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The crude, the bad and the ugly

eastwood speaking at GOP convention

Clint Eastwood, 82, speaking at the Republican National Convention, Aug. 30, 2012.

There’s a zone in which people getting up in years lose the inner guide that causes most adults to keep their remarks within certain bounds of appropriateness for time, place, who is being talked about and who’s listening — a sad eventuality demonstrated spectacularly by Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention in Tampa last night.

As a special guest speaker, Eastwood’s schtick of choice was to bitch and moan, disrespectfully and crudely, to an empty chair on which the audience was supposed to imagine President Barack Obama was sitting.

Eastwood’s complaints included the Obama administration’s aborted plan to try Guantanamo prisoners in New York City and the president’s decision to complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014.


He attacked Obama for, of all things, riding in Air Force One. “You could still use a plane,” he said, “Not that big gas guzzler you are going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that.”

“I can’t do that to myself,” Eastwood said several times to the empty chair next to him, pretending, apparently, that the president was telling Eastwood to go f*** himself.


That kind of thing might be OK for a private gathering of like-minded cronies. At an event viewed by a mixed audience of millions — including schoolchildren encouraged to watch by their teachers — Eastwood’s lame attempt at caustic humor was appallingly out of place.

Criticizing Obama’s decisions and accomplishments, or lack thereof, was to be expected. Putting foul language in the president’s mouth was not. It was demeaning, insulting and completely uncalled for to Obama personally. It was also disrespectful to the office Obama holds.

After his tasteless turn on stage, event managers claimed they had no idea what Eastwood was going to do. We give as much credence to that as we do to most of what comes out of Republicans’ mouths any more.

We think Romney’s crew let their candidate and Eastwood himself down by allowing this superb actor, director and producer, so long an icon of American filmmaking, to make a fool of himself in front of the nation.

We’d prefer to remember Eastwood as his unforgettable character, police Inspector Harry Callahan, than as a punk who thinks anything goes when he’s badmouthing a president he disagrees with.


Nine most dangerous words in the English language 2012


I’m from corporate America and I’m here to help.



Mean-mouthed ‘activist’ gives fresh evidence
tea party is rife with hate-driven extemists

“We have to get Claire McCaskill out. We have to kill the Claire Bear, ladies and gentlemen. She walks around like she’s some sort of Rainbow Brite Care Bear or something, but really she’s an evil monster.”

—Scott Boston, tea party activist, at a St. Louis rally,
speaking in favor of a Republican challenger
of Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., May 3, 2012


Scott Boston

Tea party activist Scott Boston, who seems to think 'kill' and 'evil monster' are acceptable terms to use in expressing political views.

To any well-brought-up, emotionally balanced, even minimally informed person, former prosecutor and state auditor Claire McCaskill has shown herself to be a moderate, borderline conservadem during her first term as a U.S. senator. But to a hateful tea party yahoo carried away with the sound of his own voice at a political rally, McCaskill is an “evil monster” who must be killed.

Is Boston another Jared Loughner in the making — a homicidal maniac working his way up to a murderous rage?

Perhaps not. After his hate speech drew media coverage and the attention of authorities, Boston claimed he was just speaking metaphorically. A newspaper story quotes him as saying, “In no way do I think the senator should be at all harmed.”

Yeah, right; “evil monster” and “kill” are just words. What harm could possibly come to a thoroughly decent woman and legislator because of a little hateful demonization? After all, isn’t that how we do politics in America: dehumanize politicians with whom we disagree; characterize political opponents as dangerous animals and call for them to be exterminated?

Maybe Boston doesn’t have a loaded gun and voices in his head urging him to use it on McCaskill. So, why should he bother himself about the possibility there might be a Lee Harvey Oswald, a Sirhan Sirhan, John Hinckley, Jr., a Sara Jane Moore, Timothy McVeigh or Jared Loughner out there whose madness could be unleashed by a stiff dose of hate speech?

Republicans have spent nearly 40 years routinely demonizing political opponents, treating them in word and deed as the enemy. Sarah Steelman, the GOP candidate Boston spoke in support of, fits the mold.


On Tuesday, Steelman came to Boston’s defense, blaming the “liberal media” that, she says, employs a double-standard when it comes to covering political rhetoric that contain a hint of violence.

“I may disagree with the words Mr. Boston chose in his statement,” Steelman said in her own statement, “but I understand his frustration and I emphatically support his right to express his views.”


We suppose Oswald, Sirhan et al, also had frustration issues. Try explaining that to the friends and loved ones of those injured or killed.

Just as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle go together to create an image, episodes of hate speech accumulate to create a climate in our political environment.

Looking back over a half century stained with the blood of public officials and bedewed with the tears of those who grieved their loss, we see no excuse, no First Amendment right that in the slightest way excuses Boston and others who mistake hate speech for the making of valid political points.

Great American leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower knew more than they ever wanted to about killing. They won the highest office in the land talking about doing good, decent things. They criticized political opponents on the issues, but never demonized them as dangerous animals. Not one of them ever used the word “kill” in referring to an opponent in a campaign speech.

That’s something hotheads with an ugly mouth, like Boston, should learn. Washington, Lincoln and the others won the presidency. Boston has won the attention of Capitol Police and probably the FBI, and rightly so.


Challenged by fellow Catholics, Ryan lies

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., darling of the pro-rich, pro-corporate radical right, has won the admiration of Republicans nationwide as a principled champion of the laissez-faire capitalism and Robinhood-in-reverse public policies they favor — not coincidentally, the policies that favor so many of them.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee Ryan has burnished his reputation as an unapologetic economic Darwinist with a budget plan that would destroy Medicare as we know it, drastically cut Medicaid and food programs for the poorest Americans, and do incalculable long-term damage to public education, K-college.

Ryan’s budget doubles down on the worst of Bush-era policies that can be succinctly described as rewarding the rich for being rich while punishing the rest for not being rich.

In an overdue but welcome development, some Catholics have called out Ryan for advancing policies that promote not the compassionate values exemplified in Christ’s life and teachings, but the greed-is-good, “we’re all in this apart” rot dispensed by author Ayn Rand. And, Ryan himself has lionized Rand in word and deed.

That is, until fellow Catholics called him out for preaching the false gospel of his beloved goddess of greed. When that happened, this Republican champion of “I got mine, you get yours, devil take the hindmost” took the coward’s way out: he lied.

Not that his lying will do him any good, as MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell points out with damning effect.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Trying to base budgetary policy on idealized notions about selfishness being both a personal and public virtue is as unchristian as it is perverse. Idolizing a neurotic, morally bankrupt hag because she espoused and romanticized that kind of thing is sick.

But what should keep anyone of any political persuasion from affording Ryan even a shred of credibility or respect is how, when challenged by members of his faith, Ryan went weak in the knees and sought to lie his way out of a glaring conflict of moral interest.

Ryan either lacks the courage of his perverse convictions or he’s just one more dishonest political hero of the far right with feet of clay.

Wisconsin voters are busy taking out the trash this year. We hope for their sake and the nation’s that they will see to it Ryan’s regrettable career in Congress comes to an abrupt end.


Tea party bullies pick on the wrong Utah senator

“These (tea party) people are not conservatives. They’re not Republicans, They’re radical libertarians and I’m doggone offended by it.

“I despise these people, and I’m not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth.”

—Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during an NPR interview April 12,
quoted by Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog


The six-term senator knows whereof he speaks, having long been one of the Senate’s most-conservative members. Even so, Hatch has occasionally worked across the aisle to get things done — a “weakness” that has made him primary bait in the eyes of the piranhas he’s in the GOP tank with.

Sure enough, up for re-election this year, Hatch is targeted for early retirement by Astro-turf-group manufacturer and high-powered lobbyist Dick Armey (Freedom Works) and his tea party minions. So serious is the effort that $900,000 is being spent to defeat Hatch, according to Kilgore.

Hatch’s former colleague and fellow Republican Bob Bennett went down to defeat two years ago because, in the eyes of the same crackpot extremists, he had been too willing to work with Democrats. Which is to say Bennett had committed the unpardonable sin of working with Democrats at all.

But Hatch isn’t Bennett, this isn’t 2010, and the tea party scourge isn’t having much luck throwing the senior senator from Utah under the bus.

We’re not a Hatch fan. We don’t agree with his politics and resent the lying he did about health care reform. Still, we feel some grudging admiration for the way Hatch is standing up to the tea party scourge, causing them to lose face and waste a lot of money.

There’s something about seeing ignorant bullies get the worst of it that makes our day.


Acrimony, lawsuits mark Olbermann-Current TV split

brass screwFired by Current TV last Friday, Keith Olbermann filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking up to $70 million from the cable network, claiming breach of contract and citing a lengthy list of grievances that amounted to sabotaging him and his Countdown program.

Today, Current TV co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt responded with a lawsuit of their own, citing Olbermann for repeatedly failing to show up for work and being uncooperative in various ways. The network’s lawsuit asks for a ruling that Olbermann is owed nothing and seeks unspecified damages.

The acrimonious breakup comes about 14 months after Olbermann abruptly left MSNBC on less than cordial terms. He reportedly had a five-year, $50 million contract with Current.

Eliot Spitzer’s Viewpoint program now runs in the Countdown time slot.

It takes two: We ‘re sure there’s plenty of blame to go around on both sides of this ugly, unfortunate dispute. We expect it will do nothing but harm to Olbermann and to Current no matter which side prevails in court.

Olbermann’s complaint that Current failed to provide an adequate studio and equipment for a first-rate news commentary program rings true. But so do the network’s complaints about Olbermann being aloof, erratic and temperamental.

We didn’t watch the show but a few times in recent weeks because, frankly, it wasn’t very good. And, we got tired of seeing Olbermann looking like this.

Considering how much it apparently invested in bringing Olbermann on board, Current should have provided him with a decent studio, proper equipment and capable behind-the-camera technicians and editorial staff, right from the start.

For his part, Olbermann should’ve known he was going to a diamond-in-the-rough operation, one that would require lots of dedicated effort on his part to bring to a shine. That’s a job for a can-do leader, not a can-sue prima donna.

So now, during an especially important presidential election year, one of the strongest voices in the comparatively small universe of progressive media stars will do his talking about this blowup with another network instead of about crucially important issues, events and political figures.

As Bill Bendix used to say in his 1950’s sitcom, The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is.”


More likely than not, Cain allegations are true

Herman CainBusinessman and Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has spent the past two days dealing, badly, with the fallout from a Sunday Politico story detailing sexual harassment allegations made against him in the 1990’s.

Are the allegations groundless, as Cain insists, or is he guilty as homemade sin?

It’s not possible at this point to know for sure, but considering information revealed so far we can form a reasonable, preponderance-of-the-evidence* opinion on the likelihood of guilt or innocence.

Cain was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association from late 1996 to mid-1999. During that time two women complained Cain had made suggestive remarks and gestures, and in at least one instance, had acted in an inappropriately physical way that caused a female employee to feel uncomfortable.

The sources — including the recollections of close associates and other documentation — describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.

The women’s complaints were investigated internally by a human resources person and an attorney. The association ended up paying each complainant a five-figure sum — one reportedly got $35,000 — to end their employment and enter into confidentiality agreements.


Theodore Roosevelt recognized
best preventative for socialism

“(Men often) forget that constructive change offers the best method of avoiding destructive change; that reform is the antidote to revolution; and that social reform is not the precursor but the preventive of socialism.”

—Theodore Roosevelt, president, soldier, author, statesman,
quoted in A Theodore Roosevelt Round-Up
by Hermann Hagedorn and Sidney Wallach,
Published by the Theodore Roosevelt
Association, 1958


Who knew? We’d be willing to bet not a single Wall Street bank or investment house CEO has read or heard Theodore Roosevelt’s prescription for embracing constructive reform to ward off revolution, “destructive change” and socialism. The same goes for Republicans in Congress and at Fox News who are so anxious to brand Occupy Wall Street protesters and their counterparts across the country as unruly mobs of bellyaching troublemakers.

How remarkable it is that one of the few really good Republican presidents this country ever had was so insightful and progressive so long ago. We suspect that if Roosevelt was alive today, you’d be more likely to find him at Zuccotti Park with the OWS demonstrators than in a Fox studio condemning them.

We also suspect that if Roosevelt was alive today, he’d have nothing to do with today’s conservative Republican extremists.


Steve Jobs, Feb. 24, 1955 – Oct. 5, 2011,
Apple Computer co-founder, ‘brilliant technologist’

Steve JobsWith the tragic passing of Steve Jobs, co-founder and longtime CEO of Apple Computer, a brilliant technologist and exceptional entrepreneur is lost to America and the world.

Jobs, 56, had battled liver disease and pancreatic cancer since 2004. He is survived by his wife, Laurene, and four children.

You can read a good, brief summary of Jobs’ life and career at Ars Technica.

On learning of Jobs’ death, many prominent Americans issued statements of admiration and sorrow.

From President Obama:

Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.


Don’t worry, nothing bad will happen

History is replete with recurring themes, one of which is made clear in the following vignettes, all but one fictionalized but based on facts.

Czar Nicholas II

Nicholas II

Jan. 23, 1905, Czar Nicholas II of Russia writes in his diary: “There is much turmoil. Yesterday, a priest and large number of commoners came to the Winter Palace here in St. Petersburg. They wanted to present me with a petition asking for reforms. The war is going badly. The economy is struggling. I ordered the palace guard to disperse them, with orders to shoot any who resisted. I rule by divine right, not mob request, and I have the army, police and church on my side. Nothing will go wrong.”

In August, 1929, a Wall Street brokerage executive writes to his brother: “Business continues to boom and we’re making more money than ever. Everyone has the stock-buying bug these days. We have dime store clerks coming in on their lunch hour to buy stocks in companies they know nothing about; barbers come in before opening their shop, too. Many of them are borrowing money to buy more and more. The more they buy, the higher the market goes. And the higher it goes, the more people want to buy. The sky’s the limit, and our firm makes money when they borrow, buy or sell. The worries you expressed in your last letter are misplaced. Nothing bad is going to happen.”



On Nov. 5, 1940, Japanese Emperor Hirhohito writes in his diary: “Plans for a crippling attack on the American fleet are complete. I have reviewed them, and at the Imperial Conference yesterday approved carrying them out if diplomatic talks with the Americans bear no fruit. The Imperial Navy is the strongest in the world. Our army and air forces have been victorious whenever tested. Shinto resolve is invincible and God has chosen Japan to rule the East. If war comes, our victory is assured.”

Richard Nixon


Writing notes for his memoirs in early June 1972, President Richard Nixon says: “Hunt and Liddy have some guys lined up to get into DNC headquarters at the Watergate. They’re to be paid out of Committee to Re-elect the President funds. Between the information they bring back and the phone tap they’re going to set up, we should have an easier time in November. A couple of insiders told me this is too risky, but they’re just chicken. It’s a simple black-bag job. What could go wrong?”



Wednesday, July 13, 2011, at a press conference, Republican congresswoman and self-appointed Tea Party Caucus chairwoman Michelle Bachmann declares: “This is a misnomer that I believe that the president and the Treasury secretary have been trying to pass off on the American people, and it’s this: that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion, that somehow the United States will go into default and we will lose the full faith and credit of the United States. That is simply not true. . . .I’m ‘no’ on raising the debt ceiling”