CPAC, Republicans and aggressive stupidity in politics and religion

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Aggressive stupidity is wearing us all out.

Another round of CPAC madness is nearly through in America. A parade of Republican zealots highlights the speaker list, with Grover Nordquist standing proudly at the front of the line proclaiming that any Republican who agrees to tax increases of any sort “are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand for everyone.”

How is it that Nordquist fails to see himself as the rat in the bottleneck of Republican common sense?

And how interesting that another CPAC attendee, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana–himself a possible presidential candidate in 2016–once said of Republicans, “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party.”

Jindal has been castigated for that remark, of course. It is not in the nature of conservatives to admit they might be wrong or stupid about anything.

What wrong looks like

Even when proven desperately wrong by enaction of their own nation-devastating (America and Iraq, to name a couple) policies during the horrid debacle of the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney years, Republicans would not find any ground for confession that their whole ideology might just be aggressively stupid. Even when conservatives ruled all three wings of government, things didn’t go right. Bush racked up a trillion dollar bill for his wars of choice that America can’t pay off. We’re still borrowing to pay $2B a month to mess around in Afghanistan. So what do Republicans do? They point fingers at social insurance policies such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as the problem as if saving older people from destitution and medical disaster costs a nation more than war. 

Bad habits

Aggressive stupidity is a bad habit that can be fixed. But it’s hard, like shaking alcoholism or more accurately, a gambling addiction. Aggressive stupidity is a gambling addiction, to be precise. You are gambling that your brand of stubborn ideology, if backed by sufficient bets on the table, will win the day. Of course that’s been America’s global defense policy for decades. We now spend more on defense than the next 17 nations combined, and in many ways are less secure than ever. Yet here was Mitt Romney standing before the CPAC and insisting that Republicans put a powerful US military at the top of their agenda. “Do whatever you can to keep America strong, to keep America prosperous and free and the most powerful nation on earth.” Rah rah Mitt. That’s what got you where you are, buddy. A loser claiming you had all the right ideas. 

For perspective, that statement by Romney pretty much fulfills everything President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about when he cited the evils of the military/industrial complex as our worst enemy. The idea that we cannot be free without killing everything in sight is ludicrous, expensive and costly to the American spirit.

Killing ourselves in the name of the Constitution

It was recently learned that more Americans have been killed in their own country by gun violence than in all the wars ever fought by the nation. Yet we are locked in a battle over Second Amendment rights that Republicans use as a blunderbuss to cow a bunch of ignorant, one-issue voters into thinking Democrats are going to take away their guns. And when reasonable gun control laws are proposed, such as required background checks, Republicans run for cover behind the blazing guns policies of the NRA, who could think of nothing better to do in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings than to stick a bunch of armed guards in every school in America, and force teachers to get gun training. And to arm the teachers.

That is aggressive stupidity. One feels no shame in calling out stupidity in such circumstances. There is no risk of insult when the stupidity is so glaring in so many cases. Republicans are not stupid people, although even the wealthiest were targets of the incisive wit of one Mark Twain, who warned us, “All is takes is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure.” The humorist knew that aggressive stupidity really can win the day.

Elections versus selections

And when Republicans lose as they did in the 2016 selection (it wasn’t an election, but a selection of Obama against aggressive Republican stupidity) the party can think of nothing other to do than find a way to cheat the system. So Republican governors are gerrymandering ways to stifle Democratic voters any way they can.

The conservative party is shrinking like a set of testicles in a cold wind. Their policies appeal mostly to rich white voters, who are aging, as well as the ignorantly disenfranchised brand of gun-toters and a huge block of fearfully religious bigots who can’t seem to understand that their own Bible contradicts everything their party stands for.

Coming out to common sense

God Bless Republican Senator Rob Portman, who came out in favor of same-sex marriage once he learned that his own son is gay. “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years,” he told CNN. “That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.”

The Bible is wrong about homosexuality, just as it is wrong about slavery and hundreds of other former laws of religion that no one ever follows. Yet biblical literalists foment their brand of aggressive stupidity toward gay people with tired old contentions that homosexuality is a sin against God, and that being gay is a choice, a lifestyle, and to one all should be opposed. The Republican Party has embraced this brand of aggressive stupidity for years because it wins them votes, gains them power and makes them feel all righteous and true.

Until one of their own finds out they have a gay child. Even the Heart of Darkness Dick Cheney admitted that he loves his daughter and can’t persecute gays any longer as a result.

Not so cool

As for Portman’s position, Republicans were aggressively cool to his very personal admission that his life has changed for the better in accepting his son for who he really is. Politics trumps all other notions of sanity, you see. As quoted in a New York Times story, “A spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, who is also from Ohio, said Friday that while Mr. Boehner “respects” Mr. Portman’s position, “the speaker continues to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

That’s a form of aggressive stupidity, Mr. Boehner. Because if we took a certain pronunciation of your name quite literally, we would be forced to believe that you are actually a turgidly erect member of Congress that has no conscience. Well what do you know. It turns out that some forms of aggressive stupidity do prove true in practice. Two can play the game Republicans like to play.

Pope Francis the contradictor

We’re even forced to consider the aggressive stupidity of the new Catholic Pope Francis I, who embraces the poor but opposes birth control. That so-called “position” makes no sense if you spend a moment considering how overpopulation vexes the entire world.

But what do you expect from a religious brand that demands its priests to be celibate, then denies their policies have any consequence when a scourge of child sex abuse infests the church. Birth control dictates are ignored by more than 90% of its members, some polls report, yet the church and its patriarchal brand of aggressive stupidity keeps on rolling with a pope that stands by the position that spending sperm in a condom is a bad thing.

Some history…

Well, has the Catholic Church ever been wrong before? They almost killed Galileo for sticking up for the scientific perspective on matters universal. Then there were the Crusades, and the Inquisition, and for a while there, an insistence that the theory of evolution is wrong.

Aggressive stupidity runs through the most powerful organizations on earth. It is the hallmark of psychopathy, the aggressive will to dominate and coerce and kill in order to have your way, and have it now.

I’ve got mine and I hate yours

It’s the “I’ve got mine and I hate yours” brand of politics that is gutting America. Yet here is the CPAC closing comment. “The popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away fro conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two elections,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry, who when asked couldn’t seem to remember what programs he’d like to cut if he were president, “That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012.”

The all-time king of aggressive stupidity, however is Rick Santorum. The man combines both dunderheaded conservative politics and a conservative catholicism that forces him to spew hate while pointing fingers at Americans who don’t think his way. He had this to say about why Republicans are failing so miserably at convincing Americans their way is the right way, “Face it, the left can always promise more stuff, and make is sound like they care more, because they make it easier for Americans by providing stuff for them, through government programs, paid by by somebody else’s money.”

Jesus loves you Rick. But he would tell you that you’re an insane hypocrite. Just like the rest of the aggressively stupid people who run your party and elections by running lies and manipulations up the flagpoles of country and God.

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America’s concussion problem just won’t go away

by Christopher Cudworth

America is seeing stars, and stripes, but not the way we're accustomed to seeing them.  Painting by Christopher Cudworth

America is seeing stars, and stripes, but not the way we’re accustomed to seeing them. Painting by Christopher Cudworth

The news about concussions is everywhere in pro sports. Retired football players are suing the NFL for failing to protect their noggins, while active players are taking concussions far more seriously. America’s favored game of football may be at risk all the way from youth leagues up to the NFL. And no one seems to know just what to do about it yet.

It is no coincidence that America’s favorite game involves bashing heads to the point where players suffer brain trauma. That’s how Americans live. We smash and bash and crash our way through history without apology. We even have a fancy name for our concussive obsession with being #1. It’s called American Exceptionalism.

Violence has a cost

But the habit of a nation so absorbed with its own violence comes with a cost. America as a nation has a concussion. We can’t seem to stop thrashing about even as our minds grow fuzzy from the slam-bang practice of imperialism.

To put a metaphorical point on the idea that America is concussed, consider this description of the effects of concussion from the Mayo Clinic:

The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.

The most common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, amnesia and confusion. The amnesia, which may or may not be preceded by a loss of consciousness, almost always involves the loss of memory of the impact that caused the concussion.

The definition goes on to describe concussion as a ‘temporary loss of consciousness, followed by confusion or feeling as if in a fog.”

Welcome to a concussed America.

9/11 a big blow to the head

One could argue that the most recent big blow to our national consciousness was the terrorist strike on 9/11. America didn’t know what to do at first. We wandered our quiet streets trying to figure out exactly what hit us. By the time we figured out it really was just a lucky band of religiopolitical extremists, our President had dragged us into a war in Iraq. That’s where the blows to the head of our American self-image started with a display of Shock and Awe that, unbeknownst to most US citizens, would lead to a percussive series of events that would further destroy our credibility worldwide. It started with stark images of unmanaged chaos in the streets of Baghdad, wrought by the lack of an American plan once we knocked Saddam Hussein off his pedestal. That debacle was followed by images of tortured Iraqi civilians that struck us in the head like a force from a blunt instrument. And it was just that. The strike-first ideology of a leadership bent on world domination bounced right back and hit us in the cranium.

There were plenty of people who recognized what was going on, who had the guts to stand out of range of the war-mongering and media blitz that promoted war while giving Bush & Co. a collective pass in questioning the motives of an illegal and unnecessary war. Recall that America was still reeling from 9/11, but some of us cleared our brains quicker than others.

In an editorial written by Walt Williams 2004, the early warnings of political concussion were already being documented, “Sound presidential decision-making structures do not guarantee a successful policy. But the worse the decision process, the greater the danger that the policy devised will fail and wreak havoc on the nation when it is a major initiative.”

“President Bush’s decision to launch a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq is as good an example as I’ve seen of a severely flawed decision-making process producing an ill-thought-through decision that quickly became a nightmare as that misbegotten policy was put in place.”

Concussion. That’s what it was. And it kept on going for 8 more years.

Pulling back

Barack Obama has since pulled the majority of troops out of Iraq. Yet the damage wrought be mercenaries hired to run the operations in Iraq all those years is not easily repaired. Mercenaries are like the brain aneurisms brought on by concussion. They bleed us out from within. Just look at the billions spent and lost somewhere in the fog that was Iraq. We don’t even know where all the money went. We never will. Some of it apparently fell into the hands of our enemies. Nice work, fellas. But it was just a precursor of the loose-ended fiscal policy of an era with no accountability. We were punch drunk and stupid. Banks were running America into the ground and the mortgage industry was behaving like a manic-depressive on speed. It all had to hit us somehow. Then came 2008. The economy crashed. Was it really a surprise. Not to those of us who have doubted the apparently mad doctrine of close-fisted politicians from the start.

Concussion of debt

That whole doctrine put America is in fiscal and philosophical debt. Now it keeps pounding on us like a mean-ass middle linebacker with a grudge to keep. We’ve already wandered around for 10 years or so in a concussive state thanks to the original thumping dealt by Bush and Cheney who kept on hitting America with warnings of fear and terrorism while telling people to “go out and spend money” that no one really had. If Bush and Cheney had been football coaches instead of President and Vice President, they’d have been fired and kicked out of the American stadium for life for abusing the players. Instead we still have listen to Cheney being trotted out to criticize the American team strategy. That’s like the last place coach in the NFL pointing at the winning coach of the Super Bowl and saying, “He’s not doing it right!”

But it’s America. Even the losers get to speak out. The right to free speech is in our Constitution. That doesn’t mean we need to listen to our key abusers.

Through all that abuse of the Cheney years we simply couldn’t arouse ourselves from the national nightmare and brain-dead policies of neo-conservatives concocting their world domination schemes under shrouds of darkness. They even depended upon “black sites” to extract information from those they most feared. When darkness and confusion are allowed to rule, only darkness and confusion make sense to those who rule. That is the concussive mentality. We’ve seen it for years in the practice of sending football players with brain trauma back into the game. But American needs to be smarter.

National brain trauma

It is darkly comic that President Obama is supposed to fix all this national brain trauma with a wave of his hand. The Republicans who so vehemently oppose him started out by saying their only goal was to knock him out of office. More concussive talk. So ugly and stupid.

It’s no wonder their nominee in the last election amounted to the last man standing. They beat the hell out of each other for so long, no one on their side could believe what really happened. They still can’t. Romney stalked around believing he couldn’t lose, blathering on in debates, never worried whether what he or his running mate Paul Ryan said was the truth or not. “Fact checkers come to this (campaign) with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” said Ashley Connor, one of Romney’s aides.

It’s because the Republicans don’t know how to play nice. They’d rather die than tell the truth if it contradicts their aims. Democrats often fall for the same self-sustaining ruse. Americans can hardly recognize the truth anymore. That’s the result of our concussive state of existence.

That brand of hit first politics is beating the hell out of America’s confidence in its government. Of course that’s the way conservatives like it. They hate government because it actually requires the ability to slow down, consider the options and stop running back into the free market game without wearing a helmet.

Neo-conservatives want to privatize everything because they know that a smashmouth culture delivers great advantage to those with the biggest clubs, and we’re speaking both literally and rhetorically here. The clubbishness of America’s oligarchy is like one big fraternity set on hazing the plebes into submission, even if it takes a few strong blows to the head. If a few people die along the way or the economy teeters and falls over in a concussive stupor, so be it.

Leading with the other cheek

Perhaps it really is time to hit back rather than absorb the blows. Despite the admonitions of Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek, it is the current brand of killer Christians we need to fear most in some cases. The recent convergence of concussive smashmouth conservative politicians with an American Taliban determined to stone all those who disagree with their brand faux-Christian crusades… against science and civil rights, to name a few of their targets, is the worst concussive force of all in the American landscape.

The butt of a pistol

The other force of concussive politics is the gun lobby. Despite the recent and revealing documentation that more Americans have been killed within our borders by guns in civilian violence than have been killed in all our wars should serve as a patent illustration that we’ve lost our minds over the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms is a political brickbat in America. The concussions of repeated gun violence in Connecticut, Virginia, Illinois, Arizona, Colorado, what do they all mean? Here’s what they mean: Each slaughter of innocents throws us farther into the fog of violence. We are concussed beyond recovery perhaps. America may soon turn and shoot itself in the chest, to put ourselves out of concussive misery.

Sequestering our minds

Perhaps it is about to happen. The Sequester threatens to gut the economy, sending the nation reeling as if we’ve run into a glass wall of our own making. We’ll be bleeding out the ears and nose, puking our own economic theories of trickle-down economics and unrestricted spending (don’t forget corporate welfare and the military industrial complex, Eisenhower warned us) and the world will have little to say as we drag the rest of them down with our neo-nothing self-absorption.

We need help, people. We need to stand up and say, “Who caused this national concussion in the first place, and why do they keep doing the same things to us over and over again.”

Here’s a hint. It’s not Obama. Although his fondness for drone strikes might speak otherwise, they really reflect the need for America to pull backs its forces and gather our wits rather than throwing soldiers and fortune at the double-vision we’d have in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s time for America to get its wits back together again. America’s game of football is teaching us a lesson or two about what it means to recover from concussion. We can either listen or win up on the sidelines for good.

 

Note: This material is also published by Christopher Cudworth on Redroom.com

 

 

 

He’s changed my mind. Why Mitt Romney should be king.

Yes, Mitt Romney has finally changed my mind. After campaigning for what, 4 long years, or maybe 8, he has convinced me that he wants and deserves to be King. Of somewhere at least. We’ll talk about that later.

Clearly, he has all the qualities that the great kings in history have exhibited. He is clear about his convictions, despite the fact that they are prone to change at the drop of a hat.

The red hats of Bartholomew Cubbins vexed the King

In fact, do you remember that Dr. Seuss story Bartholomew Cubbins and the 500 Hats? Bartholomew was a humble kid who showed up at the court of the king and was instructed to remove his hat. But when poor Bartholomew tried to do so, another hat popped up in its place. This happened over and over again.

The king thought Bartholomew was being disrespectful in not removing his hat in the king’s presence. So the king ordered Bartholomew to be taken away and have his hats removed while the scribes kept track of all the hats that came off the head of Bartholomew.

If you think carefully about the core of this story, it is all about the perceived value of social rank and class. After all, does it really matter if one person takes their hat of in the presence of another? Only if we allow social rank to rule our conscience. Yes, in many circles, removing our hat it is a sign of respect. We all take our hats off at church, or when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited or the National Anthem is played. But it’s not that common anymore to remove our hats in the presence of another person. Unless they want to be considered royalty.

But poor Bartholomew had no control over the circumstances of his supposed show of disrespect. He tried desperately to remove his hat(s) before the king, but to no avail.

The king showed little compassion for poor Bartholomew. Rather than take an interest in the process by which the hats kept appearing, as would a scientist, for example, want to know how it works, the king simply grew impatient with Bartholomew and had him hauled off for disobedience and insubordination.

I won’t spoil the ending of the story for you. It’s always fun to dig up and read a little Dr. Seuss on your own. And while you’re at it, give The Lorax a try too.

Was Dr. Seuss a bleeding heart liberal?

But perhaps some people might label Dr. Seuss a liberal for writing a story about the apparent lack of respect Bartholomew Cubbins showed for tradition and authority. Yet that seems to be a common theme in America today. So maybe Dr. Seuss is just out of touch with today’s more sophisticated partisan politics.

But just for fun (in the spirit of Dr. Suess) let’s flip the tale of Bartholomew Cubbins around for a moment, and consider the behavior of the king from a metaphorical perspective. The king, after all, already had all the authority he could ever want on his side. He could do anything he wanted with Bartholomew the moment he saw that the young man could not, or would not, remove his hat before the king. In fact the king could order the executioner to cut off the head of Bartholomew Cubbins if he wanted. Kings have been known to do just that. Or have people tortured in an attempt to get at the truth. The king could have put little Bartholomew on the royal rack and had him stretched like a rope until his bones cracked and his joints popped like water balloons. Kings have done that as well to people over the ages. They have done so in full compliance with the church, in fact. And the church itself with its inquisitions and witch hunts has behaved in royally brutal fashion.

Romney does his angry King impression

Authority when tested gets testy. Hence the angry looks given by certain political personalities when their authority and worldview has been challenged. King Romney cast just such a look during the political debates.

Interestingly, King Romney in a strange, reverse twist seems to have much in common with a certain Bartholomew Cubbins, who could not remove his hats before the king. King Romney, by comparison, seems to take great delight in donning hats for a moment to please his subjects, then casts them off without a thought. He seems to care not whether the hats he dons represent the true nature of his beliefs. They are hats of convenience, suitable for a moment’s impression before his partisan and loyal subjects, or those he seeks to make into peasants for his policies, then thrown away without a thought. These hats are often the products of lies about King Romney’s true intentions. But appears not to care about that. King Romney has one mission and one mission only: That is to attain the status  King, when he can no longer be questions or held accountable to anyone.

His own campaign refuses to allow facts to get in the way of his efforts to be King of America. That is a clear sign of a lack of confidence in the King to be truthful with his targeted subjects. Romney has developed the art of laughing off his critics and fact-checkers to a royal degree. His self-proclaimed attitude toward 47% of America is that they are lazy, unmotivated slackers who have no place in his kingdom.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

That is the language of a man who wants to be king, the man who literally states that there are 5% or 10% of the population with which he concerns himself, not the 47%.

Oh, sure, he backpedaled that comment later on, in full view of the public. But by then he was an Emperor With No Clothes. Because people saw how the king actually regards his intended subjects, with disregard for their humanity.

Yes, it is possible for a religious man like Romney to lose sight of his own core convictions when tempted with the potential to be king. He may have done great things in his life; rescued a fiscally trouble Olympics, crafted a health care policy based on practicality and compassion, and raised a family with full love and care.

But he has also disowned those very accomplishments, traveling overseas to criticize the London Olympics organizers, while also disowning the very structure of the health care policy that he helped draft in Massachusetts that provided a foundation for Obamacare. As noted, King Romney has also criticized millions of good citizens and family leaders with his disparaging statements about the “47” percent.

For Mitt Romney is a king who would rather knock the hats off people with whom he disagrees rather than consider the reasons they might need or choose to wear a hat in the first place.

King Mitt has clearly labeled the hat of Social Security an “entitlement” when in fact it is an investment-based insurance program. But King Mitt wants to hand over all that government-managed money (in other words: safe) to risky Wall Street Dukes who frittered away half of America’s wealth in the last great financial crash.

Or should we say financial crass? Because that is the plan behind the plan of Mitt Romney. Crass strategies hidden behind smiling facades of royal promise. American Recovery indeed. King Mitt has nothing but plunder and riches on his mind, the same manner of governance he applied at Bain Capital, that pillar of Social Darwinism and capitalistic gluttony. Steal the wealth. Dump the workers. Sell off the assets for a profit. Then claim you did it all for the good of the company.

He’ll take the same approach to running the nation as he did to running Bain Capital. Prince Ryan is is hopeful heir to the kingdom. They’re lining themselves up and even cheating the election process by buying voting machines, stifling votes among the poor and elderly. Anyone who stands in the way of the King and his murderous soldiers; men like Karl Rove, John Bolton, the whole lot of them.

We are all Bartholomew before King Romney. Our liberal hopes of social justice and economic parity are just so many hats the king wants to see knocked off our heads. And when the hats do not satisfy him because our mouths keep on talking, King Romney will let the executioner do his work. Cut programs. Slash budgets for Medicare and the EPA,

King Romney has already threatened Big Bird

public radio and the post office. Mitt hates hats. You can see the red glare in his eyes. He wants to be King. And that’s that.So let’s let him be king somewhere. He likes to store his money offshore, so let’s let him be King of his own little island somewhere. It can be a pretty place. He can have all the toys he wants. Ann Romney can play with her precious horses and Mitt can give his kids all the funny names he likes.

Just don’t elect him President. He’d rather chop off all our heads than listen to what Americans have to say about social justice and equity. And went he’s done he’ll pillage the countryside looking for the last person who thinks they’re entitled to hoe their own garden and sell their produce at a roadside market. Because we all know vegetables are too well-loved by liberals. Real Americans keat red meat and live in red states. The King says so. Long live King Romney. He sure acts the part.

Are abortion opponents blaming government for their own failures?

A Word Cloud formed from a National Review email on abortion legislation. Click to view large.

For 25 years our family held membership in a conservative branch of the Lutheran Church. My wife was raised in a family that had been longtime members of that denomination, so we continued our membership in a church of that background near our hometown.

We got married and the baptized our children at that church. The pastor was a wise, theologically astute man who once delivered a sermon titled “Jesus: The ultimate liberal, do-gooder and bleeding heart.” We loved that man for his spirited advocacy for the true heart of scripture. The congregation built around his ministry was full of compassionate people with concern for others and a truly generous worldview. We are still friends and socialize with many of those families, but we left the church more than a year ago to attend a church that better fits our mainstream evangelical Lutheran theology.

Back when the beloved pastor who married us retired to become pastor emeritus, the church went through a series of fitful adjustments to the interim leadership brought in by the synod. The result was that the ideology and theology delivered from the pulpit became increasingly conservative and rigid. Through it all my wife and I kept asking ourselves, and others, does it have to be like this? But we hung in there. For years. And years. Because we loved the people who attended the church. Served on the Board. Sang in the choir. Confirmed our two bright kids and set them off in life.

We had 6 different pastors during that period. The one who finally settled in for a series of years is a good man who ministers to everyone in the best way he can. But he is most definitely a died-in-the-wool product of the very conservative synod where he attended seminary.

For example:

  • This synod does not accrue leadership rights to women in the church. Women cannot serve communion or be elders.
  • The synod passes down opinions on social subjects such as evolution (they believe it’s false) homosexuality (a sin, no questions asked) and abortion.

Recently I was asked to return to our former church to help lead the Praise Service as two of the lay-leaders were out of town. I gladly accepted and rehearsed with the singers and band, and everything came off well. Someone even complimented my singing, which really surprised me. I know my limitations.

It was also Sanctity of Life Sunday, and I knew what that meant: A predictably intense lecture on the immoral consequences of abortion.

The service began with a video provided by Tony Perkins, here shown in a linked video challenging President Barack Obama on conception issues. Perkins is the same fellow who says that environmentalism can be directly linked to abortion as a conspiratorial attempt to control human population He views all these activities as signs that the Second Coming is imminent, and that worrying about the earth is frivolous compared to worrying about your soul. Perkins is a modern day zealot with a lot of axes to grind. His pre-service video was a testament to modern production values and a black-and-white position on abortion that Pro-Lifers love to embrace.

Following the video, the sermon called for church members to vote for politicians who support so-called “Pro-Life” issues and candidates. The service clearly skirted laws governing churches and politics. Basically the entire service from end to end was one long political ad.

The pastor concluded his sermon saying that he recognizes there are other issues of importance challenging America, including a $16 Trillion debt, a struggling economy and other issues. But he stood firm with his statement that abortion remains the most important of all political issues because it is a “matter of life and death.” And that, in a nutshell, is how so many conservatives become one-issue voters.

Pushing women aside to get to their wombs

The so-called Pro-Life argument seems to see no problem shoving women aside to accomplish one goal, and that is to ban abortions of all types.

The official Republican Platform is essentially unforgiving toward any form of abortion, even in pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Pro-Life advocates like Todd Akin have gone on record making absurd defenses of conceptions caused by rape and other unwanted pregnancies, insisting that women have natural defenses against pregnancies resulting from rape. No medical science has ever determined such capabilities. Yet the determined zealots of the anti-abortion lobby seem to feel no compunction in making up such miraculous tales to justify their ideology.

And as a result, the entire manner in which conservatives continue to pursue banning abortion turns out to be a miscarriage of faith, politics and common sense. Here’s why.

The reason why abortions must be and are now legal

The reason why abortions are legal is to provide safe access to medically-performed abortions to all women who may need that service. The right to determine the need for an abortion remains the province of a woman and her doctor. Anyone who believes in the limits of the power of government should agree that personal medical decisions of all kinds should be made by the individual, and the individual alone. Injecting various forms of moral codes, especially from the various religions in America, does not promise any sort of clear resolution. To choose one religion’s moral code over another is a clear case of establishment of state religion, which is clearly banned by the United States Constitution. It is remarkable therefore that the Republican party that claims to represent the rights of liberty for individual decision-making should choose to swing so far to the left on the abortion issue.

Relative to the law, however, the Pro-Life movement claims that millions of women are getting “abortions of convenience,” thereby flaunting the purpose a law designed to protect women from unsafe and medically unsupervised abortions, a practice that prior to the Roe vs. Wade case put many a woman’s health at risk.

But we certainly cannot count on the fact that banning abortion will prevent women from seeking them. That’s why the government acted to legalize abortions, to prevent harm to women.

Pro-Life proponents make the specious and notably non-conservative claim that government is actually responsible for the number of abortions now taking place in America. Conservatives love to claim on one hand that government is an ineffective method of managing culture and society, yet at the same time they blame government for its effectiveness in encouraging women to have abortions of choice.

Which is it? Is our government really responsible for the number of abortions in America, or has someone else abdicated their moral duties and turned around to blame government for their own failures? 

Let us consider an idea. How are Pro-Life conservatives doing at the job of convincing women not to get abortions? Pretty miserable, it seems. An estimated 22 million women now choose to get abortions each year. If the Pro-Life message is truly compelling and favored by God, it is evident that those who claim to represent the urgency of that message have to do a better job of reaching women.

Is Planned Parenthood more Pro-Life than the Catholic Church? 

As it turns out, the people who are helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies include organizations such as Planned Parenthood, who work closely with women across America to protect and manage their reproductive health. Planned Parenthood provides important services like birth control so that women are not put in a position of conceiving children they are not ready to have. That is a common sense approach to preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Yet this practical solution to cut down the number of abortions in America is notably resisted by conservative politicians and organizations such as the Catholic Church, who claim that birth control itself is immoral and against the teachings of the Bible.

It is telling that a reported 97% of Catholic women ignore the directives of their own church. So it appears the so-called moral authority of the Catholic church is a patristic anachronism to which women members really don’t pay attention.

And they shouldn’t. With the ready availability of functional, effective birth control that can easily prevent unwanted pregnancies, there is absolutely no moral justification for telling men and women they can’t use it. The even more disgusting alliance with conservative Republicans who have demonized women for wanting access to birth control is evidence of mysogyny, a literal hatred and fear of women and their bodies that is being legislated into the laws of America by people who ostensibly should know better.

What Would Jesus Do tell us to do about abortion?

The Christ of the Bible never relied on governmental authorities to do the work of his ministry and of God. He would find the prospect of blaming the government for the number of abortions in America an absurd idea.

Jesus called on his followers to use love and their own keen energies and talents to reach people in need of help and salvation. If today’s so-called conservatives came to Jesus with their complaints about law and the actions of government with relation to abortion, he would chastise them for failing to see the real source of the problem.

One can almost hear Jesus asking these modern-day Pharisees: “Is the government your God?”

“No!” the conservative politicians and religious believers would cry. “We answer only to God above!”

“Then serve your God, and go to the people in need. Reach the women of the world before they face the hard choices they are making. That is what God wants you to do.”

“But what of the law?” conservatives might answer. “If we have the law on our side, our job will be much easier!”

“What of the law, indeed?” Jesus would ask. “Are you not trying to use the law to make up for your own failures? Is that what God would have you do? Blaming government for your own failures is no path to heaven. Changing hearts rather than changing laws is your true calling.”

A short letter to Billy Graham on his endorsement of Mitt Romney for President of the United States

The inscrutable Mitt Romney meets the intractable Billy Graham

Let’s deconstruct what Billy Graham has to say about endorsing Mitt Romney:

“It was a privilege to pray with Governor Romney—for his family and our country. I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads. I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms.”

Well, Mr. Graham. You left out a lot, didn’t you? No mention of protecting the poor, a favorite topic of Jesus. NO mention of holding the wealthy accountable for exploitation of the country and its resources. No mention of protecting the earth as God’s creation. No mention of holding our former President and VP accountable for unbudgeted, illegal wars and torture.

Especially no mention of the inscrutable lack of accountability by Mitt Romney, who has changed his stated positions on every single position he claims to advocate, and obscured facts about his personal business and finances that more accurately reflect his cutthroat disregard for his fellow human beings. These acts make him either an untrustworthy leader or an outright liar. Or both. The recovery Mr. Romney needs to focus on is his credibility.

Billy Graham has endorsed an ideological chimera in Mitt Romney, and as such has sided with powerful special interests and a brand of prejudiced thinking that impinges on real American rights including freedom FROM religion as guaranteed by the US Constitution. Graham completely ignores that fact of law. His assumptions speak volumes about his anachronistic brand of religion and its lack of scriptural substance in an age of rational faith and Constitutional interpretation based on human equality, not religious prejudices.

Graham proves through his endorsement that a vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket is a vote to misappropriate American rights and freedoms in favor of a stilted worldview that sadly is also a misunderstanding of the very faith Mr. Graham and his ilk have long claimed to represent. The best illustration of this desperate grab for power and respect is the scrubbing of his own website to remove the claim that Mormonism is a ‘cult.’ Like Joe Paterno, we might be seeing another hero embracing power over principle.

It is possible to lose perspective in life when your legacy is bigger than your ability to sort out your priorities. Perhaps the influence of his now infamous son Franklin Graham has jaded the Rev. Billy Graham’s once famously wise counsel. Of course, fame ultimately has a way of corrupting judgment. Position has a way of undermining the will to discern what is truly right and wrong. And time has a way of destroying the patience for change.

All in all, Mr. Graham, you have gotten it wrong, made a spectacle of yourself and the presidential race, and intimated that our current President is not a moral and considerate man. That may be the most damning of all references in your endorsement of Romney.

Supposedly, Billy Graham, you have provided wise counsel to many Presidents. Perhaps you’ve even spoken with Barack Obama at some point in time. But what you have done now is reveal the sad political prejudice of this age, which is disturbingly ill-informed single issue voting as the premise for political loyalty. One would think a man of your stature would see beyond the narrow-minded views you express. But having heard what you now have to say, we can write you off as the product of a different age. One that never really aligned with the true path of faith, forgiveness and fruition outlined in the Bible. Perhaps you should read it again.

It really doesn’t say some of the things you apparently think it does. Or have you only read it in the presence of those who agree with you, and therefore have much to gain by doing so?

Jesus didn’t like those types of religious leaders. It says so in the Bible.

Do you live in the City of Sanitary?

By Christopher Cudworth

City of Batavia Sanitary

While walking the dog on a Sunday morning before the newspapers were even delivered and a low sun was casting long shadows on the street, I stopped to let the dog have a sniff of something in the neighbor’s yard and found myself standing directly over a manhole cover. I looked down at the circular metal object and read the words, which said: CITY OF SANITARY BATAVIA.

Of course what the manhole cover was supposed to read was CITY OF BATAVIA, SANITARY

Those two short phrases seem to convey exactly the same thing. But in practice and reality, they might not.

Either way you read the words on the manhole cover, it is intended to convey its function as an access point to the sanitary system under the streets of Batavia, a municipality of approximately 30,000 people in northern Illinois.

But let’s imagine that it is no longer 2012, but is instead the year 2812. Language and culture have changed significantly over the last 8 centuries. English is no longer the primary language on Earth, yet translators are being assigned to study the hardiest artifacts of the past. The manhole cover and its confusing words survived the nuclear holocaust that wiped out most of North America’s population and left an entire continent nearly uninhabitable for more than 800 years due to nuclear radiation poisoning and pursuant destruction of habitation and resources. Such a grim scene, and hard to imagine in a way. But really, the present and the possible future all comes down to the quality of our ability to communicate.

The natural tendency of that English language translator in the future is to read the words on the manhole cover in logical order, as it says: CITY OF SANITARY BATAVIA. The translators therefore struggle to understand the meaning of this lost language, and particularly of the meaning of the words on the manhole cover. Was it intended to convey some message about the place called SANITARY or was it designed to communicate some aspect of a function called BATAVIA?

You see, language is a funny thing. It can be used to improve understanding in rationally liberal way, in full context. Or, it can be used to intentionally constrain meaning in a conservative way, and limit the context. Both have their legitimate applications at times. We know that historians have struggled with this challenge for centuries. That is why we have so many translations of the Bible because ultimately not everyone can agree on what the holy texts are meant to say.

Beyond translation there are issues of interpretation. Should we take the Bible literally or figuratively? Did Jesus actually say the things for which he is credited, or were his quotes and activities reconstructed to line up with a constrained view of the Christian faith as written 80-200 years after his death?

We now know the books of the New Testament are not arranged by chronology, so a judgment has already been made to place the Gospels before the writings of Paul, arguably the first Christian author. In some respects, that forces us into a viewpoint about primacy that some people might now consider conflicted by the arrangement of the books in the New Testament. Yet this prioritization can in some ways be viewed as vital to the history and meaning of Christian faith. Liberals might contend that the Bible should be reordered to reflect its true chronology, while conservatives would likely place their trust in the judgment of the ages.

If something so historically relevant as an entire religious tradition can be dependent on liberal and conservative judgements such as these, then we are certainly at the mercy of many other sources of disagreement over what constitutes accuracy and truth.

The liberal vs. conservative debate

Liberals and conservatives argue over the use of language and its meaning on every front. So let us begin by examine what liberal and conservative language really means.

The liberal use of language is defined as follows:

liberal: favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.

Liberalism is therefore the pursuit of all possible meanings with respect to the course of comprehension. The ultimate determination of meaning may therefore require considerable study, even consulting with outside sources before full understanding of a word or phrase in context can be ascertained. This is largely the foundation for all academics, science and other forms of inquiry.

By contrast, a conservative pursuit of meaning in a word or phrase is by definition constrained to existing or traditional understandings as a starting point, with the resultant findings to be measured against prior knowledge. To be conservative is therefore defined as follows:

con·serv·a·tive disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc.,or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.

The full reach of conservative thought includes the right to limit not only the liberal or contextual understanding of a phrase or idea, but is also known to aggressively limit information deemed likely to change the meaning of and idea, word, phrase or a passage as it has been tested over time. This is judged acceptable in conservative thought because it places its highest values on traditional sources as primary virtues, and established principles as standards or qualifiers against which change must be measured.

This is known as a conservative viewpoint, and in America it bears influence on everything from standards in education to Constitutional interpretation of law by the Supreme Court. Ironically some of the so-called “conservative” interpretations of Constitutional law passed down by a conservatively dominated court have resulted in highly liberal interpretations of issues such as corporate personhood. Such is the confusion of liberalism versus conservatism. This raises the issue of whether our existing understanding of conservative and liberal thought is really accurate at all, a subject we will pursue further in a moment, in context of so-called media bias.

Still, conservatism can be largely defined as a preoccupation with the defense of the original or traditional understanding of an idea while liberalism is in a constant search for multiple or possible meanings.

Principle challenges

The challenge in this game of defining meaning according to conservatives and liberals is how the scope and scale of meaning is allowed to be either constrained or expanded. That is where ideology or intent enters the picture when it comes to defining the meaning of a thing or an idea.

For example, if the image of the manhole cover were cropped (or constrained) to show only the words CITY OF SANITARY we would be left with an entirely different understanding of the object, as show here:

THE CITY OF SANITARY

Now the word BATAVIA is invisible. We have lost the complete context of the manhole cover as an object, and are left with, or presented only, that information that supports the idea that the City of Sanitary is an actual place!

Of course it is not. But the conservative or constrained presentation of information is a real phenomenon. It happens every day in the news. Conservatives blame the general media for a ‘liberal bias’ in presenting only news that favors liberal political policies while liberal blame media outlets such as Fox News for serving up news that is highly constrained to a conservative point of view.

We must further consider the definitions of liberal and conservative news to consider who is telling the truth in this situation, and why.

Liberal Media Bias

If only news stories that favor liberal politics are being shown or discussed on so-called ‘liberal media outlets’ that is very different than pursuing a truly liberal understanding of the news. All news, politics and government is democratic and fair only if it is transparent and provides full context for its constituents. The accusation of a “liberal bias” is most difficult to justify, however, if the problem is simply that the general media is indeed providing full information to support a story.

The selective fact that a conservative viewpoint considers the truth an objectionable deterrence to their cause is not, therefore, a truly liberal bias in the media. It is simply reporting the truth and letting the public decide what to think about what they hear. But the claim that the ‘liberal media’ may be choosing news stories that favor liberal politicians or policies can be determined through analysis, and in some cases this has produced contentions with merit.

It is a very subtle argument, however, because like a so-called liberal media bias, the dividing line between truly “conservative news” and conservative opinion are highly difficult to determine. If a plot to bomb an abortion clinic is reported on the general news but an act of eco-terrorism against a chemical company goes unreported by the general media, then that may indicate a choice based on politically liberal objectives. News editors make decisions every day to determine what news to present and report, and the formats of daily news shows allow such narrow space and time to fully present a story that decisions to cut or keep news stories is made every day.

Beaten at their own conservative game? 

But even if liberal media outlets are guilty of biased reporting, that is still a conservative or constraining choice of how to report the news. That is likely what conservatives find so objectionable. For years they have been beaten at their own game.

Which is why news outlets such as Fox News now attempt to level the playing field by appearing to conduct themselves as liberal media outlets, committed to reporting the full truth while in fact they are radically committed to a conservative approach to news reporting, and not by coincidence, favoring a conservative political viewpoint as well.

So there you have it. What appears to be a battle between liberals and conservatives is in fact a protracted fight over an overall conservative approach to reporting and presenting the news. The battle then, is not between liberals and conservatives as is so often presented, but between conservative methods of reporting the news.

Colbert exploits the ruse

That is what makes the comedy of a man like Stephen Colbert so hilarious. Colbert imitates the presentation methods of conservative media outlets while actually espousing and presenting liberal perspectives. The fact that these opinions about the news are force-fed through a faux Fox News filter is what makes the satire so funny. There is nothing Fair or Balanced about Stephen Colbert just as there is nothing Fair and Balanced about Fox News. It’s all just highly charged political information disguised as news.

Fox News, you see, excels at the City of Sanitary method of so-called news reporting. The company as a whole typically receives its marching orders on the choice of appropriate news topics and how to report on them from the very top where Roger Ailes, the chief network executive who built the American outlet for Fox News from the ground up, highly favors political conservatism as the solution to America’s problems.

His “news” staff is cleverly disguised as reporters and anchors when in fact they are positioned with a conservative ideology (and prescribed ‘talking points’) in place to constrain and deliver the information Fox News creates. It controls its messaging on a regular basis by taking a “closeup” look at news stories rather than backing up and providing the whole (and therefore liberal) context of the story. In other words, the difference between what Fox News does is the same as the difference between taking a look at the whole manhole cover that shows City of Batavia Sanitary as opposed to just showing the City of Sanitary image and using that constrained viewpoint as a jumping off point for political commentary.

Sanitized at Fox News

Fox News viewers seldom if ever get to see the entire context of a news story. Instead they are “sanitized” into thinking only about what Fox News presents as truth. It is hard to argue that Fox News is lying, exactly, because that they show on TV often exists as a “fact” just as the manhole cover actually does read City of Sanitary. But this “sanitizing” of the news is a grand deception of sorts, because it disallows context and essentially brainwashes viewers into a clipped understanding of the world and its activities.

Then the Fox News commentators like Sean Hannity further present these constrained, conservative media talking points to generate outrage over issues that have never been fairly presented. This radicalization of the news through constrained reporting and conflagratory discussion is the poison that has undermined true journalism in America.

The goals of sanitized news

Fox News has used its carefully “sanitized” views of patriotism, its jingoistic and flag-waving support for ugly and dangerous wars, its support of torture and covert aggression against nations around the world, and its advocacy for domestic policies and administrations that clearly have failed the nation and risked it very sovereignty in the process.

Insanitization of the news

We must therefore consider whether we should characterize the information presented by conservative news outlets like Fox News as the “insanitization” of news and information. It is literally as if the insane have taken over the media on all fronts. It is no longer possible or profitable for media outlets to engage and invest in liberal news reporting. The news cycle and competition for viewer attention is so tight and self-fulfilling that companies who attempt to present news in its full context are losing out to aggressive competitors like Fox who sound byte everything through the insanitization of the information presented. The American public can no longer even identify or understanding news as it is defined in journalistic terms. The insanitization of news and information has cut attention spans and comprehension among consumers to a bare minimum. Viewers now prefer the City of Sanitary to the City of Batavia Sanitary. “Don’t bother me with the facts,” the public seems to say, “Just tell me what I need to know.”

Screw the fact-checkers = Ignore the truth

In 2012 the Mitt Romney campaign boldly proclaimed that it won’t be constrained by “fact checkers.” This is a precise expression of the insanitization of information.  Think about what politicians like Romney claim they are entitled to do: They are running a campaign where the truth literally does not matter. Yet 40% of Americans will support a candidate who makes no claim to represent the truth? That is insanity. But that is exactly the strategy of the conservative brand of thought. Through sanitization of information and turning the truth against itself, people can be convinced to believe that what you are saying is “more real” than the truth.

Think of the manhole cover. Think of think of the City of Sanitary. Is that where you really want to live?

Sanitization: It’s a religious tradition

This is nothing new, of course, under the sun. Religious groups have for years blindered believers with literal interpretations of scripture and controlled their belief systems with law and practices that even Reformation and revolution have not erased. The result is a society where 50% of Americans still believe in a literal Adam and Eve and refuse to comprehend even the slightest truth in the theory of evolution. This is the insanitization of religion just as politics and news have been distorted and contorted. Conservative religion rather precisely limits its believers understanding to the City of Sanitary level. In fact it likely goes a step further, focusing only on the word SANITARY with claims that true believers must sanitize themselves from recognizing equal rights for gays and women, or associating with environmentalists or tolerating other faiths.

Meanwhile the Muslim faith is engaged in the very same sanitization and insantization of its ideology, producing radical terrorists engaged in a fight to impose Muslim law in otherwise democratic societys and engaging in an ideological fight with Christianity that produced the Crusades.

A walled city under a siege of misinformation and fear

The City of Sanitary is a walled city that behaves as if it is in a state of siege. It promotes and feeds the fears of its dwellers. Indeed, fear and constrained thinking is the main and primary focus of its ideology, for fear is the factor that keeps its audience under control.

The City of Sanitary is therefore the most dangerous enemy of America, which fully depends on the liberalism inherent in its Constitution along with freedom of a press and a truly liberal media committed to full reporting– and not sanitization–of the news as a means to protect and defend America’s most precious freedoms, both liberal and conservative.

Anything else deserves to be shoved down the manhole of history.

RELEVANT DEFINITIONS

san·i·tar·y [san-i-ter-ee]  adjective

1.of or pertaining to health or the conditions affecting health,especially with reference to cleanliness, precautions againstdisease, etc.

2.favorable to health; free from dirt, bacteria, etc.: a sanitarywashroom.

3.providing healthy cleanliness: a sanitary wrapper on allsandwiches.

san·i·tize [san-i-tahyz]  verb (used with object), san·i·tized, san·i·tiz·ing.

1. to free from dirt, germs, etc., as by cleaning or sterilizing.

2.to make less offensive by eliminating anythingunwholesome, objectionable, incriminating, etc.: to sanitize adocument before releasing it to the press.

insan·i·tize [san-i-tahyz]  verb (used with object), in·san·i·tized, in·san·i·tiz·ing.

1. to purposely constrain information in a radical way as a means to confuse and obfuscate while claiming to speak the truth

2.to propagandize factual information by limiting its context, thereby avoiding the appearance of lying by being able to point to a portion of the information as demonstrable fact

2.to lie like a sack of shit and deny that you are lying despite all proof to the contrary, as in presenting your corporate brand as Fair and Balanced when it is anything but.

The real dangers of clearcut ideology

Clearcut ideas aren’t always the prettiest in reality

Back when our family had plentiful opportunities to camp in Wisconsin and other woodsy sites across North America, we often traveled on day trips to visit other parks and go on adventures in places like Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It is always a pleasure when vacationing to enjoy the view of the woods as you whiz past on some state highway cutting deep through the forests.

Throughout the country there are designations for different types of state and government-owned forests. There are national and state forests. National and State parks. Bureau of Land Management property. All these different entities affect how those properties are managed, how much wood or other resources can be extracted (especially, these days, oil and natural gas) and in what manner.

In areas where tourism counts, keeping up appearances when it comes to the north woods is vitally important. Yet in areas where the timber industry, for example, is a key component of economic health, it is considered equally important to grant harvesting access to private firms that harvest wood of various types. Pine and hardwood are still valuable commodities in America. Competition for rights to harvest wood from public and private landowners can be quite keen. Building relationships and managing the extraction process well are also key elements of successful forest management. It is a convoluted game involving billions of dollars.

Balancing the economic and timber harvest interests of a region with tourism and outdoor recreation can be tricky. People on vacation are not exactly fond of seeing clearcut land as they drive from place to place. There are few more ugly sites than a forest that has been chopped down. Stumps and torn up brambles present a scene of apocalyptic chaos. It can be downright disturbing when you’re driving through thick pine forests mile after mile to suddenly be confronted with thousands of acres of torn-up forest and soil.

So they sometimes don’t let you see it. Timber companies adopted a practice of protecting the public from such sights by leaving a thick line of trees standing alongside the road. That tree line provided a visual buffer against the carnage of the clearcut land behind the roadside trees.

The first time one realizes the pathetic purpose of this ruse, there is a feeling of real betrayal. When you imagine you’re passing through serene forests and then get a glimpse behind the scenes where the roadside woods thin out and you can see through to the hell and waste beyond, it’s like pulling back the veil on a very bad dream.

Wandering a clearcut on foot gives a better view of what the extraction process is all about. For all the glorification of timber haulers and woodsmen on reality TV these days, it really comes down to one thing: chopping down trees any way you can. The woods are left to recover any way they can.

Yes, there are methods and techniques in place, and standards to be met. But let’s not fool ourselves. Once you chop down a forest, it really is gone. The whole ecosystem disappears, sometimes overnight. Along with it goes the naive dream that the forest was meant to exist for any reason other than providing profit to the people who extract those resources and leave little behind.

Yes, the companies that take down trees also plant new trees. Yet many times these trees essentially comprise a monoculture that grows at the same general rate, dominating the landscape with a consistent look and feel. Much of America’s north woods and especially its “National Forests” have this look and feel. A diverse woodland of mixed hardwoods and pines is considered much more difficult to manage and harvest than a simple plantation of trees where you can literally drive along the rows and level the trees when they reach a desired height.

Contrast that with the deep ecology of an old-growth forest with its nobnobbed layers of downed and rotting trees, mosses and native plants, wildlife and micro-climates, and the two just don’t compare. That’s a good thing. We need to protect it. That old growth forest symbolizes the deep roots of America values.

The monoculture forests we tend to grow in their place symbolize the shallower approach to maintaining our heritage and values. The diversity of a forest is its life. Impatience with that diversity is a sign of a worldview that cares not whether the forest exists for any purpose other than extraction of its wood products. The fact that America’s national forests often stand only for that purpose is disturbing at its core, for it represents the commodification of life. It is an ironic fact that it seems the very people who proudly brand themselves “Pro-Life” seem determined to ignore that fact that the raw commodification of life is just as dangerous. It is apparent their worldview focused on the merits of human endeavor became disconnected from a respect for creation and life itself. The cause of this disconnect may be casual or willful selfishness, or an ignorant, shallow interpretation of the texts that inform their worldview. Hurdling over the issue by claiming a right to dominion over the earth ignores an important truth: that with dominion comes responsibility, and strictly commodifying the creation you were entrusted to protect is the most cynical abuse of that trust imaginable.

It is that strict commodification of nature that made timber interests leave buffers along the roads so that tourists would not get peeved or disillusioned by the sight of the radical clearcuts beyond. It is a desperate illusion, of course, and indicative of a cynical approach to social morality that says people won’t object to what they cannot see. The sad thing about not being able to see the clearcut former forest for the trees is that it symbolizes so much of what goes on in the American in other ways.

Our society puts up with all sorts of obscured commodification, including companies hiding dangerous truths about the chemicals and food substances we eat, as well as products that cause cancer and obesity and mental illness. We have politicians hiding facts about these practices while conducting government for their own cynical economic and political gain. This is far worse than the fox guarding the henhouse. This is a clearcut case of wholesale corruption in the political and civic business of America.

And it all starts with cynicism, the belief that “your ideas” are more important than the welfare of society as a whole. Others might call this fascism as well. For clearcut ideology, the “winner take all” brand of politics, bears all the signs of propagandist practices of the past. America fought fascism on a grand scale in World War II, yet it seems unable to recognize or control its own fascist tendencies back home.

As one illustration of American fascism at work, the term “greenwashing” was invented to describe the behaviors of companies that concoct environmentally friendly names to market products, services or ideas that are in actuality far from Green in nature. That line of trees along the roads designed to obscure the ugliness of forest clearcuts is a form of greenwashing. But so are “Astroturfed” organizations created to serve the interests of companies whose business practices actually harm the environment in many proven ways. The truth about the media age is that if you are astute enough to push your messaging out in palatable ways, and are aggressive about deliveyr of that message, you really can convince people you are acting in their own best interests even if it is literally killing them and their neighbors.

Ultimately all forms of ideological disguise is a form of greenwashing, and also fits in the fascism spectrum as well. It happens all the time in politics, religion, economics and entertainment. The sad truth is that it is often the most harmful forms of ideology that go to the greatest lengths to obscure their real purposes. We see it in politics when candidates make their stated goals sound appealing to the very people those policies would harm the most. By the time the truth comes out after the election, those candidates are elected officials with the power and authority to impose clearcut actions in their respective territories of jurisdiction.

It happens with Senators, Congressman, Presidents and Judiciary nominees. They can say whatever they want to get elected or be appointed, but once in office their clearcut nature comes out. Some even cut down the trees along their ideological roads and contend, “You knew what you were getting when you put me here. Now deal with it.” As a result we now have laws in place that grant personhood to corporations, the ultimate commodification of individual citizenship in America.

Still, America loves to foment its illusions of Yankee exceptionalism. We love to pretend that we live in the greatest nation on earth because from all appearances that we can see, that is true. So we drive along our country roads with green trees growing on either side and love to think those trees (there they are!) along the road symbolize God and Country and that all is right in America.

But too many people never take the time to consider the deadly illusion created by that thin band of trees, which were specifically left there to deceive the public, while behind that faux forest, grand schemes of extortion and extraction are being executed. The Great Recession of 2008 was an opportunity to witness the clearcutting taking place behind the barrier of social and economic trees, as Wall Street, mortgage schemes, derivatives and deregulation each got busy chopping down a sector of our economy. We almost got clearcut right down to a Depression.

Real Americans paid for the costs of that clearcutting. But here’s the sick part. We not only paid to have our woods chopped down, but let the people who chopped them down sell off the wood for profit, keep that money for themselves and award themselves bonuses for doing such a good job of clearcutting the economy. No one went to jail for this wave of criminality. Instead Americans were told we’d have to consider austerity as a means to regrow the forest of our economy. Go out there and plant a tree, we were told. And good luck. Hope it grows.

Maybe it’s fans of reality TV shows like American Loggers, that buy the myth that cutting down trees, both literal and metaphorical, is the path America needs to take to prosper and regain its moral high ground. So along comes a fellow with a square jaw and an outdoorsy look who says seemingly nice yet vacuous things about trees being the right height in Michigan. And people somehow buy his message. Yet he’s spouting the same clearcut ideology that wiped out the American economic forest the first time. He and his woodchopper friends are telling us again that chopping down the trees is necessary to save the forest.

Never mind that the vision of that promise remains obscured to this moment. The trees along the road are still very much standing. We can’t see or hear any details about what that clearcut ideology really means when it comes to cutting budgets, cutting debt, cutting programs, cutting off social programs, cutting and cutting and cutting until there’s nothing left to cut.

That’s a very clearcut way of doing things, to be sure. But what will we have left? Surely not the America we love, or will recognize. At least not behind the trees along the roadside of life.

On why conservatives like Michael Medved like to call liberals “unhappy”

Does this man look happy, or just dumb?

For those of you unfamiliar with that grandiose milquetoast of conservative talk radio, Michael Medved is the part-time movie reviewer and full time political critic (or is it the other way around?) who talks his way daily through a confused ideology that says America is great while criticizing nearly everything about it.

Medved consistently espouses the tortured philosophy that religious interests in America, particularly those of the Christian faith, are under regular persecution. He also consistently contends that no policy with liberal roots is sufficient to serve the interests of America, even when those policies have been proven to have delivered the greatest periods of prosperity in America.

Simply put, Medved thinks conservatives are smart and politically keen while he thinks liberals are stupid and self-delusional.

To emphasize these points, Mr. Medved recently also stated that conservative people are consistently and legitimately more happy people than liberals, whom he branded as hateful and unhappy due to their constant dissatisfaction with the state of political, social and cultural “norms” in America.

Legitimate reasons to be unhappy

Poor Michael never seems to grasp the fact that advocating and agitating for social justice requires a bit of dissatisfaction on the part of people who stand up for the rights of others. Perhaps the reason for this major gap in his understanding is that Michael Medved himself appears never to allow a single liberal who calls into his show the opportunity to finish a sentence. He always interrupts them when he thinks it convenient (or vital) to protecting his own fragile worldview, which is pretty much based on one thought: that you, being a liberal, are always wrong.

Or, when he does (rarely) allow someone to talk, it is only in the interest of gathering what he thinks is fodder for ensuingly intricate explanations of what he thinks they meant, but in a very critical context, so that he can turn around and advocate a position that turns out to be a strange caricature of the caller’s actual intent. Then he tears that straw dog apart after bumping them off the phone. This is what Medved considers fair journalism in America, but it is much more like listening to reruns of the Don Quixote Hour.

Poor baby. Michael hates unhappiness.

Recently Medved grew so frustrated at his own ability to make a point that might actually stick in the minds of Americans he resorted to preaching a broader concept to make his point about conservative superiority. To do so, he simply blamed liberals for being the unhappiest of Americans.

That really is ironic, if you think about it. Because that form of unhappiness is often the sign of real patriotism in defense of the Constitution and human rights. Meanwhile blind allegiance to discriminatory social norms has been responsible for support of slavery, preventing the right of women to vote and fostered ongoing prejudice throughout society.Those are the definitely issues to be angry or unhappy about, and liberals still fight for all those causes, along with gay and immigrant rights, equal pay for women and balanced foreign policy instead of American imperialism.

By contrast you find an angry bunch of people in the Tea Party who are primarily unhappy over political issues that affect their own interests, which are pretty selfish in many cases while also siding with the Bomb the Muslim Bastards side of international policy. That’s how we wound up with two unbudgeted wars that bankrupted the country.

If Republicans really are “happier” people, as Medved contends–and liberals truly are the so-called “unhappy” segment of society, then perhaps it’s time to consider some lyrics from a Kurt Cobain song that seem to apply to why conservatives tend to be so happy even when things have gotten desperate beyond belief at times:

“Maybe I’m dumb…maybe just happy…”

Because while the GOP and Tea Party continually express anger and outrage over the policies of Barack Obama, liberals have busied themselves trying to make sure America provides a fair playing field for all citizens in aspects of taxation, health care, education, care for the poor and elderly. Those are indeed happy objectives, but they seem to do nothing but piss conservatives off.

Truth be told, it seems that conservatives really represent a dumb and unhappy agenda for America. Because right now America has a middle class that has been gutted by the effects of years of Republican policies in which the so-called “jobs creators” and richest Americans have been swimming in tax breaks for 12 years while the middle class waits for some of that accumulated wealth to trickle down in the form of better jobs and wages. It hasn’t happened, and rational people have come to the conclusion that it never will. The rich are simply too interested in holding onto their own money to care if the rest of America is thriving. Never mind that Americans can no longer sustain their own economy because no one has disposable income. The conservative mantra of “I’ve got mine” is supposed to represent the “bootstrap” glory of free enterprise. In fact it more often represents collusion by Wall Street bankers, predatory lenders and Ponzi flippers like Mitt Romney who exploit laws and loopholes to suck wealth out of the nation and hide it overseas.

Blaming Obama = Ignoring their own failures, and trying to elect new ones

But Michael Medved and his ilk like to keep blaming liberals for the sorry state of the economy. They especially like to blame President Barack Obama, whose name Medved can hardly breathe without spitting it out like an invective. But one wonders why, if Obama is so bad, the best that Republicans could contrive is the ambitious yetnvacuous persona of Mitt Romney, who can’t say two words without contradicting himself? The answer is simple: Obama really has done a good job, and Republicans have absolutely no one who could do better.

Think about it: Does anyone seriously think Romney is a wiser, more thoughtful and controlled person than Barack Obama? Whenever Romney is pressed with a hard question, he hides behind statements like these, “I always consult my wife Anne on the tough issues.” But who’s running for President, Mitt? And the first opportunity Romney had to travel overseas he could think of nothing better to do than insult the London Olympics organizers. Nice diplomacy, Mitt. And we’re supposed to trust you on wars, terrorism and economics? We think not.

Sure, Romney seems happy enough. He’s rich as hell. But the fact is he got there by raping companies of their wealth and dumping jobs like coal slag on a West Virginia mountain. Still, conservative talkers have to support Romney for the sole reason that he’s the opposite of Obama. That’s all they’ve got. But it’s like hauling a birch tree into the house on Christmas Eve and saying, “Well, at least it’s white!” Of course a birch tree will appeal to the Republican base, it seems.

Mitt Romney symbolizes modern conservatism exactly, because even he doesn’t really believe in it. That’s why his campaign made the famous “Etch-a-Sketch” statement. No one really believes in conservatism in its modern form because there’s nothing left of the core traditions that once drove the party. It’s all been replaced by extreme policies that have failed over and over again. The conservative “movement” has been in turn propped up by alliances with anachronistic forms of religious belief that no sane moral person supports if they are familiar with even basic modern biblical scholarship. The extreme crap filtering out about rape and contraceptives through the seams of the Republican Party is what really drives the platform, but they can’t admit it or they’ll never get elected.

It almost doesn’t matter any more what really gets said, because the entire package is propagandized as a brand of political fervor, more media-driven (Fox News) than politically substantive. We really need to look at so-called modern conservatism as a form of pathological disease that eats away at society like a flesh-eating bacteria. But there may be no cure.

Because despite its flagrant flaws, Medved and the like will play along using word games to make conservatism at least look pretty on the face of things, so that it sounds like the trailer to a really good movie––another Medved specialty––but don’t trust him in that category either. He’ll go on giving liberals “unhappy people” reviews because it assuages his guilt over having to represent the interests of a party whose script really sucks. There’s not even rational dialogue there any more, like it was typed by a million monkeys hitting random keys. The GOP is officially D-Listed with smarmy characters like Reince Priebus playing lead roles. It’s B-Movie stuff that all started with the King bad actor Ronald Reagan and has forwarded some really awful actors ever since, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, neither of whom even qualified for the Nickelodean Slime Award in popularity.

Sticks and stones

Go ahead and call the liberals “unhappy,” Michael Medved. Because the more you do, the more you’ll illustrate why we actually should be unhappy with what the unholy trio of the Republican Party, the conservative religious right in America and the military/industrial complex all represent: the seemingly happy but really dumb side of America that will vote for anyone who says they’re on your side even when talking out both sides of their mouth.

Just watch Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They are happy but dumb people who want you to be happy and dumb right along with them. But do not complain if they are elected an things really go to shit like they did in 2008. That’s when the other happy but dumb president George W. Bush flailed around trying to save America from a Depression. Meanwhile, millions of Republicans scrambled like rats trying to figure out how they were going to blame the incoming President for the mess they’d created. You’ve been warned. The unhappy liberals have America’s best interests in mind. The supposedly happy Republicans have their own interests in mind.

“Maybe I’m dumb…maybe just happy…”

How it all washes out

Men like Michael Medved have it all wrong, you see. They think we liberals are dumb. But really, we’re legitimately unhappy. And we won’t be happy until all the dumb Republicans with their phony smiling faces and vapid promise of trickle-down wealth are either removed or prevented from holding power.

Then we liberals will all be happier people, and all the smarter for it.

Do clowns creep you out? Political clowns might be the most dangerous of all

“Clowns freak me out,” a co-worker said as we wandered the floor of a sports carnival at a major exposition center. “I mean, really freak me out. Like, it’s a phobia of mine,” she said, pondering several clowns entertaining small crowds around the hall.

The woman is not alone in her fears, and the segment of society that is afraid of clowns seems to have grown considerably the last 40 years or so, sparked by real life psychopaths including John Wayne Gacy, who dressed in clown suits. His perverse legacy has been carried forward by shock performers such as Insane Clown Posse that have built their careers around killer clown psychology.

No more clowning around

For better or worse, the formerly innocent, charming, child-friendly image of clowns has been forever changed. Now the collective public impulse seems to be that of suspicion and fear toward the whole clown tradition. Perhaps the world finally woke up to what it really might mean to hide behind the visage of a clown, as one too many crazy characters emerged (example: Heath Ledger in the Batman movie The Dark Knight) to safely give clowns a free pass to our post-modern psyches.

Which helps explain why my co-worker was totally freaked when a very large clown––weighing 400 lbs. if he weighed an ounce, wandered up behind us as we stood watching a Jesse White Tumblers performance at the sports carnival. The giant clown was breathing so heavily he made a sound like an industrial bellows, and his makeup was badly smeared by the sweat streaming down his face. I glanced at my co-worker to see if she had already noticed this horrific clown standing behind us, but she seemed blissfully unaware. For the moment.

Not wanting my co-worker to suffer emotional trauma, I turned to her and whispered, “Don’t turn around, but there’s a really giant clown behind us. Let’s walk away.” Of course the first thing she did was turn around, and the look of horror on her face could neither be faked or disguised.It all seemed like business as usual to the giant, heavy-breathing clown, staring straight at us with greasy eyes until he finally gave my co-worker a weird smile. That’s when she bolted.

It took more than half an hour of walking around outside the exposition center to calm her down. Even then I could not offer a satisfactory explanation of how or why the heavy-breathing clown showed up behind us. “These things just happen,” I told her. But I knew it wasn’t true. There are forces in the universe that are inevitable and unswerving, like the cat that climbs into the lap of the one person in the room who truly hates cats. The forces of chance––or calculated––evil seem drawn to fear like an open door. Then fear overwhelms the senses like a giant, heavy-breathing clown who is all appetite and no joke.

Clowns and the human condition

Yes, clowning was once considered an art form. Good clowns and perhaps a few mimes have always transcended the human condition to bring us laughs. But bad clowns play on this presumed innocence and leverage the goodwill of well-intentioned clowns, methodically twisting it to their own vicious aims and needs of sociopaths eager to exploit our trusting natures.

That brings us to our current political climate, where certain bands of politicians and their cronies have been going about behaving like happy clowns in hopes we’ll all laugh along as they rape the nation of its wealth. These clowns excel at mouthing timeworn party lines and cracking wise about abortion and family values and banning gay rights as they tear away the progressive virtues of a free and liberal society, or what it should be. That’s what evil clowns do. They take advantage of others while laughingly creating one sick little sideshow after another to distract us from the real evil of their motives.

This giant creepy clown (both a misanthrope and a misogynist) stands innocently behind the lies of politicians pretending to speak for all Americans. In reality he favors only the interests of a few greedy ringmasters and for-hire carnival barkers like Donald Trump. If we let them have their way, the America that was once a land of opportunity will be laid waste beneath the falling tent of middle class hopes and dreams.

The giant, heavy-breathing clown wants what he wants, and that is everything. Yet a big chunk of America sits dumbstruck inside the cable-driven media tent that is the Fox News Circus, laughing at the Rush Limbaugh Show (Dittos! What a clown!) and wandering naively around the Mitt Romney Hall of Mirrors. Why can’t half of America see that these clowns has been leading the nation to a place that is neither good or wholesome, to a place where real freedom is murdered and consumed, not won and shared? The answer is plain and simple: political narcissists love to see their own shallow ideology reflected back at them by the seemingly happy faces of political clowns predicting happy times.

PAC of elephants

Meanwhile, across America, the PAC elephants have secretly been loosed from their cages to wreak havoc in the countryside, razing little towns by tearing down households and pulling up the trees for a bonfire of political vanities the likes of which we have never seen. And still the rapt audience will laugh and cheer. Look at the pretty flames! The light of liberty!

Backstage, the giant, heavy-breathing clown of neo-conservatism is having a perverse little Tea Party with the ringmasters who conceived it all. These are the same ringmasters who stole the presidential election in the year 2000 (Y2K indeed) through use of a conservative Supreme Court whose partisan clowns later ruled that corporations were the same as people. What a funny joke! Let’s all laugh along!

Once in office, the Bush clown posse and its snarling, fetishistic leader Dick Cheney (Power is All) ignored clear warnings of terrorism, thus allowing America to be attacked. Then they used a cloak of resultant fear (like magicians!) to steal off to Iraq and kill a dictator who had nothing to do with the reasons behind the 9/11 tragedy. We now know the Bush clown posse had literally no plan for the future and no budget set aside for its endeavors. They were all just clowning around, hoping for a good outcome.

Indeed, the Bushies proceeded to cut taxes for the rich while rolling out two new wars that had little ultimate purpose other than to express the might of American exceptionalism and maybe (if we’re lucky…) get our mitts on some oil and other resources. But we fumbled away billions of dollars in lost cash during these ventures, so it is no wonder George W. Bush ultimately quipped that “I no longer think about bin Laden” because he was too busy trying to figure out where all our money had gone. Poof! Into the hands of our frenemies.

Clowns at war

The clownish adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan cost thousands of young men and women their lives while crippling tens of thousands more. But the insane clowns in office seemed intent on obscuring the righteous efforts of these young soldiers when they returned home dead or wounded, even blocking publication of photographs of the caskets containing the fallen as they arrived by transport back home on American soil. What were the clowns trying to hide? Evidence of their cruel folly.

The Bush cabal also set in motion a frightening tour of torture abroad while simultaneously setting up an illegal prison camp back “home” (but not really…) at Gitmo. On the island of Cuba no less––the nearby soil of our supposedly sworn enemies!

It was all a sick little political show, “managed” by clowns who ultimately crashed the economy with their “let clowns be clowns” policies of cutting back fiscal regulation while “shrinking government” (what does that even mean?) as if doing nothing was the best thing our nation could think to do. Of course America paid dearly for this grotesque burlesque of slap-happy ideology, and yet here we are all over again, facing down a giant, heavy-breathing clown as America gears up for itsnational elections.

Tea Party Clowns

It is truly stunning that half of America sees fit to continue believing in the activities of these clowns who nearly killed the country the first time. The Tea Party (Mad Hatters?) in the House of Representatives nearly succeeded in forcing America into default on its debt, yet continue to lay claim a mantle of fiscal responsibility. That is nothing short of a perverse joke and a theater of the absurd. But it can get worse. We could go all Milton Friedman on ourselves and take free market economics literally, without reasonable controls or judicious governance. That is not to say that capitalism or corporations are bad. Far from the truth. But we should pay attention when things go badly, so that instead of repeating or expanding upon our recent mistakes, we should learn from them and take reasonable precautions to govern well, and protect the nation’s wealth. Of course that is difficult to do when men like Mitch McConnell make public oaths that their only concern as political servants in America is to frustrate and defeat the President, Barack Obama. How is that statement not treasonous?

The Tea Party’s efforts to undercut the nation’s fiscal commitments were also fairly treasonous. But those folks believe, like the sad old clown act of using a mop to wipe up the light on an otherwise darkened stage, that the act of looking sentimentally patriotic (oh, those poor old patriots, trying to clean up our economy) is far more important than turning up the lights so everyone can see what’s really going on with corporate welfare, gigantic farm and oil subsidies and unbudgeted wars draining society of its wealth and balance. Instead they blame old people for being old and needing health care, and the poor for not having enough money to feed themselves. The new Orwellian double-speak is to blame the blameless and laugh at those who don’t get what’s funny about it.

Neo-conservative clowns

If the heavy-breathing clown that is the modern day clownglomerate of neo-conservatism is allowed to have its way in the upcoming elections, America will get a real taste repeat austerity craziness on steroids, ushering in the next Clown Kingdom like a new wave of the Roman Empire, only without the parades. Too expensive, you know.

If that happens, those will no longer be clown tears streaming down the face of the heavy-breathing giant, but droplets of sweaty avarice. Because the giant, heavy-breathing clown even wants to ingest your home and family––to keep them safe from the evils of the world, he promises, like a crocodile holding its young between its jagged teeth. But like Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers movies, the giant, heavy-breathing clown is no friend to anyone, and he has his prejudices, so don’t expect to save space for any so-called protection of rights for our gay populace, the black or Latino or female members of society, and especially the Muslims.

Clowns of devastation

The giant, heavy-breathing clown is the manifest expression of every nasty instinct America needs to avoid. Discrimination and divisiveness. Denial of responsibility. Devastation of hope. Dangerous fever for war and imperialism. But he demands that you bow down and pray to him, indirectly of course, lest he upset the Christian conservative base. But you will be praying to him one way or the other.

We can hardly tell the folds of flesh on the giant, heavy-breathing clown from the colorful costume he wears, all wrapped up in red, white and blue as he likes to dress. But mostly, he sees red, in the most evil sense of color-blindness. Because that is not only the political shade of his favorite states in America, but also the hue of the blood that will fly in our gladiatorial political arena if the heavy-breathing clown is (or is not) permitted to have his way in America. He’s a jealous type, you know, and not very patient or kind. It almost seems like he can’t wait for the show to begin, does it not?

There are some who claim that the giant, heavy-breathing clown has taken over both political parties, Democrat and Republican. Of course the Democrats behave like Jokers sometimes, and even clowns in their worst moments. But the fact that the nation has generally and legitimately enjoyed its greatest periods of prosperity and recovery under Democratic leadership––including the present time–– while also delivering greater civil rights for every segment of society, deems them far less the evil clown than their counterparts. Truly, we must be on our guard from heavy-breathing clowns on all fronts. But for right now the top priority is to stave off the vicious clown now slobbering on our collective blue and white collars in America.

Scary clown music

Listen. You can hear the the calliope music of the political ads now washing over the countryside as the giant, heavy-breathing clown approaches. Now he’s reached your back door, and whispering through the screen door at night. It sounds like white noise from the TV: “Vote for me and I’ll make it alllllll better. We’ll get government out of your life and you can trust Captains Grover and Karl and the King Koch Brothers to tell us what to do. When it’s all over, we’ll all have a big laugh together, we promise you that.  So let’s all be clowns together, and we’ll grant you a trickle-down share of our sweaty wealth.”

That’s the world they want to create, where we all dress in stars and stripes and run around blessing our good fortune (whether we have it or not) while the political leaders who lay claim to the special providence of God ignore the fact that history proves only fools and clowns can be that arrogant.

So let’s take them for what they are, and leave them in the wake of their own clownish desires. Or else prepare to share your bed, your bank account and even your holy brethren with a giant, heavy-breathing clown. Then you’d better make way for your new, very best friend. He’s breathing down your neck.