My goodness. We live in some very weird times.

via Pandagon.

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Like Amanda, I wonder what kind of cred I need amongst the geniuses who decide who I am to qualify as a “real American.”

I spent all my formative years (3-19) in rural IL. We didn’t lock houses, my Mom left the keys to the car in the ignition, we had a dead camper in the gravel driveway, shoes and shirts were basically an outcome of sports, school, or cold weather, we were surrounded by miles of corn and soybeans, above-ground pools, all-white, 4 Churches at least in a metropolis of <2000, playing whatever games or sports were in season or we could invent, first SO an actual farmer's daughter, having a hundred parents, walking or bicycling everywhere, several miles on foot from time to time, local carnival the Big Event, people taking care of people in general, a truly Republican wet dream and voting bloc.

It's pretty hard not to get offended by weirdo douchebags like Ivy-League Boy Ross Douthat trying to tell me who a real American is.

Unless Ross wants to claim that real Americans are morons.

I swear to FSM that the only problems I had with Palin are that she’s the perfect realization of every woman of whom Ross never thought was worthy in H.S., pretty and getting everything from that and her ability to leverage it, ultimately 100% unconcerned about how you faired w/r/t how she treated you, a goddamn beauty queen-cum-5-college-“journalism” major for FSM’s sake, a classic mean-girl bitch, stupid and uninterested to boot. There are 20 women within one degree of me personally that I would rather have POTUS.

Sarah, in short, is not someone you want to drive the bus, as it were.

I just don’t understand why that makes me less of a real American. And nothing quite gets me as prickly than being called, directly or not, “elite” or even implied unpatriotic. My knee-jerk reaction is a very emphatic “Fuck you.”

Ross has a NY Times column, and that is why I’m 75% cash.

(Well, to be fair to Ross, the idea that Bill Kristol has a job or 5 is also pretty good reason to believe the Apocalypse is upon us.)

Sheesh, boy, wow!

Though the smart money was on something along these lines from the beginning. Too weird not to have an “affair of the heart” in mind. Not even a low life corporate hack like me disappears from the job without telling anyone where I am. And I’m not, to say the least, running a state.

I feel sorry for him. Love happens. Monogamy was invented when “’til death do you part” was a blissfully short 20-30 years if you were lucky, and death freed you.

He also showed me a lot of personal guts in terms of the levels of confession he reached.

All that being said, the GOP REALLY needs to take a good long hard look at some of their “family values” planks. There are votes out there in them thar hills, for a political party who pledges to leave us all the fuck alone in our personal lives if we’re not doing harm to the public at large. The Dems could use a bit more of this attitude, too.

Sad. I’m entirely capable of holding the simultaneous thoughts in my mind that I can disagree with someone politically, in this case virtually across the board, while respecting them and liking them personally.

I think I might like The Gov. of the great state of SC based on his presser. I sure do have a lot of respect for his wife, who blessedly wasn’t standing by his side while he spilled his guts, even though she’s willing to forgive.

I hope they can work it out. Based on the e-mails, I know it will be difficult. But I also know from my own life-experience that it can be done.

Update: I don’t give a shit who anyone loves, fucks, or marries, including gay people, polygamists, you name it. (I suppose I draw the line at human-animal marriages, but just barely. What do I care? I like animals. Unless the person is married to a damn insect, I’d probably enjoy having them to dinner, all other things being equal.)

Mostly I think government should be out of the marriage and sex/body business.* Period, full stop, end of story. My eyeballs tell me people are almost snowflake-like in their individuality on the matters. This is one of few absolute realities of life: You can’t legislate nor politicize at this level of human complexity and be a sane society. Gotta let people figure it out for themselves this far down in the weeds. The dude (Sanford!) was pen pals with his lover for 8 years, and finally couldn’t help it. (I’m going to speculate here, since it would be irresponsible not to, but I’ll take 3-1 she’s MY idea of beautiful and quite smart.)

For some people, including Republicans, 8 days is enough, as is 8 minutes. Give the guy a break. The man was in love (still is, I’d bet), and unless and until you’ve been fully loaded–imagine getting hit in the carotid–with the drug in Cupid’s arrow (Little known: Yes, Cupid’s arrow has pharmaceuticals in it), you have no idea how absolutely weird, stupid, and irrational it can make a person (yes, that means you) behave.

Update 2: I just heard on the Maddow show that one of things Sanford most enjoyed was having a beer without cameras around, people looking over his shoulder, recording every word, or something along those lines. This came from a SC local reporter.

I like him even more.

*Update 3: I call it, “freedom for all.”

Update 4: It’s a fascinating story. The Rude Pundit checks in with a viable but slightly less charitable take than mine, and Amanda points out some of the weird cultural stuff surrounding the whole ordeal, with typical insight and wisdom.

It seems most people would wonder about this from time to time, regardless of marital status.

I know I’m against “settling” for a spouse/SO, but the definition changes over time. For many years, I would “settle” for no less than Cupid’s-arrow-full-blown intoxicating romantic love, since I’d had a taste.

Then I got older and wiser, saw that form enduring was a very rare thing, indeed, and now I suppose I would settle for a nice woman who didn’t much care what I did, thought, or said, loved me anyway (and I her), and had lots of cash. I mean, who doesn’t settle? ONE person is going to do it for you, forever? I don’t think so.

So things change over time. But being alone, at least in my context of having lots of folks to love, is not the worst thing in the world.

Update: What do you know. Amanda, tackling the same subject, with far more eloquence and smarts than I ever could. She even references one of my Personal Gospels, Against Love, by Laura Kipnis, a classic in the brilliant polemicist’s art. Funny, smart, and true.

The Boys, and I mean “boys,” (hey, I could’ve legitimately used, “old white boys”) are in serious danger of becoming irrelevant, and one way they could become a viable party again is to invite some girls into the Club. But that’s narrowcasting, and here I’ll try to broaden the appeal, AND get some wimmen-folk-vote.

Some background: I am no product of classic liberalism. Hell, I still consider Atlas Shrugged a helluva piece of work, as much as I’ve come to mock it for its lack of realism w/r/t the human condition and abjectly horrific level of teh funny, which to me is critical to the aforementioned human condition. I grew up in rural IL in the 60’s, and most everyone I knew was white, quietly Christian, and my best friend’s family among many others were the products of “white flight” from Chicago. Overtly racist. (My folks, FSM bless them, didn’t cotton to that crap.)

I have worked in Corporate America for 25 years on Thursday. Not exactly a bastion of liberal thought.

Mostly what I do is engage. I loves me some debate, and I’m not afraid to tell The Man they’re all wrong.

So, anyway:

Taxes: Everyone, and I mean everyone, both sides of the ideological aisle, cannot stand and deeply mistrusts our existing tax code. Let’s be real: Our tax code is a monument to special interests, indecipherable by even tax “experts,” in short, a universally (in my experience) despised clusterfuck of institutional mistrust. (Which I stipulate is not good for either Dems or Republicans, the “institutional mistrust” idea.)

And when I say everyone, I mean everyone I, Regular Average Joe (you can call me John), engages on the subject. Several prominent Republicans, Dick Armey and Steve Forbes have taken the issue on–apologies for casting Steve Forbes as “prominent”–there have been others that it isn’t important to name. The point is they’re on the right track, but just can’t get past their apparently genetic inability to give a shit about middle class or especially poor people.

So, how about a starting point that goes something like this? (Insert some sensible Republican for the Clinton’s here, if you can find one; it’s sort of critical to the argument, and for the record, it’s an old pet-peeve of mine, so should probably be updated without Billary.)

The guiding principles that must be the foundation of a new tax system:

Everyone should be able to figure out everyone else’s taxes. In other words, someone like me, who hates the American tax code to the core of my being, should be able to calculate what Bill Gates owes/paid.
Any income category so defined by the Congress (I say only two are necessary: Earned and Unearned Income) has a 0% tax rate for those under $X dollars of said category.
The top rate gets first dibs on all future tax cuts.
A monument to Democratic machine political ineptitude is that they haven’t figured out that they can outflank the GOP on the right simply by performing one of those Capital-Steps PR events where, in this case, they just burn the Tax Code in effigy. They should, while they’re at it, invite every Republican they can talk into being there. They’ll get a few.

The U.S. Tax Code is a monument to every governmental principle our Founding Fathers tried to anticipate and circumvent; it is far longer than The Bible, and even harder to interpret precisely. This is patently ridiculous, since ultimately we are simply exchanging cash for services.

So, here’s where we start on the new tax code. Earned income is tax free for everyone up to $XX,000 (I say 36; $3K/month should provide for a decent set of choices on feeding, housing, and clothing your family). The 16 year old burger-flipper and Bill Gates both get this $36K ($XXK; the concept is far more important than the numbers, which should be debated vigorously).

The next flat rate starts above $XXK and goes to $XXX,000 (I say $200K to start) and is say, 20% or, XX%, and is again applicable to everyone who is working for money.

Above $XXX,000, the rate starts (year 1) at a percentage required to equal the prior year’s tax revenue figure. We could add higher rates, conceptually, using the same principles.

This would sell because, if you’re poor, what’s not to like, and if you’re rich, you control American politics anyway so you suddenly have lots of incentive to make some wise and responsible budget decisions. Even the Red State voters get this simple fact.

If you have to keep the Social Security tax, give up on the cap, for God’s sake. It’s the most regressive tax we have by a mile, since those with incomes unlikely to need SS are the ones who avoid lots of the taxes that fund it, year by year, as we go. Insane.

Unearned income works the same way. Allow Mr. 0% tax bracket to invest like Mr. Big does, and give him $X00 (say, $100/month) of his unearned income tax free. This benefits everyone, since now Mr. Poor has incentive to stimulate the economy by investing.

Again, trying to be simple and fair here, the next one up starts at X+1% (21% in this example–don’t we want more incentive to earn income than not earn income, collectively?) up to $XX,000. Above that, it gets taxed at a rate that combines with the top bracket of the earned incomer to be revenue neutral to the prior year, or whatever amount Congress and the POTUS can compromise on, budget wise.

It should work the same way for business. Define small, medium and large businesses by number of employees (my preference) or gross revenue—again, completely and sensibly debatable—and give them their first X% of earned income, tax free. Have two other brackets in which the tax remains flat in each earned and unearned income level, one for the medium sized company and the highest for the biggest companies, however (SIMPLY!) a big company is defined. Once again, if there is budget room down the road, the biggest companies get the first break on the tax rate.

No other deductions. It is the only fair way to do it. Every special and powerful interest group must hate it equally. This basis for debate is important.

The speech on Capitol Hill should be read, probably, by Bill Clinton, though he and Hillary are slaves to the Code anyway, so it would never happen, but if it did, it should start as the Code catches fire, and it should go like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow citizens, we are here today to mark a historic event in American politics.”

“Our current tax code, the one burning before you, is the Mount Rushmore of American special interest politics. You could spend you’re whole life trying to figure it out, and you would never finish your task.”

“There is not one person in this country that doesn’t on some level understand that this monstrosity is most beneficial to the most privileged in our society, since they are the only ones who can afford to pay someone else to take advantage of it.”

“Also, they are the ones who have written it.”

“The Democratic Party is going to fight for a tax code that is less than 20 pages long, that anyone with a high-school education can understand, provides confidence and hope for a better future to everyone, and that favors NO ONE.”

“We want to restore faith in our political system, and we believe this first step will go a long way towards doing so. There is no Enron, no World Com, no Arthur Anderson, no corporate scandal rooted in the complexity of the tax code if we join together to build one that is sane.”

I would let Bill take it from there.

It will never happen. It’s a big reason so few of us vote.”

There is no other national issue except the next one where The Man has exerted more control.

The War on Drugs:

This is the Holy Grail of irrational politics, where a “small” issue meets Teh Stoopid and loses the battle of reason. The very definition of bad government: Policy that wastes taxpayer money without improving the problem the money is alleged to mitigate.

More self-reference, since boy, what a drag to try to restate it:

There are too many small institutional absurdities to cover without being more boring than I already am, like the warning label we pay for on the fishing lure that says, “Harmful if swallowed,” [12] but a few of the bigger, laughably expensive ones deserve some analysis. My two favorites are the tax code and the War on Drugs, which President Bush re-declared in his lame 2004 State of Union speech.[13]

The laws of the land that say you can lose your life and possessions to marijuana while alcohol and tobacco remain legal are patently absurd. These laws effectively allow me to go home from work, chain smoke and get drunk every night,[14] while simultaneously having (in a perfect legal system—you know, our LAWS—what we use to officially determine right and wrong) at some point in time routed 80,000,000 Americans through the criminal justice system on MJ charges, at X (it’s a really big X) cost to the cherished taxpayer. Incredibly, only about a third of America sees this as absurd.

There are simply no rational grounds on which to defend this paradox. Was alcohol “moral” before Prohibition, “immoral” during, and “moral” again when the 18th was repealed by the 21st not 20 years later? What a marvelously flexible take on morality![15] What fantastic intellectual rigor! Meanwhile, an entire city of 500,000 to 1,000,000 political prisoners rots in jails, costs us many billions, and takes up space that should be used for those that do the rest of us harm.

Virtually every average Joe has seen or been someone too drunk to be in public. Joe knows alcohol is a drug, and Joe, or someone Joe likes pretty much and thinks is a good human being, enjoys it in excess (gets drunk) from time to time. In private, Joe feels exactly the same way about marijuana. Joe can’t really say this out loud, though.

“Drugs,” I’m shocked to need to report, have no inherent moral component, and which ones are “good” or “bad” is entirely a matter of culture, history date, and use habits, whether the substance is legal or not (See Rush Limbaugh). You can look it up. Start with early 20th Century America, to make it easy.

What percentages of Americans know how hard it is to get an Amendment passed and then repealed? Of those that DO understand how difficult this sea change is to legislate, can they imagine how big the mistake had to be to reverse it in a historical nanosecond? How many can connect the dots to the laws of today? As an old college professor of mine used to say, “the masses are asses.” (Big kudos here to the government propaganda machine: This is your brain if you think marijuana laws have any association with Reason, in an environment of legal alcohol and tobacco.)

After a generation and a half of this horrible corrosive and destructive thing called drug abuse, wouldn’t we as a nation have by now already broken down if all the claims about the danger to society were true? It isn’t like the War on Drugs has created much in the way of results over that period of time. Those youngsters always seem to be coming up with new ways to get high.

The definition of bad government is spending a fortune in tax dollars to make an existing problem worse (or at minimum no better) than it already is. How much money is the government’s credibility worth? Iraq, Schmiraq! 80,000,000 of us are ex- or current criminals according to the law. Now that’s protection from the tyranny of the drinking majority! Who, of course, get treated medically, instead of criminally.

Legalizing MJ or any other drug is not the point here. The point is that the War on Drugs is the best current illustration of how power and money work with absurdity and hypocrisy to create indifference, then scorn, and sooner or later detachment. The best example we have to examine of how Power and Wealth flaunt Reason to steal more Power and Wealth. It’s what happens when “I know what’s best for you” marries Truth (sort of, in this case—we haven’t been able to vote for a lifelong drug free person for POTUS in quite some time), but keeps Hypocrisy as a mistress.

Joe knows society would probably be a little less dangerous if no one drank, too. Didn’t work then, not working now. Joe thinks politicians are idiots.

The 4th Amendment of our Constitution has been eviscerated by this war; the police can now set up random roadblocks to make your sober self late for dinner, and barge through your door if they have reason to suspect “drugs” are involved; the burden of proof is not even on the government when they take all your stuff via asset forfeiture. You must have purchased that car your kid’s friend left a seed in through “drugs.” Innocent people get killed mistakenly all the time. Abuse runs rampant, because most of us don’t use illegal drugs, so why stick your neck out for those that do? It’s a beautiful thing if you’re the one getting fed by the $40,000,000,000 annual budget we devote to our 35-year-old war against an almost universal element of minority human nature, against, literally, ourselves.

And our politicians cry in the background, “We have to be more responsible with the People’s money!” At the same time, neither party makes any noise about changing the War on Drugs in any serious way, unless it’s expanding it. That’s just good politics.”

Shorter last section: The GOP won’t BELIEVE how much support there is out there for leaving people the fuck alone in their personal lives, which the 4th Amendment (if only the GOP worshipped #4 like they do #2), in my “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution was crafted to codify. The locals will handle most all abuse of this freedom just fine, in broad terms. Abuse of the authority can be taken up in the courts. (Said courts, sadly, will generally rule in favor the The Man in its current incarnation.)

Abortion:

Ah, the great litmus test. The thing I’ve never been able to understand is why either GOP or Dem politicians have been generally unable to frame this debate in religious terms. (To Obama’s credit, he’s done better than most..see his Notre Dame speech.)

Here’s how you do it:

But I have an Invisible Sky Wizard of my own.

Mine is a big-picture deity. I think the evidence is extraordinarily clear that whichever God you happen to believe in, He/She/It does not sweat the details. Horrifying things happen to wonderful people all the time; this is as much a part of life as death itself. War kills thousands and tons of people who plain couldn’t care less about the politics that caused it. Young, kind, decent people get horrible diseases through no fault of their own. It is difficult to imagine my own personal Deity getting involved in the Micro.

But IF there is a Deity, and since He/She/It is omniscient and omnipotent this Deity certainly wants us to at least doubt His (for the sake of discussion, we’ll go with “His” though my She and It designations remain viable) presence, because He certainly has the power to put that doubt to rest, so, if real, He must care about the Macro. (What’s the point of having one if not?) So, consider my god a big-picture kind of deity. Presuming One exists, which to my mind, He/She/It had every intention of us questioning.

MY God is far more concerned about overpopulation than abortion. MY God is far more concerned about global warming than oil production. MY God cares about us as a species, not us as individuals. Again, the evidence on this is clear in my eyes.

Both overpopulation and massive climate change represent a far bigger threat to God’s children than abortion or even war, though the latter is surely a symptom of too many people on the planet, as is plague and earthquakes and horrible micro-things, from any religious or Mother Natural rational perspective.

What are “miscarriages?” God’s abortions? Doesn’t that suggest that God has a plan for all these lost souls? How do we know otherwise? Why would we even question it?

Death, it seems to me, is a critical part of “God’s” plan. I’m very pro-death. I don’t understand keeping death-row inmates alive who prefer death, I don’t understand the politics of keeping the terminally ill alive against their wishes. I don’t understand an anti-abortion stand for rape and incest victims.

My God separated the rest of His creatures from us by reason. He/She/It gave us noggins, a beautiful, wonderful, fabulous world with which to work, and expected us to use and handle that most precious gift, the gift of rationality. (Save for the gift of “time,” which is the most precious of God’s gifts of all.)

My God will understand my approach. And I won’t kill anyone for believing in their Invisible Sky Wizard of choice. My God will dig me for that.

Update: If I had to bet the farm, I say death equals “lights out,” and I would also bet that if I’m wrong, my deity will understand.”

In general, the GOP needs to figure out that actual born women, who have paid some degree of dues, enjoy more rights than blastocyst-Americans.

Ah, shit. This post is already my most epic ever, I think. I’ll be back when the Blackhawks game is over, or tomorrow or the next day to offer some more free advice to Republicans everywhere, because I’m a giver. And I’ve given them enough to chew on already.

Update: I am fully aware that most of the GOP leadership will need to die of natural causes for any of this to happen. Anathema, overall, to the old white Catholic and/or Evangelical GOP base. But they’re going to die sooner or later, like we all do.

Republicans rip Obama over insufficient budget cuts.

Well, of course they do! After all, they were so good at budget cuts themselves with 6 years of unfettered power and a limp, frightened opposition!

One can only presume they would’ve gotten around to budget cuts later on in their permanent Republican majority.

It’s like they’re working overtime in the Stupid Factory.

Update: The great Jesse Taylor (since I shook his hand once and told him how much I enjoyed his work, I’m positive he’d remember me, Great American that I am) offers yet another example of The Stupid. And hypocritical. Check the links and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

I hope Obama picks Scalia’s female intellectual and asshole liberal equivalent. A woman who can look him in the eye and tell him he’s a priggish, theocratic, autocratic, misogynist arrogant wanker in the guise of an objective jurist, and make him sweat over it because she’s so smart and tough. (Which is admittedly probably impossible, Scalia being such a prick that self-reflection is not even in his world-view paradigm. But still.)

Which runs a little counter to what I think Obama SHOULD do, since Scalia’s asshole equivalent is not something that would be helpful, IMHO.

But it would be fun. And I love me some balance.

Sadly, though Obama is way tougher than he comes across, he’s too fundamentally decent to do it.

That is all.

Update: I nominate Amanda Marcotte. Yes, I think she’s a little light on the traditional qualifications, but the joy of the idea overwhelms and inspires. (Obligatory Pandagonian disclaimer: This is a compliment to Amanda. “Asshole,” is not a necessarily pejorative term in my world, and certainly not in this case; I’ve called myself one forever, when circumstances dictate.)

I’m nominating her to the Supreme Court in Fantasy Politics, geniuses.