Monthly Archives: January 2012

Today in Advertising…

This Dr Pepper commercial does several things that annoy me:

The ad doesn’t bother detailing the virtues of the product because it has none. Its second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, which will keep you on track for diabetes and gout. It also contains phosphoric acid that will strip away the enamel from your teeth. And its primary purpose is to serve as a delivery system for a psychoactic drug.

There is enough wrong with soda that you wonder why their commercials don’t look like a pharmaceutical ad.

Maybe in 30 years or so we’ll view today’s soda ads with the same disbelief we have for cigarette ads from the 1960s.

Odd that the pharmaceutical ad is the most honest of the bunch. Like the cigarette ads of yesterday, the Dr Pepper ad pushes a lifestyle and worse endeavors to make the consumption of its product somehow admirable. It’s even generous enough to ask that you go on Twitter and use its focus-group crafted hashtag to help spread the word.

Selling consumerism as individualism is not new. Apple did it in 1984 with its famous Super Bowl ad inspired by the George Orwell novel. There’s no information about the actual product and how its superior to the competition. No, all you need to know is that the competition offers conformity and Apple offers freedom and individuality. Not too much individuality, of course, as the company wants to sell some computers but popular individuality, which is what every American teen desires.

Watching this ad again, the dystopian society depicted resembles an Apple factory in China but with breaks for organized TV viewing.

In 1987, Nike co-opted The Beatles’ “Revolution,” a song about non-violent social change, to sell high-priced sneakers — as if there is something revolutionary about spending lots of money on articles of clothing. This was basically the Reagan era telling the 1960s counter culture: “We won.” Kids bought into it, though. Some died, as a result.

The Super Bowl annually combines two of my least favorite things — professional sports and conspicuous consumerism. Three, if you count the ritual humiliation of once-great musical acts. At some point, people started paying more attention to the ads that aired during the game than the game itself. I watched these professionally for 10 years. There’s not one legitimate emotion revealed or original idea explored. It is a collection of lies and untruths with one common theme — buy.

The big ad this year is a Honda spot featuring Matthew Broderick in a parody of his role in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Yeah, Broderick’s almost 50 now but so was Alan Ruck when he played Cameron.

This has upset some people on the Internets. MaryAnn Johanson at Flick Filosopher laments that the ad is just Broderick hawking cars while the 1986 movie was “about nonconformity, breaking out, being a rebel.” I respectfully disagree. These “rebels” used their freedom to drive through posh Chicago in a sports car and dine at an exclusive restaurant the film’s antagonist Ed Rooney could never afford. Is it bold and individualistic to skip school? And to face no repercussions for your actions? Rooney doesn’t pursue Ferris for unjust reasons — it’s not like he’s a poor kid Rooney unfairly resents at the magnet school. Ferris is actually guilty.

I suppose it doesn’t matter because the presentation of the movie is designed so that you’ll ignore the actual substance. It’s a feature length commercial, which is why it’s impossible for the Honda ad to “sell out” what Ferris Bueller represents. Ferris is commercial culture. Now go buy a Dr Pepper.


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The Measure of Success in the United States of Rand…

Last night, during the Florida GOP presidential debate, Mitt Romney declared that he was “proud to be successful.” He pronounced this as thunderously as James Brown once said that he was “black and proud.”

Romney has stripped every possible moral qualifier from “success.” Questioning how one defines “success” or how one achieves this success is to question the glorious free-market capitalist system that gave us slavery and Silkwood.

Currently, success is defined as making lots of money. This is great for you in specific and great for all the people whose jobs you’ve created in the most general, non-provable sense. As Mr. Bernstein said in Citizen Kane, it’s “no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want is to make a lot of money.”

This is not to say that everyone can make a fortune. What I question is the pursuit of golden idols as the true measure of success.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in his rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address, said that the United States should be a nation of “haves and soon-to-haves.” This is what has become of the “American dream.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman who no longer has control over her own body or a consenting adult who can’t marry another consenting adult. You’ve succeeded in this country if you “have” things — perhaps even an iPad assembled in China under inhumane conditions.

This is where we’ve come 90 years after the events in The Great Gatsby. If Tom Buchanan confronted today’s Jay Gatsby with the truth of how he made his fortune, Gatsby could retort, “I am proud of my success. How dare you question free enterprise!” True, the reason Daisy stayed with Tom is that Gatsby’s money was new not old (old money tends to be just as dirty as new, sometimes more so), but Gatsby’s business was only illegal due to excessive government regulation (prohibition). The GOP could have made a happy ending out of Fitzgerald’s work.

I recall the GOP redefining success during the 2008 presidential campaign when Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani both mocked Obama’s background as a community organizer. Public service was no longer noble. It was arguably not even a job with “actual responsibilities.” If it bothers you that modern politics has degenerated into a street fight without the splashy choreography of West Side Story, you might ask yourself why the solution to the mess is to elect people who’ve spent their lives dismantling companies or advising banks on how to best exploit consumers.

The classic Karl Rove technique is to turn someone’s strength into a weakness. When your candidate with spotty military service is running for re-election during wartime against a Vietnam veteran, you bring in some people to run down and diminish his accomplishments. Nowadays, the trick is to minimize public service — subtly with teachers and more overtly with elected officials. A “career politician” — someone who has represented the people of his or her community for years — is not to be trusted. I’m not sure why. These are generally smart individuals who could’ve made millions in the private sector. The cynical can only view the appearance of financial sacrifice as a craven grab for power. They’re usually the same people who believe people only become teachers because they couldn’t hack it on Wall Street.

Romney’s campaign is centered on the belief that he should lead the nation because he’s enriched himself for the bulk of his career in the private sector. This Rovian tactic turns on its head what could be viewed as a lack of political experience. The government isn’t a corporation. Corporations don’t usually have to explain themselves or their actions to the public. A corporation’s sole goal is profit. If that’s our nation’s goal, then we’ve already lost. I recall an issue of a comic book I read as a kid that has always stuck with me. A former villain is telling a little boy about how the hero defeated him. The little boy doesn’t know how the hero did it: The villain was stronger, faster, and overall more powerful. The former villain says all that was true but “I was only fighting for myself. He was fighting for something more.”

I’ve had the opportunity to meet several people with professional backgrounds similar to Romney’s. I don’t begrudge them their success. I just never got the impression from any of them that they were interested in fighting for something more than themselves. They were pursuing golden idols. Once they’ve attained them, the Tom Buchanans of the world tend to seek the ultimate idol — power. This power is not used to uplift but to protect their idols from the Gatsbys they fear will try to steal them.

You could probably assemble a short film about a public schoolteacher in which dozens of former students describe the impact that teacher had on their lives. Maybe someone could do that for Romney the venture capitalist and free-market job creator. If not, who really cares? He’s made a lot of money. He’s an American success, but his American “dream” is different from mine. Perhaps because my dreams don’t have borders and don’t involve “things.”

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Capitalism, Political Theatre


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Bob Dole endorses Mitt Romney and proves he’s still alive…

The Atlantic on Mitt Romney’s growing collection of endorsements from failed GOP presidential candidates:

It’s amusing that Mitt Romney’s campaign would tout a warning from Bob Dole that Newt Gingrich’s nomination would lead to “an Obama landslide,” because not only did Dole himself lose to a young incumbent Democratic president, but also because Romney looks a lot like the Dole of the 2012 Republican primary.

According to the piece, Romney’s campaign sent The National Review a statement from Dole regarding Gingrich:

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.  If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices…

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad.  He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

Yes, Bob Dole does not like Newt Gingrich.

Dole gets around to endorsing Romney, sort of, toward the end of his statement, but his endorsement has far less enthusiasm and passion than his tirade against Gingrich.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney. 

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.

Romney’s campaign and its supporters keep saying that the Obama campaign is attacking Romney because it doesn’t want to face him in the general election. I don’t think Romney himself is that formidable a foe. Obama is going after him because he’s the likely nominee, and this will be a tough race for him no matter who his opponent is. So he’s not wasting any time.

Dole’s endorsement might help further raise concerns among primary voters about Gingrich — although some of those voters might like the fact that Gingrich was so contentious toward Democrats, especially Clinton. However, it doesn’t alter Gingrich’s depiction of Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate.”

There’s also an alarming sense of panic in Dole’s statement: Nominating Gingrich would result in an “Obama landslide”? Many Democrats believe that’s the case (I disagree), but a Republican arguing that it’s even conceivable for Obama to defeat a Republican nominee so soundly is simply not good politics. Gingrich himself has said that Romney would lose to Obama — for the historical reasons with which I’m inclined to agree — but he tends to downplay the loss. It would be a squeaker, perhaps, like 2000 and 2004. But the rout that Dole describes does not fit the GOP narrative of Obama as a failed president.

It doesn’t help the image of Romney as politician who’ll say anything, either. Yesterday, he claimed he’d consider Gingrich for the VP slot — clearly, a lie given that his campaign sent this hit job from Dole. Its whole point is that Gingrich would be poison at the ballot — most likely regardless of where his name was.

This makes me think that there’s a true disconnect in Romney’s campaign regarding the current Republican party. He’s trotting out an assortment of establishment politicians with mixed conservative credentials: John McCain, Nikki Haley, and now Bob Dole. He can’t seem to make headway with the usual suspects at FOX News (Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee). Even sending Dole’s endorsement to The National Review is very 1990s.

It’s probably the best Romney can do because the Tea Party branch of the GOP doesn’t think much of him. A competent campaign — having learned anything from South Carolina — would be courting Tea Party caucus leader Michele Bachmann’s endorsement, as she dislikes Gingrich so much you’d think she was one of his ex-wives.

The Gingrich/Romney battle is compelling to watch not just because of the almost Reality TV level snarkiness, but because it shows a GOP in disarray. Backbiting statements against other Republicans would never have happened even 10 years ago. This is normally the disciplined party, in sharp contrast to the Democrats. It makes Obama vs. Clinton look like a screwball comedy with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Political Theatre


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The Image of Welfare…

One constant during the GOP primary is the misrepresentation of welfare and how it works.

Rick Santorum said the following:

It doesn’t matter if he said “black” people or “blah” people. He still presented the notion that welfare amounts to taking money from hard-working people and giving it to non-working people.

However, tax dollars fund social programs. Everyone pays taxes. Even those so poor that they pay no federal taxes still pay payroll and sales tax. Unemployment is funded through payroll taxes, but yet many Americans incorrectly view that as a “hand-out,” as well. Do we think that executives who leave companies with million-dollar payouts are living on “hand-outs”?

The goal of this misinformation is to convince Americans that there is a permanent underclass that is constantly siphoning resources from the permanent overclass. Imagine the poor as not just a minority group but a slightly sinister, parasitic one, as well. Sort of like the Morlocks from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.

The reality is that anyone could wind up in need of assistance. Poverty is like what foolish people wanted to consider AIDS back in the 1980s — an affliction only certain people suffered from who lived a certain type of lifestyle. It was easier to judge than to help. Our biggest shame is that we had to realize that wasn’t the case before we started taking the matter seriously. Although GOP candidates like to invoke Ronald Reagan with awe, we should not forget the thousands who died because of his inaction.

It’s more accurate to view welfare as a form of insurance. I have paid thousands of dollars for health insurance over the course of my working life. I have been fortunate that I’ve never had a serious injury or illness. I don’t begrudge those who aren’t so fortunate. I also know that the system only works because healthy people participate and help spread the risk. Welfare is not a “hand-out.” It does not promote laziness anymore than health insurance promotes a poor diet.

It astounds me that we would even ascribe sloth to the people who collectively enjoy the least amount of leisure in the country. These are more often the people who stand on their feet all day, who work out in the elements, who risk life and limb either to protect us or to construct the things we need. If these people are Morlocks, then we are the Eloi, who live easy thanks to their efforts.

If you’ve read The Time Machine, you know that the Eloi become a dissolute race over time, so dependent upon the Morlocks that their relationship has evolved into a symbiotic one: The Eloi are fatted cattle, and the Morlocks are the farmers. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, as I taste terrible without a good vinegar dry rub.


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Why S.C. matters…

Reader over at Sullydish questioned the impact of a Gingrich win in South Carolina:

Maybe I’ll feel differently when the SC vote actually comes in, and Mitt loses badly, but I cannot shake the feeling that South Carolina is so different than the rest of the country.  You Lie, pride in treason, hit pieces using John McCain’s children, etc–these are things that play well there.  Surely, the rest of the country is more like Iowa and New Hampshire (where Newt placed fourth), than SC.  Right?  The South doesn’t vote again until Super Tuesday, March 6th.  Nine states take the stage in between.  Sure, Romney could lose, but let a little time pass after this SC politico blood frenzy, and I think Newt ends up a footnote in the Romney nomination story. Right?  Gingrich. Really?

Here’s why I think he’s wrong:

The reason the South Carolina Republican primary matters is because South Carolina represents the Republican base. Plain and simple. When John McCain lost to George W. Bush there in 2000, it was over for McCain. When McCain won the state in 2008, it was a symbolic (though tentative) embrace by the base.

Romney’s collapse is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s in 2008. A South Carolina rout set off a steady decline for her and I think it will for Romney. Clinton was not prepared for a long-game campaign. I’m not sure if Romney is, either. Clinton at least was able to slightly regroup and alter her “inevitability” campaign to one of “seasoned experience” vs “naive inexperience” (turning Barack Obama’s big selling point of “hope and change” against him). She started to play the underdog, the one that the media had turned on in favor of Obama. She also sank to coded speak about Obama’s chances in the general election (“Really, guys? You’re gonna put the black guy up against McCain? We have a chance to win this thing. Don’t squander it.”).

Romney can do none of this. His entire campaign was based on electability and his business background. The former is harder to push when you’re one for three, and the latter has turned into a source of embarrassment. A candidate no one really likes but sort of tolerates because he can beat their Kenyan Muslim Socialist Bogeyman is quickly abandoned if there are other options. And Iowa and South Carolina have been about those other options.

I’ve long believed that Gingrich would have a better chance of defeating Obama than Romney or any of the other sideshow candidates. Gingrich has a history of winning. Romney does not. You can point to Gingrich’s collapse as Speaker but what he accomplished in 1994 is still impressive. Gingrich is a far savvier campaigner and politician. His famous lack of shame allows him to co-opt the success of the 1990s. He can evoke that period, which voters remember with fondness, while Romney can only make vague proclamations about how his business acumen will help him get the economy running again.

I think conservative voters also realize that the United States is not a business. They also recognize the gridlock in Washington and know that a Republican president might have to deal with a Democratic Senate or possibly House. Success in politics requires a skilled politician. It’s better for the GOP that Gingrich remind voters of this now rather than have Obama do it later in the general election.

I’m not impressed by Romney’s “traditional” politics. Better organization is what allowed Obama to win Iowa, to close in on Clinton in New Hampshire and win South Carolina. It allowed him to outfight Clinton “rope-a-dope” style. Romney’s “organization” resulted in his losing Iowa to a guy with a “Google” problem and losing South Carolina to a guy with enough wives to form a rock band (“Newt & the Exes” will play at the 40 Watt Club in Athens next month).

The assertion that Romney is the most electable Republican makes me almost believe there’s a liberal media bias. This belief is based in the notion that independent swing voters will choose a moderate. It arrogantly presumes that independent voters are more inclined to vote for someone like the Democrat but with a different tie. History, of course, has yet to bear that out: McCain lost in 2008, Dole lost in 1996, and Bush lost in 1992. This is the fate of Republican candidates who Democrats “sort of” like — and Romney can’t even claim that.

No, Gingrich reminds me of George W. Bush: Someone most conservatives like and most on the left hate. Remember that U.S. voters elected Bush twice (well, at least once).

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Political Theatre


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Why Newt’s past is relevant…

I wrote yesterday about the GOP rush to defend the pretty much indefensible behavior of Newt Gingrich. The entertainment continues today and shows no signs of becoming less ridiculous.

Sarah Palin, who in Greek myth would be the physical embodiment of ridiculousness, made the claim on Sean Hannity’s radio show that ABC News aired the interview with Gingrich’s second ex-wife Marianne to “derail his campaign.” She then said in the most eloquent manner possible that these efforts would backfire.

PALIN: I call them dumbarses. They, thinking that by trotting out this old Gingrich divorce interview that’s old news — and it does feature a disgruntled ex, claiming that it would destroy his campaign — all it does, Sean, is incentive conservatives and independents who are so sick of the politics of personal destruction, because it’s played so selectively by media, that their target, in this case Newt, he’s now going to soar even more. Because we know the game now, and we just won’t put up with it.

Dumbarses? Palin is a grandmother but isn’t she a little young to be the “kooky grandmother” who says whatever pops into her head during Thanksgiving dinner? And how long does she plan on referring to the “media” as a separate entity from the media that pays her rent?

It’s not even logical that ABC News would go to the trouble of destroying Gingrich’s campaign when it would depend on the network knowing ahead of time about (former?) frontrunner Romney’s weak debate performances, Gingrich’s resulting surge, and Rick Perry’s exit from the race and endorsement of Newt. Any rational person knows that ABC’s time travel budget has been greatly slashed.

I’m not sure if Palin is aware that the phrase “politics of personal destruction” was first used by Richard Gephardt in a 1998 speech during the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings. Gingrich was a willing participant in this destruction. He has dismissed the apparent hypocrisy on what amounts to semantics, but it seems sufficient to appease most of his supporters.

When asked about his ex-wife’s allegations during Thursday’s GOP debate in South Carolina, Gingrich worked some spellbinding political sleight of hand.

“To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” Gingrich went on, calling the allegation “false” and provoking a standing ovation from the debate audience.

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s (David) Brody said that Gingrich’s response to the “open marriage” question “took a weakness and turned it into a strength.”

Bill Clinton himself is sufficient evidence that the media does not target candidates selectively. It goes where the stories are, and sex scandals sell. Arguably, an interview with a “disgruntled ex” of Gingrich is just as relevant as an interview with a disgruntled former employee of Mitt Romney. Gingrich’s Super PAC released the video “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” about his time with Bain Capital (again, really, “Bain” is the name you choose for your company). He later asked for it to be re-edited or removed from the Internet entirely due to inaccuracies. This is the “Eat Your Cake and Have It Too” approach to politics that Stephen Colbert is effectively skewering with his own Super PAC.

Romney is campaigning as a successful businessman who can turn around the economy. Gingrich seeks to puncture that image by illustrating the actual results of Romney’s form of “vulture capitalism.” However, Gingrich is campaigning as a “Reagan Conservative.” He still talks about “traditional values” and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

I realize the president is not the Pope because a woman could actually hold the former office. I don’t care if you have more ex-wives than Michael Mancini from Melrose Place and choose to run for president. I do care if you support Proposition 8 under the pretense of “protecting marriage” while perhaps legally qualifying as the worst husband since King Henry.

Gingrich supports Prop 8 on apparent belief that the majority can remove rights from the minority. What these “appointed lawyers” understand is that their job is to enforce the Constitution. Alabama can’t suddenly vote to stimulate the economy by reviving slavery. It would certainly be unfortunate for Gingrich if the nation had voted to “protect marriage” by banning divorce. He’d still be with his second wife… or even his first.

This is why I don’t buy the “I’ve made mistakes in my past, which I regret” line that Gingrich feeds his supporters. Marianne Gingrich is still alive. He could have ended his affair with Callista and returned to his wife. He instead not only divorced her but married his mistress. Everything came out Ethel Merman for him.

Rick Perry had no trouble telling a 14-year-old bisexual girl that homosexuality is a sin and that gays serving openly in the military is not “good public policy.” Yet, he takes a “no one’s perfect” attitude toward a man breaking the seventh commandment and then marrying his partner in crime. Callista Gingrich is not a “mistake” from the past or “old news.” She’s very much a part of the present.

This is the man that evangelicals would prefer to Barack Obama, who to my knowledge has had only one wife. Michelle Obama also has no history of “husband napping.”

“To a degree, [Gingrich’s past] will give [evangelical voters] pause, but there’s a much more insatiable appetite to defeat President Obama,” said Brody… “Gingrich has never claimed to be a patron saint.. People have known for years about Gingrich’s marriage issues. In a way, his well-known history of troubled marriage works for him here.”

No, discussing Gingrich’s past is not “despicable” or the “politics of personal destruction.” Gingrich chose to make the personal political, and while that is despicable, it is appropriate to draw back the curtain on his own corruption.

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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Political Theatre, Pop Life


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Iowa, Newt & open marriages…

Not a dull day in the GOP primary race.

The results of the Iowa caucus appear to have reversed themselves. John Nichols of the Nation writes the following about that shameful circus.

Even before (Mitt Romney’s) New Hampshire win—which was always pretty much a given for the New England candidate who essentially lives in the Granite State—no less a GOP commentator than former White House political czar Karl Rove was suggesting that the Iowa caucus results represented a huge coup for the unloved front-runner. Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on January 5 about “A Big Win for Romney in Iowa.”

Some of us questioned at the time whether an eight-vote advantage (out of 123,503 cast) qualified for the “big win” title. But because of the way that the Iowa results produce a headline that tends to define the next stages of the nominating process, the fact that Romney came out on top—even by the narrowest of margins—was a big deal.

Or not.

Because, of course, Romney did not “win”Iowa.

He lost.

Or, at least, it looks like Romney lost.

The Iowa Republican Party has released the “final, certified totals of the January 3 Iowa Caucus presidential preference vote,” and they show Rick Santorum with 29,839 votes to 29,805 for Romney.

Now, some will say that a thirty-four-vote lead is not exactly a landslide.

But Santorum’s “certified”lead is four times as substantial as Romney’s preliminary “big win.”

I’m not your standard-issue tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy nut (my tin-foil hat was misplaced during my recent move), but I found Rove’s involvement in the caucus results suspicious. I was following the vote count on January 3. Santorum was consistently ahead with most precincts reporting until a “source” told Rove that Romney would win.

Oh well. Guess that wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately, due to the 24-hour-news cycle, these contests aren’t like a sporting event where the winner is whoever scored the most points. It’s a game of perception. Calling victory for a candidate prematurely can have a permanent impact on the direction of a primary, especially one in which the frontrunner’s entire campaign is based on “inevitability.” No one can claim Romney inspires passion in the electorate. He’s a bandwagon candidate. It’s believed he’s the best equipped to defeat Barack Obama in November so voters are jumping on that bandwagon. But if that isn’t the case — if he can’t even beat a former senator who lost his last election by 18 points — maybe he’s not the guy. Maybe it’s time to look at candidates you actually like.

I don’t think the Iowa screw-up affected the New Hampshire primary results all that much. However, if I were Santorum, I might think that my chances in South Carolina were derailed. Electability is often cited as a reason for voting for Romney. If Santorum had entered South Carolina with a win under his belt, it’s possible he could be in the position Newt Gingrich is in now.

Speaking of Newt Gingrich’s positions, his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich has gone public with information about their marriage that puts him in a bad light, and we’re talking about a guy who says this in public:

According to Mrs. Gingrich, Newt “offered (her) a choice of an open marriage or a divorce when he revealed to her he was having an affair with the woman (Callista Gingrich) he later made his third wife.”

A day after he told his wife about his affair with Callista Bisek in May 1999, the former House speaker delivered a speech titled “The Demise of American Culture” to a group of Republican women in Pennsylvania, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?” Marianne Gingrich said in her interview with the Post.

Pretty easily apparently. Maybe it tormented him as much as Reverend Dimmesdale’s hypocrisy ate at him in The Scarlet Letter. By the way, Marianne Gingrich is Newt’s second ex-wife, which reminds me of this exchange from Manhattan:

“I said to him ‘Newt, we’ve been married a long time,’ and he said ‘Yes, but you want me all to yourself. Callista doesn’t care what I do,'” Marianne Gingrich said in the clip released by ABC, describing the couple’s conversation near the end of their 18-year marriage.

Her husband, who had already left Congress, was asking “that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life,” Marianne Gingrich said.

“Oh, he was asking to have an open marriage and I refused,” she said.

Gingrich has already admitted to past adultery — apparently because he loves America so much. Conservative voters still embrace him because of his commitment to breaking up gay families as effectively as he did his own. Gingrich has criticized Obama for not enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. Gingrich insists that as president, he would not only enforce the law but pursue a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Given his background, his stance is hypocritical, but South Carolina primary voters have historical precedence for overlooking this sort of thing.  When he was 22, future South Carolina Governor and Senator Strom Thurmond had an affair with his 16-year-old black maid. The union produced a daughter, and Thurmond spent much of his career making every effort to ensure that the United States was as inhospitable for her as possible. Some fathers go with a trust fund, but parenting styles differ.

Romney has expressed his concern for Obama’s imaginary attempts to turn the United States into a “European welfare state,” but Gingrich is successfully turning it into a Swedish sex film — at least based on the conservative reaction to Marianne Gingrich’s statements.

Rush Limbaugh and then Tampa-based radio host Todd Schnitt spent much of their broadcasts dwelling on the Gingrich story, which is essentially old news except for two facts:

1) ex wife Marianne was on TV talking about it (she’ll dish all after the tonight’s CNN debate Nightline),

2) the word “open marriage” became part of the political lexicon.

The conservative hosts blamed the “liberal media” for talking about the smear, which they then promptly talked about all day on conservative radio in South Carolina.

Most of Schnitt’s callers seemed sympathetic to Gingrich.So did many of the callers earlier to Limbaugh.Limbaugh lauded Gingrich for having had the “decency” to ask his former wife if he could see another woman, rather than simply cheat on her without permission. He also suggested that affairs are common, noting that about half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce.‘There’s even a book on how open marriages can be good… I read it in the 70s,” Limbaugh said before dropping a reference to James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which ends with a cheater’s soliloquy by Molly Bloom.


Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race today after realizing he hadn’t been in it, endorsed Gingrich and subtly alluded to the allegations.

“Newt’s not perfect, but who among us is?” Perry said. He called the former House speaker a “conservative visionary” best suited to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

Exactly. Let he who has not cheated on his first wife and then left her when she was dying of cancer and then cheated on that wife with a Congressional intern and asked her for an “open marriage” just as she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis cast the first stone. Let’s focus on the true villain here — Barack Obama and his imaginary war on religion and Christmas.

If Gingrich does manage to win the South Carolina primary, it would also be a political black eye for Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Romney.

Onward to Saturday, huh?


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The Carefully Crafted Celebrity Apology (Mark Wahlberg Edition)…

A potent U.S. weapon that al Qaeda could not hope to overcome.

Actor Mark Wahlberg set the Internets aflame with the following comments that appeared in the February issue of Men’s Journal:

On being scheduled to be on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center
“If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’”

I was in New York when the towers fell, and I recall thinking, “This never would have happened if an underwear model had been on board.”

If Osama bin Laden had had access to the flight register and had seen Wahlberg’s name, he would have called the whole thing off. His top lieutenants might have respectfully questioned the decision and bin Laden would have calmly — though secretly making every effort not to wet himself — inserted into his cave’s VCR a battered, 10-year-old VHS tape.

“See,” he would’ve said, his voice trembling slightly, “this is when he went by the name ‘Marky Mark’ and traveled with a covert ops group known as ‘The Funky Bunch.'”

“Merciful Allah! Why did we ever doubt you! Of course, we cannot proceed. Though, we are curious — is the woman singing during the chorus also a member of this ‘Funky Bunch’?”

“That is uncertain. Our intelligence can neither confirm nor deny. I would put nothing past the Americans, though. Still, he speaks to our shame — we are not ‘in it to win it,’ so we must ‘get the hell out.'”

Osama bin Laden and his men would have then turned themselves over to Wahlberg’s Funky Bunch agents — at the time stationed in Pakistan — and all the nations of the world (black, white, red, brown) would have thrown Wahlberg a parade.

Or at least that’s how it probably went in one of the 50 dreams he’s had “about what he would have done to fight the airborne terrorists.”

This is one of those misguided statements that elicit a “Carefully Crafted Celebrity Apology.” Wahlberg’s came in short order:

“To speculate about such a situation is ridiculous to begin with, and to suggest I would have done anything differently than the passengers on that plane was irresponsible.  I deeply apologize to the families of the victims that my answer came off as insensitive, it was certainly not my intention.”

See? All better. It wasn’t Wahlberg’s intent to imply that the men and women on those hijacked planes were spineless cowards who didn’t love their families as much as he does.

If it seems as if the “Carefully Crafted Celebrity Apology” was written by someone other than the actual celebrity, someone with a more advanced formal education who specializes in public relations, you are probably not mistaken. Generally, the Carefully Crafted Celebrity Apology is preceded by the Panicked Phone Call to a publicist, who usually exclaims, “He/She said what?”

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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Pop Life, Social Commentary


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Small Government…

Texas demonstrates the conservative goal of shrinking government to the point it’s small enough to enter a woman’s womb.

A three-judge federal appeals panel ruled Friday that the state of Texas can move ahead with enforcement of a law requiring doctors to provide a sonogram to pregnant women before they get an abortion.

As written, the law would require women seeking an abortion in Texas to view a picture of the embryo or fetus and hear a description of its development before having the procedure.

This is horrific. The most benign interpretation of the law is that it infantilizes women, who it deems too stupid to realize what a fetus has the potential to become. “Oh, wait, it’s like a future version of me conceived through the fertilization of an egg by sperm — to be exact, a developing mammal after the embryonic stage but before birth? See, I thought it was one of those chestburster things from Alien. My friend Mabel has seen all the movies. She’s real excited about the prequel that’s coming out. Anyway, she told me that I’d want to get that taken care of but now that I see this picture and everything. Well, thanks for straightening me out. Do you validate parking, by the way?”

However, the comments from judges who have ruled on the case only reinforce that the law is intended as federally mandated coercion intended to prevent women from having an abortion.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Pennsylvania case “held that the fact that such truthful, accurate information may cause a woman to choose not to abort her pregnancy only reinforces its relevance to an informed decision,” U.S. Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote in a concurring opinion. “Insisting that a doctor give this information in his traditional role of securing informed consent is permissible.”

I admit I’m impressed that a man with the name “Higginbotham” was able to overcome childhood bullying and ostracization and rise to the rank of U.S. Circuit judge, but I disagree wholly with his thinking here. “Informed consent” should relate to the woman’s health and include relevant information about any short or long-term effects (e.g. if the procedure could possibly result in sterilization and so on).

Pro-life advocates often claim that since a doctor will advise you of other alternatives to surgery, it’s appropriate for them to do the same regarding abortion. However, adoption is not a medical procedure, and once a woman is pregnant, that’s the only other option aside from keeping the child herself. Once she’s actually gone to the doctor, it should be accepted that she’s made the very difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. If she wanted help with such a personal decision, she would reach out to friends and family. Her doctor isn’t her rabbi. He’s a physician.

Higginbotham demonstrates a lack of basic compassion that justifies his being born with the name “Higginbotham.” Yes, forcing a pregnant woman to “view a picture of the embryo or fetus and hear a description of its development before having the procedure” is not merely annoying and might cause her to be late for her hair appointment. It is actually incredibly painful and difficult for her. That fact does not justify doing it. Quite the opposite. And even if it’s occasionally effective and some women choose not to go through with the abortion, the law makes no provision for the associated costs of carrying the pregnancy to term or caring for the child once its born. You see, the people close to a woman who provide counsel and input would also be there to help her once she decides to go through with the pregnancy. This a serious decision that the government is sticking its nose into with the apparently clueless belief that it’s all just a minor inconvenience for a pregnant woman:

“Oh, la di dah, I guess I won’t buy that Coach bag and instead devote the next nine months to successfully bringing this pregnancy to term. No biggie. If I’m not able to raise the child myself, I will give it up for adoption at one of those Imaginary Republican Orphanages (as seen on TV) that will find a home for the child regardless of its health or race. Of course, that won’t be traumatic for me at all because I am just a child-growing machine and wouldn’t possibly become connected to my unborn child over the next nine months. And, really, can I please get an answer about the parking validation?”

If the government believes this type of psychological torture is appropriate in order to prevent people from doing things that are otherwise legal, I would propose a similar law requiring potential gun owners to watch news reports of children who died because of guns in the home.

Texas governor Rick Perry praised the new law, saying, “We will continue to fight any attempt to limit our state’s laws that value and protect the unborn.”

Too bad the effort to “value and protect” them ends once they’re born — especially if they’re women.


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Rumble, young man, rumble…

Anyone who grew up when rap was the popular music of the day might find it hard to believe there was a time when blacks were expected to be humble, to graciously accept whatever scraps were tossed to them.

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay 70 years ago, was not humble. In a time when calling a black man “uppity” could have lethal implications for him, Ali declared himself “the greatest of all time.” He seized “American exceptionalism” as his own and refused to accept that it was only the province of whites. He wasn’t just handsome. He was “pretty.”

People like to point out the apparent contradiction of a man who made his living beating other men senseless refusing to serve in Vietnam. However, Ali never claimed to be a pacifist. He would fight for his own interests and for the interests of those close to him. But fight for the interests of a nation that barely tolerated his existence, that refused to grant him the rights that should have been his as an American? No, Ali was pretty but he was no fool.

Vietnam, we’re told, was about more than a powerful nation killing poor people. The spread of communism had to be stopped, they said. These are the sorts of big picture, strategic issues that the wealthy and powerful understand far better than the poor and simple. That’s why, even today in Iraq and Afghanistan, I encourage the wealthy and powerful, who understand the reasons for war so well, to go and fight in them.

Of course, even in after World War II, which was as just a war as a war could ever be, black soldiers returned to a country where they were still denied service in restaurants and even beaten and lynched. That was their prize.

Ali was criticized — as was Malcolm X — for his harsh words about whites. Were all whites their enemies? No, but it was hard to dispute that the collective group at the time was either enemy or enabler. It amuses me because American leaders had harsher words to say about the Japanese during World War II, the Soviets during the Cold War, and Muslims today. Martin Luther King preached love, which is admirable, but sometimes true love requires confrontation. Sometimes, the American empire must be told it has no clothes.

Parkinson’s has ravaged Ali, but I won’t dwell on that. Everyone falls hard at the end, even if they never get off the ground. Only a few people ever soar.

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Pop Life, Social Commentary