ONE: The Classless of 2010
When this column was launched in December 2010, many now-notorious Republican governors weren’t even sworn in, but within months of taking their oaths of office they began appearing regularly here, lewd exemplars of the very worst of what their party breezily describes as “ideas.” Soon, maddeningly, it seemed as though they’d been around forever, like syphilis or Larry King.
The big story in American politics post-Dubya is not about President Obama or about Washington’s tawdry doings and even tawdrier non-doings; it’s about what’s happening in the 30 governors’ mansions currently occupied by Republicans and in the legislatures where their conservative running dogs frantically attempt to dismantle half a century of hard-won progress.
Republicans in DC have one arrow in their quiver – stubborn obstructionism – but their state-level colleagues have two: not only do they stall and subvert any and all efforts by Democrats to do much of anything, they actually manage to enshrine their own wretched ideas into law. Bad law. The freshman Republican governors of the “classless of 2010” – along with their elder GOP peers – have had a larger impact on people’s lives than this or any President could ever hope to have, and that impact has been dire. At the state level, the Republican Party’s War on Damn Near Everyone has inflicted heavy casualties.
This year and next, 38 states will hold elections for governor, and the results will be every bit as important as the results of the 2014 House and Senate elections. Women’s rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, gay rights, all rights remain at risk as long as Republicans are allowed to control anything.
Either Rick Perry has finally run out of ideas for screwing over Texas or he’s just setting his sights on screwing over something even bigger, like the entire country. Perry announced recently that he won’t seek another gubernatorial term, but there’s lots of in-progress screwing over to complete before he saddles up, rides off into the sunset, and leaves the whole shambling mess to his unfortunate successor.
Perry’s announcement was originally scheduled to be made in June but was delayed due to some of that aforementioned screwing over, in this case involving draconian restrictions on reproductive rights for women. Consistent with most legislation passed during Perry’s tenure, some of the ramifications of the bill can scarcely be guessed at now and the extent of the damage to the body politic can’t be fully assessed until the legislation has metastasized, but metastasize it surely will.
After state Senator Wendy Davis successfully filibustered SB 5, ol’ Rick just went right ahead and convened his darn self a special session of the Legislature and got the bill passed. He explained his determination simply, confirming yet again that the words “Rick Perry” and “simple” have an almost magnetic mutual attraction:
“Texas is a place where we defend life.”
The 261 folks executed on Perry’s watch might take umbrage at the statement, but them’s the breaks if you insist on being an evil-doer in a Rick-rolled state. Of course, restricting women’s rights isn’t the only thing the lame duck governor has on the docket. Almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s transparently political body blow to the Voting Rights Act, the Perry regime took pains to crow – uh, announce that it will enforce photo ID provisions, provisions previously halted by a federal court as discriminatory against minority voters.
In a line from his retirement announcement aimed at friends and supporters, Perry said:
In our time together, we have made the most of this unique opportunity to shape the future of Texas.
That they have, it’s true. And despite the relief millions of Texans will feel on seeing the east end of a westbound Rick Perry, they still have 18 more months to wait, heartsick, while he and his cronies continue to make the most of this unique opportunity. At which point those Texans will have a chance to start repairing the damage by electing a Democrat to replace him, and giving that Democrat a Legislature dominated by Democrats. Implausible? Maybe, but George Bush the Lesser being succeeded in Austin by someone even worse seemed implausible too, 12 years ago.
For a superb, though far from comprehensive, roundup of the damage Perry had done to Texas and Texans, go here.
THREE: Three of a Kind
Perry isn’t the only far-right gubernatorial goober to institutionalize rolling back women’s rights. In fact, the practice is spreading across state lines faster than this summer’s wildfires.
The execrable Scott Walker signed a bill recently that prevents a doctor from performing abortions unless said doctor has admitting privileges at a “local” hospital, and mandates – another Republican fave rave – that women seeking an abortion undergo the scarlet-letter indignity of a medically unnecessary ultrasound. Lawsuits filed by two Wisconsin abortion providers are pending. Continue reading Take Five (States’ Blights edition)
ONE: Dinner Is Swerved…
Readers will, I’m sure, remember the ugly incident in Phoenix when Barack Obama commandeered an entire airport to land his gas-guzzling private jet, then jumped out of it, ran over to Governor Jan Brewer’s outstretched index finger (which was minding its own business on the runway) and aggressively confronted it with his face.
Energetically wagging the digit in a desperate evasive maneuver, Brewer was nonetheless unable to escape Obama’s patently rancorous smiling and nodding. Following this terrifying experience, she commented: “I felt a little bit threatened, if you will…”
Brewer courageously ventured to Washington last weekend for the annual National Governors Association meeting and once again found herself antagonized, this time by an invitation to a black-tie dinner at the White House. In contrast to the Phoenix fiasco, though, on this occasion she was not caught off-guard by the wily Kenyan’s impudence:
Brewer said in an interview… that she had a scheduling conflict.
“I’ve just decided I wasn’t going to be going because I had some other commitments I had to attend to,” Brewer said…
Obama’s liberal media running dogs predictably refused to take Brewer’s dignified explanation at face value and pressed for more details, but to no avail:
A spokesman, Matthew Benson, declined to say whether the conflict was state business or personal.
“We’re not going to get into our schedule,” Benson said.
Bravo, Mr. Benson! This transparency stuff could easily get out of hand. Best to nip it in the bud, just like your boss did:
Brewer, who dined at the White House last year and will attend a policy discussion with other governors and Obama… laughed when asked to identify her scheduling conflict.
TWO: Posse Comatose
Thursday afternoon, I waded into the fever swamp that is WorldNutDaily to catch their live video feed of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s press conference announcing the results of his cold case posse’s investigation into President Obama’s birth certificate. After enduring two or three choppy, incomprehensible minutes – memo to Joseph Farah and the WND techs: streaming video is supposed to, you know, stream – I opted for Phoenix’s ABC 15, whose feed was perfect.
The press conference didn’t disappoint. It was just the sort of stupendously dumb display of rank birther hokum I’d been hoping for. Arpaio spoke first, and let’s just say he’s as good a public speaker as he is a sheriff. He opened by saying that he had “felt the investigation could clear President Obama’s name,” but – surprise! – it didn’t. He believes probable cause exists to indicate forgery and fraud may have been committed. Arpaio “cannot in good faith report” that the long-form birth certificate and Selective Service registration released by the White House are authentic. History was unfolding, right before my eyes!
Arpaio then turned the microphone over to Mike Zullo, the posse’s lead investigator. Zullo noted that he would be presenting a series of videos to assist with his muddled remarks concerning multi-layer PDFs and OCR software, but took pains to point out that they were “draft videos” rather than final versions, and contained some typos. Hey, that’s perfectly understandable! After all, the posse’s only been at this for five and a half months. My favorite typo: “all that ailes the long form birth certificate.”
And Zullo (who, when asked, later confessed to being a Republican, although he denied being a Teabagger) made it clear that he and the other members of the posse (former police officers, attorneys, graphics experts and forensic document examiners) have done a lot more than just misspell words. Zullo insisted that the posse members “were not willing to merely speculate or engage in conjecture” and that the birth certificate “failed every test we put it through.” At one point, he paused, looked around the room, and said in a sepulchral voice, “This is serious. This is very serious.”
He noted that the posse tried but failed to obtain passenger manifests for incoming flights from Kenya at around the time of Barack Obama’s birth. They did obtain microfilm copies of INS records from the National Archives, 685 rolls, 10 years’ worth, but to their shock and awe, the records from August 1 to August 7, 1961 – the very week the President was born… somewhere – were missing.
Zullo turned briefly to the Selective Service document, which he described as “not just forged, it’s poorly forged.” He concluded that “there’s no question” a criminal investigation is needed, and casually added that the posse has identified a person of interest in the forgery of the birth certificate. Jeezum crow!
Swift Boat Liar Jerome Corsi was up next; I still do not understand why. He said something about the death of “fellow reporter” Andrew Breitbart and noted that Breitbart had interviewed Arpaio the night before, or asked to, or something.
Carl Seel, a Republican who represents District 6 in the Arizona House of Representatives, spoke next; again, I still do not understand why. He muttered something about having a bill pending, presumably to prevent Kenyans from making the ballot in Arizona, then said he had to get back to the Legislature to get some stuff done, or something. He commended Sheriff Joe, and concluded with: “Thank you very much. God bless America.”
Arpaio returned to the podium, noting that a lot of media were present and commenting insightfully that some might say his investigation is “pointless, silly, trite.” Having spent over an hour essentially accusing the President of the United States of being a criminal, Arpaio was adamant that he was “not accusing the President of the United States of any crime.” He was refreshingly candid about his ignorance of civics, confessing that he doesn’t know who has jurisdiction over this matter. He’s considering asking the State of Hawaii to get involved, but doubts that they’ll help. Maybe he’ll talk to Congress instead. Maybe not. Who’s to say?
Zullo spoke again, citing “numerous sworn affidavits” attesting to something or other. Then he related a puzzling anecdote about a retired government employee who had a conversation in the ’80s with Barack Obama in the front yard of Bill Ayers’ mother’s house. The future President was introduced as a foreign student. Or maybe it was the government employee who was a foreign student. Or maybe it was Bill Ayers, or maybe his mom. History is terribly confusing.
Arpaio, being the stand-up kind of guy he is, took a few questions from the press. A reporter asked if he wasn’t essentially accusing the President of living a lie. The sheriff clutched his pearls and tut-tutted: “I’m not accusing him of any lying or crime… I didn’t say that… I never said that… he can present other information proving he was born here… it’s not my problem they came up with this information and documentation… I’m not accusing anyone of anything until we find out who may have committed these alleged crimes…”
Last word goes to a reporter who prefaced one of the final questions in the news conference with: “None of us are stupid in this room.” Continue reading Take Five (Birth of a Vexation edition)
ONE: Hey, would you rather have fungus in your OJ?
Last week, Take Five coughed up a small hairball over the USDA’s recently announced downsizing, which will see 259 facilities and 7,000 employees slashed, a reduction Tom Vilsack was quick to claim “… will have no impact whatsoever on our ability to ensure food safety…”
Well, that’s very good news, Mr. Secretary. Just days after your announcement, the good people at PepsiCo Inc. noted that tests have found traces of carbendazim, a “potentially dangerous” fungicide, in their Tropicana brand orange juice. This follows rival Coca Cola’s announcement that shipments from Brazil intended for their Minute Maid brand juice had turned up carbendazim in quantities that were found to be below federal safety standards:
Carbendazim is used in Brazil to combat blossom blight and black spot, a type of mold that grows on orange trees.
But in the United States, its use is limited to non-food items such as paints, textiles and ornamental trees, although U.S. authorities allow trace amounts of carbendazim in 31 food types including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits.
The FDA said low levels of carbendazim are not dangerous and the agency had no plans for a recall.
So far so good, then. Thanks to a sound regulatory regime and admirable compliance from the corporations being regulated, we can assume that no consumer has found his sperm development compromised, or her chromosomes damaged, which is nice. As originally noted in Pesticides News No. 57 in September 2002, carbendazim is:
… of major concern due to its suspected hormone disrupting effects. It has been highlighted by Friends of the Earth as one of their ‘filthy four’ pesticides as it could be harmful to human health and the environment.
For good measure, let’s also assume that not a single one of those 7,000 positions or 259 facilities soon to be eliminated ever had to deal with carbendazim. Everyone can sleep better that way, and start tomorrow with a refreshing glass of fungus-free orange juice.
TWO: The Voting Dead
Last week, Take Five looked on in disgust as South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and his boss Nikki Haley announced a lawsuit against the DOJ for its refusal to rubberstamp the state’s new voter ID law. In an incredible (as in “not even a tiny bit credible”) coincidence, last week Wilson asked the State Law Enforcement Commission to investigate what he claims is:
… the fact that over 900 persons, who were deceased at the time of [recent] elections, appear to have “voted” in those elections.
Wilson purportedly bases this claim on data provided by DMV Director Kevin Shwedo.
Scott Keyes at Think Progress succinctly summarized what invariably occurs when such allegations arise:
… while salacious accusations like Wilson’s grab headlines, the subsequent investigations that find no voter fraud rarely get as much attention. Indeed, no election would be complete without allegations of dead voters; yet each time, officials perform the same Scooby-Doo routine, investigating wild accusations before discovering a much simpler explanation for the discrepancies.
Keyes goes on to quote some illustrative examples from a paper on voter fraud commissioned by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, but I recommend you read the whole thing (PDF here). It pretty much puts paid to the notion that such a thing as voter fraud exists in any statistically meaningful sense. Keyes concludes by saying:
Whether it’s a spelling error, a check-in error, or simply a death shortly after Election Day, minor discrepancies do pop up during elections; zombie voters, less so.
Officials like Wilson would do well to apply Occam’s Razor in matters like these before spinning wild accusations.
Yes, they would, but of course Wilson needs to spin these wild accusations if he hopes to implement the new voter ID law in time to suppress Democratic votes this November. Barack Obama got 44.9 percent of the South Carolina vote in 2008, and what few forecasts there are to suggest he’ll do better this year strike me as mostly wishful thinking, but – as that old skunk Karl Rove himself would no doubt agree – when it comes to elections there’s really no such thing as an abundance of caution.
THREE: Talking (and Talking and Talking) Book
The Romney campaign site is currently touting an endorsement from Senator John McCain, the last Republican candidate to have his butt kicked by Barack Obama:
“Governor Romney offers us the commonsense reforms of government policy that are necessary to turn around our economy,” said Senator McCain. “His record of accomplishment in government and business are a testament to his leadership abilities. His commitment to a strong defense and principled diplomacy will earn the world’s respect for American leadership.”
Strangely, however, McCain’s 2008 campaign team didn’t share the Senator’s seeming respect for Romney’s “record of accomplishment” or his “leadership abilities” or anything else about him. In fact, they appear to have regarded him as the transparently phony jackass that he actually is.
Andrew Kaczynski at BuzzFeed has posted what appears to be the McCain campaign’s opposition research book on Mitt Romney. Snippets have surfaced before, but this is the first time the entire thing has been made available. It was worth the wait. There’s so much juicy stuff in here it should inspire Newt Gingrich and Romney’s other remaining primary rivals to wet dreams.
If you’re pressed for time, head straight to the “Top Hits” section on page 7, but it’s worth poking around some more if the thought of reading so much about Mitt Romney doesn’t make you too queasy. You’ll find the biographical timeline beginning on page 3 quite informative, and there are handy executive summaries of Romney and social issues (page 13), economic issues (page 45), foreign policy (page 66), domestic policy (page 87), Romney’s business record (page 135), his flip-flops (page 168) and miscellaneous political issues, including campaign ethics and “questionable Republican credentials” (page 179). Each summary prefaces pages of carefully sourced excerpts from letters, transcripts and other primary documents, press releases, news stories, editorials, commentary and analysis. What follows are a few items I particularly enjoyed.
About those business accomplishments:
Bain Capital financed 1988 buyout with junk bonds issued by Drexel Burnham – when SEC filed charges against the firm and CEO Michael Milken, Bain Capital maintained their business relationship; Romney later reminisced about “the glorious days of Drexel Burnham.” (page 135)
Romney has been criticized by experts for failing to deliver on issues of business development and economic growth after selling himself as the “CEO governor.” (page 8 )
Bain Capital owned company named Ampad that purchased an Indiana paper plant, fired its workers and offered to bring them back at drastically reduced salary and benefits – the firings became an issue in the 1994 Senate race when workers blamed Romney for their situation and appeared in Kennedy campaign ads. (page 135)
About those accomplishments in government:
In 1994, Romney opposed the Contract with America without even reading it. (page 179)
Romney’s spending decisions as chairman of the Republican Governors Association during 2006 election cycle “raised eyebrows” in light of his presidential aspirations. (page 179)
Romney took no position on estate tax issue in 2002 and signed 50% increase in state cremation fee, which observers call “hidden tax on the dead.” (page 9)
There’s even a fun section about Romney’s, um, consistent values and steadfast positions:
ABORTION: Romney Was Pro-Choice. Then Not Pro-Choice. Then Pro-Choice Again. Then Pro-Life (page 168)
SECOND AMENDMENT: Romney Once Bragged Of Opposing NRA. Promised Not To “Chip Away” At Tough Gun Laws But Now Seeks NRA Endorsement (page 171)
OWNING A GUN. Romney Said He Owned A Gun Himself. Then Admitted It Was Not His Gun (page 171)
CLIMATE CHANGE: Romney Once Claimed Global Warming Debate Was “Pretty Much Over” But Now Expresses Skepticism And Attacks His Opponents (page 172)
GAY MARRIAGE: In 2002, Romney Refused To Endorse Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage, Saying It Was Too Extreme, But Later Endorsed Amendment Banning Gay Marriage In 2006 (page 173)
STEM CELL RESEARCH: Romney Once Endorsed Embryonic Stem Cell Research And Promised To “Work and Fight” For It Before Changing His Position (page 174)
And the book doesn’t overlook the kind of stuff that’s really important to today’s voters:
FAVORITE BOOK: Romney Insisted L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth” Was His Favorite Novel, Then Said Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” Was His Favorite (page 174)
FAVORITE MOVIE: Romney Has Changed Positions On His Favorite Film In Recent Years (page 175)
Keep in mind that this happy compendium was put together four years ago, so it’s missing almost half a decade of new policy reversals, contradictions, exaggerations, lies, duplicity, scuzzy business dealings and miscellaneous Mittery. If the other remaining Republican candidates have a lick of sense (which I doubt) they’ve got their campaigns working overtime on the sequel to this blockbuster. Continue reading Take Five (Déjà Vu All Over Again edition)
ONE: Disenfranchise Opportunity!
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley claimed this week that her state’s new voter suppression bill is not a voter suppression bill; it’s a “protect the integrity of the voting process” bill.
In the wake of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice rejecting the new voter ID law as discriminatory – which it clearly is – Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson announced in a joint presser that they will sue the DOJ.
Haley’s contribution to the discussion set a new standard of asininity for her public pronouncements:
“The will of the people was that we want to protect the integrity of the voting process,” Haley said. “And if you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on a plane — you should have to show an ID to do that one thing that is so important to us, which is that right to vote.
“The House passed it, the Senate passed it, and I signed it,” she added. “What we saw was the continued war on South Carolina that continues to happen — like Boeing, like illegal immigration, and now we’re seeing it with Voter ID. This has got to stop, and you will see us fight — and you will see us fight hard.”
Gee, as I remember it, “the continued war on South Carolina that continues to happen” ended back in 1865. It should also be noted that it was actually South Carolina that started it.
Wilson took Haley’s claims further, right into “this water is not, in fact, wet” territory:
“Our intent is to ensure… that no voter is suppressed in their right to vote and that the integrity of the electoral process is protected.”
South Carolina isn’t the only state to take steps recently to “protect the integrity” of voting by ensuring that fewer of their citizens can vote. From recent “evidence” you could almost believe that there’s an epidemic of voter fraud sweeping America, but in reality the only epidemic involved is the proliferation of draconian new laws designed to disenfranchise as many likely Democratic voters as possible. Voter ID legislation was proposed last year in 20 states that previously required no ID at the polls, and 17 states with existing ID laws, like South Carolina, decided last year to require photo ID:
So far, three states–South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas–have enacted strict photo ID requirements, and Alabama has enacted a new voter ID law that is somewhat less strict than the new laws in SC, TN and TX, yet stricter than the old law it replaces. The new laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas can’t take effect until they receive pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice. Governors in Missouri and Montana vetoed stricter voter ID laws in 2011.
Federal pre-clearance of the law stems from a smart provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 intended to protect minority voting rights in states where a sort of backdoor Jim Crow redux was deemed a credible threat. The DOJ’s criticism of the South Carolina measure was blunt:
“The absolute number of minority citizens whose exercise of the franchise could be adversely affected by the proposed requirements runs into the tens of thousands,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a letter to South Carolina officials following DOJ’s ruling in December.
One state legislator took immediate righteous offense at the snake oil being peddled by Haley and Wilson:
Black state Rep. Todd Rutherford, of Columbia, called Haley’s argument ludicrous. He stormed the podium after the press conference and said that voting is a fundamental Constitutional right — buying Sudafed is not. And equating the two is preposterous, he said, as is the Haley Administration’s whole rationale behind Voter ID.
“Can anyone show me in the Constitution where it says you have the right to buy prescription narcotics?” he railed. “At least one person will be affected by this law. And at a minimum, according to their numbers, 30,000 who do not have IDs in South Carolina will not be allowed to vote. They have done nothing to address that.”
South Carolina’s suit will be filed shortly in the US District Court of the District of Columbia, and Haley’s legislative cronies already have backup plans to ensure that Democrats lose South Carolina votes this year:
If a lawsuit against the Justice Department is unsuccessful, state lawmakers say they will consider amending the bill to include a voter education component and more lenient identification requirements to ensure its passage.
TWO: Votal Recall
Other than watching Mitt Romney’s rivals attack him from the left, the political spectacle I enjoyed most this week was watching Nikki Haley get attacked from the right. A group claiming to be made up of conservatives has launched an effort to have Haley recalled for fiscal recklessness, lying, corruption, marital infidelity and lack of transparency.
South Carolina’s constitution has no provision for recalling an elected official, but as the Patch’s Jonathan Allen notes, Haley has in the past voiced support for changing the law, at least when she wasn’t opposing the idea.
She opposed it when the first petition to recall her was launched on March 21 of last year, two months and nine days after she was sworn in. Apart from a couple of typos, the petition’s preamble is very pleasant reading:
Governor Nikki Haley has lied on job applications as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, recklessly undermined the educational system of the State of South Carolina, and cruely ignored the misfortunate citizens in her state through divisive judgements. Her policies have led to job losses and failures of state departments in every county.
Haley opposed a 2009 attempt to change state law when a recall attempt against her famously crooked predecessor, Fox News commentator and lovesick swain Mark Sanford, was launched. Her thinking had evolved by July of last year:
“Legislators want to pass legislation in South Carolina that allows voters to recall any statewide elected official,” Haley wrote on her Facebook page… “I am in complete support of anything that gives power to the people but this legislation should apply to legislators as well.”
Yes, like all Republicans, Haley is about power to the people (right on!) as long as it’s the “right” people, usually in more than one sense of the word. Ironically, that generally means people with names that are easier to pronounce than Nimrata Randhawa’s (or Piyush Jindal’s, come to think of it) but Southern Republicans are full of a lot of things, including surprises.
THREE: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Go to Greenville
Haley also rankled some conservatives when she endorsed Mitt Romney in December, mostly the kind of conservatives who believe that Romney is an effete Big Government liberal and that Mormons are devil-worshippers. Why did she endorse before primary season had even begun?
“I am very impatient by nature. And it is not what you say, it’s what you do. I wanted someone who had proven results,” said Haley, who appeared with husband Michael and Ann and Mitt Romney. “[Romney] is no longer a candidate trying to win. He’s a leader who knows what he wants to do his first day in office and is ready to do it.”
The Haleys and the Romneys held their key party at a Greenville fire station on December 16, with Haley wearing her heart rather yuckily on her sleeve:
“What I’ve missed is having a partner in Washington and having a partner in the White House and what I’m looking for is a partner I can have now.”
Eww. But I’m afraid it gets even yuckier:
Romney was gleeful during Haley’s endorsement, explaining how he woke up this morning in Iowa with a “huge smile on his face” that grew even larger when he saw Haley on Fox News during his morning workout talking about endorsing him.
“A lot of us stood at her door,” Romney said of Haley, “hoping to win her endorsement… We’ve been hoping for this for a long, long time.”
The mental image this conjures up is so awful I can barely force my fingers to type this sentence. Continue reading Take Five (Trikki Nikki edition)