Bachmann’s 6-6-6 economic plan

WATERLOO, IA — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told Fox News that she is offering a better alternative to the 9-9-9 plan proposed by Herman Cain. Dubbed the “6-6-6 Plan,” Bachmann feels that it is the first viable roadmap to prosperity offered by any of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

Photoshopped image of Michele Bachmann wearing a tin hat

Tuesday, October 11, 2011, at the Bloomberg-sponsored Republican Economic Debate she had stated, “Herbert’s plan is dangerous because if you turn ‘9-9-9’ upside down it reads ‘666.’ The devil is in the details.” During an interview on Fox News this morning, she was asked to expand on her assertion.

“I don’t mean this as anything negative about Herschel Cain, other than the fairly obvious fact that he may actually be the anti-Christ,” explained Bachmann, adding, “That may sound harsh, but in Anoka, we’re plain-spoken people. If we believe something, we don’t hold back.”

The presidential aspirant went on to outline her own approach to bringing the country back from the edge of an economic abyss. “My plan is simple and is guaranteed to work. In the Abrahamic religion, an offering of one or more lambs was made to expiate sins. Well, in today’s United States, we have at least six things we need to apologize to God for: loans to solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra; the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; Elizabeth Warren’s new federal consumer protection agency; Occupy Wall Street; Obamacare; and the defeat of the House Republican Plan for America’s Job Creators authored by Eric Cantor.”

Sacrificial lamb

Warming to her subject, the congresswoman continued, “If we select six appropriately sinful people to sacrifice to God, it goes without saying that we will enjoy at least six years of economic prosperity.”

FOX & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson interrupted Bachmann, saying, “Surely, you are not suggesting that we sacrifice people, as though they were animals?”

“Not just any people,” responded Bachmann. “I know this sounds extreme, but don’t you think that a burning pyre on the Washington Mall with Congressman Barney Frank, former Senator Christopher Dodd, MSNBC talking head Rachel Maddow, President Barrack Hussein Obama, Current TV’s Keith Olbermann, and that old blowhard Newt Gingrich piled on it would produce an incense pleasing to the Lord?”

In response to incredulous looks from co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy, Bachmann commented, “Have you heard a better idea from the other candidates? Perry’s economic plan amounts to ‘Drill, baby, drill,’ even though the oil and gas industry has been eliminating jobs as their profits soared. Romney says that we should pour even more money into military hardware — as if we needed to get ready for yet another war. And McCain has his stupid 9-9-9 plan.”

Not hearing a reply from her startled interviewers, Bachmann continued, “So there you have it. Atone for six sins by sacrificing six sinners, and we are guaranteed a minimum of six years of prosperity: 6-6-6. It’s the first really fresh idea to come out of the Republican Party in a very long time, and if elected, I promise to implement it right away.”

Copyright © 2011 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Economy, Politics

Woody Allen’s morality plays — and ours

Today I read an article by Juliet Lapidos on Slate about the movies of Woody Allen.

Woody Allen is infamous for having begun a clandestine affair with the teenaged, adopted daughter (Soon-Yi) of his long-time partner, Mia Farrow, while he was still in a relationship with Farrow. His actions were incredibly destructive to Farrow’s family of adopted and natural children.

Allen’s biological son with Farrow, Ronan, has been quoted in a Wikipedia article on Allen as stating: “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression. I cannot see him. I cannot have a relationship with my father and be morally consistent… I lived with all these adopted children, so they are my family. To say Soon-Yi was not my sister is an insult to all adopted children.”

In the years since, despite Allen’s clear brilliance as a filmmaker, writer, and comedian, public opinion toward him has remained negative. I know, for example, of one person who will neither watch his films nor be in the room when someone else watches them.

In the comments section to Lapidos’ article, one reader, Jacob Cerf, noted, “I loved Manhattan at the time. Now I can’t watch it or Hannah without thinking of Soon-Yi.”

Cerf echoed the feeling I had in reading Lapidos’ article. Lapidos talks about Allen’s obsessive ruminations on various philosophical ideas, and I found myself thinking, “Well, I guess that ethics isn’t one of his philosophical preoccupations.”

However, I’m not sure that it would matter if ethics were his primary focus. One of the things that has long fascinated me about people is that a moralistic preoccupation does not correlate at all well with a person behaving in moral manner.

Doesn’t it seem as though every time you turn around there’s some fundamentalist preacher caught in bed with a hooker, a handful of drugs, a male prostitute — or some combination of all three? And it’s not just Christian or conservative clergy who do these things. In the world of western Buddhist practice, there have been more than a few cases of Buddhist clergy behaving very unethically in matters of sex or money.

My first experience of this paradox was forty years ago as an undergraduate, when I had a run-in with a distinguished professor of ethics that made it clear to me that it was a subject he studied, not a path he followed.

Picture of book cover of Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Freud said many dumb and destructive things, but I don’t think this is one of them: “The fear is the desire.” If I remember correctly, he was talking about phobic behavior, but he was onto something. When we hear about conservative Christians closeting themselves with porn for hours at a time so that they can “study” it (the better to condemn it?), that’s what I think of.

I’m reminded of another, similar, insightful idea: “The subconscious does not understand a negative.” What does that mean? It means that when someone comes up to you at a party and says, “It’s not like I want to steal your spouse, but what a dreamboat,” you better find some way to get your beloved away from this would-be home-wrecker. Or when some salesman sales, “It’s not like I want you to spend any more money than you need to, but…,” hang onto your wallet for dear life.

I’m reading a fascinating book right now, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, that is not emotionally easy to read. It’s about all the ways that we color — or even fabricate — our memories to make them more consonant with our ideas (or fantasies) about who we are. As I read the book, I keep wanting to think that it’s about other people, not me, and that kind of urge is just what the authors are talking about:

Memories are distorted in a self-enhancing direction in all sorts of ways. Men and women alike remember having had fewer sexual partners than they really did, they remember having far more sex with those partners than they actually had, and they remember using condoms more often than they actually did. People also remember voting in elections they didn’t vote in, they remember voting for the winning candidate rather than the politician they did vote for, they remember giving more to charity than they really did, they remember that their children walked and talked at an earlier age than they really did… You get the idea.

So while a majority of people feel that Allen’s actions were morally reprehensible, I’m sure that if we asked him — or Soon-Yi, now his wife — we would get a much more self-serving slant on what happened. One of the public comments frequently attributed to Soon-Yi, namely that Farrow is “No Mother Theresa,” suggests as much.


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Copyright © 2011 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Ethics, Psychology

I am 57, and I am Tired, Too

The other day, I got one of those essays that get circulated by e-mail — the kind that are intended to provide a focus for blue collar angst while kicking up commitment to a very conservative political agenda.

This one was titled, “I’m 63 and I’m Tired,” and was credited to Robert A Hall, “a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts State Senate.” He also published a book in 2005, The Good Bits. The essay is apparently taken from his blog. At the bottom of the e-mail, it states: “There is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on! This is your chance to make a difference.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. This man has managed to be elected to public office five times, has published a book, and is a frequently quoted blogger, but the only way he has of influencing the world is via an e-mail chain-letter?

Well, I’ve never been elected anything (except, perhaps ironically, “Most Likely to Succeed”), I’ve published one novel that got great reviews (all two of them), and I write a blog that pretty much nobody reads. I think my deathless prose is more in need of an e-mail campaign than is Mr. Hall’s.

And so, with all modesty, here is my response to his essay. Everyone and anyone is welcome to copy it and send it to everyone they know. Or post it on Facebook. Or divide it into skeenteen-bazillion little 140-character excerpts and use it to torture people via Twitter.

“I’m 57, and I’m Tired, Too”

By Candace Van Auken

I’m 57. Until I became disabled in 2001, I worked hard at different jobs, routinely putting in 50 to 70-hour weeks. I did call in sick some days as my inflammatory arthritis worsened, but my employers just patched me through to meetings via telephone — there being no rest for the weary white-collar employee. For years, I made a very good salary, and I didn’t inherit my job or my income. In fact I had to work twice as hard to make 3/4 the salary of the average male employee. Now, given the economy and my disability, I’m probably going to end up living under a bridge, and that thought makes me feel both scared and tired. Very tired.

I’m tired of being told that I’m a parasite when I spent many years paying taxes and Social Security. (I noticed, one year, that according to a newspaper article, I was paying three times the amount in taxes as a politician who earned twice what I did. Unlike him, I paid my fair share.) I was told by the government that I had worked for my Disability insurance, but according to people lucky enough to have never been seriously ill, I’m a drain on society. I’m tired of being told that conservative congressmen will take the money I paid in, and give it to the most obscenely profitable industry in the world — the oil companies — as “subsidies” necessary for “the creation of new jobs.” (It’s a fact: As oil companies profits have risen, the number of people they employ has decreased, a reality that apparently doesn’t trouble conservatives.)

Photograph of member from the Westboro Baptist Church at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, on the day of Pope Benedict's address to the UN General Assembly. Original photograph by David Shankbone. URL:

I’m tired of being told that Christianity is a “Religion of Love,” when frequently I can read dozens of stories about members of the Westboro Baptist Church calling Catholic priests “vampires” and the daughters of our current president “satanic spawn…of a murderous bastard.” The Supreme Court just upheld the group’s right to stand outside the funerals of military heroes holding signs that say, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The group launched a Web site called “Priests Rape Boys,” and they don’t just save their venom for Roman Catholics. They have claimed that Orthodox Christians are indistinguishable from Catholics, and they also criticize Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and other Baptists. After a 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Chine, the group issued a press release thanking God for the number of people who had lost their lives, and in 1996 they protested at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. saying, “Whatever righteous cause the Jewish victims of the 1930s–40s Nazi Holocaust had…has been drowned in sodomite semen.” And in case you haven’t figured it out, yet: They are just as “typical” of Christianity as Al-Qaida is of Islam.

I’m tired of being told that out of “Tolerance for Free Speech and Freedom of Religion” we must look the other way when conservative politicians encourage the murder of gay people in Uganda or aggressively proselytizing American Christian missionaries offer to rebuild areas of Sri Lanka devastated by a tsunami only if the homeless and destitute residents abandon their faith and convert to Christianity. (And when Sri Lanka’s government complained, the Bush administration threatened to cut off aid and credit to the country.)

I’m tired of hearing that American workers must lower their standard of living and give up the right to bargain collectively as union members in order to slow the number of jobs being shipped overseas. Ending up with a living standard comparable to Bangladesh has never been part of the “American Dream.”

Prohibition era poster

I’m tired of being told that that we can “Win the War on Drugs,” when it is obvious that the millions we pour into it are working just as well as Prohibition did in abolishing the sale and consumption of alcohol. And I am tired of being treated like a criminal whenever I go to buy OTC Sudafed at my local drug store. Are middle-aged, chronically ill women with stuffy noses the leading edge of a new crime wave?

I, too, am tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I’m tired of people with a bloated sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

I’m really tired of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives and actions. I’m tired of hearing conservatives blame “big government” or “reverse discrimination,” for all their problems.

Yes, I’m sick and I’m tired. But I’m also glad to be 57. Because, maybe, I’ll live long enough to see people catch onto the many ways that conservative Republicans pretend to serve US citizens while actually doing the bidding of the large international corporations and interests that fund them. I sure hope so.

Candace Van Auken is a middle-aged woman disabled by autoimmune diseases, who was mightily ticked off by Robert A. Hall’s essay — now going the e-mail rounds — “I’m 63 and I’m tired.”

There is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on! This is your chance to make a difference.

Photo credit:

Copyright © 2011 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Internet, Politics
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