The Current State of Op Ed Writing or Things that Belong in a Hello Kitty Diary

comtorwhkwriter-1-1Okay, so I was torn between using Hello Kitty Diary and Hello Kitty Litter Box in the title of this thread because I am so tired of seeing hacks get money and column space in what used to be the world’s great papers.   Let’s face it!  My cats’ litter box is a better use of a newspaper that’s filled with the inane ramblings of the likes of Ross Douthat, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, George F. Will, and  well, you get my drift. There were op ed writers with whom I disagreed but whose arguments, evidence, and writing style made for compelling reading and arguments.  The group that’s left to us now should still be doing penmanship exercises in second grade.

So, obviously I was inspired to write this.  I use the world ‘inspired’ loosely because it was more like I was influenced by the painful awareness of cats screeching in the alley looking for attention from other heat-seeking cats.  The primary source of screeching came from MoDo today who Charlie Pierce promptly diced and sliced in “In Which MoDo Loses A Fight With James Madison” in his Esquire  blog

 Maureen Dowd has fashioned herself another Chronic Ward of a newspaper column today on her now-regular theme of what a wimpety-wimp-wimp Barry Obama is, and why she never should have let him take her to prom instead of the hunky Andrew Shepherd from The American President who, while admittedly fictional, never would take this guff from actual human beings like John Boehner and Eric Cantor and Louie Gohmert, to which latter we give the benefit of a considerable doubt on this score. From the available evidence (again), and for all the relevance her insights have on what’s actually going on in American politics, Dowd once again seems to be writing from an assisted-living facility on the far side of a world Beyond The Planet Of The Ultra-Vixens. First of all, she, along with Jonathan Karl, seems to be overly concerned with the condition of the president’s “juice,” which she seems to feel is less fortified with essential vitamins and iron than the juice of a president should be. And, somewhere in the Beyond, Freud gives up the business entirely and opens a cigar store.

Pierce offers this more succinct explanation.

Look, I make the same criticism of the president from time to time, but mine is based on what I believe is the obvious empirical fact that the Republican party has gone insane and that the president has been painfully slow in coming to realize that he is dealing with lunatics. I don’t find this “professorial” or “high-minded.” I just find it wrong. But, then again, I don’t measure politics by the inseam, either.

What is it about reality that most of the op ed writers don’t appear to get these days? Well, I stumbled across an equally good take down and explanation over at NY magazine written by Jonathan Chait called “David Brooks and the Role of Opinion Journalism”. David Brooks is the nearly the best example of an op ed writer that is a waste of good reading time.  He has the dial set to 11 for vacuity nearly every day.

Brooks likes to veer frequently from the beaten path of topicality. He wants us to associate this habit with intellectual honesty. But why should we? One could just as easily think of it as an evasive tactic designed to spare him from confronting the uncomfortable pathologies of his own side.

Brooks goes further, smuggling into his schema notions not merely unrelated to but actually at odds with intellectual honesty. The detached writer, he argues, “sees politics as a competition between partial truths.” Well, yes, sometimes it is. On the other hand, sometimes politics is not a competition between partial truths. If you’re committed a priori to always seeing politics as a competition between partial truths, you will render yourself unable to accurately describe the times when it’s not and find yourself writing things that are provably untrue. Writing things that are provably untrue — rather than, say, being irritating — ought to be the central thing to avoid.

It’s a shame Brooks has done such an injustice to the topic, since the question of standards for opinion journalism is a pretty important and underexplored one. Straight news reporters tend to lump opinion writing of all forms into the same bin — punditry, essays, agitprop — and to therefore shy away from holding it to any defined standard. (This is why, for instance, the Washington Post blithely lets George Will misstate facts about climate science on its op-ed page.)

So, I would like to say that the standard for op ed “journalism” is there is no honor among thieves, but given their platform, it’s hard to just write off hello_kitty_diary_resize99.99% of them as hapless hacks and ignore them. Chait actually offers up some common sense advice on how to make an argument instead of publishing your dreamy-eyed Potomac platitudes.  Most of them are common sense like don’t set up and attack straw men and avoid reflexive equivocation and black-and-white moralism.  These last two are staples of op ed pages today.  Douthat is a lousy writer who specializes in his own specious form of black-and-white moralism to the point that I wonder if he ever leaves his house or was actually weaned by his mother.  This glib last bit from Chait sums up the state of op ed writing today for me.  I’ve edited it to what it should be.

If you’re going to write a guide to opinion writing that’s completely self-aggrandizing, you should probably own up to it.

Not only should you own up to it, you should stop pretending it’s anything else but self-aggrandizing twaddle. I’m tired of seeing endless self-pleasuring in high circulation papers. I am so not into that!!!

But, I see this as the main stay of today’s opinion writers.  It is always about them and never about their topic, the actual good of the country or an idea, or the greater search for truth.  WAPO and NYT excel at  placing free range WATBs on their op pages who only engage in self-aggrandizing and who never see the world outside the thunderdomes of Manhattan and the DC beltway.  Most of them are so comfortably snuggled into their socio-economic status they probably couldn’t tell a homeless person from a fireplug.

Thankfully, there are now blogs and there are blogger/writers like Pierce and Chait or I would be one very depressed Kat who would consider reading Romance Novels or Pop! Star Magazine in lieu of David Brooks or Maureen Dowd. They are all about on the same level of intellectual discourse and reality. And for that, the NYT put up a paywall and WAPO wants to still think of itself as the paper of investigative journalism. Douthat belongs on the pages of Catholic Voice or maybe some nice rag promoting the return of The Inquisition.  None of these folks are the serious human beings they presume themselves to be.

Here kitty, kitty!!!  I just changed your litter box and its nicely lined!!!

Saturday Reads: Polls, Ro-mentum, and Forced Mating

Good Morning!

I should be at my mom’s house by now, but I had to stop for another night because I drove right into one of the three monster storms that are expected to crash into each other somewhere along the east coast. At least I got out of the Boston area, where I might have ended up without power for days. But I’m kind of wondering if I’ll still have a home to go back to. Anyway, I drove into a downpour in Ohio. At times it was raining so hard I could barely see, and it was also very foggy. I finally gave up and stopped for the night in Sandusky, Ohio. How weird is that? I hope tomorrow’s weather will be better.

I’ve got some links to get you started today–please forgive me if some of them are old news to you.

I’m going to start out with the latest on the polls. Even though the corporate media is still pushing the story that Romney’s winning, the real statistic nerds are saying that Romney basically got about a 4-5 point bump after the Denver debate, but that has dissipated and now the polls are favoring Obama again. Truthfully Obama never really lost his leads in the swing states he needs to win, but either lots of the media types are rooting for Romney (e.g., Joe Scarborough, Dancin’ Dave Gregory, Jim Vandehei) or they just want to make things seem close for career purposes.

Here’s the latest from Nate Silver: The State of the States

Thursday was a busy day for the polls, with some bright spots for each candidate. But it made clear that Barack Obama maintains a narrow lead in the polling averages in states that would get him to 270 electoral votes. Mr. Obama also remains roughly tied in the polls in two other states, Colorado and Virginia, that could serve as second lines of defense for him if he were to lose a state like Ohio.

On the national level, of course, the race is still basically tied; but Obama has a baseline of 237 electoral votes. He only needs to pick up a couple of swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Nevada to get to 270. Silver says it doesn’t look like Obama actually got a bump from the third debate–it’s more likely that the numbers are just regressing to the mean. Whatever the cause, Obama is leading in electoral votes

Last night, Silver’s model predicted that Obama will win 295 electoral votes and has a 74 percent chance of winning the election.

Lately I’ve been finding Sam Wang’s blog even more fun to read than Silver’s. On Tuesday Wang had a post on “Ro-mentum,” meaning the mainstream media’s latest narrative that Romney has the big mo and is probably going to win the election. Wang summed up that post as follows:

What is apparent is that the large plunge after Debate #1 came to a stop last week, right around the time of the VP debate. After that and Debate #2, Obama made some recovery. Now we are at a plateau, in which Obama is slightly – but decisively – ahead….

Today, the race is quite close. However, note this. In terms of the Electoral College, President Obama has been ahead on every single day of the campaign, without exception.

I would then give the following verdict: Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words – but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.

The popular vote is a different story. I estimate an approximately 25% chance that the popular vote and the electoral vote will go in opposite directions – a “Bush v. Gore scenario”. I regard this as a serious risk, since it would engender prolonged bitterness.

In summary: Ro-mentum!

Yesterday, Wang wrote a follow-up post in which he hilariously mocked David Brooks’ attempts to make sense of all the polls and falling for Ro-mentum.

It was fun to learn of David Brooks’s addiction to polling data. He spends countless hours on them, looking at aggregators, examining individual polls, and sniffing poll internals. From all of this, what has he learned?

1. Today, President Obama would be a bit more likely to win.
2. There seems to be a whiff of momentum toward Mitt Romney.
(Emphasis mine.)

I am having a sad. All of that effort, and his two conclusions still have two major errors. Evidently he does not read the Princeton Election Consortium. Let us dissect this.

You should go read the whole thing, but basically, on point one if the election were held today Obama would have at least a 90% chance of winning; and on point two Brooks has fallen for the media narrative of Ro-mentum.

Today Wang found another Ro-mentum victim. Ro-mentum watch: John Dickerson, CBS/Slate. John Dickerson (son of Nancy Dickerson) is the quintessential Villager, and I can’t stand him–so I really enjoyed this one.

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. The latest, from John Dickerson at Slate:

It’s a fool’s game to guess whose momentum is greater. But Romney is peaking at just the right moment.

Ah, yes. The Great Election of October 13, 2012. I remember it well.

Wait a minute.

The subject of “political momentum” is a favorite among political pundits. I will guess that John Dickerson and David Brooks (“David Brooks – now with Ro-mentum!“, October 25) might not have found high school calculus to be their favorite subject. I wonder how they did in it.

And John Dickerson responded, completely missing the point.

The funniest thing about Dickerson’s Slate article is that it was a description of a speech Romney made in Defiance, Ohio on Thursday night in which Romney said something absolutely shocking that Dickerson didn’t even pick up on.

During the speech Romney set off a panic in Northwestern Ohio by announcing–based on some internet rumor that he read on a right wing blog–that Chrysler was planning to close the local Jeep plant and outsource all the jobs to China. From the Detroit News:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told a rally in northern Ohio on Thursday night that Chrysler was considering moving production of its Jeep vehicles to China, apparently reacting to incorrect reports circulating online.

“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”

Romney was apparently responding to reports Thursday on right-leaning blogs that misinterpreted a recent Bloomberg News story earlier this week that said Chrysler, owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, is thinking of building Jeeps in China for sale in the Chinese market

People in Defiance and nearby Toledo and other surrounding cities and towns were so freaked out that they started calling Chrysler and the company had to rush out and correct Mr. Mittmentum.

“Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

How irresponsible can you get? Can you imagine if Romney were president? We’d have a major crisis once a week or so.

TPM has an interesting piece up on polls: Live Polls Show Obama With Bigger Leads In Ohio.

Surveys of the Buckeye State have been all over the board in recent weeks as the election draws near. While most show President Obama with the lead, the size of it depends on whether the pollster was using human beings or robots to do the interviewing.

TPM compared the two methods and found that polls conducted by a live interviewer, the method widely considered to be the gold standard, have shown the President with larger leads than polls conducted by automated calls, which are prohibited from contacting people through cell phones. Since early September, live polls have shown Obama with an average lead of 4.5 percentage points in Ohio while his average lead in robo-polls has been less than 2.

Ohio has been the most polled state of the presidential campaign since the national conventions, edging both Florida and Virginia for that distinction. The 44 polls conducted there since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6 include 22 done by automated calling, 16 performed by live phone interviews, five conducted online and one based on mail-in responses.

Check out the chart at the link.

Just a couple more recommended reads for you.

Alternet has a must read piece on the horrors the government covered up during the BP oil gusher. Coverup No More: Shocking Photos and Emails of Dead Wildlife from Gulf of Mexico Spill Emerge

Some two and a half years after the BP oil spill, Greenpeace has obtained emails and photos from a U.S. government agency that reveal the extent to which the government tried to shield the public from the wildlife casualties of the spill.

Alternet links to their source article at the Guardian: US downplayed effect of Deepwater oil spill on whales, emails reveal.

Read only if you have a strong stomach.

Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic has a piece on the Republican rape and abortion obsession that provides a historical take that fits with terrific post Dakinikat wrote on the subject yesterday.  It’s titled Richard Mourdock, Mitt Romney and the GOP Defense of Coerced Mating.

Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have enthusiastically endorsed Mourdock, and have stood by him even after he claimed that if a women becomes pregnant through rape, “god” must have willed that zygote to be conceived and therefore a the raped girl or woman must carry and bear the child, no matter how that affects her life. Franke-Ruta writes about the history of forced marriage and makes the argument that other feminists have made–that sexual violence is a means for keeping women under control.

Coerced and not entirely voluntary mating have occurred throughout human history. I had a friend many years ago whose mother was a prize of war in a national conflict; it made for complicated family dynamics. But one sees rape, forced marriage and war go hand in hand throughout the ages, including our own; it is another form of conquest to create the next generation in your image from the bodies of the conquered. Violating women is a way of subjugating a population — sowing fear among the women, blocking the men from access to the future, and rupturing and weakening all the social bonds that made up the society that fought and lost. But for this to work there must also be children of rape. “If one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community,” former head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International Gita Sahgal has explained. Women must learn to love the image of their conquerors written in the faces of the children they suckle, and to despise themselves, and their weakness. If captives come to identify with those who hold them, it is only a tale as old as our ability to survive by orienting our beings around whoever has power over us.

This is one reason Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s mid-August comments that “if it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” set off such a firestorm — his beliefs showed deep biological and historical ignorance about the way rape-created pregnancies have been used to transform and dominate whole populations. But in his denial of the possibility of rape-created pregnancy he was acknowledging the truth that would erupt again into public view with Mourdock’s remarks: Post-rape pregnancies are where blanket anti-abortion views become de facto support for coercive mating and the legally sanctioned denial of agency to women not only on the question of whether to have a child, but who the child’s father should be.

Outside of the context of war, rape historically has been something more akin to a property crime than a crime against women per se — the injured party was the husband or father to whom the woman belonged, and recompense for the crime was made to him for the injury to his standing and damage to the marital or social value of the woman. It was also an honor crime, and in large parts of the world rape continues to be seen as one for which women bear primary responsibility. As such being raped is viewed as a female sexual transgression that creates a justification or even obligation for male relatives and community members to shun the assaulted, or, rarely, even avenge familial honor by killing victims.

I hope you’ll read the whole post–it’s very powerful.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?

Funny Thought…Mitt the smelly kid?

Mitt Antoinette © John Darkow,Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri,Mitt Romney, Dress, Girl, Fan, Boobs, American, People, Dead Beats, Bread, Eat, Southern Belle

Okay, for some reason after reading some headlines on the reactions of other GOP candidates to Mitt the Twitt’s latest bombshell, cough…I could not help but think of a few scenes from movies that show how I perceive these fellow candidates feel about Mitt.

First one is from Revenge of the Pink Panther…listen carefully because audio is low.

Just stick with me here…that clip has the reaction that’s like…damn, he shouldn’t do that in public…even though we know everyone does it in the privacy of their own campaign dinner fundraisers.

Then you have this one, from an old commercial…which by the way is a favorite of mine from way back:

Yeah, every one on the same page, but after a few stinkbombs leak out, leave him sitting alone…

But wait, this one from Ghostbusters is the best description, at least for me. It isn’t that Mitt is just the smelly kid, he is the dangerous toxic smelly kid:

“Switch me on…” and then move over slightly to “safety” even though you are pretty much screwed anyway!

On to the articles. I will just post the links and the first few paragraphs, so be sure to check them out.

Scott Brown distances himself from Romney video –

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown – in another effort to distance himself from national Republicans – denounced GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s recent statements that 47 percent of voters depend on government handouts and don’t pay taxes.

“That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs,” said Brown in a statement. “The number of people receiving food stamps has grown to 47 million. That’s why I’m fighting for job-creating policies that will help turn our economy around.”

Brown, who endorsed Romney for president, has differed with his political mentor before. He even urged Romney to release more tax returns earlier this year, saying the former Bay State governor should be open and honest about all aspects of his life.

Keeping Romney at arm’s length – The Maddow Blog

The Romney campaign and its surrogates are eager to convince the public the candidate’s “47 percent” problem is little more than clumsy language, but keep an eye on Republican candidates who’ll face a simple question: do you agree with the presidential candidate?

But it ain’t just the candidates distancing themselves…David Brooks Thurston Howell Romney Column – Charles P. Pierce on David Brooks – Esquire

Our Mr. Brooks Jumps the Ship, Thurston for More

Illustration by DonkeyHotey for The Politics Blog (Based on Images from the AP)

Moral Hazard, the Irish setter owned for photo-op purposes by New York Times columnist David Brooks, decided he would be a real dog today. Master seemed down in the dumps, wandering the dark clubrooms of the Young Fogies Club, murmuring to the pictures on the wall, and idly caressing the leatherbound copies of Reflections on the Revolution in France that lie around on every table. Master Brooks didn’t even crack them open. He just stood there, staring off into the middle distance, holding the book as though it were the last bottle of Petrus in the cellar.

Meanwhile, the White House letting Romney’s ‘47%’ comment speak for itself –

President Obama is trying not to get in Mitt Romney‘s way while Republican candidate deals with a newly released video of him offering frank comments about Obama supporters during a closed-door fundraiser.

But the president’s team is also not passing up the chance to point out Romney’s comments to interested viewers.

Out Tuesday on the Web is a new Obama for America video highlighting the grainy images of Romney asserting that many Obama voters see themselves as “victims” who deserve handouts from the government and who don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives.

The video then shows interviews with people on the street reacting to the Romney statements.

“Victims?” says one woman. “I wouldn’t say so.”

Well, one thing is sure…Paul Ryan is taking the South Park approach:

Click this one…can’t embed, it is awesome. First the clip about assisted suicide:

Jesus and Pals (Season 1, Episode 6) – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Paul Ryan, do you agree with Romney’s statement about the 47 percent?

“My son, I’m not touching that with a sixty foot pole…”

Full episode here:

Death (Season 1, Episode 6) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

Have a wonderful evening!

This is an open thread…

So Many Plutocrats, So Few Guillotines …

I don’t wonder how these folks get their money or their positions.  However, I do wonder if any one even listens to them.  Oh, wait.  One of them is running for president and the other is taken seriously in the media.

Where’s a guillotine when you need one?

Here’s the Romney example from my old home town of Council Bluffs, Iowa where my Dad owned a Ford Dealership for 30 years from KPTM TV.

Dianne Bauer opened up her cafe to Mitt Romney and his campaign for a small round table discussion Friday morning before his speech at Bayliss Park.

This isn’t the first politician that has asked Bauer to use the Main Street Cafe in downtown Council Bluffs.

“With Rick Perry he made a point of stopping in the kitchen before he ever went to the other side to address the public and the media to thank us and introduce himself to us,” said Bauer. “That’s what I thought we would get here, just normal. This was all out, like you’d think Obama was here.”

Bauer’s issues with the campaigns staffers started the night before when they started staging the cafe for the event.

She described many of their demeanors as “arrogant”.

She says her cafe was not treated with the respect it deserved.

“Stuff got broke. My table cloths they just got ripped off, wadded up and thrown in the back room,”

She says the boom truck she allowed the campaign to borrow to gain access to the roof now has an 8-inch gauge in it that she’ll have to take the time to repair.

The campaign told her to send them an itemized list of anything that was broken, and they would pay for it, but Bauer says that won’t fix everything.

“My dad’s picture, an emblem my dad gave me, it got broke. Those aren’t things you can replace,”

Bauer says she never even got to meet the candidate she closed half of her restaurant down for.

“Every time we tried to go out or look, secret service was right there,” she said.

She was complaining about the event to a friend when reporters overheard her and posted about it online.

That’s when Romney called Bauer himself. She says he explained that it was just a misunderstanding that she did not get to meet him, but the phone call didn’t smooth things over for her.

“He responded ‘well, I’m sorry your table cloths got ripped off, wadded up and thrown in the back room’ and I took it as mocking,” she said. “We’re the ones he’s wanting to get the votes from, you’d think we would have been treated better.”

She says the whole experience left her wondering.

“With how he treated me, is that how he’s going to treat others? You know, if he gets in office is he going to be that way to us little people?”

The always guillotine-worthy David Brooks proves to his again exactly why he is a public menace.  He whines that there just aren’t any good ‘followers’ out there any more.  I guess he’s in search of a new generation of true believers.  I’m going to let you read  Dean Baker who rips him a new one.

Nope, I’m not kidding. His column today is devoted to “the follower problem.” He is upset that people are cynical and don’t seem to trust the elites. Brooks tells us:

“I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted.”

Let’s leave aside 1925 since it was a very different world. In 1955 the economy was growing at a healthy pace with workers up and down the income ladder sharing in the prosperity. They were seeing rapidly rising living standards and it was a virtual certainty that children would enjoy much better standards of living than their parents.

Brooks may have missed it, but the economy collapsed in 2008. This was not due to any external event like a massive drought or asteroid strike, it was due to fact that the people who design economic policy were too brain-dead to see the largest financial bubble in the history of the world.

The result of this failure is that tens of millions of people are unemployed, underemployed, or out of the workforce altogether. Millions more are facing the loss of their homes. And a huge cohort of baby boomers, many of whom spent their lives working at decent paying jobs, are approaching retirement with nothing to support them but their Social Security.

It’s enough to make me take up knitting.

OOPS wrong musical …

David Brooks Stands up for Fellow Rich Man Mitt Romney

I just read David Brooks’ latest column, and thanks to Charlie Pierce, for once it didn’t make me feel like throwing my computer across the room. If you haven’t yet read Brooks’ defense of Mitt Romney’s wealth, please do so ASAP.

Brooks read the new book about Romney by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, and what he took from it is that–because of the gumption he must have inherited from his industrious Mormon ancestors–Mitt worked really really hard and pulled himself up by his own bootstraps! We shouldn’t be hard on Mitt for being one of the .01% of the 1%, because hard work was in his DNA or something. Brooks:

Mitt Romney is a rich man, but is Mitt Romney’s character formed by his wealth? Is Romney a spoiled, cosseted character? Has he been corrupted by ease and luxury?

The notion is preposterous. All his life, Romney has been a worker and a grinder. He earned two degrees at Harvard simultaneously (in law and business). He built a business. He’s persevered year after year, amid defeat after defeat, to build a political career.

Romney’s salient quality is not wealth. It is, for better and worse, his tenacious drive — the sort of relentlessness that we associate with striving immigrants, not rich scions.

Where did this persistence come from? It’s plausible to think that it came from his family history.

OMG! So Mitt’s success in business and politics had nothing to do with his father George Romney’s being head of American Motors, Governor of Michigan, and presidential candidate? It had nothing to do with with his dad’s Washington connections? Never mind, just read Charlie Pierce’s response. It’s priceless. Here’s that last part of it (Brooks quotes are in italics; Pierce quotes in bold):

George Romney, Mitt’s father, was born in Mexico. But when he was 5, in 1912, Mexican revolutionaries confiscated their property and threw them out. Most of the Romneys fled back to the U.S. Within days, they went from owning a large Mexican ranch to being penniless once again, drifting from California to Idaho to Utah, where again they built a fortune.

(Jesus, things really picked up there. One minute, Miles is eating beans and gravy in a Mexican shack and, the next minute, his grandson is heading up American Motors. What could have intervened in the meantime? Oh, I remember now. Big Business and Big Government! George Romney went to Washington, worked as a congressional aide and then became a lobbyist for the aluminum and auto industries. He also worked to the NRA during the New Deal. His contacts fast-tracked him into the upper echelons of the American automobile industry, whence he went into politics. These are avenues of immigrant striving that are largely closed to, say, Willard Romney’s gardener, and, very likely, to his grandchildren, too.)

It is a story of relentless effort, of recovery and of being despised (in their eyes) because of their own success. Romney himself experienced none of this hardship, of course, but Jews who didn’t live through the Exodus are still shaped by it.

Mitt Romney can’t talk about his family history on the campaign trail. Mormonism is an uncomfortable subject. But he must have been affected by it.

(We pause here for a moment to ask two important questions: a) Are there any editors at the New York Times op-ed page? And, b) Are they all freaking drunk or what? Yes, Willard Romney’s distant ancestors had it tough. This has little or nothing to do with why Willard is acting like a rich foof on the campaign trail for the second consecutive presidential election cycle. Go back far enough, and David Brooks’s family are low-browed slouching primates eating antelope with their hands in the Serengeti. This would not excuse bad table manners on his part. And Mitt Romney does not decline to talk about his Mormonism on the campaign trail because it’s too painful. He declines to talk about it because half his lunatic, Bible-banging base thinks it’s a cult in which is worshipped Satan’s longjohns.)

His wealth is a sideshow.

(Hell, Willard doesn’t even know he’s rich. That’s how all that money snuck off to the Caymans when he wasn’t watching. To hell with better reporters. Can we at least have a superior class of courtiers?)

Thanks to Charlie Pierce, a David Brooks column just made my day. I hope my good mood holds through the South Carolina returns tonight.