In the psychic make up of any politician, the phenomenon of compartmentalization is common, but rare is the politician who proudly makes an art of it, as has Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Even as he publicly celebrates his squeaky clean personal life, Romney lauds his own brutal record as a leveraged buyout specialist, and lies with impunity on the stump, often in terms laden with race baiting code. To Romney, it seems, personal morality amounts to a roster of good personal habits that add up to a kind of personal "exceptional-ism" that add up to a kind of personal conduct that trumps whatever havoc his business behavior or political policies may wreak on the life of any poor "schlub" who should cross his path. Romney's sense of morality seems to be based on a kind of fierce individualism, in which he apparently believes himself to be morally superior by dint of his own personal habits, and assumes no responsibility for the fate of those less rigorous in their personal code, should they find an appeal to their baser instincts in the words and actions of the beyond reproach church leader, dutiful husband, and father of five. It all amounts to a kind of moral bankruptcy, in which the former Massachusetts governor presumes he is entitled to a morally superior reputation, for which he has not kept up the payments. It's not that hard to be good to your family and friends. If true morality is evidenced by how one treats strangers, Romney's reputation as a moral actor should be under water. Here are but nine bits of evidence of the moral bankruptcy of Willard Mitt Romney. There exist many more, but life is short: The smug non smoker took big bucks to push smoking on Russians. Slams government economic investment despite having taken government contracts. Opposes abortion, but invested in a company that disposes of aborted fetuses. Decries corruption in other countries but facilitated it in his own. Insults low income Americans for not paying federal income tax, while not paying federal income tax on almost all of his income. Calls for more transparency from his opponent, while hiding his own tax returns, squirreling millions offshore and using accounting tricks to lower his tax rate.
October 7 marked the eleventh anniversary of the US war in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 American soldiers have now been killed, and as the US presidential candidates debate each other to lead the most dominant power on Earth, perhaps it is time for someone to ask them: Was it worth it? On September 11th 2001, 2,977 people were killed, as well as 60 police officers. Only 291 bodies were ever found intact. Over half of the families who lost loved ones that day received not a single piece of remains. Within three months 300 fire fighters went on leave due to respiratory problems, almost half a million New Yorkers are being treated for post traumatic stress disorders, and 1,000 first responders have since died from acute illnesses related to clean up activities. Wall Street shut down for 6 days, and as a direct result of 9/11 more than 146,100 people lost their jobs. Within the first month New York City alone exceeded $105 billion in economic losses. Was it worth it? America then went to war. But not just Iraq and Afghanistan: Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have also been attacked. So have the citizens of the United States: Freedoms, privacy and civil rights, once taken for granted are gone, in the name of national security. America then went to war, but not just Iraq and Afghanistan: Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have also been attacked. So have the citizens of the United States: Freedoms, privacy and civil rights once taken for granted are gone, in the name of "national security." Operation Iraqi Freedom officially lasted for eight years and eight months. By December 2011, 4,486 US and 318 non US troops had been killed fighting in Iraq, more than who died on September 11th. However, according to the New York Times, a year after operations ceased US Special Operations have quietly begun re-entering Iraq at the behest of the Iraqi government. In Afghanistan, the war that begun on October 7th 2002 still marches on. Operation Enduring Freedom is not due to end until 2014, an exact century after the onset of World War One. So far Afghanistan has taken the lives of 3,196 soldiers: 2,130 American, 433 British, and 158 Canadian.
What do the Amish think of a Mormon Presidential Candidate? As was predicted by local political bosses, Pennsylvania's tough voter ID law was put on hold today. The the dismay of local conservative talk show hosts, who were roaring on Lexington's hire car radio about "Judge Chicken hawk" permitting the dead to vote in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia, Judge Robert Simpson ordered that a new requirement to show a valid identity card with photograph and expiry date before voting should not take effect before the elections on November 6th, for fear that legitimate voters might not be able to secure the right to ID cards in time. Your reporter, who is in Pennsylvania again, researching a couple of pieces, can report that the ruling, while angering many Republicans, will be greeted with relief within at least one staunchly conservative voter block: The Amish of Lancaster County. There are about 70,000 Amish in the State of Pennsylvania, some 28,000 of them scattered on small farms in the rolling green hills of Lancaster. With horse drawn buggies, scooters and their own feet as their most common means of transport, the Amish have no need of drivers' licences, though many have special ID cards bearing the inscription "Valid without Photo", reflecting their church's prohibition against photographs and other graven images. Those cards meet the new voter ID law requirements, but are fiddly to obtain, requiring a letter from an Amish bishop and a special visit to a government office. Though only a minority of the Amish vote, those who do intend to cast ballots next month were anxious that the voter ID laws would diminish their already low turnout. Back in 2004, when I was last posted to America, the Amish found themselves singled out for special attention by George Bush, who flew to Lancaster County to deliver a campaign speech, attended by a fair number of straw hatted, buggy driving Amish. As pacifists they did not greatly care for the Iraq war, but they strongly supported the then president's conservative views on social and religious issues, as well as gun rights (many Amish are keen hunters, especially with bows)!
It's too bad Eugine Jarecki already used the title "Why We Fight" for his breakout 2006 documentary about war profiteering, because he could so perfectly have applied it to his newest movie, "The House I Live in." It's an examination of the drug war that does more than testify against America's overtly racist drug laws or the justice industrial complex of private prisons and the overtime hungry cops who help fill them. The documentary, which won this year's Sun-dance Grand Jury prize and will arrive in a handful of theaters this month, dares to suggest that human beings have a thing for destroying one another: Jarecki makes a very compelling argument with the help of many interview subjects, but none more important than David Simon, a former crime reporter who created "The Wire," a beloved TV show that may itself be confused for a documentary on the drug war. Simon spent a lot of time reporting on and dramatizing this conflict and its exhausted combatants, and he, along with historian Richard Lawrence Miller, ultimately expresses the documentary's hidden thesis with brute force. The drug war is, they say, a "holocaust in slow motion." The director reveals his climax like the denouement of a great mystery. It's his Kyser Soeze moment, and I won't spoil it by elaborating further. Long before then, Jarecki presents many perspectives of what he calls "a tragically misguided system that preys upon those least fortunate among us to sustain itself." From the drug dealers to the judge, most of the director's subjects agree that the system isn't good for much, other than the mass transfer of poor people to jail. Jarecki constructs the documentary around the life of his childhood nanny, whose family has struggled with drugs. He is curious about the racial bias of her misfortune, she is black, he is not, and in exploration he finds that "whatever damage drugs do to people has been made far worse by the laws America has enacted to stop drugs."