Friday, August 3, 2012

Romney's new campaign slogan!

There is something about those wonderful folks who have a natural devilish look in their eyes. We all probably know someone like this who, while everyone else is commenting and talking, holds their fire without a word. But at a well timed moment, that glint, that careful inner smile brings forth a real gem of a comment.

Good humorists possess this ability, and their zingers are more than just a clever turn of a word. More often they are an economy of insightful analysis with a wink attached. The late Molly Ivins kept Texas politicians in line with her straight up humor that cut deep into the hide and bowels of the Lone Star State's political morass of hubris and ignorance.

I read New York Times sports columnist Joe Lapointe's short opinion piece in a web posting a couple of days ago. It wasn't about sports other than to spotlight a really poor sport who has been in the international news lately. Joe was also a segment producer for "Countdown With Keith Olberman" on Current TV and his political take on things is always interesting.
Joe Lapointe's devilish smile
I was particularly inspired with his suggestion that Mitt Romney, who has endlessly slogged across America seeking the GOP presidential nomination, has set a definitive tone for a new campaign slogan. The slogan's theme reached a zenith at the end of July as Mitt, with a traveling press corps on board his plane, flew to London, Israel and Poland to try out his diplomatic chops as a potential leader of the Free World.

This was to be showcase of his leadership and character; a preview of what he might be like as President. His debut showed the world a dismal, wooden, uninformed and elitist multimillionaire. Mr. Romney was savaged in the international press for his shocking diplomatic gaffes.

The last stop was in Poland, and Romney had hardly made himself available to the press corps for questions during the whole trip. Instead he sought  to escape discussion of his alienation by the entire British population after casting  doubts about London's readiness to host the 2012 Olympics. He also managed to enrage the Palestinians by his seeming racist comments while pandering for big campaign bucks from Jewish donors at a tony dinner event in Israel. As the Poland visit was wrapping up, the press corps was begging him to answer some questions.

As Romney was hurrying to get into his limo after placing a wreath in Warsaw, reporters were shouting questions at him, and as Joe Lapointe described it:
A Mitt Romney spokesman may have invented a slogan that is just as simple and is, unintentionally, the clear and unvarnished essence of the Romney campaign.

The slogan is “Kiss My Ass!” uttered by Romney flack Rick Gorka in Poland Tuesday as reporters tried to question the aloof, wealthy and disconnected Wall Street Republican vulture who hopes to oust President Obama in November and seize the remnants of our economy for redistribution to the one per cent already holding most of the wealth and power.
Lapointe then suggested that this perfect bit of campaign prose is a natural for Democrats, Liberals and Progressives to launch a counter-advertising campaign:
Don’t even mention Obama.  Just film commercials and print posters and bumper stickers with Romney’s smiling face and the phrase “Kiss My Ass!” next to it.  Do the same with the phrase “Elect the Vulture!”  Use the Fox News Channel propaganda method of defining the enemy and then attacking the caricature you’ve created.  And if Romney and his supporters don’t like it, they can kiss our ass.
So with such an inspirational challenge, I immediately dashed off to Photoshop-Land and knocked out a quick bumper sticker which I offer to all who might want use it in any way you like!
( Click on it and it becomes 'bumper size.' Have fun! )

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Duchess of Romney and "You People"

The Duchess of Romney
Mitt Romney really, really wants to win the presidency this November. And so does his loyal wife Ann, already a potential First Lady. But neither one of them wants to deal with average working Americans who have a few questions for them.

Reasonable questions for a potential White House occupant like, "how much money have you made, and how much tax have you paid on it over the years?" President Obama started the call for that basic information and was immediately assailed by Mr. Romney who huffily asked for a "public apology" for even suggesting such a thing. 

But Mr. Obama not only didn't apologize, he turned up the heat and has been joined by a growing chorus of demands to see the tax returns from both sides of the aisle. Several have suggested that Romney simply show us the same 20+ years of IRS returns he showed when he was being vetted for Vice President by the McCain Campaign in 2008.

Wife Ann really threw down the gauntlet recently on ABC news when Robin Roberts asked her about releasing the tax returns. Ms. Romney sidestepped answering the question, instead she glowingly reported on how fair her husband is. Robin followed up asking "Why not show that, then?" suggesting that we could all "move on" if her husband would simply make his returns public.

Sweet Ann lost her cool, shooting back, "Because there are so many things that will be open again for more attack... and that's really, that's just the answer! And we've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life." 

The Duchess, in Chapter 9 of Alice in Wonderland, speaking to Alice, could be explaining how Romney and his lovely wife want to be seen by ordinary wage earning commoners in America:
"I quite agree with you," said the Duchess; "and the moral of that is -- 'Be what you would seem to be' -- or if you'd like it put more simply -- 'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been, would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"
The Romneys' labyrinthian verbal escape chute is not going to lose many Americans in the twists and turns of his misdirection and obfuscation. The average working American may not be able to quote Hamlet, but he or she sure as shootin' can tell you what "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" means, even if they occasionally misquote it! 

Phony and snobby aloofness doesn't play well with Americans. And political affiliations aside, few find Mitt Romney to be a relaxed down to earth kind of person. His almost manic smile and disingenuous interaction with people at his campaign stops has been dubbed "the uncanny valley" from robotic studies showing that when human replicas look amazingly real, but not exactly like actual human beings, it causes a response of unease and revulsion among human observers. This was addressed by Andrew Sullivan in 'The Daily Beast' recently:
 "I was chatting with a Mormon friend the other day and asking him what Mormons make of Mitt on this 'uncanny valley' question. The phrase he came up with is “the Mormon mask.” It's the kind of public presentation that a Mormon with real church authority deploys when dealing with less elevated believers, talking to them, and advising them. The cheery aw-shucks fake niceness in person is a function in part, some believe, of the role he has long played in the church: always a leader."
Mitt is counting on not only the "Mormon Mask" as a shield to take with him to election day, he also has the broad donor base of big buck Mormon families who share his "common values." Bloomberg Businessweek just reported on the Mormon Church's recent opening of a $2 Billion mega-mall right across the street from their vaulting temple in Salt Lake City. Its 100 stores includes a Tiffany's. 

But it seems that ordinary tithing members of the church, who give 10% of their earnings, can not find out how much money the church has, or what it spends on what. Only its appointed president, Thomas S. Monson, whom Mormons believe to be a living prophet, really knows the bottom line figure. But Romney, a former Mormon Bishop, knows much more than common church members whom he greets with his "Mormon Mask." That may explain the cavalier air of superiority he and his wife exhibit publicly.

Combine that divine secrecy with Mitt Romney's wooden personality and try to picture him and his feisty elitist wife in the White House facing international press scrutiny. This would not be a brief titular undertaking like  his work "saving" the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. 

And today he is frantically distancing himself from his signature achievement as a State Governor in Massachusetts: the implementing his his universal health care reform plan. He is shamefully attempting to escape the "Romneycare" tag. 

Perhaps more appropriately, "political prostitute" as a tag from his long history of flip-flopping on earlier support for major issues like abortion rights might stick. Consider his quote from his 1994 campaigning against Ted Kennedy regarding the Kennedy fortune:  "The blind trust is an age-old ruse."

Recent reports of Romney's money sheltered in the Cayman Islands, his Swiss bank account, and who knows what else, makes many wonder if Romney's supposed blind trust is, indeed, the age-old ruse he seems to know so much about.

Folks must realize Romney would be the new face of America in these globally uncertain times. Last time the GOP won they put a genial dolt at the helm of our ship of state for eight long years, and he ran America up on the rocks with his two unfunded wars, and his embarrassingly profound lack of leadership ability.

With a clearer picture of the "Real Romney" emerging every day, we can only hope that America sees through his thick fog of untruth and misrepresentation when they vote in November. Mark Twain is credited with the quote "It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."

In that regard, Mitt Romney becomes more convincing every day.

Graphic by Larry Ray with apologies to Quentin Matsys

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Conservative Ideology and those emails ...

Graphic by Larry Ray

If you occasionally or even regularly receive odious forwarded emails from right wing Conservatives, Tea Party types (and that could include some of our own relatives) you might fire off a reply email debunking the bilge in these emails. But after reviewing the concise overview of conservative ideology, below, it may be easier for you to just hit the delete button for these emails instead of trying to reply with logic and reason.

I have a close friend who has worked hard and who has done extremely well for himself and his family. His deep seated genuine sense of charity and fair play for his fellow man causes him to continue to react and reply to the hateful, selfish and certainly racist emails forwarded to him by his early classmates who are now also very well off old friends.

The emails come largely from white men who are now independently wealthy. Most are now retired physicians, bankers, attorneys and such. My friend tries to reply to them with documented facts that refute, point-by-point, the foul, dubious and appalling warnings and claims in the forwarded emails he receives.

His earnest efforts to change their minds seems only to increase the volume of right-wing conservative emails he receives. 

My many entreaties for him to just stop acknowledging their selfish and loathsome emails were reinforced a few days ago by another of his friends, a down to earth man who is a moderate liberal, rancher, philanthropist and early Silicon Valley entrepreneur. 

He told my friend the same thing I have been telling him, but much more forcefully, by penning the brief outline below of the bare ugly truth about ingrained Conservative zealotry:
The ideology and logic that Conservatives cannot get past . . . 
There will always be poor people. So, there is really nothing you can do about that. So, just let people make their stupid decisions, and even die as a result. They deserve it. You can't do anything about it, anyway. So, just relay tasteless jokes over the Internet instead. I mean, why worry? People are inherently sinners, it's human nature, and therefore individuals are untrustworthy, lazy and gaming any system you throw at them. So, one should put trust into corporations, which are superior to individuals because they have boards that balance out the evil individuals - even if that corporation produces drugs that kill teenagers, spills oil into our environment, kills miners, steals money from Main Street, etc. Why? Because in the end, corporations are more trustworthy than individuals, who in the end are our elected individuals in a democracy, and who, by conservative definition, are individuals who are sinners all and simply can't be trusted. In fact, they need a Judeo-Christian ethic to overcome their unstable human nature. Ergo, you can't trust government, which is made up of individuals who all game the system. So, it' a better bet to have our children and environment in the palm of the profit machines than in the hands of elected officials, who might try to regulate the dangers of those corporations... 
This bare-bones description, certainly a bit of hyperbole and grim humor, nonetheless pretty well nails the historic greed and arrogant assumptions of the Conservative core of the GOP. That Americans are being asked to vote for this bunch of robber barons once again so soon after the eight disastrous years of GOP control in the White House from which we are still trying to recover is truly amazing. 

Also amazing is that so many angry and fearful Americans are just plain dumb as chickens. They feel that voting for Mitt Romney will make things better for them. And, indeed, Romney's hollow and ever changing positions and promises are just so much cracked corn chicken feed. 

Better to just hit the delete button on those far right emails. Remember, "If you are in an argument with a fool, make sure he is not similarly occupied." 

It's also a good idea to hit the delete button for Republican candidates on your ballot as we vote this November. President Obama has a lot more of the GOP's greedy, tangled mess left by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney to clean up.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Revisiting a continuing American tragedy

 Graphic by Larry Ray

What was a clearly protracted military misadventure in 2009 when I wrote the article below is even more of a quagmire today, two and a half years later. We have finally pulled our troops out of Iraq but the long overdue withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan drags on, projected possibly into 2014 because of a lack of united political leadership. It started as, and remains, an ill-advised war we can not win.

The quote at the end of this lengthy and carefully researched article is as true today as it was in 2009. It makes the politically-touted "troop surge" ordered by President Obama in Afghanistan, which was approved after the article was written was written, even more like the futile and clearly mistaken increases in troop size and bombing in Vietnam. We still cannot bomb and occupy our way to peace. This should be a useful re-read in this national election year.

Forty three years ago as a young civilian correspondent and documentary filmmaker, I stepped off the plane in Saigon knowing nothing about the history of that country or its people, and little or nothing about why Americans were fighting and dying there. I had come to see the war of my time.

As a U.S. Navy veteran and young news anchor for a South Texas regional TV station it seemed a given that we were there to fight godless communism and that we were the good guys.

It was 1966 and WWII had been over for 21 years and hostilities in Korea had ceased in 1953. But Americans still saw our military and patriotism as Johnny marching home again to ticker tape parades. We had whipped the Nazis and the Japs, and fought the North Koreans and commie Chinese to a draw. Clearly American might was not to be messed with.

But by 1966 America's claim of winning an honorable peace in South Vietnam was being seriously challenged by seasoned journalists in both Saigon and Washington D.C.. About the time I arrived, Morley Safer filed his story showing our Marines using a zippo lighter to set fire to thatch roofed homes in a rural village on a "search and destroy" mission. His was perhaps the first story that Americans saw that suggested America was facing bleak prospects of victory. We damn sure were not winning hearts and minds.

After a few months of sitting through bogus U.S. military press briefings which we called the "five o'clock follies," and working with seasoned reporters from around the world, my Boy Scout naiveté disappeared. After a year of the outright lies and misrepresentations in Pentagon and White House press releases about things I had seen with my own eyes, my naiveté turned to a frustrated, simmering anger. An anger that was ultimately taken to the streets across America just a few years later.

Since the Vietnam War, accredited correspondents have no longer been allowed to freely move about and report on our wars. Reporters are now "embedded" within military units under their control and influence.

The parallels between America's disastrous involvement in Southeast Asia and our costly and ill-advised involvement in the Middle East have fired up that frustration and anger anew. This time opposition by the average American to requests for more troops in Afghanistan is getting louder before the new call for 40,000 more troops has even been approved.

Our involvement in Vietnam started in 1950. General Eisenhower's decision to send military advisers to help the South Vietnamese army was the start of a massive buildup of American troop strength which reached a high of 543,482 in 1969. In the early years in Vietnam the Pentagon was still using a set-piece, WWII battle mentality, and Communism was our new political devil. And this was a hot, sweaty jungle war with no front lines.

Very few Americans spoke or understood the sing-songy monosyllabic Vietnamese language. The history and dynamics of a very old country that had been at war in some form or another for more than a thousand years was lost on those tasked with guiding America's efforts there.

The fiercest battles were being secretly waged between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of State. The State Department's political and diplomatic findings were muzzled and marginalized. We bombed Hanoi while increasing numbers of young draftees and regular American troops were being slaughtered as they fought fiercely in unforgiving conditions for a cause they did not understand. Almost twice as many Vietnamese, insurgents as well as civilians, died from our bombs and bullets.

America's strong belief in the efficacy of power reasoned that if bombing our way to peace was not working, there was no need to consider diplomacy or a new approach. Clearly we only needed to drop more bombs, send in more troops and the enemy would finally give up. And that is just what we did. The generals called for increasing the enemy body count to achieve peace and allow us to return home with honor. And our politicians went right along with that reasoning.

We failed to appreciate that we were in the middle of a very old private fight between North and South. Intelligence showed early on that a majority in the South was ready for peace, even a communist style of peace, and most of all wanted the "long noses" who they saw as raining destruction down upon them to be driven out of their country. In Vietnam there ultimately was no victory and no honor for America. Today Vietnam is peaceful and prosperous and an important trading partner with the USA, just like our top trading partner, communist China.

The military might mentality was challenged early on by president John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 bucked extreme pressure from the Pentagon and within his own White House, and refused to order combat troops into Vietnam, limiting our presence there to military advisers. JFK listened not only to his top military brass, but also to his State Department, particularly undersecretary George Ball who predicted pretty much what eventually happened, except reality was worse than what he envisioned. After JFK's death his order halting combat troops was reversed by President Johnson, driven more by domestic politics than military necessity.

In Vietnam 58,000 American troops were killed, 155,192 were wounded or missing. The touted "domino effect" where all Southeast Asia would topple country after country to communism if we didn't win in Vietnam now is easy to see as so much expedient political hysteria.

The story is, of course, much more complex than this, but the bare bones are that politicians and military leaders refused to listen to the State Department and other foreign service experts who laid bare the corrupt leadership of South Vietnam, and pointed out that this was a long simmering internal war of insurgency with strong nationalistic roots. The actual communist Chinese or Soviet Russian interest in and backing of the war was extremely limited.

Our desire to strike back after the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, combined the totally inept leadership of the George W. Bush administration with, once again, expedient political hysteria. First we launched an inadequately planned and then insufficiently supported attack upon al Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda top officials escaped to protective sheltering by tribal supporters who had seen their country invaded by the British, the Soviet union, and now American and NATO troops.

Then, with political misinformation, outright lies, a cowed press and a Congress that asked few questions, our government launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9-11 attacks on the USA. This mad neo-conservative misadventure has had a massively destabilizing effect upon the Middle East and has bred more hatred for the USA and our military in the Arab world.

It has also unnecessarily stressed our military's ready troop strength and equipment readiness with 4,300 U.S. troops killed and more than 30,000 wounded and injured as of September 2009. Cost of the Iraq war is expected to surpass the $686 billion present day dollar value cost of the Vietnam war by year's end.

One of President Obama's first actions after taking office was to make good on his promise to get us out of Iraq, and that is now underway. Though the dynamics, politics, religion and leadership are totally different from Vietnam, Iraq, like Vietnam, will ultimately reach its own destiny without the forceful imposition of American ideas and politics upon its ancient culture. We eliminated its despotic leader, but its people still must sort through complex religious and ideological differences on its own and they may or may not decide to remain some sort of democracy.

Afghanistan is an even older and thornier problem. And one that cannot be bombed into submission. Afghanistan was first invaded by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. The tribal warlords have never been successfully subdued. No "surge" of military troops will somehow completely overpower the zealotry of religious belief. Imagine foreign troops invading America trying to subdue and forcibly control ultra-orthodox elements of the Southern Baptist Convention or the Catholic Church, because they saw them as bad for the American people.

Afghanistan has never had organized, cohesive governance and is today just a fragile step away from becoming a failed state like Somalia. That is why it was an ideal location for Bin Laden to train his al Qaeda fighters. The American figurehead Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has become a real problem for the U.S. as well as NATO. We had hoped, with our backing, he could somehow unify the disparate tribes flung through the mountains and badlands into a proud democracy.

But such dreams have been jarred by the reality of a Karzai-rigged national election with rampant vote tampering and voter intimidation. Karzai is no better than the warlords we want him to pull together. Karzai has now distanced himself from his American minders and has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people.

Now we want to send in a massive number of new troops and equipment to somehow again "win hearts and minds" and drive out the Taliban with brute force.

While the Taliban have no designs upon terror against America or any of the other NATO nations now with troops in the country, they operate as brutal criminals in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. An increased armed American presence there is a daily irritant to Afghans, as well as neighboring rogue areas of Pakistan caught between foreign troops who often cannot tell the difference between peaceful civilians and the Taliban.

Once more we are fighting a war where troops do not speak the language or understand the people and are tasked with fighting often in 130º heat. The goal of preventing Afghanistan from again becoming an al Qaeda terrorist training ground cannot be accomplished by bombing the country into submission. This is a complicated political, diplomatic and sociological challenge.

President Obama, in office less than a year, just like JFK, must soon make a decision regarding the politically charged prospect of approving or disapproving more troops being called for by a top military general. I hope he is aware of the assessment of others who have tried to subdue this ragged country:
“Afghanistan taught us an invaluable lesson . . . It has been and always will be impossible to solve political problems using force. We should have helped the people of Afghanistan in improving their life, but it was a gross mistake to send troops into the country.”

– Retired Red Army General Boris Gromov