Take Five (Joke on the Water edition)

ONE: Issa Muggin’

Following his failure to bring down the Obama Administration with the Fast and Furious pseudo-scandal, Congressman Darrell Issa found himself faced with a choice: do something worthwhile with his time, or occupy himself with more ephemeral crap. Can you guess which he chose?

Issa has gone back and revived an idea that got no traction on multiple previous occasions; he’s trying once again to persuade fellow legislators to rename America’s coastal waters, to exchange the drab moniker “Exclusive Economic Zone” for the super-duper ain’t-that-America gee-whiz red-white-and-blue hyper-patriotic name “Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.” Catchy, n’est-ce pas?

Other than sabotaging the nation’s future prosperity with voodoo economics and more than tripling the national debt, ruthlessly shutting down mental health facilities and leaving their patients to fend for themselves, trading arms for hostages and then lying about it, ignoring the AIDS epidemic, invading Grenada for the mucho macho cred, unleashing a crack plague on inner cities, and shrugging off global warming, just what did Reagan do to deserve Issa’s proposed encomium?

Well, back in 1983, he issued Proclamation 5030, which created the EEZ in the first place. The proclamation reads in part:

Within the Exclusive Economic Zone, the United States has, to the extent permitted by international law, (a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources, both living and non-living, of the seabed and subsoil and the superjacent waters and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds; and (b) jurisdiction with regard to the establishment and use of artificial islands, and installations and structures having economic purposes, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

Gosh. That sort of brings a patriotic tear to my eye, I’ll tell you. Yet the point of Issa’s exercise isn’t really to rename the EEZ, or even to honor the sainted, Grecian Formula-enhanced corpse of Ronald Reagan. It’s simply about Issa keeping himself busy with matters of absolutely zero benefit to the nation. That’s pretty much been his specialty since he was inexplicably elected to office, and in that, he has no end of company in the 112th Congress.

But what about the Exclusive Economic Zone? Isn’t it time a little creativity was brought to bear on this? Why should 12,500 miles of coastline all be named after one guy, even if he did tear down the Berlin Wall with his bare hands? Why not have a Slappy White Chesapeake Bay, to commemorate the legendary Baltimore-born comedian? Or a Biscayne Eat, Pray, Love Bay, in recognition of million-watt megastar Julia Roberts having a residence nearby?

Come to think of it, why not open up corporate bidding for naming rights to different areas? How about Puget Sound by Starbucks? Or the MGM Grand Banks? Sure, most of the latter is under Canadian jurisdiction, but if the Canucks put up a fuss, just invade ‘em, Congressman. That’s what the Gipper would have done, right? You could even call it the Ronald Wilson Reagan Commemorative Invasion and Total Ass-kicking of Canada. If you’re going to pretend to be doing the people’s business, at least pretend with a little vigor.

TWO: Drive, They Said

Speaking of Congressional wastes of space, ThinkProgress did an investigation recently into seven teabagging House freshmen, and found some fascinating information:

Though they campaigned on a platform of reducing the deficit and ridding wasteful spending, more than a half-dozen Tea Party congressmen have collectively spent over $100,000 in taxpayer money on personal vehicles.

ThinkProgress examined spending records for the 112th Congress and found seven GOP freshmen — Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Bill Flores (R-TX), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and Steve Womack (R-AR) — who had spent an average of $15,000 on cars for themselves. All together, their taxpayer bill totaled $106,643.

There is nothing illegal about the practice of using taxpayer money to lease personal-use cars, but it smacks of hypocrisy for Tea Partiers like Duffy who promised to “lead by example” when it comes to deficit reduction.

ThinkProgress tersely notes that the spending totals were:

… compiled from the House of Representatives’ official Statement of Disbursements, a quarterly publication regarding all expenditures for House offices, for the 112th Congress.

And when the lame duck session gets underway, don’t be surprised if the munificent seven propose eliminating the Statement of Disbursements in the interest of saving taxpayers some money…

THREE: Razing Arizona, part I

Of course, teabaggers in Congress can be fairly said to be mirroring the folks who sent them to Washington in the first place, a demographic characterized by astonishing ignorance, revolting bigotry, cringe-inducing paranoia, putrid hypocrisy and a world view as narrow as one would expect the vista from inside a colon to be. The recent dustup over Michele Bachmann and four other members of Congress accusing Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood leads to a case in point.

The controversy began outrageously enough, and went quickly downhill from there, reaching what one would fervently hope would be its nadir on Monday, when Wes Harris – who heads the Original North Phoenix Tea Party – told the Arizona Capitol Times that John McCain’s spirited defense of Abedin warranted a recall petition, and maybe more:

While Harris has many problems with McCain, a mass email he sent out focused solely on the senator’s recent defense of Huma Abedin…

Harris said he plans to circulate recall petitions against McCain. In his email, he said, “We must find a way to get rid of this embarrassment.”

The email Harris sent includes a forwarded item from the blog Bare Naked Islam that castigates McCain for defending “Islamic enemies of America” and attacking U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and tea party favorite. The blog piece ends by saying, “Go to hell, Senator, it’s time for you to take your final dirt nap.”

What specifically prompted the blog’s call for the Senator’s death were McCain’s remarks on the Senate floor:

“I have every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well. All Americans owe Huma a debt of gratitude for her many years of superior public service. I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can be immediately brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.”

Bare Naked Islam’s banner slogan, by the way, is: “It isn’t Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you.” Now, if you’re like me, you absolutely despise taking John McCain’s side on anything, but it’s impossible not to here.

Harris had plenty more spleen to vent, of course:

“Have you ever read the Quran? I suggest you do so, because anyone that is a Muslim is a threat to this country, and that’s a fact…”

Harris said he believes Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But ultimately, he said it doesn’t matter whether she’s linked to the group or not because he doesn’t believe Muslims should work for the federal government…

“Is she a Muslim? Is she an active Muslim?” Harris said. “I rest my case. That’s all she needs to be.”

Harris offered no definition of an “active Muslim” and I strongly suspect he couldn’t do so if challenged, but in the post-fact America Harris and his fellow bigots are working so hard to create, actual knowledge and a capacity for critical thought are unnecessary. Ironically, John McCain’s 2008 candidacy did a lot to move all this, uh, forward.

FOUR: Razing Arizona, part II

Wes Harris isn’t the only bigot in Arizona, of course. It just so happens that another one governs the state. Jan Brewer and her Attorney General, Tom Horne, intend to go all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying approximately $5 million a year in domestic partner benefits for state employees:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has already denied the request…

Brewer has long-opposed the benefits put into place by former governor and current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“It was done by executive order by an out-going governor who flew off to D.C. then I was left with the hugest budget deficit Arizona has ever faced,” Brewer told reporters…

Brewer said cutting domestic partner benefits to unmarried straight and gay couples is necessary to balance the state’s budget.

Jan Brewer earns $95,000 a year, while Horne pulls down $90,000. Throw in another $70,000 for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (who recently threatened to exclude Barack Obama from this November’s Arizona ballot if he didn’t get more proof of the President’s citizenship, and after backing down from that, publicly mused that the President only pretended to be Kenyan-born to get into college).

How about getting rid of all three of them? There, I just saved Arizona taxpayers over a quarter of a million dollars a year. Will it balance the budget? Nope, but then neither will Brewer’s Supreme Court case.

FIVE: Skin in the Game

In an edition of this column back in April, I looked at troubling signs that the USA might be under some form of coordinated nudity attack. A further development in one of the cases last week leaves me no less concerned.

John Brennan was acquitted of indecent exposure charges stemming from his April protest strip at Portland Airport, which he maintains was prompted by ill treatment at the hands of TSA agents.

Judge David Rees ruled that Brennan’s nudity was an act of protected speech.

Speech? All right, then, Your Honor, but I tend to side with the prosecution here:

A Multnomah County prosecutor said if Brennan’s actions are considered protected by the First Amendment, then anyone who is arrested while nude can also claim that their actions are a protest.

Exactly. And while I might well applaud, say, Susan Sarandon or Angelina Jolie indulging in this sort of activism, Brennan leaves me unmoved despite his determination to appear sincere:

As Brennan left the stand Wednesday, he said that his protest was also intended to give the TSA an idea of the effect its policies had on travelers, especially the body-scanners that produce images of passengers without clothes on.

“I wanted to show them it’s a two-way street,” he said. “I don’t like a naked picture of me being available.”

I don’t like a naked picture of you being available either, Mr. Brennan, and twice now I’ve had to look at one in news coverage of the incident. There ought to be a law…