Thursday, May 10, 2012

Such, Such Was the Mitt

Many if not most politicians are sociopaths -- otherwise, how could they even live with their own lying, scheming selves? But the story of Mitt Romney's scissor-wielding assault on a fellow prep school student when he was 18 years old goes far beyond the merely nauseating. It reaches the ultimate point of true vomit-worthiness.

 Jason Horowitz of The Washington Post has written an excellently-sourced article about Romney's serial bullying in his teen years, which included playing incessant pranks on a blind teacher, and sneaking up on necking couples in a lovers' lane. But the worst of it was the attack on a gay student who had just dyed his longish hair blond. One day, Romney became so aroused that he formed a posse of preppies who held the kid down as Mitt hacked at his hair with a pair of scissors. This amounted to a criminal assault, and would additionally have been prosecuted as a hate crime today. But Mitt was never even reprimanded, let alone charged.

The victim, however, was later expelled after a group of elite tattle-tales turned him in for sneaking a cigarette. He died several years ago, and never forgot the incident, as one of the tormenters who encountered him in later life remembers. Mitt Romney, when confronted with the story today, at first semi-denied it, chuckled inappropriately, then apologized "if anyone was offended". A little late for the victim.

The WaPo story also has a lot of background on the elite Bloomfield Hills, Michigan school that was the scene of the crime(s). Cranbrook, the article says, was/is every inch a snobbish institution modeled after the British all-male boarding schools. I immediately thought of Christopher Hitchens' memoirs of his own school-day experiences at the hands of older boys and the rampant consensual homosexual experimentation amongst the pupils. And I was also reminded of George Orwell's classic indictment of boarding school cruelty and perversion, titled Such, Such Were the Joys.

Young Eric Blair (Orwell) was regularly beaten by the adults in the school and to a lesser extent, bullied by his peers. But there is another parallel to Cranfield and Orwell's alma mater, Crossgates -- and that is the extreme snobbery. Physical cruelty was matched only by Class War juvenilia. From the WaPo piece:
Lou Vierling, a scholarship student who boarded at Cranbrook for the 1960 and 1961 academic years, was struck by a question Romney asked them when they first met. “He wanted to know what my father did for a living,” Vierling recalled. “He wanted to know if my mother worked. He wanted to know what town I lived in.” As Vierling explained that his father taught school, that he commuted from east Detroit, he noticed a souring of Romney’s demeanor.
Orwell recounts an eerily similar incident:

I recall a conversation that must have taken place about a year before I left Crossgates. A Russian boy, large and fair-haired, a year older than myself, was questioning me.
'How much a-year has your father got?'

I told him what I thought it was, adding a few hundreds to make it sound better. The Russian boy, neat in his habits, produced a pencil and a small notebook and made a calculation.'My father has over two hundred times as much money as yours,' he announced with a sort of amused contempt.

Orwell's hellish school-days occurred at the very beginning of the 20th Century, when ingrained class distinctions still reigned supreme. He didn't write his essay until after World II had served to erase class lines, if not cruelty to children. Or so he thought: "The snobbishness that was an integral part of my own education would be almost unthinkable today, because the society that nourished it is dead," he concluded.

No, not dead. Merely asleep and destined to cross the wide Atlantic to further wreak its cruel, prurient havoc in the New Gilded Age. Welcome to Mitt Romney's America, Mr. Orwell.


Valerie said...

I agree that most of these politicians are sociopaths. People need to understand that all of these mental disorders are on a spectrum. Not all sociopaths torture kittens. Some simply take pleasure in hurting something or someone vulnerable. Mittens is clearly a bully.

This particular incident says so much to the character of Romney and explains why he had no compunctions buying up companies and laying off employees thus destroying livelihoods and will have no compunction about going after the most vulnerable in our society. It explains why, despite the strict rules around lying and dishonesty defined as part of Mormonism, he doesn't hesitate to lie and flip-flop in accordance with the polls.

I detest Romney and his ilk - unfortunately, Obama is part of the ilk.

So there were are - left with no choice unless we vote for a Third Party candidate or write someone in. I didn't get a ballot this year. I guess I have been stricken from the register - I don't know. And I find myself not really interested in chasing it all down and getting myself reinstated. There isn't anyone I feel terribly passionate about voting for - like Elizabeth Warren - in my home state. Yes, I will be a good American and chase down the ballot so I can vote for libraries and public education but it feels like “game over” in so many respects.

I would wager that voter turn-out will be at an all time low come November as our country continually moves toward plutocratic feudalism.

4Runner said...

Such, such was the Mitt that Barry seems much, much the lesser of 2 evils. Judging by his campaign rhetoric, Romney's highfalutin high school failed to teach him about talking the truth. Which makes him a member in good standing of the Church of Elite Latter Day Liars.

Karen Garcia said...

Paul Krugman fights back against David Brooks in the continuing battle. He is not allowed to mention actual names, so I did it for him:

Neither political party is doing bupkis to confront the crisis of unemployment. Structuralistas like David Brooks are, unfortunately, listened to with great seriousness by Officialdom. He offers no solutions and plenty of gobbledygook, and our "public servants" follow suit. Win the Future, Onward & Upward, Believe in America, You Gotta Believe.... we get slogans that sound like the NY Mets theme song rather than serious policy initiatives and debates. And the mainstream media are only too happy to Sit & Chat rather than confront.

How's this for a campaign slogan, pundits and pols -- We're Not Stupid! Employers having trouble filling all those mystery jobs with skilled workers? How about they dig into their own bloated coffers and actually invest some money and train people themselves? The structuralistas are real good at blaming our lousy education system for churning out a torrent of ineptitude, and at the same time they make sure it stays that way by cutting education funding to the bare bones. David Brooks complained about the lefty "cyclicalists" in his last column But he and his cohort are the ones spinning in circles. Maybe if they make us dizzy enough we'll just give up in despair, huh?

There is wealth disparity, and then there is the huge gulf between the smirking, self-satisfied elites and the rest of us. Their comfortable lives shield them from the very misery they continue to perpetuate. And we're not going to take it any more.

Denis Neville said...

If elected, Romney will come for us in the 99 percent with his scissors, Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

And just as he walked blithely away from the boy crying on the ground and kept going, Romney will walk away from us, failing to connect, to grasp the pain he inflicts.

I have known products of the Cranbrooks, with their glorification of narrow-focused, narrow-gauged pseudo-Darwinian selfishness, all my life. In my day they were the ones who received the draft deferments during the Vietnam War. They took all the possible advantages (however gained), achieved “success” (however won) and satisfaction (whatever the cost to others). It was always “Fuck you, Jack, I'm all right!! I got mine!!" “I got my life in order, so why can’t you respect it?"

“If there's one thing you can say about Romney in his career as a politician is that there is nobody who he doesn't consider expendable, whether that is a staffer, a friend, an ally, or any particular group of constituents who presume to think that, just because they elected him, he owes them something. He is Nixon without the awesome, class-bred insecurities. Nixon knew when he was being vicious. He gloried in it. The White House tapes drip with his self-indulgent tough-guy crap through which you can see the quivering little grocer's son. That insecurity may be the only thing that saved the Republic. Willard Romney never has known that insecurity for a day in his life. He is casually vicious and he doesn't even recognize that he is.” – Charlie Pierce

John in Lafayette said...

Somewhat off topic, but I loved your response to Krugman today, Karen,

I had one of my own, which the gods of the replies at the Times saw fit not to print. It read:

At the bottom of Paul Krugman's column is a little not saying "David Brooks is off today."

That is too funny for words.

I was going to make a crack (something along the lines of, "and not just today"), but some things simply can't be improved upon, so I'll let well enough alone.

Valerie said...

John in Lafayette,

You should print your comment to Kruggie here on Sardonicky. I am sure that I am not alone in wanting to read it.

James Tower said...

In the movies, this is the guy who always gets his comeuppance before the credits roll. In real life, it's the guy who destroys the lives of tens of thousands of people for fun and profit, mostly profit, and pays a lower tax rate than his victims.

This high school dysfunction was NOT "something many people do." The very small percentage of cruel idiots like Romney seem more prevalent than they are simply because their behavior gets noticed. They often go on to make big bucks because they are not just willing, but eager to crush "little weak people" and take everything they have, including their esteem, because they can - hence Romney's success at Bain & Company.

If Romney gets the keys to the military, just image what the bully inside him can accomplish.

No Longer Cranky in Australia said...

James fallows free trade -

Just a side note - The police in Britain are protesting 20% cuts in the police force. It should be noted that the British government plans to replace the rank and file with private security employees. I have visions of what the private military contractors/thugs have done in Iraq and Afghanistan being let loose on the streets of Britain.

Hope the NYPD is watching along with their brethren in other cities. They are fools if they think the Mayors and their chiefs of police have any allegiance to them. If mayors and city budgets can cut salaries, police pensions and health benefits by hiring contractors, they will do it in a heartbeat. They have NO loyalty. The sooner the police understand they are part of the 99%, the better it will be for democracy.

This situation in Britain couldn't have happened at a better time - just as Occupy is waking up from its winter slumber - Maybe, for once, the stars are aligning for us. Occupy!

George in Albany said...

This country always has been about bullying the rest of the world and anyone else that gets in the way of our capitalist expansion. These 2 canidates meet this need. Someone needs to beat our heads in for us to realize that there is a better way.

Zee said...

@No Longer Cranky in Australia--

Thanks for the link to the Atlantic article on free trade. I've printed it off to read as time allows.

Zee said...

Unrelated to today's thread, has anyone been following the stories about JPMorgan Chase's $2B trading loss?

It seems that even conservative news/opinion sources are now calling for stricter regulation of Wall Street:

I saw a similar opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal within the last day, but can't remember where it was that I found it.

Also, I don't know if Business Insider has a political "leaning," but here's a similar article:

Could at least some conservatives be coming to their senses regarding financial reform?

Anne Lavoie said...

I agree with George in Albany.

Not only is our country a big bully to the rest of the world, but so too are many of our citizens, including many of the bosses in the workplace, CEOs, etc. It's about power.

I did some research about 10 years or so ago and was surprised to find that that 'mobbing', which has been studied and outlawed for decades in so many foreign countries, was not even recognized here in the US at that time. We are still very much in denial, except when it comes to children. But bullying is not limited to children, does not stop in childhood, and is not limited to the schoolyard or even to one individual. People don't outgrow the feeling of satisfaction from wielding power in any form and will frequently form unions to consolidate more power. Sometimes it takes over their lives and organizations and affects everyone adversely when they get in positions of power.

The national campaign 'It Gets Better' is as phony as the outrage over Mitt Romney, because 'it' doesn't routinely get better, but it does change form in adulthood. By the way, churchgoing Christians are among the worst perpetrators.
Try being a Muslim and see how much better it gets.

We can encourage others to develop support systems, pass laws, and provide training in tolerance and civility, but it is misleading to assure children that bullying will naturally get better and disappear. Maybe being gay might be easier, but there will always be something that groups find 'different' in certain others that their sheeplike groupthink feels threatened by.

Bullying comes in many forms and from various groups and individuals that you would not expect judging from external appearances. Women in particular can be experts at the more subtle and deceptive forms of bullying which are strategically indirect, covert, and frequently relational. Female bullying is deliberately kept almost invisible so as not to risk one's own reputation and to allow denial of any malicious intent if challenged.

The acquisition and exercise of power is a powerful motivator. There is a good reason Americans are so well armed and the country is the biggest, most powerful killing machine on earth. This need for power is in our national DNA as well as in our primitive brain upon which we rely so inordinately in America. If only we could take that great leap en masse to make our neocortex dominant.

Someday, IF we survive and are solidly connected to each other, we could take the human race to a better level of functioning, although it might take a catastrophe to get us there - let's hope not. It will certainly take WAKING UP first.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee

“It's always tea time.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

When Bloomberg News first reported [April 5] that London-based trader Bruno Iksil, aka the Whale, had amassed positions linked to the financial health of corporations that were so large he was driving price moves in the $10 trillion market, Jamie Dimon, CEO Of JPMorgan Chase, said the news coverage was “a complete tempest in a teapot.”

“Well that was the silliest tea party I ever went to! I am never going back there again!” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

A while ago, Paul Krugman had some fun, putting in Dimon’s mouth the words of the corrupt, embezzling banker in John Ford’s Stagecoach: "I don’t know what the government is coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business! Why, they’re even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks! Why, at home I have a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!"

Then Krugman read that Dimon described new international bank rules as ‘Anti-American and said the United States should consider pulling out of the Basel group of global regulators.

Krugman now writes that “Satire is dead.”

Neil Gillespie said...

@Zee, re financial reform

The Federal Reserve may be coming to their senses regarding financial reform too.

Remarks by FDIC Acting Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Bank Structure Conference; Chicago, IL delivered May 10, 2012

"Today I would like to take the opportunity to discuss one of those challenging issues – the orderly resolution of systemically important financial institutions ( SIFIs). The Dodd-Frank Act provided important new authorities to the FDIC to resolve SIFIs. Prior to the recent crisis, the FDIC's receivership authorities were limited to federally insured banks and thrift institutions. There was no authority to place the holding company or affiliates of an insured institution or any other non-bank financial company into an FDIC receivership to avoid systemic consequences. The lack of this authority severely constrained the ability of the government to resolve a SIFI."

Is this the end of Too Big To Fail?

Denis Neville said...

Neil asks, “Is this the end of Too Big To Fail?”

David Rohde, The Atlantic, “The Lesson of JP Morgan's $2 Billion Loss: Break Up the Big Banks,” cites reports that are “the latest sign of big banks' ability to defy regulation, engage in dubious business practices and face few consequences.”

Forty eight percent of Americans continue to lack confidence in the stability of the U.S. banking industry. So then, “who is happy with the state of America's banks?” asks Rohede. “Apparently, the two men running for president, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Romney thinks “a convergence, almost akin to a perfect storm, of many elements in our economy and regulatory structure caused the last collapse. I'm not looking to break apart financial institutions." While Obama argues that “the new regulations would force banks into orderly bankruptcy proceedings, not bailouts.”

Barry being Barry. No mention of the issue of fraud in the market and banking system.

Rhoede writes, “An analysis by researchers at Syracuse University found that under the Obama administration federal financial-fraud prosecutions have dropped to 20-year lows. Today, the number of financial-fraud cases is at one-third the level it was during the Clinton administration.”

Peter Boyer and James Schweizer in The Daily Beast wrote, “Despite his populist posturing, the president has failed to pin a single top finance exec on criminal charges since the economic collapse.” They asked, “Are the banks too big to jail—or is Washington’s revolving door at to blame?...Casting Romney as a plutocrat will be easy enough, but the president's claim as avenging populist may prove trickier, given his own deeply complicated, even conflicted, relationship with Big Finance."

Is the Federal Reserve coming to their senses regarding financial reform?

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy