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.

There are exactly two ways you can react to things. You can either react sincerely or politically. For example, if I’m listening to a Chicago Cubs game in 2012, and a Cub hits a grand slam to win it in the ninth, I’ll probably shout “yes” and pump my fist. That’s reacting sincerely. If someone were to ask me what I think of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 season, one in which they’ll finish well out of the playoff race, I’ll probably say something about how the rebuilding program they’re undergoing will lead to them fielding a competitive team for years to come. That’s reacting politically. Neither of the these reactions is untrue, they’re just two different ways of being true. Reacting politically always involves contrivance. Reacting sincerely, never. We tend to trust those who react sincerely and mistrust those who react politically.

Hey Mom!

Paul.

Paul, your son.

I know, bad connection sometimes on the Bluetooth.

It’s a phone thing.

How are you?

I said, how are you. You good?

Good.

In researching the already strange topic of Mormons, who was your most unusual interview?

It was Rocky Anderson—former Mormon, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and gay-rights-advocating presidential candidate. Yep, in this election! Rocky stunned me by describing the kind of porn addiction, prescription drug addiction, and “behind the trees of the city park” illegal sexual activity that taints his city. He thinks it is because Mormonism demands too much, gives too little. People look for a release wherever they can get it.

 

How would you describe the Mormons you met?

Hospitable, well-spoken, eager, intelligent, naïve about the world, naïve about their faith’s controversial history, anxious that I should like them, a bit suspicious, preparing to lead, wary of the scrutiny Brother Mitt Romney is bringing their way.

There are nearly seven million Mormons in America. This is the number the Mormons themselves use. It’s not huge. Seven million is barely 2 percent of the country’s population. It is the number of people who subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. London boasts seven million people. So does San Francisco. It’s a million more people than live in the state of Washington; a million less than in the state of Virginia. It’s so few, it’s the same number as were watching the January 24, 2012, Republican debate.

In fact, worldwide, there are only about fourteen million Mormons. That’s fourteen million among a global population just reaching seven billion. Fourteen million is the population of Cairo or Mali or Guatemala. It’s approximately the number of people who tune in for the latest hit show on network television every week. Fourteen million Americans ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant in 2011. That’s how few fourteen million is.

(781): Yes. The answer is no. Shoot, I’m gonna be hurting tomorrow.

(717): I explained that they couldn’t leave the town hall until someone told me how long I’d been unconscious.

(540): Last time I use the word affordable, I can assure you of that. Why is my mouth so dry?

(202): I was at that stage in the evening when I couldn’t tell whose non-connected committee was supporting me.

(910): I told him I felt like keeping my tie on until I was good and finished.

A round-up of high quality tweets from people in the world of film and television.

Zach Braff:

Lists.

We all make them.

We couldn’t verily live without them.

Things we need from Rite Aid.

Demands we want met before submitting to a lie detector test.

Questions we don’t want to forget to ask our parole officer.

As a writer with a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, I make most of my living teaching composition, argument and rhetoric to college students. This means I have the often-unenviable job of pointing out to students when their thinking is flawed, which in this era of anti-intellectualism is a dangerous and radical idea.

 

Mitt Romney is staking his presidential candidacy on his long business career and the values reflected in the photograph below, taken from a Bain Capital Christmas card in the 1980s. If recent polls are any indication, a majority of American voters might be ready to buy in.

Taking a gentlemanly, congratulatory phone call from Sen. John McCain after he stuffed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus in January of 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is reported to have chuckled — with a little too much venom — “I beat Romney here, now you take him in New Hampshire.” Which is exactly what happened. And Huckabee meant it, too.  That shiv neatly sums up the animosity Republicans who run for president tend to feel towards the feckless Romney, now 1-0 in 2012, and on the verge of being 2-0 if his firewall in New Hampshire holds firm next week and new polls in South Carolina showing him with a strong lead there turn out to be correct.

But before New Hampshire votes next week and makes Romney 2-0 and the presumptive nominee, it’s worth asking one question: Can he be stopped?

Big answer: Maybe, maybe not, because the same five reasons Romney has the nomination locked up are the exact five reasons he could still lose.

 

Lock.

He’s got so much money — that of his campaign, his Super Pac that spent $3 million destroying Newt Gingrich in a matter of weeks on Iowans’ TV screens, and his own private fortune estimated at over $200 million. After New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada comes Florida — an expensive market in which to campaign.  And no other candidate can hit the airwaves with us much force or range as Romney.

He’s got the establishment falling into line behind his candidacy. The Tea Party has already put a noose around the House of Representatives, and establishment conservatives are desperate that it not do the same to the presidential standard-bearer, what with President Obama’s approval still stuck slightly below 50 percent. In state after state, governors and representatives are falling in line to support Romney with party stars like New Jersey’s bully of a governor, Chris Christie, leading the way. As Romney’s wins pile up, elected Republicans will endorse so as not to lose favor with their party’s eventual nominee.

The other candidates will continue to split the right wing vote. Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul divvied up some 75 percent of the vote in Iowa and, because of that split, they each lost to Romney — albeit by a “landslide” of eight votes in Santorum’s case. That might be Romney’s low ceiling, true, but if the other candidates continue to vie for three-quarters of the GOP pie, Romney’s 25 percent slice could be enough in state after state to rack up delegates and be crowned the nominee in Tampa. And 25 percent probably isn’t his ceiling.

Santorum and Perry want to be the Vice Presidential nominee. Gingrich and Paul couldn’t care less about their future in the Republican party (though Paul surely is interested in protecting his fringe of the nutty wing for a future presidential run by his son, Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul). But Santorum and Perry both can hope to make an argument that they would bring right wing enthusiasm with them into a fall campaign (much as George Bush, Sr. made the same, but reverse, argument to Ronald Reagan in 1980, that Bush could bring the moderate and establishment wings to unite with the conservative Reaganites). Jack Kemp, Dan Quayle, and Sarah Palin were all figureheads for the right wing of a party that was simply holding its nose for the more moderate top of the ticket. Santorum or Perry could vie to be next in the VP in that fated line.

The GOP is full of amateur pundits. Even if they don’t like Romney, Republicans have told pollsters that they believe he is the most electable. Of all the GOP candidates, he still polls best nationally against Obama, trailing the president by just 2.2 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of a dozen of the most recent national polls. And in state by state polling — because the only number that matters in the general election is 270, the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency — Romney is running competitively against the president in the bell weather battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, all states Obama won in 2008 and needs to win in 2012.

 

Lose.

He’s got so much money — but the populist revolts that gave rise to both the Tea Party in 2010 and the Occupy movement in 2011 have hardly abated. And rich white guys are their target. Santorum is hitting hard the Tea Party, Buchananesque, blue collar argument that government is ruining industry, manufacturing, and the social fabric of America. Romney’s personal wealth and what he represents as a corporate businessman running for high office may be the very totems of ultra-affluence that work against him — especially if he makes another bizarre statement like “corporations are people.” This is why Gingrich has taken to saying that Romney is trying to buy the nomination. It’s an argument that may take hold if the race tightens.

He’s got the establishment falling in line — but the leading figures of that endorsing establishment are George Bush, Sr., Bob Dole, and John McCain, who combined lost three out of the last five presidential races. And none were favored by the conservative-I-hate-you reactionaries in the Republican party. If the reactionaries rally behind a single candidate — say, Santorum — and ditch Gingrich, Perry, and Paul, then Romney’s 25 percent threshold will not hold against a party eager for a happy, reactionary warrior to run against Obama.

Santorum and Perry want to be the Vice Presidential nominee. Unless one or the other is the Presidential nominee. In 2008, pundits were certain that Barack Obama was only running for — and could only win — the Vice Presidential nod against Hillary Clinton. What they didn’t know was that Obama’s campaign had developed a February strategy to sweep the caucus contests that immediately followed Super Tuesday. Santorum could quickly become the darling of the right — and Perry has the fund-raising chops to stay in the fight — so if the campaign drags on past Florida and Romney can’t sew it up and no surprise candidate enters late, then playing hard but respectful in order to get the number two spot may fall away. In its place? Playing all out for the win.

The GOP is full of amateur pundits — but only a very few predicted Santorum’s amazing Iowa finish. So for all the windbaggery, attention must be paid to the voters, no? And God love them for that. Given all the loopy twists of the 2012 primaries so far, and knowing that GOP voters down the line just don’t seem to like Mitt Romney, anything could happen.

 

Man oh man oh man oh man. It’s what, FOUR months until the first primary and the Republican field has been bludgeoning itself like a bunch of  tweens at a razor party listening to My Chemical Emo-mance.

When we last met I thought it was the clash of the titans, more specifically, the clash of the V05 hair Product between Mitt Robotney and Rick Perry. But this was not to be. Rick Perry falls apart in debate!  His iron-clad hair shield has been tainted by the Massachusetts I mean Michigan I mean where does Mitt Romney live now anyway?

*answer: he lives in any one of the following states:  California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts
But he is another wealthy regular man-robot hybrid just like you and me.

I was disappointed by Perry’s recent performance. Sure the guy is dumber than a can of paint but he’s a canny politician with a long winning streak, and he was trounced by a guy who makes the GPS voice in your car sound authentic. And Mitt Romney, the most pretend of all pretend Republicans, attacked him from the right on immigration.

We’ve only lost one candidate so far, rendering the debates crowded and pointless. Nine people yapping on stage isn’t a debate. It’s a Facebook wall. And nine people times fifty-eleven debates is not doing anyone any good.

If Sarah Palin has taught us anything, aside from remembering to keep the receipt when we buy a half a continent sparsely populated by lunatics from Russia, it’s that constant media exposure may actually harm one’s chances for the presidency. The continued debates threaten to turn the candidates to caricature, aside from Newt Gingrich, who is a cartoon, and Ron Paul, who’s actually a character from an Ayn Rand novel.

Can anyone tell me where these audiences come from? Were they stocked entirely by Democrats working to make Republicans look bad? I’d say yes if a) Nixon were still alive and switched parties, b) Democrats were organized or c) James O’Keefe  would return my phone calls. This audience was the real deal. First the Republican pro-lifers cheer “Let ’em die” in a question about health insurance and second the Support Our Troops Pro Military party boos at a gay soldier after he asks about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

You can at least rest knowing that legally married gay partners of veterans are not allowed to receive pensions after their spouses die. As a personal note, I’d like to mention that my mother, who had been divorced from my dad for over twenty years, is still qualified to receive his Naval pension. Because straight divorce is all about American values.

Straw Polls Suck

These straw poles: enough. They cost the candidates a lot of money and time and they’re meaningless. Kind of like baseball’s All-Star game. Or the Move-on.org petition you just sent me.

On the plus side, the straw polls add some fake drama, because they let an unhinged outlier win something, so political journalists can pretend to write serious articles in which they imagine Herman Cain, who won the Florida straw poll, will take over the world until they notice that the Pizzafather has no money or endorsements. He does have a sweet tax plan though, which is abbreviated as 9-9-9, and is something as likely and sensible as the Nine Ringwraiths of Mordor playing Nine innings of baseball against Nine Inch Nails.

Mitt Romney won the Michigan straw poll, because that’s where he’s from. He’s also from Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and the Moon.

Nothing more than a sad seventh place in Florida for my personal fave Jon Huntsman, who has said that he believes in crazy talk like global warming and evolution and at this point to garner any traction in the polls he’s going to have to set fire to Rick Perry.

The essential problem with straw polls is they  waste resources. The candidates owe more favors to party hacks in each state and need more money from new donors. I don’t mind the GOP blowing its cash on these things, and it serves their own brand of social Darwinism, the only Darwin they let into the room. Survival of the richest. But in a larger way these straw polls are bad for democracy. As much as I enjoy cataloging the village idiots who are on the stage, as an engaged citizen I’d like the guy in the Oval Office, regardless of political party, to be competent enough to do the job.

“Mr. President we’ve confirmed that terrorists have stolen nuclear material from Pakistan. The poverty rate hit 25%, bacteria have developed a resistance to TB drugs and a tornado has leveled half of Kentucky.”

“Is this when I get to abolish the Departments of Energy, Education and anything else that starts with E?”

“That’s not going to help. What should we do?”

“Nothin. Government is not the solution.”

“What about the nukes, sir?

“I’ll let the states handle that.”

Next time: Why President Obama needs a primary challenge.

Do you really wish you could’ve gotten out of work sooner? Do you really wish that, or are you just being overly apologetic in hopes that your one-time girlfriend and current pitying host will forget that she ran into you at the Whole Foods bean bar where she felt obligated to invite you to her “Tuesday supper club” because she “knows it’s tough to be in a new town”.  Do you really wish you could’ve gotten out of work sooner? Because your nervous stomach and that fresh bile stain on your collar tell a different story.

Do you really not need your ex to introduce you to any of her friends? Do you really think you’ll be fine navigating the party on your own, or is this just a reflexive attempt to thrust yourself into a situation wherein you might add to your empty arsenal of easygoing guy qualifications? Do you really not need your ex to introduce you to any of her friends? Because while you sat at work, hiccuping back vomit and debating whether or not you’d attend this party, every guest became immersed in conversation about mutual friends whom you’ve never met, would hate you, and are coming soon.

Do you really want to live in Africa? Do you really want to, or is this just something you’re saying now because you’re drinking a glass of Malbec and there’s a good-looking girl with leather bracelets and uncombed hair sitting next to you? Do you really want to live in Africa? Because no one there will care that you “appreciate Infinite Jest more at thirty than at nineteen” or have a friend who works at Google; in Africa, tenuous ties to accomplishment still wouldn’t be fodder for introductions.

Do you really love this obscure bossa nova record? Do you really love it, or do you just feel like unbuttoning your shirt one more notch wasn’t enough to make you seem like an aficionado of all things alternative? Do you really love this obscure bossa nova record? Because the kind of people who love this record didn’t even wear shirts to this party and won’t put one on until they fly to their Peace Corps reunion in Senegal next week.

Do you really wish Alain could’ve come tonight? Do you really wish he could’ve, or do you just want everyone to know that you and your host have a French mutual friend? Do you really wish Alain could’ve come tonight? Because if he came, he’d barely recognize you and comment to your enthralled former girlfriend about New York audiences appreciating bossa nova in a “façon” totally different from the Brazilians.

Do you really hate Mitt Romney? Do you really hate him, or do you just think having a strong negative opinion about a conservative politician will make up for the fact that you wore loafers to a flip flop fest? Do you really hate Mitt Romney? Because if you hated him, you’d be too busy right now to give conservatism a thought; you’d be texting Alain about yoga retreats and Freegan microenterprises in fluent French.

Do you really think dinner is even better than the appetizers? Do you really think that, or have you just not spoken since your Romney comment? Do you really think dinner is even better than the appetizers? Because thinking that would mean you’d eaten one single olive tapenade cracker while precariously fielding questions about why you think Mitt is “worse than Hitler and Bin Laden combined.”

Do you really prefer Italian filmmakers to American? Do you really prefer them, or has Todd Phillips made every movie you’ve seen in the past five years? Do you really prefer Italian filmmakers to American? Because liking the bruschetta and penne alla vodka you’re eating better than the olive tapenade just means you have the palate of a nine-year-old; it doesn’t mean you know anything about Rossellini’s neorealism.

Do you really hope to get back to Europe soon? Do you really hope to, or are you just glad that your time studying abroad in Barcelona has enabled you to seem nostalgic for a place other than Disney World? Do you really hope to get back to Europe soon? Because the locales you’re remembering as “incredible” and “unforgettable” seem to be recollections of landmarks other guests mentioned five minutes ago, during the Italian filmmaker conversation.

Do you really wish you could stay? Do you really wish that, or would one more minute at this dining room table fashioned from unlacquered Balian driftwood cause your restless leg to bob so high it knocks the glasses off your soon-to-be-forgotten face? Do you really wish you could stay?

Because, it’s really fucking okay if you fucking really don’t fucking wish that at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?