Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Palin’

You’ve got to give Newt Gingrich credit. He manages to carry the torch of leading intellectual light of the Republican party, even as he says nonsensical things to boobs. It’s admirable because despite the fallibility of the man on paper, his celebrity is unshakable reality, the same way Kim Kardashian’s is. Just as she is now “a singer,” a fact true enough to resist critique since she indeed sings, Gingrich is now the Republican party’s thinker, because he indeed appears to be breathing and thus his thinking must be taken for granted.

His latest caveat to the faithful is that America within his grandchildren’s time will become socialist and secular but also Islamist. Work that out. He said it to a bunch of evangelicals. Not as a theologian, he reminded them, but as a historian, one who had nothing historical to point out except that everything the Christians believed was true. We might ask, if indeed the evangelicals are right, what need is there for history? What must a historian say to evangelicals? Why even wave those credentials? All we can find in history are strange peculiarities like the fact that our “Christian founding fathers” had several closet atheists among them, including chief framer Thomas Jefferson, who is mainly a Christian by default, since he held no beliefs recognizable to modern Christian ears. Gingrich is shocked that the courts of our country have grown “steadily more secular.” Yes, we should finds it indeed blood-chilling that secular courts should be the progeny of a manifestly secular document, the U.S. Constitution.

It’s chilling that a historian might not challenge a few people who might need a history lesson. Instead, he has done what historians ought not be in the business of doing: predicting the future. FYI: It’s Muslims everywhere. In our halls, streams and sink traps.

I once met a German filmmaker who was visiting our country during the thick of the Iraq War. He was shocked and disgusted by what he found. The generations of Germans who followed the Nazis had been, in the long process of de-Nazification, warned repeatedly about the misuses of propaganda, taught how to resist it when it was used by malefactors and mountebanks. And what had my German friend found when he got here: It appeared to him that the United States had not yet purged its own attraction to brazenly chauvinist, nationalist appeals by narrow minded politicians seeking short-term gain. Our country had seemingly vanquished his, but in the end we actually lost on the ideals. Sorry krauts, guess we owe you for that one.

Gingrich might still have a chance at becoming the presidential candidate in 2012, one whose past infidelities and marriage butchering (the kind of antics that make still-married Bill Clinton look positively saintly) will be a turn off to the one group he’s trying most desperately to court: the Bible thumpers.

The man is a tragic political figure in many ways. Even skeptics admit he’s always loved big ideas–he was a friend of the Internet early and seemed less a reactionary than a cold-blooded futurist, one whose clarity in a post-New Deal world might be necessary or even helpful (maybe even disinfected, we hoped, of racism). But in his other lung, he has always loved him the filthy smelly swill of partisan politics and been willing to roll in it like a pig in shit, loved it enough to compromise all his ideals for small political gains, been willing to lead a plurality of shitheads to minority political death. You might accuse Clinton of the same impulsive emotionalism, except that Clinton continued to pursue his big ideas and still manage to win elections (and remain married to his wife–as of 2011, anyway).

Gingrich, unlike Clinton, has always showed the unerring stupidity to win battles and lose wars. Now he would solve the problem of our political divisiveness by imposing a rigid Christianity throughout the land, something that independents, Obama skeptics that they are, will not tolerate.

The desperation and hind-titty playing is obvious almost daily as Gingrich tries to position himself as anointed 2012 white hope following Sarah Palin’s post-Tucson meltdown. Within a two-week period, Gingrich chastised Barack Obama both for going to Libya and for not going to Libya fast enough. He blasted an anti-authoritarian revolution in Egypt as being somehow corrupted by its occurrence in an Islamic country. He told Obama to act more like Reagan and less like Jimmy Carter. For those of you who trust “historian” Gingrich on this,  a bit of digging into a fifth grade history book will remind you that Jimmy Carter made peace between Egypt and Israel and Ronald Reagan led an air strike on Libya that failed to remove its president. There is a good reason to criticize Barack Obama’s approach to a troubled Libya. If Gingrich had gone for the analytical tack rather than the soundbytes, he might have ended up looking less like an idiot every time events changed within the day. Instead, he looks like he’s willing to say anything. He looks small.

I liken him to the conservative mirror image of Charles Foster Kane. The great man who might be lurking in there is too much a slave to his compulsions, even it seems to his libido. He cannot seem to get beyond the concept of “us” and “them,” and yet doesn’t seem to realize that his “us” is getting smaller and his “them” is increasingly including the rest of us.

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Washington, D.C.–Some 80% of Americans said on Tuesday that they “can’t do this anymore,” and made a dramatic exit from some marriage, situation, job, argument or film screening.

Americans everywhere have found refuge to this careworn phrase, one stemming from perhaps every movie on the planet from “Sex and the City” to “Traffic” to “Fight Club,” to express common frustrations of their everyday life and bring closure to some chapter of their lives. In many cases, they are ending a job or a relationship.

“I can’t do this anymore,” said Brayden Horowitz to his girlfriend Sadie Asher. “Haven’t we done too much damage to each other to continue this game?”

“I can’t do this anymore,” said Peter Wilhelm, a vice president at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank to his boss, Stanley Wheel. “The financial services industry is just too wrecked for us to go on.”

“I can’t do this anymore,” said Linda Splevin, on the verge of sending her 8-year-old son Tyler to military academy.

All across the country, experts admit, Americans just can’t do it anymore. The U.S. Happiness Index suggests that a steady dose of geopolitical turmoil, economic uncertainty, rampant unemployment and sexual frustration have led Americans to a dramatic need to take a stand like the one they see made practically every day on television.

“When Miranda on ‘Sex and the City,’ said to Steve ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ she was really speaking for all of us,” said Lacey Weiss, a psychologist at Northwestern University. “People tend to view both their world and their own lives in a dramatic story arc. They love beginnings. The struggle through the middles. They enjoy the high points for as long as they last. But what we love most of all when we’re being dramatic is bringing everything to a sweeping conclusion, likely with music ringing in their ears and the crashing denouement, ‘No, really, I can’t do this anymore.’ It is not just a trite phrase. It is part of our self-mythologizing.”

Weiss said that she planned to give up on her doctorate degree later that month and go get a job learning Chinese.

“I loved being a psychologist, but how long do I have to wait around for an interview like this one to make it all worth while? I just can’t do this anymore.”

The new trend is seen most perceptibly on the MTV hit “The Jersey Shore,” where approximately 67% of the dialogue is “I can’t do this anymore.” (The other 33% being “She’s DTF!” and “Snookie in the house, bitch.”)

“I just can’t do this anymore,” said Hosni Mubarak to the people of Egypt in mid-February. Meanwhile, other people who haven’t been able to do this anymore are Ashlee Simpson, Sandra Bullock and Kate Winslet. Comedy superstar Steve Carrell will meanwhile be leaving his hit series “The Office,” also because he can’t do this anymore.

However, pundits have noticed a discouraging number of people who as of this posting can indeed still do this anymore–among them are Muammar Gaddafi, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Kim Kardashian.

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Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

Sarah Palin released a video today in which she talked about the shootings in Arizona. She would like to go back and edit some of her language now that she realizes what some phrases actually mean.

“Like millions of Americans, I was learned of the tragic events that unfolded in Arizona on Saturday. I could not understand why a deranged man would try to attack those showing their peaceful right to assemble and to exchange ideas in our vibrant country. But how sadly ironic it was to see later that people were trying to apportion blame to those other than the law breaker. Dare we call this kind of talk a blood libel dirty smear?

Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own and we should not stand still while journalists and pundits manufacture a pogrom backlash against those who debate passionately. Why, the attitude among the media to patriotic right wing talk radio hosts this week was  a Holocaust an outrage. A real genocide. Real dirty pool. As Americans rallied to express their opinions in a beautiful moment of inspiring debate that so defines our country, a mad man let loose with a mindless rampage. But rather than unite together in a time of common humanity, we let the media create a Shoah horrible controversy.

It is important for us to respect our differences with each other and strive for a better country. And for us instead to point fingers at each other is a horrible final solution mistake. Ronald Reagan said that blame for monstrous acts should stop with the monster. I agree with that. Let not the vibrant debate in our country be muffled by those who would seek to tear us apart.We cannot abide by these volkisch partisan sentiments. It will end in a real Dreyfus Affair moral travesty. Or a Farhud war of words.

Sometimes political parties win and sometimes they lose, and we do no favor to the political process by acting like antisemitic silly Nazis schoolchildren prosecuting a kristallnacht pitching hissy fits. The only thing we have to fear is Judeophobia fear itself.

Thank you, and God bless America”

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The attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the death of six bystanders in yesterday’s mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona have sparked a debate about how toxic our national discourse has become. That discourse barely had time to neutralize before it turned toxic again a few hours later. Before suspect Jared Lee Loughner was even named as the suspect, left wingers took aim at the Tea Party and Sarah Palin for the gun imagery she has brought to bear (and bears) in our national debates, and her targeting of Giffords in particular. This, they say, wasn’t an isolated incident by a crazy person but the spawn of a right-wing firmament that breeds crazy in crazy nurseries.

A couple of years ago, for instance, Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly repeatedly called Kansas abortion provider George Tiller a baby killer and mentioned him some 28 times on his show. Tiller was later murdered by Scott Roeder, shot in the eye while he was inside his church. The right has since Barack Obama’s election become more ominous in its rhetoric, more martial in its imagery and apocalyptic in its pronouncements. A disempowered group of Americans in 2008 turned to millenarian fury (a sign of their fear). Thus Giffords and others had gotten threats for their support of the health care bill. People were showing up at protests during those debates brandishing guns.

And so there was an anticipation building up among liberals that something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, perhaps even a dark wish that it happen to reveal the true animal spirits on the right.

So once there was news of a shooting, it seemed like a good time to immediately assail Palin’s bulls eye imagery, and the crosshairs she trained on Arizona’s Eight District in a 2010 political poster, which Giffords herself called an implied threat. Or for that matter it was worth remembering that Ann Coulter once called Bill Clinton assassination worthy. Or that Glenn Beck has joked about killing opponents and that his whole ideology is based around conspiracy theories that appeal to our country’s many lunatics.

At some point, rhetoric does indeed turn into threat, as I think it did in O’Reilly’s case. The First Amendment doesn’t cover threats. You can’t draw a line through a person’s name and smear it in blood on a poster. But it’s not like the right doesn’t know this. Instead its more clever exponents play with the contradictions. Palin and Glenn Beck do it with an edge of satire that their audience is likely aware of on some level, as obnoxious and destructive as it is to progress, as anathema as it is to people with brains. Yes it’s sad that some dummies do take it seriously (not realizing that Palin is less about policy than media whoredom or not recognizing that Beck is little more than a snake oil salesman/pitch man for gold investments). But the left uses imagery just as often, and with the arrogant vouchsafe that it’s OK for us because we’re right after all. A lot of us called George Bush a war criminal because we thought he had left at least a hundred thousand people dead in Iraq by lying about the reasons for going to war. Are there ramifications of using that language? Could it be used by a crazy person who thinks George Bush is literally a wanted criminal and who might in a deranged state somehow take action on that notion?

This is one reason I can’t blame Palin and Beck for Giffords. And that has made me a very lonely lefty this week.

Call it First Amendment fundamentalism or just sadness about how quickly the situation was exploited. Nobody on the left had the sense to wait a few hours to see who opened fire at that Safeway, and when it turned out to be a moonstruck college dropout/armed forces reject with paranoias about mind control, libs had to spin like mad when they realized they had literally jumped the gun. All of my heroes are now doing the mushy blogs about how toxic our political climate has become and trying with limp avail and flimsy proof to lay it at the feet of Palin.

Yes, Loughner used some right wing symbols about the Constitution being under attack and about the integrity of gold-backed currency. But he was mainly weaving that into a dark, solipsistic ideology all his own, barely recognizable to even NRA members. Who in the hell on the right wing has ever argued about government control of your “grammar structure”?

My heroes Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman have taken this story with the dutiful drudgery of football players taking their positions at shirts and skins scrimmage. Krugman did not offer his usual elegant hard numbers to back up his weak contention that this was an invariable outcome of right wing hate-mongering–but just swiped at Palin in a pro forma rant,  trying to convince us she’s more to blame than people who used to call George Bush Hitler. Before 5 p.m. yesterday, conservatives already had been roused to defensive anger and were in pretty good stead to bat away the arguments that Jared Loughner’s  insanity in any way resembled their own behavior. The anti-bodies had kicked in, and there would be no reason, if I were a right-winger, to listen to the criticism. The left made a prima facie judgment and showed the right it will blame Sarah Palin for anything, even small pox, car wrecks or dog mange.

That makes her stronger, folks.

I’m a leftist, and do believe the Tea Party has created a toxic environment of anti-government panic and often destroyed sensible discourse with meaningless sloganeering. My late mother once told me that in her job as a tax preparer, she came across people who wanted to cash out of all their stock holdings at unattractive bases, take big tax hits or do other forms of financial violence to themselves just because Fox News has told them America had gone socialist. My mother’s prescription: “Fox News should be banned.” And this was a woman who had voted for Bush.

Just another example that conservative thinking is going to do real harm to many disadvantaged people (a lot of them conservatives) in the long run. They will slash necessary programs, push an anti-government agenda that forces more out-of-pocket expenses on poor people, destroy the middle class, accelerate wealth disparity, put us more in debt to the Chinese and force depressions on us if they have to. But it’s hard to prove or see that kind of insidious violence, and that makes lefties want to pin something more tangible on right wing leaders. How about a murder?

The fact is that there are lots of ways to slice the orange on this story. The most horrible is the one none of us dare bring up: We could point to the tragic irony that Giffords is a gun rights advocate and maybe ask if this is a good time to bring up the issue again in our national discourse. We could have taken aim (note the harmless metaphor) at Sarah Palin’s gun stances rather than Palin herself. Instead, we played into her hands and won her more sympathy.

Or we could have noted the irony that Giffords has not been easy to pigeonhole and she’s a good example of our less doctrinaire politicians. The sad thing is that maybe we need more of her, not one less. Our all-too-necessary political center is being attacked when it ought to be protected.

Instead, we liberals painted ourselves into a corner and made this contradictory statement: “The political atmosphere has become too toxic … and it’s the other side’s bloody fault.”

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I’ve said lots of times that far-right Republicans and Tea Party members likely don’t believe half the things they say. People who use the words “freedom” and “socialism” without clarification, qualification or even subject-verb agreement are merely doing it to stop a conversation, not to get points across. It allows them to stun opponents into mute stupidity, because being against freedom is like being against kittens or puppies or children. Why you could even cry “freedom” if you’re leading people to the gas chamber if you wanted to. Playing victim is a great tactic because it always works, even when you’re using it against uninsured children.

I’m sorry … I used sick children to force you to concede a point. How very Tea Party of me. How about special needs children? Cheryl Ladd in a bikini?

If you try to introduce universal health care policies, something more than two-thirds of the American public have long wanted, you will have to mind being bullied by cretins who insist that this is an “experiment against their liberties.” Never mind that under such a strict view of the Constitution, Medicare, Social Security and the CIA are also “experiments.” Social Security, in fact, is an experiment that provides half the income for 52% of elderly married couples and 72% of elderly unmarried people. That’s a lot of old people depending on government money. This experiment, this “innovation” against your freedom is also providing more than half of the money that your grandparents live on.

So when you see so many vigilante mob members animated about basic freedoms they aren’t losing, you might at least take comfort that they’ll step up for you when there’s an actual threat to the real Constitution, not an apocryphal James Madison quote (like the one about the experiments). You might hope they would defend Wikileaks cables, for example, as an archive of information that, for all its flaws, strengthens freedom of the press, curbs the power of centralized government to protect its own power first and illuminates the misdeeds of our foes and heroes both. It’s unfortunate that the founder has silly anarchist beliefs or hasn’t redacted information that could get people hurt, which is why I’m not a big fan. But his mission is actually an important one for people who claim they want to be politically enfranchised, who yell in the streets that their freedoms are being violated by centralized authority.

Where are these freedom defenders now? Gone huntin’. You’ve got Sarah Palin saying that Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange is comparable to an Al Qaeda and Taliban leader and his acts “treasonous.” (Never mind that treason applies only to U.S. citizens). Newt Gingrich calls Assange an “enemy combatant.” I pick on these two frauds a lot, but only because they are positioning themselves for the presidency in 2012, and neither has shown real courage to defend the teeth of the Constitution where it’s needed.

There has been a lot of debate about whether Gingrich and Palin are implicitly condoning Assange’s murder by the CIA, but even if they aren’t, other crackpots are. You must savor the irony when you have a loud chorus of so-called patriots and Constitution fundamentalists call for the death of a journalist. Their fundamentalism is suddenly gone, and what’s left is their slave morality.

Perhaps that’s harsh, extremist language to use? Consider that anybody trying to get health insurance to children for the last two years or even trying to get small business owners health insurance subsidies has been compared to Hitler.

Of course, there are some right wingers who see this contradiction in their arguments against Wikileaks, but not nearly enough of them given the way they go into temporal lobe seizure over, say, the public health option. One troubled Tea Party writer flirts with the contradiction with his stance this way: “I’m all for 1st amendment freedoms and the freedom of information act. I am protective and thrilled we are not a secretive and communist society, BUT, there is never an excuse for leaks between to top level officials or heads of state regarding sensitive national security issues.”

You mean, like the Pentagon Papers?

Are you surprised that right wingers show the white feather when it really comes to Constitutional protections? I’m not. I’ve said all along: These people have already shown during the previous administrations their ambivalence about Constitutional protections over and over. Habeas corpus was gutted during the Clinton administration, and there was no groundswell of right wingers coming forward to protect Constitutional freedom. Of course, that ambivalence was nothing compared to the way they let George Bush gut the Constitution. The Patriot Act allowed law enforcement officials to look at what we were taking out of the library. The Iraq War, fought with a huge disinformation campaign and tons of publicly issued debt, was the right wing’s patriotic rallying point. Where was the right wing when George Bush was running up record deficits? Or getting the NSA to spy on us without wiretaps? Even if the right has now been chastened on the war issue, how can they not at least admit that it is the American taxpayer’s bill to pay?

Or let’s talk about their interest in religious freedom. If they really supported it, they’d have to support it for everybody, even for Muslims building mosques in lower Manhattan. Right wingers also take a crap all over separation of powers, too, as Republican legislators did in Oklahoma recently. The Oklahoma legislators said judges could not consider Sharia law (or any other international law) in making decisions, even though it’s never been a threat to the Oklahoma legal system. They didn’t seem to notice how they’d made the mistake of telling the courts what they could and couldn’t do. Separation of powers didn’t cross their minds. The establishment clause of the First Amendment didn’t cross their minds. International business contracts (which Oklahoma dearly needs to diversify its heavily oil-dependent economy) also didn’t cross their minds. No, it was only the bigoted fear of Islam, whose system of religious law has never posed a threat to this heartiest of heartland states.

Of course, there are very consistent Republicans, like the reliable Ron Paul, who deserve much credit for their brave stances against the forces of right-wing conformity, bigotry and alarmism. I know there are moderate Republicans out there who negotiate the ethical problems of government with an open mind and without dogma, but such Republicans are running scared and with few happy exceptions will not confront the bigots, demagogues, culture warriors and superstitious yahoos in their ranks. The fact of the matter is that loud bullying Republican minorities get away with a lot in our public discourse because they can so ably bully the soft-bellied moderates in their own party and through this lever and fulcrum mechanism turn a tiny bit of hate into a lot of hateful action.

Constitutional fundamentalism is a show for these people. Any right thinking person would hold the Park 51 mosque against the right wing they cry about their gun rights. Would hold Wikileaks against the right wing when they shout about how income tax enslaves them. There is a real experiment against liberty going on–the Tea Party experiment. Its adherents want to see how many of you it can fool.

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We’ve heard all the complaints about the current state of Washington: a new president has broken his promises and pursued a far left agenda, reneged on promises to get us out of Guantanamo, continued to employ Bush-era policies on surveillance and signing statements. Conservatives say he has quadrupled the deficit spending and forced an unpopular health care bill down the throats of American taxpayers, one that will force Americans to buy health insurance, a mandate that might possibly infringe their Constitutional rights. He has had the government take control of vast parts of our auto and banking industries. At the same time he and the progressive caucus in Washington are steering us toward tax increases at the worst possible time–when we are still suffering the withering effects of a recession and crippling unemployment that continues to hover around 10%.

Americans, angry about the state of the economy, their unemployed neighbors and perceived loss of freedoms, are very susceptible to these arguments and have taken the only course they know–they’ve lashed out and tilted right, vowing not only to vote in Republicans, but those approved by the libertarian-minded Tea Party.

Americans, in other words, are about to shoot themselves in the face.

I’m sorry, that doesn’t seem strong enough. What other aphoristic or pithy phrases could I use to get people’s attention? What if I said Americans are going to shoot their children in the faces? Or kill their own dogs? Or disembowel their family members?

It seems hard to choose the right violent imagery to describe how Americans are about to get it so entirely wrong on November 2–when they send to Congress people who loudly cried for a new Great Depression. Who rail against unemployment insurance when 10% of America is unemployed. Who scream against federal tax increases that haven’t actually happened.  America is about to elect people whose biggest argument is that unemployment is still 10%, therefore we should have elected a government that did nothing to help save the economy in the first place. President Bush shouldn’t have kept banks solvent with a bailout (you do remember it was Bush who did that, right?) and President Obama shouldn’t have injected stimulus into the economy. The Tea Party argument? We should have let the economy crash and burn and unemployment go to 26% or 30%.

Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

We are about to punish Barack Obama for saving the economy from a new Great Depression. It’s as  simple as that. We are about to thump the Democrats for keeping the car industry and several venerable financial institutions from imploding. We are about to body check a Democratic Congress for their part in making sure 95% of Americans have health insurance by the end of the decade. We are going to head butt Nancy Pelosi for making sure health insurance companies can’t turn away children for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to sucker punch Barack Obama for dragging the last combat battalions out of Iraq. We’re going to rabbit punch Congress for giving the middle class a tax cut (and even offering to extend it). We’re going to bitch  slap Barney Frank for trying to police Wall Street, to stop the promiscuous mixing of bank deposits and speculative investments and stop excessive risk taking by banks  that helped lead to the financial crisis. It was this free-market biases, deregulated, Wild West Wall Street that in 2008 led to people to lose their savings, their hedge funds and their faith in the meaningless pieces of paper that are the foundation of capitalism. We have short memories in America. We have decided Barack Obama is now responsible for all of that.

Shooting. Ourselves. In the face.

And what are we going to trade all this all in for? A group of people with no real agenda other than to hate government spending — at least if it is not spent on them. People who say the market takes care of itself. People whose only stated virtue is their anger. People who at worst make schizophrenic connections between Joseph Stalin and Nancy Pelosi and who at best are actively calling for the conditions that led us to financial ruin in the first place. Mainstream Republican leaders complain about the skyrocketing U.S. deficit on the one hand but refuse because of rigid ideology to do the one thing all economists agree would need to be done to balance the budget: control spending, yes, but also increase taxes, especially on the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans. The Tea Party is worse. They show little agenda but vanity and petulant conviction in categorically untrue things. They think cap and trade is a redistribution scheme. They think illegal Mexican immigrants are destroying the middle class. They think Medicare is a private company. They show no policy imagination but instead flaunt their ignorance as if that, like their anger, were somehow a virtue. These are not people who have not ever learned or cared about how policy affects real people like your grandparents and your poor neighbors but instead have learned only to smugly curl their lip and deride people who spent their lives in public service (whether it be Democrats or Republicans). It’s the kind of knowing smile you often see on people who know nothing at all–a popular gambit with teenagers who haven’t done their homework. We laughed at “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” when Jeff Spiccoli “cruised” history. Now Sarah Palin is the one cruising history. She’s gotten a free pass for knowing nothing. She makes dummies feel secretly wise.

These are the people you are about to entrust your economy to. Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

The problem with electing people who have no respect for government and no real policy agenda is that when they get elected, they are incredibly weak and susceptible to the new accouterments of their power. They will find themselves agreeing with more aggressive people who do have strong policy agendas. Lobbyists. Think tanks. The insurance industry. The military industrial complex. News Corp. And make no mistake–the real agenda of many alpha Republicans is a gutted government at home (one that pays, it seems, for nothing but Medicare) and an expanded empire abroad. Were Republicans to take power today in both Congress and the White House, they would not only ignore the ailing economy (since they believe it’s government’s job to do nothing), but they would try to get you to ignore it too by refocusing your attention on Iran, which would once again take center stage in our national discourse. A Congress of weak-minded Tea Party hacks would suddenly shed their “leave me alone” philosophy, which is not their real philosophy at all, and go along with the nationalistic, sloganeering patriotism that characterized the Bush era. Need proof? They already did. The Tea Party already failed the libertarian test by showing up late for the real executive power grab–and dressed for the wrong party.

This is perhaps the biggest danger of what we’re about to do. One of the biggest reasons that America is about to shoot … itself … in the face.

Often when you hear people on the far right complain about the government, they will tell you in a nice, clear, concise and short epigrammatic prose all you need to know about the economy: you have to cut taxes, deregulate and get out of the way. This is an article of faith for people who don’t realize how complicated economies really are. Macroeconomics is not the type of thing that easily gives itself over to the platitudes of the left wing or the right. The fact is that the economy, like your father, is more complicated than that. Ask almost anybody, even Republicans, what ended the Great Depression and they’ll say the Second World War, but they won’t work through the logic–government spending saved the economy. Ask them why Ronald Reagan was a great president and they’ll say he helped save the economy by cutting taxes and deregulating. They won’t talk about his huge military buildup–in other words, how government spending helped save the economy.

Meanwhile, overseas, another government has shown that throwing a trillion bucks in stimulus into your economy can make a great difference: the Chinese government has thrown about as much money into its sagging economy in the last two years as America has. Unlike we Americans, however, the Chinese forced their banks to lend. Of course, they suffered some overheating speculation in property, but their GDP has run circles around ours. In part this is because China is going online with its own major consumer demand–a huge engine of growth as the country urbanizes. But without a doubt, government stimulus saved it from plunging into the morass. Unlike Americans, the Chinese have no strange and self-defeating bias against a government helping its people against the depredations of capitalism gone out of control.

Tea Partiers do. They are so wedded to their beliefs, in fact, that they would let the economy fall apart and our society plunge into Malthusian chaos before they gave up on these beliefs. You don’t need proof for this belief. They have said it out loud. The Republicans poised to take over in the House of Representatives, not Tea Partiers, by the way, have said that if they takes over in the next session, they won’t be able to work with the president unless the president concedes that government spending doesn’t help the economy. In other words, Barack Obama will have to believe in the Easter Bunny if he wants Republicans to work with him.

Our banks should have been allowed to fail, say Tea Partiers, and the consequences be damned, even if it’s the average American who would have suffered the most. Theirs is a millenarian philosophy, a law of the jungle. “Creative destruction” means that if capitalism eats itself and mass unemployment results, so be it. Has any member of the Tea Party talked about what it would take to bring jobs back other than cutting taxes? Do you honestly think the real problem is that taxes weren’t cut enough? They were already at historic lows, as were interest rates, and that’s when rampant, crippling, stupid risk taking took place at almost every level of the economy, from subprime home borrowers to hedge fund managers. Look at the balance sheets of American companies and look at the record amount of cash they are sitting on, in an environment where taxes continue to be low, and then ask yourself if you can still be wedded to your obnoxious faith in economic libertarianism. It’s a bit like starving your baby by not giving up your belief in veganism. The reason unemployment is still high is that American companies find spoiled Americans with their luxury goods and their iPhones too expensive to hire. It has nothing to do with anything Barack Obama has done.

And yet it’s people who are crying about high taxes that you are about to hand your economy to. People who don’t even know their taxes haven’t increased. Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

Of course, it’s important to ask when government should be involved in the economy and when it should back off. Instead, the discussion has been hijacked by free market fundamentalists who make up in vitriol they lack in real economic insight. Centrists, Blue Dog democrats and even reasonable conservatives are afraid of these people. For some reason, when nobody seems to know what to do, we are always impressed by the people who have the most conviction of spleen.

You can definitely criticize Obama’s deference to these people. Deference to enemies somehow only gets the blood of your enemies up even more. I can’t think of any president in recent years so hot to cooperate with the party across the aisle and who for that quickly got Hitler mustaches painted on his effigy.

For that we’re going to hand at least one house of  Congress back to the Republicans next week. Some are even talking about impeaching the president. For what? Starting an illegal war? Codifying water boarding? No, just for being, in their minds, a communist.

You can dislike the state of the nation. You can be unhappy, from either side of the aisle, with what Barack Obama has done or hasn’t done. But if can’t vote for him, then it’s important to know this Election Day that there is definitely somebody you should be voting against: extremists. The Tea Party is a dangerous movement of crackpots, at worst racist and at best willing to destroy the middle class and wreck the economy because of a reductionist, idea fixe. If there is a group of reasonable Republicans who want to discuss how misplaced liberal good intentions hurt the middle class, I’ll be happy to listen to them. But that is not who we are about to elect. We’re about to elect the people of Jonestown. Cultists. Crazies.

Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

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As we count down the days until the 2010 midterm election, we’re likely going to be treated to a swelling, tumescent heightened political rhetoric on television and in newspapers, as loud debates echo through student union arcades, in town hall meetings, on the steps of state capitals and in the dankest of Red State outhouses. Many lies will be told. Many ribs will be eaten. Your gay friends will be used as political fodder for people scoring cheap points. Thanks, gays!

As you careen through this veld of poison poppies, you are likely to feel sometimes like other people control the terms of debate, leaving you speechless and/or helpless to raise your own concerns and objections. Many memes and buzzwords will be used, like electrical shunts, to skirt you around the troublesome ideas underlying them. You will hear some of your older friends, for example, say things like “I am not politically correct,” as a shorthand way of saying, “Actually, I still don’t like black people.” You will hear phrases like “Barack Obama thinks I’m trash because I’m white,” which actually means, “I am actually trash, and I hate successful people who remind me of that fact, even more so if they are black.” You will hear some Democrats say President Obama’s critics are racist, but really they just hate being unemployed.

The best way for you to fight back against word games played by partisans is to try to drill down into semiotics and try to figure out the code. Here are some of the words you will hear a lot of in the next few weeks:

Elites: this refers to somebody who corrected you when you got something wrong.

Maverick: somebody who doesn’t look things up.

Going rogue: failing to finish a sentence

Socialist: to most of us, this word is pretty clear. It has given us Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, home loans, student loans and everything else that buttresses the American middle class and keeps the streets free of homeless mendicants and the other signs of blighted pre-revolutionary France. But if you think of it instead as robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, then you are undoubtedly not a fan of childhood favorite Robin Hood.

Unemployment: depending on who is using this word, it either means the natural result of socialist tendencies (which is a complete contradiction in terms) or the natural result of corporations finding American workers too expensive (which is so true that saying it out loud will get you pelted with eggs).

Obamacare: legislation passed in early 2010 that has already resulted in many of your friends and family members being sent to euthanasia camps. (Really! It checks out on Snopes!)

Nanny state: a nanny is somebody who doesn’t let you eat a dog turd off the ground. Anti-union, anti-minimum wage, pro-restaurant lobbyist Rick Berman reminds you: “Don’t listen to the nannies, kids. You go ahead and eat that turd.” You don’t have to be mollycoddled by government when you’ve got corporations looking out for your best interests with absolutely positively no agenda of their own.

Middle class: Both sides will use this phrase liberally over the next few weeks, and you’re sure to be confused, because both sides will claim they are protecting it and blaming each other for its disappearance. I’m sure that both liberals and conservatives on the Titanic would have blamed each other for it sinking, too. So let’s just stay there’s a hole in the boat and nobody knows how to fix it. The Democrats onboard will blame the Chinese for the disaster and the Republicans will declare war on Iran. “Nearer My God to Thee” in the key of F major, please.

Racist: anybody angry about the bank bailouts

Racist: Anybody who doesn’t fully support the beliefs of the Honorable Clarence Thomas.

Bigot: Anybody who doesn’t believe Jesus was two substances brought together in hypostatic union and now lives at the right hand of God in a milky ball of interstellar gas like the Bible says. (Checks out on Snopes!)

Racist: anybody who believes in a progressive income tax, which hurts rich black people

Racist: Anybody who supports abortion rights, which is really a black genocide scheme.

Racist: Anybody who supports unions, which use black members’ money only to support Democratic causes, which is not fair since some of those black people are probably secretly Republican.

Racist: Anybody who Rush Limbaugh says is racist, and by the way, he also says poor black people getting subprime loans caused the recession, not overly leveraged Wall Street banks. (Checks out on Snopes!) Anybody who blames the overly leveraged Wall Street banks and not the black people is just a racist.

Racist: President Barack Obama, who, unlike white people, is a member of a “race.” (Checks out on Snopes).

Purple: This word is politically neutral. You are free to have no opinion on it.

Multiculturalism: The auspices under which black racists will take over our country.

Libertarian: somebody with a strict, prescriptivist adherence to the Constitution as it pertains to the WASPs who wrote it.

WASPs: These people are still in charge. So you will not likely hear this word at all.

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It seems like whenever you tear down a building, rats always come out.

Likewise, there’s a certain stink of hypocrisy that always surrounds controversial topics like Park 51, (also known as the Cordoba Project), the 13-story Muslim cultural center (and small mosque) planned for construction in Lower Manhattan. If you haven’t heard, it’s a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site, where thousands of Americans (of all faiths) lost their lives in a jihad carried out in the name of Islam by extremists almost nine years ago.

Because 9/11 is such a sensitive topic for so many Americans (especially New Yorkers), it requires extra critical thinking by both sides–especially, I hate to say, by those hurting the most. Those most inclined to yell and those in best stead to do harm to other people.  But instead of tolerance or listening or ratiocination, we have instead the pastiche and passion play that now pass for democracy: screaming tantrums, threatening, bulling, political posturing, recrimination and thumb sucking cries of persecution by the people who actually hold the real power.

And of course there are lies. Stinking piles of them reeking like a colony of dead rats behind your drywall. Untruth can be found on both sides of the debate. Opponents who know nothing about New York City think the mosque is going up right on the site, not two blocks away (and if you’re not familiar with the place, two blocks in New York City can take you through as many cultural dynamics as the Epcot Center). Some liberals (even, sadly, the otherwise heroic Keith Olbermann) have said there will be no mosque at all, which is odd considering that the Park51 site itself advertises a small mosque.

But it’s probably no surprise that Cordoba House opponents are the ones lying more, not only about the specifics but about the big picture. Do they have a good reason? After all, politics play a role in how we use our space. Yes, the First Amendment protects Muslims and whatever the hell they want to build even if they want to build it within homogeneous white enclaves. That’s an irrefutable fact.

But you’ve got to pick your battles. Law is not the only yardstick with which we measure our relationships to each other and at some point you have to turn to the Cordoba House builders and ask … did you have to plan one so close to the World Trade Center? It’s just two blocks away. If the objective of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam, was to build interfaith bridges and span the gulf between cultures, as he says, I would argue that not every beachhead is a good one for a bridge. You have to find the shortest span where the goods are really going to flow and where there can be some real commerce between us. It might be right for you to fight on legal points, but it wouldn’t further your stated cause.

If you are going to fight, I would have to start arguing again, for opponents, that lots of churches in the United States get denied permission to build for all sorts of reasons all the time. It mostly happens because they run afoul of municipal ordinances–their domes are too high, or their driveways cause traffic problems, or the planned use of the adjacent community centers do not square with local zoning and cause disruption. If I were on the New York City planning commission, I might make a reasonable argument that safety and traffic and historic use of the land are all factors to take into account before I let, say, Oral Roberts build a giant golden egg in an overdeveloped downtown. Some have argued to protect the building that’s already there with landmark status. A nice argument unless you’ve seen the building. There’s also the argument that the developer is a bit unsavory, so why should the city help him out?

But if it’s reason you’re looking for, why do I feel the Muslims have more of it?

Hopefully, if you are paying attention, the month of debate has reinforced the point for you that bigoted conservative pundits lie as easily as Kelly Slater surfs. After fanning across the country for the past year and a half like self-flagellating monks, they have cried that their Constitution has been under attack–and by that they mean the universally prescriptive, strictly constructionist view of the Constitution that allows no “experiments” like Social Security, the Federal Reserve, Medicare, the CIA,  presidential cabinets or greenback money. If you want proof, you have only to go to YouTube where these zealots insist that their freedom has been hijacked by extra-Constitutional chicanery, thus they have every right to harass health care reform supporters and bray like mouth-frothing fanatical anabaptists.

Yet when the time comes for them to defend the actual text itself, the Elephants are no longer in the room. Not one high profile Republican has stood up for the First Amendment in this case except for always reliable libertarian Ron Paul. Who’s against? Palin. McCain. Gingrich. Giuliani. The Tea Party leadership. Meanwhile, others such as George W. and Mitt Romney are conspicuous by their silence.

Of course, some high profile Democrats like Sen. Harry Reid have also showed us the white feather, turning tail against the haters and coming out against. But in a courageous move (one badly needed from him lately) Barack Obama did, and for that he was falsely labeled a Muslim (again). Mike Bloomberg stood up for freedom of religion, and for that he was called a hypocrite for not supporting the Second Amendment also. In other words, no other notable right winger (unless you label Paul right wing) will fight the merits of the issue itself. Nobody supports the First Amendment here when it’s a Muslim right that’s being discussed. Why? They are playing a game of reverses and switchbacks. They want only to win.

I had hoped that eight years of George Bush running up enormous deficits and doing away with civil liberties by creating a law outside the law would expose the simple truth that most conservatives don’t believe what they say about big government. They have had plenty of chances to prove the purity of their libertarianism and they fail repeatedly. Only recently have some of them come around to the idea that gay marriage is an issue that ought to be accommodated by their “leave me alone” view of government. But most of them haven’t, and the 9/11 mosque just shows us again that right wing libertarianism is a smokescreen for conservatives whose biggest desire isn’t freedom but power. I’m talking about the usual suspects: Rush, Newt, Side Show Glenn, Laura, Ann … etc.

But those are just extremists. Let’s talk about the people who really matter: New Yorkers and 9/11 victims’ families. Most New Yorkers don’t want this mosque. But in Manhattan proper, the vote swings toward Park51. (The borough most against is dependable Republican bastion Staten Island, whose opponents are 73% strong and a good five miles away by boat.) Even if most New Yorkers don’t want the mosque built, they have also said Imam Rauf has a right to build it. That might seem like an unimportant distinction to you (or The New York Post), but it isn’t. When New Yorkers say “I don’t like what you’re doing, but you have a right to do it,” it’s important for you to read the inflection because it defines the statement. It suggests that New Yorkers might understand the bigger picture here–individual liberty–than the people from Scottsdale operating Web sites.

We also have to remember that Muslims are New Yorkers, too. “A small community!” you say. Try about 600,000 (according to one conservative estimate). Let’s do some math people: the Muslim population in New York might be bigger than the total population of all other U.S. cities except the top 25 or 26. If I told Christians in any city under 600,000 in this country that they couldn’t build a new church there because of Christian persecution of the Indians, I’d be laughed out of town.

Which brings me to the next point about 9/11 victims. The idea that we were attacked by Islam rather than Islamic fanatics is a fantastically awful meme that has to stop in this country. If you are a well-meaning Christian, you must be aware that this sort of criticism opens you up to personal responsibility for the Crusades, the Inquisition and the genocide of indigenous American peoples. Newt Gingrich, a man considered a serious contender for president in 2012, has made the comparison that a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero would be the same thing as hanging swastikas near a Holocaust museum (in other words, he’s calling a mosque an implied threat). Honestly, if you really find it odious that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls the Holocaust a hoax, how can you sit still when such a high profile American politician calls a quarter of the world’s population murderers?

Then we have to talk calmly with the victims’ families. Not all of them are against the Mosque. Those who are against have to concede a few points for their pain. They refer to this crime scene as hallowed ground. I’d like to say you had me at “hallowed.” But as we all know from The Wall Street Journal and the phone book, there are topless bars right around the corner from this hallowed ground that nobody has ever complained about. And as much as we might like to see the entire area turned into a park, the fact is that we’re putting up new giant commercial buildings with vast business space. That’s political reality and ought to be a much bigger pain to victims’ families. Helpless to do anything else, it’s much easier to project anger on Muslims. The families opposed now seemed not to care that there have been other mosques in the area over the last decade (within four blocks, if not two). Why are they bothered now by something that hasn’t bothered them before? If anybody is injuring them more, I’d say it’s the people inciting them to hatred. In fact, since the horrible day that our country was attacked (a day in which the ashes of the World Trade Center flew down on my house in Brooklyn), the people we have had to distrust the most are the people telling us whom to be angry at. Newt Gingrich is Iago. Sarah Palin is Cardinal Richelieu. Glenn Beck is Lady MacBeck. It was bad enough that we had to attack Muslims in the street after 9/11. But it was people who used that hatred to convince us to invade Iraq, a country that had not attacked us, that are just as culpable. They have the same strategies. They have the same political interests. Your pain is their gain. Your anger is their medicine show.

If your family member was a victim on 9/11 and you are at peace with this strategy … you find you must indeed continue to hate all Muslims for what happened on 9/11, then I can’t tell you anything other than that’s a war you’re never going to win.

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What are some of the stats shaping our world on Feb. 19, 2010?

–*A poll in early 2009 found that 71% of Americans prefer to have universal health care, even if it means paying higher taxes.

–*However, in 2010, 46% of Americans are now against the current health care legislation in Congress.

–*Among those against, 35% are against it because they are against health care in general while 12% are against it because it doesn’t go far enough. Three percent are for it because they are against health care reform in general and believe the current legislation effectively kills reform.

–*Seventy percent of political independents said that in 2008 they voted for Barack Obama because they voted for change.

–*In Massachusetts this year, independents voted for Scott Brown, a political conservative, in the traditionally liberal state because they were also voting for change.

–*One hundred percent of independents would prefer that things keep changing.

–*Eighty percent of independents describe themselves as angry.

–*Of those, 40% say they are swiping at imaginary bats.

–*Twenty percent of Americans say they are unsure if they are for voting against the current health care legislation in Congress or if they are voting against imaginary bats.

–*Of independents, 10% say they don’t pay attention to political issues at all. Another 10% thought that health care reform was a good idea but that they were physically and emotionally intimidated by sign wielding members of the Tea Party movement and are just being pussies at this point.

–*Fifty percent of those who said they were for health care reform last year but against it this year said they changed their minds because they didn’t realize that universal health care was a communist plot and now they are now better informed by members of the Tea Party.

–*Thirty percent of Americans feel unable to stand up to members of the Tea Party because they don’t deal very well with angry people.

–*Fifteen percent say that angry spitting people railing at bats and communism make them insecure and impotent and unable to find their keys.

–*Eighty percent of adolescent boys use the term “retard” regularly.

–*One hundred percent of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel uses the word “retard” regularly.

–*Ninety percent of those adolescent boys who use the term “retard” also think that Sarah Palin is hot.

–*Eighty percent of Republicans agree with Sarah Palin’s policies.

–*Zero is the number of policies that Sarah Palin has put forward.

–*Twenty percent of those who have switched their position on the health care legislation believe that it will change their relationship with their doctor and 80% of them said that they don’t argue very well when people are yelling at them.

–*Sixty percent of independents just like voting against people and don’t have any political convictions to speak of.

–*Eighty percent of people who believe their federal tax rates have gone up over the past 10 years are retards.

–*One hundred percent of retards and people at the Heritage Foundation believe that low capital gains taxes are the only incentive for people to invest, as if a 20% tax on capital gains means the same thing as no capital gains at all. That means nobody would have invested in Microsoft in 1986 and had a $100 investment turn into $37,000 in 22 years, because they are such suck ass whiners about capital gains they would have instead kept their money in a mattress earning zippity do da. If higher capital gains rates hurt the economy and harm revenue, why did we have an Internet boom, and why did we, at the same time, balance the budget?

–*One hundred percent of retards believe that it’s entitlement programs alone that are causing the current budget crises and not two horribly expensive wars along with huge tax cuts under George Bush.

–*Twenty percent of crazy people think the IRS is out to get them personally.

–*Twenty percent of crazy people think the CIA is out to get them personally.

–*Fifty percent of crazy rich people think Barack Obama is out to get them personally.

–*0.00002% of people think the girl who played Blossom wants to smother them with a pillow.

–*Ten percent of independents want a third-party candidate because they are trying to synthesize what’s best about the positions of the right and the left.

–*The other 90% don’t really know what the issues are because they’re watching Jersey Shore. Is that JWoww built or what?

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Survivor: the Andean Mountain Uruguayan Soccer Team Challenge

Tina Fey delivers another awesomely written episode of 30 Rock that you won’t watch because you’d rather see Ray J drink champagne off the nude body of a developmentally disabled cocktail waitress.

5 E! Entertainment
Slowing Down For the Kardashians

From the Nokia Theater, the American Music Awards featuring Taylor Swift. Swift and Kanye West perform a unity medley of Elmo’s greatest self-esteem songs.

On Oprah, porn star Jenna Jameson shows she doesn’t know the difference between good attention and bad attention.

Frontline examines how medical marijuana is now being prescribed for glaucoma, hyperactivity in children, anal expulsive personality disorder, low self esteem and poverty.

Lou Dobbs puts up a fence in his own back yard and declares his own house free of Mexicans, at least the ones he’s not married to.

On Larry King, former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean continues to show that she doesn’t know the difference between good attention and bad attention.

9 The History Channel
Catherine the Great is remembered for also being a great lover of animals. A really great lover.

10 MTV
If The Hills were really unscripted, somebody certainly would have killed somebody else by now.

11 CW
Gossip Girl: OMFG! A 3some! WTF? LOL!

11 CW
Gossip Girl: Oh no! ABRT!

11 CW
Two Gossip Girls, One Cup

11 CW
Gossip Girl does not know the difference between good attention and bad attention.

11 CW
Gossip Girl: Hey, did anybody notice that the “threesome” entry on Wikipedia has completely gratuitous threesome pictures? A little off topic, but hey, I’m just sayin’ …

12 Fox News
Glenn Beck doesn’t know the difference between good attention and bad attention. Yet that lack of self-awareness is refreshing, and has allowed us all to relax a bit and once again feel OK enjoying manifestly racist invective. Thanks, Glenn!

13 AMC
After watching Mad Men‘s Don Draper drink, womanize and verbally and physically abuse people, do any of us remember why we ever liked him in the first place?

14 Fox News
After watching Sarah Palin lie, back stab, quit her job, pander to idiots, mangle language, manipulate her family, infight with co-workers, exhibit total ignorance about global affairs and exploit her looks to cover up her lack of substance, do any of us wonder why she’s not starring on AMC’s Mad Men yet?

14 Fox News
Sarah Palin doesn’t know the difference between good attention and bad attention. Or that Africa isn’t a country.

15 HBO
Boogie Nights, a rip-off of Martin Scorsese movies with no ending

15 HBO
Magnolia, a rip-off of Robert Altman movies with no ending

15 HBO
There Will Be Blood, a rip-off of Stanley Kubrick movies with no ending.

15 HBO
The Dukes of Hazzard, a rip-off of the William Shakespeare classic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

15 HBO
The Muppet Movie, a retelling of the legend of Galahad, in which a knight of pure heart in the form of a frog seeks the cup of glory, a frog who embodies a code of chivalry and romance that none of his peers can match and which engenders in him a contempt of the world and it of him, his unworldliness both holy but also cold and tragic.

16 Cinemax
Fellating For Godot

Martha Stewart Presents: How To Throw A Family Fight That Tastes Like Christmas

18 We
We is the channel that celebrates women. Next up, a bunch of catfighting, money grubbing bitches from Great Neck going through the Change.

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