Take Five (1992 and All That edition)

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ONE: A Grave and Gathering Threat?

I would have thought that Arizona solving all its problems would be huge news, but I’m damned if I can find any information about it anywhere. I’m quite certain it happened, though. Otherwise, there’s no way state legislators would be spending their time on harebrained pseudo-legislation like SB1507, a bill purporting to thwart a 20-year-old non-binding United Nations declaration on sustainable development.

In case you’ve forgotten – as I would guess almost everyone has – back in 1992 the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development put forward Agenda 21, a framework for international cooperation and built progress that remained mindful of responsible stewardship of the planet. It garnered 178 signatories from the world community. And (however late they might be to rush to the barricades) conservatives in Arizona are not going to put up with it.

The bill, SB1507, sponsored by Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, would make it illegal for any government entity in the state to abide by any tenet or principle of the non-binding United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the international group in 1992.

Just what the hell sort of awful stuff is in those 27 principles? Let’s look at a few:

Principle 1

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Principle 4

In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.

Principle 5

All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.

Principle 25

Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Principle 26

States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Harmony with nature? Full participation of women? Peace? Eradicating poverty? Youthful idealism? A better future? In a word, ZOMG! It’s all stuff calculated to give Republicans nightmares, if they can get over their dry heaves long enough to fall asleep in the first place, but neither naps nor nausea will dissuade Burges and her allies from their desperate struggle to safeguard Arizona:

Rep. Terri Proud, a Tucson Republican and proponent of the bill, said in a mass email to her supporters that the non-binding declaration “will take away our rights as Americans by allowing the United Nations to mandate laws on our soil.”

“It’s very real and it is happening,” Proud’s email warns.

Proud doesn’t actually say how it’s happening, or why the UN doesn’t seem to have made any headway on this subversion of American sovereignty in two decades, but of course today’s Republicans don’t sweat the small stuff, like facts and so forth.

During Wednesday’s spirited floor debate on the bill, Rep. Jack Harper, a Surprise Republican, said the declaration is connected to the “occult” of sustainability.

Harper can at least rejoice that the United Nations Literacy Decade ends this year, free of deleterious effects on his own misuse of the language. Way to dodge that bullet, Jack! With Arizona safe from women, youth, harmony with nature, peace, prosperity for all and a better future, you and your comrades can move on to legislation to protect the state from other two-decade-old threats, like Mentos, ecstasy and Sir Mix-A-Lot.

TWO: No Party for Old Men

Tuesday’s primary ended the Senate career of Richard Lugar, currently serving his sixth term. Indiana voters instead nominated teabagger Richard Mourdock to replace the Senate’s most senior Republican. While I look forward to Mourdock getting his ass handed to him by Joe Donnelly this fall, I do mourn – just ever so slightly – Lugar’s impending forced retirement. Sure, he’s a Republican and a demonstrable jerk, but he’s one of the last of a generation of Republicans I disliked intensely but still maintained a rudimentary respect for.

Lugar released a detailed statement shortly after conceding, and it would be smart of the current Republican Party hierarchy to pay some heed to it. Naturally, of course, they won’t.

I knew that I had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that would be targeted by outside groups.

These included my votes for the TARP program, for government support of the auto industry, for the START Treaty, and for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. I also advanced several propositions that were considered heretical by some, including the thought that Congressional earmarks saved no money and turned spending power over to unelected bureaucrats and that the country should explore options for immigration reform.

Lugar was careful to denigrate Democrats along with Republicans, but the criticism was pro forma and mostly bullcrap. On the subject of his own party’s increasing flirtation with a political abyss, however, his words ring true:

… ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment…

Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc.

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Lugar has discovered what Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe already knew, that their party is dead. In its place is an evil, misshapen monstrosity, a lurid amalgam of Randian gobbledygook, proto-fascist social policy, paint-by-numbers evangelical hypocrisy, unabashed xenophobia, appalling misogyny, racist dog whistles, and a paranoia that would give Joe McCarthy pause.

Indiana primary voters did you a favor. Say goodnight, Dick.

THREE: “Everybody’s talkin’ about Bagism…”

Arizona isn’t the only state bravely combating the past. Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed his state’s new “saggy pants” law last week, coldly forcing Tennessee students to come up with other ways of convincing their elders that the world is going straight to Hell.

The legislation prohibits students from exposing “underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learning environment.”

Haslam’s remarks a few weeks ago about this and other legislation were oddly ambiguous:

During a panel discussion about work force development and higher education this week, Haslam argued that an overhaul of standards in schools has failed to gain the proper attention from reporters.

“We’re redefining accountability, and you’d be hard-pressed to find 100 lines of print in any paper of the state,” Haslam said. “Now, today in the legislature there’s a conversation about saggy pants and what they should do there.”

“So we have to go to our friends in the media and say: ‘Really?’”

All of which sounds like a pretty solid argument against this kind of nonsense legislation, in favor of lawmakers addressing substantive issues, but Haslam apparently didn’t mean it that way. So what was he really trying to say?

“I’d say there’s quite a contest for the craziest political issue around,” Haslam told reporters after attending a meeting of the Tennessee Board of Regents last week.

On that much, Governor, we agree.

FOUR: Oh, Just Shut Up

It’s easy to forget that John McCain still has a Senate seat, since his real gig seems to be spouting stupid opinions like a PEZ dispenser dispenses PEZ. The other day, McCain took umbrage at President Obama’s campaign ad suggesting that Mitt Romney would not have made the call to take out bin Laden. Here’s McCain in full angry leprechaun mode:

“Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad. This is the same President who once criticized Hillary Clinton for invoking bin Laden ‘to score political points.’

“This is the same President who said, after bin Laden was dead, that we shouldn’t ‘spike the ball’ after the touchdown. And now Barack Obama is not only trying to score political points by invoking Osama bin Laden, he is doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get reelected.”

McCain went on to distort, cherry-pick and outright lie about the President’s foreign policy record, all to portray the killing of bin Laden as “the one decision he got right,” a decision he claims the President has now exploited in “a pathetic political act of self-congratulation.”

I’ll give McCain credit for some expertise about diminishing the memory of September 11th, though. If you caught even a minute of the Republican National Convention in 2008, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If only the President would just take a page out of McCain’s rulebook and brag about strictly hypothetical accomplishments:

I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him. I’ll get him no matter what and I know how to do it.

FIVE: Sofa-Sized

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics places the number of unemployed people in Maine at 51,307. Governor Paul LePage has a bold proposal to drive that number down:

“Maine’s welfare program is cannibalizing the rest of state government,” he said. “To all you able-bodied people out there: Get off the couch and get yourself a job.”

LePage made these remarks at last weekend’s Maine Republican Party convention, so naturally the crowd went wild. Who but a Republican would actually believe that 7.2% of the state’s workforce prefers collecting welfare to getting a paycheck? It’s curious, however, that LePage didn’t explain why that 7.2% rate is a full percentage point lower than the national average. Maybe Maine is suffering from a couch shortage.