Take Five (New Year's Eve edition)

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ONE: Post-Apocalypse Study Group Rolled Out

Man of constant sorrow Reince Priebus recently announced that the Republican National Committee is launching what it calls the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” an exercise in institutional soul-searching designed to identify how the party got its collective butt whupped last November and to find ways to “ensure Republicans are victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond.”

The RNC is so serious about this that they’ve already unveiled the names of the heavy hitters who will form the project’s steering committee. And what names they are! Henry Barbour, nephew of the legendarily execrable Haley, former Jeb Bush Chief of Staff Sally Bradshaw, former GW Bush propaganda catapult operator Ari Fleischer, plus Glenn McCall, a – gasp! – African American, and Zori Fonelledas, a – ZOMG! – Puerto Rican.

While I can’t help the RNC with future victories (and I’ll be horrified if they ever have any), in the spirit of good old-fashioned bipartisanship and this joyous holiday season, I’m quite happy to identify for them what went wrong in 2012. I can do it in six short words. Got a pen handy, Reince? You’ll want to jot this down.

Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan. Your policies.

You’re welcome!

TWO: Un-American Heritage

2012 still has a few minutes to go, but I have my nominee for the year’s most inadvertently funny quote, and I’m sticking with it. Asked to comment on Jim DeMint’s decision to resign his Senate seat to preside over that notorious America-hating “think” tank, the Heritage Foundation, conservative academic John J. Pitney claimed:

“What Heritage does is influence the intellectual debate.”

In a way, I suppose Pitney’s absolutely correct. Heritage (among other malevolent rightwing institutions) has influenced the intellectual debate, but only by removing intellect from it completely.

Which brings us to Jim DeMint, whose impressive track record of egregious tomfoolery, twaddle and Teabaggery is a perfect fit for the Heritage Foundation. “Greenville’s foulest” has insisted that gay people and women who have sex out of wedlock should be barred from teaching, averred that “the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets,” threatened to read the full text of 2010’s START treaty and omnibus spending bills on the Senate floor as a deliberate stalling tactic because the mid-December timing of the legislation was somehow “sacrilegious,” compared the United States to “Germany… before World War II where they became a social democracy,” cheered for the 2009 military coup in Honduras, and gushed about the idea of working with Glenn Beck.

So what does Senator Teabag envision for the Heritage Foundation? Not surprisingly, his end game is getting more ultraconservatives elected:

… DeMint said he is taking the Heritage job because he sees it as a vehicle to popularize conservative ideas in a way that connects with a broader public. “This is an urgent time,” the senator said, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.” Mr. DeMint, who was a market researcher before he entered politics, said he plans to take the Heritage Foundation’s traditional research plus that of think tanks at the state level and “translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work.” He said, “We want to figure out what works at the local and state level” and give those models national attention.

The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project, though, might just want to think twice about keeping DeMint on speed-dial:

Mr. DeMint’s leadership PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, spent $5.48 million in the 2010 and 2012 elections, and out of 27 races that it stepped into, his preferred candidate won either the primary or general election 8 times.

Keep on keepin’ on, Jimbo.

THREE: First, Do Much Harm

Despite DeMint’s impending departure, the 113th Congress will not want for cretinous Republican senators. Exhibit A: Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn. The lurid war of disinformation and misinformation about the impending “Fiscal Cliff” has been heating up for weeks, but Coburn’s remarks to George Stephanopolous on December 9 remain a uniquely objectionable contribution to the discussion:

“It doesn’t really matter what happens at the end of this year because ultimately the numbers and the bond holders throughout the world will determine what we’ll spend and what we won’t. So, we can play the political game that is being played out in Washington right now or we can be absolutely honest with the American people and say, ‘Medicare is going bankrupt, Social Security disability will be bankrupt in two years, Social Security trust fund will be bankrupt in five years, Social Security total will be bankrupt in 16,17 years.’

“The fact is we are spending money we don’t have on things we don’t absolutely need…”

Coburn is a medical doctor who’s also terrified that Obamacare is a stealth method of eventually imposing – horrors! – a single-payer healthcare system on innocent freedom-worshipping Americans. He has also voted against a raft of measures that would increase revenue and voted against many others that would save billions without harming Social Security, SSDI and Medicare beneficiaries in the slightest.

While the rest of us realize that Coburn’s about as trustworthy on fiscal issues as Marie Antoinette or Bernard Madoff, this sort of blather about entitlements actually earns someone like him respect from fellow conservatives. If Oklahoma voters ever come to their senses and vote to send the miserable little pud packing, don’t be surprised if the Heritage Foundation has a position for him.

FOUR: “Barefoot paradise for a child…”

I still remember the day my classmates and I were brought into the auditorium of Jacob G. Smith Elementary School in Savannah and taught to sing a new Johnny Mercer song entitled “Georgia, Georgia.” Mercer had written it at the behest of the Georgia General Assembly, with the idea that it would become the new official state song. With all due props to the spectacularly gifted Mr. Mercer, “Georgia, Georgia” was essentially a monotonous paean to the supposedly transcendent joys of Georgia, a paean which left an uprooted young Floridian, me, rather unmoved. (State legislators apparently had misgivings of their own; the song was later rejected in favor of “Georgia On My Mind.”)

“Georgia, Georgia” has been going through my head, maddeningly, as I read the latest news from the Empire State of the South. Somewhere along the line, Mercer’s dreamy land of scuppernong and Spanish moss and honeysuckle became a land that progress and common sense forgot. If Sherman had known what damage conservatives would eventually do to Georgia, maybe he would have saved his matches.

Georgia Senate majority leader Chip Rogers hosted a training seminar at the state capitol for fellow Republicans back in October, to get them up to speed on the grave and gathering threat posed by the UN’s non-binding, largely forgotten, two-decade-old sustainability policy framework known as Agenda 21. Invitations to the event warned of:

“… a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.'”

The seminar included a video featuring a fellow named Field Searcy, who was actually kicked out of the Georgia Tea Party last spring for his noisy advocacy of birtherism and various Alex Jones conspiracy theories. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to leave Planet Earth for one minute and nine seconds? Just watch the video clip here. Searcy generously shared his special expertise with the Republican legislators:

So who is promoting this agenda…? Well, at the very top, the United Nations. A non-government organization called ICLEI, or Local Governments for Sustainability. Other NGOs are promoting this. Federal agencies.

They do that by a process known as the Delphi Technique. Now, the Delphi Technique was developed by the RAND Corporation during the Cold War as a mind-control technique.

Rogers has since resigned his seat to take a job with Georgia Public Broadcasting (!), while Searcy is still sending occasional transmissions from the alternate universe he inhabits. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that his understanding of what is correctly called the Delphi Method is laughably faulty.

But Georgia Republicans aren’t just sitting around dreading Socialism, the UN and the Delphi Method. They’re also busy trying to keep their ranks refreshed with new nitwittery, and the chair of the Georgia Republican Party thinks she’s found a great recruit:

… Rep. Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel and Republican firebrand, narrowly lost his re-election bid last week.

So what’s in the cards for the coastal Florida congressman after his lame-duck duties are done? Sue Everhart, chairman of the Georgia Republican party, said Monday she would love it if West, an Atlanta native and Grady High School grad, returned to his roots.

“I would be glad to have him come back to Georgia and at some point run here,” Everhart told [the AJC’s] Daniel Malloy during a discussion about diversity within the Republican party. “I would certainly try to help him because he has done his job. The way he ran his race didn’t in any way interfere with the job he did. He ran as a Republican, a conservative Republican.”

And Georgia’s headlong descent into unreason isn’t confined to politics. A few weeks ago, an Athens teacher was arrested for, well, uh, this:

A middle school teacher resigned following his arrest outside of a downtown Athens bar where police said he held a stun gun as if it were his penis, discharging the device at passersby.

Meredith Grayson Watson, 44, of Athens, was arrested Nov. 19 outside the Roadhouse on North Lumpkin Street and charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication…

On the afternoon of his arrest… Watson showed up at the Roadhouse with his wife and the couple argued about his drinking, Athens-Clarke police said…

When Watson’s wife left the bar without him, he went after her, but quickly returned and resumed drinking, setting a Taser on the bar, police said…

“(The bartender) stated he went outside and put the Taser down to his pants and was acting like it was his penis,” according to the arrest report.

But Watson has nothing on Joseph Rogers, Jr. (no relation to Chip, apparently). This Rogers is chairman of Waffle House, the 1,700-location restaurant chain based in Norcross. Rogers has been accused by a former employee of serial sexual misconduct spanning eight years:

The woman alleged that she was a personal assistant to Rogers from 2003-2012. She said that in addition to being forced to perform sexual acts, she was required to purchase pornography, lingerie and sex toys for him. She said he touched her inappropriately and made sexual comments to her…

She identified herself as a 43-year-old single mother with a high school education and technical college degree in cosmetology who “managed many of the day-to-day operations of Rogers’ estate.”

Rogers claims that he had an affair with the accuser, but is innocent of the alleged sex crimes. As if this isn’t seamy enough, it now appears that a trail of digital breadcrumbs exists:

The Cobb County Superior Court judge ordered that an unknown number of DVDs be impounded because he said they were recorded by the housekeeper without Rogers’ knowledge and could be damaging to him if they were leaked.

Rogers’ wife was in court to support her husband and though the two walked out of the courthouse hand-in-hand, some cracks showed below the surface.

“They’re standing by me, though I did some stupid things,” Rogers said of his family. “I was a dumb***.” He trailed off, wondering if the curse word could be used on television when his wife interjected, “I second that, though.”

If you still have an appetite after all this, Waffle House Inc. sure hopes you’ll keep them in mind:

Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner told ABCNews.com that the woman was Roger’s former housekeeper and was not employed by Waffle House Inc. Warner also said that earlier this year, Rogers transitioned from Waffle House chairman and CEO to just chairman. He directed further questions to Roger’s attorney Robert Ingram who did not respond to request for comment.

“This is a private matter for Joe Rogers and his family and doesn’t involve Waffle House,” Warner said.

In case you were concerned that the obscene slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut would come between humble Kennesaw and its longstanding municipal love affair with firearms, rest easy:

Kennesaw, Georgia, is a quiet Atlanta suburb of newer subdivisions and strip malls around a huddle of older homes and storefronts. It is asking churches to ring their bells 26 times [December 21] for the victims of last week’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut.

And it has no plans to change a law requiring residents to own guns.

No town in the U.S. has been as public about its support for guns as Kennesaw, population about 30,000, where city leaders for 30 years have required that every household have at least one gun. The Dec. 14 killings of 20 children and six adults, the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, has done little to change that, residents say in interviews…

Kennesaw, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, had about 5,000 people when its City Council adopted an ordinance requiring heads of households to own a gun and enough ammunition to use it…

If the foregoing hasn’t quite persuaded you that Georgia should just go ahead and secede from civilization entirely, grit your teeth and check out a devastating Slate piece by Neil deMause about the state’s loathsome treatment of its poor. It’s a long and heartbreaking piece, and if you’d rather not read it, these lines are a pretty good takeaway:

In states like California and Maine, which have focused on getting their poor citizens into jobs programs, about two-thirds of those eligible still receive welfare. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Georgia, which over the past decade has set itself up as the poster child for the ongoing war on welfare. Even as unemployment has soared to 9 percent and 300,000 Georgia families now live below the poverty line—50 percent higher than in 2000, for a poverty rate that now ranks sixth in the nation—the number receiving cash benefits has all but evaporated: Only a little over 19,000 families receiving TANF remain, all but 3,400 of which were cases involving children only. That’s less than 7 percent, making Georgia one of the toughest places in the nation to get welfare assistance.

What’s Georgia’s secret? According to government documents, interviews with poor Georgians, and those who work with them, it’s a simple one: Combine an all-Republican state government out to make a name for itself as tough on freeloaders; a state welfare commissioner so zealous about slashing the rolls that workers say she handed out Zero candy bars to emphasize her goal of zero welfare; and federal rules that, regardless of who’s in the White House, give states the leeway to use the 1996 law’s requirement for “work activities”—the same provision that Republicans have charged President Obama wants to unfairly water down—to slam the door in the face of the state’s neediest.

A famous lyric by Johnny Mercer advises us to “accentuate the positive,” so here goes: I no longer live in Georgia.

FIVE: Not a DINO, but a Dino

Other than that whole “re-elected with a commanding Electoral College majority” thing, President Obama has had a decidedly mixed couple of months.

Take F. Porter Stansberry, for example. Except for a pesky four-year litigation resulting in a conviction for securities fraud, Stansberry is considered an investment guru. He’s bullish on shale, if not on the President:

The good news, says Porter Stansberry, publisher of Stansberry’s Investment Advisory: America’s shale deposits are going to produce an economic boom that will “usher in a new age of prosperity the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.” The exploitation of this new resource will transform America’s energy sector more than any event since the discovery of oil in Texas in 1901.

The bad news: President Obama will use the revenue generated by the new industry to implement socialist policies that will transform him into an idol of the American people.

Obama, predicts Stansberry, will use his popularity to seize control of Americans’ 401Ks and implement a national sales tax. With revenues from shale licenses, which will be “like a gift from the Prophet Muhammad to President Obama,” he will “expand the welfare rolls to buy more votes.”

And why would Obama, who just won what he called his “final campaign,” need more votes? Because, he won’t be able to spend all that new money between now and 2017, and because the masses will demand he serve a third term. That’s right. According to Stansberry, Obama is planning to ignore the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“His administration will be extended into a third or even a fourth term, making him one of the most powerful presidents in American history, rivaling FDR” — whose endless presidency inspired the two-term limit.

As loopy as this prediction is, I can’t say I’d object. Having a slender-jawed insectivore in the Oval Office for 12 or even 16 years could be just the thing for a nation that survived the Mayan apocalypse only to confront a fiscal cliff:

Yale scientists name Obamadon… after the President

[A] small, insect-eating lizard was discovered in the badlands of northeastern Montana—its fossil preserved in an area called the Hell Creek formation. Less than a foot long, it had elaborate teeth with three cusps on each tooth and a slender jaw. Some 65 million years ago, it went extinct. And now, it is named for the 44th president of the United States: Obamadon gracilis.

… Yale paleontologist Nicholas Longrich said the team encountered several new species that were previously unknown or misclassified lurking in museum collections. There was one ferocious carnivorous lizard in need of a name, but that one didn’t turn out to be presidential. The small one with the slender jaw seemed just right. There was one problem. This was before November.

“I was seriously thinking, if the election had gone the other way, I would have yanked it,” Longrich said. “It might have seemed like we were mocking it, naming a lizard that goes extinct after that, seemed kind of cruel.”


The Democrats for Progress Blog wishes our readers, our contributors and progressives everywhere a safe and happy 2013!