Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Republican Primary Dictionary

If nothing else, this blog is all about public service. You may think a major reason why I write Careless Whispers is to satisfy some deep-seated need in me for attention and an obsession-level quest for fame and media notoriety, and you would be pretty much correct. But mixed in with all that psychological stuff is my desire to bring clarity and enlightenment into a world so often choked and obfuscated with dullness and stupidity.

In my mind, nothing more clearly illustrates the innate tawdriness and runaway putrefaction of the American political system than the Republican presidential primaries. Rising like a rancid zombie out of a pile of garbage in a junior-high-school drama class reenactment of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, the primaries or caucuses or "preference polls" or whatever the hell they call themselves reared up on their cloven hooves for about two seconds and then immediately started a headlong and inexorable plunge to the lower depths of Stupid Hell, trying to drag us all down with it.

But fret not, help is on the way. I have created this guide to the political language of the primaries, which I hope will allow the Gentle Reader to understand the hidden meaning behind all the lies, deliberate misstatements, and dog-whistle rhetoric which so often these days tries to pass as legitimate discourse. Consider this your political life preserver, and please, don't thank me. My reward is spreading around the awareness of what utter pieces of shit the Republican candidates are.

"Class Warfare" - This is one of the most patently hilarious things the Republicans have come up with yet, other than Sarah Palin running for anything other than Queen of the Inbred. Oh, those poor, sad, downtrodden billionaires - the Republicans would have you believe they are the most misunderstood and unfairly persecuted minority in this country . Imagine, they bleat out as they squeeze the crocodile tear or two from their rheumy old eyes, all the unwashed multitudes attacking the uppermost 0.5% of wage earners in this country solely because of their wealth and success! Yeah, you need to watch out for the middle class, they'll turn on you in a second. They start making 25, maybe 30 thousand bucks a year and all of a sudden they get uppity and bite the hand that feeds them. Why can't they just be satisfied sitting in their worthless, over-mortgaged homes watching Donald Trump's comb-over terrorize the mentally handicapped on "The Apprentice," or be happy with the crumbs that trickle down from the more fortunate? Never you mind the decades of tax cuts, offshore tax havens and specialized financial instruments you can access when you have a lot of money. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain - just heap disdain upon the Democrats for daring to criticize the people who underwrite and benefit from every wasteful, deficit-expanding thing the Republicans do.

"Phony Theology" - This is a rather late entry to the Sweepstakes of Stupidity the Republicans are running, but it's pretty good. It seems that, according to the priggish, sanctimonious Rick Santorum, President Obama has some kind of "phony theology" going on with his energy policy. Yeah, it sounds stupid because it IS stupid; I don't know what he means, either, and who really cares? However let us savor for a little while the delicious irony of Rick Santorum opining that someone else has a "phony theology." Santorum should know all about phony theologies because fundamentalists like him are world-class experts in "pretending" to be Christians while "doing" the exact opposite. To wit: Fundamentalists believe that you should use any means necessary to keep a fetus from being aborted but the instant they're born you turn your back on them and they are on their own. Fundamentalists don't believe you should feed the hungry or provide medical care for those who can't afford it. Let's see, where have we heard that before? If I'm not mistaken someone named Jesus Christ thought that was a good idea. Fundamentalists, not so much. Santorum also believes gay marriage is an abomination and wants a constitutional amendment to outlaw it. It will destroy traditional marriage, he bellows. He misses the irony that the 50% divorce rate among traditional marriages is what's destroying it. I guess serial adulterer Newt Gingrich is also irony-resistant because because his cheating on two of his wives is doing so much to keep traditional marriage alive and well. Now I realize that for fundamentalists, irony is so much of their daily lives and belief systems that after a while they just become inured to it and don't even notice when it jumps up and slaps them in the face, but someone like Santorum preaching about "phony theology" is absolutely astounding. The fact that he doesn't get how stupid and hypocritical it makes him sound is really amusing.

"Secure the Border" - Here in Arizona we hear a lot about "securing the border," but what that really means is keep brown-skinned Spanish-speaking people out of our country unless they're picking our crops, tending to our lawns or cleaning our houses.

"Anti-religious Social Agenda" - Another one of those catch-all phrases that can be stretched and shaped to cover any number of perceived problems, from marriage equality to access to contraceptives. Any time you push back on the fundamentalists when they try to shove their religious biases on the general population, all of a sudden you're "anti-religious," and you "hate Christianity." While I gladly and proudly admit to both, a lot of people aren't, and they resist the fundamentalist urge to conflate "standing up for your rights" with "taking away their right to practice their religion". No one is taking away anyone's right to believe in the delusion of their choice, but I have a HUGE problem when they try to make everyone else defer to their beliefs, as if their beliefs are preeminent and trump everyone else's. I don't suppose it matters to most of them that the majority of people on this planet are either Hindu or Muslim, and that their beliefs are in the minority. As for contraceptives, conservatives are blanching at the fact that a church-affiliated employer might have to provide contraceptives to their employees, against their religious beliefs. Tell that to the 98% of Catholics who already use some form of contraceptive.

"Food Stamp President" - Newt Gingrich came up with that one, and it's only fitting because he looks like he really knows his way around a dinner table. Nothing like making a less-than-subtle racial comment because 1) Obama is black and 2) everyone knows the majority of people using food stamps are black. Except that they aren't. Only 22% of food stamp recipients are black; the rest are white, Hispanic, Asian, Native Americans, and others. But why let facts get in the way of a good racial slur?

These are only some of the interesting linguistic stunts the Republicans are pulling in this very bizarre primary season. One might have thought with the exit of the truly moronic wing of the candidate roster - Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain - we could maybe get into a little more substantive discussion of the great challenges this country faces, and you know, actually talk about ideas and stuff, but that was wishful thinking. The Republicans are looking for someone who can get their ultra-conservative base all riled up and ready to hit those voting booths come November, so they know they have to appeal to the very lowest, basest nature of the obese, knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who vote for them. It is truly a shame that, in their haste to get to the slimy muck at the bottom of the voter pool to find their support, they have to pull the rest of the country down with them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

As You Sow, So Shall You Reap

It's never been a habit of mine to quote from the Bible because so many others do it so much better than I, mostly to advance a particular point of view or agenda. The Bible has been translated and re-translated so many times in so many languages that most of the wording is pretty slippery and imprecise, and thus can be used to justify any number of opinions, some of them openly contradictory. But your kind attention is gently drawn to KJV Galatians 6:8 which states:

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

The language is somewhat clumsy and unwieldy, but basically it means "as you sow, so shall you reap," the title of this post. That is interpreted as actions done in bad faith will glean bad results, and those done in good faith will return rewards. I'm pretty sure the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure (SGK) is learning this lesson in a rather expensive fashion.

The Komen Foundation has been at the forefront of raising funds and awareness for breast cancer for years, and has been doing it very well. I heard something along the lines that they are the second most trusted non-profit organization in the country. That is a powerful asset, such lofty public trust and confidence, and I'm sure it pays great dividends in the fund-raising arena.

And raise funds they do. According to charitynavigator.org, a website that rates charities, for the year ending March 2010, SGK pulled in over $311,000,000. Fundraising expenses and administrative costs ate up $60,000,000 of that (remember that if you do contribute to them), but it still left a quarter of a billion dollars for their program expenses. You can see the report here.

Indeed, SGK has the love and admiration of the public, a lot of money rolling in, and a very high-profile system of races to publicize their work advancing women's health. So what do they do to make things run more smoothly? They hire a right-wing gargoyle named Karen Handel to be their VP of public policy, and one of the things she does is come up with a completely preposterous, blatantly biased, widely discredited and ideologically-driven way to cut funding to one of their long-time partners in providing health services to disadvantaged women, Planned Parenthood.

When they did that, a media and public relations firestorm of epic proportions erupted. Facebook, that instantaneous barometer of our culture, went completely batshit. People went to the SGK page and wrote hundreds of blistering, withering comments criticizing them in the harshest possible terms. You can be sure that I posted my largely unedited and uncensored comments. For a while they were deleting all the critical comments but there were so many of them coming in at such a frantic pace that they gave up on that. Facebook pages excoriating SGK for their stupidity popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. Numerous calls were made to boycott SGK and their races. People across the country from all walks of life were really, really steamed and they were making their feelings known with crystal clarity.

As you might predict, conservatives were gleefully cheering the axing of Planned Parenthood, because obviously they don't give a rat's ass about women's health as long as abortion is the only thing on their tiny little radar screens. Planned Parenthood is synonymous with abortion according to these cretins, a view that was voiced by the puffy, pasty-faced gas bag Senator Jon Kyl (R-Az) last year on the floor of the Senate when he opined that "over 90%" of Planned Parenthood's budget goes for abortion services. In reality, barely 3% of their budget is for abortions, but that tiny little discrepancy was not enough for all the pinheaded conservatives to get excited about. When Kyl's comments were universally ridiculed as idiotic bullshit, his office offered the now-classic explanation that what he said was not "meant to be a factual statement." So, according to them it's perfectly okay to knowingly spout insane, absurd lies on the floor of the Senate as long as you get one of your office stooges to follow up with a "he didn't really mean it" disclaimer. Once again Kyl does what he does best, embarrass himself and the entire state of Arizona with his moronic incompetence.

Anyway, back to our story. When SGK realized the black hole of crap they created for themselves, they started to have second thoughts about what they had done. Money was pouring in to Planned Parenthood from thousands of people who were taking their side. Likewise, money was pouring into SGK from all the conservative vultures who were happy Planned Parenthood would not be providing breast exams for uninsured women. Things spun so wildly out of control for SGK that today they backtracked on their funding decision and reinstated Planned Parenthood as their partner. Now, they have thousands and thousands of people on the left who despise and mistrust them for their blatant greediness and flip-flopping, and they have conservatives angry at them for changing their mind, and of course accepting all the money the conservatives gave them in the past couple of days.

SGK issued plenty of statements apologizing for this amazing public display of clumsy idiocy, but great damage has already been done to their integrity and the public trust of which they used to enjoy so much. It will take them a long, long time to dig themselves out of the hole they dug, and it is a shame, especially for the Komen family, to have the name of their loved one dragged through the political mud. As long as Karen Handel is on their payroll, they will never regain their status as a highly-respected national charity. It was because of her biased, rabidly anti-choice agenda that SGK is now seen as caring much more about money and politics than saving women's lives, and they have no one to blame but themselves.