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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Republican Disdain, Paraphrasing Mencken, a Disputed Touchdown and that "Onion" Porn Cartoon

From last week's New York Times, here's an interesting column by Paul Krugman which makes it very clear what has happened to the Republican Party.   I know many people who are decent Republicans, some of whom are actually "employed as workers" rather than being entrepreneurs, and I know the pain they are going through when they see what has happened to their Grand Old Party.  It is sad. 

Disdain for Workers

Paul Krugman (Reprinted from New York Times, Sept. 20, 2012)

By now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton, washed his hands of almost half the country — the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes — declaring, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” By now, also, many people are aware that the great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest. 

Paul Krugman
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

But here’s the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no.

For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans. 

                          Cantor and Romney
Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day — a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yes, on a day set aside to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses. 

Lest you think that this was just a personal slip, consider Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. What did he have to say about American workers? Actually, nothing: the words “worker” or “workers” never passed his lips. This was in strong contrast to President Obama’s convention speech a week later, which put a lot of emphasis on workers — especially, of course, but not only, workers who benefited from the auto bailout. 

And when Mr. Romney waxed rhapsodic about the opportunities America offered to immigrants, he declared that they came in pursuit of “freedom to build a business.” What about those who came here not to found businesses, but simply to make an honest living? Not worth mentioning. 

Needless to say, the G.O.P.’s disdain for workers goes deeper than rhetoric. It’s deeply embedded in the party’s policy priorities. Mr. Romney’s remarks spoke to a widespread belief on the right that taxes on working Americans are, if anything, too low. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal famously described low-income workers whose wages fall below the income-tax threshold as “lucky duckies.” 

What really needs cutting, the right believes, are taxes on corporate profits, capital gains, dividends, and very high salaries — that is, taxes that fall on investors and executives, not ordinary workers. This despite the fact that people who derive their income from investments, not wages — people like, say, Willard Mitt Romney — already pay remarkably little in taxes. 

Where does this disdain for workers come from? Some of it, obviously, reflects the influence of money in politics: big-money donors, like the ones Mr. Romney was speaking to when he went off on half the nation, don’t live paycheck to paycheck. But it also reflects the extent to which the G.O.P. has been taken over by an Ayn Rand-type vision of society, in which a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all economic good, while the rest of us are just along for the ride.
In the eyes of those who share this vision, the wealthy deserve special treatment, and not just in the form of low taxes. They must also receive respect, indeed deference, at all times. That’s why even the slightest hint from the president that the rich might not be all that — that, say, some bankers may have behaved badly, or that even “job creators” depend on government-built infrastructure — elicits frantic cries that Mr. Obama is a socialist. 

Ayn Rand

Now, such sentiments aren’t new; “Atlas Shrugged” was, after all, published in 1957. In the past, however, even Republican politicians who privately shared the elite’s contempt for the masses knew enough to keep it to themselves and managed to fake some appreciation for ordinary workers. At this point, however, the party’s contempt for the working class is apparently too complete, too pervasive to hide.

The point is that what people are now calling the Boca Moment wasn’t some trivial gaffe. It was a window into the true attitudes of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect. 

H L. Mencken Quoted (almost), the Media and the Election
H.L. Mencken, a wryly satirical journalist who died in the mid-50's, once wrote that "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."  To paraphrase him and extending that viewpoint to the current political campaign, I contend that "No one ever lost an election underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Spend a little time watching Fox News, where everything is tailored to reflect poorly on the President.  The tragedy is that many Fox viewers actually believe what they see on that channel, and form the basis for the paraphrased quote shown above.


I suspect that if you tuned into Fox RIGHT NOW, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, chances are that you will find them in some manner attacking the President.  They don't even devote much time to Mitt and Paul any more, preferring to spend their time bashing the President, and lately questioning the veracity of the polls as well which currently show him to be in the lead in most battleground states. When the news is bad, they attack the messenger.

In all fairness, there are some folks who say that the same kind of bias, but in the opposite direction, infests the rest of the media, particularly citing MSNBC and to a lesser extent, CNN.  I watch those channels too, and I cannot deny that MSNBC has its own viewpoint.  Contrary to Fox News, however, MSNBC better documents what it says with facts, a commodity in short supply at Fox, and features "real" Republicans such as Joe Scarborough, rather than the weak Democratic stooges Fox occasionally presents. 

The bottom line is for all of us to try to view the news, the issues and what the candidates and their surrogates are saying with a critical and discerning eye.   The two parties offer differing approaches to solving the nation's short term and long term economic problems, and that is what the election is about.  Everything else, including foreign affairs, is secondary to that and only comes into play to fish for votes based on the paraphrased quote shown above.

But, if the Republicans win the Presidency, they probably will erect a statue of H. L. Mencken somewhere in Washington (with private donations from SuperPACs) with an inscription including his quote as shown above, perhaps not even paraphrased.
Jack Lippman


The “Onion” Makes a Point

Some of you may have heard of the “Onion.”  It’s a free periodical distributed from boxes on the streets of New York City and other major cities in this country.  Though it purports to be a news publication, it is actually a parody on news publications, filled mostly with fictitious material somewhat like what a real newspaper might put out for an “April Fool’s Day” issue.  It is really well done and many readers are gullible enough to believe its contents.  Nonetheless, the “Onion” does have a viewpoint.

On September 13, the “Onion” published a pornographic cartoon displaying Moses, Jesus, Buddha and a Hindu diety engaged in the most repulsive, disgusting, orgiastic sexual behavior imaginable.  If you use your computer’s search engines in a diligent manner, you might be able to view a copy of the cartoon, if you wish to.  I don’t recommend it.

The point of the cartoon is that nobody has threatened the lives of the artist or of the publishers of the “Onion.”  Certainly, any Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Jew who saw the cartoon had to have been mightily offended, and may have even questioned the right of the “Onion” to publish it.  But no one has declared a death sentence on anyone nor taken to the streets rioting, killing people and starting fires.

Obviously, the purpose of the cartoon was to contrast this lack of a violent reaction on the part of the world’s major religions with the reaction of the Muslim world to the recent video which was similarly insulting to Mohammed, although it wasn’t quite so graphic as was the cartoon.  The cartoon's ultimate message seemed to be that for Islam to exist in a world which it shares with those of other faiths, including those of no faith whatsoever, it must learn to react to such insults in a non-violent manner.

And if violence is still the choice of a number of Muslims, others of that faith including clergy must set and enforce standards which even those preferring violence must follow.  Only then will Islam maintain the respect and trust of those who are not Muslims.  Right now, it is losing both, and there is a limit to the amount of understanding others will exhibit toward Muslims so long as such violent reactions are part of their ethos.



Blown Call in Green Bay – Seattle Game

Some of you may have seen the horrid call on Monday Night Football where a replacement referee called a last second Seattle “Hail Mary” pass a touchdown when it was obvious to millions of viewers and the other official at the spot that the ball had been intercepted by the Packers.  (Right now, the regular officials are on strike because of the reluctance of the millionaire team owners to give them a fair contract.)  Here is a copy of an Email I sent to NFL Commissioner Goodell.  If this bothers you too, you can reach him at officeofcommissioner@nfl.com

“Unless you as commissioner reverse that call, declaring Green Bay the winner, I will never watch another NFL game on TV nor purchase a product endorsed by any NFL player. Neither will I ever again purchase a ticket to a Dolphin game in Miami which I occasionally have done.

Your refusal to do so results in the legitimacy of the NFL sinking to a level below that of the World Wrestling Federation and Extreme Fighting where the officials are jokes. Do you think football fans are as dumb as the officials you hired?  Even if you get the real officials back, that decision should still be reversed. You are responsible for the officials you hired. I will be passing this Email on to a few thousand followers of my blog in a few days.”

(Okay, so I exaggerated a little about the blog’s circulation.)

Here's a photo showing the two officials giving contrary signals, one a touchdown and the other signifying a touchback in view of the interception. The second photo is of the mess they were trying to untangle, of which a series of other photos showed  the Green Bay defender catching the ball, but the Seattle receiver merely managing to put his hand on it as well.

Seattle’s Golden Tate hawks wrestles with cornerback M.D. Jennings of the Green Bay Packers after making a catch in the end zone to defeat the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on the controversial call.



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Jack Lippman
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