Take Five (Jerks in Progress edition)

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Take-FiveONE: Death Becomes Them

Via The Hill, I recently discovered political scientist Eric Ostermeier’s fascinating curio cabinet of a blog, Smart Politics, published by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Among other topics, Dr. Ostermeier has recently scrutinized websites for House campaigns (nine incumbent House members did not have an active campaign website as of August 18), traced the historical arc of African-Americans elected to Congress (25 states have yet to elect their first black Representative, and nearly half of the African-Americans ever elected to the House were from a mere five states), tallied living former Senators (167, a whopping eight of them from Minnesota), and surveyed Spanish language content on official House websites (the sites of 36 Congressfolks, 31 of them Democrats, feature some).

Dr. Ostermeier is now three installments into a series focusing on “unusual deaths that have befallen members of Congress.” Given current Congressional approval ratings, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that “Unusual Exits” is among the year’s most popular political writing; if it isn’t, it should be. The newest installment looks at drowning, which has claimed 13 members of the Senate and House since 1808, although only two were in office at the time of their deaths. This follows on part 1, which looked at Congressional deaths “on or by railroads” (death toll 23), and part 2, which examined deaths by “accidental gunshots” (body count 6).

It’s lucky for House Republicans that blatant, bare-assed hypocrisy isn’t fatal. Take Colorado’s Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, who were quick to add their signatures to an emergency funding request by their state delegation following Colorado’s calamitous flooding. Back in July, the quartet endorsed a similar petition for a federal major disaster declaration after a rash of wildfires. What’s wrong with that? Nothing at all, except that the same four Representatives voted against disaster relief money for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. For added context, ThinkProgress helpfully notes that they’re all climate change denialists.

TWO: Squeaker of the House

John Boehner, crime boss of these and other Republicans in the People’s House, just vomited up some hypocrisy of his own with a web commercial that asks the musical question: “Why is the Obama Administration willing to negotiate with Putin on Syria… but not with Congress to address Washington’s spending problem?”

Since you asked, Mr. Speaker, I have a few guesses. Maybe it’s because the civil war in Syria has ominous regional implications, and the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime violates an accord ratified by 189 nations, and soon by Syria. Or it could be because Congressional Republicans haven’t negotiated anything in good faith with the Executive Branch since Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Or perhaps it’s because the only spending problem in Washington (other than the perpetually ludicrous defense budget) is your party’s refusal to strengthen the recovery with further stimulus, adequate SNAP and unemployment benefits, and a federal minimum wage at least tenuously connected to reality. You know what? Let’s make it all of the above.

THREE: China Syndrome

You might recall a story from late August about a million cockroaches escaping from a farm in Dafeng, China. As loathsome as roaches are, I can’t begrudge them their instincts here, since they were being bred as an ingredient for traditional medicines. Besides, the escape wasn’t even their idea; the greenhouse where they were housed was compromised by a person or persons unknown, and the roaches did what came naturally, and scattered.

I didn’t really give the item a second thought until I read a National Journal story about a terrifying encounter in the basement of the White House press offices with a roach described by political scientist Martha Joynt Kumar as “the size of a small drone.”

Wait. Could the Dafeng “escape” have been faked? Could the White House incident be a beachhead for some sort of Red Dawn-style insectile assault? Could the press office cockroach have actually been a drone? Well, no, of course not, but the need for vigilance has never been greater. Mere days after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved Shuanghui International’s $4.7 billion purchase of US pork producer Smithfield Foods, Chinese authorities seized roughly 45,000 pounds of fake beef from a factory in Xi-an:

The pork was treated with chemicals, including paraffin wax and industrial salts, to make it look like beef…

The news will come as [of] particular concern to Xi’an’s large Muslim community, who may have been buying some distinctly non-halal beef.

Hedge fund Starboard Value, which owns 5.7 percent of Smithfield, had been working on an alternative buyout offer since early summer, but has abandoned the effort and will back the Chinese deal at a shareholder vote on Tuesday, knocking down one of the last remaining hurdles to completion of the transaction. Nobody brings home the bacon like Shuanghui International, even if they have to disguise it as flank steak.

FOUR: The Bad Secede

A group of Colorado counties will vote this fall on whether to secede from the state. Voters in the counties of Kit Carson, Logan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Weld – and possibly in Cheyenne, Morgan and Yuma, as well – will decide whether they want to join a hypothetical political entity already referred to by some as “North Colorado.” With approvals by both the Colorado General Assembly and the US Congress required for such a thing to happen, you probably don’t need to worry about replacing your 50-star flag any time soon, but this might be a trend to watch.

Texas Railroad Commission chair Barry Smitherman told WND a few weeks ago that he’s bullish on his state’s chances of going it alone. Only if need be, of course:

“Generally speaking, we have made great progress in becoming an independent nation, an ‘island nation’ if you will, and I think we want to continue down that path so that if the rest of the country falls apart, Texas can operate as a stand-alone entity with energy, food, water and roads as if we were a closed-loop system.”

Odd, but I seem to remember that the state’s last go-round with independence fizzled in less than a decade, but never say never again, I guess. Catch you next March 2, Mr. Smitherman!

Four members of the five-person Board of Supervisors of Siskiyou County in northern California recently voted to “pursue seceding” from their state, over “a laundry list of complaints including a lack of representation in Sacramento for the Republican-majority county, issues pertaining to water rights and the rural fire prevention fee.”

But why secede when you can just take over? A white supremacist named Craig Paul Cobb has been buying up pieces of Leith, North Dakota, a “town” whose population has been given by various sources as 16, 19 or 24. Cobb was at one time active on the Vanguard News Network forum – from which he has been banned – with posts such as “Obama Struggling Whites-Runaway Maniacal Nat Turner Testosteroned Slave May Kill Tens Of Thousands+ Before Tussle Ended!” and “Jamie Gorelick Jewish Kike-ess Sheenie Gawdz FavPet AIPAC CFR Youth Alliance Movement Mossad TO HEAD FBI Under Nig Obama.” (Cobb says he likes to keep his posts “oddly titled for googling purposes.”)

Last May, he used the forum to announce free rent for like-minded racists at his fledgling “White Nationalist intentional community” in Leith, asking only that they abide voluntarily with “three simple self-disciplining rules,” the first of which is:

Always (24 hrs a day) fly at least one racialist banner: examples–Nazi flags, Creativity flags, SA triple 7 flags etc. The larger the better. It would be best if your flag(s) were spotlighted during night time hours. I may be able to provide fresh ones say, 4 times per year. (Or I may let you pay and get your own).

Cobb goes on to describe the supposed delights of his “intentional community”:

Imagine strolling over to your neighbors to discuss world politics with nearly all like-minded volk. Imagine the international publicity and usefulness to our cause! For starters, we could declare a Mexican illegal invaders and Israeli Mossad/IDF spies no-go zone. If leftist journalists or antis come and try to make trouble, they just might break one of our local ordinances and would have to be arrested by our town constable. See?

Sure I do, Mr. Cobb, without even needing my bifocals. So do those among Leith’s population who dislike the idea of their community becoming a sinecure for racists. National Socialist leader Jeff Schoep (who ironically, like Cobb, is a living, breathing argument for the concept of white inferiority) held a town hall and press conference in Leith Sunday afternoon, attracting a few bigoted wingnuts, a phalanx of law enforcement officers, and a heartening number of protesters, who have vowed to continue efforts to thwart Cobb’s takeover.

If his “intentional community” thing doesn’t pan out, I suppose Cobb and his friends could try the secession route, a route that seems perfectly appropriate for a town in Grant County, which split off from neighboring Morton County in 1916. If they need a state name, it’s hard to imagine anything grabbier than South North Dakota.

FIVE: House Hold

Mitt Romney, who I’m told ran for political office back in 2012, has been planning big things for his beachfront property in La Jolla since Moroni knows when. Soon after shelling out something like $12 million for four-tenths of an acre and 3,000 square feet of house in 2008, the hapless millionaire rolled up his Costco-bought shirtsleeves and got ready to tear down the lot’s compact, elegant 1936 Spanish-style mansion and replace it with 11,000 square feet of nouveau riche eyesore, complete with a $55,000 “Phantom Park” car elevator.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association signed off on the new house, but the decision has been appealed to the California Coastal Commission by La Jolla resident Anthony Ciani, who maintains that:

“… the Romneys claim they own the beach out to the mean high tide line and are using that area to enhance the size of their proposed new house.” Ciani argues that the La Jolla Land Use Plan shows the beach to be “dedicated” or “owned in fee by the City.”

A Commission hearing on the matter is expected later this fall. The Romneys, presumably, are roughing it until then at one of their other properties in New Hampshire, Massachusetts or Ontario.