Take Five (Conduct Unbecoming edition)

ONE: Wings of Desire

The least surprising recent gun news was the shameful failure of expanded background checks legislation in the Senate. Least surprising because, after all, 42 of the 45 naysayers have been recipients of gun lobby largesse; the other three, evidently, are just dolts. A few other recent firearms stories, by contrast, were a little harder to anticipate.

If you’re ever in Memphis and thinking you could kill for some Jack Pirtle’s chicken wings, just don’t bring along an assault rifle. Antonius Hart Sr. and his creatively named son Antonius Hart Jr. made that mistake recently, and not only are they facing criminal charges, but they didn’t even get their wings.

After receiving the wrong order on their first visit to a Pirtle’s drive-thru, they returned for their wings but stubbornly insisted on getting some free chicken as compensation for being inconvenienced. When this demand was refused, Hart père allegedly brandished an AK-47. Jack Pirtle’s staff then called the cops, who arrested the Harts and confiscated the rifle and 24 rounds of ammunition.

In a gun incident with less obvious motivation, Seattle police were called to the Northgate Mall recently after security reported a man fondling a shotgun in the parking lot:

The man, who wore a cowboy hat, a white shirt and khaki pants, walked to his Ford Explorer with the shotgun and put it in the vehicle, police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. He then lingered outside the vehicle smoking a cigarette and at times handled the gun in the Explorer, police said…

“We’re now looking into whether he had a legitimate reason for having the shotgun – maybe he was transporting it,” Witt said.

Well, maybe. Or maybe it was transporting him, if you catch my drift, but it’s also possible that the man’s peculiar behavior was inspired by the Northgate Mall itself. A recent consumer review on Yelp suggests that it might be the shopping center of broken dreams:

This mall has nothing interesting, honestly. Everything seems run down and depressing which for some reason stresses me out.

So I normally have a few drinks before shopping and that helps take the edge off, but once the alcohol wears off I die…

In further malls’n'guns news, a woman waiting for a parking space on Thursday at a mall in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park had the bad fortune to cross paths with an armed jackass in a hurry:

Investigators said a woman decided to stop and wait for a person to leave a particular parking space when a man driving a car behind her grew impatient and started honking and yelling obscenities.

Authorities said the woman didn’t budge and the man in the car behind her drove up to her side of the vehicle, pulled a gun and started waving it at her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t move.

Background checks? We don’t need no stinkin’ background checks…

TWO: Say What?

Bismarck’s NBC affiliate KFYR (“Your News Leader”) proudly presented their new co-anchor the weekend before last, and then they fired him. AJ Clemente, thinking that his Evening Report debut wasn’t yet underway, uttered the words “fuckin’ shit” into a live mic. Clemente and co-anchor Van Tieu then went into this awkward back-and-forth:

TIEU: Good evening. I’m Van Tieu. You may have seen our newest – AJ on – in [inaudible] North Dakota news, and he’ll be joining the weekend news team as my co-anchor. Tell us a little bit about yourself, AJ.

CLEMENTE: Um… thanks, Van. I’m very excited. I graduated from West Virginia University, and I’m used to, um, you know, from being from the in – East Coast.

Clemente was canned the following day. Especially in view of his Cooperstown-ready surname, it’s a damn shame he doesn’t have a lifetime batting average of .286 with 403 home runs and 1,337 RBIs; he’d probably still have a job. Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who actually owns these impressive stats, had this to say to a sold-out crowd during a televised ceremony before the first ballgame at Fenway following the Marathon bombing:

We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our fucking city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.

A couple of hours later, FCC chair Julius Genachowski tweeted:

David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today’s Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston.

That and the $14.5 million Ortiz is making this season will be a great comfort to the slugger, no doubt. If you really want to see something wrong done right, leave it to Republicans. Steve Kush is the executive director and Bob Cornelius the former executive director of the Bernalillo County Republican Party in New Mexico, and they really dislike women who want to see a higher minimum wage. Cornelius and Kush attended a hearing on the topic and had some choice social media comments about a couple of female members of the activist group Working America. As one member of the group spoke, Kush tweeted:

Nice hat Working America chick but damn you are a radical bitch

Before moving on to Facebook to comment on Working America’s executive director:

Uh oh another Working America chick…nice boots…I know she makes more than min wage

Cornelius soon chimed in:

Maybe she uses those shoes to walk Central [Avenue]…even in this economy she can exchange bumper cables for boots

Kush then posted:

… she was hot enough to almost make me register democrat

After being suspended indefinitely without pay, Kush has expressed remorse for what he calls an “ill-fated attempt at humor.”

THREE: Many Crappy Returns

Ever notice how washed-up Republican politicians never seem to go away? No matter the magnitude of their defeats and disgraces, no matter the fervid desire of the general public never to hear or see them again, no matter the outrageousness or flat-out irrelevance of their opinions, they just will not go away. Exhibit A? Joe Walsh.

The former Congressman, a lazy and stupid man, made headlines in March when he informed a rally full of rapt Teabaggers that Americans are lazy and stupid. Now America’s highest-profile deadbeat dad is using the Boston Marathon bombing as a springboard to more headlines, as he calls for, essentially, a law enforcement jihad:

“We’re at war, and this country got a stark reminder last week again that we’re at war,” Walsh said to host Martin Bashir during an appearance on MSNBC. “And not only should we take a pause, Martin, when it comes to immigration, we need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: young Muslim men.”

Walsh has repeatedly hinted at another run for office, but with any luck voters will begin profiling white, middle-aged, Islamophobic scofflaw candidates and stop the little buttmunch before the sleeper cell of his political aspirations can be activated.

Todd Akin, the rank misogynist whom Walsh was quick to defend, has also been trying to get a foot back in the door of relevance. In an interview with KSDK in St. Louis, he responded ominously to a question about returning to politics:

“It’s one of those things that depends on the circumstances really.  I don’t rule anything out. I consider it a bright new future and I’m interested to see what the possibilities are.”

Personally, I’m hoping that the body politic has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Continue reading Take Five (Conduct Unbecoming edition)

Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)

ONE: Brainy Nights in Georgia

In the wake of the Newtown massacre and other recent mass gun murders, the NRA helpfully busied itself with supporting secession for Wisconsin, decrying the “vicious, violent videogames” that they insist provoke (conveniently well-armed) people to indulge in vicious violence, and, um, rolling out their new videogame.

In vivid contrast, Georgia legislator Paul Battles, being a pragmatic guy, thought and thought and thought about how best to protect children, and after all that thinking came up with House Bill 35:

The Georgia House of Representatives Rules Committee will consider a bill this week that would let school systems arm their staff members. House Bill 35 allows school systems to designate administrators, teachers, or other staff members to carry concealed weapons.

Now, before you go making any mistaken assumptions about Battles, a – surprise! – Republican, he emphatically rejects the suggestion that he’s, you know, a gun nut or something:

“From the very beginning, I’ve said this is a school security piece of legislation,” said Battles. “It’s not about guns. It’s about securing our schools.”

House Bill 35 immediately made me think of Mrs. Hale, my 6th grade teacher, who had a pronounced esotropic strabismus. Forgive me, Mrs. Hale, but I’m very glad you were never packing in our placid Savannah classroom. That I know of, anyway.

The bill passed out of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last week. And Rep. Battles says that was the biggest hurdle, adding, “I’m sure we’ll have a lively debate on the floor, but I feel like it has great momentum.”

Oh. Great, then.

But inane legislation in Georgia is often a bipartisan thing. State Rep. Earnest Smith, a – crap! – Democrat, is all riled up about Photoshop, especially when it’s used to make fun of Earnest Smith:

… Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a porn star’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.

Last word to Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered, the pixel surgeon responsible for the digital transplant:

“I cannot believe Rep. Earnest Smith thinks I’m insulting him by putting his head on the body of a well-built porn star.”

TWO: “Nothing has changed.”

Attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference can expect to see the likes of Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Allen West and Marco Rubio whip up the sort of rank gumbo of exaggerations, distortions, outright falsehoods and nutrition-free bromides that has kept previous CPAC crowds in drooling thrall.

But wait, there’s more!

Someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently once ran for President, will speak, as will someone named Sarah Palin, who apparently once ran for Vice President.

Of course, I’m being facetious. While I really have no idea who Mitt Romney is, I do remember Sarah Palin. She’s the former mayor of Wasilla who burdened the town with astonishing municipal debt, before going on to become the former Alaska governor who resigned halfway through her term, after burning through many thousands of dollars of public money for no good reason. She did leave her successor a tanning bed, though.

Indications are that Alaska voters have put down their bongs and would now prefer Hillary Clinton over Palin by a 16-point margin in a hypothetical presidential election cage match. Even better, Public Policy Polling also asked respondents to choose their preference of Congress or Palin, and Congress, for all its legendary disapproval ratings, beat Palin 50% to 35%.

And wait, there’s less!

AMERICABlog pointedly notes that CPAC 2013 will again feature the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, a man determined to live the rest of his wretched life being less popular than gonorrhea, but the conclave has once again barred GOProud, a high-profile gay conservative organization.

“We got kicked out last year because we are gay,” tweeted GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. “Nothing has changed. We won’t be at CPAC.”

However unintentionally, Mr. LaSalvia has just given CPAC a perfect new slogan. “Nothing has changed,” indeed.

THREE: Squawking Heads Redux

In light of recent news that Palin and Fox News have parted company, followed shortly after by the network axing Dick Morris (the World’s Wrongest ManTM), you might be concerned that Fox is going to suffer an acute stupidity deficit. Fear not. They’ve announced with great fanfare that both Herman Cain and Scott Brown have joined the Fox conservative commentator crew.

Proving that he has never actually watched the network, Cain enthused:

“I’m excited about joining the FOX family as a contributor because it is an opportunity to be one more voice for intelligent thinking in America.”

Cain hit the ground running, which is to say he ran aground, in his first appearance with Bill O’Reilly. When the discussion turned to President Obama’s popularity, Cain gave viewers this taste of his intelligent thinking:

“We have a severe ignorance problem with the people who are so mesmerized by his popularity that they are not looking at the facts…

“Martin Luther King Jr. said 50 years ago in 1963 something that is so appropriate to today… There is nothing more dangerous than serious ignorance, and that’s what we have and he gets away with it with the help of establishment media.”

Really? Cain’s new employer has spent more than a decade atop the cable news network heap, which strikes me as pretty much about as establishment as you can get, but maybe I just have a severe ignorance problem.

As to Brown, his first appearance was with Sean Hannity, who asked him why he didn’t want to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat:

Brown… told Hannity that the pace of special elections would have put him in five campaigns in six years and that he might have had to raise another $30 to $50 million, only to “participate in a Congress that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan.” Instead, he said, “I felt I could make a difference being on this show…”

Mm-hmm. Far better to participate in a “news” network that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan than a Congress that is. Presumably, the Fox gig pays better. Continue reading Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)

When Politics Plays Hide and Seek

I’m afraid the Republicans have misrepresented their sins. Their private conversations seem to be out of touch with their public stance. They are playing verbal hide and seek. Shouldn’t they really be telling the public—the American people who they claim to speak for and represent—what they are telling each other?

I wonder why Republicans are saying something different and closer to their hearts to each other than they share in news outlets in every American hamlet. And why, when they do share, elements of the story are often missing.

A January 2011 memo to Maine’s incoming Republican governor Paul LePage from his communications director and legislative liaison, sent to Maine’s top GOP leaders and the newly elected governor’s inner circle, certainly did not intend to be found out: “Once we take office, Paul will put 11,000 bureaucrats to work getting Republicans re-elected,” he wrote. The governor’s public stance, repeated as an offered promise during his campaign? “People over politics.”

The memo’s ripples jarred a spokesperson for Maine’s Senator Olympia Snowe to deny any knowledge of what seems to be the use of state employees as political pawns. In the Kennebec Journal, the communications director explained his email referred to “effectively enacting our agenda.” The memo breaks no laws. It was written before the governor or his staff took office.

At least Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown had a public change of mind. After “thanking God” that House Budget Committee chair and Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan presented a budget plan that Brown announced he would vote for, he then said in a POLITICO op-ed that he will vote against the Ryan plan, in part because: “I fear that as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support–and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays.”

Erza Klein published a recent column with eight common sense questions he wanted to ask and have answered by Paul Ryan about his budget proposal, especially on Medicare. Ryan could, if he chooses, use those questions as a take-home interview and provide written answers. He could put up a video, write an op-ed, or go face to face, having the unique benefit of the questions in hand. But even when the questions are advanced to him, he ducks.

On the other hand, first-term Congressman and Illinois Republican Joe Walsh never ducks. In a Daily Caller op-ed, Walsh, who once asked how many alligators it would take to secure the US border with Mexico, offered his blunt assessment of the positions of American Jews on Israel’s security: “too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be.”

Joe Walsh’s theory on the Obama election:

“Why was he elected? Again, it comes back to who he was. He was black, he was historic. And there’s nothing racist about this. It is what it is. If he had been a dynamic, white, state senator elected to Congress he wouldn’t have gotten in the game this fast. They were in love with him because they thought he was a good liberal guy and they were in love with him because he pushed that magical button: a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that.” [emphasis mine.]

Yet David Brooks, writing in his New York Times column “Medicare Survival Guide” tells of unnamed Republican Congress members who whisper to him in dark corridors they want to save the country “in peril,” without committing “political suicide.”

Why is the choice between saving the country and electoral suicide? Where is the intractable conviction and courage Republicans fondly allude to when they discuss tax cuts that amount to corporate welfare while stifling middle class entry into business ownership because they seek to kill insurance transportability? (Under cover of Obama, they can all switch sides and be welcomed into the Democratic Party!)

After Democrats won a 2011 special election in a western New York district that voted 74 percent Republican the previous November (the sixth most Republican congressional district in the country!), losing with only 42 percent of the vote in a district that had been Republican for more than 40 years, Ryan’s assessment of the loss as a “couple million dollars and a Democratic acting like Tea Party candidate” doesn’t inspire any more confidence than his budget numbers.

The real unspoken point in the political hide and seek is that Republicans at the national level are now simply creating diversions and distractions as Republican state governors and legislators consolidate the politics of command and control at the resource-rich local level.

New Republican governors in sixteen states have shape-shifted from their campaigns, swiftly moving to dismantle barriers to standards in the environment and education, to transfer public funds to private firms without oversight or guaranteed returns, to block ballot access, dismantle programs for women’s health, and to give themselves new powers that are unchecked and absolute.

Some restrictions are micro-managed control, others are seismic. In Ohio, reporters were only allowed to bring pens, notebooks, and recorders to the governor’s budget release event, for example. No video feeds were allowed.

Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin turned down money for building infrastructure for future high-speed rail, guaranteeing jobs now and laying the groundwork for economic progress in the future.

Environmentally, Maine wants to open up 3 million acres of its North Woods for development as a part of the governor’s 63-point plan to remove state environmental protections. Florida is taking the lead in rolling back public funds used for land conservation and protection; its Everglades are in danger. In New Jersey, the governor has said the legislative act that protects 800,000 open acres near the state’s supply of fresh drinking water is “an infringement on property rights.” In Iowa, the governor is overseeing a transfer of regulatory controls to departments serving the industries they will now be in charge of regulating. Among the areas affected will be environmental protections, safe drinking water, and clean air. Continue reading Digging Deeper: When Politics Plays Hide and Seek