The Last Word from Newt

Even though we probably haven’t really heard the last word from Speaker Gingrich, it is nice to think that we have.  Here is what may be that last word from Doonesbury today.


Newt started out his quest for the 2012 Republican nomination by telling the truth about the Paul Ryan budget.  I think the two things I will remember him most for are the Contract on American and Right Wing Social Engineering.  Maybe he can start a new career helping zoos and conservation centers.


Romney’s empathy or the lack thereof

I’ve been following closely the stories on the bullying incident at Cranbrook.  I was, like many, horrified at the incident.  But I was more horrified by the fact that no one at Cranbrook thought it necessary to discipline the young men involved.  And I was most horrified by Mitt Romney’s nervous giggle when asked about the incident.  I’ve been groping for an explanation of why he doesn’t remember what happened when the others involved remember it clearly.  Then I read this very interesting article in the Boston Globe this morning.  The story quoted a gentleman named Don Gorton.

While some observers have expressed doubt that anyone could forget such a dramatic episode, one activist who has studied bullying said he believes Romney may, in fact, have no recollection.

Teenagers who bully others often don’t remember the incidents because they weren’t traumatic for them, said Don Gorton, chairman of the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce violence against gays and lesbians.

“Empathy is the critical variable,’’ Gorton said. “If they don’t feel their victims’ pain, the episode won’t stand out. It wasn’t a big deal for them.’’

Empathy.  That is what explains a great deal about Mitt Romney.  He lacks empathy.  People have been saying that he can’t relate to the common person and he has given many examples.  He likes to fire people.  A young person who can’t find a job should get his or her parents to give them a loan to start a business.  He supports the Ryan budget which raises the defense budget at the expense of the middle class and poor.  Plus he certainly was cruel to poor Seamus the dog.

 In the Massachusetts Governor’s Office


More from Gorton

Gorton, however, said he was offended that Romney described the episode as typical high school hijinks, even though an 18-year-old Romney was reportedly using scissors to cut Lauber’s hair as Lauber screamed for help.

“I wish he had said nothing,’’ Gorton said. “The fact is, high school pranks are whoopee cushions and wedgies. This was assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.’’

Gorton and other gay-rights activists in Massachusetts said the episode made them recall how Romney disbanded the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes – two panels that sought to combat bullying and were created under a previous Republican governor.

“It is relevant to judge him for his record in office and he was lackluster, to put it kindly, in his efforts to fight bullying when he was governor,’’ said Gorton, who was cochairman of the Task Force on Hate Crimes when it was disbanded in 2003.

“It is relevant to judge him for his record in office and he was lackluster, to put it kindly, in his efforts to fight bullying when he was governor,’’ said Gorton, who was cochairman of the Task Force on Hate Crimes when it was disbanded in 2003.

Romney has said the groups were disbanded to save money.

I understand that some people are disappointed that President Obama has not brought about miraculous change.  But ask yourself this question:  Would you rather have a President with the courage to come out in favor of an idea, gay marriage, that, while growing in acceptance, is still viewed in horror by many or a President Romney who lacks any kind of empathy?  The answer for me is clear:  a President without empathy is a dangerous one.



Today (May 11, 2012) JP Morgan Chase appears to have engaged in the same kind of behavior that lead to the 2008 meltdown and people are talking about reviving the Glass-Steagall Act.  I thought I should repost this from March 2009.

Yesterday one of my Random Thoughts was to ask if anyone remember when banks were banks and stock brokers were stock brokers.  A few hours later, Rachel Maddow had a piece on the Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA) of 1999. According to the summary of the bill the first provision is


 Repeals the restrictions on banks affiliating with securities firms contained in sections 20 and 32 of the Glass-Steagall Act.

(The GLBA also did some good things like require lending in poor neighborhoods which began to end redlining, but that’s a whole different story and discussion. It also…

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The President and Gay Marriage

The commentators are in full flower.  “This is a great move.”  “It is risky.”  “This could cost him the election.”  What does it really mean?  We won’t know until the election in November, but we can try to bring some clarity to some of the noise.

Photograph by Pete Souza

We know that many of those who oppose gay marriage for religious or other grounds will never be convinced, but I expect that some will come around to saying something like “I personally don’t support gay marriage, but as a matter of rights, people should be able to choose.”  Kind of like what many Democrats have said about abortion.  But the majority of the opposition will remain opposed. 

Some will say this was a cynical move on the part of the President to solidify his gay and lesbian supporter.  I don’t think so.  Richard Socarides wrote in the New Yorker

For a long time, Democrats have taken the gay vote for granted. Political consultants tell Democrats that gay and lesbian voters have nowhere else to go, and thus, in effect, can be counted on, so long as politicians pay lip service to the issue. But that is old thinking, out of touch with the new reality of the gay-rights movement. While I know that most gays and lesbians would have supported President Obama, both with their votes and with their financial contributions, no matter what he did on the issue of marriage equality, we were also not going to take “no” for an answer on the most important civil-rights issue of our day. That meant holding the President’s feet to the fire—first on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and then on marriage equality.

What we do know is that this was an act of courage and leadership.  President Obama may be part of the tide rising toward marriage equality, but he is part of the leading edge.  Andrew Sullivan

I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn’t know what to write, and, like many Dish readers, there are tears in my eyes.

The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees – as we all see – that you cannot have one without the other. But even then, you knew he saw that woman’s son as his equal as a citizen. It was a moment – way off the record at the time – that clinched my support for him.

Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him. That’s the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

Both Sullivan and Socarides do believe that in the long run, this will not hurt Obama’s reelection chances.  Sullivan first

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.

Then Socarides

This is not to take anything away from the courage exhibited by President Obama today. His willingness to share with the American people his thinking, indeed, his struggle around this issue will help build a national consensus. Everyone is entitled to a journey on this issue.

I suspect that at the end of this national conversation the result will be a good one, and the process, including Obama’s painstakingly slow evolution, will have been a positive experience for the country. Hopefully, it will lead us in a positive direction—which, after all, is the job of a President.

This is a conversation that is just beginning and we owe the President a conversation that is at once passionate and reasoned.  Let me end with this from him

This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president, and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.


Elizabeth Warren and the race card

I’ve been thinking about this since the story broke that Senator Scott Brown and the Boston Herald had uncovered what they thought was Elizabeth Warren’s deception:  She had checked off the Native American box when in law school and Harvard Law School had listed her as Native American in some directory a number of years back.  First, I don’t think she and her campaign handled it well at first saying she didn’t remember ever telling Harvard about her racial heritage, but saying she did have an ancestor who was Native American.  Second, why is Scott Brown doing this? 

Warren has made a better answer since her initial reaction, but she would have been a lot better off if she had just said “I’m from Oklahoma and have some Cherokee and Delaware ancestors and I’m proud of it.”  But checking that box is always fraught with pitfalls for anyone who is mixed race.  This is the Tiger Woods dilemma.  What box do you check and how do you decide?  Back in 1990 when I was a census worker we were told that a person was whatever they said they were.  I have a family story my aunt told me to explain why my hair is naturally curly in humidity even through I am clear Asian.  She said that I had a Portuguese ancestor from long ago who had had a liaison with a great, great, etc. grandmother.  True?  Who knows.  But I think it is clear that Warren does have the right to claim Native American heritage.

Elizabeth Warren at a campaign stop in Shrewsbury, Mass. on APril 29.Steven Senne/Associated Press

And then I read this very thoughtful piece in the New York Times by Kevin Noble Maillard.  Titled Elizabeth Warren’s Birther Moment,  It begins

If you are 1/32 Cherokee and your grandfather has high cheekbones, does that make you Native American? It depends. Last Friday, Republicans in Massachusetts questioned the racial ancestry of Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate. Her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, has accused her of using minority status as an American Indian to advance her career as a law professor at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas. The Brown campaign calls her ties to the Cherokee and Delaware nations a “hypocritical sham.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, Warren defended herself, saying, “Native American has been a part of my story, I guess since the day I was born, I don’t know any other way to describe it.” Despite her personal belief in her origins, her opponents have seized this moment in an unnecessary fire drill that guarantees media attention and forestalls real debate.

This tactic is straight from the Republican cookbook of fake controversy. First, you need a rarefied elected office typically occupied by a certain breed of privileged men. Both the Presidency and the Senate fit this bill. Second, add a bit of interracial intrigue. It could be Kenyan economists eloping with Midwestern anthropologists, or white frontiersmen pairing with indigenous women. Third, throw in some suspicion about their qualifications and ambitions. Last but not least, demand documentation of ancestry and be dissatisfied upon its receipt. Voila! You have a genuine birther movement.

In this case, Brown seems to be claiming that Warren’s success is all because she checked that box.  Of course when Warren first came to public notice working for Congress monitoring the financial bailout and making sure consumers weren’t hurt no one questioned her smarts or her ability.  Neither did all those Harvard students she has taught over the years.  Neither did anyone she worked with when she was doing her famous early study of bankruptcy.  The whole idea that she owes her success to her having checked that box is laughable.  More from Maillard:

Even within Indian Country, the meaning of race and citizenship is contested. And now the Brown campaign wants to dictate Warren’s own belief in her identity. According to the Brown campaign, Warren could not be Indian because she is blonde, rich and most of all, a Harvard law professor. Her 1/32 Cherokee ancestry, sufficient for tribal citizenship, is not enough for the Republican party. To most people, she appears as white as, well, Betty White, but to the Scott Brown campaign, she is just Dancing With Wolves.

The Brown campaign asserts that Warren knowingly classified herself as Native American in the 1990s when Harvard weathered sharp criticism for its lack of faculty diversity. During this time, they argue, Warren relied upon this classification to enhance her employment opportunities and to improve Harvard’s numbers. Her faculty mentors at Harvard deny this and assert that the law school hired Warren without any knowledge of her ancestry.

For the Cherokee Nation, Warren is “Indian enough”; she has the same blood quantum as Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker. For non-Natives, this may be surprising. They expect to see “high cheekbones,” as Warren described her grandfather as having, or tan skin. They want to know of pow wows, dusty reservations, sweat lodges, peyote and cheap cigarettes. When outsiders look at these ostensibly white people as members of Native America, they don’t see minorities. As a result, Warren feels she must satisfy these new birthers and justify her existence.

As a law professor and Native American himself, Maillard concludes that Harvard could not have used Warren’s status to promote her since

Looked at from the inside, however, the Warren controversy is all new. When the Brown campaign accused Elizabeth Warren of touting herself as American Indian to advance her career, this was news to Native law professors. We have a good eye for welcoming faculty to the community and identifying promising scholars. We know where people teach, what they have published and we honor them when they die. Harvard Law School named its first Native American tenured professor? Really? In our small indigenous faculty town, we would have heard about it already.

My own conclusion is that Warren checked that box somewhere way back.  She has said she was hoping to meet others like her by doing so.  She has every right to call herself Native American.  Someone at Harvard picked up on the checked box and noted it in the directory, but Harvard never made a big deal about it and they could have.  Hey, maybe someone messed up and forgot to announce the appointment of a Native American. 

Scott Brown has nothing of substance on which to talk so why not create a birther controversy.  He is the one playing the race card.  It is tight race and if he can convince a few voters that Elizabeth Warren is untrustworthy and of mixed race ancestry, it might just make a difference.

Can we take Mitt seriously?

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, is difficult to peg.  I’m not sure that he is interested in governing based on his track record here in Massachusetts while Governor.  Romney spent large hunks of his time running for President and not showing much interest in the state.  He seems to understand capitalism as practiced by companies like Bain Capital, but is really uninterested in what goes on with ordinary middle class and the working poor.  He can’t seem to hit the right notes and for the left is all too often the butt of jokes.  Here are two.


Dan Wasserman on Mitt and Harvard.

Then there is Calvin Trillin.

The Republican National Committee Selects a Campaign Slogan

Our slogan’s been chosen.
We think it’s a hit.
We’ll shout from the rafters,
“We settle for Mitt!”

There is the dog on the roof, the liking to fire people, etc. etc. etc. 

But he is going to be the nominee for the Republicans and we need to find out what we can take seriously.  Greg Sargent writing in the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog took at stab at it today.

A few days ago, Mitt Romney chatted with a bunch of firefighters, who told him about their struggles in the Obama economy. As Romney recalled it: “I asked the firefighters I was meeting with, about 15 or them, how many had had to take another job to make ends meet, and almost every one of them had.”

Of course, firefighters are public sector workers. And Romney has said that public sector workers are getting paid too much, not that they’re getting paid too little. As Jonathan Chait puts it:

Romney’s position is that these fine public servants are luxuriating in excessive pay, a fact that, unlike swelling income inequality, constitutes a major source of unfairness in American life. (“We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve,” he said last week.)

This is actually a policy flashpoint between the two parties. Public employment has cratered in recent years, with public sector jobs continuing to decline even as private sector jobs rebound, exerting a continued drag on the sluggish recovery. Obama’s position is that the federal government ought to provide aid to state governments to rehire some of the laid-off teachers, cops, and firefighters. Republicans oppose this. Romney seems to have forgotten that the firefighters he came face-to-face with are one category of Americans whose economic pain he’s supposed to be in favor of.

Steve Benen takes this further, adding that the episode and the attendant contradiction reveal the failure of Romney’s “transactional politics.” Romney is looking to take things away from public sector workers, students who rely on Pell Grants, those who rely on entitlements and government programs that might be cut, and the like:

His is an agenda of austerity, a sharp reduction in public investments, and hostility towards government activism in general. In a transactional sense, Romney has to hope most voters aren’t looking to make a traditional electoral trade, because he doesn’t intend to give them anything.

What we can take seriously is that Mitt doesn’t care about anyone who isn’t rich.  We can take seriously that he and today’s Republican Party want to take women back to the 1950’s and even further.  We need to wake up to the fact that today’s Republican Party offers the 99% nothing.  We need to take Mitt at his word and vote for him at our peril.


Wonderful response to Pastor Sean Harris.

Raising My Rainbow

Homophobic North Carolina preacher Sean Norris recently gave a sermon in which he advocated physically assaulting gender variant toddlers.  Listen to it here.  This letter is my response to him.

Dear Pastor Harris,

Hi.  I’m C.J.’s Mom and boy would you hate me!  I have a little boy who likes “feminine” things and I’ve allowed him to do so.  I’ve even shared it with people on the internet.  But, not by taking pictures and posting them on YouTube, as you suggest — mostly because that’s not exactly how YouTube works, I think you have it confused with Facebook, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to get at anyway.

My point is my son is gender variant.  He’s a little boy who likes all things girly, like playing with dolls and wearing skirts.  My son started acting a little girlish at age two and a half and I…

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