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Dr Strangelove: Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Rick Santorum

Yes, I know I taunted you all with "President Santorum's America" in "Accelerando". But that was then, and this is now. Back in 2005 (when I was assembling "Accelerando" from its constituent pieces — he didn't feature in the original version of "Troubadour", circa 2002) he seemed vaguely sinister. But his electoral defeat in 2006 gave us the most hysterically funny portrait of an American political family ever, sort of like the Addams Family Does DC ...

And since then he has become even funnier -- the most freakishly accurate self-parodist in American politics. I mean, seriously: he hates poor people, dog-whistles to racists, thinks the Pope is an environmentalist radical and liberal, he wants to ban abortion and contraception, pornography, and, probably, masturbation, and then he tips us a sly wink, like this:

Yes, that's on his campaign website right now. (If you don't get the joke, go to his campaign site for the full-width banner and look for the other acronym. Yes, there are two of them: I'm pretty sure his team have been infiltrated ...)

And then there are his campaign videos. He's clearly been hiring scriptwriters who have feel a close affinity for dystopian science fiction novels:

Charlie-Bob says, watch for the gas price, roughly halfway through the montage in the middle. Gas gets more and more expensive until it costs $9 per gallon! (Planet Earth calling Rick's scriptwriter: some of us would kill to fill up for only $9/US gallon. It hasn't been that cheap for years: civilization has, however, not collapsed. Unless you count David Cameron and the Bullingdon Club. Hmm. On second thoughts, I retract that assertion.)

Admittedly, there's room for improvement in some areas. Santorum's team has yet to release a video as flabbergastingly insane as Carly Fiorina's "Demon Sheep" campaign ad from 2010:

... But you know it's only a matter of time before Rick appears on stage to announce that, as President, he will declare an official War on Masturbation while renaming the United States of America as the Republic of Gilead.

From his utterly punchable face — given the right punch-bag I could punch that grinning mug all day, or at least until my arm got sore: it's even more dislikable than David Cameron — through to the botox-paralysed expression of his loyal wife (clearly disapproving of his failure in that 2006 shot, but putting up with him because of her chance at the First Lady slot), to the careful strategic deployment of weeping children, Santorum's carefully constructed image is the ultimate Frankensteinian fusion of US political imagery in service of ... well, it's not politics, that's for starters.

No, his isn't politics. Rather, it's some kind of weird Hunter-Thompson-esque situationist art-terror parody thing. We're going to get to the Republican party convention and he's going to rip off the rubber face mask and reveal himself to be Sacha Baron Cohen screaming, "fooled you all!" Or maybe not. Given the history of past Republican political contenders, he's more likely to deliver the punch line with the assistance of a male prostitute and a couple of lines of coke in an airport toilet cubicle while on the campaign trail.

Amirite?

191 Comments

1:

From this distance, Cameron seems a bit like Romney. Bland, pleasant, competent -- and all the more effective at doing harm because of his flavorless personality.

2:

Thanks to sex columnist Dan Savage his last name is the punchline to a million dirty jokes. Take my word for it or just Google. But not while you're eating.

3:

Nicely put, but it'll still be your fault if he gets elected. You're the one who put it out there.

4:

The only explanation for this guy that makes sense to me:
"Mr. Santorum, it's time for your treatment."
.
.
.
"Did I fall asleep?"
"For a little while..."

5:

Poor GOP. Stuck in a local optima with a fitness function that only gives points for how unabashedly they promote the dreamland that never was.

Though it works worryingly well enough so perhaps the function isn't all that astray. idk.

6:

Charlie,
At least he looks good. "Rock the Vest" -- Johnny Depp move over. I mean, he must have something, to get all those children. Admit it: You dig the guy.

7:

>to rip off the rubber face mask and reveal himself to be Sacha Baron Cohen screaming, "fooled you all!"

Now now, Baron Cohen would never break character like that.

8:

Hmm, wasn't 2012 when President Nanthiel Strudder (? spell.), the First Prophet, was elected, according to Heinleim.

9:

Or while you are thinking about eating.

10:

Amirite
I so wish you were. But his batshit insanity is pushing the US body politic's so far over to the oligarchical religious right, that for the rest of the the GOP, merely being being anti-choice is now far too mild a position. It's quite an achievement to make Romney look like a moderate by comparison. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd credit his continued presence in the race, a way of normalising everyone else's abnormalities to a a nefarious plot involving Karl Rove and a crossroads at midnight. (Mind you, Satan's been a bit busy in recent years what with the competition from Dick Cheney - just what did they find in his chest cavity anyway?)
Nothing in HST's wildest, most insane, acid-fuelled nightmares even comes close to the very real horror that he represents to, well, just about everyone else on the planet. We can all laugh as much as we like, but he's doing long term lasting damage at a time when the rest of the planet can least afford it.

11:

Look, there are actually Democrats who are "strategically" voting in open primaries...for Santorum! Really -- I know some -- my brother in law did, in Michigan.

Why?

Because if he is the Republican candidate, they figure that there is no way in God's Green Hell that he can win the general election.

Are the Republicans actually doing some bizarre sort of improvisational street theater on the national stage -- what with the contraception war and the unelectable candidates and all -- by reenacting the last scene of Thelma and Louise on the national electoral stage in November?

Crash and burn, anyone?

12:

Nehemiah Scudder. And yes.

13:

Plenty of Detroit area Dems turned out to vote against Romney in the GOP primary. We were giving him a hard time for his 'Let Detroit go bankrupt' comments. And the longer the GOP primaries remain a real contest, the better for the Dems.

14:

he must have something, to get all those children

Au contraire: it's not what he's got, it's what he doesn't have! Namely, a good supply of condoms. (We now return you to your regular tasteless programming.)

15:

Cocaine? Please - I'm hoping for a two-wetsuit.

16:

Oh boy. I should have realized I am not the only one who did that.

Actually I am registered Republican -- even though Republican lost all appeal to me several years ago. I voted for Santorum in the primary precisely because I want him to win nomination and lose election.

17:

Poor GOP? Why would they want to win, given that they currently hold the WH? Gates stayed on till the middle of last year, we've got Petraus heading the CIA, Bernanke stayed in office... the only guy in an important cabinet post that is even associated with the Democratic party is Leon Panetta (who's political pedigree is actually Rockefeller Republican).

The Republicans are running these clowns because the real Republican powerbrokers, the Bushies et al, have little interest in winning. Romney's just a place holder to keep the riff-raff from having a soap-box.

Really -- do people still believe these shadow plays? Do people also believe in the Chinese Communist party elections?

18:

"some of us would kill to fill up for only $9/US gallon"

You don't have to kill. You just have to immigrate to this lovely former colony. Gas prices are in the vicinity of $4/gal now. (That's UKP 0.66/liter by my calculations.) While you're here, you can experience the pomp and pageantry of our elections first hand.

Really, would you rather live with the guilt, shame and fear of murder on your hands? It's not _that_ bad here. (-:

19:

You don't have to kill. You just have to immigrate to this lovely former colony.

Ahem: what I'd gain on the gas prices I'd lose on the universal healthcare coverage -- or lack thereof. (NB: In Scotland, the NHS is a fully devolved issue, so the insanity down south doesn't impact us. (Yet.))

20:

After the last election there was commentary that the lesson the Republicans learned in their loss to Obama is that they hadn't moved far enough to the right. What they learn from this election, regardless how it turns out, is going to be utterly, surrealistically epic.

21:

In light of recent political trends, should we really wish to live longer in the United States?

22:

Hunter S. Thompson - yes! Where is he when he is most needed? Oh, what I would give for his take on the campaign and the candidates...

On the other hand, Charlie's pronouncements are pretty good as well. If the next presidential election in the US is an escalation of the current one in terms of money spent, stupidity deployed and general fun/horror experienced (as has been the case in the last couple of cycles), maybe he could get a gig following the candidates around and writing up a book afterwards... I would certainly look forward to reading that (NB: That includes "paying to read", of course).

23:

Yeah, I'll take ~200 gallons of gas at $9/gallon as a fair exchange for not paying $5200 a year for anti-hypertensives.

24:

Are the Republicans actually further right than the Communists yet?

25:

If you contribute $100 to the campaign, you can get a free Santorum 2012 tank top. I'm *almost* tempted.

26:

Color me clueless, but I'm not seeing a 2nd acronym on Frothy's banner. There's "CUM" and then "NOW TILL SATURDAY [DONATE]"; neither "NTS" nor "NTSD" are ringing any bells for me...

27:

"Crash and burn, anyone?"

Jelly and ice cream when the GOP dies!


Jelly and ice cream when the GOP dies!

28:

Actually, the gas pump at around 0:27 doesn't say that gas costs $9/gal. It's showing the total purchase price of around $90.

I agree that our current $4/gal gas prices are very cheap compared to Europe. But they are nevertheless hurting a lot of American families. Many of our cities do not have good mass transit, and so driving to work is the only feasible option. If your budget is already strained, these higher gas prices are only going to cause more pain.

That said, it's absolutely ridiculous to blame the president for the high prices, or to promise that prices will be lower if you are elected. As oil grows more scarce in the 21st century, Americans are going to have to get used to higher gas prices, perhaps by requiring better fuel economy and investing in alternative energy research and mass transit infrastructure--policies that Democrats tend to support and Republicans tend to oppose.

Rejecting the idea of suspending his state's gas tax, one American politician wisely commented that "I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay." That was, of course, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2006. Unfortunately, he has since shaken the Etch-a-Sketch and is now attacking the president for the higher prices.

29:

That sounded funnier in my head than on the screen, honestly.

What makes the Santorum meatball even spicier is that back in the old country - Italy - the Italian branch of the Santorums are loyal Communists, the sort of people who exclusively wear red underwear:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/11/rick-santorum-s-italian-family-speaks-out.html

30:

You missed the typographical juxtaposition that gives us CONSERVATIVES UNITE NOW TIL SATURDAY (do the acronym)?

31:

"Christ, Bob Heller has a really punchable face."

You are Spider Jerusalem and I claim my five pounds. And my Jumpstart. WHERE ARE MY DRUGS FROM THE FUTURE?!?!?


Speaking of deranged videos, here is Herman Cain's latest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdpN5C1_flQ

Rumour has it the DSM-V will include partisan Republicanism under psychotic delusions.

32:

I confidently predicted in 2003 that Bush could not be re-elected if gas was over $2/gal on election day. Two buck gas was an important psychological barrier that didn't last long. I'm still something of an economic determinist w/r/t elections but I was wrong that time.

33:

Thank you, John. I keep having nightmares about that. And just without pulling Methuselah's Children off the shelf, I think it's Scudder.

Charlie, there is nothing nothing nothing good about Santorum. Funny? Well, from time to time. Mainly, he is frightening to any woman who is not on anti-depressants (and unfortunately, almost all GOP women are dropping them like it was the 60s and it is acid).

34:

You don't need HST. Just read "Transmetropolitan"

35:

When I was in college, we had friends who were so conservative they didn't vote for any candidates then available. We asked, Would you vote for Ronald Reagan? They said sure, they would. It seemed like a good joke at the time.

Santorum does a service by saying out loud things that many people believe but keep quiet. Like that women shouldn't use contraception, and that the earth is only 6,000 years old. We need to deal with this because you never know when it will come out.

The UK has their own issues. When Satanic Verses came out, there were British MPs who helped burn copies of it.

36:

HST is missed but weaponized hyperbole is still being employed in the political wars. Charles Pierce on the Esquire Magazine Politics blog excels. Cleansing torrents of outrage and consternation daily. I couldn't get through this without him.

37:

Maybe they should drop the GOP instead.

I recall reading something a few years back which argued that the current wave of religious right-wing politics in America is just the latest case of a recurring phenomenon in American (i.e. USAnian) history. In all preceding cases, this piece argued, the religious wave has receded once it had spent its energy bashing itself against the secular mainstream. For large parts of the fundamentalist tradition the state and politics are inherently sinful, and thus to be shunned (which is why the Jehovah's Witnesses don't vote, for example).

I'm not so sure that the current wave will retreat back to the dark corners from whence they came though. There are just too many people committed to the various institutions that the religious right has built over the past few decades, which means that the momentum may have become self-sustaining. Barring major changes in American capitalism, there'll also be a fraction of American capital that finds the religious right to be convenient political cannon fodder as well.

But that doesn't mean that they're going to erect the Republic of Gilead any time soon. I think the long-term outcome may be to make the Republicans unelectable, drive moderate conservatives into the Democratic party (if they want to have a career that doesn't involve public appearances at snake-handler churches) and possibly splitting the Dems into a centre-right and centre-left party. In my opinion, anyway.

38:

OK, preparing to be shamed: what other acronym on the site am I missing?

39:

The UK has their own issues. When Satanic Verses came out, there were British MPs who helped burn copies of it.

I'm pretty certain there weren't -- and I was living in Bradford at the time, where it most certainly was being burned. (Just not by MPs.)

40:

In US gallons, UK petrol (140p/litre) is currently about $8.50 (USD). In imperial gallons, 9 buck gas would be about 119p / litre. In other words, not only is beer better in the UK, it's one of the few things that is actually cheaper.

41:

You're right: Bush was not re-elected. Legally, that is. Serious questions exist about election fraud in Ohio in 2004, including voter deregistration, keeping voting machines away from Democratic districts, barring the press from polling places:

http://harpers.org/archive/2005/08/0080696


...and a man-in-the-middle attack on electronic results:

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Karl_Roves_IT_guru_Mike_Connell_1220.html
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Bob-Fitrakis-on-New-Eviden-by-Joan-Brunwasser-110728-924.html

42:

I'm pretty sure no MP participated in the burning, but I think Roy Hattersley was a bit unsound on the case (his constituency containing a lot of Muslim voters). There were also Tory voices that thought Rushdie had got what was coming to him - maybe they'd read the scene in the SV where waxwork of Maggie is ceremonially burned in a Brixton nightclub.

Also, I assume I have tripped some exotic anti-spam detection device? If so, cool, no worries. . .

43:

Your problem, Charlie, is that you do not suffer from amygdaloid neuronal hypertrophy. Otherwise, that grisly visage of Santorum's (looking a lot like there may be just a little bit of dried semen on it) would look not only normal, but admirably normal.

Republicans... Republicans just. do. not. get it.

But then, this is what happens when your main demographic is old and decrepit and doddering, collectively suffering from strokes that have them leaning heavily to the right... and addicted to being scared by a certain swillfeed news corporation whose TV personalities possess skill sets that seem to revolve around various forms of fancy fellating.

(Rumor has it the chimp handlers at the R convention have thrown in the towel, and are waiting for 2016. Rubio!)

44:

Forget "Nightmare Green". We have an imminent "Nightmare Santorum".

I would have seriously bet against women voting for this guy who is intent of rolling back women's rights to the C19th, but I am appalled to read that conservative women really like his message.

So far it looks like a Romney candidacy, and no Santorum as VP.

45:

I find Santorum's message as disturbing as the rest of you do. But I don't think that ridicule is the right way to fight it, for two reasons:

  • I've always found ridicule to be a fantastic response to hypocrisy. It's a great way to highlight the gap between what they say and what they do. But Santorum is the least hypocritical candidate I know. He actually believes all the crazy things he's saying. Which takes me to
  • Santorum represents a growing and scarily humorless part of the American population. Laughing at them does not encourage them to reexamine their positions; instead it convinces them that you are a worthless idiot. If we ever want to excise these crazy ideas from our body politic, we need to engage their proponents with enough respect to get their attention. I don't want to look back in 20 years and see that we giggled while Rome burned.
  • 46:

    Which one does Israel support?

    47:

    Gingrich. He is, I believe, funded by a US based Israeli millionaire (at least I think that's the relationship). Frankly, if you're reduced to having Newt Gingrich as your key man on the inside, you're doing it wrong.

    48:

    Just doing the gedankenexperiment and assuming we see the collapse of the US Republican Party in the next few years, what would that be of any use at all?

    This won't dethrone the plutocrats pulling the strings and why shouldn't they just radicalize the Democrats for their purposes or build up another random puppet party to fill the void?

    What I'm getting at is, are their ways to restore genuine democracy in America that don't involve full-fledged civil war and putting all Cheneys, Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelsons up against the wall?

    49:

    I just love whacky campaign ads. A guy named Bob Katter is gaining traction down in Oz (well, strictly speaking Up from where I live) and, aside from his Mega Awkward Combo of blatantly homophobic campaigns and outspoken gay relatives, is famous for a campaign ad that centered around pointedly rolling his sleeves up and pretending to lassoo some cows. Really, search Bob Katter Your Force From The North on youtube and lol your head off.

    50:

    "Santorum represents a growing and scarily humorless part of the American population. Laughing at them does not encourage them to reexamine their positions"

    I agree with David, humor doesn't work on them. I once got asked to debate evolution with a creationist in church. I said sure, so long as I could debate magic and alchemy at the same time. They said sure, that would be great. (I backed out.)

    Humor helps with the so-called "independents" who insist on giving "equal time." The famous "equal time" cartoon about ID was a big help. (Google "Let the kids decide.") This is what I satirized in Highest Frontier. Unfortunately the satire keeps coming true.

    51:

    Humor helps with the so-called "independents" who insist on giving "equal time."

    Yup, absolutely.

    Going by the fundies and ex-fundies I've met ... it's circular reasoning that keeps them enthralled. You don't break a chain of circular reasoning by continuing to follow it, but as one of their precepts is that the Devil is lurking in the undergrowth to snare them by casting doubt their way, they -- the individual fundies -- have to make their own choice to go off the rails and start thinking for themselves. You can't nudge them; if you try, you're just written off as either (a) an idiot or (b) a pawn of the Devil.

    On the other hand, exposing the absurdity inherent in their position to the peanut gallery makes peanut gallery denizens less liable to fall for it in future.

    52:

    Incidentally, did anyone catch the attempt at subliminal messaging in Santorum's Obamaville commercial? 40 seconds into the commercial, just when the words 'Sworn enemy of America' are spoken, Ahmadinejad's image is juxtaposed with Obama's for two frames.

    Another gift from the we're-oh-so-moral crowd.

    53:

    Hmph. You're probably right (even if you're spoiling the magic).

    54:

    I love this discussion. I haven't posted here before, Charlie, but I find your blog to be quite engaging.

    Your discussion of Santorum, in the context of the last two US election cycles, makes me think more and more of Bruce Sterling's "Distraction" (1998)-- his novel about ultra cynical political campaigning, filled with political meme hackers and image polishers and all the dog-whistle appeals so like those we are seeing now. We haven't seen the National Guard using APCs to shakedown motorists to buy some pastries (yet), but it feels like Sterling was writing future history without his tongue in his cheek.

    55:

    I still think that the glorious days when Canada's Official Opposition was the Conservative-Reform Alliance Party wins the "unfortunate acronym" prize. Canadian federal party hacks are supposed to be grownups, unlike the committees of Republican candidates for candidates for president.

    David: It seems to me that making fun of an idea is a good way to make people on the fence about it get off and back away.

    56:

    Joan S @ 35
    The UK has their own issues. When Satanic Verses came out, there were British MPs who helped burn copies of it.
    Really?
    Whom?
    And are any still in office?
    Authenticated source(s) please?

    Oh, & Charlie @ 39 ...
    thanks, I don't believe this either - I suspect urban legend, as I must admit I've never heard of this before ......

    John Kurman @ 43
    YES that's the problem, who will the candidates be in 2016 - be prepared to be very scared, right now.

    57:

    Also add that Santorum has tried to get creationism taught in school. I think his home-schooled kids will be in for some surprises when they get to college (assuming they get to go to a decent one--I've no idea how many of his 7 kids were home-schooled).

    Meanwhile I'm finally reading "The Handmaid's Tale", partly because of all the mentions lately. Saw the movie years ago, and have been meaning to read it, now seems a good time.

    58:

    You made me lol....

    59:

    My favorite political acronym is still Richard Nixon's Committee to Re Elect the President. You just can't beat the classics.

    60:

    @ 35: Whether or not this is true, I don't think events from the 80s count as "issues" in the present tense.

    61:

    Tell that to the Argentinian government. And David Cameron.

    62:

    A note on US politics: Nevada was the first state to outlaw gambling. Passed by the legislature in 1909; took effect in 1910.

    63:

    My sentiments exactly. I'm retired in the US of Crazy, and I'm in the middle of doing my taxes. Yesterday I finished adding up all my medical expenses for 2011, and discovered that I'd had to pay out from my retirement funds almost as much as I've budgeted for 2 people, 2 dogs, and a house in need of repairs to live on for a year. My current projection says I run out of retirement money at about the age of 84. My mother is 87, my grandmother lived to 94, and one of my aunts died a few months ago just a few weeks short of her 100th birthday, so I've got good odds of longevity unless I take up some particularly noxious vice. Something tells me I'm not going to like the "golden years" much.

    64:

    I can't help but think that all political parties are inherently insane (not necessarily the individual members, although that's also the case sometimes!), and are only kept sane (or apparently sane) by the balance of having to appear saner than the opposition. Remove one party in a two-party system from the equation and there are no brakes on the insanities of the party in power.

    I know I'm over simplifying here; but as nutty as any one given party or candidate is, I'm reluctant to crow over their imminent demise.

    65:

    Not a political acronym, but my all time favourite (courtesy of Red Dwarf): Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms, and their Rehabilitation Into Society.

    (Just the uppercase letters)

    66:

    Query: will the fundagelicals, neo-secessionists and Koch-types really be content with just throwing a media-centric hissy fit over a second term of Obama?

    67:

    Speaking as someone who, in teenage Bible study, got a fundamentalist to say I'd made him think, I personally advocate reading the Bible before talking to these people. It's always a mistake to assume that they speak the same English you do.

    In quoting the Bible, it's always useful to emphasize things like the Golden Rule, the concept of jubilee, and the Lord's Prayer (forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors--are you listening, Wall Street?). Then talk to the Xtians who like Santorum.

    68:

    I like Steve Bell's spoonerism: he's Sick Rantorum. Seems quite appropriate.

    69:

    Don't understand why Iran is the enemy - sounds a lot like future republican America.

    70:

    They are the enemy because we have always been at war with Oceania.

    71:

    Alex Tolley@44: I would have seriously bet against women voting for this guy who is intent of rolling back women's rights to the C19th, but I am appalled to read that conservative women really like his message.

    last night OH came across a piece about a woman state senator in Kansas who is on record as saying that the 19th Amendment (which granted women the right to vote in the U S and A) wasn't actually "evil", but really shouldn't have been necessary if only men did their job of protecting women properly so they didn't /have/ to vote. A Republican of course.

    To my mind, the US Republicans have painted themselves into the same sort of corner as the British Labour Party did back in the early 80s. it took Labour until 1997 to get back into power, and they couldn't even beat John Major on their first attempt...

    72:

    No, of course an Obama re-election will goad the wingnuts to turn the screws on Teh Crazy. Expect them to turn the knobs up to 12, at least. But how much effect that will have depends very much on a) how many seats in the House and the Senate the Republicans, and in particular the Teajadists retain, b) whether the GOP leadership, and by extension, the moneybags who own them re-establish control over the party.

    73:

    Actually, he has released a flabbergasting campaign video... get ready for shirtless dudes and squeeling guitars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnfURvvNSI8

    74:

    My son and I call him Chancelor Lubenfeces.

    75:

    I still think the worst thing that could happen to the fundamentalist wing of the GOP would be a Santorum nomination -- because he would be DESTROYED in the general, and nobody would listen to them for the next three elections.

    But it won't happen. He never had much of a shot in the first place, and he pretty well killed that with the "I don't care what the unemployment rate is going to be" chatter.

    If Romney becomes President, that'll also be a rebuke to the fundies, though not as sharp a one as if Santorum lost a landslide.

    If Romney wins the nomination and loses the general (which I think is the likeliest outcome, though a lot can happen between now and November), that's unfortunately the best-case outcome for the fundamentalists -- if a moderate Republican loses, the Republican Establishment's response is to say "He was too moderate; we need to move right." (Whereas if a moderate Democrat loses, the Democratic Establishment's response is to say "He wasn't moderate enough; we need to move right.") Still and all, I see some major damage coming to the wingers in the general no matter what happens; I've said before that I think making this election about birth control is their biggest misunderstanding of public opinion on a social issue since Terri Schiavo. Even Romney is getting raked over the coals about it, and he's the guy trying to change the subject and focus on the economy.

    76:

    And people give me looks when I comment that there is a large segment of the American populace that is only a hair to the left of the Taliban...

    77:

    The world has turned inside out and upside down ... [only the first few paragraphs excerpted]

    Russian president suggests Romney use reason, head

    By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press – 7 minutes ago

    MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday sharply suggested that Mitt Romney use his head and remember what year he's living in after the Republican presidential contender said Moscow was America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

    Romney described Russia in those terms while criticizing President Barack Obama for his caught-on-tape remarks to Medvedev that he would have more room to negotiate on missile defense if he is re-elected in November.

    During a briefing Tuesday in Seoul, where he and Obama were attending a nuclear security summit, the Russian leader said Romney's remarks "smacked of Hollywood" and sounded as if they came from the Cold War era.

    Medvedev advised the White House hopefuls, including Romney, to "rely on reason, use their heads," adding, "that's not harmful for a presidential candidate." He further said, "It's 2012, not the mid-1970s, and whatever party he belongs to, he must take the existing realities into account."

    NATO's U.S.-led missile defense plans have long been an irritant in relations with Moscow, which has rejected the U.S. assurances that the shield is needed to fend off an Iranian missile threat and voiced concern that it will eventually grow into a threat to Russia's nuclear deterrent.

    78:

    Rick Santorum is actually a sociology experiment. Support for Subject Santorum correlates positively with purchase of NASCAR memorabilia and meth-lab combustion related injury.

    We'll publish more results as we calculate them.

    79:

    Which British MPs were supposed to have burned Rushdie's book? As I remember, there was only a couple of public bookburnings in the UK and the burners were all Muslim.

    80:

    Remove one party from a two-party system, and the first thing you're likely to get is 1) severe factional disputes in the remaining major party and 2) minor parties getting more votes, and winning some offices.

    Next, another major party will evolve. I would expect a coalition of conservatives, left-liberals, libertarians, Marxists, transhumanists, and neo-Confederates.

    81:

    A terrifying thought, brought about by remembering Ohio 2004 and Florida 2000. You don't suppose the GOP doesn't care how unelectable their candidate is because it doesn't matter? Now that they've had practice and all...

    I need a nice cup of tea. Heck with that: I need a beer. I need a whole bunch of beers! ;)

    82:

    All of the campaigns are based upon years of research into the question of "what will people vote for". Of course, it's entirely possible for research to have a bias towards "unexpected" results, ie things people are willing to vote for that are not what you would expect sane, well balanced people to vote for.

    83:

    I listened to an audiobook entitled "American Theocracy" by Kevin Phillips, when all the uber right wing stuff was going on in 2007-08, before the sinking economy became the bigger story. His take was that these sort of fundamentalist impulses crop up from time to time, but are only usually successful in area where people emigrate and can be geographically isolated, like the original American colonies, Mormons in Utah etc. His analysis was that the current US population was too diverse to really adopt uber crazy-ness ala Heinlein's first prophet. I remember reading that story and being creeped out by it as a teenager.

    84:

    To my mind, the US Republicans have painted themselves into the same sort of corner as the British Labour Party did back in the early 80s. it took Labour until 1997 to get back into power, and they couldn't even beat John Major on their first attempt...

    The cynical would suggest that the Heirs of Thatcher put Major up as a fall guy; he loses, Labour gets in in 1992 and suffers the recession, Conservatives re-elected in 1997. And then Major wins (underrated bloke, IMHO)

    As it was, the Heirs of Thatcher decided (much like GOP) that they obviously weren't far enough to the right, and elected Michael Howard - with the Europhobic wing making Major's PMship somewhat awkward, before they split off to form UKIP. Once the looneys left, the Tories could get back to being wet and rendering themselves electable.

    I delight in pointing out to Americans that they're the one with a Constitution that separates Church and State, but who demand public displays of godliness of their politicians; while we're the Monarchy with an Established Church, who put Darwin on our banknotes and "don't do God".

    85:

    Could there be a simple misunderstanding/missreading of reference material here? ...

    From Wikipedia ...


    " British Labour MP Keith Vaz led a march through Leicester shortly after he was elected in 1989 calling for the book to be banned, while Conservative MP Norman Tebbit, the party's former chairman, called Rushdie an "outstanding villain" whose "public life has been a record of despicable acts of betrayal of his upbringing, religion, adopted home and nationality".[10] Meanwhile the Commission for Racial Equality and a liberal think tank, The Policy Studies Institute held seminars on the Rushdie affair. They did not invite the author Fay Weldon who spoke out against burning books, but did invite Shabbir Akhtar, a Cambridge philosophy graduate who called for "a negotiated compromise" which "would protect Muslim sensibilities against gratuitous provocation". The journalist and author Andy McSmith wrote at the time "We are witnessing, I fear, the birth of a new and dangerously illiberal "liberal" orthodoxy designed to accommodate Dr Akhtar and his fundamentalist friends."[11] "

    Strange comrades in arms there, but the key phrase is .." British Labour MP Keith Vaz led a march through Leicester shortly after he was elected in 1989 calling for the book to be banned " " BANNED " not Burned.

    Joan at 35 .. " The UK has their own issues. When Satanic Verses came out, there were British MPs who helped burn copies of it. "


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Satanic_Verses#Controversy


    And from thereabouts ... Chinese Whispers?

    86:

    All of the campaigns are based upon years
    of research into the question of "what will
    people vote for".

    The main election, for the presidency, is dominated by rational considerations of electability and the attractions of the campaign to to voters.

    So far, so true.

    Note that I said 'the attractions of the campaign', and not 'the attractions of the policies' - electioneering nowadays is part beauty contest, part liars' poker, and mostly about media spend. That is, indeed, what people will vote for; based on years of research.

    ...But wait! What 'Election'? That's more than half a year away, and we're discussing the primaries.

    Primaries are different. Getting in, on a serious ticket, is all about money and the backing of a serious faction.

    Money, as in billionaires and their causes - no tax, no state (save for recipients of taxpayer contracts), accelerated wealth consolidation, no unions, no environmental law - and 'serious faction' as in "We can get a core vote out". And *that* in turn, might mean a vocal religious minority who are seriously deluded and quite dangerous.

    That's getting in on the early primaries. Getting on, and making progress, means appealing to the core vote in the party - people who are serious about internal party politics and want to bind the candidate to *their* agenda - or eager to support a candidate who binds their prejudices into his campaign.

    In short, people who are not 'The People'. In composition, a melange of activists, extremists, single-issue pressure-group campaigners, the embittered, the deluded, tea-party nihilists, and people who are just old and left behind by everything that's happened since 1968, but have the time to turn up to the local mini-conventions and the speaker meetings.

    Campaigning in the primaries is all about campaigning to *them* and its a nasty business of dog-whistle politics and pandering to prejudice and ignorance and outright drooling lunacy.

    And it's a balancing act: yes, the main election nowadays is all about 'get out the core vote' rather than appealing to the middle ground - but the voters in the primaries are so very, very far from sanity and relevance to the wider electorate that candidates must examine the trade-off between success in the primary campaign, with the risk of being trapped into fruitloopery and mediæval barbarism by their primary supporters, and the cost in credibility and in electability among a wider base of voters.

    It may well be that the cost of success in any Republican primary campaign is irrecoverable unelectability. No matter how much money turns up for the victor's media budget for the main election.

    And all this while the candidates know, full well, that the sinister agenda of their billionare is better left unstated: for all the voters - core or not - will be the worse off for the policies that have been bought and paid for.

    87:

    Campaign infiltrated? Ya think?
    http://i.imgur.com/COVM3.jpg

    88:

    Where are these supposed fundegelicals? None of the possible Republican candidates who made it past the first few primaries are mainstream Protestant evangelicals or fundamentalists. All Catholics, Mormons, or dodgy Episcopalian plutocrats who tried to take on a bit of Baptist protective colouring. The Clintons have better evangelical credentials than any of them.

    That may not mean much to sensible secularist Europeans, but it does to the bible-belters. They are stranded without a candidate of their own. Will they really line up behind Mormons and Catholics?

    91:

    I wonder if what the US needs is a "Pied Piper" candidate - one who will gather up the crazies and lead them off into the desert to get taken out of the gene pool.

    It doesn't appear there is any bottom to the level of insanity that they can perpetrate, and their presence pollutes any reasonable discussion or action. With them gone the rest have a hope in being able to deal with the serious threats they face.

    92:

    I would agree with it all until the "another major party evolves" statement.

    In the UK overall that seems to be the way it's balancing out for no particularly good reason. Scotland's parliament was elected to force no overall majority and for a number of years managed that pretty well (the last election being a oddity with a solid SNP majority). Despite a pretty clear ploy to make the Scottish parliament a waste of time and space, the Scots have managed pretty well on a number of things over the years. Better than England and Wales in quite a lot of people's eyes.

    While people inevitably point at Italy as an example of the supposed chaos that multi-party system can cause, no one seems willing to point at the German model which works pretty well and produces largely stable governments and the most stable economy in the EU despite adding East Germany with basically no infrastructure and industry a couple of decades ago.

    That other big powerhouse of Europe, the French actually have a pretty multi-party system for presidential elections. The final round is between the big two candidates (whoever they are) but they have in effect a short series of presidential primaries often with many candidates, they weed out the more unelectable rapidly, then often have a "play-off" between the top three or four with the top two going into the final ballot. Who those top 2 are is not completely predictable although it is usually a left-ish vs a right-ish election. One year (about 14 years ago I guess, maybe 21 though) the left wing stayed at home and the final choice was between the right wing and the far-right. It is quite often close for second and third place the week before the final election.

    The UK has two major parties, true. But the Liberal Democrats can often swing key votes. All the Northern Irish MPs are from parties that do not exist elsewhere (UDP, DDP, Sinn Fein etc.). Wales often returns a PC MP, Scotland certainly returns SNP MPs. There are usually a few single-issue independents - there might be quite a lot more next time as there is a coalition of doctors opposed to the health service reforms emerging to stand for election and reverse the current changes. It could be very popular. That hot bed of political activity, Brighton, returned a Green MP.

    The big two talk big, and coalition governments are rare in the UK, but we do have a lot more variety than it appears.

    So there's no requirement to go back to a 2-party system.

    93:

    New ways of studying the brain have given us real facts as to the why of how people act. There have been studies of living brain activity. It been shown that some people have a ad-normal fear response. In the paper work that's filled out, all of them say they are Conservative. They are afraid of everything all the time and can't under stand why everyone is not. The Conservative brain is simply not normal. They seem to be born that way. The paid for media seems to be hard at work trying to make everyone that way. Like their owners want.

    95:

    A 'Pied Piper' candidate, indeed. Lead the crazies off into the wilderness of a failed party and electoral obscurity.

    There's an idea; would that UKIP had succeeded in the role, here in Merrie Englande.

    But the risk! What if the piper gathers up the crazies, and they dance behind him all the way to victory?

    Nehemiah Scudder, indeed.

    Worse - or before him - a Tea Party appointee, in charge at the Treasury. Perhaps, preserve us all, nominated to the Federal Reserve - starve the beast, default the debt, and cook a tasty toasted rat for dinner on a fire of worthless Dollar bills, with every man at the Mickey Mouse Diner a Weimar billionaire.

    Be careful what you wish for. And a party of gibbering loons in the wilderness might still be dangerous, depending on which billionare is paying the piper and calling the tune.

    96:

    Replied at #91 - threading seems to be a bit flaky.

    The short version of my reply is: what if the loonies dance behind the piper all the way to victory?

    97:

    "what if the loonies dance behind the piper all the way to victory?"

    In lots of smaller races they already have. That's why we have a GOP led House of Representatives whose only goal is to oppose what the White House wants. Oh, that and cut all taxes at any cost. And we have state legislatures all over the country passing harsh legislation to penalize immigrants, restrict voting of non-whites and the poor, cut social services, profitize government functions and so on. They all rode into power on the Tea Party wave and similar upwellings of popular anti-government sentiment. Many on the right have run on a platform that government can't do anything. Once they're in office they make sure it's true. The Presidency is the office that's visible beyond our shores. But the social conservative, nativist, religious conservative, Confederate and other fringe groups have been making strong and steady headway at all other levels since the Clinton years.

    98:

    I suspect the thing about Rick Santorum is that in these times of economic woe and declining global influence, he speaks to the part of the USAlien psyche which believes all of this has to be someone's fault. He also speaks to the part which believes if they can just punish the people responsible, they can have the glory days of the 1950s through the 1990s back again. Santorum offers up various groups (women, the poor, non-citizens, non-members of his particular denomination of Protestant Christianity) as a sacrifice to a vengeful deity, and there are a lot of people who are willing to firstly, make that sacrifice, and secondly, be part of that sacrifice if it will only make things better again.

    The first problem is, all the sacrifices in the world can't turn the clock back. The other problem is that the kind of mind which believes sacrifice can turn the clock back isn't likely to accept this. To them, the problem isn't that they're attempting an impossibility, but rather that they aren't sacrificing hard enough. (To be clear, I suspect this mindset exists at all levels of US society - so I suspect at least some of Santorum's backers are wealthy types who just believe that if the little people sacrifice hard enough, they'll have the money rolling in again just like it used to).

    Meanwhile, all those people who don't want to be part of the sacrifice are busy saying so (fairly loudly and clearly) but are being ignored by the sacrificers because after all, it's their fault in the first place.

    99:

    The key thing about the Pied Piper is he knew exactly what he was doing - playing a merry tune to lead the rats to their deaths. He wasn't one of them, and he didn't suffer their fate.

    I sometimes wonder if Colbert wouldn't have done well never to highlight the joke. He seems a more likeable, trustworthy, far right republican than the real candidates.

    100:

    Santorum offers up various groups (women, the poor, non-citizens, non-members of his particular denomination of Protestant Christianity

    Ahem: Rick Santorum is a Catholic. With Opus Dei links, allegedly.

    101:

    Charlie @ 100 - Shows how much attention I've been paying *blush*.

    (Fortunately, I'm not a citizen of the USA...)

    102:

    Minor nitpick: Santorum is a Roman Catholic.

    103:

    The Republican primary campaign is really a long circus show designed to convince the right-wingers that they need to support Romney, the machine's preferred candidate, because he's the only Republican with a chance of winning. They still get to bash Obama and the Democrats, and maybe get themselves a few Congressional or state primary wins, but they're being told to sit down, shut up, and get with the program, because they're not in charge of the party even though many of them don't realize it. It's a long slow process, especially since Romney keeps sticking his foot in his mouth, even without helpful staff members talking incisively about how he'll wave his Etch-A-Sketch once he gets the nomination.

    My speculation is that one reason Newt Gingrich is in the race is as a favor to the party, keeping the crazy right wingers split so Santorum doesn't get the nomination, as well as for various Newt-centric reasons. I'd like to have seen Newt get the nomination, because he'd be a guaranteed loser, but we couldn't trick the voters into choosing him, and I don't think we can trick them into nominating Santorum either.

    And of course many of the issues are fake - evolution's partly a dog-whistle to attract the fundie voters, but it's mainly to get people in the habit of distrusting science, because climate change is a very serious issue to the party's corporate sponsors, who don't want Congress regulating their businesses even if it might wreck the planet in a hundred years.

    104:

    non-members of his particular denomination of Protestant Christianity

    You need to get your fact straight. RS is a Roman Catholic.

    It's easier to make your point when your facts are right.

    105:

    Look, I don't want to be drawn into a long thing about this, but according to Wikipedia "Many politicians on both sides were hostile to the author. British Labour MP Keith Vaz led a march through Leicester shortly after he was elected in 1989 calling for the book to be banned." OK? I also recall reading that British MPs attended a book burning, but no, I don't have the reference.

    I just think we don't need to assume that only Americans can be bigots. With all the trashing of American politicians, it surprises me that people would be so sensitive about British ones.

    106:

    Well, that's disappointing. Can I hold on to the dream for another 24 hours or so? Just to put together a Photoshop, you understand...

    107:

    Well, I'd missed that. Thank you. I will now block that particular fact out of my mind for one to twenty-four hours, since I do so enjoy the mental image.

    108:

    His daughter and her doll are wearing the same dress.

    I just...wow.

    109:

    Believe me, he is only amusing from a very great distance. Up close, this is terrifying. I really, really want to believe that santorum couldn't possibly be elected, but do not underestimate the potential racism and backwardass logic of the USA. I love my country, but damn we can be idiots sometimes. He has the backing of an incredible coalition of religious/corporate jackasses. That he is even a credible candidate is remarkable, but I know better than to believe that common sense will prevail to weed out the crazies before they get to power.

    If he is elected, there won't be a corner on this planet far enough away to laugh about it. He makes bush seem like a moderate.

    110:

    Couldn't he be a sort of Later-day Martin Luther ? A Later-day Saint as it were? ..Lex Luther! ..

    " Lex Luthor is one of the most gifted beings alive, whose hatred of "interfering aliens" pushes him down the path of a sociopath. Known for his "ends justifies the means" approach to life, his single-minded and often brutal focus puts him at odds with Superman. "

    http://www.comicvine.com/lex-luthor/29-41952/

    It all begins to make sense.

    111:

    @80 & @92

    I suppose the summary of what I'm saying is that I don't like the idea of any political party that has little fear of not being re-elected. True, things are likely to eventually balance out, but in the mean time the results aren't going to be pretty.

    112:

    If it helps, Ryan, I think this one may be real:

    http://lasocialista.tumblr.com/post/18841816595/oh-my-g-od-ic-hoked-he-actually

    (Link may be NSFW).

    113:

    The clock could probably be turned back, but you would have to shoot 95% of the lawyers and bankers.

    114:

    Joan, you're absolutely right; the UK has its own nutters, and occasionally they get elected. For instance, you need only look at the public speeches over the years of one Reverend Ian Paisley MP.

    From claiming that the Pope was the Antichrist (in the European Parliament), being involved with paramilitary groups (militias, for y'all), and demonstrating against NICRA in the late 1960s (which is rather like protesting against Martin Luther King); to wrecking various attempts to create a non-Gerrymandered assembly that shared power in Northern Ireland, he spend several decades trying to guarantee a Protestant Ascendancy.

    Once all of the other candidates had been sidelined, wrecked, or rendered powerless, it was amazing - there he was, First Minister, smiling and talking to Martin McGuinness. All of those speeches about how such things would only happen over his dead body, were conveniently forgotten once he was the man at the top.

    Having said that, he was apparently a rather good constituency MP, regardless of what your religion was. So, even bigots can occasionally do the right thing for the right reasons.

    115:

    I don't think that it's fair to use Northern Ireland politicians as examples of UK-bred nutters. The history, culture and demographics of NI breed their own weird brand of political candidate (hint: Paisley is far from alone in his bigotry and affiliation with paramilitary groups).

    Please don't mistake this as any kind of defense of Paisley or any other politician/tribal leader from Northern Ireland (I dislike them all) -- I just feel that no matter how scummy they are, few other UK politicians deserve to be lumped in the same boat.

    (Although I will say that Paisley's motives are far from *simple* bigotry or lust for power.)

    116:

    Two buck gas was an important psychological barrier that didn't last long. I'm still something of an economic determinist w/r/t elections but I was wrong that time.

    In hind sight I think it was more the $50 or more to fill the tank than any particular price for a gallon. $70 for my explorer bit hard in 2008.

    117:

    You're right: Bush was not re-elected. Legally, that is. Serious questions exist about election fraud in Ohio in 2004, including voter deregistration, keeping voting machines away from Democratic districts, barring the press from polling places:

    Except none of that has been proved. And it is not for trying. But I do think that electronic voting machines are one of the dumbest ideas ever sold by slimy salesmen. Says he who's made a living all my life in the computer industry.

    But to election fraud. If you want to go down that path you have to toss in Kennedy in 60, LBJ's Senate election, most any election in Chicago or NYC for decades, etc... and many of the D's elected over the last century or so in NC where I live now.

    118:

    Every political party (probably in every nation) lives in a glass house when it comes to election fraud.

    119:

    Yes. I was just trying to put some real cases behind the point. Johnson's Senate primary win in 48 is really bizarre. He won by less than 50 votes. In one precinct he won the votes supposedly were cast in alphabetical order.

    120:

    I've seen some analysis (sorry, don't recall where) that indicated that at least some of Santorum's big-money supporters don't actually believe that he can win. They're supporting him to in order drag the political conversation in America to the right.
    Who would have believed, ten years ago, that women would be called upon in the US to justify their physician-prescribed medications to their employers?

    121:

    Headlines on the Sanctorum web-page:

    Keep the Sanctorum SURGE going.
    Sanctorum STANDS against Obama's weakness.

    The Freudian subtext is strong with this one (even though I'm not sure how to interpret the sweater vest thing -- I guess turtlenecks would be too "East-coast" looking).

    122:

    "Standing Tall" also seems to be a phrase that comes up a lot (Ha! Ha!) on his web-site.

    "In too many places, we have let allies across the world down, and we have given enemies cause to doubt our resolve"

    There's a million of 'em. Passion --- gushing --- standing tall --- the language of American politics, porn for folks who are afraid of their own genitals.

    123:

    Not true. To pick the example I'm most familiar with, suspect elections in Canada are very unusual; when in the 2011 federal election voters in some ridings received phone calls directing them to polling stations that didn't exist, that was _front page news_ and has been on the front page again for several weeks as the investigation progresses. The kind of corruption, incompetent polling, and casual voter suppression that occurs in the US is not inevitable; Americans chose to let it be that way.

    124:

    Colour me extremely surprised.

    (And I shall say no more than that)

    125:

    The doll's dress matching the girl's dress is utterly unremarkable to anyone who has a girl that age who likes dolls (and most do). Toy stores and even some big-box retailers in the US sell doll-and-child clothing sets for 18" dolls, which that one appears to be. Maybe they do the same elsewhere; I dunno.

    As for the rest of it--well, I already castigated OGH for his callous contempt for a child's emotions, but my light use of HTML, one swear word, and "smart quote" characters apparently got it spam-canned, so I'll leave it at: she didn't get to choose her family any more than the rest of us, so let's perhaps be a little more compassionate, shall we? Contrary to the belief of some, children's tears do not in fact taste like manna.

    126:

    My favourite use of an acronym is the CRAPOLA model - something to do with quantum optics. I'm not sure what it stands for but I expect part of it is Coherent Radiation.

    127:

    Interestingly, I met my second self described registered republican who said last night that the very fact that Santorum is in the running for the nomination means he can't in all conscience vote Republican at the general election.

    Of course, he was from California and the previous one was from Washington, which rather means their gestures mean little, but I take it as a good sign that this will look a lot like 2004 where you'll find a lot of Republicans post-election complaining that they didn't vote for Obama, and demanding to know how he won.

    128:

    Here's a couple:

    Eliminate the crazy gerrymandering that happens every time one party seizes control of a state. The way they carve out voting districts is insane.

    Reverse the Supreme Court ruling on corporations as people (18th Century, huge mistake)

    Eliminate funding campaigns by contributions and establish an equitable arrangement, like a pool all candidates get an equal share.

    129:

    A presidential system works differently from a parliamentary system -- or a mixed system.

    The parliamentary country most like the US (Canada) has had two-party systems rather less often than the US.

    130:

    I'm not going after the little girl; I'm going after the cynical politician who wraps himself in the flag, and brings the whole damn family on stage with him (violating their privacy -- the kids aren't running for senate, are they?) to manipulate the emotions of the people watching his media show. Seriously; it's disgusting.

    (This may be a trans-Atlantic disconnect; here, while politicians spouses sometimes show up during a campaign, the kids are pretty much off-limits.)

    131:

    Dan Goodman @62:

    A note on US politics: Nevada was the first state to outlaw gambling. Passed by the legislature in 1909; took effect in 1910.

    True, but waiting 40 years for the mafia to decide to "fix" the problem doesn't strike me as the most efficient way to solve our government's issues.

    132:

    It is in fact fairly traditional here to have the entire family present when conceding a loss or accepting a win.

    The children would also have been acknowledged and photographed throughout the campaign, generally under controlled circumstances.

    I have a problem with calling it a violation of privacy, since the parents are the ones deciding to put them there. It is manipulative, though.

    133:

    Re: ben | March 27, 2012 20:41 | Reply
    78:

    "Rick Santorum is actually a sociology experiment. Support for Subject Santorum correlates positively with purchase of NASCAR memorabilia and meth-lab combustion related injury.

    We'll publish more results as we calculate them."


    You may be right -- unfortunately Santorum's probably spot-on in terms of using exactly the tactics (hyper-emotionality and irrationality) that are likeliest to appeal to his target voters based on the book/author below.


    http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/131/2/591.full

    [Excerpt from the url shown above:]

    The Political Brain by Drew Westen, an American clinical and political psychologist and Professor in the Department of Psychology and Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Emory University, is based on a brain scanning study of 15 committed Democrats and 15 committed Republicans in the final heated month of the 2004 Presidential election campaign. Each was shown slides of their favoured candidate, respectively John Kerry and George W. Bush, contradicting the other. Subjects were able to detect contradictions made by the rival party candidate and those of neutral figures but were not able to recognize when their own candidate was either lying or misrepresenting the facts.

    In essence, the author's conclusion from the brain scanning results is that ‘the political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures and policies to make a reasoned decision.’ He builds on this formulation by analysing political TV advertisements (adverts) that, whilst banned in the UK, are widely used in the US. Indeed, they are the major budget item on which candidates spend millions of dollars. Westen concludes that ‘Republicans understand what the philosopher, David Hume, recognized three centuries ago: that reason is a slave to emotion, not the other way around. With the exception of the Clinton era, Democratic strategists for the last three decades have instead clung tenaciously to the dispassionate view of the mind and to the campaign strategy that logically follows from it, namely one that focuses on facts, figures, policy statements, costs and benefits, and appeals to intellect and expertise’.

    ===

    However, as Obama was able to get elected using a focused and reasoned appeal, there is hope that democracy based on reasoned discourse is still possible.

    134:

    It is a trans-Atlantic disconnect, then. If the family isn't occasionally present during the campaign and there during the victory or concession speech, eyebrows will raise. Probably there will be speculation of a troubled marriage. The exception is if there's an obvious reason for the family not to be present, such as a medical semi-emergency or other serious family crisis.

    We can speculate as to what shibboleths are invoked by the presence of the family, of course, but whatever the coded messages are meant to be, it's a staple here. The Photoshopped picture of Romney's kids spelling "MONEY" with their shirts wasn't assembled from disparate images. He had them on stage with him, arranged to spell his last name. Someone just swapped letters. Nobody here thought twice about the kids being present, nor about their use as a political billboard. It's just the way things are, sane or no.

    So, yes, the kids' privacy is being violated _through no choice of their own_ because they had the ill fortune to get a politician for a parent (who is in turn constrained by the expectations of a system they did not create). And yet you keep throwing the image out there, thus furthering that violation, and using phrases like "...the most hysterically funny portrait of an American political family ever, sort of like the Addams Family Does DC"-- and when the predominant visual element of the photo is a crying girl, it's very hard to avoid the conclusion that you're going after the little girl. It looks very much like you're calling her tears "hysterically funny", in fact.

    As I said in the spam-canned comment, there are a teeming multitude of reasons to bag on Santorum, many of which you laid out in your post. Cut the kids some slack. They most likely deserve it.

    135:

    I tried twice to reply and got the moderation notice both times, despite my avoidance of markup (the second time) and high-bit characters and all that, so hopefully one of them gets through.

    136:

    "However, as Obama was able to get elected using a focused and reasoned appeal, there is hope that democracy based on reasoned discourse is still possible."

    Actually, it's unclear to me whether he won because of a focused and reasoned appeal or because of "Yes! We! Can!"

    137:

    I like to think that the electorate heard more than the "'Yes! We! Can!" refrain used to punctuate his campaign planks.

    Oratory makes a speech memorable.

    138:

    It only took Nevada 21 years to temporarily lift the ban on gambling; it was temporarily suspended in 1931, in order to help Reno's economy recover from the Depression.

    139:

    France has directly elected presidents and more than two parties that put up serious candidates.

    140:

    With small minorities of fanatics setting the agenda for these pre-elections the 'mericans insist on holding (even tho voter turnout is in the single digit percentiles in some districts),
    I would just love it if we could organize the pervs of America for the 2016 elections, get them together, get a good-sized bag of donations and see were it leads.

    Let's make 2016 the year of the P***-drinker!

    141:

    Note for example, when Obama won the main election 3+ years ago, his kids came up on stage with his wife.

    I can't think of a winning presidential candidate whose kids didn't show up, other than Reagan (whose kids were somewhat alienated by the time he won...).

    142:

    Rick Santorum is an anagram of Iran cum stork
    (also Karmic or nuts)

    143:

    If I remember correctly, France also currently has a President who is simultaneously leader of two political parties, seemingly (if my understanding is correct) because it's an expedient way of raising election funds. France does things Differently.

    144:

    France does things Differently.

    Ya think?

    My current favorite line is from DSK. Something like:

    "How could I be expected to tell the difference between a naked woman attending the party via an invite and a naked prostitute? With everyone naked it's hard to tell who has what credentials."

    The issue doesn't seem to be the orgies, just that that some of the women were paid for their services.

    145:

    This reminds me of an episode in "My Favorite Martian".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Favorite_Martian

    In it, our hero (a newspaper reporter) asked his uncle Martin (a Martian with really no blood ties to that human) to let him have his Martian mind-reading power for a while.

    Of course, he hastens to use this power to get a scoop, by reading a politician's mind.

    Tough luck, as he finds out. A politician's mind is too nebulous to read.

    146:

    France has a mixed system, not a presidential system. It has both a president and a prime minister.

    The US only has a president.

    147:

    Just had a look at those political ads...that type of thing just wouldn't be allowed in Australia! What's the deal with the sheep and the subliminal pigs? I actually though submliminal advertising was banned? Obamaville was absolutely hysterical....I see what you mean Charlie about the degree of....true weirdness and strangeness in the American body politic - that other advanced democracies can only stand and gape at.

    America doesn't CARE that the rest of the world - even those countries that have only recently embraced Democracy(TM)- think that their political system is insane and obviously faulty.

    My family was travelling in Malaysia fairly recently, staying in Penang. We found it delightful, sunny, full of wonderful people - and NO Americans. Since September 11 (or 11 September here) they just don't travel to these countries. Their loss is our gain - no Americans to be found anywhere with even a hint of Islam. Australians and many other nationalities died in September 11, and 88 Australians were killed in Bali in 2002. It didn't stop us travelling, nor caring what our neighbours and allies thought of us (perhaps too much).

    Of course Australia is now going to be host to one of the biggest American military build-ups since WW2 - in a bid to contain China. Particularly now that the bases in the Philippines and elsewhere are out of the question. Marines in Darwin, carrier battlegroups in Queensland and drone squadrons in the Cocos Islands.

    Jared Diamond said that all empires go a bit crazy just before the end. Is this it for the US>

    148:

    "RS is a Roman Catholic."

    That's what makes this primary season so weird - the evangelicals are choosing between two Catholics, because they don't want the Mormon to become the candidate running against Obama - who is a Protestant.

    149:

    @ Charlie:

    It's strange to me that, despite your mentioning the idea that Santrorum might secretely be Sascha Baron-Cohen, no one has mentioned the recent revelation that climate change skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton is actually Baron-Cohen.

    150:

    Charlie, as much as I hate Senator Lubenfeces, I've gotta agree with Eric. Cut the kids some slack.

    The poor crying girl in the picture was probably 7-8 years old at the time, and all she really understood was that Daddy lost his job and she had to get up on stage with Daddy while Daddy talked about losing his job. I'm guessing that "Daddy losing his job" was all tied up in her head with some very weird religious stuff about how Jesus doesn't love her anymore because otherwise Daddy would have won the election... she's Santorum's kid, after all, and I suspect that her childhood was screwed up beyond all reason.

    BTW, when I first saw that picture I enjoyed it for all the reasons you do, but I've grown up a little since then. Schadenfreude is a very ugly emotion and while I hate Santorum, I refuse to take joy in his children's unhappiness. Note the expressions of all three kids on the right side of the picture. I suspect a very ugly family scene just before going on stage.

    Bag on Lubenfeces all you want - I'll even sing along. But please leave his kids alone.

    151:

    And it's been a long time since we had a real one.

    152:

    CONUS as the circled wagontrain - and what that says about a collective state of mind. They really don't think like we think...

    153:

    Don't care where in the world you're from - dragging your children into your political campaign, for whatever reason, is sick, twisted, and child abuse. And whoever does it deserves to be called on it, repeatedly.

    And yes, please do pay attention to the expressions of those children - and think about what their parents are DELIBERATELY doing to them.

    154:

    Batshit insanity has always been a strain of American politics. What we're seeing now from the Republicans is just an updated version of what the John Birch Society spewed in the 50s. The only difference now is that the GOP leadership no longer has the power to reign in the nutjobs,thanks to the new megaphones of the internet and talk radio, and the Bush administration discrediting anyone associated with it.

    155:

    "Are the Republicans actually doing some bizarre sort of improvisational street theater on the national stage" my mother was for many years a democrat election judge about 15 years ago. in democrat primary's she always saw people who she knew to be the hardest of Republicans. voting in democratic primary's. democrat party officials were horrified at the idea of democrats voting in Republican primary's. (stuck cap key here)

    156:

    Good to see you getting it out Charlie!!! Evil is rare but must be challenged where it is found.

    For me the worst thing is the rump support of a third of the voters for eight wing extremists like Cameron and Sanitarium.

    Why on earth will people support politicians who's policies are directly against their interests? Why on earth do billionaires want to influence politicians to bring in policies that undermine the fabric of society just do they can wrack up another few million bucks?

    It is nearly time for the combined uprising. When senior civil servants and science fiction writers become radical you know the revolution is near.

    157:

    I'll grant you the point about senior civil servants, though those in the UK might always have been radical by US standards.

    As for science fiction writers... There are some very well known ones with a history of right-wing opinions, and others, equally well known, who are the opposite. Some styles of SF tend to be biased, that's all.

    158:

    Amirite?

    No. As far as the kids go. How kids under 10 to 14 act in public is a crap shoot at best. Assigning meaning to their behavior is just well, a guessing game.

    Go after the adults in the room but skip the kids.

    But "botox-paralysed expression of his loyal wife"? You know this or are just assuming?

    159:

    Some contrasts on attitudes to families in politics from the UK.

    Tony Blair suing paparazzi for taking photographs of his children.

    Blair's eldest son Ewan, caught underage drinking and drunk in the gutter. It was reported but there was absolutely no fuss, even in the Labour hating press.

    After Gordon Brown, widely considered socially incompetent and "a bit weird", lost the 2010 election there was some footage of him and family doing the rounds saying goodbye to Number 10 staff etc. This was the only time most people had even seen his sons and the general reaction seemed to be, "look at those cute boys, perhaps he's human after all"

    Cameron is criticised for mention his son's disability in the context of the NHS debate.

    160:

    Gordon Brown has sons? I remember the first child dying shortly after birth, but had no idea he had sons. I must have forgotten it.

    161:

    I rest my case.

    162:

    Checking the internet, it seems that back in 2006 the Sun had printed a story about one of his sons having cystic fibrosis. That does sound vaguely familiar, and is probably used as another reason the Sun is constitutionally base.

    163:

    The source of that (or related) story was one of the issues in the hacking scandal - did they illegally obtain the childs medical records?

    164:

    The issue doesn't seem to be the orgies, just that that some of the women were paid for their services.

    Not even that. The issue was that some of the women were allegedly paid with embezzled funds. It is not illegal in France to pay women for sex. Stealing money to pay for sex is illegal -- as is knowingly accepting sex from a woman who was paid with stolen money. Which is what DSK was accused of.

    165:

    "Actually, it's unclear to me whether he won because of a focused and reasoned appeal or because of "Yes! We! Can!""

    And of 8 years of the GOP saying 'F*ck, You!'.

    166:

    It's an American thing. Even Obama does it, while loudly proclaiming that his kids are off-limits.

    167:

    "They are stranded without a candidate of their own. Will they really line up behind Mormons and Catholics?"

    A large portion, or maybe even most, of the evangelicals who get worked about whether or not Catholics and/or Mormons are 'Christian enough' to vote for think that Obama is crypto-Muslim, which scares them much more.

    168:

    IIRC an interview with "Baron-Cohen aka Lord Monckton" was brought up in a previous thread (but I can't remember which).

    169:

    But "botox-paralysed expression of his loyal wife"? You know this or are just assuming?

    I phrased it carefully: "botox-paralysed expression". If you look at that photograph, you'll notice a certain set to her jaw ...

    If I'd intended to state that she'd over-used the anti-wrinkle treatment I'd have said "botox-paralysed face".

    Hint: words are a tool. I try to use them carefully.

    171:

    And now frothy mixture has gone and just barely stopped himself from calling the President a nigger. Yes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nzyvo8SKa0M#t=2065s

    172:

    I'm just hoping we can split off the Confederacy into a new country, called The Real Americuh, and keep the coasts. We'd all be much better off - they could regress to the middle ages even faster, and we could point and laugh without the unease that the nutters may take over.

    The "funniest" thing is that, if you look at net tax transfers, the supposedly profligate Democratic states fund the dirt-poor Republicon ones.

    173:

    Oh, and apparently there are no non-whites in Santorum's horror movie ad.

    174:

    "Will they really line up behind Mormons and Catholics?"

    Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention has been working hard at making Mormons palatable long before the primary season got going. Presumably, he could see which way the wind was blowing, and figured throwing decades of intense hostility to the "Mormon cult" out the window was worth it to (1) beat a far-left anti-Christian Democrat (which is redundant in his world), and (2) establish a friendly relationship with a Romney administration in order to retain temporal influence, which is what's more important to his ilk anyway. It's not clear to me whether the rank-and-file are buying it, but most will probably hold their noses and vote against the foreign-born Muslim usurper who wants to confiscate their Bibles and firearms.

    Meanwhile, Santorum doesn't accept his Church's official position on evolution, war, treatment of the poor, the environment, or Israel. Which is to say, he's basically a fundamentalist Protestant who attends Mass, like many of his more reactionary American co-religionists (the same ones who throw around accusations of "cafeteria Catholicism" without a hint of irony). That's why he's more acceptable to many actual fundamentalist Protestants than the "polytheistic cult member." (It's anecdotal, to be sure, but my fundamentalist father has gotten fed up with Fox News because they've "become the Republican Party campaign channel." His evidence? They relentlessly promote the pagan Mitt Romney over his preference, Rick Santorum. Come the general election of course, see "foreign-born Muslim usurper" above.)

    175:

    I think the US should have one state which is run under theocratic law, exactly as the crazies imagine. If you're not a fundamentalist you get government assistance to relocate. If you are a fundamentalist, you can move there. Then everyone can see exactly how bad it would actually be to have someone like Santorum in charge.

    176:

    I take exception to that. I live in Kansas, smack in the middle of "the real Amurrika" and I was one of the ones crying tears of joy when Obama won. It was the first time a presidential candidate I'd voted for actually succeeded. Of course, since then the tears I'm crying aren't so much ones of joy...

    177:

    The problem is, it's not just the coasts where people are sensible. Because, Florida? Holy hell. And there are normals sprinkled through the rest of flyover country like raisins in a pie. It's just that our lovely, cutting-edge, ever so relevant electoral system completely discounts our votes. Hurrah!

    178:

    Regarding the discussion of allowing the self-segregation of the far right: keep in mind that whenever the less extreme voices leave a group the extremist contingent gets stronger (which is how otherwise sensible UFO cults become behemoths like CoS and the Manson Family -- ejecting counterpoints).

    On the one hand, this hypothetical right-wing splinter state would probably be in an accelerated decline -- but on the other hand, this splinter state would inherit most of the current batch of militarist authoritarians (there have been leftist militarist authoritarians, certainly, and even in the united states! But, currently, this group is primarily right-wing, and [outside of the libertarians and anarchocapitalists] represents a large and noisy portion of the group that would like to splinter off into a right-wing parallel universe). As much as I'd like to avoid Godwinning myself, I have to wonder about the similarities to another time when a small group of mentally unstable extreme right wingers with very strong opinions about moral purity were put in charge of a country with a failing economy and were allowed an army. The result of giving angry reactionaries a country of their own can certainly be short-lived, but also quite violent.

    179:

    Bears noting, too, that in the southwest Mormonism is uncontroversial and a firmly-entrenched part of the Republican Establishment. Romney won Arizona and Nevada in a walk, and only lost Colorado by 5 points.

    180:

    Alex R @ 175
    I nominate Utah

    181:

    Loath though I am to defend that appalling and sordid little man, I think he's saying "anti-war government-nik". That's "nik" with a "k", as in "Sputnik" or "Beatnik".

    Or "Nogoodnik", which is what the sordid little man is.

    182:

    I vaguely recall reading that politicians in the run-up will all try to out-extreme eachother (since all the right wing are currently playing "More Right Wing Than Thou") and then in the actual race for President of the War Criminals they'll swerve back towards centre (in order to draw as much off the other side as possible).

    So don't be disheartened, Santorum will swing back towards the centre. By the time it's voting night, he'll be back to Ultra Right Wing Insane Planet Wrecking B'Stard status, as opposed to where he is now, which I can't imagine the name of.

    183:

    The Southwest (particularly Nevada and Arizona) was heavily settled by Mormons. IIRC, Orange County CA has more LDS than Utah (well this was in the early 1990s so mya no longer be true)

    184:

    The Supreme Court Ruling on corporate personhood was not an actual ruling (and was in the 19th Century, Santa Clara County Vs. Southern Pacific Railroad). It was a comment in the headnotes of the ruling relating a statement supposedly made during the trial by the Chief Justice. The court reporter that did this was a longtime railroad executive. Sadly, the fact that it was not part of any ruling has not stopped it's being used as precedent for newer rulings

    185:

    Well, the Scots Parliament (and Welsh Assembly) electoral system was deliberately designed by Noo Liebur with the intent of producing a system that would make it impossible to achieve an overall majority (largely because they feared the results of the SNP gaining one in Scotland).

    186:

    Keith Vaz.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Vaz
    He's a charming character, our Keith. Blithely [ALLEGATION DELETED BY MODERATOR] about video games, censured for corruption (and criticised repeatedly for lying about, hindering inquiries into, and covering up further suspect instances of corrpution), suspended from Parliament for lying to police as part of a vendetta against a former policewoman, and while MP for Leicester, to quote Wikipedia:

    Shortly after being elected in 1989, Vaz led a march of thousands of Muslims in Leicester calling for Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses to be banned.

    True, that was a march calling for the book to be banned, not burned. Strictly speaking, he's not a book-burner. He's damn close though.

    187:

    While you're right in general*, I think Santorum is the exception. He really does say what he actually believes, and has zero interest in whether or not it will actually win him any votes. Which is why, of course, he will never get the nomination.


    * The recent kerfuffle where Romney's communication director referred to the general as a "reset button" and compared it to shaking an Etch-a-Sketch is scandalous only because (1) it fits into an already-existing flip-flopper narrative about Romney and (2) he broke kayfabe. Of COURSE that's what happens in the general election, it's NOT particular to Romney, everybody does it and everybody knows it -- but you're SUPPOSED to insult the public's intelligence by pretending that's not the way it works.

    188:

    We pay more than the $4/gallon for gas here: our military costs an awful lot, and a lot of what it does is there just to keep the price (apparently) low.

    Our health-care problems will not be resolved: the private insurance companies have grown hyperobese on their profits, and effectively use those to buy legislative influence to keep that situation from changing; they were willing to make some concessions in exchange for a reform bill that was little more than that and a guarantied customers (many with Federal subsidy) scheme...once that part of the bill is destroyed (as people generally expect) they will have little stomach to keep the rest of it, at which point see the beginning of this paragraph.

    189:

    Presidential elections are held here every four years, the leap years in fact. (Mnemonic: 'The PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS make me wish to LEAP to my death from a tall building.')

    If that photo of Santorum looking as unhappy as I'd will him to be is from 2006, then that's probably him et famille immediately on learning that he'd been turfed out from his Senate seat by the electorate who knew him best.

    190:

    SANATORIUM for Pres in 2016!


    ( Be careful what you wish for )

    191:

    That's the one; note that OGH said "electoral defeat" and didn't specify which office.

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