Friday links! Radically different worldviews edition

Margie Phelps makes the most of her only life before sliding into oblivion.

One decreasingly fashionable view of colonial history holds that the American Revolution succeeded in part because of ideological consensus—the remarkable tendency of Americans to hold the same basic views on the same foundational ideas. We’re all pretty much committed to the idea of equality before the law, for example. If you explained that concept to a dude in 18th-century Korea, he would A) become obsessed with your cell phone and B) laugh at the notion that every person in a society should obey the same laws. From outside our particular historic paradigm, Americans’ general agreement is mind-blowing. Yet, at this very moment, Rick Santorum is running a campaign based on the idea that this county’s biggest problem is gay dudes. He will never be President, but hundreds of thousands of people agree with him. Get a few conclusions removed from basic principles, and the nutso worldviews of your fellow Americans are breathtaking. It’s Friday, and people across the country can’t wait to recharge by watching some Ghost Whisperer and going to church. Won’t you marvel at their fantastic perspectives with me?

First, the fun news: Herman Cain has jumped ahead of Mitt Romney in a recent poll. Now the buzzkill: it was a poll of 600 Republicans in Florida, and there’s no way Black Walnut can impress more people than that. Cain is like the coked-out sculptor you date for a month right before you marry a girl who went to your high school. Newt Gingrich is like the coworker who happened to be reading your email when she saw the location of your bachelor party. On Tuesday, he responded to a hypothetical question re: cost-benefit analyses in Medicare by saying that Sarah Palin was basically right about death panels. Granted, she was “right” not in the sense that they existed, but that the government agencies we imagined making decisions such decisions in theoretical scenarios about possible laws could be analogous to that. ““So, if you ask me,” he said, “do I want some Washington bureaucrat to create a class action decision which affects every American’s last two years of life? Not ever.” Got it, America? Newt Gingrich is against that.

With any luck, he can ride his opposition to a nonexistent policy all the way to the nomination. Lord knows his opponents all hold the same views, so whatever constituency they somehow appeal to will be split. It’s basic principle of politics: you win an election by being different from the other guy. Corollary: the other guy loses when you introduce a third person similar to him. Arizona state senator Russell Pearce proved that in his recent recall election. Facing an opponent critical of his anti-immigrant crusades, Pearce paid retiree Oliva Cortes to run, too, and “siphon off the Hispanic vote.” Cortes’s campaign manager was Greg Western, Pearce’s friend and chairman of the local Tea Party. Perhaps there comes a moment, when you are paying an old woman to participate in a fake campaign run by your friend in order to reduce the voting power of a particular ethnic group, that you think maybe this is wrong, like morally. But then you remember that it’s politics, and you have to make some compromises to effect the greater good, and in this way an entire country loses its character and fails.

In the meantime, rich people are doing great! Warren Buffett has responded to Republican demands and released his tax returns, which show that the investment kabillionaire made an adjusted gross income of $62.8 million last year and paid federal taxes amounting $6.9 million. Even as a portion of his $39.8 million taxable income, that’s just 17%. I personally paid more. Yet Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS,) who originally called for the returns, remains unimpressed. “What he does disclose may be accurate,” Huelskamp said, “but it is incomplete and it fails to explain how he shelters millions of dollars in income from taxation.” Here the Congressman’s tactic of attacking Buffett seems to have distracted him from the objective of convincing people that millionaires shouldn’t pay higher taxes. Claiming that the present tax code allows people like Buffett to pay even lower rates than the man’s returns suggest is not going to win this argument.

But it doesn’t matter. Warren Buffett is the new George Soros, and the poli-sci curricula of homeschool students across the country have changed to reflect that. The woman who writes this blog has seven children. She adamantly opposes the practice of women working outside the home, even in the case of single mothers. “Divorced?” she writes. “Did you pray about who your mate [would be] before you got married? If not then if things didn’t work out you have no one to blame but yourself. And you will pay the price.” She’s crazy. She is also the sole source of information about the world for her seven children. Picture you, the two best couples you know, and the four children these two couples will eventually have. This family’s votes cancel out yours.

Maybe—and this is crazy, now—you shouldn’t have seven kids. Maybe some of the world’s problems have to do with the finite number of resources we must divide among a growing number of people, and the solution is not for there to be three times as many of us in 25 years. Maybe we should hold off on having more kids for a while, as The Onion suggests, until we’ve addressed “the threat of a general collapse into a tribal-barbarian-type second Dark Ages. That wouldn’t be fair to us or the kids.” But a 6000 year-old book written by persecuted people living in the desert said we should have as many kids as possible. That’s why I’m not letting your daughter get an abortion.

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  1. the current mayor of DC Vincent Gray is accused of paying some dude (Sueliman Brown, I think) to stay in the race and syphon votes. So uber-crazy Arizona pols are equally corrupt as DC city gov’t, the bastion of the Democratic Party. Only some are crazy but all are corrupt, apparently. Wait, I already knew that.

  2. An earlier version of this post left out the crucial word “not” from the sentence “That’s why I’m not letting your daughter get an abortion.” I reiterate: I am _not_ letting your daughter get an abortion. She should have prayed about who I would be before we met.

  3. Great post.

    “Cain is like the coked-out sculptor you date for a month right before you marry a girl who went to your high school.”

    “But then you remember that it’s politics, and you have to make some compromises to effect the greater good, and in this way an entire country loses its character and fails.”

    It’s funny because it’s sad.

  4. That politics involves compromises is neither funny nor sad, it’s just true. Here I don’t mean true as in immutable, like “whelp, I’ve got the herp,” but as by design, like “how do we stop every settlement around us from kidnapping our women and stealing our grain? Politics is sometimes mistaken as the science of government, but it’s not that either. Politics is simply the means through which which competing interests negotiate their interests. In the past you bludgeoned people with sticks, now you have a representative and a vote with which to kneecap the opposition.

    Politics isn’t a technological development, it’s just a set of rules. First rule is, you do not hit people. Second rule is, sit down, man. And so on. Politics is valuable to us because its less destructive than sticks but achieves the same outcomes. It’s like a queue. Self-interest clearly motivates someone to cut to the front of the line, but we all get through a doorway without the inefficiency of violent cutting.

    So, when people complain about politics they are complaining about a system which helps all of us. It’s easy to forget it helps all of us, unless you’ve lived in a country without politics, then suddenly it seems very preferable.

    Bribing politicians to enter races is not a loophole in the system, it’s against the rules. A corrupt politician is no more a case against politics than a shitty teacher is one against education. The problem then, isn’t necessarily with politics as a system, but rule-breaking society’s laws. In fact, we probably need to add more rules and rule enforcement because elections are trending in a direction which undermines democracy. Here’s one solider in the fight for corporate dystopia:

    Anyway, campaign finance reform is a political issue. One interest, corporate money, is competing for influence against the myriad so-called grassroots and non-monied organizations. Politics. Thankfully politics exist so we can fight corporations with clubs, not sticks.

  5. Wow. How did you find that ‘Godly Homemaker’ blog? That is an amazing record of something quite frightening. Which makes it perversely awesome.

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