Sunday, September 30, 2012

Seahawks' season shouldn't be squandered just to please Wilson partisans



While one Mike Salk on the local ESPN affiliate continues to make an embarrassing buffoon of himself by groveling at the feet of one Russell Wilson, one Seahawk player gave this evaluation of the Seahawk offense following the 19-13 defeat at the hands of the Rams:  “It sucks.” This was wide receiver Sidney Rice after the game, as an aside after being asked how Wilson failed to see him running wide open late in the game with no defender within telescope distance of him, although he tried to sugarcoat it with a lame excuse for Wilson. The postgame show, of course, was nothing but excuses for Wilson; these were the same people who, after all, were deaf and dumb to the national fury that was occurring outside their studio following the Seahawks’ discreditable “victory” over Green Bay last week.

The problem is that people who actually dissected Wilson’s play even during preseason could see this coming. In the fourth game against Oakland that Wilson fanatics said “didn’t mean anything”—mainly because Matt Flynn led two impressive touchdown drives without the three-straight incompletion hiccups—Wilson had a mediocre performance; one commentator on Bleacher Report noted that one problem that was less obvious in Wilson’s previous games, but which might have consequences in the future, was that he often threw the ball high, probably to compensate for his lack of height. Unfortunately for Wilson, he didn’t have scrub officials making poor calls to mask such issues—or nullify his intercepted passes, this time. You know what happens when you throw a ball too high? It gets tipped in the air and intercepted (of course, that could happen when it is thrown too low at the line of scrimmage). You know what happens when a receiver has to contort his body to angle for a poorly thrown pass? He falls down and the pass gets intercepted. 

Wilson’s lack of height also seems to factor into his repeated failure to step into the pocket, instead running around to try to find that elusive “vision.” Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports commented that “The thing that happens as soon as Wilson gets pressured is that his eye level changes and he can't find receivers downfield. He basically becomes a runner almost immediately.” And yet all you heard in the postgame show with Dori Monson and company was excuses, excuses, more excuses. This guy can do no wrong—it is everyone else’s fault. And yet we were told that Wilson’s “big hands,” his “strong arm,” his “elusiveness,” his “leadership” and countless other superlatives could compensate for every encountered problem. 

Here are some passing and rushing statistics for you:

40-63 539 yards 5 TDs 1 Int.
10 carries 150 yards 15.0 avg.

And these:

60-100 594 yards 4 TDs 4 Int.
22 carries 80 yards 3.6 avg.

The first group of numbers are the preseason stats that “justified” Wilson being named starter. The second set of numbers is Wilson’s regular season numbers through Week Four. Were Wilson’s preseason stats an accurate predictor of his regular season performance? Obviously not. You want to know a funny thing? I will tell you: Hard as it is to believe, Wilson actually makes Tarvaris Jackson look good in comparison. If we be honest, T-Jack did at least put-up numbers that resemble (but not well) that of a typical NFL quarterback. The question is if Wilson will actually be as “good” as T-Jack, and even if he becomes at least marginally better than T-Jack, is that good enough? 

Of course, the wild card in all of this is the dreaded “F-word.” After the game, I commented to one guy who is a serious football aficionado that the Seahawks needed to put Flynn in there and see what he can do, and he had no reservations in agreeing with me. Unfortunately, for all of these “fans” on the local sports radio shows who masquerade as “serious” analysts, Flynn is a dirty word that you are not supposed to enunciate. The “unfortunate” fact is that there is a solution to the Seahawks offensive incompetence, and he is unfortunately unnamable and hidden away on the bench to satisfy the personal politics of too many propagandists. Coach Pete Carroll, meanwhile, keeps preaching “competition.” That shouldn’t stop just because the season is on the line. Unfortunately, he remains moonstruck over Wilson, if the following post-game comment means anything: ''I still think he (Wilson) is improving and getting more comfortable and all that. We'll see what it all means. I don't know yet.'' Of course, offense isn't Carroll's specialty--not that it is under particularly competent care now:  The only time one of Darrell Bevell's charges finished above ranking in the mid-twenties in total offense was the 2009 Vikings--and we know who was really running the offense that year.

There is another factoid that is interesting to make note of: Since 1976, when the Seahawks entered the league as an expansion team, they have never, ever, drafted a quarterback who was successful in the NFL. I don’t see that changing this time, either. Of the team’s most competent quarterbacks, Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg were undrafted free agents, while Matt Hasselbeck was, like Flynn, acquired via Green Bay.  Here is the infamous roll call of the Seahawks’ sorry record of drafting quarterbacks:

1976 Steve Myer, New Mexico, 4th round. NFL stats: 83-160 851 yards 6 TD 14 Int.

1977 Sam Adkins, Wichita State, 10th round. NFL stats: 17-39 232 2 TD 4 Int. (none as a rookie)

1985 John Conner, Arizona, 10th round. No stats

1986 David Norrie, UCLA, 11th round. NFL stats: one pass attempt

1987 Sammy Garza, Texas-El Paso, 8th round. NFL stats: 47-106 605 yards 1 TD 2 Int.

1990 John Gromos, Vanderbilt, 12th round. No stats

1991 Dan McGwire, San Diego State, 1st round. NFL stats: 74-148 745 yards 2 TD 6 Int. (Don’t feel bad; the Raiders picked Todd Marinovich over Brett Favre, too)

1993 Rick Mirer, Notre Dame, 1st round, second overall pick. NFL stats: 1088-2043 11,969 yards 50 TD 76 Int. 

1999 Brock Huard, Washington, 3rd round. NFL stats: 60-107 689 yards 4 TD 2 Int. 

2001 Josh Booty, LSU, 6th round.  No stats

2002 Jeff Kelly, Southern Miss., 7th round. No stats

2003 Seneca Wallace, Iowa State, 4th round. NFL stats:  452-764 4804 yards 31 TD 18 Int.  Wallace may be best known for “The Run” against Texas Tech. Playing for Iowa State,  he took a snap at the 12-yard line and ran all the way back to the 32-yard line to evade two rushers, and ran down the right sideline to the ten, and then cut across clear to the other side of the field and ran to the corner to score. His numbers with Iowa State reminds one of Wilson’s at NC State. Wallace is also only 5-11. People also talked about Wallace’s athleticism and “intangibles” when he was with Seattle, but with Hasselbeck already the established starter, there was less hype than with Wilson. Draw your own conclusions.

2005 David Greene, Georgia, 3rd round.  No stats

2009 Mike Teel, Rutgers, 6th round. No stats

2012 Russell Wilson, Wisconsin/NC State, 3rd round. I’m not waiting with baited breath on this one.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The "ethnicity" of race



For several years I patronized an Asian food restaurant/convenience store twice a week long after my taste buds would have grown weary of it. It was a little pricy for my budget, but I kept going because the wife half of the Japanese proprietary duo there was pleasant to me, and I felt remorseful about not returning the consideration; so I had to make a special effort to insure that I had enough funds each week to cover the cost of this indulgence. Then last week on a day I set aside to make this rendezvous, I purchased a diet Coke at work, which I only took only a few sips of, and decided to save myself a little money when I went to the restaurant. I made my comestible purchase without the usual ice tea I usually added to the bill (because it was cheaper than the bottled water). At some point in the course of eating my supper, the husband half of the  proprietorship approached me and pointed at the Coke bottle and told me in broken English that he hadn’t rung it up at the cash register. I didn’t quite catch his drift at first, but then it dawned on me: After all these years of being a steadfast customer, I was being accused, in a “subtle” way, of being a thief. Dumbfounded by this accusation, I tried to make clear that I didn’t get it from the sto re; because of the translation gap, by the time he understood my point, I was near to simply walking out right then and there. When I did eventually leave it occurred to me “What kind of person did they really think I was? That they saw my ‘ethnicity’ as evidence of a person who had natural criminal predilections just waiting for the right moment to exploit their hospitality?” I couldn’t know for certain, but I couldn’t look at them the say way again as they apparently always looked at me. At any rate, I was sufficiently affronted that it was the justification I needed to weight my wallet by a fewer extra dollars. 

Which brings me to the question of what is the measure of man. I know, of course, what is being reacted to are physical traits that society places certain values and stereotypes. The India-born Dinesh D’Souza—whose so-called documentary “Obama’s America” (based on his book “Roots of Obama’s Rage”) is nothing more or less than a dull,  overlong Republican campaign advertisement (which besides repeating the usual right-wing “socialist” propaganda predicts that the U.S. will become the “United States of Islam” if Obama is re-elected)—justifies it as “rational discrimination.” Thus when I recently encountered a headline in the local newspaper to the affect that “Latinos may get own race category on census form” in 2020, I thought that here at least was an acknowledgement that people do make inferences based on superficial factors, even if many Latinos in this country continue to live in a racial fantasy world that Anglos don’t recognize. According to the story, "Latino” and “Hispanic” will be “government-defined races,” rather than be counted as an ethnicity. Which of course makes some sense, I suppose, since even if they won’t admit it, most “Latinos” in this country are of mixed white and indigenous race—and look it. 

However, Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull, who is black, is perhaps reflecting on her own discomfort and confusion about who qualifies to be victims of racial discrimination when she herself opinies that “Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race, which means although those in the population share a common language, culture and heritage, they can be of any race.” The problem is that while there might be common ground in regard to language, Latin American countries have as much separate identities and interests as, say, the U.S., the UK, Canada and Australia—all of which could be classified as having an “ethnic” culture in, say, France or Germany, and vice versa. Like these countries, Latin America also racial issues, even if they choose to call them something else. As in this country, people are defined by race, and it only requires a visible trace of it. You don’t hate Latinos because they are “white”—you hate because of what makes a majority of them “brown.” And “brown” denotes race, not ethnicity.

Some people who use the term “Hispanic” prefer that it applies to people whose descendants originated from Spain or Portugal, while using “Latino” to describe mixed-race persons residing in the U.S. who can trace at least in part their origins from intermixture between Spanish (or other Europeans) and indigenous peoples—a notion that the sex-deprived Spanish conquistadors were much less aghast at than the English. Of course, other than the fact that another minority groups wish to have a “lock” on racial victimization, many—perhaps most—Latinos who are of some degree of brown complexion loath to accept the reality of the usual origin of the skin tone. Indigenous peoples are closely “related” to certain Asiatic peoples, and again that is not an “ethnicity,” but a race. Yet you frequently hear people say that discrimination or hate crimes against Latinos does not constitute “racism,” because they are an “ethnicity.” But the reality is that what people react negatively in a visceral way is the “racial” element they see.

Many black Americans who are educated and do not identify with the prevailing “black” culture consider themselves more “white” than black. But they are still black and viewed as such by white Americans; their “loyalty” to white cultural hegemony is always questioned if not in doubt. So too is it for Latinos who are mixed race who feel culturally white, and indeed many (perhaps most) are. Yet it hardly matters what they “think.” Because of their physical differences, we are told that Latinos must have their own “culture” distinct from white (or black—or Asian, for that matter), and it is of an implicitly inferior variety.

But there is far more complexity beyond the simplistic generalities that most Americans maintain.  As I noted in my previous post, nearly all Latin American countries are socially subdivided by class—and class is usually defined by race. I’ve never been anywhere south of the border, so I don’t have any first hand knowledge of life in Latin America, although you can sometimes tell how Latinos sometimes attempt to separate themselves in subtle ways from others that white Americans would generally lump them in the same “group” with. Since I alluded to Chile’s social structure recently, I decided to do a search for how people residing in that country view race. There was a person who called herself “Clare in Chile” who provided this "imaginary" conversation one might have on the streets of Chile:

Chilean person: There are real race issues in the states.
Me: Yes, there are huge problems. But I think race is a problem here.
Chilean: No, we don’t have race issues here. We do have issues with class.
Me: What do you mean.
Chilean: Well, people of lower class are really looked down upon.
Me: How can you tell who these people are?
Chilean: You just can.
Me: (finding a darker skinned Chilean in the crowd) What about that person… over there… what class are they?
Chilean: They are lower class.

Thus “race” and “class” are interchangeable concepts in this context. In the U.S., how one dresses, their level of education, their job and their celebrity have a place in establishing one’s “class,” but one’s race is always the “predictor” in what “class” of society you are placed in—just as D’Souza’s India is separated into “castes” and the vast majority of people are forced to  live in poverty because of it.

A man who called himself Gonzalo said:       

Yes, we have had racial issues in Chile for decades. You know, this country was made of inmigrants from Spain, Germany, Italy, and most Europe, many of whom gradually mixed up with the local indigenous population.

European’s education and skills soon let them take over the trade, mining, agriculture and other strategic business in Chile, leaving the less educated indigenous population bound to low-skilled jobs and poor education, cutting down their chances to overcome their situation.

There are 3 Chiles, one made mostly of inmigrant descendants, well educated and generally getting better jobs. You can tell them in the street by their aspect: taller, well dressed and white skinned (looking much like Mediterranean Europeans), though there are also many Asian descendants -mostly Jewish, Middle and Far East, holding a big share of the local economy.

The second Chile is made of a huge mid-class, racially mixed population. You can tell them out because they aren’t exactly white, but they don’t meet the Latino stereotype either. Most of them are office clerks, professionals and technicians who make just enough money for a decent living.

The last Chile is made of strong indigenous blood, They can’t afford enough education so they have remained near the poverty line for decades. You can tell them easily for their look, short stature, slang and well-defined cultural values. They show a notorious class-consciousness and discrimination to other classes, as autodefence against a social regime imposed on them by the huinca (spelled “ween-kah”, meaning white or Spaniard in Mapuche)

A Dr. John Cobin wrote:

Chileans are not racists, except perhaps toward violent, conniving, land-stealing, and treacherous Mapuche Indians in the south central part of the country (stay away from Temuco), and toward slimy Peruvians, who “work twice as long for half as much.” Of course my adjectives are applied to give readers a sense for how Chileans feel.

There are no black people in Chile to speak of, and there are hardly any Mexicans (at least none of the sort that many Americans hate). There are a few people from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, etc. who are all collectively called “Chinos” and are not despised, even though the Chileans often use the expression “he works like a Chinaman” (trabaja como chino/a) to describe people who work too hard. Neither blacks nor orientals are hated in Chile. People from other Latin countries besides the upper classes of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil tend to be looked down upon. Bolivians and Peruvians are probably the most derided. There are some Arabs around, mostly from Palestine, and just a few people from India or Pakistan. Chileans like gringos (i.e., Americans, Canadians, and Europeans) in general.

Chilean populations come from a variety of backgrounds, especially in Punta Arenas (on the Strait of Magellan near Cape Horn) where one can find Portugese, Spanish, British, Italian, French, Italian, Croatian, Russian, and several other ethnic influences. In Santiago, there are significant populations of these groups, along with Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans, plus a host of Jews, Palestinian Catholics, Eastern (Antiochian) Orthodox, Russian (Georgian) groups like the Molokans, and even a few Muslims.

Spain’s influence is felt and seen in almost all parts of Chile. The British left a significant influence in Valpara√≠so, Antofagasta, Iquique, Punta Arenas, and Santiago. French and Italians had some influence in Santiago. German immigrants (who often intermarried with Spaniards) had considerable influence in Valdivia, Osorno, and smaller areas of south central Chile like Panguipulli, Lanco, Rio Bueno, La Union, San Jose de Mariquina and Fresia. The Germans also had the most important influence all around Lake Llanquihue (Puerto Octay, Frutillar, Lllanquihue, and Puerto Varas) due to a major colonization effort in the 1860s-1880s which was sponsored by the Chilean government. One can still hear (old) German spoken in restaurants on occasion.  Hitler was very popular during most of World War II in south central Chile, albeit much less so in Santiago. Relatively few Germans came after that war.

The Spaniards wiped out most of the Indian populations in the South, leaving a remnant of Inca descendants in the North. What was left of the Indians did eventually get mixed with European blood, creating a class of “Morenos” or “Mestidzos.” The upper classes have resisted intermarrying with Indians, or anyone with Indian blood, up to the present day. European intermarriage is favored, including Caucasians from America or Canada. But the other classes continue to intermarry with the darker-skinned Mestidzo people.

It is perhaps not surprising in a climate like this that indigenous and mixed-race people decided to go elsewhere to find some form of human dignity—not, of course, that they have much of that here if you listen to politicians, xenophobes—and racists.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breaking down Romney's "secret" fundraiser talk



From a certain perspective, the Republicans could not have put forth a more “favorable” tandem on their presidential ticket. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan serve as perfect bookends for the Republican agenda: Complete servility to the “needs” of corporations and the wealthy “elite” on one end, and Tea Party extremism on the other end. What that agenda is has usually been designed to excite the paranoia of people away from the party’s “big picture.” Some of us have known what that has been for decades, but unless someone from the “inside” actually says it out loud, it is just “partisan attacks.”

Then once in a while, evidence appears that Romney doesn’t need “enemies” to expose himself as the very embodiment of government of and for corporate despots interested only in how best to continue lining their own pockets; he has had the arrogant audacity to do so all by himself—not that his supporters at his various campaign stops would know or understand this: It turns one’s blood cold to see scenes of that remind one of the Nuremberg rallies of the 1930s, the chants of “USA” having the same ferocity of nationalistic and racial madness as “Sieg Heil.” Many people have heard of Romney’s videotaped comments about the “47 percent” during a “secret” fundraiser earlier this year with his fellow corporate despots, indicating once again as one born with a silver spoon planted firmly down his throat, he has not the slightest understanding of the problems facing most Americans. 

One must remember Romney was born into wealth, and made his wealth not by hard work or creating consumer products, but by borrowing millions—much of it from disreputable sources—and investing it to make money as easy and with as little effort as possible. It was of no concern to him if this meant laying-off workers or shipping jobs overseas. If anyone is a “parasite” in this country, it is the likes of Romney who have siphoned-off trillions of this country’s wealth to create their own personal paradise, and to hell with many millions of hard-working Americans barely scraping by what Romney’s social set see fit to compensate them. Who would he and his friends call “parasites?” In the state of Washington, it would be low-income workers barely making ends meet week-to-week, while their employers are making record profits and squirreling it away. It is the lowest-income people who pay 17 percent of their pay in various state taxes, barely leaving enough to live on, while the wealthiest residents pay less than 3 percent of their income in state taxes. If those like Romney are only paying 14 percent in federal taxes, then the poor in this state are paying the same percentage of  their income in taxes—and of course having rather considerably less left over to live on. Being a single male with no dependents making less than $24,000 a year, I still pay 10 percent of my income in federal income tax after the standard deduction, thus my total tax levy as a percentage of income is higher than most of these millionaires and billionaires (like Romney). 

But there was so much more to Romney’s secret get-together that gives one pause. These people he was speaking to understand only two things: Power and money. They never at any time betrayed any understanding or concern about the problems of average Americans. They didn’t discuss their own culpability in this country’s economic problems. They didn’t discuss shipping jobs overseas. They didn’t talk about paying everyday working people a living wage. They didn’t talk about keeping jobs in America—like the way Bain is closing a technology plant in Freeport, Il and exporting almost two hundred jobs to China this year (when a person asked Romney about stopping the plant closure at a recent campaign rally, he was drowned-out with chants of “USA! USA!”). They only talked about themselves and how to con working people into voting for their own interests—even as they sit on trillions of dollars of ill-gotten profits. 

Interestingly, one of Romney’s first remarks was a crack about Latinos. Noting that his father was born in Mexico (there was a question of his eligibility to run for president because of this fact in 1968, something the “birthers” have failed to take note of), Romney bizarrely suggested that this might give him an “edge” with Latino voters, but in backhanded fashion. “I'd have a better shot at winning this, but he (his father) was unfortunately born of Americans living in Mexico…and, uh, I mean I say that jokingly, but it'd be helpful if they'd been Latino.” What is he talking about? The belief of many whites that minorities in this country actually have an “advantage” in this society? You mean with unemployment rates 2 to 3 times that of white Americans? Why would white America vote for a Latino after creating an atmosphere of hate against them over these years? 

Later on, Romney less “amusingly” derides their humanity and paints a prejudicial, racist, stereotypical brush over them while in another backhanded fashion offering a negative critique of the capacity of native-born Americans. “Gosh, I'd love to bring in more legal immigrants that have skill and [unintelligible]. I'd like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, ‘Come to America, we want you here.’” What is Romney saying? Is this a measure of his elitist mentality, with utter contempt for the people who actually do the “grunge” work to keep this country moving? We don’t need every ivory tower type in the world to come here and lord over us with disdain; what we need are people who actually create products and technologies, and the people to actually work in the factories to make them—not people who treat the economy like a gambling casino, like Romney.  Romney, of course, has never had any use for American workers, especially if they got in way of his wealth accumulation. 

Romney went on “Instead, we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life. (audience laughs).” Romney—and many others, like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg—fail to note that only 10,000 of the 1 million H-1B visas awarded each year go to those “no skill” immigrant workers, and if the U.S. needs to import so many more high-skilled workers is an indictment of this country’s own education system. Just this past Sunday, the Seattle Times noted that only 12 percent of high school graduates in this state will achieve four-year degrees, near the bottom of the country in that statistic; yet the state is near the top in the number of college-educated adults. Why is this? Because paying for higher education is not a priority for the state legislature, or voters in general; they’d rather see costs go out-of-reach for American students. Some would rather complain about the relative handful of under-represented minorities in colleges and ignore the ever increasing percentage of foreign students—who colleges welcome with outstretched arms because of the high tuition they pay. Why do these students come here? Partly because of the reputation of U.S. schools, but in general because their own countries do not have sufficient higher education capacity. That is the irony: The U.S. has many native student population prevented from entering four-year colleges, yet the surplus population overseas (especially from China and Indi is welcomed—along with their money—with open arms, regardless of their qualifications.

It should also be noted that most economists recognize the fact that the economy grows not from giving green cards to Ph. Ds, but when there are enough young workers (at least those willing to do the work that is available) who in turn are consumers and pay taxes. Europe and Japan, with their low birth rates and older populations, will have to learn this lesson the hard way in the not too distant future. It is thus a mistake to base immigration policy solely on an elitist and racist idea of so-called “merit.” The fact is that most European immigrants who came to this country during the great waves in the 1800s and early 1900s had “no skills” when they came here, but the robber barons could not get rich without them. But more to the point is the fact that “no skill” immigrants are not the reason why this country is not “competitive”—in fact quite the contrary, since their labor keeps prices competitive with foreign imports. They are not taking high wage jobs, nor are they preventing 200+ million white people in this country from getting the education required not to need all these foreign-born Ph.Ds.

Romney went on to say that he and his wife “earned” their money the “old-fashioned way.” What is the “old-fashioned way,” anyways? When normal people think “old-fashioned,” it usually implies building things products with your own ingenuity and hard work, not borrowing money and playing the financial casino game. That’s the lazy man’s way to wealth, and he doesn’t care who loses, especially common laborers. In other words, it is the Romney way. Following it only leads to trouble.

One of the audience members then asked Romney “The debates are gonna be coming, and I hope at the right moment you can turn to President Obama, look at the American people, and say, ‘If you vote to reelect President Obama, you're voting to bankrupt the United States.’ I hope you keep that in your quiver because that's what gonna happen. And I think it's going to be very effective. Just wanted to give you that.” Of course, the counter punch to that is Obama turning to Romney and telling him that he what proposes to do is return this country to the policies that actually did the bankrupting in the first place. This country did, after all, have a balanced budget and sound economy before the Republicans took control of all three branches of government. Romney’s friends can’t seem to inquire as to why that was.

Romney went on to suggest that Democratic voters don’t understand the national debt issue, while Republican voters do. What was it that Dick Cheney once said? That deficits don’t matter? This is how he justified the ballooning budget deficits during the Reagan and Bush II administrations. It is an odd dichotomy: Republican voters allegedly care about deficits—but not when their own party is responsible for them. Republicans only use the debt issue as a rationalization for their social agenda. That’s why they talk so much about “income redistribution” and “class warfare.” Romney talked about convincing the 5 to 10 percent swing voters to see the issues this way. But this isn’t about the middle class; it is about the richest and the poorest Americans. 

Romney went on to talk about the “unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, the amount of debt plus unfunded liabilities per household in America is $520,000.” Romney obviously didn’t come-up with this number by himself, but the fact is that measures could be easily found to at least ease the pressure, if there was the will to do so. For example, the tax liability is cut-off at around $105,000 in income. We can presume that people who earn more than that do not require Social Security because they have more generous retirement benefits, but we can also say people who benefited in an inordinate fashion should have the public good at heart, which benefits the peace of society in general. Thus the raising the level of income subject to the tax should be done. Medicare and Medicaid taxes can also be raised, and from paycheck to paycheck, it will barely be noticed.  The right is currently playing the double-game on the issue: Their preference is to bury these programs, yet they want to con older voters into blaming Democrats for the potential insolvency.

Romney went on “If we don't change Medicare or Social Security, the tax rate—you know what the payroll tax is now, it's 15.3 percent—if we don't change those programs, that tax rate will have to ultimately rise to 44 percent. The payroll tax. Then there's the income tax on top, which the president wants to take to 40 percent. Then there's state tax in most states. And sales tax. So you end up having to take 100 percent of people's income.” People might be surprised to know that the tax rate is currently only 15.3 percent, especially the top marginal tax rate is 35 percent. It just goes to show how much Romney’s “class” is skirting its tax responsibilities now. Note also that he calls for “changing” Medicare and Social Security. Now, that is something seniors should be concerned about. He isn’t talking about “saving” Medicare or Social Security; he is talking about changing what they are and what they do. We have already heard from his running mate, Paul Ryan the idea of establishing “private” accounts—but that is asking us to trust the same people who were responsible for the financial melt-down of 2007-2008. 

Romney also demonstrated little of the subtlety required for effective foreign policy. From the sound of it, he wants to repeat the thuggery of the Bush administration:

Rich Guy: “I think that had to do with the fact that the Iranians perceived Reagan would do something to really get them out. In other words [unintelligible]…and that's why I'm suggesting that something that you say over the next few months gets the Iranians to understand that their pursuit of the bomb is something that you would predict and I think that's something that could possibly resonate very well with American Republican voters.”

Romney: “I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace. And that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now, why do I say that? Some might say well just let the Palestinians have the West Bank and have security and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. And I don't have a map here to look at the geography. But the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel. The center of Israel. It's, uh—what? The border would be maybe seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank?”

Super Rich Guy: “Nine.”

Romney: “Nine miles. Okay, I'd be close. Nine miles. The challenge is the other side of the West Bank…the other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point or Jordan. And, of course, the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon and what they did in Gaza. Which is the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel, of course, would have to say that can't happen. We've got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank. Well, that means that—who?—the Israelis are going to control the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, "Ah, no way! We're an independent country. You can't guard our border with other Arab nations." And then how about the airport? How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we going to allow military aircraft to come in? And weaponry to come in? And if not, who's going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are going to say, "We're not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what can land at our airport." These are problems, and they're very hard to solve, alright?”

Now, what have we learned here so far? Well, for one thing Romney did not answer the original question, meaning he is big on criticizing Obama Iranian policy, but otherwise he has no plan. Instead, he states flat-out that he believes that peace is not a viable option in Palestine save on Israeli terms—meaning that Israel controls the West Bank’s borders, essentially making Palestinian autonomy a factual mirage. Of course, many people may believe that this is the “proper” resolution to the problem, but it doesn’t help to say it out loud, like a fool:

Romney: “And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it's going to remain an unsolved problem. I mean, we look at that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve. We don't go to war to try and resolve it.”

One thing for certain is that Romney’s qualifications for peace will likely be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism by the Nobel committee. More ominously, Romney’s view of “diplomacy” is simply—as he says—“kick the ball down the field” and hope everything “resolves” by itself. As with his view that “talking tough” with Iran will solve the nuclear issue in that country, he is all bluster and gaffes and zero substance. He has given the Democrats plenty of ammunition if they so choose to use it.

Of course, this is all about getting elected first:

Mega Rich Guy: “Right now, I'm very concerned…Women would not want to be involved for you. Hispanics, majority of them do not want to vote for you. College students don't. After talking to them, and explaining and rationalizing on a one-on-one basis, we are able to change their opinions. But on a mass level, what do you want us to do, this group here, as your emissaries, going out to convert these individuals to someone who's obviously going to be such an incredible asset to this country. We want you.”

The rich always forget that what is an “asset” to them is seldom an asset to other demographics. Many of these guys who receive much of their income from stock options have in fact done very well during the Obama administration. So what more is it that they think Romney can give them? Probably not much, lowering their taxes even more. One thing for certain is that they don’t seem to understand that not everyone “sympathizes” with their “plight.” Those on the other end of the median scale have their own problems, like making ends meet. Nevertheless, Romney believes that he can capture the white women’s vote, but “we're having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in the past, why we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.” What does Romney mean by that last phrasing? That he fears a minority take-over of the country if Republicans can’t con enough of them?  Or that he and his class don’t like the idea that they have to take more seriously the probability that some people might be really unhappy if they believe that Republicans don’t like to share?

Romney went to say that people have this “negative” idea of him as a rich man, and somehow suggesting that is “character assassination.” But an audience member assured him that there was nothing wrong with flaunting his wealth:

Super Mega Rich Guy: “Why don't you stick up for yourself? To me, you should be so proud of your wealth. That's what we all aspire to be—we kill ourselves, we don't work a nine to five. We're away from our families five days a week. I'm away from my four girls five days a week and my wife. Why not stick up for yourself and say, ‘Why is it bad to be, to aspire to be wealthy and successful? You know, why is it bad to kill yourself? And why is it bad to cut 30 jobs that protect 300?’"

It was at this point that Romney brought up the infamous 47 percent: 

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that's what they sell every four years. And so 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.”
This is why the Republican Party turns off so many voters. It doesn’t have the least empathy for the ordinary people that it runs into the ground and then blames for their position.  Who is to blame of paying people working in service industries and industrial parks barely minimum wage? And these people have no “right” to food, housing, health care—“you name it.” Do they have a right to breathing? But government “working” for business is not an “entitlement?”

More ominously, an audience member then suggests that in October before the election, the markets are “going to be speaking very wildly,” meaning the people who control stocks will act in a fashion that will attempt to influence the election. Another audience member tells Romney when he is elected, to “clean out” the SEC, the CFEC and other “disaster areas.” Of course he means “cleaning out” all regulatory agencies—the ones which failed to do their jobs before the 2007-2008 financial meltdown. 

Romney concluded  his policy discussion by complaining about unions, and mulling over how to convince people who like Obama not to vote for him and vote for himself even though they don’t agree with the Republican agenda. But as we’ve seen here, Romney “qualifications” to be president are subject to debate. He lacks empathy with most Americans, because his entire life has been removed the reality of ordinary people. He never contemplates how to help them. He only asks how he can help his rich brethren. Debts and deficits are only of interest to him insofar as they may be mean raising the taxes of his narrow constituency.