Monday, July 18, 2011

Mirth Control

Dr. Marcus and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. See? I haven't even said anything yet and you're already smiling. That's because the visage of this couple brings mirth. It's like watching Rob and Laura Petrie run for president, only without the wisdom and good humor of the Dick Van Dyke Show. The Bachmanns have five children and have fostered twenty-three others, mostly troubled teens, and God bless them for it. In an age of hypocrisy, at least Michele Bachmann backs-up her virulent anti-abortion views by caring for children who have already been born. There is nothing less than admirable in being a foster parent. If having babies and rearing children were a major qualification for the presidency, however, the logical choice would be to vote for the Octomom. As for Bachmann, she signed a "pro-marriage pledge," last week, created by the Iowa nutbag organization, The Family Leader, that equated abortion, Sharia law, pornography, and gay marriage as evils, and insinuated that black children had it better under slavery. After an outcry of righteous disgust, the group decided to delete that particular paragraph. But not before Bachmann signed it. The only other signee to "the pledge" was Rick "man on dog" Santorum.

Dr. Marcus Bachmann, a self-described "Christian therapist," has come under public scrutiny when it was revealed that his federally funded counseling centers, Bachmann and Associates, offered religion-based, gay-to-straight, "reparative" therapy, a practice that has been derided as "dangerous" by respected psychological publications. The doctor claims that homosexuality is a choice and has advised the parents of potentially gay children that, "Barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn't mean that we are supposed to go down that road."  Dr. Bachmann later said that he never meant to refer to gays as "barbarians," but instead was referring to children, as if that made it better. I can't help it, but every time I look at this guy, he reminds me of the illegitimate son of former Dallas Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson and Liberace. I confess to having zero gaydar, but watching Marcus Bachmann doing the "Bop" onstage at a Tea Party Rally, was like watching Kevin Bacon on estrogen. From a guy that sounds like Woody Woodpecker and looks like Gorgeous George, I deduce that he's contemplated "going down that road" before. Maybe he's fathered five children but, let's face it, Dr. Bachmann makes Adam Lambert look butch. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Current inquiries have also raised questions about the doctor's credentials. Bachmann claims a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Union Graduate College in Ohio, only no such program existed when he graduated. Unlicensed in Minnesota, "Dr." Bachmann's clinics, while offering counselling services for addiction and other real-world problems, rely on Evangelical teachings enough to question their eligibility for federal funding. The "pray away the gay" therapy only exacerbates the problem. Michele has recently said that she "loves the homosexuals," as much as you can love someone who is an abomination in the sight of the Lord, but this was to neutralize her previous remarks. In an interview, she said that (homosexuality), "leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. If you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage." Is there a straight "lifestyle" that I don't know about? And why do Evangelicals evoke gay imagery to describe human sexuality? Bachmann's campaign for an anti-gay marriage amendment and the Tea Party's social agenda has propelled her past Mitt Romney as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Now, if we could only change her mind about slavery, perhaps she wouldn't talk about "bondage" so much.

Even Rudy Giuliani has advised Republican candidates to leave the gay marriage issue alone, but Bachmann continues marching as to war with Marcus at her side. Despite tub-thumping for the right-wing sex police, Bachmann claims the election is about economics so she can tout her law degree from Oral Roberts University, now Regents College. May I show you my philosophy degree from Lenny's College? Just before the kick-off to Bachmann's presidential campaign, she and Dr. Bachmann conveniently resigned their long-time membership in the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, just because the church teaches that the Catholic Pope is the Anti-Christ. Michele has claimed she is running for president under God's instructions. Do you suppose God told her to leave her church in order to avoid a Jeremiah Wright moment, or was that her decision? Bachmann's supernatural ascension to the Queen of the Tea Party has usurped Sarah Palin's former place on the charts just as surely as Barry White overtook Isaac Hayes. And to imagine, the leading contender for the Republican nomination's greatest legislative achievement is the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

In any other year, views like these from a presidential contender would be alarming. But the Tea Party led Republican Party have shown themselves to be buffoons and paid corporate shills who would sacrifice the American economy before siding with Obama on anything. These people can no longer be taken seriously and must be steamrolled like California 405 before progress is possible. So, please, nominate Michele Bachmann for president; or any of the other Birthers, climate change deniers, anti-abortion zealots, gay bashers, sovereign citizens, or tax refuseniks. Maybe in Obama's second term we can get serious about some New Deal-like jobs programs and governmental infrastructure repair projects and put the country back to work. This requires dealing with labor unions and other socialist organizations that the right abhors. But then, what don't they abhor? Last week's news featured Michele Bachmann leading in the Iowa caucuses, the deposed Glenn Beck receiving rock star treatment by the right-wing Israeli Knesset, and Rupert Murdoch's media empire under siege. I thought I was dreaming. Members of my generation might remember that old song by Thunderclap Newman; "There's Something In The Air." Depending on which way the wind blows, this election year could be a toxic event for right-wing extremists.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Trials of the Anthonys

It's a bit early in the millennium for a "trial of the century," but here we go again. And just like the trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995, the nation is riveted by the live televised courtroom drama of the trial of Casey Anthony for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. A large coterie of commentators that analyze every word of testimony has become a nightly staple for trial-watchers, and a whole new lexicon of phrases has entered the national conversation: "Smell Test," "Chloroform Searches," "Hot Body Contests," "Shot Girls," and "Bella Vita." A cast of characters, in and out of court, complete the sideshow, including fistfights among queued citizens hoping for a seat, and the arrest of one spectator caught on camera giving the finger to the lead prosecutor. So far, he's the only one that's been sentenced to jail. The pundits also hail back to the O.J. trial. Marcia Clark showed up on CNN with Dan Abrams, while Fox News went with Mark Fuhrman. The network of record for the trial is Headline News, which features post-court analysis by Dr. Drew Pinsky, big-haired Jane Velez-Mitchell, Joy Behar, and the venomous Nancy Grace, inventor of the phrase, "Tot Mom." If the verdict depended on public opinion, Nancy Grace would be swabbing "Tot Mom's" arm right now.

The trial gives us the most intimate view since the Loud Family in the 1970s of the inner-dynamics of a dysfunctional household. This is also basically a story about mothers and their daughters. Ratings show the overwhelming number of trial viewers are women with young children.  Like most sane people, they can't believe that any mother would murder her own child in order to "live the good life," as the prosecution charges. Since Caylee disappeared in June, 2008, we have come to know this family and their tortured story. Between George's cries, Cindy's lies, and Casey's sighs, we feel the grief of these parents torn between the death of a grandchild and the potential loss of a daughter as well. The courtroom demeanor of Casey Anthony, however, can only be described as chilling. While she scoffs at her fathers' tears and gazes at her mother with thinly disguised contempt, her stoic expression and hollow eyes are filled with a soullessness that no testimony could ever capture. Even an occasional viewer of  Law and Order knows she's guilty as hell, but why does she need to drag her entire family down with her?

Everybody lies in court, from the attorneys to the police, but Casey Anthony is the Michelangelo of lying. She has more imaginary friends than I have real ones. Casey created "Zanny the Nanny" from a name on an apartment guest register. But she didn't just take the woman's name, she created a mother and sister for the phantom babysitter, supplied marital information and gave her a college education. Among the innocents victimized by this case, a real person named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales had her life ruined for sport. Casey thought the more elaborate the lie, the more believable, and thus walked the police all the way into Universal Studios before admitting she didn't  work there, despite the fact she had been getting up and going to her fake job for two years. If she is such a nimble liar, my question is, did she believe she could remain free while they searched for the fabricated nanny forever? And if her child drowned, as the defense claims, how to explain the fresh tattoo she got the next day, or the month of hard-partying before admitting her daughter was missing? Casey suffers from the narcissism of the assumed pretty. Her pals were all hooking-up and her boyfriend du jour didn't want a child around. Hot bodies are fleeting.

Unlike the O.J. trial, defense attorney Jose Baez is no Johnny Cochran. His slogan should be, "If your lawyer gets licked, you must convict." Either Casey looked in the Yellow Pages for "Worst Attorneys in Orlando," or she hired him from "Lawyers R' Us." His fumfering, ill-prepared delivery makes him look particularly clumsy next to the professionalism of prosecutor Jeffrey Ashton.  Baez' stunning opening statements about sexual abuse, incest, and the accusation that George Anthony covered up  his granddaughter's drowning were left hanging in the air like the stench of death in a car trunk. Casey watched impassively while her counsel allowed Cindy to perjure herself in an effort to save her daughter's life. Not possessing any such motherly instincts, Casey is like a human wrecking ball, destroying everything in her path. The deleted computer searches sink both Casey and Cindy, who now faces charges of perjury. All the news-talkers expressed amazement at the ineptitude of Jose Baez but after his fourth rebuke from Judge Belvin Perry, I began to glimpse his genius strategy. He needs more time to develop his theory that the meter-reader did it, so regardless of the jury's verdict, an appeals court is bound to grant Casey a new trial on the grounds of incompetent counsel.

With the Florida death penalty at stake, this is truly reality television. Most likely, Casey will never reveal what actually happened to Caylee. Jose Baez conjured an image of George Anthony holding his drowned grandchild while plotting the disposal of her remains, then he never mentioned it to the jury again. My favorite new legal opiner, attorney Mark Eiglarsh, said "It's hard to prove murder without a cause of death." After 84 Google searches for "chloroform," and additional searches for "neck-breaking," and "internal bleeding," on the family computer, any reasonable juror might suspect pre-meditation, regardless of the cause of death. The emotionless Casey may finally show traces of humanity after she is convicted, but because of the overwhelming sympathy for Cindy and the wrecked Anthony family, she'll be spared the death penalty. Whatever the result of this sad episode, a child is dead and a family is ruined. A life sentence might allow Casey the time to train her hyper-imagination toward writing fiction. And if she still misses her party-girl life, I hear there's lots of sex in prison. Personally, I'd like to see "Tot Mom" put under house arrest. Only, it has to be in Nancy Grace's house.