Saturday 23 February 2013

How Ashley Judd should launch her campaign

Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove are bullies. And like all bullies they are cowards. They are afraid that Ashley Judd, the actress, may challenge McConnell for his Senate seat – the fact that the most powerful Republican in the country is vulnerable to a challenge by a woman with no electoral experience is a surprise in itself. So they are spending big buckets of dirty money, attacking Judd. Even though she has yet to attempt any campaign in any political race, or even announce she’s running. These two guys think the people of Kentucky are a bunch of drooling rubes who will happily hold their coats while these two guys try to beat this girl up.

So I’d like to see Judd run. And here is how I think she should announce her candidacy.

“Mitch McConnell and his buddy Karl Rove have been running attack ads against me, before I had any idea about running for anything. That’s no surprise – Mitch has been running negative attack ads against all sorts of people for three decades. We’re used to it, aren’t we, Kentucky? Mitch has been telling you that he is the real Kentuckian, and that I’m some evil carpetbagger....from far-off Tennessee. Well, let’s unpack that carpetbag, shall we?

 “We know Mitch isn’t a real Kentuckian, because he’s an extremist. A lot of people across this country think Kentuckians are a bunch of backward rednecks with more tattoos than teeth. And we’re not. A majority of Kentuckians even support civil unions for gays and lesbians, we tossed out the sodomy law, we protect gays from discrimination in employment and adoption and hate crimes and transsexuals.  But Mitch doesn’t get the notion that Kentucky, like the rest of the country, has moved into the 21st century. He doesn’t really know us, so he doesn’t realize that we’re just like everybody else in this country: we think the Republican party has gone a little too far on immigration and guns and the budget and climate change. And Mitch is on the wrong side of all those issues. And he wants women to lose their right to choose, and all of us to lose affordable health care. He really believed al-Qaida and Saddam were the same thing and he supported illegal arrests, illegal wiretaps, and torture.

 “Here in Kentucky we’re looking for somebody who’s honest, somebody we can trust. It’s a Kentucky value. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do. He says he the real Kentuckian, but he was born in Alabama. He says ‘Hi, I’m Mitch”, but his real first name is Addison. He’s a lawyer who avoided serving in Vietnam, divorced his wife, and has symptoms of multiple sclerosis that he hasn’t explained.

“Here in Kentucky we’re plain folks who wonder how one of our neighbors got to be rich without actually doing a real job. Harry Truman once said that there’s no way to get rich in politics unless you’re a crook. So how did Mitch become a multi-millionaire? I’ll tell you how. He set new standards for corruption in the Senate, setting up earmark contracts for his cronies, and misusing money from a nonprofit. He took millions from bankers, insurance companies and crooked lawyers; eight times he got direct campaign money for voting or blocking a vote, and he has flipflopped on major issues for political gain. And of course he has blocked campaign finance reform and lobbying reform, and he opposes accountability for senior officials. Being a crook is not a Kentucky value.

“Here in Kentucky, money’s short, like it is everywhere else. We like getting our money’s worth. So we’re a little suspicious when we spend a trillion dollars on our government, and then senior members of that government destroy it deliberately, just to try to make the President look bad. Our man Mitch, a man’s whose salary we’re paying for, has broken our government with a series of filibusters and blocked votes, which is without precedent in the history of this country. Once he even filibustered his own motion! He doesn’t believe in majority rule, he doesn’t believe in democracy.

“And he’s a sore loser. That’s why he spent four years screeching that he was going to make Obama a one-term president. In Kentucky we believe in sportsmanship: when our horse loses, we smile and pay up. When Christian Laettner stomps on us on his way to the Final Four, we just say “congratulations”, and then get back to practice, and then win it the whole tournament four years later. We know something Mitch can never understand: how to play the game with class.

“Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – or should I say, Addison McConnell of Alabama – doesn’t represent Kentucky values. He’s a dishonest crook, an extremist, a man who hates American democracy unless he can buy it or hijack it for his own purposes. And he has no class. Is there anybody in this state who doesn’t think we can do better?

“People of Kentucky, we are the land of bourbon, bluegrass, barbecue, basketball, and betting on a fast horse. We’re the land of Abraham Lincoln and Jeff Davis, Muhammad Ali and Johnny Unitas, Daniel Boone and  Henry Clay, Jim Bowie and Kit Carson, John Scopes and Louis Brandeis, Hunter Thompson and George Clooney. Do we really want Mitch and Rand Paul to be the public faces of our state? Let’s send a Senator to Washington who isn’t an embarrassment to our people!”

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Concentration camps for Christians!

New conspiracy theory!

Erik Rush is a far far right-wing columnist with an obsession about Obama. His current mania is the notion that Obama, working with the American Psychiatric Association, is going to designate Christianity as a mental illness. Christians would then be deprived of their rights and thrown into some ghastly prison/hospital, or relegated to some second-class citizenship, like Jews in Hitler’s Germany.

The mere fact that Rush believes this is the surest sign that he is, in fact, mentally ill. Obama is a devout Christian himself and has no intent whatsoever to try to hijack the entire national psychiatric community for such an end.

But what if he did?

Look at the pathology. The most severe forms of mental illness are characterized by personalities who cling bitterly to delusions that have no basis in reality, contrary to all the evidence. Christians are much more likely to believe things that are provably untrue: the creation myth in Genesis, heaven and hell, the virgin birth, the resurrection, the ascension into heaven, the imposition of sin on newborn infants, and the notion that a supernatural being agrees with them and intends to destroy anyone who disagrees with them. Jesus rode a dinosaur!

God is my special, magical, invisible friend. He can do anything, but you can't see it. Of all the trillions of creatures in the world, he knows he, he loves me, and that makes me better than you. When I do something bad, he washes it away. And he will make me live forever, even after I die, although you won't see that either. He's magic!”

And by the same token, Christians are much more likely to listen to Fox and Limbaugh, slack-jawed, and buy into whatever laughably obvious lies they’re peddling every day – Obama’s Kenyan birth, his intent to impose both Islam and Communism on America even though they’re contradictory, Obama’s concentration camps and death squads, his intent to kill all our grandmothers, etc etc.

Christianity, at least as practiced by today’s evangelicals, is indeed a delusion. A manic resistance to facing reality. Perhaps in his lucid moments Rush realizes that the right-wing whackaloons are crazy as a sack of rats.

Monday 11 February 2013

Portrait of the Artist As a Young Reactionary

James Dobson, rightwing founder of the rightwing ministry Focus On The Family, is writing fiction. He’s writing a trilogy about a dystopian America torn by culture wars, parents criticized for having too many children, wars on parenthood and marriage and families and religion, old people encouraged to commit suicide, too many women rejecting marriage, a rejection against raising children, etc etc. The books are “Fatherless”, “Childless”, and “Godless”.

And he is positive that his nightmare vision is on its way to becoming true. He thinks that the real America is already “enemy-occupied territory”, and he insists that his vision is destined to happen in the real world because of unavoidable demographics. He claims he is researching his vision to make sure it’s all perfectly accurate.

And of course he has pinpointed the villains in his tale of horror. He has been screeching that electing Obama and the liberals would lead to losing our freedoms, the destruction of marriage, banning all guns, mandatory homosexual indoctrination, porn on prime-time TV, bonuses for gay soldiers, terror attacks in the U.S. and Israel, Russia’s reconquest of Eastern Europe, stopping health care for everyone over 80, economic depression, and infanticide. He predicted that the Democrats would shut down the Boy Scouts and home schooling and Christian schools and Rush Limbaugh. Amazingly, his predictions were off-target.

Essentially his theme is that if people don’t live the way he approves, America will turn into some sort of apocalyptic nightmare.

But the obvious punch line is that if America were to live Dobson’s way, we would descend into a deeper nightmare than Big Bad Obama could ever inflict upon us.

Dobson thinks America reached its peak during the era of Bush – rightwing extremists in charge of every part of government, messianic insanity in foreign policy, the systemic economic destruction of the middle class, illegal wiretaps and detention and torture, an endless series of crimes and follies – but he wants to go even further.

In Dobson’ utopia, women would stay home with the kids because the Bible says so; there would be no abortion or divorce.

In Dobson’s world, homosexuality is a dangerous form of predatory insanity that threatens our health and our children, a greater threat than terrorism. Dobson sees code words for evil when he hears “tolerance” and “diversity” and even “Spongebob”. In his utopia gays would never have full rights, never marry, never raise children.

In Dobson’s world, children would be forced to submit to authority at all times and be submitted to corporal punishment when they don’t, and to be “required” to stop crying. Our schools would be religious with prayer groups but no sex ed or scary ideas like evolution (or, God forbid, global warming).

In Dobson’s world, policy would be driven by the Bible, on everything from abortion to gays to stem-cell research to education to science to evolution to book banning to contraception. In Dobson’s world, the current GOP isn’t extreme enough, and judges who oppose his views are committing “tyranny”. In his world there would be no porn, no gambling, no sex before marriage. And he is adept at getting what he wants: Dobson helped Bush to cheat his way into winning Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

Dobson’s world would embrace everything that was wrong with America a century ago: blacks could be killed for fun, women were property, Mexicans were invisible, gays were criminals, the air and water and food were unsafe, workers were half-slaves in dangerous workplaces, and the rich could turn the world upside down with an economic panic with no warning.

Dobson is, of course, not the only rightwing loon to try to enrich our lives with their nightmarish fictional views of the world. Ayn Rand wrote novels proclaiming the evils of charity and the glories of capitalism so unrestrained that it bordered on anarchy, worshipping rich industrialists above all.

The editorial brains of the Washington Times wrote fiction in which America’s liberals were working hand in glove with America’s enemies. The Turner Diaries describe a utopia in which the white folks rise up, take over the government (as though they weren’t running it already) and kill all the undesirables, with an emphasis on Jews, gays, and anyone with brown skin (Timothy McVeigh was a fan of the Diaries). Glenn Beck wrote a laughably bad novel about evil liberal conspirators who leave America vulnerable to attack. Of course the wingnuts also write vast amount of “non-fiction” diatribes, Beck and Anne Coulter publishing 22 books between them. Occasionally conservative “art” is realized onscreen: in addition to the faux documentaries like “2016: Obama’s America”, your cineplexes will sometimes see “OMG they’re coming to take your guns!” in “Red Dawn” and “OMG abortions everywhere!” in “Listen To Me”.

But there are sound reasons why conservatives can’t cut it in the world of art. They are resistant to many of the foundations of creativity: imagination, contemplation, original thought, the facts that underlie real-world problems, and the logic that must underpin plot construction. And empathy for the human spirit, and sympathy for the outsiders and anti-heroes who drive most stories, and sheer brainpower. It’s no accident that conservatives are few and far between in the world of art. The conservative movement mostly consists of people are (a) profoundly ignorant, or (b) frighten the profoundly ignorant with lies for profit or political gain, or (c) just make art for the paycheck. This is not the stuff of which great art is made. Historically the only time conservatives have helped art is by (a) writing checks to artists and then getting out of their way, which in itself can be limiting to artists (there is a good reason why a lot of the paintings by the Dutch masters depict bankers and businessmen), or (b) doing things so appalling and evil that they inspire artists to incite rebellion and tell tales of hope, or (c) telling tales of hate and fear, which ceases to be effective when their warnings of the terror to come…never come true.

Friday 8 February 2013

Slippery slopes

Lately you hear a lot of “slippery slope” arguments from the loony right, when they try to block gay marriage.

“Well, dammit, I believe in the Bible, and the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination. We allow gay marriages, and it’s a slippery slope -- next thing you know, we’ll be allowing pedophilia, and bestiality, and polygamy, and sacrifices, and cannibalism, and….”

Well, let’s unpack that, shall we?

First of all, despite decades of horrific warnings from the loony right, there is no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, or any of these other practices they’re so worried about.

And second, slippery slopes can slide both ways. What if we applied it to…observing Biblical law?

“Well, dammit, you let these religious kooks use the Bible to justify their opposition to gay marriage laws, what happens next? The next thing you know, they will be using the Book of Joshua to justify genocide, ethnic cleansing and rape. They’ll be using the Bible to justify slavery, stoning women suspected of sleeping around, killing disobedient children, killing people for working on Sunday, killing, killing, killing….”.

And using religion to ram your views down other people’s throats, can lead to this…

And this…

And of course this…

And of course the most famous example, in history, that religious guy Caiaphas guy used scripture and Biblical law to demand this…

Excessively rigid interpretations of religious law can lead to crucifixions, terror attacks, all sorts of unhandy stuff. Crusades, inquisitions, burning Joan of Arc alive, hanging thousands of innocent women for witchcraft, putting Galileo under house arrest for the rest of his life because he pointed out that the earth travels around the sun….

Of course, this slippery-slope illustration is flawed, because it puts religion and homosexuality on the same moral plane, and they’re not equivalent. Rigid religious belief is a delusion that can get a lot of innocent people killed. Homosexuality is harmless and nobody’s business. So I’m being unduly generous to the immorality that is inherent on religious intolerance.

I notice these things because my daughter has albinism, and people with this condition are regularly murdered or dismembered in Africa because tribal religions assert that their body parts can bring good luck. To everyone but the albinos, obviously. Albinos are also killed and tormented in the Caribbean because the primitive religions attribute bad luck to them. So my daughter won’t be visiting Africa, probably forever, because of religious whackaloons just like the guys who wave the Bible in our faces while they stop gays from marrying.


Kill Ensign Lefler!

Ashley Judd, the actress, comes from Kentucky; she’s related to the Judds, the country singers. So many people hate the current Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell, the architect of all the gridlock on Capitol Hill, that they want Judd to run against him. Judd hasn’t even said she’s running: she said she’s taking a look at the idea – that’s it.

But the Republican attack machine is already rolling. They’ve already launched attack ads against Judd, who, so far, is an actress and nothing more. And Karl Rove and the gang have promised to launch a sustained campaign of negative attacks against her, a non-candidate. Rove openly admitted they are taking the low road: “We are making fun of her”.

And keep in mind, Ashley Judd is about the most inoffensive person there is. She came to prominence playing Ensign Lefler, an adorable teenager on Star Trek, made a few damsel-in-distress movies, did some modeling, joined causes to fight AIDS and poverty, and supported Obama’s presidential campaigns. That’s it. So…how are they going to attack her, exactly? If she runs, this is going to backfire, big time.

This is all Team GOP has left – attack, attack, attack. They certainly can’t run on their policies or their accomplishments. And they can’t run McConnell on his record: even in Kentucky they know he’s the one who has crippled the federal government. They heard him admit he was stopping up the pipes for partisan political purposes, hoping to crash the economy and make Obama a one-term president, which in less tolerant times would be called treason. So for him a positive campaign is obviously not an option.

What was all that we were hearing a month ago, about the GOP putting on a smiley face and trying to win back women, after their harsh anti-woman policies of the last few years? I guess the smiley mask is coming back off again.

With luck Rove will prove about as prescient about the Kentucky Senate race as he was about the 2012 presidential race.