Punishing the Victim in Indy

At Arsenal Technical High in Indianapolis, Indiana, bullying is OK but standing up against bullying isn’t.  In its infinite idiocy, the school expelled Darnell “Dynasty” Young when he fired a stun-gun into the air after being surrounded by six people who were bullying him.  The bullies became afraid and left the scene, and Young was safe.  No one was injured.

Young had reportedly been bullied repeatedly since the start of the school year.  When he and his mother reported the bullying to the school authorities, he was told that the bullying basically was his own fault because he was so flamboyant.  If he wanted the bullying to stop, he could adjust his behavior.

So far, none of the bullies has been expelled.

The callousness of the school authorities is stunning but not surprising.  In so many places in the nation, bullying is ignored or tacitly sanctioned by schools, churches, and other institutions who consider bullying to be merely a part of growing up. It’s a pretty safe bet that these institutions are run by people who weren’t on the receiving end of bullying when they were growing up.

There may be Pink Houses in Indiana, but there sure isn’t a pink consciousness.

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Santorum Caves In

News outlets are reporting that Rick Santorum, arguably the most outspoken and critical of Mitt Romney’s primary rivals, has sent an email to his supporters endorsing the Romney campaign.

Let’s not forget that it was less than two months ago that Santorum made the following statement about Romney:

“You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there. If you’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch-A-Sketch candidate of the future.”


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Tampa, the GOP, and the Subprime Mess

There’s a stunning irony in the choice of venues for the GOP convention that is likely lost on most Republicans.  Tampa, Florida, was home to an entire division of Countrywide — the mortgage lender that played an enormous part in the nation’s economic downturn by saturating the market with subprime mortgages and then bundling them together into securities that could be sold by equally unscrupulous bankers on the open market to unsuspecting purchasers.

At the peak of subprime frenzy, Countrywide built out an entire facility in Tampa devoted to the sales and servicing of subprime mortgages.  The company could barely hire people fast enough to keep up with the demand that they themselves had generated by making loans available — on the worst terms possible for the borrower — to tens of thousands of borrowers who simply were not qualified to carry those loans.

At one point, Countrywide boasted of a record of $28 billion of mortgages written in a single month of lending, with many of those loans underwritten using the shoddiest of underwriting standards.

Consider these unemployment numbers for Florida:  In 2005-2006, unemployment bottomed out at 3.3%, right when all that subprime lending was going on.  With the subsequent tanking of the economy, due in large part to the collapse of the subprime market because of the fraudulent lending practices of Countrywide and others, unemployment in Florida skyrocketed to 11.4% in mid-2009, and remains to this day at or above 9%.

Florida also boasts one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, particularly on condominiums which were built (or overbuilt) in response to the new demand that all that subprime lending had created.  When the bubble burst, construction on half-finished developments came to a halt. Buyers who had bought into these developments were stuck with properties that were worth pennies on the dollar compared to what they now owed.  These early owners also took on the obligations of the condominium associations, the expense of which was to have been spread across dozens or hundreds of owners and now consequently was legally required to be borne by those unlucky few.

So, when the GOP opted to hold its convention in Tampa, organizers apparently were completely unaware of the optics of this choice.  Add to the bad optics of this backdrop the fact that the presumptive GOP candidate is touting a return to (or a doubling down on) the same economic policies that created this financial disaster, and it becomes hard to think that there won’t be some pretty significant negative repercussions for the Republicans.

The Democrats would be fools not to make hay out of this hypocrisy.  My guess is that the haymaking is already underway.

 

 

The War on Pink-Haired Religion

If you’re a fan of pink hair and oversized nostrils, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself occasionally transfixed in a late-night television stupor by that mega-couple of Christian scams, Jan and Paul Crouch.

The Crouches have occasionally come under scrutiny over the years and have had brushes with scandals, both financial and sexual.  But a family squabble among the potential heirs to the TBN empire has triggered recent renewed attention to their finances and, in particular, to the tax-exempt status of their organization.

The New York Times delved into this juicy subject recently in a lengthy expose of the multi-million dollar empire that the two have built, focusing on their family dysfunction and on their questionable accounting practices.

Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.

The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.

The only confusion in all of this is how this duo has managed to get away with their scam for as long as they have.

Read the New York Times article:

Sarkozy Is History

Nicholas Sarkozy, who has been at the head of a country with an austerity plan and an unemployment rate greater than 10%, has just been voted out, in favor of Socialist François Hollande. The ramifications of this change in leadership and policy may be far-reaching.

Many prominent economists blame the austerity measures put in place by the Sarkozy government for the failure of the French economy to recover. And yet those measures are almost identical to the GOP’s so-called economic recovery plan.

While it’s not likely that any drastic economic improvements will happen instantaneously with the change in leadership in France, it will certainly be something to keep an eye on in the coming months.  And there’s no doubt that what happens in France will affect economies around the world.

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Biden Endorses Marriage Equality

The Vice President, in an appearance on today’s Meet the Press, became the highest ranking U.S. official ever to have endorsed marriage quality. He described himself as “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

The right wing is undoubtedly going to twist Biden’s words around and have a field day with this, but Biden describes the issue in the most understandable way possible.

News Flash: Senate Republicans Cut and Run

I guess I was expecting too much of the Senate Republicans. I mean, clearly by now they must have realized that they’re no longer in the majority and that the reason for that fact is that the nation was adamantly opposed to their policies, particularly their dogged support of the President and his war of choice. I had presumed that they now might behave in a manner that reflected the desires of the people they purport to represent.

I admit it. I wasn’t expecting humility because I don’t think these blowhards are capable of that. But I wasn’t expecting them to be such chickenshits that they wouldn’t even allow discussion of the issue. But that’s exactly what happened. The band of Bush loyalists used what limited power they have to block debate about their leader’s Iraq war policy. They apparently believe it’s OK to cut and run when it comes to actually allowing free and open debate on the most important issue of the day.

Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post report on this fiasco. But the Times and the Post are too responsible to speculate that this stonewalling might be a ploy by Republicans to do something so outrageous that the media might not focus so much on Bush’s proposed budget. If that was the case, they calculated incorrectly (like they have about so many things), because the media are all over the budget. Close to $700 billion (with a B) for this war, through 2009. Count up the number of people in your family, multiply it by 2,300, and that’s the number of dollars you owe the government for this war. Get out your checkbooks.

Glare Ice from the Dick

If you’ve ever wondered how a transcript can fail to take nuance into account, consider the following exchange yesterday between Dick Cheney and Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: You know, we’re out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She’s pregnant. All of us are happy she’s going to have a baby. You’re going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children. Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean that it’s best for the child.” Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: She’s, obviously, a good daughter —

CHENEY: I’m delighted I’m about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf. And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you’re out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate —

CHENEY: I think you’re out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I’m very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that’s come up, and it’s a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Absent from the written transcript are the icy glares of the VP, along with Blitzer’s bad-little-boy look when Cheney challenged him. Blitzer’s physical reaction to Cheney made a deer in the headlights seem like a Tibetan monk deep in meditation. (CNN has also conveniently edited out all of the uncomfortable pauses from the video that they now have posted on their website.)

Here’s the unedited version:

Mary Cheney herself is a public figure. For whatever reason, she decided to go public about her homosexuality and her surrogacy. (She conveniently managed to avoid talking about any of that until there was a book deal in the works and until her father’s tenuous 2004 election campaign was already over with.) How absurd that Daddy Dick considers all of this a private matter.

The fact that Dick can’t own up to this is newsworthy, particularly because the administration that Dick so staunchly defends (perhaps “barricades” would be a better word) is making policy decisions about gay marriage, gays in the military, etc. Why shouldn’t he have to explain his position and the disparity between his personal life (the oh-so-sacred family) and his public positions? Cheney, as a man with apparently no conscience, simply cannot reconcile the fact his job was made possible in part by organizations like Focus on the Family, who condemn his own daughter without compunction. So his only option is to lash out. What a scumbag.

It was not, however, Blitzer’s only option to weenie out and back away. Apparently, he’s been following Larry King’s lead when it comes to follow-up questions. I got news for you, Wolf. The tension that you almost created but then backed away from is what makes both good journalism and compelling television.