Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Smell a Rat

I ended my previous blog floating the possibility that Newt Gingrich had dealt a mortal blow to Mittens wihen he exposed the kinds of practices Romney was engaged in while running Bain, a venture capital firm that buys and sells businesses for investors' profit. But at that point Mittens had already won Iowa and was well on the way to winning in New Hampshire. He was also ahead by double digits in South Carolina, and it was said that if Romney wins again in South Carolina, three times lucky, he will have sewn up the nomination.

It was a bit of a shock, then, when I turned on the radio the other morning and heard that not Romney, but Rick Santorum had been declared the winner in Iowa, finishing ahead of Mittens by 34 points. O migod! I thought. ("It seems to me, I've heard this song before...") And then, big time, I smelled a rat. Barely out of the gate, Republicans had already messed with the voting results. My right-wing-coup tentacles were wriggling like there's no tomorrow. The Des Moines Register reported on that day that votes from eight precincts had gone permanently missing and would never be counted--"so the ultimate tally remains inconclusive." Mitt's rolling hoops as "the inevitable frontrunner" were no longer rolling.

The weird thing is, once the idea of "inconclusive" had been floated, nobody even flinched at the retraction. There was not a whiff of backlash, no accusations, no questions, no uproar. Not one single eyelid batted. Then, after no sign of any push-back from any direction, within two more days, Rick Santorum was simply declared the "real" winner in Iowa. Even then, not one eyebrow was lifted. Am I the only one who smells a rat and thinks what's happening is sinister? Or are my fellow Americans just too weary to care? Maybe Republican voters are so dissatisfied with their choices, they don't give a damn who wins or loses. They all suck royally, so what the hell?

Meanwhile it looks like Newt is mounting the engines in South Carolina. Instead of one frontrunner, by tomorrow we will have three--or none, depending on how you figure. Nobody gets to walk off yet with the prize though: the coveted nomination. Virgil and his airborne warriors are predicting that when Newt emerges as the victor in South Carolina, he will appear with a rooster and a small blonde, and they will all crow together. And, as someone remarked on the net about these ridiculous caucuses, it "kind of makes you reminisce about the America of our youth where the worst thing they threatened us with was global annihilation."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pious Baloney

A high water mark in last week's GOP caucus in New Hampshire had to be when anybody who was actually watching got to see the pot call the kettle black. Newt Gingrich, the pot-bellied, chunky accuser, nailed Mitt Romney as being a dark corporate raider, someone who handed out pink slips and laid off workers by the thousands at the private equity firm Bain Capital during the 1980s, but dares now to pose as the penultimate populist business man (as opposed to a "career-politician" like Newt) in possession of the sublime secret of jobs-creation. All this is happening, of course, "in the free and prosperous land of opportunity," a time before the pitiful performances of Barack Obama alledgedly spoiled everything and single-handedly took away our prosperity.

"That's just pious baloney," Newt shouted vigorously in Mitt's direction during the recent New Hampshire Republican debate, making me wish I had turned the phrase myself. It was a rare, cut-the-crap moment (coming from a Republican, no less) that has yet to stop reverberating in our pathetic political arena. And it won't. In hindsight, Newt (along with the vicious Gingrich 40-minute PAC film/ad that appeared on TV a day or two later exposing Romney's real role at Bain--who knew?) has done permanent damage to the Mitt balloon, making it possible that Romney will never get elected in today's OWS climate.

These days the public, would you believe, has finally wised up to corporate greed. And Mitt IS the oligarchy, the quintessential corporatist one percenter, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a shining example of the pure profit motive devoid of any concern for the consequences of his actions on ordinary workers. Personally, I am eternally grateful to Newt and his hideous PAC for breaking the story about Bain. Of course, Newt is a dead man walking in the GOP at this point, given their speak-no-evil (against a fellow Republican) rule. You can't destroy a fellow Republican that way and not pay for it with your career. Nobody said it better than Maureen Dowd in Sunday's New York Times: "If Obama failed to rein in Wall Street vultures, Romney reigned among Wall Street vultures." Another reader, whose comment I saw on line, compares Obama and Romney this way: "Obama is the intelligent, enigmatic dolphin, known to rescue people in danger of drowning, while Romney is the cold-blooded shark who would opportunistically eat them." Egad!

And so it was that this week, Mitt Romney got offically Swift-Boated by the Republicans' own Swift-Boating machine. It isn't meant to happen that way, but the phrase "pious baloney" turns out not only to have legs, but also to have stuffed olives for eyes. (Check it out in the baloney sandwich above.) But dubious days at Bain may be the least of Romney's tsouris. That's Yiddish for misery.) There's the whole Mormonism thing, which is another huge slippery slope. Michael Kranish and Scott Helman recount in their newly published book, “The Real Romney,” that Mitt got a deferment to go to Paris as a Mormon missionary. Instead of fighting for his country, he went to FRANCE to proselytize for Mormonism. France! In her article, Maureen Dowd reports that some of Romney's former advisers say that bringing Mormonism into the mainstream of America is (secretly) part of why he wants to be president. But Romney tries to soothe skittish evangelicals, she says, by promising not to be “pastor-in-chief.”

Well, as it turns out, he hasn't soothed them, not at all. In a last-ditch attempt to get rid of candidate Romney, evangelicals announced yesterday that they will back Rick Santorum for next president of the United States. Make no mistake: among Republicans, this is an undeclared war. And you can thank Newt for that. The butterfly effect of his little phrase could just make its way through frozen fingertips and into the political bloodstream--in a way that proves lethal for the GOP.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012: The Year that Perseus Finally Confronts the Medusa

It's finally here--the year when we find out whether the Mayans were right about the world ending in 2012, OR NOT. Gazing at Medusa's image in his bronze shield and pretending to look one way, Perseus reaches back over his shoulder and severs Medusa's head. Having neither shield nor sword at my headquarters, I've been wearing my Frida Kahlo sox and Zulu love letter--an African beaded one-inch square attached to a large safety pin--instead, as my personal amulets against disaster. (Both were Christmas presents last month.)

One strangely ominous portent has not escaped my notice, however. This is the second year in a row that thousands of blackbirds inexplicably fell out of the sky on New Year's eve in the same small town in Arkansas. Last year, officials thought the bizarre deaths might have been caused by fireworks or a hailstorm, but this year the fireworks were outlawed, and the weather was calm. So it's pretty weird. But maybe no weirder than the poisonous lies raining down on us inexorably from the GOP presidential campaign. They, too, are a bad omen. "Barack Obama has failed America." Have you checked out the "Obama misery index" lately? Have you been to a jobs fair? "Please go," urges a Romney strategist. "If John Steinbeck were alive today, he would not be voting for Barack Obama."

Well, it just so happens I once met John Steinbeck. We were introduced by his son, whom I had encountered on board a ship when we were both crossing the Atlantic, going back to America from Europe. We saw each other several times after that in New York, and on one of those occasions, the son took me to meet his father. I think I can safely assert that, whatever view John Steinbeck might have held of Barack Obama, he would not be voting for bobble-head Mittens instead. However, Mitt Romney, and the entire GOP clown circus, represents only one of the looming disasters facing us in 2012 that make imagined prophesies of doom seem ever more potently real.

Even if you are not disposed to give credence to ancient prophesies, it is hard to ignore the severity of the crises intensifying the global stakes for cataclysm of some kind. Everything is either under siege, being protested, about to explode, or ready to systemically collapse. I don't know if it was by chance or by design that my local movie theater ushered in, during the first days of the New Year, a movie called "Melancholia," in which a rogue planet (named Melancholia), having been previously hidden by the sun, is now stalking the earth with orbits edging closer and closer, in a kind of death dance that threatens its annihilation--should there ever be a collision. Slowly but leadenly, we are left wondering whether the worst will actually happen, and the movie morphs into a study of people's different psychological responses to the threat of total destruction. "At times," wrote one critic, "the film comes close to being a tragic-comic opera about the end of the world."

As in real life, in the film most people are obliviously and blithely going on with their lives. The central characters, however--especially the lead actress, Kirsten Dunst, along with her sister, her sister's husband and their young son--are constantly tracking the planet's doom-filled progress, mostly through hidden sites on the Internet, and, in the case of Dunst, tracking with a kind of rapturous obsessiveness that for a time afflicts her with a disabling mental breakdown. (Dunst's performance won her the Best Actress Award for 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival.) When it seems like their final moments on earth are about to come, the family (minus the father, who has already committed suicide) retreats to a protective "magic cave" they have prepared on the lawn--a make-shift, Indian-style teepee composed of a few tree branches--to await their fate.

An end-times scenario even made it into Time magazine this year, with a special page entitled "The Last Party"--how to ring in Armageddon. Meant, of course, as a spoof on the Mayan calendar prediction of the world's end on December 21, 2012, it offers suggestions for both optimists (those who believe they can survive anything or that nothing will happen) and pessimists (those who believe there is no way to cheat death). Optimists may have to dole out some serious moolah if they want to upgrade their chances of survival, though. For $35,000, they can reserve a share in an Indiana "underground shelter network for long-term survival of future catastrophes; it includes a year's supply of water, food, and clothing, As for pessimists, that is, if you're not to nervous to eat that night, the suggestion is that you can dine in style at a new restaurant soon to open in Houston called "Underbelly," and eat your fill of pork belly without having to worry about clogged arteries.

Honestly, faced with these wonderful options, I might just go for the teepee, as long as somebody is there telling me pointless jokes. (Virgil?) On the other hand, maybe I'll opt for the knock-out punch, because who wants to live in a world without Starbucks java-chip frapuccinos anyway? Whatever you think this says about me, I know I don't.