I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged.   —Paul Ryan

 

Barack has pushed Malia to read some classics, The Grapes of Wrath, Tender Is the Night—she’s reading those, so I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading.   —Michelle Obama

While I have a great deal of respect for my opponent, President Obama, I am forced once again to come to the American people and set straight the distortions that both his campaign and the leftwing, lamestream media have continued to promulgate.

Two plus two does not equal four.

This is not complicated. And I will say it loud, proud, and straight-faced, every hour on the hour, from now until election day.

What a wild few weeks it’s been in the Republican Presidential primary race, AKA America’s Top Celebrity Presidential Candidate Rehab Survivor’s Got Talent!

First, a certain vote against raising the debt ceiling came back to haunt us. That vote was cast in 2006 by the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. Sometimes even symbolic votes cause actual pain. You play politics with our ability to borrow money and pay bills and you get egg on your face. Did I say egg, or is that vomit being sprayed during the last week by investors suffering stock market motion sickness?

Because the Tea Party’s insistence on deficit reduction, just a mere eight months after everyone in Washington agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts, international trust is US debt has been downgraded from the Visa BlackCard to Diners Club. Sure it was a slight downgrade, given by those same criminals who just a few years ago gave AAA ratings to toxic assets, but still, don’t you just get sick when America isn’t the most awesome at everything? And then the US Women’s national soccer team loses the World Cup to Japan and isn’t this just the Summer of Shit?

If nothing else, this debt downgrade could spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, in favor of the euro or the renminbi. I’ll admit to having a C-minus understanding of macroeconomics, which is why I write suppository jokes instead of running for public office, but Tea Party Congressional Caucus, if you don’t understand the previous sentence you should go back to complaining about President Obama’s birth certificate instead of reducing our economy to that of Kenya. Where Obama’s from.

Ames, Iowa played host to the debate between eight republican presidential candidates last week. The biggest point of the night: all eight pledged not to raise taxes never ever ever, not to lower the deficit, not even if the revenue increase were matched ten to one by spending cuts.

Democrats, sniffing out a chance to go on the defensive, offered a compromise of twenty to one spending cuts to tax increases. Then they offered a fifty trillion percent reduction in entitlement spending for no tax increases and threw in the state of Vermont.

The high point leading up to the Ames debate was when that far-out lefty Mitt Romney, munching on a plate of acid-laced “Fried Obesity on a Stick,” announced that “corporations are people.” I love that song from Free to be You and Me. But all of his perfect hair and free love could not win him the 2011 Straw Poll, where he came in at an awesome 7th place, just behind write-in candidate Rick Perry. The real winner, though, at the Iowa State Fair, was Fried Butter on a Stick. Rebuilding America, one pound at a time. We don’t need Medicare. We need wider ambulances.

It’s no real surprise that the Iowa Straw Poll’s winner was Sarah Palin I mean Michele Bachmann. Bachmann won a not critically important poll in the state where she was born which is right next to the state where she now lives. I’d like to now spend some time riffing on Michele Bachmann’s Yoda-like syntax, but save that for freedom liberty links in the freedom chain of liberty the right candidate for are I will in a later column.

But this spring training win cements her in the top tier group of candidates, along with Romney and Rick Perry. This is either a compelling narrative or more likely the media enjoys every chance they get to put the word “3-way” into the title of their articles to increase web traffic. Here at the Hustings Hustler I’ll keep watching Michele Bachmann, even though she’s not likely to make it to the Big Show, mostly because I’m fixated on her maniacal, Joker-like smile.

Have you ever looked at someone’s wedding pictures and noticed that the bride flashes an identical smile every in every single photo, because she’s obviously practiced it in front of a mirror since she was a little girl? That’s Bachmann’s smile, the ecstatic bride, but twisted slightly with the mania that says I KNOW HE’S GAY BUT I’M GOING TO MARRY HIM ANYWAY.

The one casualty of the current field was T-Paw. Tim Pawlenty put all his eggs in one cow stomach (I’m not very good with the rural metaphors) and came up three rooster cocks short.

But like the Hydra, you cut off one head and another grows in, now featuring the face of Governor Rick Perry, who just announced he’ll run. Now everything gets exciting, because I get to use more rural metaphors like “all hat, no cattle.” You think America won’t rush to elect another conservative Texas armadillo-smoking nut job? In 2012 the George W. Bush presidency will have ended four years ago. We remember how bad that was, right? The most brutal terrorist attack on American soil ever, two foreign wars, a five trillion dollar shopping habit, criminal negligence that led to the destruction of New Orleans and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? We wouldn’t make the same mistake because America Never Forgets.

Amount of time between the IPO for Pets.com, a San Francisco dot-com that actually sold stuff and the IPO of LinkedIn.com, a website that lets total fucking strangers send me their useless resume? Eleven years.

Amount of time between the collapse of Enron, when politicians demanded more regulation so it wouldn’t happen again and the collapse of the banking industry because of the appalling lack of financial regulation? Six years.

Amount of time between the popping of the speculative dot-com bubble to the beginning of the speculative housing bubble? Three years.

Amount of time it took for Twitterers who were irate that people were making fun of Amy Winehouse’s death to completely forget there was such a person as Amy Winehouse? One week.

So yes, it’s entirely possible that we will hand the keys to the ship of state over to a guy who holds giant prayer rallies to make it rain.

Just so we can all agree how ridiculous this nominating process is to the political junkies I’ll share with you this bit from the Times’ Caucus Blog, which felt it super important to spend column inches on the official sighting of Rick Perry’s new tour bus, the NASCAR Suppository, which will let me end with the following question: what’s black, blue and red all over?

As a veteran political reporter I’m always excited for the Republican presidential primaries. You like candy, right? The bright packaging and sugar rush. Let us say you combined the candy of Halloween and Easter, and threw in some edible underwear from Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of candy, sweetness. Then instead of a kid in a candy store you had a bunch of meth-addled armed guerrillas in a candy store. And then you changed that word from CANDY to CRAZY. Then you have the Republican primaries.

The primaries for nomination against an incumbent make 2012 even sweeter. True, the bloodsport of 2008 was delicious in its gladiatorial rage, but ultimately the Democratic primaries are a little boring. You have a bunch of stiff suits, all terrified that they’ll be painted as more liberal than Dennis Kucinich, plus Dennis Kucinich, whom I want to run for president every year because of his hot, hot wife.

There is no crazy in the liberal wing of Democratic presidential candidates to compare to the sheer asinine conservatism of Ayn Rand acolytes you’ll find among the Republican candidates. If you don’t believe me then point out one mainstream Democratic candidate in the last twenty years who a) is an atheist, b) promised to completely dismantle the Department of Defense and the armed forces, c) wants to raise the capital gains tax to 95% (the Eisenhower threshold) d) will strip tax-exempt status from all religious organizations AND e) supports fully equal gay marriage and adoption. There certainly politicians this liberal, Bernie Saunders, I’m looking at you, but they don’t run for President.

But when the Republicans run they want you to see the crazy. In the name of placating the base they hide nothing, and they all position themselves to out-crazy the guy before them. The spectrum looks something like this:

Candidate One: I am against abortion.
Candidate Two: I am against abortion even in the case of rape and incest.
Candidate Three: I believe incest should be legal like it is in my home state.
Candidate Four: I believe we should allow people to take loaded, concealed weapons to town hall meetings while we debate these issues.
Candidate Five: Why are we letting these liberals in Warshington prevent me from finding a mate, clubbing her unconscious and dragging her back to my cave by her hair?

These people won’t last very long in the process, and have almost no hope of being elected. I’m not predicting an Obama reelection because of the death of Osama Bin Laden – remember George H W Bush kicked the crap out of Noriega AND Saddam Hussein but lost in 1992 because of the economy and Ross Perot? But since the economy is slowly improving I imagine Obama will win a tight reelection, though the Dems in the Senate will get their august asses handed to them.

Most of the possible Republican presidential candidates aren’t really running for President. They are running for the position of Fox News Talk Show host. Since these candidates will not be around for ever, because they’ll run out of money and their passes out of the asylum will expire, so I’d like to preview my total fascination of the awesome and totally unhinged lunatic fringe that appeared in South Carolina for the first Fox News Presidential Debate.

Rick Santorum
Rick, I’m so glad you’re going to be in the news again. Actually, can I call you Dick? It’s better than what Dan Savage calls you (NSFW but OMFG LOL). Dick’s a member of the arch conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, which Dan Brown made look like a bunch of cub scouts in the DaVinci Code, he happily equates homosexuality with incest AND he possibly plagiarized a Langston Hughes poem for his campaign slogan.

A gem of a line came this winter, when Santorum described he didn’t understand President Obama’s position on abortion: “I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘we’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.'”

Because I’m a racist who is secretly inside the brain of black people, like Mel Gibson in What Women Want.

He also takes a firm position on entitlements: “Close your eyes, like you’re listening to a drug dealer outside a school yard. They see entitlements as a way to make you dependent, weaker, less of a person than you are, drugging you into submission to a government who promises a high to take care of you.”

Santorum home-schools his seven children and thinks that he is entitled to government vouchers. Fair enough.

Ron Paul
Last year in Tennessee, a local fire department sat and watched as a family’s home burned to the ground, because mom and dad hadn’t paid the annual fee to pay for the local fire department. This is the libertarian dream. Libertarians are a fantasy baseball team with all sorts of unintended consequences. Sure they’ll legalize weed, but you wouldn’t be able to drive to your dealer’s house because the government will stop building roads.

Here’s one of Congressman Paul’s quotes:

“The most basic principle to being a free American is the notion that we as individuals are responsible for our own lives and decisions. We do not have the right to rob our neighbors to make up for our mistakes, neither does our neighbor have any right to tell us how to live, so long as we aren’t infringing on their rights. Freedom to make bad decisions is inherent in the freedom to make good ones. If we are only free to make good decisions, we are not really free.”

Which makes sense that he’s pro-life, because you aren’t really free until you give the government the freedom to make your choices for you. Freely.

Herman Cain
This is a black Republican businessman who was happy to be on stage in a state where they still fly the Confederate flag over the statehouse. Also, according to this Fox News screenshot, his birthplace is “Republican,” which should clear up any problems people might have with his birth certificate, which is bound to come up if you’re a black man running for national office.

Gary Johnson
He’s a libertarian, former governor of New Mexico who climbed Mount Everest and is for legalization of marijuana. So he’s like Ron Paul, but with no name recognition. Don’t expect him to ascend Mount Rushmore anytime soon.

Tim Pawlenty
Pawlenty was the only A-list candidate to appear for the South Carolina debate. He is the Mitt Romney of Minnesota, that is the boring right-of-center Republican who isn’t a Mormon former governor of the most liberal state in the universe. This should take him far. Tim is your typical conservative: against Obamacare, pro-life, pro-defense, blah blah blah wake me up when he runs out of money.

He also calls himself T-paw, which is what you get when you cross a rapper with a squirrel.

The No-Shows

Several prominent names are missing from the debate. They are often called “likely front runners,” “presumptive front runners,” or, in the case of Newt Gingrich, “a festering sore.” They want to watch the back bench tear each other apart from a safe distance.

Michele Bachmann
You might say that Sarah Palin is the thinking man’s Michele Bachmann. Let that sink into your brain. Then cry, then vomit, then cry again.

She makes Sarah Palin look like Hillary Clinton. If you search her online, you are going to get a whopping number of hits for “Craziest things Michele Bachmann ever said.” And those quotes won’t necessarily overlap.

Bachmann is as close as you can to winning the trifecta of conservative values: Tea Party darling, Birther, and Biblical fundamentalist:

“So, I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize that I am not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I’m not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I’m not a scientist.”

The Presidency is a demanding job, that’s for sure. But does it require a deep thinker?

Sarah Palin
Plenty of ink has been shed on behalf of Sarah Palin. Remember: just because her daughter, an unwed teen mother, has received over a quarter of a million dollars to speak about abstinence, does not mean you get to talk about her family. The family that regularly appeared on her reality show. About her family.

Donald Trump

The Donald’s most serious success is that he’s gotten the state of Hawaii to produce the President’s long form birth certificate, both confirming what most regular people believed and taking away ammunition from the Birther fringe.

The problem with Trump is he’s a flip-flopper. First he was going to run an Indy 500 pace car, now he isn’t? First you’re for dangerously fast death traps and now you’re against them?

Newt Gingrich
Newt is a lot like my step-father*: he hasn’t had a new idea since before there was an Internet. I give Newt credit for serving his first wife divorce papers while she was hospitalized for cancer, but people have been pulling that stunt forever.

*totally kidding Mom!

Mitt Romney
Aside from the fact that he’s hysterically running away from his record, having created in Massachusetts a working, successful model for Obamacare, on the stump in 2008 he bolstered his conservative cred with a story about being on a road trip and strapping his dog’s cage to the roof of his car for twelve hours, where the panicked animal repeatedly soiled itself, obviously pandering to Michael Vick fans.

I don’t wish to discount Mitt Romney’s chances but no matter how hard he tacks to the right, the evangelical Christian base of the Republican party isn’t going to go for a guy who believes in an angel called Moroni. It sounds so… ethnic?

It’s Election Season across the USA,  which means there’s a lot of terrific television programs on to distract you from voting. Complicating matters, the howling ads interrupting those terrific television programs often distract from the real issues at stake: how exactly is the government wasting your hard-earned money this time around?

This handy guide attempts to clarify the tangible benefits of government programs to you, the humble internet-faring, presumably young/hipsterish taxpayer, via three basic categories: government programs that help, government programs that are probably screwing you over, and government programs that nobody understands.

GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT HELP

Emergency Services

I’ve always romanticized being a cop, so when a life of office work snared me I turned to 911 to vicariously live my dream job. In the past three years, I’ve used 911 to call in a Mexican teen receiving a blowjob in the children’s park across the street from my house (in broad daylight on the Fourth of July), a Mexican covered in blood leaning against a elementary school wall, and another Mexican writhing on the sidewalk with cuts on his arm and a hospital band on his wrist. Not to make unfair generalizations, but the nation of Mexico owes me a few tacos on the house.

Department of Defense

You can’t ignore the DoD’s perfect record of preventing foreign invasion of American territory, Pearl Harbor notwithstanding. Also, we could be drafted at any time—Iran lobs one nuke at Tel Aviv, and the laws will change overnight—so I’ll use the remainder of this space to underscore my nearsightedness, flat feet, lengthy track record of conscientious objection, extreme allergy to gunpowder, and heartfelt affection for United States military personnel.

Health Care

Seven years ago, Blue Shield rejected me because I’d had a wart on my thumb two years prior. I had to go without formal health care for a year, instead procuring medical advice from night-shift pharmacists, hippie free clinics, and the internet. It was a thrilling experience, in the same way climbing up a sheer rock face in a thunderstorm while juggling chainsaws is thrilling. Pretty much anything would be an improvement.

Roads

Until you get that jetpack up and running, you’ll likely take roads to get around. Personally, I find that while my local Northern California roads are ranked among the worst in the nation in terms of quality, they should be ranked first in the nation in terms of breathtaking scenery. Moreover, my regional snow-removal teams are second-to-none, making premium powder skiing accessible even in a blizzard. Here’s to roads for making it happen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Did you see that picture Arnold posted making fun of Sarah Palin looking for Russia from Alaska? I totally retweeted it.


GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT ARE PROBABLY SCREWING YOU OVER

Social Security

It’s an open national secret that Social Security won’t exist in forty years, right about the time we’ll need it. However, my generation is getting accustomed to living shittier, and we aren’t putting up much of a fight on this one. Thus, I toss Social Security in the same pile as pensions, reasonably priced health insurance, three-martini lunches, regular churchgoing, four-week vacations, affordable concert tickets, and marriage for life—myths invented by our ancestors and passed down over the generations to pacify the masses.

Subsidies

On the one hand, Doritos and gas are cheap, fostering a nation dominated by lazy flab-asses. On the other hand, organic vegetables and solar panels are expensive, fostering a snooty elitist minority that isn’t much fun at a Super Bowl party. I won’t rest until everyone in American can enjoy a lively Super Bowl party dip of organic guacamole at a fair price.

Bank Bailout

Let’s say you’re at a casino. One distinguished gentleman—let’s call him Charles Barkley—steps to the high-roller table and proceeds to lose a fortune on Pai Gow Poker. As a result, the casino asks all the other patrons to float Charles a loan to cover his bartab, hotel suite, steak dinners, and escort services. Just another reason why I consider the NBA unwatchable.

Iraq

All that fighting, the lives lost, the nations in turmoil, the enormous expense—and we didn’t even get the oil. Plus, Avatar totally should’ve beat The Hurt Locker at the Oscars.

Investment in Innovation

Think of all the terrific advances of recent times, everything from the iPod Nano to the iPhone and even the iPad or—could it be true?—the Verizon iPhone. Not a single one was invented by the government.


GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS NOBODY UNDERSTANDS

Taxes

An unimaginably boring topic, especially for a nation lagging in math and science as badly as this one. Thus, we primitively revert to the Law of the Limbo Stick: lower is always better, unless you’re really rich and about to die.

Medicare and Medicaid

Always remind me of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.


It is election day and I am at home baking Hartford Election Cakes for tonight’s reception at Real Art Ways.

The tradition of baking cakes is as old as the country. In the late 18th century, when people from across the state still had to travel to Hartford to cast their ballots, the women of Hartford would cook Election Cakes to share with those weary voters. I am embracing my status as a woman of Hartford and doing my historic and culinary duty. I love voting and baking, so it’s a good way to spend the morning, really.

Presidential campaigns remind me of middle school.  They are – as engaged and noble as they might seem from time to time – about securing popularity. I really had no hope of securing popularity in middle school; instead, I spent my time concentrating on not being noticed, honing my statements, wardrobe, hair, and whatever else to be as standard as possible. Of course, this was a doomed endeavor from the start, not least because I was the girl who was dropped off at the bottom of a long, unpaved driveway that was, more often than not, flooded and impassable. It’s easy, as an adult, to recognize that no one’s really normal at that age, but any reassurances that adults might have offered me seemed hopelessly out-of-touch.

The best description of my primary character trait is earnest determinism. During the crucible of puberty, this characteristic was exaggerated so that, more than anything, I wanted people to adhere to codes. So, when those gazelles, those Popular Girls, flagrantly employed cuteness to obscure some mean thing they had done, I was indignant.

In her essay “Cuteness and Commodity Aesthetics,” Lori Merish expands on Toni Morrison’s conception of “the cute,” describing it as that which is “an aesthetic category saturated with racial, as well as class, meanings.” She identifies it as a phenomenon as much defined by its attributes – big, wide eyes; a somewhat vacant, smiling expression; unintelligible speech acts; unsuccessful imitation; inexperience, youth, and vulnerability – as by the response it engenders: the desire to cuddle or touch, protect, and save from humiliation. This response has been canonized as normative behavior, so that when one chooses not to take part in it, one announces one’s otherness.

I’ll just come out with it – I think Sarah Palin exploits the cute. Think about it – she’s not so great at sentences, she imitates (unsuccessfully) the standard language of politics, she’s constantly in situations of humiliation, and she styles her hair to make her head appear even larger than it already is. She is trying to use the cute on us.

Watch Shirley Temple and Bojangles

This manipulation is particularly significant during this election. Cuteness is a 19th-century American invention and, as such, it is infused with all the racial bigotry and fears that fill our shared history. Think about the way the cute is presented – those diminutive puti are often paired with mature black men (think of Shirley Temple and Bojangles) or frightening monsters (think of the Smurfs and Gargamel). The role of the cute in these pairings is to make the mature black man impotent and to mollify the sinister monster. So, in this election, during which we’ve been asked to examine our country’s history of racial and gender-based prejudices, positioning Sarah Palin (with all her winking folksiness) against and beside Barack Obama and John McCain primes us to be swayed by the cute.

Totally mollified

This guy is totally mollified.

This last month or so, I’ve been feeling indignation of a similar pitch to that which I felt in middle school. I don’t want to relive the disappointment of those years. And I don’t want my voting peers to be manipulated by the cute. If you feel like you really have to engage the cute somehow, I recommend that you follow my example and get a cat. Cake and disappointment don’t go well together – I want to eat my Hartford Election Cake tonight proud and excited.

Cute pet cats are better than cuteness-exploiting vice presidents

Cute pet cats are better than cuteness-exploiting vice presidents.