One Week’s Worth of Crazy

You could get angry, or you could just laugh.

Every week as I put the Sift together, I face the same question: Do any of the outrageous, infuriating, and downright crazy quotes from conservative pundits or office-seeking Republicans or clueless rich people that I ran across this week deserve my readers’ attention?

If this were a pure partisan blog, the answer would always be yes: Outraging your fellow partisans is good. It raises energy. It keeps them focused. And from a blog-traffic point of view, something that gets a reader’s goat is likely to be shared or linked to or commented on.

But I view the Sift as more opinionated than partisan. That may sound like splitting hairs, but here’s what it means to me: I’m liberal but not manipulative. I see myself working for my readers (helping them stay sane while processing the news) not working on them, to keep them wound up. And besides, anyone who’s looking to get wound up — liberal or conservative — has plenty of other options. The Sift should strike a calmer, more contemplative tone.

Well, most of the time. Because there’s another factor at work: the 47% factor, you might say. Conservatives count on their ability to have two messages. They can go to a meeting of their partisans and say totally over-the-top stuff, and then put on their sane face and talk to the general public as if crazy-time never happened. Then I run into low-information voters who tell me, “He sounds pretty reasonable.”

So when the mask does drop and the ranting starts, it’s important that people hear about it.

At least sometimes. I still don’t want to walk around in a constant state of outrage, and I don’t want to do that to my readers either. So rather than pass on each and every crazy thing I see or hear, once in a while I think I’ll just bundle together the ones I ran into that week and try to present them a sense of humor.

So let’s start with a joke. Or rather, with the Iowa Republican Party’s idea of a joke:

Those Iowa Republicans, what a bunch of kidders!

Because, like, racism is so funny! And it doesn’t really exist, it’s just a word to throw at people you don’t like when they do humorous but totally understandable things like shoot innocent black teen-agers or concoct conspiracy theories about the president’s birth certificate.

At least this joke has a punch line: After the post started getting noticed, Iowa Republicans took it down, blamed a contractor, and fired him. I’d love to have heard that conversation. Did they say, “That’s just wrong” or something more like “I know we were laughing about that this afternoon, but those kind of jokes have to stay in-house”?

Most of all I’d like to know: Did the contractor get the flowchart from the guy who fired him?

Next are two examples of what I’ve started to call “guillotine bait”: very rich people displaying cluelessness on a let-them-eat-cake scale.

Tom Perkins is a wealthy venture capitalist who published a letter in The Wall Street Journal.

I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.” … Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?

I haven’t plugged The Distress of the Privileged yet this week, but what a great example of privileged distress. The rich — they’re just so persecuted these days! Sucks to be them, don’t you think?

And Kristallnacht? No, I have another historical parallel in mind. As Queen sang on the Highlander soundtrack: “Don’t lose your head.

More guillotine bait came from Kevin O’Leary, the Canadian businessman who appears on the reality-TV show Shark Tank. Asked for his reaction to the claim by Oxfam that “The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world”, O’Leary responded:

It’s fantastic. And this is a great thing because because it inspires everybody, gives them motivation to look up to the 1% and say “I want to become one of those people. I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.” This is fantastic news, and of course I applaud it.

If I were living on a dollar or two a day, I suspect everybody who’s safe, warm, and well-fed would look the same to me. But perhaps I underestimate the world’s poorest, and the sight of multi-billionaires inspires them in a way that mere millionaires can never manage. If so, though, O’Leary might show more concern about what exactly it inspires them to do.

Next we come to  Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico. He recently published a memoir in which he compares the family to the military chain of command: The husband is on top and the role of a wife “is to voluntarily submit”. But her submission isn’t “a matter of superior versus inferior”. Perish the thought.

This kind of stuff is much more convincing when it comes from the people who are submitting rather than the ones suggesting somebody else submit (voluntarily, of course). So Steve, how about this: In Congress, why don’t you voluntarily submit to Nancy Pelosi for a while? Then you can report back on whether it makes you feel inferior.

Virginia State Senator Dick Black (not to be confused with the similarly-named character in Hardcore) has dropped out of the race for Congress after his previous opposition to criminalizing spousal rape became an issue. (He wasn’t opposed per se, he just thought the point was moot because he couldn’t imagine how a husband raping his wife could leave any evidence.) He has also referred to emergency contraception as “baby pesticide“, and he segues smoothly from same-sex marriage to incest and polygamy. Polygamy, he says, “is just more natural” than homosexuality, because “at least it functions biologically.” (Especially if all your wives voluntarily submit, I suppose.)

Congress will be much less interesting without you, Dick.

Mug shot of an improving economy

Presenting the “faces of an improving economy” during his state-of-the-state address, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker introduced an unemployed-until-recently welder. It turns out he may not have been entirely typical of Wisconsin’s unemployed: He’s a sex offender with two felonies and three drunk-driving convictions on his record.

The scary thought is that this might not be a mistake. Maybe Governor Walker really pictures the unemployed that way.

A candidate in the Republican congressional primary in Illinois’ 9th district has identified the source of our national problems:

“I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first,” [Susanne] Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions.

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said.

I think it’s more likely God gets angry when complete idiots put their words into His mouth. But that’s just my opinion.

Another one of God’s ventriloquists, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, also knows the hidden cause of a social problem. Campus sexual assault (which President Obama announced a task force on Wednesday) is caused by “sexual liberalism” — free birth control, co-ed dorms, decriminalized marijuana, and Sandra Fluke. Because campus rapes never happened in the Happy Days before all that, I suppose.

The implication here is that there is some kind of slippery slope between voluntary sex (which could be enabled by, say, free birth control) and involuntary sex. Can’t say I’ve ever noticed it.

I cheated just a little: This week wasn’t entirely typical because the of the RNC Winter Meetings, where Mike Huckabee said Republicans aren’t fighting a War on Women, they’re fighting a “War for Women“.

Way to turn the spin around, Huck. You see, Republicans want to remove contraceptive coverage from ObamaCare “to empower [women] to be something other than victims of their gender.”

If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let’s take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.

Critics are making unflattering comparisons to Rick Santorum’s bankroller Foster Friess (whose recommended form of birth control was an aspirin held between a woman’s knees) or 2012 Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin (who denied rape pregnancy is a problem because a woman’s reproductive system shuts down during rape).

The American Prospect‘s Paul Waldman explains “Why Republicans Keep Calling American Women Sluts“:

The morality clearly reflected in these statements is that sex is inherently sinful … and a virtuous woman doesn’t have sex except for those rare occasions when her husband wants to impregnate her. That’s why Huckabee can say—sincerely, I’m sure—that it’s an insult for Democrats to say women should have access to contraception, because that’s the same as saying women lack virtue.

But I think Huckabee is onto something more than just the evil of sex: Refusing to help people empowers them to help themselves. It’s like if Huckabee fell off a cruise ship: Throwing him a life preserver would just cast him as a victim of his mammalian need to breathe air. Better by far to empower him to swim to safety on his own — or, even better, to control his pulmonary system by spontaneously developing gills.

I hope Huckabee doesn’t just take his message across America; I hope he extends it to other situations: Cutting Food Stamps empowers the poor to feed themselves, and shows faith in their (and their children’s) ability to control their appetites. Cutting unemployment empowers people to find jobs, even when there are no jobs. Ending tax breaks for fossil-fuel companies empowers them to find oil without handouts from Uncle Sugar.

Wait, maybe that last one goes too far. Nobody likes an extremist.

Anyway, Huck’s speech made the NYT’s Gail Collins reminisce about 2008, when Huckabee “was a front-runner for a while, because he was the most likable candidate.” Then it was the usual tragic story: He got a talk show on Fox News and started running with a bad crowd.

That’s just what I happened across this week. Next week — nah, I’m not going to do it. Maybe one or two outlandish things will make it into the weekly summary, but an article-length round-up probably shouldn’t happen more than once a quarter.

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  • By Working for the People | The Weekly Sift on January 27, 2014 at 11:40 am

    […] This week’s featured posts: “The Fall of Governor Ultrasound” and “One Week’s Worth of Crazy“ […]

  • By Unstable Equilibrium | The Weekly Sift on February 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    […] Last week I talked about multi-millionaire Tom Perkins and his remarkable comparison between Occupy-style criticism of the 1% and Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany. Perkins got roundly denounced, and eventually realized that bringing up the Nazis was over the top. But he still hasn’t grasped the full absurdity of considering America’s mega-rich as a persecuted class. (If I could ask Perkins one question, it would be: “What kind of worship do you think you deserve?”) […]

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