And we’re back! What did we miss?

PolitiPop has returned!

Yes indeed, after a few solid weeks of rest and relaxation, travel, and a slew general summer activities, PolitiPop is back and ready to bring you the best in politics and pop culture.   Looking back at the news from our time apart its pretty clear — the apocalypse may very well be upon us.

Ok, I’m exaggerating, I don’t believe in Revelation’s, but here’s a few stories from the last couple of weeks that could make one think (wish?) it were the end-of-days:

– Congress and President Obama finally came to a deal on raising the debt ceiling… by leaving the “job creators” (a.k.a the wealthy folks) alone with their cash and slashing federal spending, with the promise that more cuts are to come at the discretion of a Super Committee, where entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security, and the defense budget are all on the table.

– Following up the debt deal the U.S. loses its AAA rating from S&P; it’s unfortunate for Obama that this happened on his watch, but with outrage set firmly against the ratings firms (who are said to have botched calculations) and Congress’ petty bickering along party lines, it seems like the blame is being pretty well spread around.

London’s burning; this is not a reference to The Clash.

– Texas Gov. Rick Perry throws his ten gallon hat into the ring for 2012.  Back in June, The Texas Tribune ran a very informative piece detailing why the Republican and frequent First Amendment violator, should not run for president.  Why God, why?

Newsweek ran this extremely horrifying cover featuring Michele Bachmann. No, seriously God, why?

On the upside, if you want to call it that (and I do, I loved the movie), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the 3rd highest grossing film of all time.  Moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch the wizarding world finally break free from He Who Must Not Be Named, briefly escaping the endlessly depressing news reports inundating every facet of our lives, but our Muggle troubles are nothing compared to what the Ministry of Magic is now facing post-Voldamort.  Foreign Policy ran a fascinating piece looking at the long road ahead for the wizarding community.

Finally, I spent last weekend in Chicago, attending the city’s yearly music festival Lollapalooza.  Despite the torrential rain and the ankle-deep mud, acts like the Foo Fighters, DeadMau5 and Cold War Kids played on for the dirty-yet-enthusiastic crowds.  One performance that stood out was Damien Marley and Nas; their plea for unification was moving especially in the song, “Leaders,” when they asked for all to stand up and lead, not just in politics but in life, singing, “Oh leaders, let’s all change the world.”

And then, I kid you not, a rainbow appeared.

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Really Donald? Have you learned nothing…

Did Donald Trump learn nothing from his short stint as a possible GOP candidate?

This morning The Donald went on Fox and Friends to explain why he thought congressional Republicans should reject any plan brought to the table by Obama and the Dems: “Frankly the Republicans would be crazy unless they get 100% of the deal that they want right now to make any deal…If this happens, for instance if this stuff is going on prior to an election, he can’t get reelected”

Brian Kilmead pointed out that contrary to Trumps views, recent polls indicate that in the event that the US government should default on August 2, the majority of Americans would blame the Republicans.  Trump countered, saying, “… I don’t care about polls. When it comes time to default, they’re not going to remember any of the Republicans’ names. They are going to remember in history books one name, and that’s Obama.”

I find it shocking that The Donald doesn’t care about polls, considering how quickly they dashed his hopes for a presidential bid in 2012.  His April lead disappeared a mere ten days after Obama and SNL’s Seth Myers skewered the real estate mogul at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on April 30.  Shortly after dropping to fifth place in a survey taken by Public Policy Polling in May, Trump announced that he would not be running for president in 2012.

Read more at Think Progress.

 


The Amazing Race: Rick Perry and God

In America we love our competition reality TV, and with the big showdown coming in 2012, the lead-up to the presidential elections has yet to disappoint. Of course, it’s the GOP we’re all watching; it seems like the field of players grows every week, and every week one of them says or does something that makes you wonder if this whole thing is scripted and the GOP is making a Oscar-worthy documentary, Joaquin Phoenix-style.

One character that’s starting see more screen time is Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Touting his state’s booming economy and job growth, Perry believes that it is his fiscal leadership that has led Texas to recover faster than many other states. In a June appearance on Fox News, Perry claimed that Texas jobs accounted for 48% of the total number of jobs created in the US since April 2009. Politifact found the claim to be neither completely true nor completely false; stats on job creation in Texas are heavily disputed, ranging anywhere from 18% to 54%, depending on the time frame and who you’re talking to.

There’s no denying that Texas’ economy is doing well, but the growth comes at a price; Texas reportedly added over 211,000 jobs in 2010, 76,000 (37%) of which paid at or below minimum wage. In a New York Times Room for Debate discussion, “The Texas Jobs Juggernaut,” editor of The Texas Observer Dave Mann writes,

Texas now leads the nation in minimum-wage workers (550,000 in all). That hasn’t improved our income inequality. Despite the good economy, Texas remains a state of extreme wealth and desperate poverty. The low-tax structure means the state is chronically short of money and, this year, saddled with a huge budget shortfall. Social services and public schools are woefully underfunded. Our graduation rate is low, our dropout rate high. One in four Texans lacks health insurance, by far the highest percentage in the nation.

Mann explains that many of the driving factors of the state’s economic boom—”inexpensive cost of living and low-tax, anti-regulatory policies “—preceded Perry’s arrival to the statehouse and will remain after he’s gone.

What is most fascinating (and disturbing) about Perry singing the praises of his own economic prowess lays in his ultimate plan for fixing the US economy: God.

When speaking to an evangelical group in May, Perry repeated the beloved GOP/Tea Party line that the nation’s current policies are a threat to the founder’s vision of America, saying “Our founding fathers understood that [private property] was a very important part of the pursuit of happiness. Being able to own things that are your own is one of the things that makes America unique. But I happen to think that it’s in jeopardy. It’s in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.

Last time I looked, God was not a financial planner, so it doesn’t matter much that Perry thinks he has a direct line to the Almighty ever since He “called” upon the Gov. to help fix America after us damn liberals came in with our crazy socialist ideas, wanting to close the wealth gap and insure all citizens equally. Besides, not even God would be merciful enough to take a cabinet position to fix this mess, as one commenter posted on New York Magazine‘s website in response to Perry’s pronouncement, “God is like, ‘no thanks man, I’m cool.'”


T-Paw hearts Gaga

GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty loves Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith… this is not surprising.  But when the former Minnesota governor turns the tables on his interviewers, the ladies of the D.C.-based pop culture blog Glittarazzi, by asking them to name their favorite Lady Gaga song… well, now I’m surprised—for a minute any way.  Once I recover from the original shock, reality sets in.

Is this Pawlenty’s best effort at becoming relevant?  It kind of seems like someone on his staff thought they could make the incredibly dull Republican seem “edgy,” by going against the stereotype and having him divulge his secret love for the bisexual, outspokenly-liberal pop star.

Oh, T-Paw, try harder.  Or better yet, don’t try, just stay boring, it’s much less awkward that way.


A New Hope That The Empire Strikes Back at the Jedi’s Return to the Dark Side

As we approach the possible sequel to Barack Obama’s New Hope the Empire is surely striking back. Personally, as a fervent Obama supporter in 2008 (I made calls to New Hampshire, Florida, and Pennsylvania) I’m happy that should he be reelected there won’t be a trilogy. There doesn’t need to be. Like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, Obama is being tempted and seduced by the dark side. Gitmo is still open; Afghanistan has drained the wealth of our nation, debilitating its ability to weather the global financial storm, while thousands of young Americans and Afghani civilians have died. Furthermore, an assault on the middle class in the form of debt championed by corporate welfare in the Senate and the White House has gone unfettered by our president. The empire has indeed co-opted this promising young padawan.

I’m not a fan of Lucas’s prequels to his masterful and visionary Star Wars Trilogy and I especially hated Episode 1: The Phantom Acting Ability. However, Lucas’s take on the process of political decay that befalls all republics has been spot on. In The Phantom Menace (the real title) it is a permanent bureaucracy in conjunction with a monopolistic business class that has true control while representatives squabble over inane policies and our kept in the dark on military and regulatory action. This bureaucracy knows no party affiliation or check on its power and through a combination of fear tactics, media malpractice (business class), and money has allowed for a reversal of civil rights of all Americans.

It’s on the back of these events that the Tea Party has successfully funneled white anger against the system only to reinforce the system. Senator Palpatine used fear of this bureaucracy to force of vote of confidence in the chancellor and take control for himself. The current rising star of the republican presidential field, Michele Bachmann, has stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that her favorite philosophical author is Ludwig Von Mises, the economist known for such writings as Socialism, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War, and surprise surprise, Bureaucracy. 

The Tea Party continues to push back against this bureaucracy but through an unbalanced approach, blowing away sensible regulation of what pollutants go into our water and food while supporting tax credits for industries, deregulation of the financial system and the Sherman Anti-trust policies, and the reauthorization of the patriot act, all programs that have successfully crowded out the free market from American business.

The Tea Party should be careful not to make the mistake of propping up a messiah figure forth right that only serves to indulge their nativist attitudes while allowing the same monopolistic and bureaucratic policies to continue.

We must remember that the problems facing America are not the sole creation of big business as the left would preach or big government as the right preaches, but a collusion of both. This collusion of classes –political and financial– in the protection of a noble class in Washington must be stopped but not at the expense of creating a strong executive with wide powers over the state’s monopoly over violence. There are indeed admirable qualities that Ms. Bachmann possesses outside the hyperbolic religious fervor she espouses in Taliban-like rhetoric.

Many societies have stood on the doorstep of totalitarianism before a charismatic leader, Rome before Caesar, Germany before Hitler, and the intergalactic senate before Darth Sidious’s alter ego Senator Palpatine. I’ve never recommended the Star War prequels to anyone before, but to my Tea Party brothers and sisters I suggest a movie marathon… I’ll bring the popcorn.


The Book of Mormon or Mein Kampf

The following is a post written by Sphere of Influence’s newest contributor Jonathan Smith, who has been so kind as to take time during his vacation — where WordPress is being rather stingy with its access — to share his thoughts on The Book of Mormon and the GOP-er’s who follow the religion.

The Book of Mormon or Mein Kampf
By Jonathan W. Smith

I’m not one to watch award ceremonies, least of all the Tony’s. This year however, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon and it’s 14 nominations intrigued me enough to occasionally tune in during commercial breaks of the Bones marathon I was watching. As a fan of South Park I was already familiar with Parker and Stone’s (creators of South Park) take on Mormonism as a religion. An episode from season 7 titled “All about Mormons”, takes the position that though the religion is based on some pretty wild and idiotic theories (what religion isn’t?) those practicing the faith now are generally good, kind hearted people who love their family and are dedicated to the general welfare of their fellow man regardless of faith.

I have not had the pleasure of personally knowing any Mormons but the above description describes the Mormons in The Book of Mormon, HBO’s Big Love, and the most high profile Mormons in America, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. As a committed agnostic myself I never really think about the religion of the candidates running for high office. As noted before, all religions have unsubstantiated beliefs. The idea of thetons is just as preposterous as drinking the blood of Christ and eating his body. If making cannibalism a regular part of my diet is a prerequisite for being saved I think I’ll wait for the next Rabbi claiming to be the son of God. Hopefully he’d let me substitute his body for Chinese food.

However, the title song in The Book of Mormon, has a line in which the lead character explains that the Mormon church considered black people to be undeserving of God’s love until 1978 because of their, our, decision to side with Lucifer before being born. As punishment, God made our skin black. By this logic, great civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela lack the necessary qualities to enter into God’s kingdom. While other religions, particularly in the Christian faith, have had a legacy of racism they have for the most part apologized for their past. Not Mormons, in 1978 God decided to inform the Mormon prophet that blacks had repaid their debt and could become full pledge Mormons. The legacy of racism was deserved.

Both Mormons currently running for the republican nomination grew up in a church environment where from a young age they were taught that blacks were evil and soulless. I don’t know how these ideas inform their actions now (Jon Huntsman was President Obama’s ambassador to China) but I have yet to hear Mitt Romney talk about civil rights or how multiculturalism has added to American Exceptionalism. The only video I’ve ever seen of Romney, the front runner, talking to a group of African Americans was in Florida when he took a picture with a group of young black girls and started to sing “Who let the dogs out”.

In a country that is still reeling from a racist past but building upon a new growing black middle and upper class I don’t think the best way forward is vote for a man who equates African Americans with the devil or Disney stereotypes. Until both adequately answer how this backward and racist belief on the origins of black people has informed them on civil rights, I’m just a bigot who will never vote for a Mormon.


Elections 2012, Coming This Fall to a United States Near You!

May is a bittersweet month; in the nice weather I can eat lunch outside and avoid my least favorite subway stations by walking, but at the same time I have to say goodbye to the vast  majority my favorite TV shows for nearly 4+ months (or indefinitely, RIP Chicago Code, we barely knew ye.)

Now the Glee kids are coming into town, stuff is happening on Bones (finally!), and as a sick reminder that I have only True Blood to look forward to in the coming months, the big four networks start to publicize their fall lineups by hacking down any under-performers and hyping pilot scripts in development.

But the biggest hit of the 2011/2012 season won’t be a sitcom or drama, like the newest J.J. Abrams venture or The Playboy Club on NBC (really NBC?).

It will be a reality show: The 2012 presidential elections.

As Benjamin Svetkey wrote about on EW’s PopWatch last week, despite the Republican’s weak field of candidates and President Obama’s return to awesomeness following the death of Osama bin Laden, the 2012 election still promises to be an entertaining one.

With this cast of characters how could America not be enthralled: Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey), Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and anyone associated with the Tea Party, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and of course, Donald Trump and that fox that lives on top of his head.

The 2008 elections were no doubt thrilling, with the candidates setting the bar high by poking fun at themselves on Saturday Night Live and appearing on everything from the national news programs in prime time to the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Late Show with David Letterman.  But America can do better.

November 6, 2012 is still 17 months away and there is plenty of time to comment on the dramas of the next presidential election, but with Obama already gearing up a new campaign, releasing not only his long form birth certificate but a video of his actual birth (which we can all thank The Donald for), and Newt announcing his candidacy via Twitter, there is no question that the 2012 election promises to be the stuff of  Hollywood legend.