Archive for October, 2012

‘Which Mitt’ Would Preside Over FEMA?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Ssshh! A moment of silence, please.  Turn down that racket from incessant campaign ads and warring TV pundits (if you didn’t already lose your cable service to a gargantuan maple tree toppled by Hurricane Sandy, as I did Monday afternoon).

You wouldn’t want to miss the sound of one hand clapping, a paradox that developed when poor Mittens had no one to play partisan patty-cake with. His good buddy from New Jersey abandoned the Tea Party games that MittWit had talked him into playing. The frivolity got too preposterous and infantile for Mitt’s BFF to stomach, so he ran off to join the grown-ups who had finally reached across the aisle to begin solving the country’s problems.

In the eerie hush of an early Halloween twilight — without lights, heat, and background noise in the millions of households without power — you could almost hear Mitt Romney fuming, all the way from Ohio, over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s treachery.


Obama & Christie emerge  as politics’ strangest ‘power couple’

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left, praised President Obama for his bipartisan collaboration with the GOP leader on disaster relief, after Hurricane Sandy devastated Christie's state. (Photo: Associated Press)

The news teemed with post-disaster anecdotes about “Sandy’s political odd couple,” Christie and his unlikely ally President Barack Obama, who worked in tandem to coordinate the relief effort and flew together in Marine One to tour parts of New Jersey devastated when the hurricane made landfall there. And just look who’s green with “envy” now, absorbing the spectacle of political polar opposites patting each other on the back, a freaking mutual admiration society!

“Seeing him with Chris Christie is tearing me apart,” satirist Andy Borowitz imagined a steamed Mittster venting. (The nerve of Mitt’s own convention keynote speaker, defecting to the enemy camp just one week before Election Day to call a truce in electoral hostilities over a freaking windstorm!)


Storm of the century sidelines Mitt from headlines

“Frankenstorm” is over, leaving a grim tally of casualties and destruction in its wake: 94 reported dead thus far, millions without power, countless families homeless, 9 out of 23 subway lines still closed in New York City, and as much as $50 billion in property damage, extra living expenses, and lost business. The president admirably rose to the challenge to oversee disaster relief endeavors by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Christie, doing likewise, even signed an executive order “rescheduling Halloween” because the streets in his state weren’t yet safe for trick-or-treaters.

Mitt Romney

Marooned in my silent living room sans Internet access, I could still easily discern from my cell phone connection that Mitt Romney didn’t have a lot to say about how he would handle disaster relief if he were in the president’s coveted shoes.

Granted, Mitt’s got several tough acts to follow. Even though Obama was bashed for reacting “prematurely” to the hurricane threat by stunningly inept Katrina-era FEMA head Michael Brown (of  “Heckuva Job, Brownie” fame), the president smoothly coordinated a truly bipartisan storm response with fellow executives like Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The GOP  contender, as New Yorker columnist John Cassidy opined, “has a FEMA problem and a Chris Christie problem.” The “unemployed” multimillionaire challenger finds himself cast in the unenviable position of odd man out in a venue tailor-made for incumbents. Obama shines by simply doing his job (and gleans a 77 percent approval rating among likely voters on his overall response to the storm). Romney, on the other hand, has no official tasks to perform and doesn’t feign empathy very well. He’s limited to phony photo ops that reveal him to be the cynical, calculating, and purely political android that he really is.

"Donations" to Mitt's fake storm relief event were actually purchases from Walmart. (Photo: BuzzFeed)

In the aftermath of the superstorm that flooded city streets, swamped the New York City subway system, and flattened homes, businesses, amusement parks, and boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, the sidelined Romney campaign staged a bogus “storm relief event” offering faux “donations” of granola bars, diapers, and canned goods purchased by staffers from an Ohio Walmart for $5,000. People who showed up for what was originally billed as a “victory rally” were encouraged to pick up Walmart merchandise and hand it to Romney in front of the cameras. When skeptical reporters began questioning him about whether he would ax FEMA, as he had suggested during a 2011 primary debate, Mitt clammed up and ignored them as if they were a bothersome swarm of gnats.

Sharron Angle, AP photo

Like Tea Party whack job Sharron Angle, who ran for Harry Reid’s Nevada Senate seat in 2010, Mitt traded his mirthless, chiseled mug for a Halloween mask just days before the 2012 election, dodging questions he didn’t want to answer by pretending the people asking them were as ephemeral as  “Invisible Obama.”


As Massachusetts governor, Mitt vetoed flood prevention bill

After watching Barack Obama “palling around” for days with Christie, Romney was finally goaded by his campaign staff to respond to the anti-FEMA rap that his own past positions had pinned on him. The craftily constructed switcheroo issued by the Romney campaign late Halloween night read as follows:

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

While insisting that Romney doesn’t intend to eliminate or defund FEMA outright, this “Mitticism” relegates the federal agency to “play(ing) a key role” in working with states and localities. Like every other vague policy proposal that the GOP’s Obfuscator-in-Chief has released to date, this statement is as flimsy and mutable as Mitt Romney’s word. He could change it tomorrow, next month, or next year.

If he wins next week’s election, what would Romney really do? His record as governor of of Massachusetts offers an ominous prologue. In 2004, after Peabody’s downtown had been repeatedly flooded by heavy spring rains, Romney vetoed a $5.7 million flood control bill. His longtime spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, claimed that Romney had asked Peabody officials for more information but “none was forthcoming” — a charge that local residents vehemently disputed.

Then-Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a flood control bill passed after the downtown district of Peabody, Massachusetts, was repeatedly 'submerged' in 2004.

Two years later, the area flooded again. “Massachusetts is sitting on millions in unspent emergency funds from Hurricane Katrina and more than $1 billion in cash reserves, yet Romney has failed to even respond to the Lowell delegation’s requests to discuss additional aid for victims,” the “conservative-leaning” Lowell Sun commented.

“When you’re dealing with a candidate as sketchy and shifty as Romney, his brief record as an elected leader is perhaps the most telling guide you have,” wrote Paul Constant in Seattle’s Slog blog. “Romney has demonstrated an inability to prepare for the future, and then an inability to face the consequences of his actions when the future arrives.”


Privatized disaster relief would put profits before victims

The day after Hurricane Sandy decimated the East Coast, The New York Times published an editorial titled, “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.” Without FEMA’s “war room,” the National Response Coordination Center, the Times argued, relief efforts for a multistate emergency would be virtually impossible to coordinate. When Romney expressed his position du jour at the September 2011 New Hampshire GOP primary debate, he went beyond saying that disaster management should be “returned to the states. … If you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Jeb Bush

Romney the “vulture capitalist” has given us no reason to doubt that he really does believe privatization of many government functions would be optimal. Privatizing disaster relief, however, would be, well — “disastrous.” If Romney wins the election, private disaster response companies (including one headed by Dubya’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) are waiting in the wings to profit from disaster victims’ misery. Stephen D. Foster Jr. of the blog Addicting Info calls this playbook “a recipe for fraud,” as for-profit response companies could hold both disaster areas and individual victims hostage until their asking price is met. Foster cites a frightening recent example:

“Remember the home in Tennessee a couple years ago that was allowed to burn down by the local for-profit firehouse because the residents failed to pay the fee? Well, you can bet that same scenario will play out across the country and on a more sickening scale.”


Christie says he doesn’t ‘give a damn’ about Election Day

Pundits have speculated about whether Christie is simply sucking up to Obama because he won’t be able to run for president as the GOP candidate in 2016 if Romney wins in 2012. Democrats, however, aren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so most are taking Christie at his word.

That word, as usual, is devastatingly blunt when you’re on the receiving end of it, as Fox flunky Steve Doocy found out after wondering aloud when Romney “was going to get some of the same benefits from the hurricane with a photo op in disaster-stricken New Jersey towns,” in the words of the blog Raw Story’s David Edwards. “[W]e hear that perhaps Mr. Romney may do some storm-related events. Is there any possibility that Gov. Romney may go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?”

Christie minced no words in his response:

“I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics and I could [sic] care less about any of that stuff. … I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power, I’ve got devastation on the shore, I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”

That nonpartisan approach could be just the ticket for an Election Day rejection of the mendacious, divisive politics embodied by the Mitt Romney wing of the Republican Party.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Storm Before the Storm

By Carrie Jacobson

With every blast of wind, every buffeting bluster, with the storm twisting the landscape, stirring up the autumn grass, with every moment of approach and every iota of intensity, my most primal being measures fight or flight, and comes more and more alive.

In New York, where we lived on the bank of a river that flooded, raging and dangerous, fear overtook me, and the only respite – after the first, terrifying, catastrophic losses – came in flight.

Here, so far, staying seems safe, with my fighting soul in full glory.

If the time comes to leave, I will know. We both will. We will recognize the overwhelming wave of fear, and get out before it crashes on our storm-swept shore. But for now, it is exciting, exhilarating, enlivening.

In storms like this, I meet my deepest self, and take the measure of my heart.


Want to see Wachapreague, VA, (our Eastern Shore town) Monday morning at high tide? Click here!

Keep Women-Hating Men from Office

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

By Jean Webster

The 2012 election could have the greatest impact on American women since Roe v. Wade in 1973. But this time the impact would be negative.

If the Romney/Ryan duo wins this election, they could pull in more Republican Congressmen on their coattails. And, I’ve heard enough from these politicians to be convinced that if they are in the White House with a majority in the Congress, the clock will be turned back decades for women.

Just as a reminder, here’s what has already happened, and what Romney’s minions have said in recent months.

This year the great State of Texas cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and other services to about half of the 130,000 low-income women enrolled in the program. The service includes cancer screenings, but not abortions. The reason? The Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning funds to any organizations that are linked to abortion providers, even though no state money goes to pay for abortions.

It does seem that Republicans cannot think about women without their insulting and inflammatory remarks. For starters, there’s Todd Akin, seeking a Senate seat in Missouri, and his “legitimate rape” quote, in which he declared that “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

That remark has now been trumped by the Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who said that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God” and what “God intended to happen.”

And how did Romney respond to Mourdock’s assertion? He doubled his endorsement of Mourdock’s campaign.

Then there’s Joe Walsh, who is running against Tammy Duckworth for a House seat in Illinois. In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs while serving with the Army in Iraq. Walsh compared her negatively to John McCain, who – he said – never used his military career in his political campaigns. On top of that, he’s accused Duckworth of not being “a true hero.” So, she’s not a hero, just a woman who has made her military service central to her campaign.

Then, Walsh said about Duckworth, “What else has she done? Female? Wounded veteran? Ehhhhh.”

“What else has she done?” “The female body has ways to shut the whole [rape] thing down?” “The child as a result of rape is a gift from God?”

The contempt for women – women like their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters – is evident in every one of these remarks.

And, it’s pretty clear that Romney and Ryan are on the same side of the fence. Ryan has been very vocal about his own opposition to abortion and Planned Parenthood. Obviously, Romney chose him for his stand on these issues. Let Ryan talk about it, so the presidential candidate stays clear of these difficult topics.

There’s more.

Earlier this year, Roy Blount, another Missouri Republican, sponsored an amendment that would allow employers to refuse to provide any insurance coverage that went against their beliefs or moral convictions.  When Romney was asked where he stood on Blount’s measure, he said, “Of course I support the Blount amendment.”

Romney later said he doesn’t believe that businesses or bureaucrats should decide whether businesses must offer coverage for women’s contraception. But, that sounds like he’d leave the decision up to business.

And, where does that leave women who need this coverage?

Out in the cold. Without insurance coverage. Without the help of Planned Parenthood.

And, if Romney had his way, without equal pay for equal work, women wouldn’t be able to afford their own coverage.

The choice is clear. Vote them out.


The Weather Story

Monday, October 29th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Like most young newspaper reporters who think they know everything, I started out believing that the weather story was a waste of time because in most cases, it would appear on newsstands and front porches about 24 hours after the event and tell readers what they already knew.

But as we have seen this week, the weather is always news. When it’s bad, it destroys homes, disrupts routine. Sometimes it kills people. Thus, good editors assign weather stories carefully, and remind their writers to avoid clichés, to keep “Mother Nature” out of it. Also, when the snow closes the schools, avoid at all costs telling about how lucky the kids are to get a snow day. It’s been done many times before.

Another angle that’s been done to death is a reporter being sent to the local Home Depot store to get those banal, one-sentence comments from people buying a snow shovel, air conditioner, tire chains, maybe a small space heater. Enough of these free ads unless the writer can find someone with a truly unusual story. Maybe the man who survived a flood on the Mississippi is now buying a sump pump, or the pregnant woman who once gave birth in a car during a heat wave and is buying an air conditioner – just to be on the safe side.

I used to write boring weather stories.

Then I got to The Record in Hackensack and worked for some very sharp editors who understood the importance of reporting the weather before and after it struck and insisted on something new, something fresh, something that that would draw the reader in and then offer essential information on surviving. The managing editor who hired me said that if you can make someone stop reading your story for a moment and say, “Oh, right, I didn’t know that,” you’ve saved the day.

At The Record, the idea was to grab the reader’s attention with something she might not have known and assume this would keep her with the story until you got to the important part. The editors insisted on this approach.

So, during a cold snap in New Jersey with 10 inches of snow I called the manager of a hotel in Dawson, Alaska to find out how they deal with snow and cold up there. “You have to move about, see people,” she said. “You have to get out to a movie, maybe take a walk, or do some drinking. People do a lot of drinking in Dawson.” I didn’t know that.

On a blistering day, I was out of ideas and asked an editor for some help. He suggested someone who stays cool. Maybe someone who works in a movie house. Maybe the ice cream man. Maybe someone who sells ice for a living, and I found a man in Garfield sitting on a 300-pound block of ice, sipping from a container of steaming coffee and reading the daily racing form. A nice way to get into a story about the heat. (I saved the ice cream man for another time.)

Once in Hackensack, a reporter was out early talking with people driving to drive to work in a fresh snow. He could have asked, “Traffic pretty slow, eh?” but instead chose to ask with nice incredulity, “What? You didn’t call in sick?” and waited for responses to this journalistic finger pointing.

The weather story is important, but another prosaic top about Jack Frost nipping at your nose could lead readers to skip it. But chances are you’d stay with a story written many years ago by H. Allen Smith of the New York World-Telegram after reading the first paragraph. It went like this:

“Snow, followed by small boys on sleds.”


Our Capacity for Abuse Appears Endless

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Boy Scouts of America logo

By Bob Gaydos

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my feelings about the Catholic Church and its continuing inability/unwillingness to come fully and honestly to terms with its scandal of priests sexually abusing young boys.

If only that were the extent of it.

Last week, lawyers in Portland, Ore., won a landmark decision which resulted in a judge granting them access to the Boy Scouts Of America’s confidential “ineligible volunteer list.” It immediately became known as the “perversion list’ and when the lawyers posted it on the Internet, more than 200,000 hits in the first few hours caused it to crash. (It’s up and running today.)

The 14,500 files, organized by state, detail decades of abuse cases — proven and alleged — dating from the organization’s founding to today, most of which never became public knowledge. For the Scouts, like the church, the preferred method of dealing with sexual predators, was to fire them, ban them from Scouting, and otherwise ignore them. Out of sight, out of mind, except for the list, which did at least serve to warn some future potential employers who bothered to check references.

And the victims? Well, criminal charges or civil suits would only hurt the image of the Scouts, wouldn’t it? How could the organization continue to berate homosexuals and forbid non-god-fearing youngsters from membership if people knew some Scout leaders were sexually abusing young boys? In many cases, police authorities were apparently complicit in cover-ups, such is the misplaced reverence with which BSA was viewed. It’s beyond appalling.

If only that were the extent of it.

Tuesday’s New York Times carried a story about a top executive at the British Broadcasting Corporation resigning over his decision to kill a story detailing decades of abuse of young girls (about 200 reportedly, aged 12 and 13) by Jimmy Savile, a popular British TV personality and disc jockey, now deceased. The furor over killing the program prompted another BBC program to do a full report on it.

Again, protecting the predators’ reputation — in addition to being a popular entertainer, Savile also was a well-known philanthropist — was deemed to be more important than protecting other potential young victims. A wink and a nod and lots of rumors were the norm, just like with the priests and Scout leaders. Like the Scouts case, the Savile case has just gotten started in Britain, so more lurid details are bound to be revealed.

If only that were the extent of it.

The same edition of the Times carried a story about Russian politicians turning suddenly anti-American after years of softening their political rhetoric. The source of the comments was an extraordinary parliamentary hearing: “On Problems in the Observation of Human Rights by the United States of America.” Apparently tired of being criticized by Americans for all sorts of abuses, Russian legislators let loose with a a volley of attacks, pointing to water-boarding of prisoners, Ku Klux Klan lynchings and, the pertinent one here, abuse of adopted Russian children.

Witnesses said such abuse is common because Americans view Russian children as inferior. A telling comment from a jury verdict in the case of a 7-year-old adopted orphan, who died of brain trauma, made the Russians’ point: “The boy was born in Russia, the boy was an orphan who was brought up in an orphanage, he had bad genetics, because, in fact, all Russian orphans are genetically underdeveloped, have an inclination to drug addiction, stealing, self-harm. It turns out the boy beat himself to death on an iron stove.”

If only that were the extent of it.

Several months ago, a German newspaper reported that “bestiality brothels” were spreading across Germany. You read that right. Apparently, posting bestiality on the Internet is illegal in Germany, but actually having sex with animals is not, including in brothels set up for just that purpose. Some referred to it as a “life style” choice. Given that the dogs and other brothel animals are not consenting partners, don’t get paid and are discarded after being defiled, one assumes their life styles were not considered. This is one of the sickest kinds of abuse imaginable, yet Germany is only now working on changing the law to make it illegal.

And no, that’s not the extent of it. Husbands beat wives. Parents shake infants. Boys torture cats. Grown men abuse dogs. Women are sold as sex slaves, or simply treated as non-entities. We used to throw people to the lions.

There are many more examples, but you get the idea and I am weary of the effort. On these specific cases, I can offer only some specific, preferable responses: Report all suspected cases of sexual abuse of children to police; eliminate the statute of limitations for such charges (the victims’ pain lasts a lifetime); file criminal charges against those who cover up such abuse; pursue charges against all cases where still possible; place concern for victims, current and potential, above any desire to protect the reputation of the abuser or his employer; do a proper screening of foreign adoptions and make the general information available publicly; pass a law making bestiality illegal for god’s sake.

Still, I am left, ultimately, feeling unsatisfied and wondering if this need to abuse other, more vulnerable, living things is part of the human condition. Is evil in our wiring? Our rearing? Can we overcome it? How? All I have now are the questions. Perhaps some day we will have the will and wisdom to search for the answers.



Citizens United: Threat to Democracy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

The threat to democracy embodied by the United States Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case extends way beyond the oft-discussed issue of campaign funding. Perhaps even more ominous is the way corporations have interpreted the decision to mean they can pressure employees to vote a certain way. After all, as Mitt Romney put it, “Corporations are people too my friend.”

As reported last week in an article in In These Times, Romney himself suggested the idea in a June 6 conference call posted on the website of the National Federation of Independent Business:  “Romney was addressing a group of self-described ‘small-business owners.’ Twenty-six minutes into the call, after making a lengthy case that President Obama’s first term has been bad for business, Romney said: ‘I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.’”

He also reassured them of the legality of doing so: “Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.” Forget the last part of that sentence.  Of course it was never illegal for business owners to try to influence the vote of their family members. But the Citizens United decision overturned previous Federal Election Commission laws that prohibited employers from political campaigning among employees. Now, as the first presidential election campaign since the Citizens United ruling enters its final days, the ramifications are clear.

The Nation magazine reported last week that CEOs for Murray Energy, Koch Industries, ASG Software, and Westgate Resorts “have pressured their employees to vote for particular political candidates, like Mitt Romney.” Further, “the phenomenon appears far more wide-ranging than previously known.” At the same time, “lobbyists in Washington are working furiously to encourage more corporations to adopt these tactics.” Lobbyists for the National Mining Association, produced a voting guide website called “Mine the Vote” for its 325-member companies, to encourage employees to vote for Romney and other candidates favored by the mine owners.

The article quotes Cleta Mitchell, described as a “prominent Republican attorney,” who maintains that Citizens United opens the door for businesses “to educate their employees, vendors and customers about candidates and officeholders whose philosophies and voting records would destroy or permanently damage America’s free enterprise system.” Mitchell’s advice was picked up by lawyers for Koch Industries, which began pressuring its employees to vote Republican in the midterm elections two years ago.

Last week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign to have employers stuff payroll envelopes with explicit campaign propaganda, according to The Nation. The first political mailer, now being distributed in Massachusetts, proclaims, “Defeat U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren.”

According to The Nation, DDC Advocacy, the company that helped develop Koch Industries’ campaign to pressure employees to vote for Romney, is led in part by Sara Fagen, former deputy of Karl Rove.  DDC Advocacy and similar firms “specialize in helping businesses activate their employees and customers into-mini lobbyists.” Current DDC clients include Boeing, Aetna, Altria, Humana, Ernst & Young, and other Fortune 500 corporations.

“The real concern here is…the inherent power dynamics between employees and their employers,” said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel with the BrennanCenterfor Justice, in a recent interview on Current TV. An official e-mail from the boss saying something like “your job could depend on who wins the race” could be interpreted as coercion or intimidation. Could be? Countless workers all over the country are being told by their bosses that their jobs will be in jeopardy if President Obama is re-elected. How much more intimidating can it get?

We may soon find out. “Corporations are people too my friend.”

Michael can be reached at


















The Lunch Plot

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

The warm and fuzzily named American Family Association sounds like the kind of outfit just about anyone would be happy to join, but it turns out that AFA is, as Tallulah Bankhead once described herself, as pure as the driven slush.

This story begins with the annual observance of the decade-old “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” the clunky title for a program designed to urge students to accept one another without regard to race, religion, disability or – horror of horrors! – sexual orientation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which originated the Mix It Up at Lunch Day as part of its Teaching Tolerance program, asks schools to encourage students to have lunch for one day – next Tuesday, Oct. 30 – with someone they’ve avoided in the past. There’s no assigning of lunch tables or lunch mates, just kids deciding to sit with someone new for a while, or deciding not to.

Somehow the Sanfordville School in the Warwick district wound up on the law center’s list of participating schools, but the principal, Roger Longfield, told the Times Herald-Record this is not the case. “We’re not participating. We already have our kids mixed up,” he said.

Instead, the Sanfordville School will be decked out in a Halloween motif.

What is the American Family Association and why does it vehemently oppose Mix It Up at Lunch Day?

To call AFA a right-wing outfit is to slander true conservatives. AFA has a lot of weird positions on a lot of issues, but its foremost concern is the bid by gay men and women to be treated as fellow citizens. The Mix It Up at Lunch Day program is, AFA claims, nothing more than part of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”

Do I exaggerate about the AFA’s benighted worldview? A man called Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s director of issue analysis, has written: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.” Get it? The holocaust was all Marlene Dietrich’s doing.

It doesn’t stop with gay people.

Fischer’s libel of African-Americans was beyond the pale and will not be repeated here. He lumped all Muslims together as security risks and said that, without exception, they should not be allowed to serve in the military. He said many Indians suffer from poverty and alcoholism because they have refused to adopt Christianity and instead “cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition.” And with no attribution, he declared that “homosexuals are rarely monogamous and have as many as 300 to 1,000 sexual partners over the course of a lifetime.”

In addition to vilifying and slandering the people it doesn’t like, the American Family Association likes to call boycotts.

It boycotted Google because of the search engine’s Legalize Love program on behalf of Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. AFA called for the avoidance of JC Penney because Penney signed Ellen DeGeneres as its public face. For similar reasons, AFA wants consumers to pass on Levi’s, Cheerios, Pepsi and any number of other products whose manufacturers dare to portray gay people as human beings. At one point Fischer and his friends even wanted us to stop buying Oreos.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that more than 1 million school children participated in Mix It Up last year. Who is going to complain about a white kid and a black kid having sandwiches together? Or a Jew and a Baptist? Or – watch out, here is comes again – a gay kid and a straight kid? Students need to understand that they will not go through life meeting and interacting only with people like themselves.

What America could use are more programs that get people together and fewer that promote hatred and double standards of citizenship.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Dawn, Tuesday

By Carrie Jacobson

Here in Wachapreague, the sun comes up in a sky as clear as any I’ve ever seen, and fills the land with colors that sing and light that shines true and clear through air with no haze, no smog, no pollution. Whatever it touches springs to life with a sort of bright glory that I’ve only ever seen in the land around Wisdom, Montana.

I can’t count the opportunities that have passed me by. The doors that have closed behind me, never to open. The roads I didn’t take, the chances I failed to see.

As life goes on, these line up behind me, a trail of failures and misses and could-have — even, maybe, should-have — beens.

And yet, it seems, the right things have happened. All that has happened has brought Peter and me here, to a place where we are happy, a place where opportunity seems as wide as the sky and as bright as Tuesday’s rising sun.

Yes, I hear the echoes of those doors slamming shut, and yes, from time to time, I feel regret. But today, I turn ahead, and walk forward, and try, forever, not to look back.

More Questions for the Candidates

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

I’m glad the president showed up for the second debate. At the first one he reminded me of a boxer approached by a mobster before a big fight and told to go in the tank or else something terrible would happen to his children.  (I’m not joking: For the first time in years I thought of the chilling book Weigh-in: The Selling of a Middleweight  [1975 ] by former middleweight contender Fraser Scott.) Most people think Obama won this one, which is fine by me.  Romney’s bully-boy tactics, which served him well in the first debate, fell flat when Candy Crowley—unlike Jim Lehrer—refused to roll over and play dead.

I like the “Town Hall” format that allows audience members to ask questions directly to the candidates. I’m not sure how they decide who gets to be in the audience and who gets to ask the questions though. Some sort of screening takes place beforehand, which makes things a lot less interesting.  I would have liked to see an audience member ask Romney why he is afraid to show more of his tax returns, for example. What doesn’t he want voters to see?  Then the president might say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

And I would have liked to see someone ask the president why on earth he is waiting until 2014 to bring the troops home from that futile and murderous war in Afghanistan? Have we learned nothing from history?

Surely someone should have asked Romney about the Sensata employees (and their families, friends, and neighbors in Freeport, Ill, now dubbed “Bainport”)  who don’t understand why Bain is closing the plant after a year of record profits and, yes,  moving production to China. Is this what you call job creation, Mr. Romney? How does this square with all your complaints about China’s “cheating” and “not playing by the rules?” Would you consider using your influence with your pals at Bain so they keep the plant in Freeport?

Mr. President, I liked your explanation about eliminating the “middle man” (private banks) so  student loans can be offered at a lower interest rate and at payoff terms more favorable to hard-pressed borrowers. Why not call for doing the same thing with health care? Eliminate the middle man (private insurance companies) and have a single payer system that comes out of the general tax fund? Healthcare costs will be lower and the onus will no longer be on employers, large and small, to provide health insurance to employees. Speaking of which, why do you let Romney get away with the spurious argument that “Obamacare” is responsible for the rising health costs that deters businesses from hiring fulltime people? This trend has been going on for all the years that healthcare costs have been skyrocketing. That’s why Walmart hires so many part-time workers; it’s a major cause of outsourcing.  You are right when you say that the cost has gone up by a smaller percentage since passage of the Affordable Care Act—but it was already too high, so  that isn’t exactly going to impel companies to start hiring again. (Don’t worry about being called a socialist: the opposition already has you pegged as a non-citizen, secret Muslim, Black militant reincarnation of Joseph Stalin anyway.)

Mr. Romney, how can you say you want to create “good paying” jobs when you and your fellow Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage? It is so low now that anyone working full time for those wages cannot support a family. Won’t raising the minimum wage help achieve your goal of reducing the the number of families who have to rely on food stamps?

I can think of many more questions for the candidates between now and Election Day. But now, dear Zest readers, it’s your turn. If you were to have an opportunity to ask a couple of questions of the candidates, what would they be?

Michael can be reached at





Romney’s Struggles (cont’d)

Monday, October 15th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

There he goes again. Mitt Romney, who never allows the truth to stand in the way of what looks like a lethal blow against an opponent, told a whopper at the Tuesday night debate. But he was caught. And I am left wondering what it is about the protocols of presidential politics that seems to require a debater to say, “Governor, that’s not true” rather than “Governor, that’s a damned lie.”

This time, the issue was Romney’s shameless – and ultimately fact-less – politicization of the attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Romney smelled blood in the water. He would nail President Obama for not responding quickly enough to the attack and specifically for failing to label the assault – in which four Americans including the ambassador to Libya were killed – an act of terrorism.

For weeks before the debate, he hinted that Obama somehow had dismissed the incident as the spontaneous actions of demonstrators enraged by the making of the 14-minute movie “The Innocence of Muslims,” which maligns the prophet Mohammed, rather than as a planned act of pure terror.

Now, the fact is that you know the truth about Obama’s behavior after the attack, I know the truth, the president certainly knows the truth, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows the truth, and anybody who was paying attention on Sept. 12 knows the truth. Maybe even Romney knows the truth, or maybe he’ll say anything, do anything, suggest anything – anything at all – to get elected.

It took too long for Obama to conclude this was an act of terror?

As it turns out, President Obama and Secretary Clinton appeared in the White House Rose Garden the day after the attack on the Libyan mission to express their sorrow to the families of the dead, their anger at the killers, their concern for American-Libyan relations, and their resolve to bring the killers to justice.

And there it was. “No acts of terror,” Obama said, “will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” Poor Mitt.

At the debate, Romney was flabbergasted when the question of what the president said and when he said it, was raised. “I think [it] interesting the president just said something, which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.”

Obama: “That’s what I said.”

Romney couldn’t believe it: “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror, it was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?”

A moment later, Romney, still confounded, said: “I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”

Obama: “Get the transcript.”

In stepped Candy Crowley, the moderator: “He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take – it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea [of] there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.”

This wasn’t good enough for Romney, or else he didn’t care about the veracity of his criticism of Obama. Or maybe it was Romney’s secret message to the American people in which he revealed his personal pathetic inadequacy. It’s Mitt Romney who has sworn that on his first day in office as president he would label the Chinese as “currency manipulators.” First day leaves little time for discussion and reasonableness.

The first debate revealed a lot about Romney. Tuesday night’s meeting confirmed it. There’s his casual relationship with the facts and the truth. There’s his constant smirk. There’s his contempt for authority, such as his interrupting the moderator to try and set his own rules of engagement. There’s his dismissal of the rules of the game. There’s his continual attempt to get the last word even when the last word is not his to get.