Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Who knew? GOP presidential candidate and arbiter of all things pure and holy Rick Santorum watches NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” How do we know this? Because this week, Santorum said this about an October 16, 2011 SNL sketch spoofing a GOP debate, in which Santorum was portrayed in a San Francisco gay bar: "The left, unfortunately, participates in bullying more than the right does. They say that they’re tolerant, and they’re anything but tolerant of people who disagree with them and support traditional values." He said this in response to a question from New Hampshire radio station WGIR.

The headline here is that Santorum evidently feels bullied. Somebody forgot to tell him that cutting political satire is part of the ‘running for president package.’ On television it goes all the way back to the 1960s and a show called “That Was the Week that Was.” The show only ran for two seasons, but it managed to skewer everybody from Nikita Kruschev to Richard Nixon. But SNL? Well, SNL is now in its 36th season and making fun of politicians is its stock in trade. But you knew that, Rick, now didn’t you?

Santorum claiming he is bullied is akin to Pamela Anderson complaining about men looking at her breasts. The former Pennsylvania senator (1995-2007) and flailing, yet naive 2012 presidential hopeful needs to get a grip. Politics is tough territory and many of Santorum’s actions, causes he supports, judgmental statements he makes and socio/political stances have invited raw satire. Santorum is, after all, the man who once said, “The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies ends in abortion." Let me see; I think Santorum is trying to tell us that our social security fund would be more socially secure if we would outlaw abortion. Is it me, or is this twisted thinking?

Santorum needs to stop whining and sink slowly back into the private sector. He should do that because he is muddying the national conversation about issues that truly matter – issues like jobs, home foreclosures, poverty, hunger, equal pay for equal work, underfunded public school systems and healthcare. His issues are what he considers moral causes. He is unabashedly anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, anti-pre-marital sex, anti-birth control (or “artificial” birth control, as he calls it), and most vehemently anti-homosexuality. Santorum has been in the game long enough to know that politics is dirty – real dirty. It is not a moralistic endeavor. It’s a power enterprise. Santorum has been in the public eye long enough to know that majority public opinion does not favor his stance on most of his causes. He has also been around long enough to know that in this country we’re really not allowing legislators in our private bedrooms any longer. We’re just not.

And we’re tired of hearing his declarative statements about large population groups. Example: After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Santorum decried the masses of New Orleans citizens who did not leave the city after being warned of the impending storm. “I mean people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings [...] There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving," he said. Santorum’s frequent ignorance was never so blatant. The truth is that thousands of people in the city had no transportation options to get them out of the city. They didn’t stay by choice. Essentially, Santorum was suggesting punishing people who were trapped.

About women who have abortions, Santorum declared: “This was tried once before in America, when the liberty and happiness rights of the slaveholder were put over the life and liberty rights of the slave. But unlike abortion today, in most states even the slaveholder did not have unlimited right to kill his slave.” This was just before he said that any doctor who performs an abortion (even legally) should be criminally charged.

The term “neo-con” doesn’t begin to describe Rick Santorum. The term “extremist” does. America does not elect extremists to the presidency. We just don’t. And we most certainly do not knowlingly elect bigots, which Santorum has clearly shown that he is. This most obvious in his comments regarding gay Americans. And we do not elect hypocrites. Santorum repeatedly behaves in contrast to his rhetoric. When his buddy, former Republican Senator John Ensign (left, shown resigning) was involved in a sex scandal, the husband of the woman Ensign was seeing alerted Santorum that he was about to inform the media about Ensign’s assignation. Instead of encouraging Ensign to do the right thing and resign, what did Santorum do? He gave Ensign a heads up so that Ensign could proactively neutralize the situation. A couple of years later when Democrat Anthony Weiner had his own sex scandal, Santorum was quick to go on television and encourage him to “do the right thing” and resign.

And there’s more. Santorum, who has seven children, lived most of the year in Virginia during his Senate years, although he represented Pennsylvania. Many of his kids were old enough to be in school, so what did Santorum do? He enrolled them in a cyber charter school in Pennsylvania, which was paid for the by public school district in the state, even though he and the children did not reside in the state. The school district demanded to be reimbursed when it was revealed the children did not live in the district. Santorum refused. (The children withdrew from the school and are reportedly now home-schooled.)

One would think a man of reasonable intelligence, like Santorum, would know that his over-the-top takes on contemporary culture will not play well in America. He is not taken seriously any longer if he ever was. Since 2003, writer/activist Dan Savage has waged a campaign against Santorum, resulting in a high traffic website, "Spreading Santorum" that has turned the candidate's last name into a profane sex term. Another site, Santorum Exposed is dedicated to publicizing Santorum's failed policies and inane public statements. And now, SNL has turned him into something of a cartoon character. Rick Santorum has become a national punchline.

Santorum’s efforts to legislate morality (his version of morality) and to decide for the masses what contemporary society will deem ethically acceptable are old news. But his attempt to parlay his biases into the American presidency is dangerously unacceptable. What I know for sure is that the American voter is smart, and not susceptible to rantings like Santorum’s. Best evidence? The latest CNN Poll of Polls, which reflected surveys taken between Oct. 3-10, showed a mere 2 percent of Republican voters backing Santorum. Now…Rick…head on back to your gated community, your lily white suburban life, your mansion next door to your wife’s parents, your comfy corporate law job—and surround yourself with those who believe in your exclusionary vision of America. We, the majority of Americans do not believe as you do and we are speaking en masse with our lack of political support for your candidacy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Remember Victoria Jackson? No? Jackson was a "Not Ready for Prime Time Player" on NBC's Saturday Night Live way back in 1986. Since then, Jackson has become not-so-widely known as a Bible-thumping, tea partying, arguably crazy conservative. Since completing her six-year stint on SNL, Jackson has done interviews in which she says things like FOX's "GLEE" is trying to recruit gay people, that Obama reminds her of "Castro in Cuba or that guy in China," and that she has learned the most in her life from Glen Beck. Jackson has also recorded songs like "There's a Communist Living in the White House." But this week, Jackson was smack dab in the middle of Occupy Wall Street. Oh boy. Watch:

Friday, October 7, 2011


Occupy Wall Street has rapidly become Occupy America, with demonstrations spreading from Sacramento to Portland to St. Louis to Chicago to New Orleans to Philadelphia and beyond. Although the goals of the protestors are still unclear, the issues about which they are concerned are universal. Joblessness, foreclosures, corporate greed and power and legislators out of touch with the average citizen - these are frontline reasons for the largely non-violent protests. Listen to the voices of Occupy Wall Street (from CBS News):

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Raise your hand if you’re over 50 and remember peaceful protests in the 1960s and 70s? Ah, I thought so – lots of you (okay,"us") skipped class and paraded around carrying signs that said things like, “Hell No, We Won’t Go,” and “America- Fix it or Fuck It!” or “We Shall Overcome.” In some instances, we sincerely had worthy causes worth fighting for, or demonstrating for. In other cases, we were just mad at something our universities or our government had done and we wanted to vent our anger. Either way – we know a little something about civil disobedience, don’t we? And that’s why as we watch the Occupy Wall Street protests, in some ways it’s “déjà vu all over again.”

As recently as last week many of us did not understand what Occupy Wall Street was about. Media wasn’t really picking up on it much, and outside of NYC the buzz was pretty quiet. What a difference a week can make. This week cities across the U.S. are starting to heed the “Occupy” call to reject corporate greed, to call on wealthy Americans to spread the wealth and to neutralize the influence that corporate lobbyists have on legislators. On its face, the basic tenets of the Occupy Wall Street movement seem valid to many Americans. However, much like some of those above mentioned protests from the absolute era of protest, Occupy Wall Street does not seem to have clear proposals for social or economic change. What the demonstrators do have is massive frustration with the American capitalist system.

Buoyed by participation from activist luminaries like Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore, the demonstrators have held steadfast to their own activism for about two weeks now. Here’s a report from ABC News:
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The one thing we learned from our anti-everything protests from the 1960s and 70s is that anger may be a powerful catalyst, but until it is coupled with achievable goals, demonstrations are hollow. I am not an expert on social movements, but I’m an interested observer who learned the following over time:

1. Organize, organize, organize. The Occupy movement is certainly a grass roots effort, but even the most basic protests must have order. Anarchy only builds anarchy. Having a plan and some way to structure the movement often yields greater results. Best evidence? The Civil Rights movement
of the 1960s.

2. Have clear objectives. Nobody seems to have stated any goals with the Occupy Wall Street movement. What is the purpose of thousands of people showing up for a street demonstration if there aren’t any clear objectives? So far, what we know is that these people are dissatisfied with the current state of our economic system, our taxation laws and what they see as undue influence of corporate entities on legislation that affects all Americans. All valid, but if you ask them what they want instead of the current system, so far no one has come forward to outline the goals.

3. Who’s calling the shots? The best social change movements had great leaders – Dr. Martin Luther King, Gloria Steinem (below, left), Mario Savio, Susan B. Anthony.
This morning a New Orleans man, age 27, called in to a local talk radio show to talk about the Occupy New Orleans demonstration to be held Thursday. When asked who was in charge of the rally, he said, “Well, we don’t have a leader or anything like that. Everybody will just get together.” When asked what the objective of the demonstration will be, he said, “We’re protesting the inequality between classes in this country.” He never said what the group wants, or what alternative to the class system they would like to see. They need a leader.

So, about those “clear objectives” in number two above: The anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s clearly wanted out of Vietnam. The women’s movement of the 1970s clearly wanted gender equality and to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s clearly wanted an end to racial discrimination. Unfortunately, there is nothing clear about what the Occupy movement wants.

The frustration and anger expressed by the many young people on Wall Street these past couple of weeks is step one. It is that emotional fire that galvanizes large groups of people. But the recent media comparisons to Egypt’s Tahir Square (below, right) are a stretch. The Tahir Square demonstrators wanted democracy. So far, the Occupy movement demonstrators just seem to want to get something off their chest. I applaud their tenacity and their passion.That’s what we’re made of here in America, as opposed to say, Bahrain, where this week it was revealed that 26 anti government protestors are to be imprisoned, with sentences ranging from five to 15 years each. Here we can speak up, be heard and affect change. But looking into the faces of the young Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, I just wonder: What do you want to do about the issues that motivate you? We know you’re unemployed; we know you don’t have any health insurance and we know your college degree is not serving you as well as you hoped. Reminding us of all of that doesn’t really accomplish much. What do you want?