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So apparently the whole world’s gone crazy. Just kidding, it’s only about a third of Republican voters across America who have gone crazy, and I’m not sure “gone” is the appropriate word. They are just revealing the full extent of their crazy, letting their freak flag fly at full staff. Do you know how difficult it is to say “freak flag fly”? I even say it wrong in my brain as I’m typing. But that’s not the point. The point is that a third of Republican voters are a) straight up racists, b) complete loony toons, or c) racist loony toons. I mean, I always knew there was a faction of racist loony toons in the GOP, but I always figured that the percentage of genuine loony toons in either of the two major parties couldn’t be above 15 percent, and I reckoned that the Republican platform was too wussified to satisfy most racists, especially the loony toon variety. That’s what third parties are for. I mean, if I were a racist (who was also a little cuckoo), I would not settle for some pansy Republican, even if he did work for Pat Buchanan once. I guess that just shows what I know about American racists—or rather, what I knew about American racists. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I know a lot more. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with democracy!

So. There’s that. It’s an interesting time we live in, isn’t it? I didn’t think I could be more depressed than I was on Election Day 2012, but oh my goodness, how wrong I was. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this second Obama administration more because January 2017 is looking more and more like a f***ing nightmare.

To tell you the truth, I am not really afraid that Donald Trump will actually become President. I find that highly unlikely. As I was telling some friends the other day, elections are decided by people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean. I realize that Hillary is not popular, but she does have a couple things going for her: a) she probably isn’t a racist and b) she doesn’t send out drunk tweets at 3 a.m. insulting whoever pissed her off that day. I’d say that’s enough to give her an edge in the general election, even if she is a chick. In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump isn’t actually a racist but just plays one on TV (and radio and Twitter and all public platforms). Also, he might not actually be drunk when he’s on Twitter. It’s probably just his personality, which I think has its own entry in the DSM-V. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here and also there is that Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist and a bully with stronger-than-average totalitarian instincts. He’s wholly unsuitable to be President in terms of both character and temperament, not to mention being deficient in relevant experience—unless he’s planning to bribe two-thirds of Congress just like he’s been bribing politicians his whole career. Which might actually be his plan. It would not surprise me. But only because I’m completely incapable of being surprised anymore. Not after Chris Christie endorsed Trump the other day. Put a fork in me, America, because I’m done. As Jar-Jar Binks used to say, MY GIVE UP. What more can happen?

My son, who’s been very interested in this election, kept asking me who I’d vote for if Trump and Clinton were the nominees. At first I just said, “I hope it will not come to that (please, God).” But since it’s started looking more and more like that’s exactly what it will come to, I’ve said I will either vote for nobody or I’ll vote Libertarian, WHICH I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, mainly because third parties are for loony toons and dreamers, and a dreamer I am not. (I take it back—partly. I did vote for a Libertarian once, for state senate, I think. He didn’t win, so whatever. Voting in Oregon is sort of pointless.) That answer is most disappointing for Mister Bubby because he knows as well as I do that voting third party is a waste of franchise—poor-spirited and not a little bit masturbatory (though I don’t use the word “masturbatory” in front of my fifteen-year-old son—I’m genteel that way). But I don’t know what else to do. I won’t vote for Donald Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I am physiologically incapable of doing either. It makes my soul hurt to think about it.

I know what you all are thinking—well, the Democratic portion of y’all, anyway: What’s so bad about Hillary? Well, I’d like to say she’s not that bad. Compared to Donald Trump, she seems downright Reaganesque. But she’s not actually Reaganesque. She’s actually Clintonesque, which is not a recommendation. Might she be the lesser of two evils? Well, worst case scenario, door #1 or door #2, maybe Hillary is the lesser of two evils, but here’s the thing about Hillary: while she is neither a racist nor suffering from a form of mental illness—two of the more underrated virtues in our time—she is still nakedly corrupt and a congenital liar and should probably be in prison. No, we won’t argue about it. To tell you the truth, I have always kind of liked Hillary, on a personal level—never enough to vote for her, naturally, because her politics do not align with mine, but I’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that a lot of the animosity toward her is born (at least in part) of old-fashioned misogyny. She doesn’t have her husband’s charisma, but I kind of find her lack of charisma charming in itself. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of one’s more-charismatic husband. (Not that I would ever compare my husband to Hillary’s husband because my husband is not an incontinent creep.) So I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Hillary. Even after all I’ve learned about her over the years, I still have a lingering fondness for her. I can’t help it. (Just as I can’t spend five minutes watching Bill Clinton work a room and not find him perversely charming, in a ya-big-galoot kind of way. Certainly not in any other way. ::shudder:: ) If I’d had my druthers in 2008, Hillary would have been the nominee, and not because I thought McCain could beat her (although I think he probably could have), but because I thought she would make a better President than Barack Obama. (A low bar, to be sure, but without low bars, how much would I be able to achieve in my own life? Low bars are underrated.)

But after all these years, I think I know Hillary pretty well. I know what she is. I don’t trust her not to do things that are unethical and/or illegal. If I voted for her, I wouldn’t be able to complain about her later (almost inevitably) abusing her power (as 99.98% of politicians are wont to do, but especially the ones whose last name is Clinton) because I knew what she was when I voted for her and I was basically asking her to abuse my trust. Not to pre-blame the victim (that would be me), but I like to fancy myself cleverer than that.

I know many of you gentle readers are Hillary supporters, and I don’t begrudge you your Hillary support. We see the world differently. When Hillary abuses your trust, I will not blame you. I know that’s a real load off your mind. You’re welcome. I’m hardly under the illusion that the Republicans I’ve voted for have never abused my trust. I just didn’t know beforehand that they would do so. That would be the difference. At the risk of sounding like a self-indulgent third-party loony toon, it’s the principle of the thing. You shouldn’t be upset with me. At least I’m doing my part to siphon votes away from the Donald. For that you should be eternally grateful (if you’re not a racist loony toon).

Interestingly enough, I do not feel a great deal of animosity toward Donald Trump. He sickens me, but a lot of people do that. I’m not angry with Donald Trump, who’s just being himself. I’m angry with everyone who voted for him. Because seriously, what the hell, people? WHAT. THE EVERLOVING. CRAP. This isn’t the freaking circus. For the first few months, before the voting started, when it was just polls telling us Donald Trump was the Republican front runner (mostly because every Republican and his/her dog decided to run for President this year, so the basically-sane, non-racist vote was split 37 ways), I was merely confused. Baffled, that is. I did not get it. I assumed Trump supporters were just, I dunno, deluded, or possibly not very smart. (That may well be the case.) But I’m of a different mind now. I think Trump supporters are less stupid than they are destructive. They’re pissed off at any number of things—immigrants particularly, but also the bad economy and stagnant wages and whatnot–and they want to watch the world burn. They can vicariously live out their worst fantasies via this racist-blowhard-slash-dirtbag. It feels good to them. (It is also not a little bit masturbatory, not that you’ll catch me saying as much to my fifteen-year-old son.) But that doesn’t make it less gross.

Well, that was a load off my chest. I hardly know where it came from. After four years of political apathy, this post has been quite an emotional workout. And possibly very offensive. I’d blame Obama, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Actually, I think I should blame the low-carb diet my husband talked me into doing with him this month. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I’m on Day 3 and I pretty much hate everyone now. Everyone, but especially salad. (You know what else I hate about Trump voters? THEY ARE PROBABLY EATING BREAD RIGHT NOW.) It’s not as bad as the liquid diet I was on after the jaw surgery. I’m not hungry, just extremely unfulfilled. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’s getting late and I’m just going to pull the trigger on this thing, even if it’s wrong. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. If you don’t see me tomorrow, possibly I have died inside. Died a lonely, bitter (and probably still ten pounds over my ideal weight but nevertheless probably not racist) Republican. Gentle readers, adieu.

So apparently the Iowa caucus was on Monday, and yesterday Rand Paul dropped out of the race. That surprised me, since I understood he was expected to do well in New Hampshire. Well, now we’ll never know, will we? Rand Paul has never been my guy, despite the internet quizzes that tell me we are very much in alignment on several issues. I appreciate that Rand Paul is the only Republican candidate with a robust understanding of the Fourth Amendment, but on the other hand, well, it’s difficult to take him seriously. That might be a personal failing of mine, but that’s neither here nor there, since we won’t have Rand Paul to kick around the rest of this primary. Maybe he ran out of money. Or maybe he just has better things to do. He is a senator, after all.

And this morning I read that Rick Santorum is also calling it quits. It came as something of a shock, like when Yogi Berra died–up ’til then I’d had no idea the cat was still alive. It’s good news, though (Santorum quitting, not the demise of Mr. Berra), since we could use fewer Republicans running for president. I appreciate his contribution to this cause. If only more of them would follow suit.

I have not been paying a great deal of attention to this race because a) I haven’t been paying much attention to the world in general since 2012, and b) nothing interesting ever happens anyway. Well, with the exception of Donald Trump’s campaign, which has been not so much interesting as horrifying. But it’s too easy to sit here and make snide remarks about Donald Trump. I prefer to work on pretending he isn’t there. If I ignore him long enough, do you think he’ll go away?

Historically, I have advocated that we choose presidents based on who would win in a fistfight. I thought Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were rather evenly matched in that regard, so I can’t say this method would have served me any better than the traditional one in 2012. This year is a little easier. For the Democrats, Hillary would win, hands down. Probably with both hands tied behind her back (with handcuffs, as they probably should be). For the Republicans, it’s a much closer call. For one thing, there are about 47 of these guys in the ring (plus Carly Fiorina). I didn’t even realize Rick Santorum was there until he wasn’t anymore. One thing’s for sure: Trump would be knocked out fairly early. He acts like he’s all ruthless and crap, but push comes to shove, he’s just another multi-millionaire who probably can’t be bothered to pick up his own socks, plus he whines whenever he doesn’t get his way, and that’s when someone–probably Jeb Bush–is going to sucker punch him. Jeb Bush doesn’t look like a tough guy, but I find it hard to believe he could grow up with W and not learn how to hold his own in a brawl. But he would probably get knocked out by Chris Christie.

Speaking of Chris Christie, I remember when he was a conservative favorite and people actually wanted him to run for president. Was it only four years ago? That part I don’t remember. What I do remember was Frank J. Fleming’s assertion that Chris Christie “would eat your candidate for lunch. Then he would eat his normal lunch.” Presently, Gov. Christie does not appear to be eating anyone’s lunch, normal or otherwise, but that’s just in the real presidential race. In the hypothetical take-it-to-the-octagon presidential race, Chris Christie would acquit himself rather well. Size matters in the octagon. But I reckon we’d find him surprisingly agile for a candidate of size. He’d probably dominate for a good portion of the contest. Lost opportunities.

But that’s not actually what I meant to talk about. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted this thing on the Facebook. For those of you too lazy to click, it’s the Presidents of the United States ranked by hotness. Oh, sure, now you click. Anyway, I could quibble here and there–Bill Clinton is ranked way too high, and there’s no way Jimmy Carter is hotter than Gerald Ford–but it seems more or less legit. So I wondered, what if we chose presidents on the basis of hotness? It’s an interesting question because a) what is hotness, really? and b) it’s pretty slim pickings in the political realm, as far as hotness goes, so you really have to use your imagination.

Again, I think it’s easy to decide the winner of the Democratic primary: it’s Martin O’Malley. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me there.

I mean, come on.

Martin O’Malley

Right? I mean, before I looked him up on the internet, I would have said Hillary was a shoo-in. Because seriously.

Bernie Sanders

Right.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary looks great for 70, or whatever she is, but she’s no Martin O’Malley–sorry, girlfriend. I say he wins the primary and the general, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Republican primary is much, much trickier to judge. It’s a shame Rand Paul dropped out because he’s probably the best looking of the Republican candidates. (Believe me, I was surprised as you.) But let’s be scientific about this, i.e. gather some data.

Jim Gilmore

Yes, Jim Gilmore is still running for president. I checked. Not a bad-looking guy, by any stretch. Definitely doing better in this poll than in others. But what’s the competition like?

John Kasich

Also still running. You know, he has decent features, but something about him reminds me of the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. It may be clouding my judgment.

Jeb Bush

Say what you will about the Bushes, but you can’t argue with the DNA. They’re an attractive family. Jeb’s looks have improved with age, and fortunately he’s not competing with his brother here (or his father, for that matter). I see a lot of Bar in him, actually. Overall, not too shabby. Don’t count Jeb out.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson is also a reasonably handsome fellow, though the glasses give him kind of a nerdy, mild-mannered look.

But while I was looking up photos of him on the internet, I came across this younger, smoother version of Dr. Carson.

Hello, ladies! Too bad this contest wasn’t being held 30 years ago, amirite?

Chris Christie

When you’re looking for “small” images of Chris Christie, the pickings are pretty slim (no pun or particular irony intended). Gov. Christie is an imposing figure, and he does have that teddy bear thing going for him, but I can’t pretend he’s in my top three.

Ted Cruz

I have tried and tried and tried to like Ted Cruz, mainly because a) he seems to be Trump’s main competition and b) he’s Jay Nordlinger’s guy, and I love Jay Nordlinger and want to love his guy, but I find I just can’t. There’s something about him that just rubs me the wrong way. He gives the impression that he finds a significant percentage of the electorate to be morons, and at the same time he keeps pandering to said morons (cynically, and I don’t mean that in a good way). There’s something slippery, almost Clintonesque about him. I’m probably being unfair. I can’t claim to be paying the closest of attention to everything that’s gone on in this race, and to call a Republican “Clintonesque” is pretty rude. At least he’s better-looking than Clinton, but admittedly, that’s not saying much. Most of the time he looks kind of goofy to me.

But this picture I find very flattering. I like his nose. He reminds me a bit of Jeremy Northam here. If he could just always be shown from this angle, he’d make a very fine President indeed.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina has either an advantage or a disadvantage being the only woman in the group. Male hotness and female hotness are such different balls of string, if you know what I’m saying. (I’m not sure I do.) Carly’s an attractive woman, but can she go head-to-head with Martin O’Malley? I just don’t know.

Marco Rubio

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is exactly eleven days younger than I am, but I always think he looks about fourteen years old. (It seems weird to vote for someone younger than me, even if it’s only by eleven days. It seems especially weird when I could probably pass for his mother.) Aesthetically, he appeals to me more than Ted Cruz does, most of the time, and unlike Ted Cruz, there is no angle or lighting that is especially beneficial to him. He pretty much always looks exactly like this. Does that make him more trustworthy, or just sort of a freak?

After eight years in the White House, he might finally look as old as I do. He will either have matured into greater handsomeness, or we will find a portrait of his withered visage in his attic. Meanwhile, I just can’t decide how I feel about him.

And then there’s this guy.

Donald Trump

Yes, that is the most flattering photograph I could find of him. I’m just going to say he looks very wealthy here.

Frankly, I just can’t decide. In the nice-guy-with-glasses category, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are about even, with maybe a slight edge to Ben Carson because he makes that goatee look good. Personally, I have to say I’m partial to Jim Gilmore. I can’t explain why. But for someone to compete with Martin O’Malley, I may have to go with Carly Fiorina or Marco Rubio (his youth has to count for something), or possibly a cardboard cutout of Ted Cruz from that very flattering angle. But I’m not confident about any of these choices.

What do you think, gentle readers? How would you rate the presidential candidates, according to hotness? Feel free to offer your assessment of historical presidential hotness as well. Could Walter Mondale have beaten Ronald Reagan? Of course he couldn’t have. But what about Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson? That’s a much tougher call.

First, a trip down cinematic memory lane. [(Relatively) Mild Language warning : turn down the volume or don’t play at all if little pitchers have big ears or you yourself are especially sensitive. Also, worm guts.]

It may come as no surprise to you that I don’t own a gun. There are no guns in my home. There were no guns in the home I grew up in. My father grew up on a farm in Idaho, so I reckon his home had guns. At least one. I mean…you’d need one to shoot a horse or something, right? I seem to recall him mentioning a rifle at some point. Anyway, my father did not take any guns with him when he left Idaho. My mother’s family did not own any guns. My mother was afraid of guns because her ex-husband threatened her with one once. That will do it, I think. I’ve never had any particular desire to shoot a gun. I was never any good at those shooting games either. We did play with water pistols, though. I think somewhere in our family album there’s a photograph of my father crouched behind a wall with a water pistol, ready to ambush one of his unsuspecting children. But that’s neither here nor there.

It is highly unlikely that my husband and I will purchase a gun any time in the foreseeable future, because it would not be safe to keep one in our house as long as our autistic son is both curious and clever enough to figure out how to retrieve it from its secure location. I believe that it’s possible to store guns in a home safely. But Elvis was unscrewing the child locks at age two. He’s almost ten now, and he’s not only smarter but his manual dexterity has gotten much better. I don’t trust him with a gun. Not because he has violent tendencies, but because he’s never seen the damage an actual gun can do. He understands danger, and he understands pain. He has a panic attack every time one of us uses glassware because he’s seen glass break. If he understood what a gun could do, he would be the world’s safest person to have around guns. But he doesn’t understand what a gun can do. More to the point, he doesn’t understand death. It would be extremely foolish for us to own a gun under these circumstances, considering that we don’t really need one.

We live in a very safe neighborhood. No one is stalking any of us (that we know of). No one has threatened us. The government has definitely overstepped its bounds in recent history, but not in a Stalinesque way (yet). So I think we’ll be okay.

That said, I have nothing against guns personally, and nothing against the idea of owning them. I can easily imagine scenarios in which I would prefer to have a gun than not have a gun. I think that one of these days it would behoove me to learn how to use one. I’m not super-anxious to do so because shooting a gun does not hold any special allure for me. I don’t have some badass lady action hero fantasy I’m dying to live out. (I can’t speak for my husband. And yes, I meant for that last bit to be as ambiguous as it sounds.) It just seems like a practical skill that could potentially be very useful. Especially when the Apocalypse starts to come ’round.

I know people (admittedly, not many) who keep guns in their home. I don’t have a problem letting my children play over there because I know these people aren’t idiots and they store their guns safely. I don’t worry about any kids getting their hands on them. I also don’t worry that my friends are secretly psychotic and could turn on us at any moment. I trust that they use their guns for legitimate, legal purposes.

I remember hearing about the school shootings in Jonesboro and at Columbine. Jonesboro was right before I had my first child. The story broke while I was at work–at a newspaper, as it happened, so I remember it coming over the wire. Columbine was after I’d quit my job to take care of my daughter full-time, and I had nothing better to do than listen to news/talk radio all day. So I heard these stories at the same time everyone else heard them. I remember being profoundly affected, emotionally, by both of them. I was especially horrified by Jonesboro because the shooters were so young–eleven and thirteen years old. I specifically remember thinking how horrible it must be to be the parents of those boys. How do you raise a murderer? How do you go on with your life after the child you love has taken the lives of other children, or the life of anyone? Can you love your child after that? I can’t even think about it. Columbine broke my heart because I heard the live reports and the voices of the survivors still frantic or in shock over the experience. And I was angry, too. Because what makes a kid think it’s okay to murder his classmates and teachers? What makes him think that doesn’t make him a monster? Or what makes him think it’s okay to be a monster?

Those last questions are kind of dumb. There isn’t a good explanation for why some people choose to do evil. It isn’t something non-evil people can understand. And because we can’t understand it, we can’t really predict it–except in the sense of being cynical and pessimistic enough to understand that evil is bound to happen and it’s mostly luck that keeps it from happening to us. (Is that cynical and pessimistic, or is it just realistic? It depends on your point of view.)

Here’s a thing I never wondered in the midst of any of these school shootings: How on earth did these kids get their hands on those guns? I assumed they got their hands on them the same way any murderer does, i.e. by buying or stealing them–in other words, whichever way was easier. If they’d used plutonium, I might have wondered, hey, where’d they get that plutonium? Not because it’s illegal for most citizens to own plutonium (just as it’s illegal for middle schoolers to buy guns), but because plutonium’s kind of scarce and its homicidal features require a certain level of education to use effectively. There aren’t a lot of legitimate home uses for plutonium. None that I’m aware of, in fact. But guns are fairly prevalent in this country, for better or worse. They’ve always been prevalent here because it’s always been normal for Americans to have their own guns. I reckon back in the day on the frontier, it would have seemed pretty stupid for a person not to have a gun. At least, that person would probably not have survived for very long. (Unless they wanted to join an indigenous tribe, but then they still would have had to fight off the other white people who chose not to join up with the indigenous peoples…and who would have had guns. Of course, the indigenous peoples would also have had guns, eventually, so it’s not like you could have just opted out of the gun culture without putting yourself in grave danger. But I digress.)

I no longer listen to news radio or watch television. I get all my news from the internet, and contrary to popular opinion, I do not spend all day on the internet. So the first I learned of the Newtown massacre was on Facebook–which is a horrible place to learn about anything. I read the news story, but my reaction was not as visceral as it was with the school shootings in the ’90s, simply because I was not experiencing it “live” the way most of America was. It took a bit longer to sink in, but I couldn’t stop it from sinking in. How terrified those children must have been. How devastating for those parents waiting to hear if their kids were safe, only to learn that they would never be reunited with them. Most of those kids probably had presents already waiting for them under Christmas trees, and those presents will never be opened. Again, what kind of monster murders children? But not once did I wonder, “Where did that bastard get the gun?”

He stole it from his mother, as it happened, but what does that prove? That she should have been wiser about where and how she stored her guns? That she never should have taught her son how to use one? I’m not really comfortable criticizing murder victims, so I can’t go there. I’m really just angry at murderers. But maybe I’m missing the point.

Plenty of people have asked, “Why do you NEED an assault weapon?” But far fewer people ask, “What IS an assault weapon?” Well, it depends on who you ask. If you want a legal definition, it depends on which law you’re referring to. “Assault weapon” has no consistent, specific definition. An assault rifle is fully automatic, i.e. it fires multiple rounds (bullets) continuously when the trigger is pulled once. This is the “machine gun” effect like you see in gangster movies. Full-automatic firearms have been severely restricted since the 1930s. You can’t just go out and buy one. The military has full-automatic firearms. Also, people who make movies about people who use machine guns. They are not the first choice of either hunters or criminals; they are just too much trouble (and too expensive) to get. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004 did not include assault rifles or other full-automatic firearms because full-automatic firearms were already as regulated as they could be and criminals weren’t using them. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban covered certain semi-automatic firearms that possessed the cosmetic features of a full-automatic firearm, not the operational features. If it had the operational features, it was classified as a Title II weapon, the regulation of which fell (and continues to fall) under the National Firearms Act of 1934.

Most guns used in crimes are semi-automatic firearms. Most guns used for any reason are semi-automatic firearms. The technology dates back over a hundred years. If you want a gun to kill people, you should probably buy a semi-automatic. By the same token, if you want a gun to defend yourself (or others), you should probably buy a semi-automatic. I would argue that you definitely NEED one, if you’re planning to defend yourself against somebody who is using one to kill you. Do you need one with the cosmetic features of an assault rifle? Eh, probably not, but then again, why not? As long as you’re not going to shoot an innocent person with it, I don’t really care.

So there’s also the issue of high-capacity magazines. Why does anyone NEED a high-capacity magazine? Well, you tell me. Maybe there’s an optimal number of rounds that one should be able to fire before having to reload. Ten, apparently, is too many. Is five too many? I wouldn’t know. I’ve never needed any bullets, ever. So I have a hard time doing the calculus here, not only because my calculus is super-rusty, but because I don’t really think it matters how many rounds are in your magazine unless you are having a shootout with a bad guy, in which case you would optimally have at least as big a magazine as he does. I don’t know. I don’t have strong feelings about the magazine issue. Make it seven rounds, make it five–I really don’t think it will make much difference. Especially not if the guy brings two guns. Which he might. (It’s been done before.) Especially not if he’s shooting at a bunch of unarmed people.

After Newtown our neighborhood elementary school had a meeting with the principal about school safety and security. Our current principal has been big on school security from the get-go; some parents thought he went a little overboard. But some parents at this meeting demanded that more be done in the wake of this recent tragedy. They wanted armed guards. They wanted armed teachers. I mean, this is the suburbs, but it’s the Portland suburbs. I wouldn’t have expected so many PTO moms to be on the same page as Wayne LaPierre. I reckon individual communities can decide for themselves what type of security their schools need. Personally, I don’t think our neighborhood elementary school needs an armed guard. If we’re going to hire more personnel, I’d just as soon they give us back our librarian and music teacher (and okay, maybe the P.E. teacher too).

I think we’ll be okay without armed guards. At the same time, I’ve never really understood the point of gun-free zones, except to advertise that you’re unarmed. It doesn’t bother me that no one at our school is armed; the odds of a horrifically violent incident are still rather slim, regardless of how close to home the evening news hits. At the same time, it wouldn’t bother me to learn that so-and-so who teaches fifth grade carries a semi-automatic pistol around with him. Does he have a concealed carry permit? Has he been trained to use a firearm? Then I’m okay with it. That’s assuming he’s safe to be around children to begin with. If he’s a homicidal maniac, then I don’t trust him with a stapler around my kid–or with his bare hands, for that matter.

I understand why people get freaked out about guns. My mother was a little freaked out by guns, as I told you. I don’t find them especially cuddly myself. On the other hand, if some criminally-minded person were assaulting me, I don’t think there’s anyone else I’d rather see than some normal person with a gun. Under the right conditions I find the presence of guns very reassuring.

I really like it when police officers have guns. In some countries the police don’t carry guns, and I don’t really understand how that works. I guess it works if the criminals don’t have guns either, but I can’t envision an America with zero guns. Maybe we’d be a better, more peace-loving country with fewer guns, but it’s a little late for that, considering there are hundreds of millions of guns in the U.S. and no way to get rid of all of them unless we repeal the Second Amendment and take extreme police-state measures to confiscate all of them. Even then, I am skeptical that we would be able to get rid of all of them. (And what would we do with them then? Melt them down and make a sculpture dedicated to the brotherhood of man? I guess that’s an idea.) The easiest ones to get will be the ones owned by law-abiding citizens. Criminally-minded gun-owners will probably not give theirs up quite so readily.

But let’s say we manage to round up all the guns, even the ones owned by criminals. I’m not super-comfortable with a society where only the government has guns. That seems kind of creepy to me. Yes, I realize other countries do it like that, but if I wanted to live in those countries, that’s where I’d be. I know, I sound like Archie Bunker now. Well, fine. I don’t feel like Archie Bunker. I feel like a paranoid liberal with a healthy distrust of executive power. If it’s possible for paranoia to be healthy. I don’t know. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of issues over the years—abortion, taxes, capital punishment, education, universal health care…tons of issues—but my position on gun control is basically the same as it was when I was sending money to Amnesty International and ordering anti-Bush t-shirts from the back pages of The Progressive. People scoff at the idea that Americans would ever need to protect themselves from their government, but I don’t see what’s so Idaho-redneck-survivalist about it. What if Mitt Romney had won the election? Wasn’t he going to put us all back in chains? (I jest, but for a lot of people, it isn’t a joke at all.)

Yesterday I read this article comparing gun-rights advocates to abortion-rights advocates. The two groups are similar (the argument goes) because they react to every proposed regulation as though it’s an assault on liberty itself. So the NRA and other Second Amendment enthusiasts can seem a little kooky at times. “Waiting period? Gah! Hitler!” (Not unlike “Waiting period? Gah! Handmaid’s Tale!”) But at the same time, gun control advocates tend to talk as though there are no laws regulating guns, or that the only thing standing between us and peace on earth is the right gun regulation. You know what I say to a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban? Meh. It didn’t decrease crime while it was in effect, and crime hasn’t increased since it’s expired. So, yeah. Meh. We already have hundreds of laws regulating guns. Guns should be regulated–they’re dangerous! But anyone who’s inclined to knock off a liquor store or murder his fellow citizens isn’t going to be too persnickety about buying his firearm from a licensed gun dealer. So good luck with that. Law-abiding citizens already jump through plenty of hoops to get their guns. It’s the people not jumping through the legal hoops that are the real problem, and setting up more hoops for the law-abiding citizen isn’t going to be any skin off the criminal’s nose.

There are two issues here: 1) the practical problem of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous persons and 2) the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms. No one’s proposing anything new. Not that I’ve heard. We’re talking as though there’s something new going on—a new assault on gun rights, or a new restriction on gun sales that will actually have some effect on gun-related crime—but there’s nothing new. It’s the same old stuff, for the fifty billionth time. I get bored, but only because otherwise I’d tear out my hair.

I’m interrupting Bookapalooza so I can do some random political ranting. I know how you all just love that. That’s why I do it–for you, not me. I’m totally kidding. It’s all for me. Sometimes I just have to say stuff. Not often, just sometimes. And this is one of those times. People keep talking about “going over the fiscal cliff,” and when I first heard that term “fiscal cliff,” I wasn’t even sure what it meant. Who wants to go over any kind of cliff? That sounds terrible. I still don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, this fiscal cliff going-over. I’m only half-paying attention to the news these days. Apparently the Democrats want to raise the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 37% and the Republicans want to keep tax rates where they are and cut spending, and that’s more of a problem than usual because they have to reach some kind of agreement before the end of the year or there’s some automatic cliff-jumping that goes into effect, whatever that is. Everything Congress does is so complicated, I can’t even begin to address it. Not without getting paid.

I’m not going to argue the merits of smaller government because that would just be kind of pointless. It’s obvious from the election results that America–at least the half that counts–doesn’t want smaller government. They don’t want entitlement reform. They want to keep government services at the current level, or increase them. Fine. Fair enough. I don’t have to be a partisan Republican hack, you know. I used to be a liberal Democrat; I can put on that hat when I want to. (It’s the white one, right?) My 1992 self is looking at the current state of affairs and thinking, well, at least people realize that society needs to provide these services and that the government needs to guarantee them–that, at least, is progress. What isn’t progress is that people don’t realize that you can’t have all these government services for the low, low price of American tax rates.

Let’s pretend–or, to use a less loaded word…suppose, I guess. Let’s suppose that you can raise the top marginal tax rate 2% without adversely affecting economic growth. Let’s say the Republicans are being silly on that point. It’s certainly possible. Republicans are pretty silly people, at least the ones in Congress. Let’s say the economy keeps growing at the same rate even though the top earners are paying more in taxes. Let’s say that jobs aren’t affected. My 1992 self accepts all of that. My 2012 self might accept all of that, if she were listening, but she’s not, she’s on Facebook playing SongPop. However, there’s just this matter of the $16 trillion debt which we have because the government, under both Republican and Democratic control, has been paying for trillions of dollars’ worth of more stuff by borrowing the money instead of using money it actually has. In fairness, the government doesn’t have enough money to pay for everything Americans want from their government, so what else is it supposed to do? Well, my 1992 self thinks it’s relatively simple: you just tell Americans to suck it up and pay more in taxes. Where do you think you are, the Chuckwagon Buffet? You pay one low price and get all the health care and Social Security you can eat? That’s not how the world works. You can tell by looking at the rest of the world.

Other western-style democracies have much higher levels of government services and benefits–universal health care, paid parental leave, government-subsidized childcare, blah blah blah–all of these wonderful things that lots of Americans would love to have if other Americans would just stop being such stingy suckheads…but they also pay a lot more in taxes than Americans pay. Americans have very low tax rates compared to Europeans. And it isn’t just the rich Europeans who pay a lot in taxes. There actually aren’t that many rich people in Europe. There aren’t that many rich people in the world. That’s why they’re called “the rich.” Everyone in Europe pays higher taxes. That’s the price of a robust social safety net. Everyone has to pay for it, including the sainted middle class. I mean, sure, it would be nice if we could just use rich people’s money because rich people can have a big chunk taken out of their income and never notice it’s gone. That’s what makes them rich, as opposed to merely comfortable.

But not even rich people have enough money to pay for everyone’s health care and retirement plus military and the post office and farm subsidies and whatever the hell else is on the shopping list. Moreover, the top category of income earners is a volatile, unpredictable source of revenue. You need a broader tax base to provide a consistent stream of revenue so that you can pay for all the stuff people want. Personally, my 2012 self thinks that a European-style welfare state is unsustainable, so there isn’t much point going down that road to begin with–but 2012 self was not invited to the conversation. This is just 1992 self talking here, and she is telling you that you cannot balance the budget by raising taxes on only the top income earners and not touching entitlements. She’s not telling you to touch entitlements–God forbid, that would be horrible–but you cannot pay for the entitlements with a 37% top marginal tax rate. You can’t pay for the entitlements with a 57% top marginal tax rate, or with a 77% top marginal tax rate, if the other tax rates stay where they are. It just won’t work. Neither 2012 self nor 1992 self has a degree in economics. They just both took math.

So what’s the point, as regards the fiscal cliff? I don’t know. Who cares? I’m sorry, but it’s very hard to care. This is just another pointless argument in a series of pointless arguments about how many more years we can avoid addressing the real problem, which is that Americans eat too much and don’t go to the gym enough. No, wait, that’s another thing. No, wait, it’s a metaphor. Americans want European-style government without European-style taxes, and it’s just not going to work for much longer. Actually, technically, it’s already not working very well. But eventually it’s going to quit working completely, and all I can say is I’m glad I’ll be dead by then (probably). Or at least suffering from dementia. If I have to go into a government nursing home, which I probably will, just shoot me. Or if guns are too hard to come by, just crush up all my government-issued Valium and stick it in my government-issued oatmeal. I’ll be hoarding them for that very purpose.

In related news, I picked my daughter up from the high school today, and there were some students breakdancing in the lobby. Breakdancing. I kid you not. There’s probably metaphor to be scraped out of that anecdote too, but I’m too American to bother.

I still don’t have anything to say about the election, but again, I’m pretty desperate for titles these days. Soon you’re just going to start ignoring my titles altogether.

Maybe I should say something about the election. I just don’t know what it would be. I was feeling kind of down, so I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. That usually helps. But then I ate potato chips until I was sick, so I was right back where I started. I seem to be making a lot of poor choices lately. Not unlike some Americans I know. Hey, I’m totally kidding! Just lighten up, geez. Okay, you’re right. I wasn’t kidding, I was totally serious and just trying to pass it off as a joke so no one would know how much I’m really hurting inside. Ouch.

Okay, that “ouch” wasn’t actually sincere. My stomach doesn’t even hurt anymore from eating all those potato chips.

Tomorrow we’re going to have Mister Bubby’s belated birthday party, and since we just had a lame ice cream cake from the Safeway on his actual birthday, I kind of owe him a real birthday cake still. So this is good. Now that the election’s over, Oven Mitt Romney and I would like to focus on our baking.

On the Facebook this morning, a friend posted this article (well, not really an article, more like an op-ed or a thingy) by William Saletan telling Republicans to cheer up because Pres. Obama is actually a moderate Republican. I’ve heard this argument a lot of times, and it definitely has its merits. The only problem I have with it is that it effectively erases the Democratic party from the last hundred years of U.S. history. I mean, if Pres. Obama is actually a Republican because he’s done some stuff that Republicans have done, then Bill Clinton must have been a Republican because he cut the capital gains tax and signed welfare reform into law; Jimmy Carter was a Republican because he imposed economic sanctions against Iran; Lyndon Johnson was a Republican because he sent a lot of people to die in a foreign war; JFK was certainly a Republican because he dramatically cut income tax rates and was against communism; FDR was a Republican because he spent a lot of money on a war and created a new government entitlement program for seniors (just like George W. Bush, who in so many ways was Barack Obama’s political mentor); Harry Truman sent troops into a country on the other side of the world just because its neighbors invaded it, plus he had already dropped two atomic bombs on another country, which seems like a very Republicany thing to do, so I guess that makes him ours too. That leaves us with Woodrow Wilson. What sort of Republican things did Woodrow Wilson do? Well, he was kind of a racist. But by Saletan’s context-free logic, that would make him a pretty solid Democrat (since they were the party that opposed freeing the slaves and giving them the right to vote). So, great. I didn’t particularly want to own Woodrow Wilson, and now all the racists in the Republican party are effectively Democrats, since the true nature of a political party doesn’t ever change or evolve.

I do feel better now. Maybe it was the potato chips.

 

It’s really freaking hot over here. I can’t sleep very well at night because it’s so hot. And I definitely don’t want to cook anything when it’s hot. The problem is–well, the problems are 1) I still need sleep, and 2) the kids still expect to eat dinner. I think they’re eating mostly out of habit and because they’re too hot to do anything else. Except play video games, of course. Of course!

The other day  I was in the grocery store and they were playing this cover of Howard Jones’s “No One Is To Blame,” which is not a song I’m particularly fond of in the first place, but this version was so bad. Just…so bad. It made me want to stab myself in the ear. My good ear. I tried looking it up on the YouTube so I could show you what I mean, but it wasn’t there. How is this even possible? EVERYTHING is on the YouTube. Except this song. Maybe it is so bad that Google killed it. Maybe Google isn’t that evil after all (although I have some things to say about their priorities).

It seems like it’s so hot that people don’t even want to play on the internet anymore.

We don’t have central air at our house. We’ve thought in the past about getting it–it would certainly increase the value of our home, but then again, we just refinanced comfortably without it, so whatever–but you have to think about these things rationally, i.e. not in the middle of a rare heat wave. This summer has actually been remarkably cool up until now. It just doesn’t get that hot in Portland…except for now, of course. Right now it’s really hot. By Portland standards. By Phoenix standards, it’s probably February. But there’s a reason we don’t live in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, I try to stand in front of our wall unit in the kitchen as often as possible. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to do in that particular spot but stand there, and once you’re there and cool, you finally feel like doing something besides just standing there. Talk about ironic! Wah wah wah.

So I understand there were new rumors this morning about Pres. Obama dropping Joe Biden from the ticket and replacing him with Hillary Clinton. I guess it’s too hot to start new rumors about stuff that people haven’t been talking about for the last two years. I think the big smoking gun was that the Pres. was scheduled to meet with both of them today. Yeah. Because Joe Biden is vice-president, and Hillary Clinton is secretary of state–there isn’t really a good reason the president should need to meet with both of them on the same day. Hmmm.

It’s not going to happen, of course–even though John McCain and Sarah Palin agree that it would be a wise move on Pres. Obama’s part, and we know what geniuses those two are at winning elections. Actually, it may well be a good campaign strategy for the president, for all I know–but it certainly wouldn’t be a good move for Hillary Clinton. Say what you will about Secretary Clinton, but she’s no dummy. Assuming she has any presidential aspirations for the future–and I’m not saying she does, but if she did–she’s not going to want to hitch her wagon to Pres. Obama’s horse for the next four years. And assuming she has no presidential aspirations for the future, why would she ever want to be vice-president? For her health? (It would be a much less stressful job than her current one.) Unless she’s some kind of evil genius who’s somehow gotten her hands on indisputable evidence of malfeasance that could force the president’s resignation shortly after his second inauguration, thus making her president…but that really does seem unlikely. Even more unlikely than the president wanting to put her on the ticket on the first place.

Let’s think about why the president might have chosen Joe Biden as his running mate in the first place. 1) He wanted someone who was experienced but who wouldn’t upstage him. It couldn’t be someone both experienced and smart because then people might wonder, “Dude, why are we nominating an inexperienced smart guy instead of an experienced smart guy?” And it couldn’t be anyone good-looking, for obvious reasons. 2) Life insurance. Barack Obama may have a lot of enemies, but apparently none of them are that stupid either.

I pick on Joe Biden a lot. It’s not very nice of me. In fairness, he is really kind of a buffoon. And by “kind of” I mean…well, I think you know what I mean. I don’t have a personal dislike of Joe Biden, though. He just seems so harmless, sitting there in his vice-president’s chair. (I’m talking metaphorically–unless there really is a special chair for vice-presidents to sit in. I think I would insist on a comfy one, personally, seeing how you’re not going to be doing much else but sitting on your can for 4-8 years.)

Well, I’m going to start folding laundry and hope the effort doesn’t overheat me.

To win this election, Mitt Romney needs to win over the swing voters. Swing voters, or “independents” as they’re sometimes called, are the people most likely to say things like “I vote for the person, not the party.” Most people don’t think critically about their politics, regardless of what they are, but swing voters have neither ideology nor group loyalty to guide their decisions. Some see no significant differences between two candidates; others find both candidates too extreme for their tastes. Being pro-“person” rather than pro-party, they are most likely to vote for the person they find personally appealing, i.e. the one they think seems most intelligent, honest, compassionate, or whatever quality (or qualities) they deem important for the job. They will vote for the person who inspires them more–or, failing that, the one who scares them less.

As I’ve said before and/or elsewhere, Mitt Romney is an impressive man, but his biggest weakness as a candidate is his inability to connect personally with voters. That does not bode well for his success with independents. Lots of people may be disappointed in Barack Obama’s performance, but most of the folks who voted for him the first time will vote for him again because they still like him personally and give him the benefit of the doubt–maybe he really does just need more time to fix this mess the country’s in. They understand that the President inherited an economic disaster and they don’t see that he’s necessarily made things any worse. The Affordable Care Act hasn’t even taken effect yet, so how do they know whether or not it’s any good? Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has never been President before, so who really knows what he’d do? Plus, he’s really rich and in his career as a venture capitalist was responsible for lots of people losing their jobs. That never plays well in Peoria. (Never mind that if companies don’t cut costs, they end up failing, and failed companies employ no one. That’s hardly the point. The point is that decent people don’t cause other people to lose their jobs.)

[Note: I don’t mean to imply at all that swing voters don’t care about actual issues. Of course they care about issues. Everyone cares about issues. But swing voters are unpredictable on the issues, hence all the swinging. Independents who ordinarily vote Republican for economic reasons may be convinced to vote for an individual Democrat if they become convinced that this individual Democrat won’t screw up the economy. Or they may not. Who knows? That’s the point.]

Incumbents always have a strong advantage. People are wary of change (unless it’s accompanied by hope, of course), and it’s comforting to have the same guy continue in the job, even if he’s not doing it as well as they’d like him to. Barack Obama is the President of the United States, and as such he automatically gets plenty of press coverage. It doesn’t even have to be super-positive press coverage to be helpful. So long as they’re not running stories on him injecting sleeping nuns with cocaine, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. People like familiarity. (Anyway, I’m not sure his strategists couldn’t spin Nun-gate favorably; he’s an awfully likeable guy.)

So my money says–has always said–that Pres. Obama will be re-elected in November. Unless something really weird happens, like he goes on a murderous rampage of everyone most likely to vote for him. Independents will either give him a second chance, will hold their nose and vote for him because at least he’s not a rich guy who fired people, or they’ll stay home and not vote. Certainly some folks will stay home and not vote this year, and those folks will not be Republicans–but I wouldn’t bet on independent voter turnout being so depressed that Mitt Romney wins.

All over the Facebook people are saying that the Paul Ryan pick has clinched the election for Pres. Obama, but I disagree. Pres. Obama always had the election clinched. I don’t think there’s a single Republican out there whom Mitt Romney could have picked as a running mate who would have helped him win this election. That is why I don’t think picking Paul Ryan was a mistake. Which Republican appeals to swing voters right now? Are there any swing voters thinking, “Man, if only Romney has picked so-and-so, then I could bring myself to vote for him”? If Mitt Romney wins this election, it will be because a miracle occurred and a substantial number of independent voters became persuaded that the conservative strategy for solving our country’s problems is the more viable one. Paul Ryan is an articulate spokesperson and very handsome besides (did you see him push that old lady off the cliff? dreamy!), so if anyone can sell it to a skeptical, non-ideological constituency, he can. But I’m not sure anyone can. So does it really matter that Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan and not Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal or Chris Christie or Marco Rubio or whoever I’m forgetting was supposed to be on this list of possible VP picks?

Well, I like Paul Ryan, but I’m a right-wing kook, so my feelings don’t matter. As someone who isn’t expecting my team to win anyway, I have to admire Mitt Romney for his boldness here. (I didn’t know the most circumspect man on earth had it in him.) It certainly clarifies the choice between the Democratic option and the Republican one. Obviously, the choice was always clear to those of us already committed, but independents, as I said, are a different breed. Anyway, as I said somewhere on Facebook, at least Romney-Ryan will go down in a blaze of glory. To lose with Rob Portman would just be embarrassing. (Not to mention boring.)

P.S. I was going to say how much I’m looking forward to the Paul Ryan-Joe Biden debate. But I was looking forward to pretty much anyone debating Joe Biden. If only vice-presidential debates counted for anything!

So this morning I was reading another article about Newsweek’s cover story wondering whether or not Mitt Romney is too wimpy to be President. That’s right, these are articles about articles. Articles more about headlines, really. They don’t go much beyond whether or not it’s cool, in this day and age, to call a man a wimp. I’m okay with it, actually. I mean, in theory. I don’t know if Mitt Romney is a wimp or not. I do think it’s interesting that Newsweek would regurgitate its 1987 wimp smear on George H.W. Bush. On the one hand, they know that a lot of conservatives are leery about Mitt Romney being another wishy-washy Republican like Bush 41, so clearly they’re playing off of that. On the other hand, George H.W. Bush was twice the man his Democratic opponents were, so if Mitt Romney is even half the man H.W. was, his odds of winning this election are about even. I think. (Fractions are hard.)

Still, when Democrats start spreading rumors that someone’s a wimp, attention must be paid–because we know how much importance Democrats place on their candidates being macho he-men. Republicans have to make sure they’re keeping up. Okay, enough giggling. It’s not as stupid a question as it sounds. You gentle readers know my theory about predicting presidential elections, so you also know what it’s time for…

PRESIDENTIAL FISTFIGHT 2012!

When I first saw the Newsweek cover about Romney possibly being a wimp, I thought, well, that’s interesting. I mean, he is a rich guy who probably doesn’t have to fight many of his own battles. He has “people” to do that. Plus, he’s supposed to be a devout Mormon and what are Mormons all about? Naive teenagers preaching the gospel on bicycles. Not the manliest image. Though the truth is you have to be in pretty good shape to ride a bicycle everywhere, and pretty tough-skinned to take all that rejection. Tough-skinned or oblivious. Rich people are also oblivious, I’ve heard. Well, so much for that angle.

But it’s not like Romney has to be some uber-macho tough guy. He just has to be tougher than Barack Obama. And let’s be honest, politics aside–what magnitude of toughness are we talking here? Between the two of them, Mitt is the only one with a documented history of bullying. On the other hand, Pres. Obama doesn’t really have any hair to cut, so the former governor is going to have to think outside the box if he’s going to prevail.

The president doesn’t look like much–he’s kind of skinny–and progressives have complained about him rolling over for the Republicans every chance he gets…but that’s when he’s governing. When it comes to something really important, like winning an election, Barack Obama will pull out all the stops. He’ll fight like a girl. And I’m not saying that in a pejorative way. Have you ever watched girls fight? They’re relentless! They’re all take-no-prisoners guerilla warfare. And heaven knows Mitt has plenty of hair to pull.

Of course the President is too dignified to go for the jugular immediately. He’ll bob and weave and float like a butterfly and whatnot, giving Mitt a false sense of security and suddenly out of nowhere BAMMO! Direct hit, straight to the crotch. Not that he believes in punching below the belt. He doesn’t. He’ll keep his hands where we can see them and surreptitiously kick Romney in his place of business. And then everyone will tweet double entendres about Romney’s business career. Like “no one can accuse him of being CEO of anything anymore!” Or something cleverer but less suitable for a family blog.

No, it doesn’t look good for Romney. Except that he’s damn good at evading stuff. And if he’s like any Mormon I know, he’s going to have an impressive level of endurance. (All those long church meetings.) People are always saying how he doesn’t seem quite human, that he’s more like a soulless automaton. Well, what if he is a soulless automaton? What if he can’t feel pain? Like a zombie. Zombies are even more relentless than girls. How do you kill a zombie? I don’t remember. But it doesn’t matter because a robot is different from a zombie anyway. In order to disable him, the president would have to locate his power source. Maybe that’s what’s in Mitt’s missing tax returns. Hmmmm…

This is a real tough one to call, kids. What do you think?

The Romney campaign has been taking advantage of an out-of-context quote from President Obama’s Roanoke, Va. speech, in which he said, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” As is the case with almost everything this president says, right-wing business owners everywhere immediately pounced on this and started insisting that as a matter of fact they did build that, and now they’re trying to trying to characterize the president as somehow anti-business.

But this is a load of crap. Pres. Obama never said you didn’t build your own business. Well, technically, he did say that, but if you look at his remarks in context, it’s clear that what he meant was that you didn’t build it all by yourself. At some point–probably several points–you benefited from some government program or service that helped you build your business and be successful. His point was that we all benefit from government programs, no matter how independent and self-sufficient we think we are.

So it’s the conservative hatred of government that’s anti-business, not Pres. Obama.

Believe it or not, I was making a similar point to my daughter just this morning. She said, “Mommy, look at the picture I drew.” Well, of course it was a great picture and I told her so, but I also gently reminded her that she didn’t draw it alone. “You couldn’t have made this picture by yourself, honey,” I said, “because the crayons you used were delivered to the store by a truck driven on government-funded roads. Not to mention the fact that you wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t driven on a government road to the place where I met your father. So technically you didn’t even come up with the idea on your own because the government helped us build your brain.”

It’s probably due to my background in liberal politics, but this is one conservative who hasn’t forgotten her debt to government-sponsored infrastructure.

The fact is if you live in an area with a publicly owned sewer system, you can’t even take a dump without the government’s help, so stop acting so high and mighty and admit that government isn’t so bad!

The president’s perspective isn’t that difficult to understand, although it may not fit neatly in the bumper sticker-sized space you’ve reserved in your brain for understanding alternate viewpoints. It goes like this: We all benefit from government programs a, b, c. Therefore, you cannot reasonably object to government programs d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, and z. A vote against the Affordable Care Act is a vote against the postal service that delivers the mortgage coupons that remind you to make your monthly payments so you don’t end up homeless. It’s like slapping a teacher in the face. And not just public school teachers, but also any private school teachers who may have attended public school at one time. Government programs don’t just benefit you but all the generations that come after you (which is only fair, since they’ll be paying for them too).

And Republicans want to undo all of that.

Why do you think Mitt Romney’s said that he won’t take a salary as President? Because he knows he can always become CEO of whatever corporation owns all the roads after he has them privatized. (Duh.) Then I’ll have to go around saying I can’t have another baby without Mitt Romney’s help, and that will be really awkward.

But at least I’m intellectually honest, unlike some people, who won’t admit that government is what enables them to achieve anything in life. Look, I’m not planning to re-elect Pres. Obama either, but stop being a hypocrite and acknowledge that your opposition to expanding government is irrational and against your own interest. It’s the least you can do for the government that bore you (with a little help from dear old Mom).

.

Madhousewife is the Building Stuff Czar for the Obama administration.

Newt Gingrich as the Republican frontrunner was funny a few weeks ago, in a Bizarro-World sort of way. Now that he’s won South Carolina and polling eight points ahead in Florida, I’m no longer amused. I have only five words for the GOP electorate and they’re Are you f***ing kidding me? Newt Gingrich. I shouldn’t even have to explain why this is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. I’d try, but I just start weeping in frustration every time I start. Newt Gingrich? NEWT GINGRICH? REALLY? I’d italicize, but it won’t help to become hysterical. I should probably just take a moment to breathe deeply and calm down.

Okay. [Long sigh] Okay. Good-cop mode. I get where people are coming from. It’s understandable. Your choices are Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Someone Else We’d Just As Soon Not But Damn The Pickins’ Is Slim. First Rick Perry was Someone Else, then Herman Cain was Someone Else–good grief, even Rick Santorum had fifteen minutes of being Someone Else, so why not Newt Gingrich? I get it. It’s cute in theory, but here’s the thing: NEWT GINGRICH? There’s only one of him, you know. This is not some new and improved Newt Gingrich who isn’t a big-government conservative narcissist with a Buick full of ’90s baggage that makes Hillary Clinton look like Barack Obama circa 2006, who doesn’t make enemies like he makes hash out of his marriage vows—IT’S THE SAME GUY. Do you honestly think this cat has a snowball’s chance in hell to win a general election, or have you just decided to carve a big “up yours” in the school desk of democracy? What’s the matter with you people???

That last part wasn’t very good cop-ish. You see what current events have done to me.

You long-term gentle readers know how I feel about Mitt Romney. Some people have been eager to write off all this Romney rejection as so much anti-Mormon bias, but I haven’t gone there. I’m too aware of Mitt’s shortcomings as a candidate. He’s got that big albatross MassCare, which—you know what, we’re not even going to talk about it. We could go round and round on “Romneycare” or “Obamneycare,” tenth-amendment-lover to tenth-amendment-lover, but the point is that there’s a big chunk of the Republican party who doesn’t trust someone who thinks MassCare is something to be proud of. I sympathize with that argument. Aside from that, though—forgetting that MassCare was his baby—there is the ever-present problem of him not being able to connect with voters, and it’s not because he’s an out-of-touch millionaire but because it’s just really hard to get a read on the guy. Voters don’t necessarily want a president they can sit down and have a beer with. They do want to know that what they’re seeing is what they’re getting, and with Mitt Romney it’s just so hard to believe that what you’re seeing is really all there is.

It’s not so hard for Mormons, I don’t think. To his fellow Mormons, Mitt Romney probably seems like a perfectly normal dude. He looks like he could be our stake president. Not coincidentally, Mitt Romney was a stake president in the LDS church for eight years. He’s that kind of guy. An administrator. Someone who makes sure the trains run on time (in a non-Mussolini sort of way). Not the sort of man you fall in love with, but no one needs to be in love with their stake president; they just have to not hate him. So we see this clearly intelligent, clearly competent, clearly experienced, and clearly not hate-worthy guy running for president and think, “Well, what’s wrong with him (so long as you’re a Republican)?”

Two things you should not expect from Mitt Romney: spontaneity and candor. I think Mona Charen had a column psychoanalyzing Mitt Romney and speculating that watching his father, popular Michigan governor and one-time serious presidential material George Romney, self-destruct in a moment of spontaneity and/or candor (when he said he was “brainwashed” on Vietnam) taught Mitt never to let his guard down and risk saying something he might regret. That seems perfectly plausible, if a tad Freudian/TV movie. There’s also the fact that spontaneity and candor are two things you should never expect from Mormon church leadership, either. Hedging and side-stepping and speaking in platitudes is Salt Lake leadership to a T. To a T. I am sorry to be the one to say it, but it’s true. Mormons are used to it and those of us who stick around realize that it’s not necessarily sinister, even if it is annoying. It’s just politic. I suppose we’ve also learned that shooting your mouth off a la Brigham Young causes its own problems. Maybe we’ve learned to prefer our leaders bland and harmless.

But yeah, it does give Mitt Romney that vague, used-car-salesman-esque vibe that he just can’t shake. He does seem too genteel to be compared to a used-car salesman. I think Jonah Goldberg said it best when he said, “There’s just something about the guy that makes people say, ‘There’s just something about that guy.’”

So I understand that not wanting to vote for Mitt Romney doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got a problem with him being a Mormon. As I said, I have never heretofore gone there. I’ve defended Mike Huckabee on that front, for Pete’s sake. However…

Newt Gingrich? I’m starting to wonder.

I’ve never denied that there’s an anti-Mormon element in the anti-Romney camp. I’m not that naive. I’ve just never thought it was as significant as some people say it is. I’ve always argued that it would be almost negligible were it not for Mitt Romney’s other liabilities. Even Newt Gingrich surging ahead in the polls and eventually winning South Carolina I could write off as so many Republicans wanting a candidate that excites them rather than doesn’t-exactly-offend-them. But I can’t just ignore the exit polls; voters who say a candidate’s religious beliefs mattered “a great deal” went for Newt Gingrich by an embarrassingly large margin. (Embarrassing for Mitt Romney, but the voters themselves should probably be embarrassed, too.) It could just be a coincidence, but…Newt Gingrich? Really?

So I’m going to go all identity-politics on you for a moment and give any “values voter” out there who thinks Newt Gingrich is a better choice than Mitt Romney for President simply because he doesn’t believe in gold plates and magic underwear a piece of my mind:

I know why a candidate’s religion is important to you. Being President of the United States is a tough gig. That cat needs all the help he (or she—smirk) can get. And if your president is praying to the wrong Jesus, it could have implications for the whole country. And by “implications” I mean God could just decide to destroy us. (It’s not like he’s never done it before.) Here’s where an ordinary Mormon might try to convince you that our beliefs really aren’t that different from yours, that we believe in the same Jesus you do, and blah blah de blah. But I’m not an ordinary Mormon; I value candor and spontaneity, so I’m just going to come out and tell you—yeah, I do believe in a different Jesus than you do. My Jesus listens to your prayers even if your theology isn’t one hundred percent accurate, and he isn’t going to destroy a whole country because its president wears the wrong kind of underwear. My Jesus is nice, and so’s Mitt Romney’s. But if you’re so particular about your Jesuses, maybe I should remind you that Newt Gingrich is a (converted) Catholic, and as I recall from the “counter-cult” section of your bookstores, his religion is a little fishy, too (even if it is older). And by “a little fishy” I don’t mean what you put on the back of your car.

Enough of that, though. It’s not like it makes any difference.

Mitt Romney’s still a really problematic candidate. As Mark Steyn said in the Corner yesterday, “For a guy running as a chief exec applying proven private-sector solutions, his campaign looks awfully like an unreformable government bureaucracy: big, bloated, overstaffed, burning money, slow to react, and all but impossible to change.” Mitt the Wealthy and Very Competent Administrator should have the best advisors money can buy, and this is the best he can do? He’s losing to Newt Gingrich. NEWT FLIPPING GINGRICH. Holy heck.

It’s not like I’m completely blind to Newt’s appeal, either. I understand that he accomplished great things for the party twenty years ago. I know he’s quick and he’s smart and watching him debate Pres. Obama would be like watching the Oregon Ducks play Portland State. I’m not even all that hung up on him being a serial adulterer, aside from the fact that he tried to blame his affairs on the fact that he was just working so darn hard for his country that “things happened.” (Someone should probably warn Newt’s current wife that the American presidency entails a fair amount of hard work. He won’t just be playing golf all day.) I don’t think he’d be a bad president. I think he’d be an unpredictable president because who the crap knows what Newt’s going to come up with next?

But that’s neither here nor there because Newt’s never going to be president. It’s never going to happen. Mitt Romney might never be president, either. I think Barack Obama would have mopped the floor with Mitt in 2008, and he might very well mop the floor with him in 2012. But if the Republicans nominate Newt Gingrich, the President will not only mop the floor with him, he’ll scrub the bathtubs, shower stalls and toilets and possibly clean the second story windows, too. For the love of all that’s holy, my friends—we have to make it look like we’re at least trying.

Okay, I’m done with politics now. D-U-N. On to Florida, God help us all.

.

Madhousewife is a possible candidate for VP on a Gingrich ticket–or would be, if she weren’t a Mormon.

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