ONE: ZOMG? Really?
Heavens to Betsy Ross! Another Obama Administration… uh… scandal. The NSA has been metadata harvesting. Of course, they’ve been doing so for years, with Congressional oversight and sanction of the FISA court, both a result of restrictions placed on executive branch power by a bipartisan legislative consensus after unlawful abuse by the Bush (mis)Administration. Still, this is totally outrageous, yes?
Well, no. It’s the latest flimsy “scandal” the corporate media and its leering Republican friends want us to believe the Obama White House is “mired in” or “overwhelmed by,” with an added fillip of racy intrigue provided by a mysterious young NSA contractor whose motives, biography and even current whereabouts all remain tantalizingly shadowy.
The applicable law and degree of oversight both need substantial improvement. Perhaps that would have already happened had so many of us on the left not essentially gone silent about this until these recent “revelations” (which so far have been in no meaningful way revelatory). An honest national dialogue about surveillance and a host of other “War on Terror” issues is years overdue. Unfortunately, the odds seem stacked against it.
For starters, it would have to exclude a Congress plainly not up to the task of reform. Worse, there’s a panoply of untrustworthy interests out there whose fondest desire is to gin up issues like this into improbably grave and gathering threats to the Republic itself.
Thus the hallelujah chorus of impeachment-starved Republicans, paranoid Teabaggers and Paulite nincompoops is now accompanied by the off-key descant of ostensibly progressive Obama “critics” who, implausibly, fancy themselves his base and routinely mistake being unreasoning hotheads for being principled firebrands.
Worse still, “discussion” of pretty much every legitimate issue nowadays – like the very legitimate issue of balancing domestic security with civil liberties – ends up spun into something apocalyptic, with strenuous blogospheric adjectives like “shocking” or “Orwellian” or “authoritarian” or “chilling” breezily deployed on the way to proving, one more tiresome time, that Mike Godwin is a genius.
Worst of all – or simply saddest – the histrionic, helium-pitched high dudgeon is an inadvertent but unmistakable admission by its subscribers of an attention deficit that stretches back through some or all of the past decade, at a minimum. So I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for an honest national dialogue on this.
As I’ve noted before, the real scandal is that this is the sort of thing that now passes for a scandal. A few years back, we were all congratulating ourselves about having “become the media.” Ironically, in some not at all positive ways, we truly have.
TWO: FFS Coalition
Meanwhile, on Planet Not Earth, Smilin’ Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition recently concluded its fourth annual “Road to Majority” conference, placating hardcore Republicans who believe the Values Voter Summit and CPAC just don’t provide enough flat-out ignorance, offensive oratory and general communitarian buffoonery every year. Unsurprisingly, the FFC has declared the event “a Success!”
And so it was, if the intention was to gather in one venue the nation’s worst and dimmest, spoon-feed credulous attendees with a ton of high-cholesterol cant, showcase the impressive range of horrendous ideas Republicans embrace, and – best of all – provide the rest of us with some laughs. The laughs began with the speaker roster, which included luminaries like – well, I’ll just let the Coalition’s own event recap speak for itself:
… the three day event… kicked off with a luncheon featuring Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Sen. Mike Lee.
Our general sessions included speeches from Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rick Santorum, and many more! At the Patriot Awards Gala Banquet, we recognized Pat Robertson with the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award, and heard from speakers such as Donald Trump, Rep. Scott Rigell, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Randy Forbes, and special entertainment by Grammy & DOVE Award winning artist Sandi Patty!
When it comes to volume, Ms. Patty’s supple four-octave voice had nothing on the yawping succession of gum-flapping know-nothings who serially seized the podium to offer up cloying patriotic clichés and half-digested Randian roughage.
Newly risen from the dead but still lacking anything approximating charisma, Mark Sanford had a whole lot of stuff to say about government spending, all of it as simpleminded and desolately pointless as if he were reading it off the back of a cereal box:
“Historically, bad things have happened when you spend too much… and I think it’s a moral issue, because it’s the ultimate case of taxation without representation when you have systematically at a government level basically taking from young to afford benefits to old…
“We are at a tipping point the likes of which we have never seen…”
Why, it’s enough to make a principled conservative run screaming for the Appalachian Trail, unless said conservative just mustered up enough gullible poltroons to reward him with another taxpayer-funded gig working for the government he and his fellow Republicans want us to believe they hate so danged much. In which case you can count on him to go away about the same time venereal disease does. Sanford did, however, get one thing right:
“… in many ways I recognize the ways in which I am unworthy of offering my opinion or my perspective on a whole host of things given my failures in 2009.”
Those last five words were completely redundant, of course.
As most such conservative gatherings do, this one featured a scary, washed-up celebrity. With Victoria Jackson, Ted Nugent and Chuck Norris seemingly unavailable, the role went to John Ratzenberger, who loudly requested that a little of Allen West’s, uh, essence be distributed in all 50 states, and presumably in Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, as well:
“We should really take something from his gene pool and put it everywhere across this great country… [a] real American hero, my friend, Allen West.”
Herman Cain was also there, and his fact-free musings actually made Sanford’s sound statesmanlike by comparison:
“This train is running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Yes, I said it.”
Yes, he said it. Actually, he says it a lot, mostly when he’s earning some absurd fee to do so. Speaking of absurdity, he also offered up this curious observation:
“After I dropped out of the presidential race because of the viciousness of the media, they thought I was going to be quiet.”
Now, that’s odd. I thought he dropped out because he considers women chattel and couldn’t keep his creepy hands off of them, but I guess that’s something I read in the commie press. No, it seems that the would-be commander-in-chief was forced out of the race because Rachel Maddow and EJ Dionne were being mean to him.
Cain wasn’t the only laughingstock former presidential wannabe at the conference. Rick Perry was there, sharing his inner Rick Perry:
“I woke up the morning after the election of 2012 and was feeling a bit humbled…It was really clear that the case we made as conservatives and, frankly, some of us as candidates, we didn’t move the majority of people in this country…
“I’ve learned a little bit about humility, particularly on national television. God hasn’t called the perfect to go into public service. He’s called people like you and me. ”
As if to underscore the point, he also said this about (I think) Benghazi:
I fear where we’ve come to in America, where our administration won’t make one phone call to save our men and women in an embassy in Lebanon…”
Silly Rick! Everyone knows Lebanon is a city in Pennsylvania. But Perry, Cain, Sanford and all the other addlepated flat-earthers who spoke were simply prelude to the headliner, that indisputably perfect exemplar of utter know-nothingness, Sarah Palin, who brought a whole steamer trunk full of ludicrous one-liners down from Wasilla. On American intervention in Syria:
“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing….let Allah sort it out!”
On the Brothers Tsarnaev, with a side order of suddenly-fashionable NSA poutrage:
“Our government spied on every single one of your phone calls but it couldn’t find two pot smoking dead-beat Bostonians with a hotline to terrorist central in Chechnya. Really?”
She also revisited her moth-eaten “death panels” calumny while discussing Obamacare, joked about her own fertility in a swipe at Jeb Bush’s “Road to Majority” comment on fertile immigrants, and in an another apparent swipe – this one at Michelle Obama’s reaction to the boorish Ellen Sturtz – said this:
“If there’s any protesters here, speak now or forever hold your peace…because facing the protesters, facing the critics, that’s something I do well…”
Usually by quitting. Continue reading Take Five (Woe Is Us edition)
ONE: Alle Menschen werden Brüder…
Suffused with bipartisan good vibes, Republicans greeted Barack Obama’s re-election with smiles and outstretched hands… firmly withheld. Grapes actually don’t get any sourer than the ones Republicans have been angrily stomping into whine – uh, wine, since the evening of November 6. The 2012 Grand Old Vintage will long be remembered for its pronounced acidity, robust historical revisionism and almost maddeningly insistent notes of cattle droppings.
The sheer volume (in both senses of the word) of Republican angst, anger and anxiety in the wake of the election has been a challenge to keep up with, but out of many dozens of conservative tantrums I’ve read and bookmarked over the past few weeks, here are some examples I thought worth highlighting.
It was no surprise that one of the first querulous voices raised was that of tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump. Trump took to Twitter on election night and, as he is wont to do, made an utter jackass of himself:
Trump began tweeting before the election was called that it was “a total sham and a travesty.” After news outlets projected that Obama won the election, Trump tweeted, “Well, back to the drawing board!” He posted more than 10 angry tweets, declaring “our nation is a once great nation divided” and “the world is laughing at us…”
“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy,” fumed the celebrity mogul…
He [later] deleted some of Tuesday night’s tirade, including tweets calling for revolution and incorrectly saying that Obama had lost the popular vote…
Hinge-less commentary of a different sort was served up by William Murray, chair of the Religious Freedom Coalition. Murray is convinced that the President won a second term because he promised to put a chicken, or something, in every pot:
… millions of people… voted for Obama because of “what’s in it for me.” Some feared welfare payments would be cut or unemployment payment periods reduced by a Republican. Still others voted for Obama because they were promised more union jobs with higher pay. Most Obama voters had no interest in the “fiscal cliff” or the huge deficit, or the declining economic and military power of our nation. They voted for Obama’s race, his image and for their hope of personal gain.
Barack Hussein Obama received millions of votes from people who have little command of the English language beyond that needed to shop at Wal-Mart and who have no concept of our form of government. Millions more cast their ballots for Obama for purely racial reasons.
No question, Mr. Murray. Now that you mention it, I distinctly remember filling out my absentee ballot for Barack Obama and drooling at the idea that I’d just voted for a guy of mixed race. Take that, whitey!
Others, such as Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, quelled their disappointment by adopting an activist approach. Phillips had the bright idea to advocate for a de facto Electoral College coup:
We have one last, final chance to save America. We have one last, final chance to stop Barack Obama. One final chance…
According to the 12th Amendment, for the Electoral College to be able to select the president, it must have a quorum of two-thirds of the states voting. If enough states refuse to participate, the Electoral College will not have a quorum. If the Electoral College does not have a quorum or otherwise cannot vote or decide, then the responsibility for selecting the president and vice president devolves to the Congress.
Except, of course, that Phillips is full of crap, as WorldNutDaily itself tersely acknowledged a day later:
Editor’s note, Nov. 20, 2012: Since this column was posted it has been discovered that the premise presented about the Electoral College and the Constitution is in error. According to the 12th Amendment, a two-thirds quorum is required in the House of Representatives, not the Electoral College.
Wow! Barack Obama hasn’t even begun his second term yet and somebody over at WND honest-to-God actually bothered to read at least part of one amendment to the Constitution. And yet there are still some who refuse to admit that this presidency is transformational.
Michael Reagan was equally stroppy about the election results, but took a road less traveled in his desperate search for a scapegoat:
For four years Barack Obama has blamed the Great Recession on [George W. Bush] and used his presidency as his excuse for why the economy is taking so long to get fixed.
And where’s G.W. been? MIA or AWOL, take your pick…
The 2012 campaign was all about “the economy, stupid.” Obama blamed G.W. and Republicans. Plus, he had Clinton and Carter bashing G.W.’s record with their bully sticks every day and countering Romney’s arguments that Obama was to blame.
We should have had G.W. standing up and saying, “This is bull. I’m tired of this. This is what I did or did not do with the economy as president. The real culprits are Dodd & Frank and four years of Obama’s failed policies.”
Nobody with any credibility has ever accused Michael Reagan of being smart, but it’s a little stunning that even as witless an observer of current events as Reagan could be unaware of how George W. Bush was swept under the rug by the Republican Party long before Barack Obama was sworn into office. Bully sticks, indeed.
For some fretful scapegoat hunters, however, there’s no place like home:
A Mesa woman was arrested [November 10] after she allegedly chased her husband around a Gilbert parking lot in an SUV during an argument over the presidential election.
The woman finally ran over her husband, leaving him with critical injuries.
According to a Gilbert police report, the argument started over her husband’s lack of voter participation in the recent election…
Solomon’s husband, Daniel Solomon, told police his wife “just hated Obama” and was very angry he was re-elected and blamed the President for problems her family is going through.
But there’s taking it hard and then there’s taking it really hard, as the late Henry Hamilton did:
A Key West man who told his partner that “if Barack gets re-elected, I’m not going to be around” was found dead on Nov. 8, with the words “F— Obama!” scrawled on his will and two empty prescription bottles nearby.
Henry Hamilton, 64, owner of Tropical Tan off Duval Street, was “very upset about the election results,” his partner Michael Cossey told Police Officer Anna Dykes.
Super Mario doppelganger and chair of the Maine Republican Party, Charlie Webster, didn’t kill himself, unfortunately. Instead, he went on TV and angrily blamed the President’s garnering of the state’s four electoral votes on – gasp! – suspicious black people:
“In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day,” he said. “Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”
Webster said he has identified five “pockets” of the state where he has concerns about voting irregularities. He would not identify those areas, but said he plans to mail “Thank You” cards to all of the newly registered voters. If a large number of cards are returned because the addresses are invalid, Webster said, he will know he is on to something.
Within 48 hours, Webster was on the phone to Portland’s WSCH again, eager to clarify his remarks (“clarify” being the term conservatives like to use to describe the pathetic flailing around they do after people take offense at the objectionable things they say):
Charlie Webster says he is not a racist, and that he regrets using the words “black people”, but he says he feels his comments are being taken out of context. He says his point was that voter fraud occurs in Maine.
“I still believe there are people who vote in Maine who are not residents in some of the towns and that was my point. It wasn’t that they were black or Chinese or they were obese, it wasn’t like that. It’s that if you live in a small town and someone comes in and weighs 400 lbs, you usually know who that person is.”
That same day, Webster cranked up the cringe-worthy in an interview with Talking Points Memo:
“There’s nothing about me that would be discriminatory. I know black people. I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy. He’s a great friend of mine. Nobody would ever accuse me of suggesting anything,” he said…
Webster hopes his investigation will settle his concerns.
“One of the things I’d like to do is nip this in the butt (sic) for good, and that’s why at my own expense I will do something after I’m no longer chairman,” Webster said. “I’m sick of hearing about it. Maybe there’s not a problem, maybe there is. I believe there is.”
As it happens, however, Webster won’t be nipping any butts:
In a statement issued late Thursday by the Maine Republican Party, Webster said it was “my intention to talk not about race, but about perceived voting irregularities. However, my comments were made without proof of wrongdoing and had the unintended consequence of casting aspersions on an entire group of Americans. For that, I am truly sorry.”
… after the controversy that followed his comments, Webster said Thursday he would not send the postcards.
Webster’s term as chair ended on December 1. Where the Maine Republican Party will find someone with feet big enough to fill his clown shoes is anyone’s guess.
But Charlie Webster’s asshattery hardly begins to illustrate the virulence of the re-election variant of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Within days of the election, maniacs in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, Montana, Florida, Mississippi, North Dakota, North Carolina and Indiana had filed petitions at We the People to have their states secede from the Union. Petitions for all 50 states have since been posted, which begs the question of what these states – were they ever to successfully sever their ties with the nation – would collectively call themselves. The Disunited States of America? The Spoilsport States of America? We’re with Stupid?
The Oregon petition, created by a fellow named Kristopher W. Tillamook, is not only a splendid example of the “thought processes” of the secessionistas, but a solid contender for this year’s most egregious misuse of apostrophes in pointless furtherance of a lost cause:
With the Federal Govenrment increasing it’s size much larger than our Founding Father’s intended, and it’s abuse of power trumping over the rights of State constitutions, and the forcing of unconstitutional laws over it’s own citizens, the people of Oregon would like the chance to vote on leaving the Union immediately. The Federal Government has imposed policies on Oregon that are not in Oregon’s best intrests, and we as citizens would respectively and peacably seperate ourselves from a tyranical Government who cares nothing about creating a sustainable future for our children. At any time that the citizens of Oregon felt the Federal Government was no longer imposing on the Constitution we could re-vote to again join the Union under a new agreement.
As of this writing, 14,991 people, untroubled by the petition’s linguistic high crimes and misdemeanors, have signed it. Continue reading Take Five (Dave Brubeck memorial 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. Continue reading Take Five (Joke on the Water edition)
ONE: Bleatings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Which little city has the sixth-best beach in New Jersey, was famously name-checked in a Bruce Springsteen album title, and just got a self-appointed Republican nanny? If you guessed Asbury Park, then kudos to you, even if you only got it from the subtitle above.
Louise Murray used to serve on Asbury Park’s city council, and although the predominantly blue burg no longer has to put up with her in that role, it will have to endure her tenure as chair of the local Republican Party, a position she assumed this week. Murray’s avowed first order of business is to “concentrate on re-energizing the Republicans in the city,” and if you’d like an example of what it apparently takes to re-energize Republicans, here you go:
Beachgoers may be surprised to learn beachwear is illegal on the boardwalk in Asbury — and one resident wishes the city would enforce the dress code rules.
Louise Murray… spoke during public comment at the June 20 council meeting about the issue.
Murray’s remarks no doubt sent an electric shock right through the hindquarters of local Republicans:
“I’ll be darned if I want to be standing at a bar and have somebody slither up in a Speedo or bikini that shouldn’t be in a bathing suit,” Murray said. “It’s disgraceful… I implore you to enforce this, but do not amend it.”
Good thinking. This will finally give Asbury Park’s 86 police officers something to concentrate on other than a violent crime index over five times higher than the national average. And – bonus! – Murray’s position has the support of at least one local Democrat:
Deputy Mayor John Loffredo responded, “I honestly don’t disagree with you.”
So here’s to a boardwalk unadulterated with butt-floss, postage-stamp-sized banana hammocks and other assorted fashion crimes. After all, as Murray insightfully points out:
“I don’t want to go back to 1940 or 1950 but the bottom line is you have on your books an ordinance — no person clad in bathing attire shall be on the boardwalk or public walks adjacent thereto,” Murray said. “Asbury Park was known for being the classiest boardwalk in the summertime. You never went down there unless you were dressed.”
Even if The Boss didn’t want you to be:
“Chasin’ the factory girls underneath the boardwalk where they all promise to unsnap their jeans…”
For all her admirable heavy lifting in New Jersey, I do hope Louise Murray stays away from Oregon. I’m just not sure how she might react to a recent wardrobe-related incident there, what with the GOP being The Official Political Party of JesusTM and all:
State police say a 26-year-old Texas man, who identified himself as Jesus Christ, has been arrested after he was discovered disrupting traffic near Roseburg wearing only his underwear and socks…
The man, whose name has not been released, was able to evade arrest from [a state] trooper for disorderly conduct, even after the trooper used a baton and pepper spray to try and subdue him.
A vacationing, off-duty Virginia police officer who was in the area and an officer from Roseburg soon joined the fray to help apprehend the man.
The Roseburg officer used a Taser on the man as the state trooper and Virginia officer put him in handcuffs.
Now, I don’t know if God so loved the world that He couldn’t even wait until His only begotten Son was fully dressed before sending Him back to this screwy planet, but the last time the authorities got hold of Jesus, things went south pretty quickly. And now we wait uneasily to see if Governor Kitzhaber gets involved, or whether he washes his hands of the matter.
TWO: Joe Rockhead
Viewers of The 700 Club got a rare treat recently when Congressional aspirant Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher related to the program how he came to Christ. It all began when his youth pastor invited him out for a bite and told him to bring along a science book:
He put the Bible on one side and I put the science book on this side. He said: Okay. Read the cover. And I don’t exactly remember, you know, if – my biology or chemistry book, but I do remember this, you know: “Revision 7.”
And he said: Now look at the Bible. What’s it say? I said: “Holy Bible.” He said: Do you see any revisions on it, Joe? I said: Well, no. He says: Well, the reason why is because this is God’s word. You know, it was right the day it was penned, as it is now, as it will be in a hundred years or a thousand years. Man’s always looking for an answer. That’s why it’s revised.
It hit me like a ton of bricks right then and there, and I accepted Jesus Christ there at Frisch’s Big Boy, and it was – it was pretty incredible.
Pretty incredible? The only way it could be more incredible would be if Joe had seen the face of Jesus on the rye bun of his Brawny Lad.
Along with this artful pandering to evangelical voters, Joe is making sure to kiss some NRA ass, as well. A recent web video offered up an idea so thoroughly scrambled it makes the ravings of Wayne LaPierre seem almost rational:
Mr. Wurzelbacher released a campaign web video in which he blamed the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control laws.
“In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 one-point-five million Armenians, unable to defend themselves were exterminated,” Mr. Wurzelbacher says in the clip. “In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.”
Mr. Wurzelbacher’s video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, “I love America.”
Maybe you do, Joe, but why do you hate her produce?
THREE: Birth of a Notion
A chastened Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett appeared in Take Five late in May, apologizing for having made his state a laughingstock by pestering Hawaii to provide proof that the President was born there:
“If I embarrassed the state I apologize, but that certainly wasn’t my intent,” Bennett, a Republican, told Phoenix radio station KTAR.
Bennett must believe that his brief lapse into remorse cost him some of his GOP street cred, so last week he decided to just go for the conspiracy theory gold:
Secretary of State Ken Bennett says he’s convinced Obama was born in Hawaii, but he now believes the president fraudulently claimed to be born in Kenya so he could get into college. He also believes the president has spent millions of dollars since then to cover it up…
“So if there was weird stuff going on,” he said, “I actually think it was happening back in his college days because I think he has spent $1.5 or $2 million through attorneys to have all of the college records and all of that stuff sealed. So if you’re spending money to seal something, that’s probably where the hanky panky was going on.”
I have to disagree, Ken. I think the weird stuff is still going on. Weird stuff like 59% of Arizona voters actually believing you’re fit to be their Secretary of State. That’s so weird I still have a hard time believing it. Continue reading Take Five (What a Fool Believes edition)
It’s not the 4th of July, but I’m having flashbacks to two century-old Supreme Court cases involving liberty: Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott.
Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom on the grounds he moved from a state that chartered slavery to federal territory that didn’t recognize slavery as a legal institution, and did recognize a number of citizenship rights for blacks including marriage. Therefore as a resident in a free land with no provision for slavery, he should be free. The Supreme Court’s decision, by seven to two, abrogated his right, but also states’ rights. When it came to slavery, the court ruled the slave had no standing to bring a legal case against his or her status. The court also firmly declared slaves were property, chattel, having “no rights any white man was bound to respect.” Despite state laws, a slave transported to Massachusetts remained in bondage.
The Dred Scott decision was only the second time an act passed by Congress was ruled unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roger Taney’s written decision struck down the Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, which limited the expansion of slavery into federal territories.
The 14th Amendment removed Dred Scott as a legal precedent, but it remains important in history, as example of how US law is interpreted and rights altered through the institutions of the courts, states, and federal government. For often, law is about ends and means, what it affirms and what it denies.
I’m an American-born, free black. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wants to return to the days when my state, South Carolina, could come to my door and demand that I leave. By state law, South Carolina authorities before 1865 before could compel me by force to leave the state. The state could prohibit my return. Not because of crimes, but merely due to my status—as free and black. The basis of such state laws, among others, was the Dred Scott case.
On Monday, Justice Scalia referred to such an egregious use of force by the state to compel forced removal as “travel restrictions.” The dislocation of free people—a violation of common sense, morality, ethics, human rights and settled law—was one of the examples Scalia chose to cite in his 22-page dissent on Arizona v. the United States, which tells why he sees Arizona having the historic and absolute right to expel residents at will.
Scalia, in his independent, after-the-fact dissent on Arizona v. the United States, desperately wants states to have the same expired right to ban or expel undocumented workers. He goes a step further and sees the constitution and legal precedent as granting—no, more—guaranteeing this right of sovereignty to states, with the federal function to protect the entitled state authority above its own.
The removal of a person from a state may be a matter of policy and civil law, but against the person, it is a high crime and a declaration and act of war. Some have already taken Scalia’s fantasy-filled illogic to call for secession—again. The desire to truncate all federal activities burns in their hearts.
From a blog:
“Message to Arizona- Start forming Infantry Regiments wholly under the control of the Arizona Governor and state legislature. It is impossible to see any other alternative for states and citizens wishing to protect their Constitutional rights in the face of a runaway Federal Government of the United States, and its various organs, that has all but suspended the founding intent of the original Constitutional Convention.
LET FREEDOM RING!!!”
The American tradition of jurisprudence is giving every lying, crazy white man a pass, through what Jeffery Tobin called a “loss of perspective.” There is freedom of speech but no freedom to reside, if the state decrees so by law. If Scalia is right, by extension, we are all naked, unprotected—as free blacks once were! We can all sing “Kumbaya” on the bus.
And with his dissent, Justice Scalia became the first justice ever to use a dissent as a blog.
Careful reading of Justice Scalia reveals he uses established principles of international law on sovereignty. As a strict constitutionalist, wedded to original meanings, his far afield examination of international precedents outside US law seems to go against his own logic and prescriptions. The decisions and principles he cites are about national sovereignty, not the sovereignty of states or entities within a nation. He is treating the constitution as a contract whose purpose is to establish a federal government to provide services as the states collectively require, but with limited authority of its own. In fact, Mr. Scalia at one point cites the Articles of Confederation—written before the constitution, when the colonies were independent, as relevant. He sees no prudent limitation on the authority of states.
He does not see the state’s action as poaching on federal authority: “The state’s detention does not represent the commencement of the removal process unless the Federal government makes it so.” “The most important point is Arizona is entitled to have “its own immigration policy”—including a more rigorous enforcement policy—as long as it does not conflict with federal law.” “There is no reason Arizona can not make it a state crime for any removable alien to remain in present in Arizona.” And then: “What I fear is that federal policies of “non enforcement” will leave the states helpless before those evil effects of illegal immigration that the Court dutifully recites in its prologue but leaves unremedied in its disposition.”
This last statement is a clear call to action: the assertion that the Court is to provide a remedy that goes beyond legal merits and attacks “evil effects.” As a free black (once removed!) I cringe that the scales of Scalia’s justice now weigh evil effects. Especially without concern for the justifying excesses of unrestrained authority. It seems Justice Scalia protects, as one of the original states’ rights, the right to discriminate without regard to liberty, due process, human rights, or national policy, calling himself an originalist, not an activist.
Plessy v. Ferguson, heard in 1896, involved segregated, race-based seating on street cars in Louisiana. The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th amendment was not intended to eliminate or abolish differences of social privilege based on race or color, and states had a right to reflect custom, tradition and use in their laws. Discrimination as a custom could be legally maintained. Plessy by law must sit in the colored section during his public journey. Continue reading Digging Deeper: Justice Scalia, No Fear of His Own Horror
ONE: Fed Up but Still Hungry in Wisconsin
If Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election results left a bad taste in your mouth – and my confident guess would be that if you’re reading this, they sure as hell did – I offer as a completely inadequate diversion the curious case of Wisconsinite Bill Wisth.
Wisth is a hungry man who finds himself at odds with Chuck’s Place, a Thiensville eatery featuring a purported all-you-can-eat Friday Fish Fry, which actually, according to Wisth’s allegations, turns out to be more of an all-some-can-eat proposition:
He was there [May 11] when the restaurant cut him off after he ate a dozen pieces.
“Well, we asked for more fish and they refused to give us any more fish,” recalled Wisth.
The restaurant says it was running out of fish and patience; arguing Bill has been a problem customer before. They sent him on his way with another eight pieces, but that still wasn’t enough.
He was so fired up, he called the police. “I think that people have to stand up for consumers,” said Wisth.
And stand up he will. Wisth has vowed to picket Chuck’s Place every Sunday until its management sees sense and allows the 350-pound seafood enthusiast to chow down without restriction. As a former union member, registered Democrat and fellow consumer, I feel I can do no less than support him robustly, but at least one Chuck’s Place worker makes my sense of solidarity waver:
Elizabeth Roeming is a waitress there and says they’ve tried to work with Bill over the years — like letting him have a tab he still hasn’t paid off.
It’s only my theory, of course, but I suspect Wisth might have scheduled his picketing for Sundays so that he could take advantage of the Friday Fish Fry that the Prime Minister Restaurant, a very short drive from Chuck’s Place, also features. With potato pancakes, soup or salad, cole slaw and dessert, all for a wallet-friendly $9.49, it will help should Wisth ever decide to pay off that tab over at Chuck’s Place.
TWO: Cited Sub, Didn’t Sink Same
Elsewhere in Wisconsin’s apparently chaotic food scene, you might recall a story about Mitt Romney and his slimy little buddy Paul Ryan greasing Waukesha voters’ palms with free sandwiches back in April.
The Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board, which was denied because the GAB considered it a possible criminal matter. A parallel complaint was filed with Brad Schimel, DA of Waukesha County, but Schimel has now announced that he doesn’t believe the two Republicans committed a crime:
In a letter to Melissa Bauldauff, research director for the state Democratic Party, Schimel said he would not be filing charges.
“The lunch was set up for a specific group. Anyone who was from that specific group was not charged for their lunch,” Schimel wrote. “A corner of the restaurant was designated for these individuals and the RFP campaign was permitted to display campaign signs in that area. Other customers who were not part of this group were charged the normal price for their meals and drinks.”
“To obtain a criminal conviction for election bribery, a prosecutor must prove that the individual(s) offered something of value with the intent to induce individuals to vote by providing something of value. There is no evidence to contradict the intent claimed by the organizers of the luncheon. The most reasonable conclusion that may be drawn from the evidence appears to support the claim by the RFP campaign that they did not intend to induce the general public to vote.”
To which I can only say, Mr. Schimel, baloney.
THREE: “But it’s a dry oppression…”
The Achilles heel of the rule of law is bad law. Enter the Republican Party. An immense amount of abysmal legislation has been rammed through Republican-dominated state houses in the last few years, much of it derived from paint-by-numbers bills produced by everyone’s favorite “nonpartisan individual membership organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions,” the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Arizona’s 50th Legislature, now mercifully adjourned, is a depressing case in point:
Lawmakers proposed some of the most conservative measures in the nation: abortion limits; allowing employers to opt out of providing contraceptive health-care coverage; restricting union activities; allowing guns on college campuses; cutting taxes; and curbing regulation.
They pursued controversial efforts to require presidential candidates to show proof of citizenship to get on the state ballot, sought to take control of federal land and tried to prevent any level of Arizona government from adopting environmental-sustainability policies.
The session was not an unqualified win for Arizona Republicans, however:
Despite Republicans’ political advantage, their bills had mixed success. Many of the session’s most-controversial efforts failed or were significantly watered down. Political insiders cite a variety of reasons: lawmakers trying to cater to more-moderate voters during an election year, a governor who hasn’t been afraid to wield her veto power and vocal opposition from the public.
Due to redistricting, some retirements and even possible voter backlash, the worst might be over for Arizona come November:
“You will see the 21 Republican [Senate] seats shrink to 17 or 18,” predicted Chris Herstam, a former state representative and political commentator.
So only 18/21sts as bad as it is now? In red states, you better take progress where you find it, I guess. Continue reading Take Five (Misrule of Law edition)
ONE: “Ma’am, are you aware you have no clothes on?”
Some weeks back I breezily suggested that there might be a plot afoot to destabilize America via inconvenient nudity. It seems my jocularity was misplaced. A startling incident in Ballston, New York provides chilling new evidence that something eldritch is indeed unfolding. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
On May 15, Barbara LaFleur, naked as a jaybird though significantly taller, strolled into Curtis Lumber on Route 67 in Ballston, chatted with several employees, asked for the time, then walked out of the store. Manager Bob Eakin was not present at the time of the occurrence, but did a fine job describing what his employees endured, which was also captured on surveillance video:
“No one wanted to say much to her,” he said. “It’s not a situation you want to be involved in.”
After exiting Curtis Lumber, LaFleur, still bare, walked to a nearby Stewart’s, where store staff attempted a somewhat more engaged approach with the perp:
“The manager said ‘Ma’am, are you aware you have no clothes on?’ She was kosher and cool about it, and the manager told her she needed to leave,” said a Stewart’s employee, who only identified himself as Terry.
LaFleur was clothed again by the time she was apprehended by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and charged with misdemeanor public lewdness. Happily, no injuries were reported. Saratoga County DA James Murphy still sounds haunted by the crime as he tries to get to the bottom of it:
“While the defendant claimed she was merely expressing her freedom to be fully liberated by walking nude into Stewart’s and Curtis Lumber, this alleged conduct is actually a crime under the penal law,” said Murphy in a statement. “Surprisingly, mental health found no psychiatric issues whatsoever.”
Despite her casual crime spree, LaFleur is currently free on her own recognizance, and it’s reassuring that she isn’t considered a flight risk. The TSA has enough nudity problems of its own.
TWO: Will Vote for SNAP Benefits
If one wanted to make a case for the inferiority of white people, a solid start would be to point at Phyllis Schlafly. I don’t intend to make such a case, but I’m going to point in her direction anyway. Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, a sort of virtual outhouse that makes you want to stand upwind of your computer monitor, is in a tizzy over a recent New York Times report that white births are no longer a majority of births in America:
Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.
Of course it’s been known for many years that this would happen. It’s even reasonably interesting as an alternative to chatting with someone about the weather, but “Roger” at the Eagle Forum blog finds it acutely distressing:
The immigrants do not share American values, so it is a good bet that they will not be voting Republican when they start voting in large numbers.
“Voting in large numbers”? That does seem sort of un-American, come to think of it, but not the way “Roger” might think. “Roger” thinks that voting for anything other than a Republican isn’t patriotic, and that’s because “Roger” is delighted to surrender his freedom to The Party just like a good Soviet. It’s depressingly predictable, as well, that “Roger” thinks all these non-white births are from fecund immigrants, as opposed to simply augmenting the reproductive efforts of millions and millions and millions of American citizens who are not white. I suppose “Roger” doesn’t accept the legitimacy of their citizenship anyway.
This should be more than enough corn-fed stupid for any one skull to contain, but “Roger” goes on. In particular, a passing reference in the Times piece to Ozzie and Harriet really seems to chafe:
The NY Times liberals seek to destroy the American family of the 1950s, as symbolized by Ozzie and Harriet. The TV characters were happy, self-sufficient, autonomous, law-abiding, honorable, patriotic, hard-working, and otherwise embodied qualities that made America great. In other words, the show promoted values that NY Times liberals despise.
“Roger” left out “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,” among other things, but it’s easy to see where he’s going with this:
Instead, the USA is being transformed by immigrants who do not share those values, and who have high rates of illiteracy, illegitimacy, and gang crime, and they will vote Democrat when the Democrats promise them more food stamps.
Food stamps? Man, these immigrants work cheap. Yet “Roger” didn’t quite purge himself adequately with his original tirade. He has since updated the blog post twice to berate Daily Kos and Right Wing Watch for finding fault with his “thought” processes:
Why do they hate Ozzie and Harriet so much? Draw your own conclusions. I say that they despise the mere concept of a national archetype that extols traditional American values…
Why is it that the only people who use meaningless phrases like “traditional American values” without irony are mouth-breathing bigots?
The liberal blogs hate that archetype, but they are not willing to say why.
I can only speak for one liberal blog – this one – but I have no problem saying why I hate that archetype. I hate it because it’s phony, cartoonish and beloved of xenophobic whites pining for a fantasy version of America where “diversity” only means more brands of toothpaste on the drug store shelf. I hate it because immigrants have always been a boon to America and there’s not a shred of evidence to prove that the newest immigrants will be any different from those of 50 or 100 or 200 years ago in terms of the energy, ambition and imagination they’re eager to devote to their cherished new country. I hate it because even Ozzie and Harriet’s forebears came from somewhere else.
My own tolerance ends abruptly when I encounter intolerance of the sort that “Roger” and his pals in Schlafly’s moral pigpen have raised into a creed and a crusade to turn back history. I hate that too.
THREE: Renaissance Moron
You might remember that the economy nearly melted down under George Walker Bush. While the nation narrowly avoided financial Armageddon, it is still struggling out of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the New York Times recently caught up with Bush and found him involved in a little economic self-stimulus:
Two months from now, he plans to publish a book outlining strategies for economic growth.
With all due respect to the Times, I believe the word “strategeries” is what their reporter must have meant, but never mind. I’ll be watching for Tax Cuts for the Rich! You’re Welcome, America in the remainder bins in July, and hoping that in future the would-be author sticks to topics he actually knows something about: weaving lies into wars, shirking a National Guard service commitment, instituting “enhanced” interrogation, prospering from insider trading, ignoring hurricanes, nodding when that nice Mr. Cheney asked for energy policy task force meetings to be kept secret, shrugging off the threat of bin Laden, shrugging off the pursuit of bin Laden, ordering warrantless wiretapping, suspending habeas corpus and stealing two elections.
For dummies. Continue reading Take Five (WTF edition)
ONE: A Grave and Gathering Threat?
I would have thought that Arizona solving all its problems would be huge news, but I’m damned if I can find any information about it anywhere. I’m quite certain it happened, though. Otherwise, there’s no way state legislators would be spending their time on harebrained pseudo-legislation like SB1507, a bill purporting to thwart a 20-year-old non-binding United Nations declaration on sustainable development.
In case you’ve forgotten – as I would guess almost everyone has – back in 1992 the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development put forward Agenda 21, a framework for international cooperation and built progress that remained mindful of responsible stewardship of the planet. It garnered 178 signatories from the world community. And (however late they might be to rush to the barricades) conservatives in Arizona are not going to put up with it.
The bill, SB1507, sponsored by Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, would make it illegal for any government entity in the state to abide by any tenet or principle of the non-binding United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the international group in 1992.
Just what the hell sort of awful stuff is in those 27 principles? Let’s look at a few:
Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.
All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.
Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.
The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.
Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.
States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
Harmony with nature? Full participation of women? Peace? Eradicating poverty? Youthful idealism? A better future? In a word, ZOMG! It’s all stuff calculated to give Republicans nightmares, if they can get over their dry heaves long enough to fall asleep in the first place, but neither naps nor nausea will dissuade Burges and her allies from their desperate struggle to safeguard Arizona:
Rep. Terri Proud, a Tucson Republican and proponent of the bill, said in a mass email to her supporters that the non-binding declaration “will take away our rights as Americans by allowing the United Nations to mandate laws on our soil.”
“It’s very real and it is happening,” Proud’s email warns.
Proud doesn’t actually say how it’s happening, or why the UN doesn’t seem to have made any headway on this subversion of American sovereignty in two decades, but of course today’s Republicans don’t sweat the small stuff, like facts and so forth.
During Wednesday’s spirited floor debate on the bill, Rep. Jack Harper, a Surprise Republican, said the declaration is connected to the “occult” of sustainability.
Harper can at least rejoice that the United Nations Literacy Decade ends this year, free of deleterious effects on his own misuse of the language. Way to dodge that bullet, Jack! With Arizona safe from women, youth, harmony with nature, peace, prosperity for all and a better future, you and your comrades can move on to legislation to protect the state from other two-decade-old threats, like Mentos, ecstasy and Sir Mix-A-Lot.
TWO: No Party for Old Men
Tuesday’s primary ended the Senate career of Richard Lugar, currently serving his sixth term. Indiana voters instead nominated teabagger Richard Mourdock to replace the Senate’s most senior Republican. While I look forward to Mourdock getting his ass handed to him by Joe Donnelly this fall, I do mourn – just ever so slightly – Lugar’s impending forced retirement. Sure, he’s a Republican and a demonstrable jerk, but he’s one of the last of a generation of Republicans I disliked intensely but still maintained a rudimentary respect for.
Lugar released a detailed statement shortly after conceding, and it would be smart of the current Republican Party hierarchy to pay some heed to it. Naturally, of course, they won’t.
I knew that I had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that would be targeted by outside groups.
These included my votes for the TARP program, for government support of the auto industry, for the START Treaty, and for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. I also advanced several propositions that were considered heretical by some, including the thought that Congressional earmarks saved no money and turned spending power over to unelected bureaucrats and that the country should explore options for immigration reform.
Lugar was careful to denigrate Democrats along with Republicans, but the criticism was pro forma and mostly bullcrap. On the subject of his own party’s increasing flirtation with a political abyss, however, his words ring true:
… ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment…
Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc.
Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Lugar has discovered what Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe already knew, that their party is dead. In its place is an evil, misshapen monstrosity, a lurid amalgam of Randian gobbledygook, proto-fascist social policy, paint-by-numbers evangelical hypocrisy, unabashed xenophobia, appalling misogyny, racist dog whistles, and a paranoia that would give Joe McCarthy pause.
Indiana primary voters did you a favor. Say goodnight, Dick. Continue reading Take Five (1992 and All That edition)
ONE: “Turkeys are bad enough.”
Not that there had been much suspense about it beforehand, but Arizona Governor Jan Brewer made her loyalties in the Republican Party’s War on Women abundantly clear when she suffered mild friction burns in her haste to sign the Women’s Health and Safety Act into law.
The bill has nothing to do with women’s health and safety, of course. It’s just another iteration of the standard Republican end-run around women’s reproductive rights, comparable to those already implemented in various other states:
… the law includes education in public schools prioritizing birth and adoption, signs throughout health-care facilities warning against abortion “coercion,” and an order for the state health department to create and maintain a website touting alternatives to abortion and displaying images of fetuses. Also required is abortion counseling for women aiming to abort pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities, and if the abnormality is certain to be fatal, the counseling incorporates perinatal hospice information before ending the pregnancy. It reaffirms existing barriers to access, like the requirement of a notarized parental consent form for minors and a mandatory ultrasound screening within 24 hours of having an abortion.
Brewer’s stance on another issue, however, was a little more surprising. She vetoed for a second time a bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried on public property, although the veto was motivated by fiscal and consensus concerns rather than ideological ones:
“The decisions to permit or prohibit guns in these extremely sensitive locations — whether a city council chamber or branch office staffed with state workers — should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law-enforcement officials and local government leaders,” Brewer wrote in her veto letter…
House Bill 2729… proposed making it legal for people to enter public property with a weapon unless the property was secured by either a state or federal certified law-enforcement officer or an armed security guard and metal detectors…
Cities, counties, law-enforcement agencies and business organizations opposed it, saying they would have had to either let guns into buildings where the public would rather not have them or pay millions of dollars to provide the security required to keep them out.
A study conducted by legislative staff estimates that security costs for a government entity to ban guns could have ranged from $5,000 to $113,800 per public entrance in the first year with ongoing costs of $54,400 to $108,800 per year.
Hey, scoff if you must, but if you want smart policy from an administration like Brewer’s, it’s invariably going to be unintentional.
Elsewhere on the gun (out-of-) control front, an Oklahoma legislator recently offered up a novel rationale for the open-carry bill that recently passed out of committee and is headed for a legislative vote. Ralph Shortey, a – surprise! – Republican, treated fellow members of the Senate Committee on Public Safety to this harrowing anecdote:
“I was in oil and gas,” Shortey said. “I was out on a lease at one time and I got attacked by a turkey. Wait until you get attacked by a turkey. You will know the fear that a turkey can invoke in a person. And so I beat it with a club. That was all I could do.
“I wish that I had a gun with me,” he said. “And I started carrying a gun in my truck after that without a license because I didn’t want to get attacked by a mountain lion. Turkeys are bad enough.”
Maybe I’m naïve, but it seems to me that all this proves is that Oklahoma should consider an open-carry law for clubs. If they’re good enough for Shortey, they should be good enough for everyone else.
TWO: “… one of these massive, nuclear submarine-type sturgeon.”
It’s a pleasure to report that, despite Scott Walker’s worst intentions, at least one part of Wisconsin’s government is still functional, the Department of Natural Resources.
Near Shawano, DNR wardens recently discovered a sturgeon reckoned to be 125 years old. The fish was laying eggs in the Wolf River, over 30 pounds’ worth. The sturgeon’s length was measured at seven feet, three inches, and its weight at 240 pounds.
Said Wisconsin DNR sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch: “I knew they were out there and I thought, ‘We finally got one of these massive, nuclear submarine-type sturgeon.’”
The wardens kindly tagged and released the fish before Wisconsin Republicans could take a cleaver to it like they have everything else in the state.
THREE: Do you know the way to San Jose? And could someone please turn up the heat in here?
Two recent incidents indicate that the TSA might finally have succeeded in its apparent mission to drive air travelers completely bonkers.
On April 10, a woman lit up a cigarette in a nonsmoking area of the B Concourse at Denver International. Asked to extinguish the cigarette, she complied. Then she removed her clothing. Whatever the relevance may be to the smoking and/or the stripping, the woman told Denver police officers that she hadn’t slept the night before (the incident occurred at about 8:45 in the morning). She was later taken to an area hospital for a medical assessment.
You’re probably thinking this was just a weird, one-off occurrence, worthy of a smile but not a second thought. Not so fast, gentle reader. Consider a question recently posed by Gothamist:
So is naked TSA protesting now a trend?
Well, maybe. A week after the Denver incident, one John Brennan, bound for San Jose, California, was going through security screening at Portland International. At some point in the process, Brennan decided to – whoops! – take his clothes off, too:
Police charged John E. Brennan with disorderly conduct and indecent exposure after he disrobed while going through the security screening area at the airport Tuesday evening.
“When interviewed about his actions, Mr. Brennan stated he fly’s (sic) a lot and had disrobed as a form of protest against TSA screeners who he felt were harassing him,” a police incident report said…
“Mr. Brennan’s actions caused two screening lanes to be closed and while some passengers covered their eyes and their children’s eyes and moved away from the screening area, others stepped out of the screening lanes to look, laugh and take photos of Mr. Brennan,” the police report said.
Which, for the latter group mentioned, at least, put a little fun back into the reliably crappy experience of modern air travel.
Gothamist didn’t venture into woo territory searching for a connection between the two incidents, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. Who’s to say that there isn’t something nefarious afoot here? Some plot to destabilize America via inconvenient nudity? Some weird George A. Romero scenario, but instead of becoming zombies, the infected attack an unsuspecting world by jiggling their jiggly bits at them in inopportune settings? Or maybe Brennan was just on something?
He was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time, police said.
Until further data is available, I guess I’ll just go with the Romero scenario, then. I hope at least the judge remembers to thank Brennan for not smoking. Continue reading Take Five (Wild, Wild Life edition)
The absurdity is still compelling, but I just don’t find the Republican primary battle much fun anymore. I miss Michele Bachmann. I miss Rick Perry. I miss Herman Cain. I even miss Jon Huntsman, since it was always enjoyable to watch him standing onstage with his rivals while I hummed “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others” to myself.
Sure, there are still some laughs to be had. Last Wednesday’s CNN debate from Mesa, Arizona, for instance, provided a few. The first came 10 minutes before the debate got underway, when former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, playing pundit, said something to the effect of: If Rick Santorum can look presidential tonight, he could blow this thing wide open. Comedy gold, right?
And the candidates themselves did their best to turn my frown upside-down, beginning with Santorum accusing Romney of adopting Occupy Wall Street’s rhetoric. Even the live audience at the Mesa Arts Center tried to keep me amused, as when they reacted to moderator John King reading a viewer question asking which candidate believed in birth control, and if not, why, by booing lustily. It was a vivid snapshot of the Republican zeitgeist, AD 2012, and – hell, yes – I laughed. Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Blab Four edition)