When it comes to ruthless stupidity, it's hard to top the Grand Canyon State. Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) in her opening statement at a 2010 televised debate went silent for approximately 9 seconds and then bolted from the stage. See her performance here. Then, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R-AZ) was annointed "Knucklehead of the Week" by the Newark Star-Ledger in today's issue of that fishwrap. "Sheriff Joe" is infamous for ruthless behavior towards the inmates in his jail facilities. Now, the fool is launching a criminal investigation of the Hawaii birth certificate that was issued to the parents of the POTUS 44. And not to be outdone, the Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R-AZ) in his role as the chief election officer, threatened to keep the POTUS 44 off the 2012 Arizona ballot until there was satisfactory proof that the POTUS 44 had been born in Hawaii. After receiving a reply from officials in Honolulu, Bennett said in a written statement that Hawaii officials "have complied with the request, and I consider the matter closed." Interestingly, Bennett also is the Arizona campaign co-chair for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney. Arizona has compiled an amazing array of stupid and ruthless behavior. However, this blogger will put the ruthlessness and stupidity of the Dumbos and Teabaggers in the Lone Star State up against anything from Arizona. If this is a (fair & balanced) examination of sociopathy, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
Nasty Like Us
By Edward Tenner
Tag Cloud of the following article
Editors and pundits seem to agree that the 2012 presidential election will be one of the hardest fought in memory. Even the international press has jumped in; an Economist cover predicts “Hardball,” and in April The Guardian called the campaign “ruthless in its backstabbing,” warning, “you have seen nothing yet.”
What should be explained instead is how civil our recent contests have been, for as a society America has always been attracted to ruthlessness. It might be defined not just as hard competition but as the deployment of unfair, unethical and distasteful (if often technically legal) methods. American culture blended a Protestant sense of mission and virtue with a pragmatism that could countenance slavery and Indian removal.
America hardly invented ruthlessness — think of that all-American hero, Napoleon Bonaparte — but it extended it to the common people. Moralists from Benjamin Franklin to Horatio Alger and beyond might celebrate character as the path to success, but the man in the street knew differently. Adventurers like the notorious filibusterer William Walker became folk heroes. After a New Orleans jury acquitted Walker of violating the Neutrality Act of 1818, he began a fund-raising tour for a new adventure. The early 20th century rags-to-riches baseball star Ty Cobb “came in hard and with spikes high,” as his biographer Charles C. Alexander put it, and kept alive the false rumor that he sharpened them.
Secession sought to protect not just the plantation owners’ way of life but also the aspirations of Southern yeomen to slaveowning wealth, following the career of the populist military hero and president Andrew Jackson. And after the war, the robber barons were as much admired as condemned for their tactics. As the muckraking historian Matthew Josephson wrote during the Depression in his book The Robber Barons (1934), objections to the ethics of post-Civil War entrepreneurs like Jim Fisk and Jay Gould were countered by the observation that they were “smart men.”
Americans had mixed feelings about their 20th-century technological and financial heroes, too. Thomas A. Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company hired thugs to enforce his patent claims; independent filmmakers moved to Hollywood partly to avoid them. Steve Jobs paid little attention to conditions in his Chinese contractors’ factories. After his death protests grew too large for Apple to ignore; but even then, not only was “bad Steve” praised, but many of the demonstrators in the early Occupy Wall Street movement still revered him.
Attacks on the ruthless may actually increase their allure. In the 1930s, The New Yorker reported that a young man applying for a brokerage job declared that he had read The Robber Barons and wanted to become one of them. Fifty years later, the Oliver Stone film “Wall Street,” intended as an exposé of greed, inspired a generation of fans of the fictional Gordon Gekko, as portrayed by Michael Douglas. Perhaps it was this dark glamour that helped persuade President Bill Clinton, supported by his deputy attorney general (and current attorney general), Eric H. Holder Jr., to pardon a refugee from justice, Marc Rich.
Liberal Democrats, no less than their Republican foes, have a heritage of ruthlessness. The patrician Franklin D. Roosevelt, as some of Richard M. Nixon’s Republican defenders pointed out during the Watergate crisis, had abused the powers both of J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I. and of the Internal Revenue Service. The fallen Canadian conservative newspaper publisher Conrad Black, in his biography of Roosevelt, even praised this side of his character (“dissembling,” “love of intrigue”), finding him so ruthless that he was able to conceal the extent of his ruthlessness. Mr. Black asserted openly what F.D.R.’s liberal admirers have believed tacitly: if he hadn’t been so bad, he wouldn’t have been so good.
It’s not surprising, then, that President Obama (supported by Attorney General Holder) has been positioning himself as a foe of global terrorism willing to approach, if not cross, ethical lines by targeting at least one American citizen for assassination without trial — a “possible” impeachable violation, according to the libertarian Republican candidate Ron Paul.
If Mr. Obama had to overcome the suspicion that, like Jimmy Carter, he wasn’t ruthless enough, Mitt Romney has a reverse challenge. His now defeated opponent Newt Gingrich circulated a video portraying him and his company Bain Capital as “more ruthless than Wall Street” — quite a ruthless gesture in its own right. Mr. Romney can’t retreat into moderation again now; he has to double down on creative destruction, arguing the long-term mercy of short-term ruthlessness to end the deficit crisis.
Politically and economically, Americans are very likely to remain of two minds. Even after Watergate and the election of Jimmy Carter, one of the best sellers of the 1970s was Robert J. Ringer’s Looking Out for Number One (1977). Whoever will be elected in November, the attraction and repulsion of ruthlessness to Americans is unlikely to change. Ω
[Edward Tenner iss a visiting scholar in the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University and a senior research associate of the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History. After receiving the A.B. from Princeton, a Junior Fellowship of the Harvard Society of Fellows, and the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Edward Tenner held teaching and research positions in Chicago and became science editor of Princeton University Press, publishing general interest books and launching competitive series in astrophysics, animal behavior, and earth sciences. His book Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences (1996) has been an international bestseller and his most recent book is Our Own Devices: The Past and Future of Body Technology (2003).]
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