Take Five (Summer of Shove edition)

ONE: Piggies

Summer began yesterday, and with both the weather and election campaigns heating up, intelligent public discourse and basic civility continue to decline at alarming rates.

Dearborn’s 17th Arab International Festival last weekend drew thousands of Arab Americans and a dozen bigoted morons. The “Bible Believers” are a group of so-called Christians who staged a missionary event on Friday evening near the festival site. One of them carried a pig’s head on a pole. Others carried signs with sentiments like “Muhammad… is a… liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”

The goal was to convert Muslims in attendance to Christianity. Now, I’m no psychic, but my guess would be that the effort was pretty much one-hundred-percent unsuccessful. The thuggish spectacle was not repeated on Saturday, but only because the “Bible Believers” evidently had other fish to fry:

… they’ll be protesting a gay festival in Ohio, said Arab Festival organizers.

So much hate, so little time.

Speaking of pigs, the Montana GOP convention was also held last weekend, featuring the dubious delights of an appearance by Newt Gingrich and a raffle for a shotgun, a shovel and a roll of duct tape. Also on display was a splendid example of the right wing’s idea of humor:

… an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library” parked outside Missoula’s Hilton Garden Inn, where the convention took place…

The outhouse was painted to look as though it had been riddled by bullets.

Inside, a fake birth certificate for Barack Hussein Obama made reference to the disproven controversy over the president’s origins. It was stamped “Bull––.” A graffito advised “For a Good Time call 800-Michelle (crossed out), Hillary (crossed out) and Pelosi (circled in red.)”

State GOP Chairman Will Deschamps of Missoula said he didn’t know who’d brought the outhouse, but dismissed it as “a sideshow.”

Actually, sir, it’s your entire party that is the sideshow, and I hope someday soon American voters in the millions will finally decide that they’re sick of the damned circus. Speaking of circuses, some dull-witted clown named Barbara Espinosa recently had a few things to say about President Obama:

A radio talk host based in Arizona referred to President Obama last week as “the first monkey president.”

Barbara Espinosa made the remark on her show, “Hair on Fire,” after a caller described Obama as a communist with “rabbit ears.”

“Well, I don’t call him ‘rabbit ears,’ I call him a monkey,” she told the caller. “I don’t believe in calling him the first black president, I call him the first monkey president… I voted for the white guy, myself,” referring to Obama’s 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Espinosa later doubled down on her remarks:

When outrage erupted over her racist comments, Espinosa wrote a post on her website entitled “YES! I Did Use the Word Monkey and Obama in same sentence.”

On the website post, she wrote: “To set the record straight I did use the word monkey and Obama in the same sentence. Yes I did say I voted for the white guy. Unless there has been a takeover of America and free speech is no longer allowed and I can be put to death for making a remark, I refuse to take the fifth.”

Strangely enough, I just went over to the sewer that Ms. Free Speech calls her blog and there’s not a trace of the post. Did I miss “a takeover of America” or is it possible that Espinosa actually found a shame reflex somewhere in the murky shallows of her reptile brain?

TWO: “If we appear to seek the unattainable…”

Last Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement, the foundational manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society. After half a century, what’s most striking about the Port Huron Statement is its undiminished immediacy, and while that is partly attributable to the timelessness of its themes, it is also because so many of its goals are as dauntingly beyond reach now as they were then.

The document’s main author, Tom Hayden, was 22 at the time. Looking back, he notes that 1962 was not at all representative of the Sixties as they are generally remembered:

The chronology is important to bear in mind. This was all before the assassination of John F Kennedy, before the publication of Silent Spring, before The Feminine Mystique, before the Beatles, before black power, before LSD and, above all, before the decision to send American combat troops to Vietnam, in 1965. An old world was cracking open and we were the first to try defining what we called “an agenda for our generation”.

In another reminiscence, Hayden links the Port Huron Statement directly to current activism:

Recently, I saw the same spirit… in the actions of undocumented undergraduates risking deportation to stand up for the [DREAM] Act. I saw it in the Wisconsin movement to recall Gov. Scott Walker, and in Occupy Wall Street’s insistence that 1% of the population shouldn’t control such a vast portion of the country’s wealth. (In fact, that felt like a direct echo of the Port Huron Statement, which complained in 1962 that 1% of Americans owned 80% of all corporate stock, and that their percentage of all wealth had remained constant since the 1920s, in spite of the New Deal reforms.)

These new movements have grown up because courageous people saw wrong and decided to push for what was right. And if they should begin to grow cynical or discouraged by how difficult it is to make change, they might consider how things looked to us in 1962. As we put it in the final words of the Port Huron Statement:

“If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.”

Hayden also sounds a cautionary note:

… we turned on ourselves in mad sectarian squabbles. Having once reached a membership of 100,000 with virtually no budget, SDS was finished as an organization just six years after it was born.

THREE: V for Vagina

I can’t imagine what the SDS founders would have thought about the “vagina” controversy unfolding 50 years and 100 miles away in Lansing. For starters, they would might shocked to see the word “vagina” appearing in print outside a medical textbook, but of course a lot of things have changed in half a century. Or have they?

It began Wednesday of last week with Democratic legislator Lisa Brown’s now-famous comments about Michigan Republicans’ newest scheme to rob women of their reproductive rights:

Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown (D) made her comments during a Wednesday debate on proposed legislation that critics say could effectively ban abortions in the state. ”I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs,” she said. “Why are you asking me to adopt yours? And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

The legislation, contained in three separate bills, would limit abortions by restricting procedures past 20 weeks of pregnancy, imposing new insurance and licensing requirements on clinics, limiting access to abortion drugs and placing new requirements on the tissue disposal process.

For the temerity of speaking her mind as a woman and a legislator on an issue affecting all women in Michigan, Brown was barred from participating in floor debates, on any topic, for a day. A fellow Democrat, Barb Byrum, was given a similar penalty for “shout[ing] at the presiding officer after she was not recognized to speak”:

Ari Adler is the spokesman for the House Republican leadership.

“It is the responsibility of every member who serves in the House of Representatives to maintain decorum on the House floor and when they do not do that, there can be actions because of that. And the action today is to not recognize either representative to speak on the House floor,” he said.

Last Saturday, Brown penned an eloquent op-ed for the Detroit News, noting:

One of my counterparts, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said “vagina” is such a disturbing word that he would never deign to use it in the presence of women or “mixed company.” This, from a man who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology…

These lawmakers — predominantly men — have no problem passing laws about my vagina. But when I dared mention its name, they became outraged.

You know what? I am outraged, too.

I am outraged that this legislative body wants to dictate not only what women can do, but also what we can say. I am outraged that the leaders of the House want to rob me and my constituents of their voice in Lansing. And I am outraged that they think they can do these things with impunity.

Vowing “I am going to speak out anyway,” Brown did just that on Monday, appearing in a reading of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues outside the Capitol building alongside other state legislators and the playwright herself. The event was a great success:

At least a few thousand women and at most a few hundred men thronged the state Capitol lawn Monday evening in an event that was equal parts angry political protest of the Legislature’s push to tighten abortion law and playful celebration of women and what was once called their private parts.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, was the first speaker of the evening, announcing: “Welcome to all of you and your lady parts!”

The event was a lesson in creative signage. Angela Ash, 25, of Grand Rapids held aloft “Keep Your Mitts off my bitts.”

… Another hand-painted sign in the middle of the crowd said: “I Didn’t Come From Your Rib. You Came From My Vagina.”

For all the poker-faced denials, all the smokescreens, all the misleading doubletalk and all the sanctimony, the War on Women is real, it’s dangerous and it’s getting worse by the day, and despite the magnificent fighting spirit of Lisa Brown and her allies, they need to watch their backs. There are 64 Republicans in the Michigan House, but the first of the three anti-choice bills passed by a vote of 70-39.

FOUR: What Not to Watch

This all prompted none other than Meghan McCain to comment in an interview on The Ed Show Tuesday:

“… I just think that we’re regressing as a culture when you can’t even say the word ‘vagina.’”

Which is a commendable thing to say, especially coming from a conservative. Also on the commendable side of the ledger is her stance on the legalization of marijuana, something she remarked on in two other TV appearances last week, one with Jay Leno and one on The View:

“I was living in Los Angeles very briefly last year, and I was shocked at how people here smoke weed the way people in New York pour wine,” she said. “Once I started doing research onto the economic benefits for our country by decriminalizing marijuana, I decided to come out publicly in support of it.”

McCain even expands on her commendable pot advocacy in her new book, which is entitled, um, America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom. Sorry, Meghan, I just ran out of commendations.

If Meghan McCain has some surprises up her sleeve from time to time, Bristol Palin is always completely predictable. For reasons beyond human comprehension, this little twerp has her own reality show, Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp. It’s only a couple of episodes in, and so far, so very, very Palinesque:

Bristol Palin’s verbal altercation with a man at a Hollywood bar in her new reality show… created some interesting dramatic fireworks. But now that man has filed a lawsuit against Bristol and A&E Television Networks for defamation, invasion of privacy, emotional distress and more.

… Stephen Hanks contends that he was approached by Bristol last September at the Saddle Ranch bar in West Hollywood and a camera “recorded an exchange without his knowledge or consent.” He claims that after hearing nearby patrons “discussing their general disagreement with the politics of Bristol Palin’s mother, Sarah Palin,” one of the other patrons yelled something out about Palin’s political views. The reality star then chose to confront him and accused him of being “a homosexual” because he did not like her mother, and “by the way he looked.”

FIVE: Nyet, Nyet Soviet

Despite being stupider than a bowl of oatmeal, Monica Crowley has a doctorate in international relations (from Columbia, no less). Her complete ignorance about one country, at least, was demonstrated recently during a book-hawking appearance with Bill O’Reilly:

According to… Crowley, President Obama is as close to being a card-carrying Communist as one can be without actually living in China or Russia… Apparently, President Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was part of a socialist organization in Kenya, and his mother, Ann Dunham, was a regular member of a place described by Crowley as the Little Red Church—red meaning communist red and this was the upbringing to which the young Obama subjected and by which he was indoctrinated.

… O’Reilly asked her to specifically state what President Obama’s communist plot had in mind to turn America into—what country, what place? Crowley then tried to dodge the question with more of her destruction of America by Obama propaganda, but O’Reilly pressed her into a corner and demanded that she name a place that America would be morphed into if Obama the communist could have his way…

… After all of her communism talk and communist accusations against President Obama, his mother and his father, Crowley finally looked O’Reilly in the eye and said that the country that Obama the communist is just dying to turn America into is—Sweden!

Apart from a surfeit of meatballs, herring and melamine furniture, what might Americans expect if the wily Kenyan were to succeed in turning The Land of the Free into a totalitarian “workers’ paradise”? Just what have those filthy commies in Sweden been up to recently? Well, for starters, they want to make male comrades urinate from a seated position:

The Left Party in Sörmland is taking a stand to ensure men take a seat when emptying their bladders in the county council’s own toilets…

One reason has to do with hygiene and a desire to ensure that no one who uses the toilets at the county council’s offices will be required to walk through puddles or residue left by stray urine which happens to splash out of the bowl and onto the floor when male employees pee standing up.

The Left Party also cites medical research it claims shows that men empty their bladders more efficiently when they are seated.

And while some Swedes want men to urinate like women do, others object to dividing human beings into two genders at all, at least verbally:

… a new pronoun, hen (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon].”The National Encyclopedia announcement came amid a heated debate about gender neutrality that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites…

Finally, Swedish rivet manufacturing company Nominit recently announced a $16.3 million payout to current and former employees. Wow! The company must have done something really awful, right? Unsafe working conditions? Pension theft? Asbestos in the coffee creamer? Actually, it’s nothing of the sort. The ownership is just being nice:

The company was founded in 1937 and the two founders and owners have no heirs to their fortune. The company, which currently has about 50 employees, manufactures rivets and has a turnover of about 100 million kronor, of which 60 comes from export.

The ownership will now be transferred to a foundation which will safeguard the well-being of the staff and former employees as well as promoting research.

The beneficiaries will get between one and two million kronor, depending on how long they have worked for the firm, according to the company. The money will be paid out as a salary and pension in three installments.

A workers’ paradise, indeed.