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The Facts and Zimmerman’s Story April 14, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics, Random Observations.

Like many people — I hope most of us — I have been shocked and horrified, both by the shooting of Trayvon Martin and by the hyper­politi­cized reaction to it. Conservatives have been dredging up all sorts of facts about Trayvon, such as his school record, which would be relevant only in a case of premeditated first-degree murder. I have read on both Twitter and Facebook that on Fox News and similar hate media, Trayvon is consistently portrayed as the criminal and George Zimmerman as Trayvon’s innocent victim.

I have been wishing and wishing that someone more expert than I am would make an animated video showing George Zimmerman’s version of events — how a 17-year-old boy jumped the 28-year-old Zimmerman, who outweighed the boy by a minimum of 30 pounds; how Trayvon beat Zimmerman up next to Zimmerman’s truck while Trayvon was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone; how Trayvon then picked 190-pound Zimmerman up and carried him 400 feet to where he could pound Zimmerman’s head on the sidewalk; how, after pounding George Zimmerman’s head on the sidewalk, Trayvon picked him up a second time and carried Zimmerman another hundred feet toward Trayvon’s home; how, since Trayvon’s corpse bore no marks except the gunshot wound, Zimmerman must have done nothing to defend himself; and how somehow the two changed places approximately 500 feet from where the alleged beating of the much larger man allegedly began and the unarmed, 30-pounds-lighter aggressor was shot dead. According to phone company records, Trayvon was talking to his girlfriend from 7:12 until his phone went dead at 7:16, meaning that Trayvon beat up and terrorized George Zimmerman while simultaneously telling his girlfriend he was being frightened by a “strange dude.”

(Police say that Trayvon was 17 years old and 6′0″ tall, and weighed 160 pounds, while Zimmerman was 28 years old and 5′9″ tall, and weighed 190 pounds. Trayvon was a high school student, and Zimmerman a high school graduate. I have been informed by a reader that the New York Times specified Trayvon’s weight as 170 pounds. This would mean that Zimmerman outweighed Trayvon by “only” 12 percent, rather than the 19 percent of the larger weight range. I’ll be interested in what the autopsy will provide as the final word.)

Well, alas, no one has made an animation of Zimmerman’s story (that I know about), so I’m stuck. Here, for the purposes of someone who has more video skills than I do, is a detailed timeline, with both facts where they are known and Zimmerman’s story interspersed. I obtained the timeline from USA Today News and from a transcript of Zimmerman’s 911 call. I obtained the maps from both Google Maps and from a WordPress blogger, BCC:List.com.

Before I begin, let me stress that according to a Sanford TV station, neighborhood watch volunteers are supposed to work in pairs. They are forbidden to carry firearms while they are “watching,” and if they discover “suspicious activity,” they are forbidden to leave the vehicle in which the two neighborhood watchers are sitting. I have been informed that Zimmerman was not on duty as a neighborhood watch volunteer that night. I imagine, however, that his ostensibly being “off duty” did not impair Zimmerman’s memory.

2005 According to the Orlando Sentinel, at age 21, Zimmerman was twice accused of violent behavior. First Zimmerman “pushed” a police officer (see below at 7:15:50!), was arrested, and completed a program for violent first offenders in exchange for not being charged. A month later, a former girlfriend took out a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence.
2007 Zimmerman, age 23, defaulted on a loan from Capital One. He agreed to pay $2,135.82, to cover his debts, interest on his debts, and attorney and court costs. After Capital One showed early in 2008 that Zimmerman was failing to pay this debt, Zimmerman’s then-employer, CarMax, agreed to garnish his wages. After CarMax fired Zimmerman a few months later, there is no record (that I can discover) of Zimmerman’s having repaid his debt.

According to the Wikipedia article, George Zimmerman originated his 911 call “at approximately 7:09.” Earlier today, I found a source that said the call began at 7:09:34. If I can verify this time, I’ll update the times you’ll see below.

6:40 Trayvon leaves the home of his father’s girlfriend (“H,” far right) and walks to a 7-Eleven (“7.” far left) approximately three-fourths of a mile to the west (a 10-minute walk at 4.5 miles per hour), where he buys Skittles and iced tea. It is a cold and rainy February night, so Trayvon wears his hoodie. (My hoodie is pink, Geraldo.)
7:09 George Zimmerman calls 911 for the 46th time. He describes the 17-year-old Trayvon as “suspicious.” At 7:09:25, Zimmerman says the boy “looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.” In the image below, the blue rectangle shows where George Zimmerman told the police his truck was parked, close to the north entrance of the Retreat at Twin Lakes. The black arrows show Trayvon’s presumed route home. The yellow arrows show Zimmerman’s presumed route in reality (rather than in Zimmerman’s story). The red X shows where Trayvon’s dead body was found, approximately a tenth of a mile from where Zimmerman alleges their confrontation began. The white box at the lower right of the image shows Trayvon’s destination, near the back (east) entrance of the development.

As mentioned earlier, the above map comes from the excellent BCC:List.com. This blogger’s opinion is that the only way Zimmerman’s story could cohere with the known facts is if Zimmerman came close to running Trayvon down with his truck. (Which might affect Zimmerman’s “Stand Your Ground” defense!)

The thoughtful and courteous Bob Owen, in his comment on this post (see below), provides addresses for three alternative versions of where George Zimmerman left his truck. But assuming that Zimmerman misled the police on the subject, no alternative version explains how Trayvon could jump and beat up Zimmerman next to Zimmerman’s truck, and a split-second later die approximately 100 to 300 feet from that location. At least, not without Zimmerman pursuing Trayvon, which to me does not argue well for the “Stand Your Ground” defense.

7:09:42 Zimmerman describes Trayvon as wearing a “dark hoodie.” In answer to a multiple-choice question from the dispatcher, Zimmerman says, “He looks black.”
7:09:48 Zimmerman tells the 911 dispatcher, “Now he’s staring at me.”
7:10:03 Zimmerman volunteers to the 911 dispatcher, not in answer to any question, “He’s a black male.”
7:10:39 Zimmerman remarks, “These f—king assholes. They always get away.” (Not always. [heavy sigh])
7:11:08 Zimmerman tells the police dispatcher, “He’s running.” The dispatcher asks where Trayvon is running, and Zimmerman indicates he is running toward where we now know he was staying.
7:11:15 The door of Zimmerman’s truck can be heard to slam shut on the 911 recording. Zimmerman’s breath quickens, as if he is in motion, and the sounds of wind resistance begin. It seems reasonable to infer that in the real world, Zimmerman has left his truck and pursuing Trayvon on foot.
7:12 Trayvon’s girlfriend in Miami calls him on his cell phone. Trayvon tells her that “some strange dude” is “watching him,” so he puts up his hood. (Meanwhile, Zimmerman is discussing his personal information with the 911 dispatcher.) According to phone company records, Trayvon’s conversation with his girlfriend lasted until the phone went dead at 7:16.
7:12:22 Zimmerman mutters something under his breath that is probably “F—king punks,” although early listeners believed it was a racial slur. At 7:12:23, the dispatcher asks Zimmerman whether he is following Trayvon; at 7:12:24, Zimmerman replies “Yeah.” At 7:12:26, the dispatcher says, “Okay, we don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman replies “Okay,” indicating that he understood the dispatcher’s instruction not to follow Trayvon. The two discuss where police should come, and Zimmerman provides an address.
7:12:34 The dispatcher asks Zimmerman for his name and cell phone number and assures Zimmerman that the police are en route. Although the 911 dispatcher does not say so, the neighborhood watch rules require Zimmerman to return to his vehicle, I believe whether or not he was “on duty” as a volunteer at the time.
7:12:49 Before Zimmerman hangs up, he says “I don’t know where this kid is. Could you have [the police] call me, and I’ll tell them where I’m at.” The dispatcher confirms Zimmerman’s phone number and says police will call him when they arrive.
7:13:07 George Zimmerman’s 911 call ends.
7:13:08 George Zimmerman says that after hanging up with the police, he returned to his truck, parked near the north entrance of the development. (See the blue rectangles in the three final maps.) According to Zimmerman, Trayvon approached Zimmerman “from behind” (i.e., from the south, 180 degrees away from Trayvon’s destination) and they had words.
7:13-15 According to George Zimmerman, having had words with Trayvon, Zimmerman turned his back on the teenager that he thought was a “f—king punk” (or “coon”). Trayvon punched Zimmerman hard enough to knock the older and considerably heavier man to the ground. Then Trayvon began slamming Zimmerman’s head into the “sidewalk.” It is likely that when this alleged punching and slamming began, Zimmerman and Trayvon were not near Zimmerman’s truck, but rather 500 feet from where Zimmerman said he left his truck, and 70 yards from Trayvon’s destination. Also, be reminded that while Trayvon was punching and slamming Zimmerman, he was simultaneously telling his girlfriend that he was being frightened by Zimmerman.
7:14-15 Look at the two images below. The blue rectangles show approximately where George Zimmerman told police he had left his truck. The second, more detailed Google Maps image shows that the sidewalk begins approximately 400 feet from where Zimmerman’s truck was said to have been parked.

7:13 The first call to 911 is made by a neighbor who heard cries for help. Trayvon’s mother has identified the voice crying for help as her son’s. Zimmerman and his family and friends say the voice was George’s. Two forensic audio experts have said that whoever was calling for help, it was not George Zimmerman. Between 7:13 and 7:30, at least seven neighbors called 911 to report an altercation approximately 500 feet from where Zimmerman said he left his truck, followed by a gunshot. Most say it was too dark to see more; one caller reports “wrestling.”
7:16 According to George Zimmerman’s account, after surprising Zimmerman at approximately 7:13:10, breaking Zimmerman’s nose, knocking him to the ground, and savagely pounding Zimmerman’s head into the (nonexistent) sidewalk until the resistless Zimmerman feared for his life, while talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone the entire time, Trayvon leaped up and sprinted for home, racing approximately 500 feet in a few seconds. Stunned by his savage beating and in fear of his life, Zimmerman magically found himself 500 feet from his truck. In the location where one witness alleges he saw “wrestling,” Zimmerman, fearing for his life at Trayvon’s unarmed, unmarked hands, shot Trayvon point-blank in the chest at close range. Until shortly before the shooting, Trayvon was beating up the larger Zimmerman while continuing to talk with his girlfriend and telling his girlfriend he was afraid of the “strange dude” he was beating up.
7:15:50 A few seconds before 7:16, Trayvon’s girlfriend hears Trayvon say “What are you following me for?” She hears a man’s voice say to Trayvon, “What are you doing here?” She hears the sound of “pushing.” (See 2005.) Then Trayvon’s headset suddenly went silent, leading her to believe that he had been pushed. She tries to call him back immediately, but cannot reach him.
7:17 The first police officers arrive at the site of the shooting, 500 feet from where Zimmerman says the confrontation began and approximately 200 feet from where Trayvon was staying. (See the red X in the second map.) They discover Zimmerman standing over Trayvon’s dead body. Zimmerman confesses to having shot Trayvon. Officers take Zimmerman’s 9mm automatic and place him in handcuffs.
minutes later Paramedics do CPR on Trayvon’s corpse. (He is pronounced dead at 7:30.) Paramedics then “work on” Zimmerman. In the initial police report, Zimmerman is alleged to have been bleeding from the back of his head and from his nose. In a police station video, there is no evidence of any damage to Zimmerman that *I* can perceive, not even a swelling of his allegedly broken nose.
3/29 Trayvon’s autopsy is still “under seal.” The funeral director who prepared Trayvon’s body for burial told at least one news anchor that the only mark on Trayvon’s body was his gunshot wound; there were no marks on Trayvon’s hands, arms, or clothing to indicate that he had jumped Zimmerman, broken Zimmerman’s nose with his bare fist (leaving no marks on the fist!), knocked Zimmerman to the ground, straddled him, and began beating Zimmerman’s head against the “sidewalk.” No evidence of Zimmerman’s blood was found on Trayvon’s body or clothing.
ca. 3/2 Approximately a week after Trayvon’s shooting, the mother of a 13-year-old witness told the media that police questioners had “pressured” her son to identify the body on the ground immediately before the shooting as Zimmerman. However, she also stated that the police told her they did not believe the shooting was self-defense.

These are the facts, as closely as I can replicate them. Now, please, will some expert provide an animation that illustrates:

  • Trayvon jumping Zimmerman at approximately 7:13:10;
  • Trayvon beating Zimmerman up without marking his own hands, receiving defensive wounds, or being spattered with Zimmerman’s blood, but nevertheless leaving Zimmerman in fear of his life;
  • Trayvon beating Zimmerman up while talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone;
  • Trayvon and Zimmerman magically being transported approximately 500 feet in a flash from where Zimmerman said they were to where witnesses saw and heard them;
  • How Zimmerman and Trayvon changed places, with Zimmerman found standing over Trayvon’s dead body at 7:17.

It will be important to time this video so that it contains all the incidents between 7:13:07, the earliest moment when Zimmerman could have completed his 911 call*, and 7:16, the approximate time Zimmerman shot his gun. In my opinion, the animation will move at blinding speed — about the second “fast forward” click on a DVR.

*(According to Phathead, a blogger at freerepublic.com, the 911 began at 7:09:34, meaning it ended at 7:13:41, leaving Trayvon roughly two minutes to beat Zimmerman up. Commenter Bob Owens believes that two minutes is more than enough time. I believe that if Trayvon were beating Zimmerman as savagely as Zimmerman and his supporters claim, DeeDee would have at least noticed a change in Trayvon’s breathing patterns, if not the sounds of the actual beating.)

On the April 13 edition of “Hardball,” a conservative pundit told Chris Matthews that the case against George Zimmerman was so “flimsy” that it will soon be summarily dismissed. If you believe that an unarmed, 160-pound boy could beat up and terrorize a 190-pound man in less than three minutes, with ZERO sound effects audible to Trayvon’s girlfriend, all while telling his girlfriend that he, Trayvon, was being terrorized by George Zimmerman, I’m sure you will agree.

(updated, April 15)

The GOP War on Civility March 14, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics, Tea Party.
1 comment so far

I’ve been following the Republicans’ war on women for almost two years now, but it was not until two weeks ago, when Rush Limbaugh unloaded an unprecedented three-day volcano of vitriol upon a woman who was a stranger to him, that I started thinking I was going to HAVE to write about it.

The 2010 election cycle saw the nation’s first tsunami of hate and lies, as the Scalia Supreme Court’s adventure in legislating from the bench, Citizens United, invited Republicans to flood the airwaves with excrement. To “win” this election, the Tea Party and its Republican enablers promised Fox News True Believers that the GOP’s next two years would be about the creation of jobs. This was, of course, a feint; the GOP has succeeded only in destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs: teachers, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, librarians, trash collectors, and other public servants. (But don’t worry! The wealthy still have their tax privileges!)

Instead of jobs, the GOP has focused its energies on rolling back women’s rights, largely in the areas of redefining rape to exclude most forms of rape and redefining “legal” to add unnecessary and demeaning barriers between women and their legal rights. Approx­i­mately 1,100 bills were introduced in 2011, both in Congress and in state legislatures across the nation, to make it more difficult for women to obtain health care services or for organizations receiving even a cent of public money to offer them. So far in 2012, 430 no-choice bills have been introduced, which means we’ll probably set another record in 2012 for GOP misogyny-cum-theocracy.

By the end of 2011, 135 rollbacks of women’s rights had been enacted. Nine states have passed laws requiring that women who want to obtain one particular legal health care service must submit to what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution calls an “unreasonable search.” Every Republican candidate for president has announced his unalterable opposition to a woman’s right to control her own body in general and Planned Parenthood in particular. (Apparently when the world population topped seven billion, overpopulation ceased to be a problem.) Seven-plus states have either defunded Planned Parenthood or are well on the way to doing so. In addition, many Republican-dominated states have passed laws rolling back the voting rights of women, minorities, the elderly, students, and other voting blocs suspected of leaning Democratic. Republicans appear through their actions to believe that they can’t win through fair play, but only by rigging the game in their own favor.

I’m a little hazy on whether it was World War II or the Korean “police action,” but in the middle of the 20th century, when the U.S. gov­ern­ment was forced to impose wage and price controls, adding group health insurance benefits was a way to sweeten the offer to a potential employee. I need to stress here, for readers who have been education-damaged by Republican propaganda, that group health insurance in the United States is one part of employment compensation, earned by the individual employee; it is neither a disinterested gift from the employer nor a “bridge to nowhere” of government taxation.

People are finally beginning to notice that “a stitch in time saves nine”; or in other words, preventive health care practices, such as brushing and flossing one’s teeth, cost far less than either shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped or buying a new horse. Getting a shot for tetanus, diphtheria, or the mumps is less expensive than losing a month of work to disease, or losing one’s fertility or even one’s life. Annual mammograms cost a tiny fraction of the cost of mastec­tomy plus radiation plus chemotherapy plus lost time and productivity. Contraceptives cost pennies; abortions cost hundreds of dollars; and rearing a child from birth until he’s old enough for no-choicers to sentence him to the electric chair costs tens of thousands of dollars.

It is not unreasonable for a health care plan to offer preventive health services; it’s thrifty. But not quite three weeks ago, the GOP seized upon what it saw as a winning tactic: requiring health care plans to offer preventive health services to women has suddenly become an infringement on the right of an employer to impose its religious dogma on its employees. The horror! (Boner pills, of course, remain men’s sacred, inalienable right.)

A few days after the GOP began its latest propaganda campaign in its war on women’s rights, a group of white male Republican legislators invited a group of white male alleged celibates to testify before Congress about how providing preventive health services to the female employees who had earned those services infringed on men’s right to control their female employees’ sex lives. A Georgetown University law student requested the opportunity to testify before the theocrats’ committee on the subjects of poly­ovarian cystic syndrome, rape, and family planning. The white male theocrats repulsed her, of course; what does denying religious freedom to women have to do with men’s religious freedom, after all?

Barred from the theocrats’ hearing, the law student testified before a committee of Democrats about poly­ovarian cystic syndrome, rape, and family planning.

The next day, Rush Limbaugh decided to weigh in. The uncrowned king of the Tea Puppets spent much of the next three days vilifying the law student, by name, and in horrifying, nauseating detail. He declared that the not-yet-licensed lawyer was even more of a nymphomaniac than Messalina (not that I think ANY Republican is well educated enough to know who Messalina was!). The poor law student is allegedly such a nymphomaniac that her “Slut’s Progress” began several years before her menses did. Limbaugh declared that if he and other taxpayers have to pay for nymphomaniacal sex, he wants to watch. And many more, similar falsehoods designed specifically to shame all women out of the public arena and back to barefooted pregnancy where we belong.

When the sane members of American society voiced their outrage at Limbaugh’s insane attacks, Rush’s first and second responses were to double down. Finally, after three days of vicious slanders — 46, 53, or 56 slanders, depending on the friendliness of the person counting — Rush apologized for two of the terms he had used. He was only joking, he claimed, exaggerating to show the “absurdity” of the idea that NOT all feminazis are nymphomaniacs. His three days of nonstop vilification of Sandra Fluke by name was not meant to be “personal.” The entire controversy was, after all, about sluts’ and prostitutes’ “personal sexual recreational activities,” which fine, upstanding, Limbaugh-believing Americans ought not to have to pay for. By vilifying one young woman about whom he knew nothing, poor victimized Rush was only “attempting to be humorous.”

What a heartfelt apology! No wonder all Rush’s advertisers are loyally buying more ads.

Other pundits have written thousands of words on this subject. Frank Bruni, for example, had sensible ideas to offer on why sexual vili­fi­cation is so much easier for women than for men; promiscuity makes a woman a “slut,” but a man is who engages in the same behavior is a “dawg,” and envied by lesser men. Many commenters have pointed out that Rush is no stranger to gender-specific vilification; all women who want to control their own bodies are “feminazis”; a woman who wrote a book on food justice is “a recently graduated authorette”; Lucia Mutikani is an “infobabe”; humorist Alexandra Petri is “b-i-itchy”; Hilary Clinton is “sex-retary” of state; and on, and on, and on, and on.

Republican pundits have seized on one word spoken by Bill Maher during his stand-up act to “prove” that Democrats are the true vilifiers and Republicans the true victims. As if one word spoken to an audience of a few hundred college students outweighs hundreds of lies repeated over the span of many days to an ignorant, credulous, hyperpartisan audience of millions.

Still others of Rush’s defenders attempt to change the terms of the debate. We’ll accept that all women who want to make their own health decisions are nymphomaniacs, Independent Bill Maher implied: Rush “apologized,” so we should all just let the matter drop. Repub­li­can Paul Theroux informed us that Rush’s “offensive hyperbole” is “little more than flapdoodle,” and we should all care more about Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and the price of gasoline than about whether all sluts ought to have the same human rights that white men enjoy. And, notably, Theroux concluded “there is a vicious taint of self-indulgence, if not sluttiness, in a female student’s clamoring for a federal mandate of subsidized contraceptives.”

There it is again: the GOP lie that rights that have been earned by female citizens are actually “a federal mandate” requiring that theocrats “subsidize” sluts’ orgies.

Satire. Changing the national discussion from whether female employees deserve the health-care rights they have earned as part of their compensation for employment to whether all “overeducated” women (Rush’s term) are sluts and prostitutes is “satire.”

Theroux continued: Democrats are “shrill” and “illiterate” and “have no idea what satire actually is.” Those who object to Limbaugh’s vicious persecution of an innocent stranger are “irrationally indignant.” We should all remember, Theroux says, that when Republicans were persecuting Bill Clinton for doing much less than what Newt Gingrich was doing during the same period, Arkansas Governor Clinton was “assisting in the murder” of Ricky Ray Rector (an Arkansas felon sentenced to death by a largely Republican jury for killing citizen Arthur Criswell and police officer Robert Martin).

Yesterday I saw, twice, a new Republican attack on President Obama that featured Pat Boone talking in a reassuringly folksy way about the evils of small-d democracy. In the space of 30 to 60 seconds (I was too appalled to time it), old Pat spouted lie after lie after lie (“Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years!”), ending by urging viewers to call their legislators and demand that the U.S. “save” Medicare by adopting the Ryan plan to end Medicare in favor of vouchers. The only true statement I heard in this ad was “I’m Pat Boone”!

The controversy is metastacizing, too. The comments section of any article skeptical of Rush Limbaugh’s nobility, a true knight sans peur et sans reproche, is subject to mountains of illiterate vilification from dittoheads, some under feminine aliases. When President Obama announced his intention to speak at Barnard College, Barnard students were subjected to an avalanche of libels more vile than the dittoheads’ idol could have ever dreamed of. I imagine Rush is quite proud. . . .

It is mildly comforting, I suppose, that Republicans believe it will be impossible for them to win any future election by using facts, logic, truth, fair play, or civility. But where can we go from here when the desire of one anonymous citizen to testify about women’s health in the 21st century becomes transformed into a national conversation about what Jennifer Granholm calls sexual McCarthyism? When any means justifies the GOP’s desired end, including baseless slander, libel, distortion, misrepresenation, and deliberate lies?

What the hell kind of government will we get from men who have no compassion, no conscience, and no compunctions?

* * * * *

I have tried to be as dispassionate as I could in this post, but the truth is I’m finding Blimpbaugh’s vicious misogyny sickening. The illustration you see here is a Café Press design, Proud That Rush Limbaugh Thinks I’m a Slut. You can buy T-shirts, stickers, cards, mugs, and other goodies with this design.

* * * * *

Republicans have been quick to note that I have been less than civil in a post entitled “The GOP War on Civility.” It’s true. THEY WON!

Republicans Stewing over “Flavor of the Month” February 12, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.
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On the February 10 edition of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Al Sharpton talked about the Republican “flavor of the month,” the “anyone but Romney” factor. “It doesn’t matter whether Santorum or any other ‘flavor of the month’ ” is currently ahead of Romney, said Sharpton. “With any flavor, the more you keep stirring it, it changes the taste. The party is becoming so distasteful, it’s gone so far to the right, whoever is the GOP nominee is going to be so far to the right, so bad-tasting to Americans, it doesn’t matter.”

Sharpton has an excellent point. Consider these Republican candidates for president over the last eight months:

  • Donald Trump. Unofficial frontrunner, April 2011. Withdrew from race, May 2011; a week later he said he “hadn’t ruled out” running, especially if called as savior at a brokered convention. Michele Bachmann hopes he will be our next Vice President. Believes we should tax the wealthy a maximum of 14.25 percent once, in 2013, and then never again. Endive.
  • Tim Pawlenty. Frontrunner, never. Withdrew from race, August 2011. Strongly against allowing union members to fight for their civil rights. Paprika.
  • Herman Cain. Frontrunner, September 2011. Suspended campaign, December 2011. Like all other GOP candidates, prefers to suck up to the very, very wealthy (well, the GOP wealthy) and tax the 99 percent. Coined the phrase “sleeping sharia.” Garlic.
  • Jon Huntsman. Frontrunner, never. Proof of his evil: He worked for the Obama administration as ambassador to China, and can speak Chinese. Further proof: significantly more intelligent than other GOP candidates. Withdrew from race, January 2012. Chinese mustard.
  • Michele Bachmann. Frontrunner, July 2011. Withdrew from race, January 2012. Still promising that as president she would refuse to pay debts incurred by the GOP between 2000 and 2009, which would lead to a worldwide Great Depression II. May have lost support over fellow fundamentalists’ certainty that as a good fundamentalist, President Bachmann should “submit graciously” to the rule of “First Laddy” Marcus Bachmann. Wasabi.
  • Rick Perry. Frontrunner, August 2011. Withdrew from race, January 2012. Firmly against being compared with any other unintelligent, inarticulate governors of Texas who ran for president. Especially by Molly Ivins. Boiled okra.
  • Gary Johnson. Withdrew from race as Republican, December 2011; continuing to seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party. Supports slashing taxes on the wealthy while dismantling Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, FEMA, HHS, and any other aid to the 99 percent. Collard greens.
  • Ron Paul. Frontrunner, never; he’s only running to compel the Republicans to adopt his whackjob libertarian views. Best comment: Calling Ronald Reagan a “dramatic failure” because Reagan had doubled the national debt, a feat that George H.W. Bush would turn into a tripling of the national debt, while George W. Bush turned it into a SEXTUPLING of the national debt. Jalapeño.
  • Newt Gingrich. Frontrunner, late November 2011. Ethics-challenged since 1943, especially when it comes to broken oaths. Onion.
  • Rick Santorum. Frontrunner, February 2012. Theocrat who firmly believes that there should be no separation of church and state and that “Christian” fundamentalists should impose their religious doctrines on those who do not share them. Limburger.
  • Mitt Romney. Alleged frontrunner, with only 72 percent of Republicans wishing for someone else. “A liberal, a moderate, and a conservative walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hi, Mitt.’ ” Anchovies.
  • Let’s add one more who is not officially a candidate, but who signaled in a speech on February 11 that “the door is open” if anyone wants to nominate her at a brokered convention: Sarah Palin. By far the most popular among the 12, especially among the Tea Puppets, she can still see Russia from her front porch (on the rare occasions when she is not seeking national attention). Dandelion greens.

So; the nation’s Republicans are being offered a stew that formerly contained endive, paprika, garlic, Chinese mustard, wasabi, and boiled okra, with collard greens on the side. The remaining stew comprises jalapeño, onion, limburger, and anchovies — with collard greens and dandelion greens, as well as frequent commentary from wasabi and garlic, still affecting the stew’s current taste. Yum yum!

A few days ago, a Twitter-friend commented that after their coming shellacking this November, the Republicans are going to be forced to end their campaign to return America to the 19th-century robber barons and become liberal enough to enter the 20th century.

I disagree. I think that if a tsunami of Citizens United lies and smears fails to restore the “robber buffoons” to power (and it may well succeed, the Koch brothers alone having promised half a billion dollars to defeat democracy), the Republican Party is going to move so far to the right they’ll fall off the flat Earth.

Romney and Gingrich Campaign Posters January 27, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.

A day or two ago, I had a lot of fun putting together this “campaign poster” for Newt Gingrich, the poster boy for sociopathic pussy-hounds, who was convicted of more than 84 crimes, resigned in disgrace, and is baaaaaaaaaaack:

In this morning’s Tampa Bay Times, one of my favorite pundits, Dan Ruth, pointed out that Mitt Romney looks exactly like Peter Boyle’s Monster in Young Frankenstein. (Ruth also commented, “What irks me is that these pols think we’re all a bunch of gullible half-wits.”) Which led me to have some fun making this “campaign poster” for Mitt Romney, the poster boy for Pottersville:

. . . If you think of a better caption, please leave it in the comments section. It will be easy to generate the same poster with a new “campaign slogan.”

Newt Gingrich IS Harcourt Fenton Mudd! January 23, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.
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I had a revelation a few days ago: Newt Gingrich is the “reality” version of Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

Fat, mustachioed, grandiose Harry Mudd was one of Captain Kirk’s most popular adver­saries on the original Star Trek. A notorious con artist, Harry abandoned his wife, Stella, and roamed the galaxy smuggling, trans­porting stolen goods, passing counterfeit money, selling stolen patents, stealing small spacecraft, and similar adventures in grifting and chicanery. The first time he encountered the Enterprise, Mudd was engaged in procuring (“wives” for space miners), dealing in an outlawed substance, and fraud. Throughout his life, Mudd preferred the company of beautiful young women (or beautiful young fembots) over marital fidelity.

Ah, but what does a fat, grandiose Roman Catholic convert who has spoken often and piously on the sanctimony of heterosexual marriage have to do with a notorious criminal? Consider these facts:

  • In 1960, at age 16, Newt began a secret affair with Jackie Battley, his high school geometry teacher, who was 7 to 9 years older than himself. He married her on June 19, 1962, days after his graduation and two days after Newt’s 19th birthday. Newt’s parents boycotted the wedding, allegedly because of the age difference. Newt’s adoptive father, Bob Gingrich, said, “[Jackie] certainly seemed to love [Newt]. But I don’t think he was capable at the time of loving anybody more than he loved himself.” Two daughters quickly followed, Kathy, born in 1963, and Jackie, born in 1966.
  • In 1974, Newt ran for Congress and lost by 2,770 votes. In 1976, after voters had a chance to get to know him better, Newt ran again and lost by 5,100 votes. (Don’t blame Newt for these losses, though; blame Richard Nixon.)
  • In 1976, when Newt was 33, neighbor L.H. “Kip” Carter, who was Gingrich’s campaign treasurer in 1974 and 1976, reported:

    “We had been out working a football game — I think it was the Bowdoin game — and we would split up. It was a Friday night. I had Newt’s daughters, Jackie Sue and Kathy, with me. We were all supposed to meet back at this professor’s house. It was a milk-and-cookies kind of shakedown thing, buck up the troops. I was cutting across the yard to go up the driveway. There was a car there. As I got to the car, I saw Newt in the passenger seat and one of the guys’ wives with her head in his lap going up and down. Newt kind of turned and gave me his little-boy smile. Fortunately, Jackie Sue and Kathy were” 10 and 13 years old, respectively.

  • In 1977, Newt engaged in an extramarital affair with Anne Manning, a married supporter of his failed 1976 campaign. Manning later told reporters that Newt insisted their affair be limited to blow jobs (only on himself, one presumes) so that Newt could claim he wasn’t sleeping with her.
  • In 1978, during Newt’s first successful campaign, Jackie was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and underwent two surgeries. She was 42 to 44 years old at the time; Newt was 35. The cancer was to recur in 1980.
  • In 1980, Newt, 37, met Marianne Ginther, 28, and shortly thereafter left Jackie and proposed marriage to Marianne, who knew he was still married to Jackie. During the 1980s, when Newt began claiming that his first marriage had long been troubled, Jackie said, “He can say that we had been talking about [a divorce] for 10 years, but the truth is that it came as a complete surprise.” Jackie continued,

    “[Newt] walked out in the spring of 1980 and I returned to Georgia. By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls [then ages 17 and 14] came to see me, and said Daddy is downstairs and could he come up? When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was [still in a hospital bed] recovering from the surgery . . . To say I gave up a lot for the marriage is the understatement of the year.”

    Jackie’s account has been confirmed by both Kip Carter and by Lee Howell, Newt’s press secretary in 1974 and 1976. According to Kip Carter, Gingrich said of Battley: “She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer.” The final fact of this tawdry little anecdote is that to compel Jackie to agree to the divorce, Newt withheld child support for his teenaged daughters.

  • Newt and Jackie were divorced in February 1981. Newt married his mistress Marianne in August 1981.
  • In 1983, around the time Newt turned 40, Congressman Gingrich made speeches in response to the affairs of other Congressional members lamenting the moral decline of leadership in America and claiming that the country cannot remain free without moral leaders. He has repeated this theme innumerable times over the decades.
  • In May 1988, Newt accepted $105,000 from Republican supporters to promote his book, Window of Opportunity, circumventing both campaign-finance laws and House ethics rules. At the same time, he accused House speaker Jim Wright of much the same offense.

    “It was the nakedness of his attack on Speaker Jim Wright of Texas that shocked traditionalists of both parties. Working the press relentlessly all over the country, Gingrich began calling Wright the ‘least ethical Speaker of the 20th century’ [ed. note: HA!] and leaking vague but ominous charges: Was [Wright] involved in the teenage-page scandal? Did [Wright] scam a pension out of the Air Force Reserve? Did he lobby a foreign president on behalf of a Texas oil family? Eventually a few stories got printed and Gingrich passed them out, sparking more stories. A couple of senior Republicans looked into [Newt’s] evidence and told him he didn’t have anything, others looked a second time and told him the same. But Gingrich would not relent.” — John H. Richardson

    Newt finally got Wright on failing to report the income of a vanity book, around $60,000, and Wright resigned.

  • It was later proven that in the late 1980s, Newt engaged in check-kiting on 22 distinct occasions.
  • In 1994, when Newt was 51, he began a clan­des­tine extra­mari­tal affair with a Congressional page, Callista Bisek, 23 years his junior and the same age as Newt’s younger daughter, Jackie. That was the same year that Rupert Murdoch offered Newt a $4.5 million advance on a book deal. According to the New York Times, “On Dec. 30, under pressure from Democrats who called the deal inappropriate and Republicans who said it would tarnish his tenure as the new Speaker, Mr. Gingrich announced that he would not accept the $4.5 million advance and would take royalties from sales instead.” I have been unable to track down how well Newt’s book actually did, but I’ll bet it was no $4.5 million, even in grosses for its eventual publisher.
  • In 1995, Newt began his term as Speaker of the House by shutting down the government’s highly regarded, independent Office of Technology Assessment. The same tasks once conducted by impartial scientists are still today being conducted by lobbyists and axe-grinders.
  • In 1995 and 1996, Newt shut down the federal government, ostensibly because Clinton objected to Republicans’ provisions for eviscerating Medicare, education, the environment, and public health in the 1996 federal budget. In fact, according to CNN U.S. News (Nov. 16, 1995 report), the shutdown occurred because Newt didn’t think he had been assigned a nice enough seat on Air Force One going to Yitzak Rabin’s funeral. White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta called the Gingrich comment “bizarre.” (120K AIFF sound or 120K WAV sound) (The 1996 budget also demanded that the federal government achieve a balanced budget by 2003. In the final irony, Clinton achieved both a balanced budget and a surplus by 2000. Both were quickly destroyed by Republican George W. Bush.)
  • Between 1994 and 1998, 84 ethics charges were filed against Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, including money laundering, misuse of charitable donations, check kiting, repeatedly violating federal tax law, repeatedly lying to the House Ethics Committee, submitting “inaccurate, incomplete, and unreliable” testimony, and making “an effort to have the material appear to be nonpartisan on its face, yet serve as a partisan, political message for the purpose of building the Republican party.” Seven years after he had destroyed Jim Wright for a far lesser offense, Congress, voting 395-28, punished Gingrich with the highest fine ever imposed on a Speaker of the House, $300,000. Close to broke, Gingrich borrowed the money from Bob Dole.
  • In 1999, Marianne was diagnosed with multiple schlerosis. A month or two later, Newt filed for divorce. “During the court proceedings, Congressman Gingrich refused to participate in the discovery process so that he would not have to disclose any funds that he spent on his mistresses.” During the divorce proceedings, Callista’s role became known. Newt told the court that he and Marianne had an agreement that she would ignore his affairs. Marianne denied this vehemently, but at that time, in 1999, told the court that Newt had asked her for an open marriage, and she had refused. The divorce was eventually settled, and a few weeks later, in August 2000, Newt married the woman who had been his mistress for the previous six years.
  • On January 18, 2012, Gingrich offered Sarah Palin a “major role” in the putative 2013 Gingrich administration — an indisputable violation of 18 U.S.C. §599. The penalty is a fine and two years in prison.

Despite Republican claims to the contrary, Marianne Gingrich feels no bitterness toward her ex-husband. I found some wise assessments in various places:

Newt grew up poor, always wanted to be some­body, make a difference, prove himself. That was his vulnerability, do you understand? Being treated important. Which means he was gonna associate with people who would stroke him, and were important themselves. And in that vulnerability, once you go down that path and it goes unchecked, you add to it. Like, ‘Oh, I’m drinking, who cares?’ Then I start being a little whore, ’cause that comes with drinking.

He was impressed easily by position, status, money. He grew up poor and always wanted to be somebody, to make a difference, to prove himself. He has to be historic to justify his life. . . .

Oh, yes, Gingrich is indeed Harry Mudd! Let’s recap:

Harry Mudd

Newt Gingrich

fat, grandiose, dishonest fat, grandiose, dishonest
philanderer serial adulterer
crimes include smuggling, passing counterfeit money, grand theft, fraud crimes include check-kiting, money-laundering, fraud, repeatedly violating federal tax law, lying to Congress, and partisan propaganda
charming vindictive

Early in his campaign for the 2012 GOP nomination, Newt excused his many crimes with this remarkable claim:

“There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

“Patriotism made me do it! It’s not my fault, it’s America’s fault!” I would suggest that Newt’s true passion is not for the United States of America, but rather for Newton Leroy Gingrich. If Gingrich succeeds in attaining the 2012 GOP nomination, I look forward to this slogan: “Gingrich: Restore Dishonor to the White House.”

“She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer.”


Wikipedia biography of Newt Gingrich

8/10/10 Esquire, “Newt Gingrich: The Indispensable Republican”

Jackie Battley and Newt Gingrich Marriage Profile. Their story is recounted in the PBS documentary “The Long March of Newt Gingrich.”

Speaker’s Aides Say Gingrich Met Murdoch Before Book Deal

Newt Gingrich Promises Palin a Presidential Appointment and Commits a Felony

Gingrich comment on shutdown labeled ‘bizarre’ by White House

Newt Gingrich’s Marital Affairs

Community, Comity, and Conservative Propaganda January 9, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics, Popular Culture, Tea Party, Television.
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A Facebook friend of mine complained yesterday that America has become a culture of takers, with no or little sense of community or comity. (“Comity” is a friendly social atmosphere in a loose, widespread community based on common social institutions, like houses of worship and schools.) He blamed the poisonous hyperpartisanship that the Republicans have introduced and cultivated, transforming politics from a game of negotiation into nuclear warfare.

My friend is correct, of course. As the author of Bowling Alone points out, social organizations like bowling leagues, service clubs, PTAs, garden clubs, and religious bodies are all shrinking dramatically. Since 9/11, attendance at my resolutely apolitical downtown mainline church has dropped by almost two-thirds (!), and other houses of worship also report drops.

More and more, we live like strangers who aren’t planning to stay, not bothering to get to know our neighbors, not bothering to join local organizations, to vote (“why bother, they’re all crooks anyway”), to get involved with the arts, events, and celebrations of local community life. (I pick up cigarette butts from the street and the sidewalk and throw them away, and my neighbors pity the loony crank. Why bother, when there’ll be ten more tomorrow.) We shop in huge box stores that are identical to huge box stores on the other side of the country, and we never bother getting to know the sales clerks or the other shoppers. We eat in chain restaurants that are similarly interchangeable. We spend our time watching TV and surfing the Net, replacing the neighborhood hangout “where everyone knows your name” with Cheers, replacing the corner store where everyone knows you hate colas with a soulless minimart identical to all minimarts where you’re lucky if the clerk even notices your existence.

There are several factors that have led to this breakdown, not just the 35-year GOP campaign to transfer all assets of the United States into the hands of the oliGOParchy (which currently controls roughly 90 percent (!) of the nation’s assets, ladies and gentlemen, while claiming that pointing out the undeniable fact that 52 percent of Americans live in poverty (!) is “class warfare”):

  • Advances in technology have made living alone much easier. In 1930, only 2 percent of Americans lived alone; in 2000, that had become 10 percent. A large proportion of theses “solos” consists of elderly people, mostly women, who in earlier generations would have moved in with their offspring. Those commercials that advertise services that singles can subscribe to so “you’re never alone” whitewash a lot of loneliness.
  • Modern technology encourages isolation in many other ways:
    • Air conditioning. Time was when people sat on their front porches in the cool cool cool of the evening, gossiping about their neighbors with other neighbors strolling by. If a couple had a fight, every child in the neighborhood heard it. People made excuses to go to the park, to walk by the lake, to stroll down to the neighborhood eatery and have “an ice,” and in all of these places they socialized daily with others in their community.
    • Refrigerators. Before refrigerators, if you wanted unspoiled food, you had to shop every day. You saw the same grocers and butchers every day, and you saw the same fellow customers. You could tell them about Pat’s measles and Gran’s complaints, and they could tell you about the kid who got run over two streets away, we really need to get the city to put a stop sign at that intersection. Today what do we have? The Real Housewives of Deplorable Overconsumption.
    • Television/the Internet.Time was when people participated in or sat in the audience of school plays, church pageants, little theater, bandstand concerts, summer stock. Today we prefer slick, mass-produced entertainment that costs millions to produce — millions recouped by advertising that encourages over­con­sump­tion, unethical behavior, and self-delusion. Or we sit alone in front of our computers, “chatting” with “friends” halfway across the world whom we’ve never met in The Real World and who certainly won’t come to our house and comfort our sobbing when the one we love most in all the world dumps us and runs off with that bleeping sex addict. In researching this section, I ran across an unintentionally hilarious study conducted by the Center on Media and Child Health. Here’s an amazing scientific discovery: the more time you spend watching television, the less time you spend having fun doing stuff with your friends!
    • Working at Home. Advances in technology have made working at home more feasible than ever. Around 28 million Americans work at home. This provides obvious freedoms, such as flexibility and independence; but it also means the worker loses out on social interactions and colleague networks. It’s much harder to make dozens of “business friendships” with nothing but your computer, your phone, and maybe Skype.
    • The Automobile.Cars give us freedom, true. But this freedom comes with a price.
      • Moving Away. We change jobs every few years, refusing the kind of roots that Dagwood has developed with Mr. Dithers. And we move, an average of every five years. Why put down roots when you’re just going to move again? And why go to all the trouble of making a casserole to welcome that new family across the street when they’re just going to move away in a year or two, and you’ll never see them again?
      • The Suburbs are the blessing and curse of the automobile. Most houses in the suburbs are set well back from the street, with no sidewalks or porches. The homeowner goes to the garage, gets into the car, opens the garage door, and drives away; that way they don’t have to talk to their neighbors. Perish forbid. Moreover, since birds of a feather yadda yadda, most suburbs tend to be homogenous clusters: whites live primarily with whites, religion A lives primarily with religion A (never call them ghettoes), rich people live in gated communities, poor people live in the scary part of town. Both law and custom discourage places where people can get together to meet and get to know each other, like bars, cafés, libraries, and coffee shops. Both social isolation and suburban homogeneity work to make people less empathetic, as an excellent article in AlterNet pointed out in September 2011. I recommend “What Awful Reality TV and Suburban Living Have to Do With the Tea Party.”
  • Isolation Within Families. Many spouses are too busy or self-absorbed to pay attention to their families; mothers who work outside the home in particular tend to be dramatically overworked and overstressed. On average, modern parents tend to spend 22 fewer hours a week with their children than parents did just 50 years ago. Children tend to divide their time between highly structured group activities in supervised child-centered environments, like Little League, and spending an average of six hours a day watching TV, surfing the Net, playing video games, or reading, alone. And we don’t need to begin with divorce. . . . Even architecture encourages isolation with families. The gigantic houses that people were encouraged to overspend on before the crash lead individual family members to stake out their own spaces, rather than sharing. (“Don’t go into Daddy’s man-cave,” “This is MY room, keep out!”) Privacy fences make these big houses feel like fortresses, and swimming pools, barbecues, jungle gyms, and trampolines make it unnecessary for these families to ever leave home.

The loss of comity that my Facebook friend talked about is particularly troubling. Sociologists see it as the result of our increasing social isolation. There’s no need to feel empathy for the suffering you see on your TV screen because you don’t see it in your immediate vicinity, so that makes it fiction, entertainment. The director will yell “Cut!” and those flood victims will go back to their trailers for the makeup artists and costumers to get them ready for their next scene.

People are less and less civil to each other. (About two months ago, a telemarketer called me, and when I later reminded her that I had not initiated the contact, she hung up on me!) People are way, way less empathetic. Disaster victims, the desperately poor, the elderly, the long-term sick, the disabled are all “moochers” and “leeches” who should either work hard and provide their own assistance or die. We must dismantle the welfare state. We must return to the Gilded Age of the 1890s, when robber barons ruled with almost the greed and arrogance of Donald Trump. We must hand over wealth and power to the 1 percent, because social conscience is “socialism,” caring about justice is “class warfare,” and a man who “earned” $250 million by buying troubled companies, firing half or all the staff, sucking the companies empty, and tossing the husks away is the very man we need to rescue the nation from Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment insurance, and worst of all, the dreaded “Obamneycare.”

Because, remember: Life begins at incorporation.

Worst of all, we allow and even encourage people to segregate themselves into communities that live inside bubbles. The most famous of these bubbles has been created by years of propaganda from Fox News, the Heritage Foundation and similar right-wing “think” tanks, hate radio, and astroturf organizations like the Tea Puppets, who obediently chant the Party Line of the oliGOParchy and can be relied on to vote against their own best interests every time.

You can see our loss of comity in some of the audience reactions to that hilarious new reality show, “The Real Candidates of Despicable Lies & Smears.” Gov. Perry is responsible for several hundred deaths, some of them innocent men? YAY! Should the life of an indigent 30-year-old be saved? BOO! Should you be barred from serving your country, or God, because of whom you love? No, you should be shot at sunrise! Yay for torture! Yay for the rapacity of the 1%! I’d be willing to bet that a lot of those who actually believe Faux News is “fair and balanced” are home-schooled, further eliminating any knowledge of what community even IS.

It’s early 2012, and the Citizens United tsunami of conservative lies and smears began about three months ago. My husband and I gave up on the evening news about a month ago; we’ll start watching again in mid-November. Others have guessed that this year is going to be so vicious, it will make 2010 look like a love-in. In a way, I sort of hope so. It’s going to take a national atrocity to get that atrocious ruling overturned by an act of Congress, and the 2012 campaign season is shaping up to be just that.

Actually, I hope I’m wrong. Humans are naturally gregarious. Kids are using the new technology to connect with each other in ways I never dreamed of. The January 8 issue of the Tampa Bay Times had a heartwarming story about a young woman who was robbed of husband, possessions, and Christmas. She posted about it on Facebook, and “hundreds” of her old school friends — friends she had made in The Real World — sent an outpouring of gifts and money so generous the woman had plenty to pass on to others in need.

I believe humans need a feeling of community to be truly happy. Studies have shown that religious people are happier and healthier, tend to be more successful, and are demonstrably more active in their local civic life. Obviously these benefits can be attributed to the attention they pay to their spiritual lives, but what if they also accrue to membership in a faith community? When my father died, I phoned the priest of a church I had joined a month earlier at 8 a.m. and wailed “My daddy is dead!” She came right over to comfort me and my father’s sister, and she was wonderful. Who is an atheist going to phone at 8 a.m.? Richard Dawkins? Who is going to bring you chili when you’re stressed to the breaking point over your mother’s slow dying?

I think the Occupy movement might be an ideal vehicle for the creation of secular communities. Nonviolence and consensus are excellent axioms to coalesce around. But I also think we need a whole new paradigm, one that doesn’t accept conservative premises as a given. Maybe tax gifts to the wealthy are not the be-all and end-all of politics. Maybe socialist democracies like Sweden have happier, healthier, better-educated citizenries because they don’t label democracy “socialism” and kleptocracy “democracy.” One of the worst crimes the GOP has committed in recent years was the libeling, vilification, and hounding out of existence of ACORN. ACORN was innocent of all the crimes the GOP fantasized, did good work, and was killed out of sheer Republican hatred of Obama.

Maybe Democrats’ 2012 slogan should be, “Tax cuts never built a bridge, rescued a flood victim, or saved a nation.”

Republican “Ineptocracy” November 11, 2011

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in National Debt, Politics, Taxes, Tea Party.

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail in which he quoted his acquaintance “Joey.” It looks almost like free verse, doesn’t it?:

Joey sends this definition:

“Ineptocracy” — The system of government where:

The least capable to lead are elected by
the least capable of producing,

and where the members of society
least likely to sustain themselves or succeed

are rewarded
with goods and services

paid for by the confiscated wealth of
a diminishing number of producers.

Dear Joey:

I realize that you have been duped by the Republican Party into believing that ignorance is as worthy as knowledge; that unprovable hypothesis is as worthy as mountain-of-fact-confirmed theory; and that mulish adherence to failed ideology is “faithfulness.” I realize also that you have probably also been duped into believing that morality is impossible without religion and that religion is impossible without believing that theology from the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages is as literally factual as the most recent Encyclopedia Britannica. You may even believe that women have no right to control their own bodies if their medical decisions might conflict with your religion’s 19th-century misconceptions.

The sets “least capable to lead,” “least capable of producing,” and “least likely to sustain themselves or succeed” are identical. The members of all three sets consist of:

  • newborn babies;
  • people in comas;
  • people on life support in Intensive Care;
  • those born with no or damaged frontal lobes;
  • those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease;
  • those with IQs below 60; and
  • Fox News True Believers.

(Those last two groups have a significant overlap, if the Fox on-air personalities are any evidence.) I would add quadriplegics and those with advanced degenerative diseases, like Lou Gehrig’s disease, but Stephen Hawking is living proof that success IS possible for some of the members of society who are least likely to sustain themselves without being “rewarded” with help.

Joey, your use of “rewarded” and “confiscated” and your scorn for those “least capable” are profoundly immoral for those who delude themselves that they are Christians. You sound like someone who has made a religion out of the literary and political fictions of Ayn Rand, whose atheism substituted the worship of individual wealth for the idea that one cannot buy the love of God. I would suggest that if you consider yourself to be a Christian, you follow the example of Zacchaeus and of Jesus: First, if you have committed any sort of crime, you repay everyone you have injured fourfold (Luke 19:8). Second, sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22). Not 39.6 percent. Not 28 percent. Not 20 percent. Not 9-9-nein percent. Jesus said, “Sell EVERYTHING you own and give the money to those poorer than you.”

You would surely consider a top marginal tax rate of 91 percent confiscatory, Joey. And yet between the 1950s and 1982, that WAS the top rate. The economy boomed, and the wealthy remained wealthy. Then along came “conservatives.” A genuine conservative wants to keep what works, Joey, and fix what doesn’t work. The radical oligarchs who have taken over the Republican Party want to dismantle what works if the wealth can be diverted into the coffers of the GOPlutocracy instead. They’re about as “conservative” as Che Guevara, but with MUCH more selfish motives.

Reagan and the two Bushes added 85 percent of today’s national debt, Joey. This is a FACT. (Here’s proof.) The three “conservative” presidents dismantled decades of regulations protecting Americans from the crimes of businesses and corporations. The three “conservative” presidents started wars and, in Dubya’s case, put two wars and trillions in overspending on the nation’s credit card and left people like YOU to blame Obama for Dubya’s crimes. Today Americans pay the lowest taxes since the modern age began, and people like you are duped by the GOPlutocracy into shrieking about “confiscated wealth.”

(One of the funniest things I’ve heard recently was Bill O’Reilly telling his faithful that President Obama was “very likely” to raise Billo’s tax rate to 50 percent, in which case he, Billo, would be so disheartened he would just quit “pro­ducing” whatever it is he “produces” to justify his membership in the top 1 percent. As if even the attempt to wrest fairness from the GOPlutocracy would face zero opposition from any Republican! Democrats can’t even get Republicans to agree that 9/11 first responders and U.S. war heroes deserve to be treated fairly!)

Thirty years ago, the GOPlutocracy owned or controlled 21 percent of the nation’s wealth. Today the GOPlutocracy owns or controls well over 80 percent of the nation’s wealth. Joey, you are shrieking about the “confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers” when in the real world of FACT, your “confiscated” means “multiplied by FOUR.” You SHOULD be shrieking about the diminishing wealth of yourself, your family, your friends, and everyone you know, confiscated by Bonzo, Poppy, Newt, and Dubya and given to their “have-more” friends.

Do you want to know about the success of worshiping “producers” as if wealth were indistinguishable from merit? Look at Europe. The more closely a nation adheres to the Republican philosophy of “wealth for us, fiscal austerity for you lower classes,” the worse off its economy is. High interest rates, tax shifts from rich to poor, slashed services, vanished social safety nets, and similar conservative prescriptions have all increased both national debts and national suffering in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, England, etc. On the other end of the pole, ultra-liberal nations like Sweden, with strong social safety nets that include universal health care, are doing JUST FINE.

Pray that your moral philosophy never becomes law in the United States of America, Joey. Otherwise, you may discover that your hurricane, your earthquake, your major flood, your drought, your massive oil spill, your dust bowl, your home invasion, your tainted meat, your pothole-broken axle, your need for an army, a navy, a coast guard, a police force, firefighters, teachers, librarians, court clerk, inspectors, highways, street lights, trash pickup — well, sorry, you are now among the “least capable,” and “the producers” refuse to have the wealth they took from you “confiscated” to “reward” you. You are NOT a victim of an act of God or of human crime; you’re a moocher, a parasite on “the producers.”

Just what have “the producers” produced since 1981, except for rampant inequality resulting from a massive transfer of wealth upward; a debased polity poisoned by hatred, lies, and smears; soaring corporate crime rates; and a semi-permanent depression caused by $12.8 TRILLION in debt (out of $15T total) amassed by REPUBLICAN “producers”?

Do you feel better off now than you were in 1981, Joey, or even in 2000? WHY????? And why do you delude yourself that if we stop “confiscating” the “earnings” of the “producers,” things will be totally different THIS TIME?

Tea Party Campaign Song for 2012 September 21, 2011

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.

Back in the 1960s, folk singer Pete Seeger wrote a classic Viet Nam protest song called “Bring ’Em Home.” Here’s a sample verse:

If you love your Uncle Sam,
Bring them home, bring them home.
Support our boys in Vietnam:
Bring them home, bring them home.

You can read all the lyrics here. For a somewhat pathetic 30 seconds of Pete himself performing, I think around 2007 or so, here is the YouTube clip.

Now that you know “Bring ’Em Home,” use Pete Seeger’s tune, but sing these lyrics:

Let ’Em Die

If her cancer’s hard to cure,
let her die, let her die.
If your grampa’s not insured,
let him die, let him die.

If a flood took out their town,
let ’em die, let ’em die.
If a bridge is crumbling down,
let ’em die, let ’em die.

If your workers are not white,
let ’em die, let ’em die,
And their children are too bright,
let ’em die, let ’em die.

If your summer was too hot,
let ’em die, let ’em die.
Global warming is Dem plot.
Let ’em die, let ’em die.

We won’t pay our legal debts,
Dems should die, Dems should die.
Jobless? Euthanize your pets.
Let ’em die, let ’em die.

Those who do not love the rich,
let ’em die, let ’em die.
We will make them Norquist’s bitch.
Let ’em die, let ’em die.

If your taxes are unfair,
let ’em die, let ’em die.
Stay out of the have-mores’ hair.
Poor should die, let ’em die.

I welcome YOUR contributions. Add your verse in the comments section, and if I like it well enough, I’ll promote it. (If, on the other hand, you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and are a hard-core Tea Puppet who will “comment” only with partisan vilification, forget it. I’ll just delete you.)

“Hysteresis” for Dummies September 18, 2011

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics, Popular Culture.
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In his September 18 blog post, Paul Krugman uses the word “hysteresis.” I’m very smart and have a great vocabulary, but I have to admit, the first time I read his article I had no idea what he was talking about. So I went trolling for definitions.

The Wikipedia article on hysteresis is written in scientist-speak. I’m sure it’s highly informative for science geeks. I searched for a long time before I cobbled together an explanation of hysteresis that helps me understand Krugman’s thinking.

Essentially, “hysteresis” describes the lagging of an effect behind its cause. The best illustration I’ve found is your thermostat. Suppose it’s winter, and you set your thermostat to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the ambient temperature sinks to 69°, your heater kicks on and heats your house until your thermostat hits 71°; then it turns off. So if the thermostat says 69° or lower, your heater will run nonstop; if the thermostat says 71° or higher, the heater will stay off. Now, suppose that the temperature is somewhere between 69.1° and 71°. Is your heater on or off? It depends on what was happening the last time your thermostat checked the temperature. If it was 70° or higher, the heater is off; if it was 69° or lower, the heater is on. Suppose the “real” temperature in your room is 70.9° and the heater is running. This “lag” between the real temperature being above 70° and your heater still obediently producing heat is hysteresis. If you set your thermostat for 70°, your heater’s hysteresis is the range 69° to 71°.

I think. Scientist-speak is REALLY obfuscatory!

Here’s another possible definition of hysteresis: You’re on Battlestar Galactica, and you’ve just identified a Cylon and ejected it out an airlock. The Cylon needs air to breathe and is in the dead of space, but it’s not dead YET, and won’t be for another minute or two. The lag between ejection (cause) and death (effect) is hysteresis.

I think.

(Wouldn’t it be horrible if ejection didn’t kill the Cylon, and he/she just had to float alone in the void FOREVER?)

There are a LOT of science-speak uses of the word “hysteresis.” Apparently if you magnetize a piece of metal to one pole, and then re-magnetize it to the opposite pole, there’s a lag time where you have a “north” magnet in a “south” magnetic field. (I think.) In elastic materials, like rubber bands, hysteresis is the amount of useful energy that is lost between stretch and sproing, which explains why those tightie whities eventually become saggy baggies. (Unless, I suppose, you grow a paunchy-waunchy.)

According to Investopedia (in an answer I read on Answers.com), the economics version of hysteresis describes the lag between a phenomenon and its effect on the economy. Investopedia’s example was unemployment. As unemployment increases, more people adjust to a lower standard of living. The idiot at Investopedia who wrote the definition cheerfully continued that as more people become unem­ployed, the more “socially acceptable” unemployment becomes, and even when the good times return, the long-term unemployed may not be “interested” in returning to work. (Dear Investopedia: I haven’t had a full-time job in more than ten years. Given that I AM “inter­ested” in returning to work, do you think the computer programs I learned in 2000 and before have been updated since then?)

. . . No, wait, I have it! (I think.) When Wile E. Coyote is fooled by the Roadrunner into jumping off a cliff, hysteresis is the length of time the coyote hangs motionless in the air before falling.

At any rate. In his blog entry, Krugman points out that most of the developed world is facing a serious problem of demand. So many people are unemployed that demand for goods and services is way down. Most manufacturers are operating at way below capacity, reducing capacity, and scrapping equipment. If the year 2000 suddenly roared back, with all its wealth and prosperity (looted away by the GOP, 2001-present), many manufacturers would be S.O.L.

Krugman’s point is that “austerity policies are actually self-destructive even in purely fiscal terms: by reducing the economy’s future potential, they reduce future revenues, and can make the debt position worse in the long run.”

In other words, the Greedy Oil Plutocrats are telling Americans today that the United States simply can’t afford to give $700 billion to millionaires and billionaires AND give tax relief to us lower classes. Expecting millionaires and billionaires to give up one penny of their obscene privilege is “class warfare.” (Yes, a class war has been going on for 30 years. The wealthy won when Antonin Scalia, the BFF of the CEO of Halliburton, installed the CEO of Halliburton as Vice President, and George W. Bush began the spending spree that single-handedly doubled the national debt while transferring trillions from the U.S. Treasury into the pockets of the GOPlutocracy. The Citizens United ruling, and the resulting tsunami of lies and smears that swept the GOP into office in 2010, were “Taps” at the graveside of the middle class.)

Forget increasing government revenue as a means of paying GOP debts, say the GOPlutocrats. The only answer to our fiscal troubles is to reduce government revenue (preferably to where Grover Norquist can drown the entire govern­ment in a bathtub and then crown himself Prince Regent), reduce the economy’s potential and blight its future, and end the social safety net that helps keep the elderly, the long-term sick or disabled, children, disaster victims, and other “moochers” and “parasites” alive. To take just one example: why should Rush Limbaugh give up his annual tax gift from George W. Bush, a matter of $2.6 million every year (that’s 3 percent of Limbaugh’s net income!), when Great-Granny is perfectly capable of running a cash register, if only she could afford to see a doctor about that pesky cancer?

Some people think that we have a social compact here in the United States. Some of us think that “promote the general welfare” refers to the lower 98 percent as well as the GOPlutocracy. Some of us even think that floods, droughts, earthquakes, and hurricanes do NOT reflect God’s opinion of feminists, pagans, liberals, members of the ACLU, abortionists, gays, or Obama. Some people think that bridges, highways, sewer systems, and public schools are investments in the nation’s future that return a profit to everyone in the nation rather than the GOPlutocracy alone.

Of people like me, the NON-Tea Puppets, the truthiness-disbelievers, the GOPlutocracy says,

“Let them die”!!!

(Passing note of disgruntlement: “hysteresis” is the English transliteration of the ancient Greek ὑστέρησις. To the ancient Greeks, it meant “lack, deficiency, lagging behind.” Like “hysteria,” the word derives from the ancient “huster,” womb. To the ancient Greeks, female inferiority was structural to the language, and controlled their thinking. The ancient Greek language can go frak itself!)

Republicans Baked America’s National Debt “Pie” August 13, 2011

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.

GOP lies about how Obama is solely responsible for the Bush Crash of 2008, the Bush Recession that began after the crash, the Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the pain caused to the economy by the annual Bush tax gifts to the wealthy began early in 2009, of course. Probably on January 21, 2009.

But the GOP began its 2012 campaign for the presidency in June 2011 with the airing of five or six TV commercials (per half-hour) blaming the Bush Recession on Obama and whatever vulnerable Democrats might be in office in a given state — for example, in Florida, “Tell Senator Nelson, ‘no more blank checks!’ ” (As if any Democrat had ever been given a blank check by any Republicans!) Nowadays, the radical extremists who are posing as conservatives are also pretending that the various fiscal crises they have created since Obama took office are all Obama’s fault, including the Tea Party Depression.

I just spent some quality time with facts provided by the Treasury Department, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and similar sources. The facts tell a dramatically different story.

I started by obtaining the amount of the U.S. national debt in January 1977 (Carter’s inauguration), January 1981 (Reagan’s inauguration), January 1989 (Bush/41’s inauguration), January 1993 (Clinton’s inauguration), January 2001 (Bush/43’s inauguration), and January 2009 (Obama’s inauguration). Since a large percentage of Obama’s budgets have had to include Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush’s annual tax gifts to the wealthy, Bush’s unfunded Medicare Part D, and Bush’s attempts to rescue the economy from the calamity caused by his policies in 2007, I threw in January 2010 and January 2011 for good measure.

Next, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator, I translated every figure into 2011 dollars. The national debt handed to Carter by Ford was about $683 billion in 1977 dollars, for example; but that’s $2.545 trillion in 2011 dollars. Something of a difference!

In constant, 2011 trillions of dollars, here is the national debt in the specified Januaries:



In 2011 Trillions




























(Bush/43’s budget)




(43 + 44)

These are fairly dry numbers, although several facts leap out: In eight years, Ronald Reagan more than doubled the national debt. In 12 years, Reagan and Bush/41 together came close to tripling the national debt. Carter, a Democrat, was the only president to reduce the national debt; however, Clinton, a Democrat, both balanced the budget and handed his successor a SURPLUS.

In their fiscal planning, both Clinton and Gore were confident that by sticking with Democratic fiscal discipline, the U.S. could reduce its national debt to ZERO no later than 2009.

(Neither Clinton nor Gore could have foreseen 9/11, of course. But if President Gore had been presented with an August 6, 2001 briefing “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” the chances are excellent he would NOT have replied, “All right, you’ve covered your ass” and gone back to his vacation, as Bush did. Gore, who had infinitely more experience in government than Dubya, would have quietly mobilized every available strike force, and both Osama bin Laden and the top echelon of al Qaeda would have been dead by the end of August 2001.

(But if 9/11 had happened in the President Gore alternate universe, the Democrats would never in a million years have allowed Osama to escape because they were busy diverting resources from Afghanistan to Iraq; they would never have started Bush’s dishonest, illegal war in Iraq in the first place; and they would never have put both wars on the nation’s credit card — and then concealed the costs from the public by pretending they were “emergency spending” — while advising voters to “Go shopping! Put everything on your credit card!”)

Bear in mind also that a large percentage of Obama’s first two budgets (2010 and 2011) consists of Bush’s war in Afghanistan, Bush’s war in Iraq, Bush’s annual tax gifts to the wealthy, Bush’s unfunded Medicare Part D, and the various programs designed to rescue the economy from Bush’s own calamitous mismanagement, such as Bush’s TARP program.

The following pie chart attempts to show you the same data you see above, but more visually. The “clock” starts at 0; “noon” is $16 trillion. The debt passed by Ford to Carter includes the last spending related to the Viet Nam war, and I show it with the pretty stripes to indicate its bipartisan origins. The $216 billion (in 2011 dollars) by which Carter reduced the national debt is superimposed on the pretty stripes, and thus looks purple.

I have also superimposed the appropriate slivers of color to show the portion of Obama’s national debts that represents commitments made by Bush/43, such as his annual tax gifts to the wealthy. Because I did not do so for earlier presidents, I did not include 2009, the last year budgeted by Bush/43, in Bush/43’s ocean of red ink; I merely indicated my best guess as to the portion of the “Obama” budget attributable to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Bush annual tax gifts to the wealthy, Medicare Part D, and the Bush administration’s attempts to save the United States from the consequences of Bush deregulation and Bush’s economic mismanagement.

The “pie” above is dramatic enough. But now look at the same “pie” sorted by political party:

LOOK at all that red! This is the party of “fiscal prudence” — the party that’s responsible for well over 85 percent of all additions to the national debt since 1977. This is the party that has taken as religious dogma Reagan’s (and Cheney’s) famous “deficits don’t matter.” This is the party that has embraced the failed ideology of trickle-down economics. If the promises made for Bush’s tax gifts to the wealthy were true, today we would have zero unemployment and a stretch limo in every garage.

“Deficits don’t matter.” Unless the president is a Democrat, of course. Then deficits matter so much that it becomes urgently important for the poorer 90 per­cent of American society to suffer, while any attempt to ask the top 10 per­cent to share in the nation’s sacrifice results in a flood of TV com­mer­cials from the American Petroleum Institute and similar oliGOParchs about what a terrible idea it is to ask the wealthy to pay anything whatsoever.

While the GOP’s “base” continues to increase its control of American finances. In 1981, the poorer 90 percent controlled more than two-thirds of the economy. Today, the poorer 90 percent control not quite 26 percent of the economy. Doesn’t your heart bleed for the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and similar oliGOParchs, that they control “only” 84 percent of America’s wealth, instead of the 100 percent they have been working for so assiduously?


Raw figures for each year’s national debt: the U.S. Treasury.
Cost of living calculator: Bureau of Labor Statistics
January 2011 CBS News story on national debt
The Cost of War in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya
Wikipedia article on
Medicare Part D