“When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen,” said Republican candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana (a Midwest state of farms and cities) in 2012. . . . → Read More: Abortion, Religion, and Rape: America’s Politics 2016
Once, you bought elected officials. Today, you buy the election. How? With ads! Short, distorted, repetitive, intense, saturated, without facts. Who pays? Outside groups. An example: since 2006, the Republican State Leadership Committee has gone from spending $20 million on GOP candidates to a projected $37 million by next week, mainly aimed at state legislatures and judges. In a break with precedent (and mainstream media coverage!), the new era of free speech has focused attacks on elected judges, especially on state Supreme Courts. In North Carolina, one televised ad accused a sitting judge of “siding with child predators.”
And win or lose, these ads are working. A new report says state judges are considering these ads when they issue rulings in court. The net effect of these ads is slowly, invisibly changing justice, even on constitutional questions.
According to the American Constitution Society (ACS):
Outside interest groups, often with high-stakes economic interests or political causes before the courts, now routinely pour millions of dollars into state supreme court elections. These powerful interests understand the important role that state supreme courts play in American government, and seek to elect justices who will rule as they prefer on priority issues such as environmental and consumer protections, marriage equality, reproductive choice and voting rights. Although their economic and political priorities are not necessarily criminal justice policy, these sophisticated groups understand that “soft on crime” attack ads are often the best means of removing from office justices they oppose.
The more TV ads aired during state Supreme Court judicial elections in a state, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. In a state with 10,000 ads, a doubling of airings is associated on average with an 8 percent increase in justices’ voting against a criminal defendant’s appeal.
Justices in states whose bans on corporate and union spending on elections were struck down by Citizens United were less likely to vote in favor of criminal defendants than they were before the decision. In these states, the removal of those prohibitions after Citizens United is associated with, on average, a 7 percent decrease in justices’ voting in favor of criminal defendants.
ThinkProgress notes: “Outside spenders pay for ads with particularly vicious content” even as candidates they support distance themselves; one in Ohio dissembling its support by claiming an ad against his opponent as not an “appropriate approach to judicial campaigning.”
A Mother Jones article cites these phrases from ads: “Terrorist sympathizer. Friend to criminals. Pedophile supporter.” A “free a terrorist” ad ran in Michigan 416 times!
Heavy on emotion, short on facts, completely without context or specifics, watch this example from Michigan:
This kind of ad, televised, makes electoral debate a tough sell and appeals to the lowest forms of information, anger and fear—at the sacrifice of the freedom the soldier died for.
In states with elections for local court seats, money is also wielding a bigger presence on justice.
But the changes in political funding created by the Citizens United decision, along with the internet, have also created more citizen ads, with low production values and distinctively local flavors. For example, these next four, each a little bizarre: Continue reading How to Buy Power and Influence
The humor in ancient wisdom and the folklore celebrated by hunters and gatherers who spent long-ago evenings and days together with family and friends found its source in paradox—that place in life and history where nothing works as it should. At least, as we think it should.
Lucille Ball was its comedic master, taking simple sketches and adding her timing, eye-rolls and physical twitches until she embodied the madness that engulfed her. It was no longer the situation that was ridiculously funny: it was her!
And nothing fixed it, either. Paradoxes, like stones in a river, can be traversed, but not solved. No engineering or spin, no rule or bill, no lie or fear will change their nature. That’s why the ancients often pointed to them as the center of not only village humor but as communal religious teaching. They require heroic courage and thinking, both inside and outside, to get past them and mark the passage.
But paradoxes have a dark side, on full exhibit in the conversations about sex and race.
Anthony Weiner offers a paradox—more pathetic than funny or religious—until you realize that his situation is not an “either/or” of guilt and penitence of personality and politics, of bad judgment and stubbornness, but is a sequel, with parts one and two. His two-step process jointly connects to the biggest voyeuristic thrill in the history of American politics. Therein is his paradox; he is using politics to further the thrill!
What’s bigger and more dangerous to personal standing and the sanctity of the inner self than sending high-definition pictures of personal sex organs to unmet strangers over the internet?
Doubling down and knowingly running for one of the nation’s highest municipal offices, the high-profile mayor of a city that is a global beacon, and announcing at the announcement that more scandal is to come, then reveling in it when it does, dragging his family along, and refusing to step down, in order to draw the maximum public attention possible to what began as a private, prurient act and turning it into a daily outing, seen in the eyes of the hundreds he encounters without shame of his being a bad boy.
So with Weiner, rethink the prevailing view: switch the roles of the election and the exposure and see them as connected, evolving stages. The campaign’s main purpose is for flaunting his flaunting. Remember the announcement of his candidacy also included the announcement of “more incidents” to come. Note there is no platform, team, volunteers.
Now focus on the campaign as the second stage as a two-part event; the first being the private, digital exposure; the second being the public, personal exposure—the largest of its kind in history, within a public crucible that heightens the exposure, contact and exuberant feeling—even as the polls drop.
His running for mayor is a part of the earlier event, a vehicle for widening the data and getting the feedback so craved; a continuum of the risk-taking exposure morphed and zoomed to the biggest possible public stage—the ultimate danger, the non-repeatable, once-in-a-lifetime thrill, driven not by plan but impulse that laid out the order for it to fall into place.
It’s not for politics that he will not let go. It’s for the same reason he sent the pictures; for him it’s the same thrill/danger/defiant compulsion, larger, grander, a public naughty.
Notice it doesn’t bother him in the least.
Built on denial and blame, the GOP relies by intention and instinct on paradox. Theirs is a cultural strategy that relies on built-in paradoxes leveraged by misdirection, framed around denial, resolved by cognitive dissonance and the plausibility of blame.
Slavery is among the biggest of America’s historic paradoxes and is used to leverage racism and disenfranchisement today.
I see a neat match between our current place and the landed gentry who decided selling human beings from auction blocks was a capital idea—after trading with corrupt leaders for their capture, and disposing of those who died en route by dumping the bodies into the sea as great whites tore the flesh off the falling bones. Nothing defined America’s political parties, inside and outside, the rich and poor, and the common collective consciousness, its “governance,” like weekly arriving barks and schooners of Africans. Law, will and make-believe turned them into a half-million enslaved. Continue reading More Race and Sex
Sometimes, truth is besides the point. In today’s politics, its relevancy is certainly diminished. Its purpose is abandoned, standing as empty and eerie as the giant hollow factory shells of Detroit. We are taught to think of truth as solid and firm, but its integrity sways like the vine bridges built deep in rain forest interiors hidden from view. Truth is adaptable and timeless, which makes it easy to overrun. But in the heat of the moment, the property of truth Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. cited is often forgotten: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
Its role in this season’s Presidential campaigns is over- and underrated, as one is about fear, the other about feel good. It is true that systems in conflict or competition create a set of their own norms intended to gain advantage and defeat the other, and this determines their options and handicaps their outcomes. Yet one campaign has based its entire strategy on betting against truth’s rise, believing truth’s adaptivity can be twisted and crushed by fear. The truth of truth is that truth expands; it is indispensable, not disposable.
Yet the power of truth is rare as a social or political force; it has always been tied to a sense of shame, a feeling of inner pain, a self-imposed humility, an emptiness and brokenness that rained on a soul telling a lie. Truth, celebrated as a virtue, carried with it a sense of embarrassment that made it hard to look people in the eye. Despair–agony–waited on those who bent or violated its moral faith. All day demons reigned in the lost hearts that told lies, a separation that left these hearts disturbed in out-of-body drift. Truth is the comfort of wholeness. Truth is foremost an inner quality, a force that builds a fabric of trust.
Earl Butz probably began the movement toward political correctness, but his comments were said in jest. Indiana-born, Purdue-trained, Butz was Agricultural Secretary under Gerald Ford and told a racial joke that got him fired (rather, he resigned; nobody gets fired for racial jokes!).
In discerning the motives of Negroes (as they were then called), Butz suggested there were three top priorities. One, loose shoes. (Many blacks of that generation, especially farmers and country folk, had severe foot abnormalities and pain.) Dare I mention the other two? Tight pussy. (The outrage—and outrageousness—was as much in the use of the term; this slang was prohibited in polite or public conversation and it was startling to make any reference to the sexual proclivities of blacks, who were widely thought to constantly engage in hot monkey sex like rabbits. The use of the slang to refer to a vagina was seen neither as outrageous or funny, but dreadful; sex and women had not entered comedy.) The third? A warm place to shit. (Which dismally failed in its humor. For a generation who had grown up using outhouses on winter mornings, there was nothing funny about recalling the bone-jarring cold or the walk in the wet dew.) Yep. Got ol’ Earl fired. Hoisted pathetically on his own petard. And two-thirds of it was more true than funny.
Today the scatological comments about a black President are neither funny or obscene—or true; no line of public or private sensibility exists, no boundary of behavior is off-limits. Lost is any connection to reality, to any semblance of actual experience or cultural memory; missing are any ties to the hidden contradictions that elevate life beyond being a mere record of good and bad. Humor is no longer a guide post, a way of embracing the true-hearted. Why did political humor die?
My earliest recognition of political humor was in the slave tales. I was astonished that tales of laughter told by people denied freedom were filled with a subtle, complex, thoughtful humanity that soared above the conditions that bound their lives. More so, the punch lines were pure revolution. They told of how situations can be best met—humor was used to change the odds, to open windows, to build community, and often, really, outrageously, just for laughs. This simple minimalism was dangerous. How dare those enslaved find time and means for the joy of simple laughter, to replace paralyzing fear and the intrusion of control on every aspect of their lives, with a free moment whose joy even slavery could not kill.
Today, does anyone remember that slaves told jokes? Rather than feeling slighted by ‘ol Earl, they would have taken him under wing and taught him better technique. Prayer was an important part of that technique and the enslaved frequently prayed for freedom. Often they found a particular tree near the edge of the fields and in the afternoons fervently asked God for freedom. One day, a voice answered an especially prayerful member of the enslaved community and promised the money to purchase his freedom if he passed the trials of faith. Each day the voice said, ten dollars would be found at the base of the tree. Each day, the faithful slave found what seemed to be this divine gift. Fifty dollars was the amount needed to purchase his freedom and soon the total reached forty dollars.
But that day, the voice placed before him the test. Bring the entire forty dollars tomorrow and leave it. Come the next day and you shall have your fifty. The slave thanked the voice profusely, but he finally picked the money up and replied he’d get the other ten on his own.
Make no mistake that this lesson on self-reliance has any resemblance to Rush Limbaugh’s vicious putdowns. He attempts to disguise attacks as irony, parody, sarcasm, or surreal engagement. But they are none of these. His conclusions are false, his purpose is to intimidate. He uses words as stones and calls it funny. But his words are simple confessions of hate and fear and proffers of threats.
One woman who applied as a CIA agent early in the days of women applicants exhibited no fear during a training exercise. To test her commitment to completing any assigned task, she was given a gun (which unknown to her, had been disabled) and was told her husband was tied to a chair in room behind a closed door. To prove her loyalty, she must go in and shoot him. She took the gun and entered the room. Violent noises drifted out. Finally, she emerged, out of breath, flushed, and handed back the gun. “The gun didn’t work,” she said. “I had to beat him to death with a chair leg.” Continue reading Digging Deeper: Somebody Tell Republicans to Hook Up the Jumper Cables
When you decide you want to try to offer a new product or service whether in a new or existing business, you try to determine if there is a market for it. Is there a need for the new product or service, or through marketing can you create a desire for it? If you are introducing a new product to compete with existing products, how is your product different from the other products and is that difference something that people will find appealing?
Candidates can work in a similar way. From his campaign rollout speech, it is clear that Mr. Huntsman is trying to position himself as the one reasonable candidate who respects his Republican rivals for the nomination and ALSO respects President Obama. On Obama, Huntsman said that while he respects him, he just has a different vision for the country. Huntsman is also a smart guy who taught himself Mandarin Chinese, was the US Ambassador to China and Governor of Utah, knows American history and can speak knowledgeably about foreign policy issues.
For all that, there is a major problem with Candidate Huntsman. He is a product whose features have no market among the Republican electorate.
Republicans have no interest in a candidate who actually knows something. They seem to find willful ignorance irrelevant or even charming in a candidate. For instance, Sarah Palin’s butchering and ignorance of history and current events is legend. Not only does she make up history as she goes along, when her error was pointed out, she insisted her version of Paul Revere’s famous ride (he rode out to warn the British not to try to take our guns) was correct even though we are in the internet age when it is easy to look up such things and find out the truth. One of the last living really intelligent ultra-conservatives, Margaret Thatcher, refused to meet with Palin when Palin traveled to the UK to see Thatcher. As much as I disagree with many or most of Ms. Thatcher’s decisions as Prime Minister, I can only opine from a distance that Thatcher didn’t want her legacy and brand of conservatism tarnished by meeting with someone who views being informed as an unnecessary inconvenience.
Michele Bachmann hasn’t been on the national stage as long as Palin, but she is working hard to catch up in ignorant quotes. Bachmann has produced gems like, “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” Bachmann may want to read this. If she still is unconvinced, maybe she will agree to be hooked up to a tank of the stuff to breathe for a while. I think Bachmann got her idea for this quote from Ann Coulter, who claimed that radiation is good for you. If Ann really feels that way, I don’t understand why she isn’t at Fukushima offering to clean the whole thing up with her bare hands. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) would almost certainly offer her many times her regular speaking rate to do it. Continue reading Huntsman – Too Sane and Too Informed for a Tea Party Crazed GOP?