I think the main question for me will be how they handle the encounter between Gollum and Bilbo. Gollum’s origin story in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is perhaps the finest cinematic depiction of the Fall. Bilbo is less corrupted by the Ring, of course—it’s a gentler story. But it’s not an unimportant one for the fact that he has less far to tumble.
Sure, the extremist wing of the GOP has been saying crazy things about climate for a while (see Rep. Shimkus: “Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood”).
But the anti-science wing is now in charge (see John Boehner says on ABC: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical”). And it has been able to make climate craziness a litmus test for the Presidency.
Just 3 years ago, the GOP nominee was a climate hawk who campaigned on a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas — and folks like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney supported climate science and climate action.
Now, even the most semi-rational contenders for the GOP nomination have to tie themselves to the anti-rational Tea Party mantra of deny, deny, delay, delay that will ultimately sink their party and the entire nation, literally and figuratively.
Here, then, are the top 5 craziest things GOP contenders said on climate this year.
Unemployment Rate Decreases In 43 States |
The unemployment rate fell in 43 states and the District of Columbia last month, according to Labor Department statistics released today, bolstering hopes that a broad-based economic uptick is underway. Just three states – New York, Rhode Island, and Wyoming – saw their unemployment rates increase in November. However, the Economic Policy Institute urges caution, noting that declines in 16 of the 43 states “were in part a reflection of reduced state labor forces, as unemployed workers dropped out of the labor force.” They note that “with states creeping toward recovery, Congress must not pursue policies that reverse those modest gains,” including allowing unemployment benefits and the current payroll tax cut to expire.
Scott Arnold is an associate professor of writing at William Penn University. He is also gay. And today, he approached Newt Gingrich at an event in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he asked the former Speaker whether he’s earned the support of gay Americans. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth reports:
“I asked him if he’s elected, how does he plan to engage gay Americans. How are we to support him? And he told me to support Obama,” said Arnold. […]
“When you ask somebody a question and you expect them to support all Americans and have everyone’s general interest,” Arnold said. “It’s a little bit frustrating and disheartening when you’re told to support the other side. That he doesn’t need your support.”
Similarly, in an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show earlier this month, Newt Gingrich’s half-sister Candice Gingrich-Jones, a lesbian and advocate for marriage equality, said she would “work really, really hard to make sure that President Obama is re-elected next year no matter who the Republican candidate is.” “He is definitely on the wrong side of history when it comes to those issues,” Gingrich-Jones said of Newt.
Gingrich: “I think those for whom the only issue that really matters is the definition of marriage, I won’t get their support. I accept that as reality. On the other hand, for those to whom it’s not the central issue in their life, if they care about job creation, if they care about national security, if they care about a better future for the country at large, then I think I’ll get their support.”
Q: So what if it is the biggest issue?
Gingrich: Then I won’t get their support.
Q: How do we engage if you’re elected. Then what, what does that mean?
Gingrich: Well then you engage in every topic except that.
Q: Except it’s most important (some crosstalk).
Gingrich: Well, if that’s most important to you then you should be for Obama.
Q: I am, thank you (The two men shake hands).
Gingrich: It’s perfectly legitimate. I think it’s perfectly legitimate.
GOP contender Rick Santorum picked up an important endorsement today with the official backing of Iowa kingmaker Bob vander Plaats of the FAMiLY Leader. Campaigning at the organization’s headquarters in Pella, Iowa, Santorum made some surprising remarks in support of income inequality:
“They talk about income inequality. I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality..
“President Obama is for income equality. That’s socialism. It’s worse yet, it’s Marxism,” Sanoturm said. “I’m not for income equality. I’m not for equality of result – I’m for equality of opportunity.”
Oddly, Santorum acknowledged that social and income mobility is lagging in America — a key reason income inequality exists, through no fault of workers who find themselves working harder and longer for less money. The decline of social mobility contradicts Santorum’s assertion that people making more money deserve it because they work harder.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has put America’s staggering wealth gap front and center in the national debate. Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 281 percent while middle class wages stagnated. The top 1 percent controls roughly 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. At the very top of the income scale, the 400 richest Americans have seen their share of income quadruple in the last 12 years, while their effective tax rates were halved.
A recent poll found that Americans’ fears about income inequality are growing, with two-thirds of likely voters saying the middle class is shrinking, and 55 percent saying that income inequality has become a big problem for the country. Santorum, evidently, thinks more of the same is what they need.
We’ve talked a lot about mental illness and Homeland here, and as a corollary (and possible pick-me-up), I wanted to recommend Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover‘s Gingerbread Girl.
The short graphic novel follows Annah Billups, a 26 year old who insists that she has a missing sister. And not just any sister: her Penfield homunculus, which she says her father removed from her brain during her parents divorce, grew into a full-sized sister for her, and who subsequently appeared, only to seem to be avoiding Annah in the city where she lives and loves. As a result of that surgery and loss, Annah claims to feel things less, both physically and emotionally, an excuse for her to behave less than admirably. She schedules two dates for a single night and goes out with the woman who shows up first, is sexually manipulative, and often generally inconsiderate. But she’s still charming and compelling: damage is not incompatible with charisma, and in fact, the two can go together quite handily.
So is Annah insane? It’s never clarified: a Penfield homunculus is, of course, a way of illustrating brain functions rather than a real thing. But the story of her missing sister Annah has a certain magical quality to it that’s a lovely representation of the divorce from self. Annah wants to feel normal and whole again, but Ginger doesn’t want to see her, she dashes around corners and runs out of stores. And while Homeland gives us a Cassandra rendered explicable and admirable to us even as she’s stigmatized by the people around her on-screen, Gingerbread Girl is told significantly from the perspective of the people Annah hurts and loves, from the people (and in several cases animals) she encounters along the way, who are more inclined to be charitable with her than we might be.
It’s also a good way of illustrating the challenges of treatment. It’s one thing to massively reset your brain with ECT therapy. It’s another to have a problem that’s magical rather than scientific. We’re making advances in brain science, but we’re still not far enough along for true cures to depression and dementia, as in Rise of the Planet of the Apes to seem like the provenance of fantasy or science fiction.
Last week, the Department of Justice released the results of a three-year investigation into the actions of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, finding the Arizona official had committed rampant abuses and regularly “engages in racial profiling.”
In particular, the study found that Arpaio’s office targeted Latinos both in the workplace and in the streets. “Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers,” read the report, and his office often targeted individuals simply for having “dark skin” or speaking Spanish. In one example, as Ian Millhiser writes, “One inmate was refused new bed sheets, even after she used a fellow inmate to explain in English that her old sheets were soiled, because the jail told the inmate that she had to make the request herself in English.”
Though instances of lawlessness like this have been ubiquitous in Arpaio’s office, conservatives are beginning to rush to the Arizona sheriff’s defense. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) echoed this sentiment on the radio late last week, telling host G. Gordon Liddy that the investigation was a “waste of taxpayer money.” Poe went on to excuse Arpaio, saying the sheriff was simply “doing his job.”
LIDDY: The attack on the sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, again by the federal government, accusing him of racial profiling, because apparently Hispanics are more likely to be illegal aliens than anybody else. [...]
POE: [...] Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County has the authority under a program called the 287-G program, authorized by the federal government, to investigate people in his jail that are illegally in the United States. He’s authorized by the federal government to do this. Now the federal government is saying, “ahh, we don’t want you doing this anymore,” and has named a bunch of excuses. They’ve been investigating him for three years. It’s amazing. Three-year investigation and they’re still not through. Another waste of taxpayer money. Program authorized by the federal government, approved by this sheriff, and now the federal government is saying, “obviously, he’s doing such a good job we don’t want him doing it anymore and want to take away his ability to even inquire as to people in the county jail as to whether they’re illegally in the country or not.”
The Justice Department’s findings against Arpaio are devastating in their scope. In Maricopa County, there are more individuals – over 540,000 – who primarily speak Spanish than in all but six other counties in the nation, yet Arpaio’s office routinely singled out non-English speakers to target. They even once employed a police operation at a local McDonald’s because they received a letter claiming that one of the workers didn’t speak English. Such racially-motivated targeting has been so commonplace under Arpaio that the Justice Department warned they will “not hesitate to file suit, if necessary,” to end such practices.
Unfortunately, Arpaio will likely continue to dismiss these serious charges – he claimed that it was actually he whose civil rights had been violated by the Justice Department by “calling him every kind of name” – under the cover of defenders like Poe.
It’s been difficult for the Republicans to attack President Obama on foreign policy, particularly seeing that he oversaw and ordered the operation that ended up killing Osama bin Laden. But the Republicans have a strategy on that: pretend Obama had nothing to do with it. Rick Santorum says repeatedly that Obama had no role in getting bin Laden. “The president doesn’t deserve credit” for getting bin Laden, Santorum said last week. “The people who deserve credit for that were the military whose mission it was to find them,” he said.
Rick Perry has picked up on this too. CNN reports that after Perry called Obama’s foreign policy an “abject failure,” a student pointed out that the President should get some recognition for getting bin Laden. But instead of agreeing with this obvious conclusion, Perry took the Santorum route — denial:
“I would suggest to you that it was Navy SEALs and our intelligence community that was the reason bin Laden was taken out, not the President of the United States,” he said.
Asked again by CNN if he believed that the president should be given some share of the credit for bin Laden’s death, Perry answered: “I’m almost positive it was Navy SEALs.”
Of course Perry and Santorum are correct; without the Navy SEAL team and their skills and professionalism, bin Laden might still be alive today. And Obama said so himself. “These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nation’s history,” he said. But of course it goes without saying that the raid would not have taken place if not for Obama’s push to “redouble” efforts to find bin Laden and his order to raid the al Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan, a decision Robert Gates said was “one of the most courageous calls I’ve ever seen a president make.”
But Perry and co. will most likely still carry on living in this denial. After all, despite all of the turmoil the United States and the world have faced throughout history, the Texas governor believes “the world has never been as dangerous as it is today” because of Obama.