Archive for 2012

Bully Boy Willard Mitt Romney: Lord of the Lies

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Here’s the key sentence in Jason Horowitz’s meticulously reported story of Mitt Romney’s sadistic assault on John Lauber, a younger, apparently closeted gay student at the prestigious private Cranbrook School when he was a teen:

“As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.” As one former classmate described Romney’s leadership of the incident, it was “like Lord of the Flies.”

Which, Romney said Thursday, he doesn’t remember — after the story had been recalled and recounted by about half a dozen of his former schoolmates. But if it happened he’s real sorry it did. And anyway he had no idea Lauber was gay.

As Joan Walsh points out at Salon, it’s hard to say what’s worse: On one hand, Romney is almost certainly lying about not remembering his vicious bullying (which he recast as a “prank”), which is bad enough. But if he really can’t remember such an act of cruelty, what does that say about him as a human being?

In other words, Romney’s cavalier reaction to the story means the Cranbrook Assault cannot be dismissed as youthful indiscretion because as an adult, as a former businessman and governor, as a father and husband, he has now made it a measure of his character.

Just about everyone, of course, did things as a child or youth that they regret. But fully formed adults have the ability to admit they did bad things, learned from them, grew and changed their ways. Voters generally are quick to set aside genuine youthful misbehavior, sometimes really bad stuff, like having been in a gang, or breaking the law, or whatever.

What voters can’t forgive is a phony, a fraud and a liar.

Lies upon lies: Aside from the Lauber matter, and Romney’s phantasmagorical claim to have invented the internet auto-bailout, Mitt’s greatest contribution to the death of truth this week was his vow to plot “a new course” for the anemic economy.

“I propose an entirely different course, a new course, unlike anything of our past,” Romney modestly declaimed in a little-noted speech in Michigan, going on to attack Barack Obama’s as “a throwback to the discredited policies of the past.”

As if.

The plain fact is that Romney has proposed exactly nothing to spur the economy that represents a substantive change from the same old, same old George W. Bush policies, which helped bring on the recession in the first place.

While several of his Mitt’s economic advisers have previously proposed right wing heresy notions like a carbon tax and looser monetary policy, the great man himself has refused to embrace them, content to cling to a platform of warmed-over supply side platitudes that caters to the 1% and is indistinguishable from the Bush agenda, as noted by Washpost whiz kid Ezra Klein:

The Bush economy is one of the worst on record. Median wages dropped. Poverty worsened. Inequality increased. Surpluses turned into deficits. Monthly job growth was weaker than it had been in any expansion since 1954. Economic growth was sluggish. And that’s before you count the financial crisis that unfurled on his watch.

Proposing to extend and expand the Bush tax cuts, Romney wants to repeal post Wall Street-meltdown financial regulations and double down on the kinds of fiscal austerity measures that have been oh-so-successful in Europe, among other great thoughts:

Reading Romney’s policies, you would never know that the nation is still facing high unemployment rates or that it just came through the worst financial crisis in a generation. You certainly wouldn’t think we’d just emerged from a decade in which large tax cuts and financial deregulation led to major economic distress…

There’s nothing in his campaign platform that couldn’t have been in Bush’s platform. In fact, most of it was.

Weed whacker alert: None of this would matter much, of course, if their Bush-Romney-Laffer tax-cut, anti-regulatory economic fantasy actually, you know, worked.

Sadly, a just-out analysis and review of the latest research on its effects – Actual Facts! – shows that it decidedly does not: by any measure – growth, jobs, small business, entrepreneurship, savings, investment, taxable income, revenue, for starters – the trickle-down crowd’s tried-and-untrue ideology is counter-productive, according to the report by Chye-Ching Huang at the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (pdf link available here).

The evidence does not support the claim that raising top marginal income tax rates has a heavy impact on small business owners: a recent Treasury analysis finds that only 2.5 percent of small business owners fall into the top two income tax brackets and that these owners receive less than one-third of small business income.  Moreover, even those small business owners who would be affected by tax increases on high-income households are unlikely to respond by reducing hiring or new investment…

 History shows that higher taxes are compatible with economic growth and job creation: job creation and GDP growth were significantly stronger following the Clinton tax increases than following the Bush tax cuts.  Further, the Congressional Budget office (CBO) concludes that letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire on schedule would strengthen long-term economic growth, on balance, if policymakers used the revenue saved to reduce deficits.  In other words, any negative impact on economic growth from increasing taxes on high-income people would be more than offset by the positive effects of using the resulting revenue gain to reduce the budget deficit.  Tax increases can also be used to fund, or to forestall cuts in, productive public investments in areas that support growth such as public education, basic research, and infrastructure.

Oh, and one more thing: As a political matter, the worst news of all for Romney is that his fool-all-the-people-all-the-time strategy of blaming Obama’s policies for shackling private enterprise, obstructing economic recovery and not curing cancer is going to be a very tough sell, according to some recent trustworthy polling on the matter:

 A majority of Americans believe that former President George W. Bush is more responsible than President Obama for the current economic problems in the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

 Fifty-four percent of respondents said that Bush was more to blame while 29 percent put the blame on Obama; 9 percent said both men deserved blame while 6 percent said neither did. Among registered voters, the numbers are almost identical; 54 percent blame Bush, while 30 percent blame Obama.

 Independents, widely considered the most critical voting bloc this fall, continue to blame Bush far more than Obama for the economic troubles. Fifty-seven percent of unaffiliated voters put the blame on the former Republican president, while 25 percent believe the blame rests more with Obama.

 Heck, even one in five Republicans say Bush is more responsible than Obama for the state of the economy!

An entirely different course, indeed.

POTUS comes out of the closet. Key points on Obama’s shift on gay marriage: 1) anyone who votes against him because of this issue was already against him; 2) it energizes the GOP evangelical base reason for Romney, particularly in the battlegrounds of Virginia and North Carolina; 3) it energizes Obama’s base, particularly the large fraction of his fundraisers and bundlers who happen to be gay: 4) it heads off a looming, messy fight at the Democratic convention. 5) Joe Biden, great American. Bottom line, from Palm Springs Bureau Chief Hank Plante: “A net gain for Obama.”

Press Clips: Top 10 Must Reads of the week:
-Proving the conservative case about political correctness on campus.
-Mittens was bullying gays before it was fashionable.
-Onerous, job killing regulations come to Texas.
-Latest look at electoral map.
-Too little too late: light bulb finally goes on for Dick Lugar.
-Mega-kudos to old pal Bettina Inclan for letting the truth slip out, however inadvertently.
-Why the right really, really hates Obama (warning: do not read and operate heavy machinery).
-Terrific takedown of the repulsive David Brooks.
-Bristol Palin, Isaac Newton, apples and trees. Discuss.
-The people united will never be defeated.
 ICYMI: Jimmy Fallon takes on Tanning Mom.

Romney’s a ‘Faker,’ Barney Frank Tells Our Pal Hank

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, America’s most prominent gay politician, will retire at the end of this term, having served in the House since 1980.  As former Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he led efforts to tighten Wall Street regulations and consumer protections.  But he is best known for being the first member of Congress to voluntarily disclose that he’s gay.  In this exclusive interview, he talks with Calbuzz Palm Springs Bureau Chief Hank Plante, a Desert Sun contributor, for a piece published originally in the LGBT monthly magazine Desert Outlook, edited by Will Dean

How do you feel as you look forward to retirement?

Well very happy.  I hadn’t realized until I announced my retirement how stressed I was.  How my emotional nerve ends had kind of been worn thin.

I’ve had a great career.  I look forward to the next phase.  But in particular the last four years before this one, when I was chairman of the Financial Services Committee at a time when Financial Services was the center of the world economy, they were very rewarding but very stressful.

You mentioned Financial Services.  And as you look back on your long career that has to be at the top of what you’re proud of, I would imagine?

Yes, because it was the most important subject with which I had to deal, well I guess second – tied — with another one where I had some pride in my work, which was to defeat Newt Gingrich’s effort to impeach Bill Clinton.  Actually he was successful in impeaching him but not in convicting him.

But yes, the Financial Services Bill I have some pride in, in fact I think it’s going to be a very strong bulwark against another crisis of the sort we had before, and it took a lot of work and I put a lot into it and it came out pretty good.

You’re probably the most prominent gay politician in America, How do you look back on your contribution in that regard?

Well, I’m proud of that as well.  I started out about the same time as the gay rights movement.  It was serendipitous, but my first run for office was in 1972, just three years after Stonewall, when gay rights was first starting.

And in fact, as an example of that, I became the first person in the history of Massachusetts in the Legislature to file gay rights bills.  Mainly because the year I ran the new gay groups,  — there was one gay men’s and one lesbian group — sent out a joint questionnaire to everybody running for the legislature saying “would you support a bill to protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination?”  I was the only one who said “yes,” so I became the leader by process of elimination.

Those were interesting times for me because I’ve known I was gay since I was 13, so I was a 33-year-old a freshman legislator, knowing that I’m gay, being closeted, and you have this question “Well are you going to go ahead with this?”  I said to myself at the time, “I don’t think I can come out now and succeed, and I want to succeed politically, but it would be very dishonorable to be anything less than fully supportive.”  If that led me to be outed, well, so much, I couldn’t live any other way.  So for the next 15 years I was a major leader in the movement for gay rights while being closeted.

And then in 1987, almost 25 years ago to the day, about a month short of 25 years ago, I was proud to become the first member of Congress publicly to announce voluntarily that I was gay.  One of my colleagues, very bravely, Gerry Studds — when confronted — became the first to acknowledge it, but I was the first to do it voluntarily. And I think I’ve had an impact.  There’s some legislative improvements that we’ve seen. The climate is much better.

And I think, frankly, the fact that I was chairman of the Financial Services Committee and in that prominent role while being openly gay, while appearing with my partner, whom I’ll be marrying in a few months, that that helps advance the whole fight against prejudice.

You mentioned your partner. Congratulations. You must be very excited.

I am, and we’re doing this because we’re in love and it’s a way to show that, but also I did want to make sure that I was married while I was still a member of Congress.  I don’t want some of the most non-supportive people to avoid forever having to deal with a married gay man on equal terms.

Let me ask you about Palm Springs.  I know you’ve been here for fundraisers.  Have you spent much time here?

I love Palm Springs a lot. I’ve been there from time to time. The last time — a good friend of Jim’s and mine has a place there — and we’ve spent some time there. I haven’t been there for a while.

Frankly, if you go back before four years I guess I’ve been there maybe at least two out-of-every-three years.  But the four years before this one the financial crisis ruled my life. I think I got there once during that four year period.

Who do you think will take up the mantle now as far as gay leadership after you retire?

Well, there will be two members of the House, Jared Polis and David Cicilline.  There will be, I hope, a Senator, Tammy Baldwin, and by virtue of being the first “out “member of the U.S. Senate and someone who was also the first person to get elected when she was out.  There have been some openly gay people before but we’d all come out after being elected.

So Tammy, by virtue of her Senate race will be.  And the other one who will play a very prominent role — and I believe already does — is Christine Quinn. Christine is now the Speaker of the New York City Council.

I’m hoping she gets elected mayor of the city of New York.  She’s a contender to be the mayor of New York replacing Michael Bloomberg, getting elected next year. And I would say if Christine becomes mayor of New York, she will be probably the most prominent.

It would be interesting:  it would be two women, with Tammy Baldwin as a Senator, and that would be some very important leadership.

And finally I have to ask you about the Presidential race.  Of course you’ve seen Mitt Romney first hand, he was governor of your state.  What are your thoughts on the Republican race?

Well, any gay or lesbian person with any self-respect should not be voting for any of the Republicans, including Mitt Romney, who made the degrading comment in one of the recent debates about how he kept Massachusetts from being the Las Vegas of gay marriage, kind of cheapening this very profound thing for us.

This is a faker who in 1994, when he was trying to beat Ted Kennedy in a different era, said “Oh, I’ll be better than him on gay rights,” and of course he’s been outrageous.  In fact in 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court had ruled in favor of gay rights, there was an effort in the State Legislature to overturn it.  Mitt Romney led a fight against a whole lot of legislators who had courageously voted with us to uphold gay marriage, and he tried very hard to defeat them.

I think he gave the business I’m in a bad name.  He is the most unprincipled, dishonest, intellectually flexible guy I’ve seen. There does not appear to be any public policy to which he’s committed.

And, of course, you go from him to Santorum and Gingrich and I don’t think you have a plausible Presidential lot.  There’s not a Bob Dole in there, there’s not a John McCain, people I’ve had some respect for – but, of course, didn’t vote for.

This is a group of people running all over each other to try to appeal to the most right-wing group in America, and any one of them would be a disaster.

Mittonomics, Smarmy Brad, MIAs and Other Irritants

Monday, May 7th, 2012

As regular Calbuzzers know, we are normally a model of probity and rectitude. But today we’re feeling the urge to vent about some of the things that have, frankly, pissed us off, including:

— Mitt Romney’s infuriating assertion that a) government has grown under Barack Obama and b) reinstating the Bushonomics that crashed the system will restore it.
— U.S. Brad Sherman’s smarmy attempt to take credit for stuff he never did.
— California university officials who are finally advocating for a tax hike after blowing a chance to help get a measure on the ballot last year.
— Gov. Jerry Brown’s secret disappearances.

Romney’s Big Lie: In a recent op-ed, Romney  asked: “Where are the jobs?”

“Mr. President, forgive me for being blunt. But when it comes to economic affairs, you’re out of your depth. Unlike you, I am not a career politician. Unlike you, I’ve spent more than two decades working in the private sector, starting new businesses and turning around failing ones. Undoing the damage you’ve done will be a daunting challenge. But I’ve learned a thing or two about how government policies can kill private investment and stifle job creation, and I have a plan to get government out of the way.”

This is such deep horse manure, starting with “I am not a career politician” from a man who after running for the U.S. Senate and serving a term as governor of Massachusetts has been running for president continuously.

Even worse is the utter distortion of the economic facts as reported by the New York Times:

For the first time in 40 years, the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration…

The private sector grew faster in the first three years of the Obama administration than it did in three of the previous five administrations – the exception being Bill Clinton’s administrations, when private sector growth was more rapid.

Here’s a nifty chart the New York Times published, showing the change in GDP over the first three years of each presidential term that, based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:


What drives us crazy is that the BIG LIE – told by Fox News, the Romney campaign and the armies of Republicans seeking to advance the 1-percent agenda – is so widespread that average folk are utterly confused about how we got into the mess we’re just now getting out of.

The truth is, had Obama used his electoral capital to press for a bigger stimulus and had the Republicans in Congress not made defeating Obama their top priority (and thus throttled virtually every economic proposal he has advanced), the economy likely would be doing even better and we might have avoided decimating federal support for cops, firefighters, schools and other state and local services.

For a well-argued, balanced analysis of Romney’s assertions versus Obama’s record, check out Paul Krugman. If swing voters ever catch on, in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and other battleground states, they’ll realize what a smarm Romney really is.

Sleaze Knows No Party: Speaking of oleaginous individuals, we were delighted to see Congressman Brad Sherman get pantsed on his claim that “without my effort, we wouldn’t have that additional lane on the 405 freeway.”

In actual fact, it was the other Democrat seeking to represent the new 30th CD, Howard Berman, who was crucial to getting that additional freeway lane built. HT to BuzzFeed for exposing Sherman’s weasely lie.

BuzzFeed turned to the expert: former Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar, who was the ranking member and then chairman of the House Appropriations Committee during the period in question.

Oberstar’s verdict: It was Berman.

“Howard Berman was the driving force behind this issue,” he said. “He talked to me at least once a week and for a while I said, ‘Howard, look, we’re going to help you, but don’t be a pain in the ass.”

Sherman, less so:

“We invited members to testify on projects of importance and significance to them or their state and a number of members of the California delegation came in a group, testified together. Brad Sherman was among them,” he said. “It was one shot.”

Sherman is “right to say he supported it, and that’s fine, but the real driving force behind this project was Howard Berman,” Oberstar said. Berman “had the strategy to move ahead with it, he had the persistence and heart in the mix , and so I made the commitment of $100 million.”

“These are the facts, this is the reality, and happily the project is nearing completion,” Oberstar said.

BTW, if you haven’t caught Berman’s cable TV spot with Betty White, Wendie Malick and an adorable puppy, don’t miss it.

Cowards Finally Come Forward: And speaking of missing an opportunity, we found it maddening when Dick Blum of the UC Board of Regents, Mark Yudof of the University of California, Charlie Reed of the California State Universities and Jack Scott of the California Community Colleges finally got off their sluggish butts and came out for Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise income and sales taxes.

Seems they finally understand that unless Brown’s measure passes, further debilitating cuts will have to be made to California universities and colleges, reducing faculty, staff and resources and driving up tuitions even further. As we noted back then, these gutless characters should have been pushing Republicans in the Legislature for a few votes last year when a measure to extend taxes that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had passed could have been placed on the ballot.

Instead, they were missing in action. So it’s about time they made themselves useful.

Gandalf Disappears in a Puff of Smoke: One more missing in action item that infuriates us off: Jerry Brown once again took off out of state without telling people where he was going. Back in November, the only reason anyone figured out where Jerry and First Lady Anne Gust Brown had gone was because Calbuzz tracked them down at Rancho La Puerta near Tecate, Mexico.

Hey Jerry, you’re governor of California – not some private citizen. It’s time for the Legislature to pass a bill (and override Brown’s veto if necessary) requiring that the governor must make public his travel plans when he leaves the state – whether or not public funds are involved in his travel. (Don’t tell us his security detail didn’t go on the taxpayers’ nickel.)

Some Republicans might even vote for that one.