurston Howell III (on Gilligan's Island), would have been kicked to the curb sooner, and long before Obama sleepwalked through the first debate, if the economy had been only marginally better.

Thinking back on images of the campaign, I am struck by how often I recall pictures of Mitt looking befuddled or startled. Looking, in fact, like he has just run up against another manifestation of real life--like mere mortals questioning his judgement or his veracity--that he had never experienced before. Well, the only people I know of who are routinely protected from that sort of collision with reality are CEO's and the one percent. Don't kid yourself, you Republican deep thinkers, everyone was going to figure out that Mitt didn't have a clue, even if the Obama campaign had spent less money trying to convey that impression of Mitt.

I must say I don't envy Republican strategists right now. They must figure out a way to compromise on taxes and the deficit and Social Security and Medicare and the debt ceiling and immigration and infrastructure and climate change while maintaining strong connections to Tea Party supporters, half of whom will demobilize as the economy improves. For the Republican party as it is presently constituted, staying relevant in an age of adverse shifts in demographics and the electoral map  is like being up the creek without a paddle.

But the somewhat bizarre conclusion to my meditation is the thought that I really do wish the Republicans well. Democrats could use a hand governing the country at this very critical time. A Republican boost could be transformative.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

First we reelect the president

Next we heal the world

Well, so much for my abilities at foreshadowing what I might do next. My last post ended with the hopeful observation that I might write next about "the Chicago Way (here or here, for example)," a concept intended to suggest that dirty tricks and corruption have been refined to an extraordinary degree by Chicago politicians, of which Barack Obama is one and whose campaign, as the story goes, is too slick and too malign for the honorable likes of Mitt Romney.

I intended to belittle the notion that Chicago was so exceptional in the way of corruption and cynicism, and to call on lessons from my own experience as a politician in Ann Arbor and as a journalist in Chicago and Dayton to support an opposite conclusion, namely that politicians are no more corrupt or venal than the rest of us. That's a point that I think needs elaborating and repeating, but I've lost interest in the idea as the topic for this post.

Instead I want to elaborate on a comment my friend "kpdriscoll," left responding to the previous post, a bit about October surprises and the unlikelihood that there are any secrets left about Barack that might come out at the end and damage his political position. I wrote that only Romney could be victimized by the sudden appearance or elaboration on one of his "secrets." I was thinking about, say, the release of previous years tax returns or some nasty story about Bain.

The piece was weak. I wrote what I did because at the time I was feeling a little puny myself. Hell, I've been feeling a little puny for the last month or so. And my lassitude, I am convinced, came from the dread I felt about this election. Obama will lose, Romney will win, I've been thinking for more than a month now, and what will follow will be more of the Republican attack on government, an attack that has already, in the 32 years since Reagan was first elected, significantly defunded the government with severe consequences for the poor, for public education, for college students, for consumers, for healthcare and for the environment, to select just a sample.

In réponse, KP cited Hurricane Sandy as really the only October surprise of this election cycle and expanded with the observation that Sandy injected climate change and the environment back into political debate, however belatedly. This is true, I guess, as far as it goes, but climate change has been injected back into a debate that has been substantially soured by the ongoing Republican project, aimed at deligitimatizing the notion that government can improve and advance our common interests.

The two-pronged attack, defunding and deligitimatizing government, have left the country in a perilous state, especially in regard to a challenge as enormous as global warming and seas rising. Of course, the complete collapse of the U.S. and the global economy would have go a long way toward slowing the increase in the average global temperature, but as George Lakoff points out in "Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy," burning the gas reserves of Exxon Mobil alone would raise the average global temperature high enough to threaten civilization as we experience it. "The oil stored by all the oil companies everywhere would, if burned, destroy civilization many times over," Lakoff continues.

Under such circumstances, it should be obvious that even worldwide economic collapse would not eliminate the threat of devastating climate change (devastating superstorms are already here). It will take a government-led project many times larger than the Marshall Plan, larger than all public and private space exploration to date, to back us away from the damage that has already been done and to do so in a way that maintains the livelihoods, aspirations and quality of life for billions worldwide. It may be that it cannot be done.

It may be that the damage done by Reagan, Bush, Cheney, Bush, Rove, Boehner, McConnell, Romney and others has already crippled the faith that Americans have in their own government to the point that any new Marshall Plan would sound like "Solyndra" in American ears. But taking on that lack of faith and restoring American belief in the power of government to transform the world we live in is the challenge before us.

Like I said, I've been feeling pretty puny. Keeping the faith in the face of the threat presented by Romney has been harder for me than the experience of living with 12 years of Reagan-Bush and another eight years of Bush the Younger. Of course, in this instance, the fact that Marrianne works in the Obama administration and brings home the lion's share of our bacon is a factor, too. Without Marrianne's earning power I'd just be an aging retiree on a fixed income with a 14-year old kid and a terribly spotty work record. I'd be toast. So, yes, I have a personal stake in the outcome.

But I have a personal stake in restoring faith in government. It will not be hearty individualism or capitalism or the right to carry firearms that will protect the lives of the people I love who will be here after I'm gone. It will be American faith in the grand possibilities of collective mission articulated and guided by a progressive, democratic government. Unfortunately, climate change is gonna' keep on comin' while the essential work of restoring faith gets done.

So, first, we need to reelect Obama. Then, at a minimum, we are going to need a President Obama ready to play rough with plutocrats and corporations that have been the principal beneficiaries of the widening wealth and income gap and the deregulation push of the last 30 years. Close that gap, restore justice in the marketplace, and lead.

Do that and billions of us will have a chance of living reasonable lives into the second half of the 20th Century. Fail that and watch the continuing march of reactionaries and worse leading us to a place we never dreamed was possible.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If there's an October Surprise... will most certainly be Mitt's.

No way there's an October Surprise for Barack. He may very well be the most investigated man in history.

I base that conclusion on the sheer power and range of today's investigative tools wielded by the mostly right-wing zealots with a hard-on for Barack Obama. If there were any damaging secrets in Barack's past, we would know them already. City and country blocks around each location Barack has ever been have been excavated and sifted through by miners with the black-hearted souls of Dickensian villains and the eternal optimism of the '49ers.

One thing about which all Americans ought to be sure is this: Barack Obama is exactly who he appears to be--an ambitious, thoughtful family man with an abiding love for his wife and children and a desire to do right in the world.

In rather surprisingly stark contrast, Mitt Romney is the most opaque and guarded man to have run for president in my memory, which does run as far back as Ike and Adlai, both of whom, by the way, projected authenticity, itself a separate deficit plaguing Mitt. Together the lack of transparency and the lack of authenticity suggests that Mitt has secrets, some of which might be significant enough to assume "October Surprise" proportions.

Of course, for all I know, Mormonism and its sincere practice might somehow shore Mitt up in a way that makes his deficiencies less problematic. But I doubt it. We just might not ever know.

In any case, we do know this. Barack is a straight up, honest guy. Such secrets as he might have will be very much like the rest of us. Bad, embarrassing, pathetic, whatever, but the secrets of a man who might very well be an exemplar of honest. Rather like a previous president from Illinois.

Which all brings me to consideration of the Chicago Way a term currently being pounded by hard right columnists and bloggers, like Victor Hansen; a concept likely to be the jumping off point for my next post.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Obama's Wednesday Night Failure

We need more Grant, less McClellan

Just like everybody else, or like tens of millions of people, we watched the debate on Wednesday night. Obama was not okay.

I've always liked him as a person. We don't have the same style, but he seems authentic. And on Wednesday night his authentic self appeared too troubled, by far.

He's never seemed a courageous man to me. (I say that with no intention of portraying myself as his opposite. I'm more than a little ambivalent about the strength of my own heart.) But I haven't been expecting courage from Obama--or innovative and radical policymaking--though that is exactly what we need. What I have always liked about Obama is his thoughtfulness and intelligence.

As it turns out, for purposes of the debate, it was his habitual lack of courage that made the difference. Obama is just not in the habit of fighting back. For all the Republican insistence that he rammed the healthcare bill down America's collective throat, there simply wasn't (and isn't) anything hard to swallow about it. The Affordable Care Act (or whatever, call it ACA), will result in covering, what, 40 million more Americans.

And it won't raise the cost of health care very much. Its flaws are that it doesn't go far enough (among other deficiencies, it doesn't direct use of the government's purchasing power to lower health care costs). In short, Obama didn't "ram" ACA. He just didn't get any Republican votes for it.

The Republicans, some of them, know that ACA, in the form that actually passed, was not a truly progressive accomplishment. But it did edge closer to a slippery slope.

Some conservatives may be genuinely and honestly concerned about the direction ACA traveled toward more government control of health care, but the Republican ox that ACA (or, rather, what ACA might have been) threatened to gore is private profit and the income of the one-percent. Everybody, including Obama, knows this. Or should.

The trouble is that some Republicans are, in fact, successful (and generally cynical) communicators. They have made even liberals a little uncomfortable about "Obamacare." (Come on, Mr. President, don't embrace that term, don't 'kind of like' it.)

What I'm saying here is this: the missing element, in the whole first term of Barack Obama, was courage. Evasions, clarifications and constant compromise were not occasional tactics, they were the strategy. (A further, even uglier, truth is that liberals haven't been very brave for a long, long time, but that is another story.)

Look at the last four years. A timid stimulus package. A policy that included both a surge in Afghanistan and a timeline for withdrawal. Promises to bishops followed by broken promises to bishops. Letting Goldman, Sachs fail and then running away from the implications of that policy in favor of "too big to fail." Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Baby steps and half-way measures. And so on and so forth.

Never a strategy for the meaningful presidency we thought was possible. Only engaging in battles and then retreating to the nearest safe haven.

There is one (audacious) hope, here. That Wednesday night's debacle will be a wake-up call and that the next four years we will see a little more Grant and a little less McClellan.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Indictment of Mitt Romney

This indictment of Mitt Romney, raising questions about his fitness to serve as president of the United States, is past due. Of course, the simple fact of one’s unfitness to serve, would not prevent Romney from serving—one need only review the case of George W. Bush or, for that matter, the hallowed Ronald Reagan, who napped away at least the last half of his presidency while functionaries like Ollie North got away with murder.

But I digress. This indictment will frame the case against Romney based on his political flip-flops and prevarications, his mid-twentieth century air (far too retro for the challenges of our time), and the devastating simple-mindedness of his political program, at least insofar as it can be determined.

To make this case, the indictment will call upon the recent opinion pieces of several knowledgeable journalists and economists. It should be noted that the likely response from the Romney campaign to this indictment, other than studied indifference, will be to disparage both journalists and economists in sweeping terms.

No matter. Those who investigate and judge the particulars as outlined in this indictment will recognize that ad hominem attacks on the individuals (and their professions) quoted here are in no way a merit-based refutation of their arguments.

There is “…an existing stereotype of Romney and Republicans as wealthy white businessmen, clinking wine glasses while bemoaning the irresponsibility of the help,” wrote Michael Gerson in a column in The Washington Post on Sept. 21. Gerson, who was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, and may very well be the person who coined the phrase “compassionate conservative,” centered his column, “Ideology without promise,” on what the video of Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser in May revealed.

The problem, Gerson wrote, isn’t really its power to confirm the stereotype of Romney, after all, “few imagined Romney to be a closet populist.” The problem is what the video suggests about “Romney’s view of the nature of our [current] social crisis.” Gerson’s elaboration of that crisis delves into the ways that the decay of neighborhoods, widespread job losses, poverty and personal financial collapse devastate individual lives and whole communities, magnifying their vulnerability and make government activism and creative policymaking an absolute necessity.

The Romney revealed in the video, and the incessant Republican political assault on the federal government, makes them worse than irrelevant. “…a Republican ideology pitting the ‘makers’ against the ‘takers’ offers nothing. No sympathy for our fellow citizens. No insight into our social challenge. No hope of change. This approach involves a relentless reductionism. Human worth is reduced to economic production. Social problems are reduced to personal vices. Politics is reduced to class warfare on behalf of the upper class,” Gerson wrote, in what might be the most withering dismissal that will be written by a Republican about Romney and his campaign during this political season.

A day later the Post published a piece by Ezra Klein also focused on Romney and the 47-percent video. (Unfortunately, try that I might, I cannot locate a web version of this article available for free.) In his piece “Romney’s skewed view on personal responsibility,” Klein, formerly a business writer for the Post and now one of their most frankly liberal op-ed columnists, demolished Romney’s pay-no-income-tax dismissal of half of the country. “…more than 60 percent of [the 47 percent] were working and contributing payroll taxes—which means they paid a higher effective tax rate on their income than Romney does,” Klein wrote, adding that “an additional 20 percent were elderly.”

Worse than Romney’s dismissal of low-wage workers and retirees, Klein continued, was his description of who he needed to care about politically. “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said.

The horror here is that the people Romney dismisses are the people who must take more, not less, responsibility for their lives, Klein wrote. The time spent commuting on public transportation and wrestling with the scheduling difficulties that result, the time spent worrying about how to get one’s children into decent, affordable schools, the energy spent deciding on what to pay or what to buy in any given week, managing a budget with no give and with holes in the safety net below, takes an enormous amount of responsibility and energy. Mistakes of judgment will be made, Klein wrote, citing studies that vividly demonstrate how fraught and consequential are the lives and decisions of the 47 percent.

“Romney, apparently, thinks it’s folks like him who’ve really had it hard. ‘I have inherited nothing,’ the son of a former auto executive and governor told the room of donors.’ Everything Ann and I have, we earned the old-fashioned way.’ This is a man blind to his own privilege,” Klein concluded.

Also applicable here might be former Texas Governor Ann Richard’s observation about Bush, the father. “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

In another piece in the Post that ran the same day as Klein’s piece, Colbert King made the case that the most damning thing about what Romney said privately in Boca Raton in May is how dramatically it undercuts what he said to the NAACP in public at their July convention. (King’s column, titled in the print edition, “Not buying what Romney is selling,” King quoted Romney’s apparently sincere sympathy for African Americans who live in a country where equal opportunity is not “an accomplished fact.” Because that is the case, our bad economy is not “equally bad for everyone. Instead, it’s worse for African Americans in almost every way,” Romney told the audience.

King detailed Romney’s claims to understanding and empathy. “We don’t count anybody out,” Romney said, “Support is asked for and earned, and that’s why I’m here today."

But, King wrote, the stuff Romney told the NAACP audience in July doesn’t square with the stuff he said privately in May to wealthy supporters at the Boca Raton event. “Romney, of course, was slurring more than the members of the NAACP, wrote King. “He also insulted retirees, college students, Americans with disabilities and people who work for a living for not much pay.”

In speaking to the Boca Raton donors, “witness Romney, the Chameleon, telling that crowd what they wanted to hear,” King wrote, in the process raising the implicit question: Why would an audience of political donors want to hear a presidential candidate dismiss 47 percent of the country?

Though an important question in its own right, it is nevertheless a digression from this indictment and will therefore be left to another time. Instead we will move on with the observations of economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

In “Romney pledges a Fed that will screw workers” posted on the Truthout website on Aug. 27th, Baker detailed the ways that a strong (read overvalued) dollar results in lost manufacturing jobs and depressed wages in the United States, and a huge international trade deficit. But the strong dollar also confers enormous benefits on corporations and the wealthy.

“The arithmetic on this is striking. Productivity is projected to grow by more than 25 percent in the next decade. If workers get their share of productivity growth, this would imply an increase in annual income for the typical family of approximately $12,000 by 2022. On the other hand, with a Fed following Romney's strong dollar policy, workers in 2022 will be lucky if their wages are as high as they are today,” Baker wrote.

In furthering the indictment of Romney, it should be noted that Baker does not confine his scorn to Republicans, identifying Robert (“Wall Street”) Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, as a principal architect of strong dollar policy. “While the strong dollar may be a loser for most people, it does offer large benefits for people like Mitt Romney, Robert Rubin, and other members of the 1 percent,” Baker added.

“These people are all heavily involved in global business and their money goes further when buying into China, India, and elsewhere when the dollar is stronger.

"In addition, there are retail companies like Walmart that have set up low-cost supply chains in the developing world that depend on an overvalued dollar. Do you think they want to see the price of the goods they purchase overseas rise by 20 percent when measured in dollars? The same applies to manufacturing companies like General Electric, which produce most of what they sell in the United States overseas,” Baker continued.

Itemizing Romney’s obvious disinterest in the fate of so many people should not be concluded without a look at his apparent position on women and health care. Notwithstanding his obvious affection for his wife, Ann, whom he makes use of in his efforts to reach autoworkers (“my wife Ann owns two Cadillacs”), he seems unaware of the need to make policy for the majority of American households led by single moms or with both parents working.

“… the Republican Party [has] just spent two full years using their power across the country to get involved in women's medical decisions and gay people's lives, and ... Mitt Romney [has] repeatedly vowed to do the same if elected,” wrote Marge Baker, an executive vice-president at People for the American Way.

In “Romney toWomen: Stop worrying about your bodies and just trust me,” posted on the Huffington Post website, Baker added “Yes, the economy and jobs are hugely important issues in this election (though ones in which Romney doesn't exactly have an advantage). So is foreign policy, which one Romney advisor dismissed this week as a 'shiny object.' But so are the personal attacks that Romney and his allies are lobbing at women.”

There is much additional testimony that could be brought to bear for this indictment, but brevity matters and is sometimes decisive. The election likely will come long before Mitt Romney is called into court to face these charges. And the outcome of the election will likely make further action against Mitt a substantial waste of time and energy.

In the meantime, does anyone care to defend the guy who led a gang of school boys in an assault on an effeminate classmate, who went on vacation with his dog in a crate on the roof of his car, who includes a number of NASCAR owners among his good friends, and who has said that he would not lift a finger on behalf of 47 percent of the country? If so, please respond on this site.