Take Five (Wild, Wild Life edition)

ONE: “Turkeys are bad enough.”

Not that there had been much suspense about it beforehand, but Arizona Governor Jan Brewer made her loyalties in the Republican Party’s War on Women abundantly clear when she suffered mild friction burns in her haste to sign the Women’s Health and Safety Act into law.

The bill has nothing to do with women’s health and safety, of course. It’s just another iteration of the standard Republican end-run around women’s reproductive rights, comparable to those already implemented in various other states:

… the law includes education in public schools prioritizing birth and adoption, signs throughout health-care facilities warning against abortion “coercion,” and an order for the state health department to create and maintain a website touting alternatives to abortion and displaying images of fetuses. Also required is abortion counseling for women aiming to abort pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities, and if the abnormality is certain to be fatal, the counseling incorporates perinatal hospice information before ending the pregnancy. It reaffirms existing barriers to access, like the requirement of a notarized parental consent form for minors and a mandatory ultrasound screening within 24 hours of having an abortion.

Brewer’s stance on another issue, however, was a little more surprising. She vetoed for a second time a bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried on public property, although the veto was motivated by fiscal and consensus concerns rather than ideological ones:

“The decisions to permit or prohibit guns in these extremely sensitive locations — whether a city council chamber or branch office staffed with state workers — should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law-enforcement officials and local government leaders,” Brewer wrote in her veto letter…

House Bill 2729… proposed making it legal for people to enter public property with a weapon unless the property was secured by either a state or federal certified law-enforcement officer or an armed security guard and metal detectors…

Cities, counties, law-enforcement agencies and business organizations opposed it, saying they would have had to either let guns into buildings where the public would rather not have them or pay millions of dollars to provide the security required to keep them out.

A study conducted by legislative staff estimates that security costs for a government entity to ban guns could have ranged from $5,000 to $113,800 per public entrance in the first year with ongoing costs of $54,400 to $108,800 per year.

Hey, scoff if you must, but if you want smart policy from an administration like Brewer’s, it’s invariably going to be unintentional.

Elsewhere on the gun (out-of-) control front, an Oklahoma legislator recently offered up a novel rationale for the open-carry bill that recently passed out of committee and is headed for a legislative vote. Ralph Shortey, a – surprise! – Republican, treated fellow members of the Senate Committee on Public Safety to this harrowing anecdote:

“I was in oil and gas,” Shortey said. “I was out on a lease at one time and I got attacked by a turkey. Wait until you get attacked by a turkey. You will know the fear that a turkey can invoke in a person. And so I beat it with a club. That was all I could do.

“I wish that I had a gun with me,” he said. “And I started carrying a gun in my truck after that without a license because I didn’t want to get attacked by a mountain lion. Turkeys are bad enough.”

Maybe I’m naïve, but it seems to me that all this proves is that Oklahoma should consider an open-carry law for clubs. If they’re good enough for Shortey, they should be good enough for everyone else.

TWO: “… one of these massive, nuclear submarine-type sturgeon.”

It’s a pleasure to report that, despite Scott Walker’s worst intentions, at least one part of Wisconsin’s government is still functional, the Department of Natural Resources.

Near Shawano, DNR wardens recently discovered a sturgeon reckoned to be 125 years old. The fish was laying eggs in the Wolf River, over 30 pounds’ worth. The sturgeon’s length was measured at seven feet, three inches, and its weight at 240 pounds.

Said Wisconsin DNR sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch: “I knew they were out there and I thought, ‘We finally got one of these massive, nuclear submarine-type sturgeon.’”

The wardens kindly tagged and released the fish before Wisconsin Republicans could take a cleaver to it like they have everything else in the state.

THREE: Do you know the way to San Jose? And could someone please turn up the heat in here?

Two recent incidents indicate that the TSA might finally have succeeded in its apparent mission to drive air travelers completely bonkers.

On April 10, a woman lit up a cigarette in a nonsmoking area of the B Concourse at Denver International. Asked to extinguish the cigarette, she complied. Then she removed her clothing. Whatever the relevance may be to the smoking and/or the stripping, the woman told Denver police officers that she hadn’t slept the night before (the incident occurred at about 8:45 in the morning). She was later taken to an area hospital for a medical assessment.

You’re probably thinking this was just a weird, one-off occurrence, worthy of a smile but not a second thought. Not so fast, gentle reader. Consider a question recently posed by Gothamist:

So is naked TSA protesting now a trend?

Well, maybe. A week after the Denver incident, one John Brennan, bound for San Jose, California, was going through security screening at Portland International. At some point in the process, Brennan decided to – whoops! – take his clothes off, too:

Police charged John E. Brennan with disorderly conduct and indecent exposure after he disrobed while going through the security screening area at the airport Tuesday evening.

“When interviewed about his actions, Mr. Brennan stated he fly’s (sic) a lot and had disrobed as a form of protest against TSA screeners who he felt were harassing him,” a police incident report said…

“Mr. Brennan’s actions caused two screening lanes to be closed and while some passengers covered their eyes and their children’s eyes and moved away from the screening area, others stepped out of the screening lanes to look, laugh and take photos of Mr. Brennan,” the police report said.

Which, for the latter group mentioned, at least, put a little fun back into the reliably crappy experience of modern air travel.

Gothamist didn’t venture into woo territory searching for a connection between the two incidents, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. Who’s to say that there isn’t something nefarious afoot here? Some plot to destabilize America via inconvenient nudity? Some weird George A. Romero scenario, but instead of becoming zombies, the infected attack an unsuspecting world by jiggling their jiggly bits at them in inopportune settings? Or maybe Brennan was just on something?

He was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time, police said.

Until further data is available, I guess I’ll just go with the Romero scenario, then. I hope at least the judge remembers to thank Brennan for not smoking.

FOUR: Lolwut?

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, has been saying ridiculous, offensive things for many years, but as he creeps up to the half-century mark, he’s evincing a drive and stamina befitting a much younger bigot.

The other day, he helpfully put the Secret Service prostitution scandal into a larger context for the benefit of his radio audience:

Perkins said the Secret Service scandal is merely a symptom of the “total breakdown” in morality of the larger Obama administration.

“We intuitively know it’s wrong, there’s a moral law against that,” Perkins said of prostitution. “The same is true for what the president has done to the military enforcing open homosexuality in our military. You can change the law but you can’t change the moral law that’s behind it.”

Personally, I think of administrations characterized by a “total breakdown” of morality as being those which would, say, illegally invade a sovereign nation based on falsified evidence about weapons of mass destruction, or trade arms for hostages, or maintain a domestic “enemies list” while conducting secret bombing of, for example, Cambodia. Tony Perkins doesn’t have time for such paltry issues, though; there’s gay sex going on! And if he has to claim that the Secret Service is part of the military just to make his ludicrous and insupportable contentions, then by God, so be it:

Perkins went even further in his comparison of homosexuality to prostitution in a newsletter sent today to [his] followers. He said DADT repeal “introduced a new chapter of promiscuity into the U.S. military.”

“On one hand, the administration has tried to force our military to embrace homosexuality by making unnatural and immoral sex legal — and on the other, it’s outraged that its military is engaging in another form of legal but immoral sex,” Perkins wrote.  “Both behaviors are inappropriate, unhealthy, and destructive. Yet only one seems to incense government officials.”

FIVE: Unclear on the Concept

Governor Rick Snyder – who, like all Republican politicians, unconvincingly styles himself a prudent, vigilant fiscal hawk – has belatedly put a stop to the menace of “instant millionaires on public assistance”:

[Amanda] Clayton is charged with failing to inform the state that her income had changed as a result of [a] lottery prize and a job. She won a $1 million jackpot on a game show, “Make Me Rich!” and chose a $735,000 lump sum, before taxes, last September…

Clayton, the mother of a 1-year-old, is accused of collecting approximately $5,475 in food stamps and public medical benefits over eight months until Detroit TV station WDIV broke the story in March. She told WDIV that she believed she could collect food aid because she didn’t have a job at the time.

It only took him two such embarrassing incidents to do so:

Clayton is the second person in the state caught with food stamps despite newly minted wealth, and Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a law requiring the lottery to notify the Human Services Department when someone wins at least $1,000.

Human Services Director Maura Corrigan masterfully portrayed this embarrassment as a triumph:

“The hard work done by our Office of Inspector General has helped make the difference in this case,” said Corrigan. “That commitment to investigation and uncovering the truth, combined with the new law recently enacted by the legislature and signed by the Governor, will make it easier to ensure that outrages involving instant millionaires on public assistance don’t happen in the future.”

Snyder’s Wisconsin counterpart Scott Walker, what with this fighting for his political life stuff, needs all the friends he can get, but it’s safe to assume that John Mellencamp will never be among them. Walker’s been using Mellencamp’s song “Small Town” at campaign events, and the songwriter is unhappy (though admirably reasonable) about it:

Mellencamp’s publicist Bob Merlis told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he sent Walker’s campaign an email not asking him to stop using the song, but to inform him of Mellencamp’s beliefs.

“He’s a very liberal person,” Merlis said of the singer. “He appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. His wife at the time was a delegate at large. He’s very pro-collective bargaining and the fight for a living wage.”

Either unaware of decades of conservative co-option of “heartland values” and the concomitant demonizing of liberals as elitist America-haters, or simply – in the liberal manner – just too darned polite to mention it, Merlis observed:

“More often than not it’s right wing candidates who use his songs, which is somewhat paradoxical.”

In other music-related news, I can only hope the organizers of this year’s Olympic Games in London know more about sports than they do about rock history. It seems they recently contacted Bill Curbishley, manager of The Who, to invite Keith Moon to perform at the Games. Frustratingly, however, Moon died 34 years ago. A second invitation didn’t go any better:

The Sex Pistols have also turned down the chance to be part of a ‘Symphony of Rock’ in the Games’ closing ceremony on August 12, chronicling the history of British popular music, which executive producer Stephen Daldry has promised will be ‘the soundtrack of our lives’.