Archive for June, 2012

Mitt and the Truth

Monday, June 4th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

“There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.”

That was how Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson put it, as politely as he could manage in a genuine mainstream media outlet. All political campaigns exaggerate, “dissemble” (a courteous word, by all accounts), and boast, Robinson added, but voters generally tend to put up with it “as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere. Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit. ”

As early as last December, liberal blogger Greg Sargent of The Plum Line astutely noted that, while Beltway reporters were predicting that Romney’s $10,000 bet offer to Rick Perry might warrant a national media narrative, something more disturbing about the Mittster seemed more indicative of Romney’s character: the candidate’s “serial dishonesty, his willingness to say and do anything to win.”

Liberal bloggers (and even one conservative one) began to pipe up about Romney “making things up out of thin air,” imparting “highly embellished anecdotes,” blabbing “one massive lie after another,” and finally, the straight dope: “telling bald-faced lies” that “could be easily disproven by an enterprising reporter.” Jack Jodell of The Saturday Afternoon Post said Romney “thoroughly lacks moral character and is completely unstable and untrustworthy.” But Bob Cesca of The Daily Banter blog probably summed it up best when he called Romney “the most lie-based candidate for president ever.”

“The degree to which Mr. Romney lies, all the time, about all sorts of stuff, and doesn’t seem to care when he gets caught, is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign,” said Rachel Maddow. Blogger Steve Benen, who writes for The MaddowBlog, just published the 20th installment of his weekly tabulation of Romney’s whoppers, “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity,” which presented a list of 18 “big lies” that Mitt had told in the previous week alone. Benen debunked every single sham, simulation, or slander as he moved down the line.

Why does Romney lie, so frequently and easily?
He lies because he has to, says J.M. Ashby of The Daily Banter blog. “Running on the record as it stands isn’t an option.”

I’m not convinced, however. I think it’s worse than that. I sometimes speculate that Romney lies because because he CAN – although my suspicion is purely conjecture. No news outlets or pundits that the moderate swing-state electorate pays attention to are making “Mythomaniac” Mitt’s deceit a central campaign theme. “When do reporters start calling Mitt Romney a liar?” asked Paul Waldman of The American Prospect. “And I use the word ‘lie’ very purposefully,” Waldman added. “There are lots of things Romney says about Obama that are distortions, just plain ridiculous, or unfalsifiable but obviously false, as when he often climbs into Obama’s head to tell you what Obama really desires …. But there are other occasions … where Romney simply lies, plainly and obviously.”

When Newt Gingrich admitted on CBS News’ Early Show in January that he was intentionally calling Romney a liar, both Norah O’Donnell and Bob Schieffer appeared to almost swoon from shock. (I consulted the thesaurus: There’s no other word or expression used to describe someone who routinely utters falsehoods that’s quite as powerful as “liar” – unless you call them a “damned liar” or employ an even more profane moderator.) The mainstream media haven’t been holding Romney to account thus far because, in part, it’s simply not something that most reporters would feel comfortable saying on the public record or on camera about a presidential candidate. If confronted, they often temporize, saying “both sides do it,” campaigns “exaggerate” or “misspeak,” candidates are “phony” or use party talking points to represent their views.

The ‘Mitt-thology’ of Mittens meets ‘Bend Sinister’
It has also occurred to me that the reason Mitt may “make stuff up” about his business career, his political record, and even inconsequential things like his given name, is because he is perhaps compelled to. Mitt Romney is not like other politicians; his lying is compulsive, constant, and extreme – and may even be pathological. The chronic nature and frequency of the behavior are hallmarks of this mental disorder, according to Dr. Charles C. Dyke, writing in Psychiatric Times. Pathological liars usually have sound judgment about other matters, although the lies themselves often appear to be rash, risky, random, illogical, purposeless, and easily discoverable.” One surefire verbal sign of atrocious lying is stammering – which The Daily Kos pointed out after Mitt “stumble-tongued his way” into the “blunderful … word salad” he uttered last week:

“Uh, I’m actually going to, I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was. And with regards to, uh, I’ll go back and take at what was said there.”

“Mitt, you dunce, you have to remember your lies,” the article’s headline blared. “For someone with his assets, you would think he would have hired himself a better coach of effective lying,” the writer mused. The first rule, he added, is, “Don’t deviate too far from the truth when lying. Because doing so will make it hard to follow the second rule, which is: Remember your lies.”

Many pathological liars are narcissists and extreme attention seekers, and some are even capable of criminal behavior, including a prominent California judge, said Dyke. “Why such a successful individual would repeatedly tell lies that could damage his credibility and put him in trouble with the law or other administrative bodies is baffling. Was his lying behavior completely within his control, or was there something different about his pattern of lies?” The crimes committed by some pathological liars include theft, swindling, forgery, and plagiarism. “It is worth noting, however, that some pathological liars are successful professionals without any public record of crime.”

“Welcome to post-truth politics,” wrote Paul Krugman. “Why does Mr. Romney think he can get away with this kind of thing? Well, he has already gotten away with a series of equally fraudulent attacks. In fact, he has based pretty much his whole campaign around a strategy of attacking Mr. Obama for doing things that the president hasn’t done and believing things he doesn’t believe.

Greg Sargent sees a common theme to Mitt’s calumnies: falsely portraying Obama as a bogeyman who doesn’t share American values. “But won’t there be some blowback?” Krugman wondered. “Won’t Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I’m afraid he may be right.”

And why not, when the watchdog website Politifact, purportedly established to enforce truth in politics, proclaimed Democratic “claims” that Republicans voted to end Medicare its “Lie of the Year”? The deceptive voucher system for which the GOP did indeed vote would cost each retiree thousands of dollars more out of pocket each year.

I found only two comments posted under one liberal blog disparaging one of Mitt’s most dastardly prevarications. “Despicable,” wrote the first. “I’m pretty sure that by November, every American voter will know what a hollow liar he is.”

The second commenter, however, disagreed, blaming the usual suspects. “Maybe not,” she warned. “It seems like 90 percent of the supposedly ‘credible’ media is carrying water for Willard. It’s so disgraceful.”

Writer Emily Theroux worked as magazine editor for The Times Herald-Record. Illustrator Lance Theroux was assistant managing editor of The Times Herald-Record before becoming a staff editorial artist for The Record in North Jersey.

Witches Old and New

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

By Gretchen Gibbs

I recently published a historical novel, sparked by my parents’ discovery that we had direct ancestors who played an important role in the witch trials of 1692, not in Salem but in nearby Andover. The Book of Maggie Bradstreet (Glenmere Press) tells this relatively unknown story from the perspective of a 13-year old girl, who, like everyone else, believes in witches until the people she loves begin to be hauled off to jail.

“I’m glad I don’t live in those times,” several people told me after reading the book. The implication of my readers’ comments is that our own time is very different. I don’t think so.
It isn’t that hard to fathom the minds of colonists threatened by starvation, Indians, wild animals, disease, and by a world unlike the one they left in England. They believed the end of the world was at hand. What a relief to find an explanation and a scapegoat in witches!

Isn’t our own time characterized by a similar dynamic? The threats are different, but they certainly exist – terrorism, economic disaster all over the globe fueled by the Wall Street mindset, the energy crisis, nuclear bombs, and global warming, to name a few. Environmentalists warn that the actual end of the world as we know it is a possibility. We have responded to this threat in a similar way as the colonists, by looking for scapegoats. The division of the country into red and blue states, with so much fear and hate on either side, seems a part of this scapegoating.

It is easy to see the Tea Party’s hate. Gays and liberals make good witches.

The Left tends to hate Wall Street, gas guzzlers, right wing radio, and the Tea Party. Since September 11, 2001, as a country we are united in our hatred of Islamists, even though we might deny it. The other day, I got a thinly veiled anti-Muslim tract on email, one of those messages we are instructed to forward to 20 others. It was based on the premise that the United Kingdom no longer covers the Holocaust in classrooms because of fear of offending Muslims. The sender was a good liberal who didn’t check her facts. I think she believed it because she fears terrorism, as we all do. Kind of like a colonist thinking that his headaches were caused by the scary woman who cursed and never went to church. Who knows what bad people might do.

And the response can be violent. The other day I was watching the news with a friend. When the program aired a report on Iran’s nuclear development, my friend bellowed, “Bomb them into the Stone Age.” He was hurt and said he was only joking when I accused him of being prejudiced against Islam.

Our country has always been prone to hysteria against outside groups. The McCarthy hearings in the Fifties weren’t called witch hunts for nothing. People who are different are perceived as threatening. And of course, in some way or another, we’re all different, and any of us can be scapegoated. The study of witchcraft in the colonial era is instructive as to how far this hysteria can go before people recognize the amount of damage it is causing, and begin to change their ways.

gretchen@zestoforange.com

Orange County Staycations — Try One!

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

The Bear Mountain Inn.

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Instead of making pricey travel plans this year that damage the environment as well as your bank account, take a local vacation, or “staycation.” This is a chance to rediscover the beauty of the Wallkill Valley, and the rest of Orange County by taking the time to visit cultural attractions and natural places that you may be too busy to see in your daily routine. The month of June is Orange County Month according to the O.C. Tourism Office.

A staycation does not mean staying home and doing yard work, or addressing the list of jobs you’ve been putting off for the past year. “Instead,” suggests Pauline Frommer of Frommer’s Travel Guides, “become a tourist in your own hometown.” Plan to see tourist attractions and historic sites, take an art class, learn to swim, or enjoy a number of small adventures you always wanted to do if you’d had the time.

A fringe benefit of staycations is that you develop a deeper connection to your community and hometown. People feel more connected to a place when they experience its history and natural beauty firsthand. Try to see something different each day; a different spectacular view, a different museum, a new restaurant. At the same time, you benefit your community by pumping vacation money into the local economy.

Some staycationers even go camping locally to get away from the daily routine. If you are addicted to technology, and can’t imagine a day without email or internet, consider leaving the house and staycationing in a nearby campground or bed and breakfast. You’ll still save gas money and travel expenses, but you’ll feel refreshed after being away from the computer for a few days.

Here are a few tips for staycationing in Orange County:

–Explore the rail trail from Walden to Wallkill, or offroad from Wallkill to Gardiner/New Paltz. Or try Goshen’s Heritage Trail all the way to Monroe for a 20-mile bicycle ride. Find other rail trails at www.railtrails.org.

–Check out the new Orange County Tourism Guide for local motorcycle rides, as well as for art gallery and museum listings. www.OrangeTourism.org.

–Spend a Saturday touring farms and farm markets in your region to find out what is grown locally, and get a fresh delicious taste of the local flavors. There’s plenty of useful information at www.meetmeinmarlborough.com and www.localharvest.org.

–Pick an Orange County town and spend the day walking through it, antiquing, eating in local restaurants, and getting a real sense of the history and culture of the place. Try West Point, Pine Bush, or Warwick for quaint walkable downtowns with plenty to see.

–Take an art, music, or acting class. Wallkill River School offers outdoor painting classes on Orange County farms, historic sites and open spaces. Most of these are places off the beaten track and give you a sense of local color and flavor. www.WallkillRiverSchool.com.

–Orange County has more park land than any surrounding county. Take the family to a new park each weekend. Some particularly beautiful and family friendly parks are Bear Mountain, with an indigenous zoo, historic hiking/birding trails, and Perkins Point, a Mecca for motorcyclists, and Silver Mine Park in Harriman with a rich history, and a beautiful lake.

–Don’t forget Orange County’s historic museums like Hill-Hold in Campbell Hall, and Museum Village in Monroe, where you can get a glimpse of colonial life live, and in real time.

–Orange County has several campgrounds nestled in scenic places like Winding Hills Park in Montgomery, and Black Bear Campground in Florida.

–If camping is out, try a local bed and breakfast like Borland House or Buck’s Homestead in Montgomery. Both are historic homes within walking distance of farms, quaint downtown shopping and antiquing. Plus, you feel pampered and have no dishes to wash.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery.

Double Edged Letter from Ed Diana

Friday, June 1st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

I got a letter from Orange County Executive Edward Diana a couple of days ago. Well, actually, it was addressed to “Postal Customer,” which was okay because I don’t expect the personal touch from politicians.

There were two parts to Diana’s cleverly constructed letter.

The first was a reminder that the county government center in Goshen remains closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. It went on to inform me of the addresses of the temporary headquarters of various government agencies.

I think Diana’s real purpose was to remind me that he has been crusading to build a new government center, but that nasty ol’ Orange County Legislature rejected it.

The fact is that the relocation of county services would inconvenience me only if I had to do business, say, with the district attorney at 40 Matthews St., apply for a pistol permit at 4 Glenmere Cove Rd., observe the Legislature at 15 Matthews St., and visit the Emergency Services Center at 22 Wells Farm Rd.

But I’m not a criminal, I don’t wish to pack a gun, I have no burning need to visit the Legislature, and I’m not having an emergency. The only agency at the government center I ever have to deal with is the Department of Motor Vehicles, and I can usually do it by mail, or by visiting a DMV office in Middletown, Port Jervis or Newburgh.

Diana’s letter was an obvious attempt to remind people that services right now are not consolidated and thus inconvenient. But what it reminded me of was a letter I sent to the editor of The Times Herald-Record noting that Diana seemed happy to spend $75 million to build a new county office building even though one estimate for rehabbing the existing structure is $67.2 million. Just an estimate but do the math: Fix the old place and Diana could save nearly $8 million.

Elsewhere, the rehabilitation of the library at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth – a building similar to the government center – cost $43 million. Assume for a moment that the Goshen job would cost the same, and you have a savings of $32 million. But Diana declined to speak with the UMass architects because they had already discussed the undertaking with people in Orange County.

Now, while Diana seems free with tax dollars when it comes to a county office complex, he’s the picture of frugality when it comes to the future of the county’s Valley View Nursing Home. He asserts that 19 percent of all property tax revenues now go to support Valley View and that he projects this will climb to 30 percent by 2015.

I don’t know how good his numbers are, but if his math is as questionable as his prose, I have a problem with his Valley View arguments.

Read this one meaty paragraph from Diana’s letter: “More than 80 percent of the nursing home patients in Orange County already reside in private or not-for-profit facilities – institutions that are able to provide quality care for less because they are not required to operate under the stringent work, overtime rules and benefit packages imposed on public facilities. On average, the wage and benefit packages imposed on public facilities are 42 percent higher than privately owned nursing homes.”

That is crafty writing, but:

–The 80 percent figure is irrelevant. It doesn’t alter the fact that a large number of people in Orange County may not be able to afford a private facility.

–Diana’s contention that private facilities can “provide quality care for less” omits proof and conveniently fails to discuss whether those nursing home fees are lower as well.

–His description of wage and benefit packages having been “imposed” on public facilities is crass, especially when he uses the thunderous verb “imposed” in two consecutive sentences. An “imposed” benefit sounds like it was obtained by brute force. But benefits are obtained through negotiation. The workers were seated at one side of a bargaining table.

–Facing them were county officials negotiating in good faith and without guns pointed at their heads. In other words, the benefits enjoyed by Valley View workers were not grabbed but agreed to by both sides.

jeffrey@zestoforange.com